Better Call Saul: Bagman
April 7, 2020 8:25 AM - Season 5, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Jimmy is pushed to his limit as he strives to help a client only for the simple task to go awry; Mike tries to deal with angry cartel members; a surprise visitor meets Lalo.

Better Call Saul goes full Breaking Bad in a desert odyssey directed by Vince Gilligan (Donna Bowman for TV/AV Club; rating: A)
I know it’s on brand for me, but I can’t help myself. “Bagman” is biblical, through and through. The desert, where almost all the action takes place, is where Moses endured the whining weakness of the Hebrew refugees who followed him — just as Mike endures the whining weakness of this windbag shyster in way over his head. And it’s where Jesus meets Satan. If the cousins aren’t pure evil in Gilligan’s New Mexico, I don’t know what is. Vince Gilligan (who directed this episode) puts the camera right behind Jimmy’s head when he meets them, so they stand on his shoulders, like twin devils who banished the angel from the picture.

But “biblical” is too specific a reference. This is mythological stuff. Archetypal.
‘Better Call Saul’ Recap: Silver Linings -- Jimmy runs into trouble in the desert (sound familiar?), and Mike steps up to save the day (Alan Sepinwall for Rolling Stone)
A review of this week’s Better Call Saul, “Bagman,” coming up just as soon as my strip steak is marinating in a secret blend of herbs and spices I call Old El Paso…

“That’s the price.” —Jimmy

If last week’s “JMM” gave us the Better Call Saul equivalent of Walter White’s “I am the one who knocks!” speech, then “Bagman” is a spiritual prequel to one of the most beloved Breaking Bad episodes of all, Season Two’s “4 Days Out.” Once again, we have the show’s two male leads in a fight for survival in the desert after unexpected circumstances knock their vehicle out of commission, getting on each other’s nerves along the way. The context is very different, as is the degree of danger, since Jimmy and Mike are not only battling the elements, but trying to evade the one bandit who survived Mike’s sniper fire. But in each case, our antihero saves the day by playing to his mental strengths. For Walter White, it’s his knowledge of science; for Jimmy McGill, it’s his facility with a con and his utter belief that he can scam anybody.
Music from the episode via Tunefind. Yes, Eminem also sampled that Labi Siffre tune (WhoSampled).
posted by filthy light thief (46 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I forgot while watching the episode how much Jimmy must hate mylar blankets.

That one speech from Mike though. Jonathan Banks is a treasure. I really think this was one of the best episodes of the show. I honestly didn't know who was going to save Jimmy, but of course it's Mike. I was expecting the brothers to have followed him, and then silently rescuing him.

And now I keep wondering just how he is going to explain 7 million in cash when he gets to the courthouse.
posted by Catblack at 8:45 AM on April 7, 2020 [13 favorites]

I tried to map Lalo's directions, and I got pretty far/ close with this Google map.

Here's his full directions:
Here's what you're gonna do. You're gonna take, uh, 25 South to Las Cruces. You can pick up 10 West from there. Hey, write this down, man... es complicado.

A little past Deming, there's a state road. It's 146. Uh, follow the signs to Antelope Wells until Mile Marker 223. Turn off at the dirt road and take it 30 miles south.

Actually, it's 31.6, so make sure that you use the little, uh, you know, trip-meter thing on the odometer or whatever.

Anyway, once you get there, you're gonna see a well. It's really old, you know, broken down.
The complication is the mile marker. Here's a mile marker map for New Mexico, and it looks like the numbers count up on that corridor, with the port of entry at Antelope Wells being zero. I'll have to poke around to see if they count up from the other direction, so you'd see Mile Mark 223 heading towards the border.

But the trip to Moriarty (~40 minutes) versus ABQ to Antelope Wells (5 hours, before the 31.6 miles on dirt road) is definitely a different length to go to pick up bail money for your client.

Regarding the Biblical imagery, Jimmy washes himself off after asking for (and getting $100,000) to pick up the $7 million. Kim asks "Evening shower, huh?" Jimmy replies "Yeah. Got an early day tomorrow."

Then he washes a bit of dirt off his shoe while waiting for the pick-up from the twins, only to have water become so much more precious.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:53 AM on April 7, 2020 [9 favorites]

This was an extraordinary episode but... why was Mike there? Did I miss something? Like obviously someone in that warehouse or whatever that saw the Cousins take the money tipped another cartel power off... but how would Fring have known about this?
posted by Automocar at 9:25 AM on April 7, 2020

I forgot while watching the episode how much Jimmy must hate mylar blankets.

Oh my god I forgot all about Chuck and the mylar blankets.

This was a fun episode with a couple of eye-rolling moments. Mike taking out 7 heavily armed cartel members, mike shooting the truck causing it to roll over? Why was he at the exact right place he needed to be? Did he follow them in his truck without being detected? I love Mike and I love the show and it's not like it ruined things for me but it was a little much.

Other than Mike being a cop, do we know much about his background? Was he in the military? He sure showed some special forces level survival skills in this episode.

I'm thinking now Saul will just push Kim away to protect her.

I'm also starting to think the final moments of the show, in black and white, will have Kim and JImmy meeting up again. There's gotta be a happy ending for them.
posted by bondcliff at 9:36 AM on April 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

Caliche! I guess it’s hard pack if you’re from Philly.
posted by tilde at 9:44 AM on April 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

He sure showed some special forces level survival skills in this episode.

I was a boy scout in Arizona and I know that dew-collection trick.

Everything Mike had on him was purchased at a surplus store. I imagine that since talking to Nacho, he met up with a gun dealer. (Probably the same one as the last season of Breaking Bad, but that scene got cut in the writer's room.) Then he had to get the truck he was driving from some local seller for a grand, maybe a grand and a half at most. Mike wouldn't register it of course, he's not going to have it long enough. Then a trip to the surplus store for everything he's wearing, binoculars, a black poncho (for laying low at night,) and the mylar blankets. Probably a cheap compass, though they didn't show one. That close to the border he would have looked like one of those border posse assholes, a real right-wing weekend warrior, and I'm sure he had a story ready if he'd been stopped.
posted by Catblack at 10:09 AM on April 7, 2020 [5 favorites]

Mike used the old gas cap tracker trick (quick shot of him grabbing it and putting it in his bag).

Ah, I saw him do that but it didn't click. So I guess the question is... if Jimmy heads way out of town, is Mike following him? Was Mike hanging around when Jimmy was taking his trips to Tucumcari?
posted by Automocar at 10:13 AM on April 7, 2020

I'm betting Mike bugged the gas cap when he gave Jimmy the Lalo evidence to get him bail.

I expect Mike figured on what was going on with Jimmy and pulled off a likely place to catch up to an ambush (if there were one) and follow him back home. Still awfully lucky on the timing.

I agree that Mike was suitably kitted, though a little light on the water (water gets progressively lighter as you use it). I didn't see but would have had a knife and a little bit of rope, too. Maybe an illegal radio (longer range than FRS, not licensed) as part of his cover and some zip ties.

At least Saul/Jimmy had the Davis & Main water bottle with water and later for his piss. Nice, better than an HHM bottle since he "pissed away" the job at Davis and Main.

I too blanked on the mylar blanket-Chuck connection. Jeepers.

I'm half and half on the Happy EndingTM for Kim and Jimmy. On the one hand, he'll presumably finally get his Caddy (I think he'll get it after Kim goes) but I think they will divorce but he'll make sure she gets his money from the Nursing Home Case when that finally pays out. Ice Station Zebra ... New Mexico is a community property state but that doesn't stop him from giving her more than half, or from insisting she split even though he brought the asset into the marriage even if it didn't pay out until they were actually married.\
posted by tilde at 10:25 AM on April 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

I really don't see any way out for Kim at this point. Mike flat out says she's in the game, then we see her visiting Lalo and calling him "Mr. Salamanca". She is in, and this isn't something you can resign from.
posted by Automocar at 10:54 AM on April 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

You "resign" by disappearing, and she still can. She hasn't plastered her face on billboards, TV adverts and benches, so there's no chance a taxi driver will recognize her when she's working at the mall in her new life.

Back to the "how" of Mike knowing to follow Jimmy into the desert, I can imagine that Lalo called Nacho to call the Twins, at which point Nacho could have called Mike to make sure that the money did (or didn't, depending on what Gus wanted) got back to Albuquerque.

Also, I love that this episode had a car get pushed into an arroyo. This is such a New Mexico thing that My Other Car is in the Arroyo is a not an uncommon bumper sticker.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:59 AM on April 7, 2020 [14 favorites]

The only aspect of Mike's action in the desert I have questions about is how he knew to get himself perfectly positioned above the exact spot where the bad guys would stop Jimmy. I mean, they could have stopped Jimmy anywhere out there in the middle of nowhere.

As for Kim...I'm not having positive feels for her future now. Calling Lalo "Mr. Salamanca" seems akin to painting a target on her back.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:06 AM on April 7, 2020 [4 favorites]

Also: Do we know who the rival gang was that went after Jimmy? Mike checked a tattoo on one of the bodies as if to verify gang membership.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:21 AM on April 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

In the very beginning, we see someone make a call from the shop after the cousins leave with the money. So that’s probably where the rival gang came from. The Salamancas have one mole, and a pretty high one, so there’s a good possibility they have a mole infestation.

Definitely probably some coordination with Nacho and Mike. And I’m sure Mike has had the gas cap on Saul’s car ever since he became Lalo’s lawyer. He was the one who got Lalo into prison and is now getting him out.

There were two things that I’m going to Monday Morning Quarterback for Mike, but no one’s perfect. 1) he had the gas cap tracker, leave it with the bags and come back for it later. Could have even been done without Saul knowing it was a tracker (which I assume he still doesn’t, he didn’t pick up on it when Mike put it in the bag). It would have taken effort to dig, but it probably would have helped quite a bit with the journey. 2) I was surprised he didn’t immediately find a way to kill the guy and take his truck. I assumed that’s what he was going to do when he walked over to the perfect concealment rocks by the road. But two days with very little water wandering in the desert is probably exhausting. I was so sad when the truck flipped.
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:12 PM on April 7, 2020 [10 favorites]

LizBoBiz: he had the gas cap tracker, leave it with the bags and come back for it later. Could have even been done without Saul knowing it was a tracker (which I assume he still doesn’t, he didn’t pick up on it when Mike put it in the bag). It would have taken effort to dig, but it probably would have helped quite a bit with the journey

Really workshopping this thing (to death, natch :P) -- digging in hardpan soil is really hard, and there's someone looking for them and the 7 million dollars. Could they really make it out and back more quickly by burying (or even hiding, among some of the rocky outcroppings) than if they persevered and made the trek back in two days? Sure, they could get somewhere faster, but that also gives the rival gang more time to come back with more force and more guns. And Mike is reliant on Gus' support network. Are there any El Pollo Locos or other facilities that far south? Or would it take a few hours for someone to drive down to bring them support?

And depending on when they stopped to dig the hole, they might have already left significant tracks to their path. In addition to wearing a hole in the bag, dragging duffel bags was leaving a pretty clear trail for anyone to follow, even by truck.

But yeah, that tracker could have served another purpose in this episode ;)
posted by filthy light thief at 12:30 PM on April 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

That sacrifice speech that Mike gave heavily telegraphs that this small separation between Kim and Saul right now is a dry run for a MUCH longer one they'll endure over years and distance. My money is that Kim re-emerges in the Gene scenes. Everyone else's futures are (or will be) accounted for by the end of the BCS years.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:16 PM on April 7, 2020 [7 favorites]

Podcast quick-ish recap --

NOTE: if you're going to listen, there's a graphic description of injury from 22:15 to 22:40.

- First off, all episodes were recorded back in February, so they don't touch on current events, and everyone is able to socially distance and stay safe. They support No Kid Hungry and Feeding America to support at this time.
- Kelley Dixon is working on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Wikipedia)
- Jonathan Banks is present, and saucy as ever!
- The opening scene in the car (repair?) shop was an old Sherwin-Williams paint factory with sheet metal roof, making the interior hotter than the desert scenes
-- That bloody Cadillac is not Saul's Cadillac (Vince says you're not supposed to know whose it is); it's owned by a local Albuquerque gentleman, and it also makes an appearance in MacGruber (Wikipedia), because MacGruber is part of the Gilliverse (actually, it's just shot in Albuquerque).
-- Perhaps the most expensive scene in the entire series, because of the collection of very expensive cars, including a mid-80s Lamborghini; sourced from all over the southwest, because New Mexico, let alone Albuquerque, doesn't have that many expensive cars
-- When shooting these scenes, it was in August, and officially too hot for snakes (per the herpetologist, who keeps an eye out for snakes that might bite the crew; link to Hollywood Reporter)
-- August in New Mexico also means monsoons, so there were some rain delays, particularly in the desert
-- In-show, this is the Salamanca's warehouse from dealers, and also things they've stolen
- Each bag should be 75lb, but they lightened the load to make it more manageable.
- This desert episode was a long time coming, one that they had thought would happen as the second episode of this show. There were also a lot of pee jokes in sketched episode ("Urine Trouble," "Urine Danger," "Urine Over Your Head.")
- That roll-over scene was a one-chance take (with lots of extra cameras, because they weren't sure which way it would roll), by one of the best canon rollers, Corey Eubank (bonus clip: Corey Eubank's bus flip, with slow motion play-back, where you can see two big poles shot out of the bottom of the bus to flip it)
-- Bob Odenkirk wasn't actually there, because unlike other stunt scenes, this one wasn't controllable, so it's impossible to know what would fly where (Jonathan Banks had nice things to say about the cast and crew making this a safe stunt)
- The desert scene wasn't in southern NM, but about an hour west of Albuquerque, back to Tohajiilee (Wikipedia; Google maps), and they stayed in a casino. [As a NM local, I shrugged at this comment -- there's no other hotels out between Albuquerque and Grants]. It was 17.5 days in the desert, 5 for the shoot-out.
-- They also were adopted by a rez dog (Wikipedia), who found Jonathan and Bob on the scene. Bob took the dog back to Albuquerque, where they found it was pregnant. Patrick Fabian got a couple puppies, and I forgot who else did, too.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:59 PM on April 7, 2020 [10 favorites]

That was an excellent podcast ep!
posted by iamkimiam at 3:10 PM on April 7, 2020

Odd. I didn't like that episode much at all. Tedious and boring. T-shirt on head, parched lips, collecting condensation at night, drinklng piss, trudging, trudging, trudging ... we've been here before, yawn. Of the entire BB/BCS series, this has been the only episode I'd skip on re-watch.

One redeeming moment though: "Alternator's shot." I loved that.
posted by Corvid at 4:12 PM on April 7, 2020 [5 favorites]

One of the interesting elements of the show is that, well after Jimmy McGill thinks he's done being who he was, we are continually reminded how much he's still clinging to, and how much of that person he loses every time he makes a choice.

And the choice to be the bagman to get an extra fee, the choice to play at being "un amigo del cartel" (and, for that matter, an "abogado") to get what he can, is a pure Saul Goodman sort of choice. Indeed, Jimmy's desert encounter with the Cousins is played as almost exactly the kind of comedy we're used to seeing with Saul Goodman, the ambulance chaser clinging to the fig leaf of the legal profession in decidedly, er, irregular situations involving drug empires (or wannabe empires).

That his "Best Lawyer ever" coffee cup takes a bullethole is foreshadowing the things that may force a split from Kim; that he's left swig piss out of a Davis and Main cup is not only a reminder that, as tilde so aptly notes, he "pissed away" that sort of legitimate career for similar short-term gain, but also a reminder of why that cup survived and the gift from Kim did not: the Davis and Main cup is the one that doesn't fit the cupholders in his Esteem, just as as the World's best lawyer mug didn't fit his Davis and Main car.

And, of course, jimmy's loss of the Esteem, and his use -- and then abandonment -- of the foil wrap, whose connections to Chuck's "space blanket" have been noted above by Catblack , are further signs that the lingering exoskeleton of Jimmy McGill is progressively being cast off, replaced by whatever this Saul Goodman fellow is turning into. (You didn't think there was only one way to read that "cucaracha" analogy of the ever-uncharming Lalo Salamanca, did you?) Certainly it's hard to imagine Jimmy McGill, the Jimmy McGill who vomits at the memory of Tuco breaking people's legs and makes phone calls to save the Kettlemans from a kidnapping, setting up someone's kill shot.

If Walt is the one knocks instead of the guy getting shot in his own home, Saul Goodman is the guy who lamely quips or picks up those bags of cash one last time, where Jimmy McGill might shudder to work for Lalo Salamanca or give up because he won't be found in the desert drinking his own piss. Well, Saul Goodman can grimace and drink that piss, dammit!

What both Lalo and Mike understand is that Jimmy McGill's humanity and notions of dignity -- his self-image, the, er, esteem in which he holds himself -- are, in a sense, sentimentalism and vanities. Saul Goodman, in contrast, is the survivor, the guy always looking to eke out his own bit of advantage. The chilling scene with Kim in the jail -- all wan and sickly yellow light and shadows , to contrast with the bright, bright sun of those desert scenes, or even the night scenes wreathed in cool, dark blue -- makes it very plain in that Jimmy McGill and the life and relationships he hold son to are, in the world of Saul Goodman, dangerous indulgences.

Being honest with Kim makes her a true life partner for Jimmy McGill; she becomes his site of honesty, or maybe his "little slice of the truth." But, as Mike tells Saul int he desert, and Kim confirms by her actions, all that does is leave her vulnerable and drag her into being "part of the game," Yes, Lalo Salamanca knows her face and will almost certainly know her name. But more broadly, it makes Kim seek complicity with Jimmy, her way of reciprocating his honesty with her, and the basis of their relationship in many ways. His scams attract her because they're her indulgence, and the scams-as-rush, as addiction, has been well-established by the show at this point.

That little slice of truth is the dying, yellow light: it's dangerous, It's no accident that the chemical light Jimmy gets in that desert night scene is likewise a kind of dull yellow; it's when that lights his face that he, too, is forced to understand the dangers of bringing Kim into anything of Saul Goodman's world. It's not as clear if Kim understands how much she has endangered both herself and Jimmy McGill in seeing Lalo; certainly she's smart enough to know it, but whether she wants to know it is another matter. It takes quite a bit for Jimmy to see it too; Kim's right that Jimmy is good at lying to himself, and it takes a string of near-death experiences plus Mike's bluntness to puncture Jimmy's self-deception.

And that's how that mylar blanket goes from painful personal memory to useful prop, to part of the standard Saul Goodman trick of making himself highly visible to distract from what the client, the crony, the partner is doing. We can wonder at his motives -- Did Mike's speech make him decide to do what it takes to come home to Kim? Did it make him decide Mike deserved to live, or at least that Mike would also do what it takes when the moment came? Did it convince him that he's the person he's really doing all of this for? -- but not his methods.

Saul Goodman is the guy waving the flashy prop, but that's all it is: not a psychological crutch that can be weaponized as a prop for a brief period, as it was for Chuck, and also not a keepsake. It's pure utility, a tool of survival, meaningful only as long as it has value for the task of survival; a prop that only signifies its function for the actor in the scene, and can be tossed aside when the show's over.

We know that, in the end, Jimmy or Saul can cast aside an identity, a set of props that make up a life, even if it hurts because those identities come with meaningful attachments. Whatever or whoever else he is, he's a survivor.
posted by kewb at 4:41 PM on April 7, 2020 [16 favorites]

I enjoyed reading kewb's analysis above more than I enjoyed watching this episode. I suppose that IS a somewhat high bar tho.

Let the record indicate, however, that I did indeed fast forward multiple parts of this episode and it STILL seemed to drag.
posted by some loser at 5:39 PM on April 7, 2020

I didn't like that episode much at all. Tedious and boring.

Yeah, me too, with a few thrills. This wasn't a particularly rich or interesting episode - certainly nowhere near as rich as last week's. That AV Club reviewer just boggles my mind with their "This is mythological stuff. Archetypal" praise (not to mention the misread/misspell of "abrogado" [sic]. So many critics (and that one in particular) seem to be constantly looking for THAT MOMENT when Jimmy becomes Saul, or Kim really Breaks Bad, and this week it's when the truck turns over:

once that truck flips behind him, the guy who opens his eyes isn’t Jimmy anymore

So ridiculous. And this?

She does something far more dangerous by going straight to Lalo and trying to gain leverage over him by telling him what she knows — who he really is.

Does anyone really see that Kim was "trying to gain leverage" over Lalo by letting him know she knew who he was? I sure don't. She was trying to cut through the bullshit to save her husband, not trying to threaten or "gain leverage" over Lalo.

FWIW, Sepinwall pulls the same "this is THE moment when we get Saul!" stuff regularly, claiming in the linked review above that "the real Saul Goodman finally bubbled up to the surface" at the end of last week's episode, comparing it to Walter White's "I'm the one who knocks" speech, but that's absurd. Jimmy is so obviously conflicted both before and after his rant; the look on his face as he wipes the spittle from his mouth after Howard leaves, then straightens his tie, sighs and slowly turns around is fucking light-years away from where Walter's head was at during the "one who knocks" moment. So many critics waste time looking for and analyzing THAT MOMENT when "the real Saul Goodman" "finally" bubbles up. Ugh. So simplistic.

Anyway, the plot device that gets Kim on Lalo's radar made sense, but the extended dull time in the desert was not redeemed by Mike's nice speech, or Jimmy's sudden, sharp move to end the standoff with the sniper. This was a beautifully filmed, overly stretched out 40 minutes that was a noticeable decline in richness and interest from last week.

Other than Mike being a cop, do we know much about his background? Was he in the military? He sure showed some special forces level survival skills in this episode.

During one of the scenes in Season 2 where Mike is planning to shoot Tuco, and buying a gun from Lawson the gun dealer, they bond over the fact that they both know the M40, and discuss how it had its wooden stock replaced with fiberglass because the wood warped with moisture, and Mike says something like "they should have thought of that before sending guys out with it into a jungle." The implication of that scene is very clear: Mike spent time as a soldier in Vietnam.
posted by mediareport at 6:50 PM on April 7, 2020 [9 favorites]

I get the decision to drag out the desert scene, but I wonder if there was a better way to show the tedium and toil.

Mike's ambush was pretty unbelievable. Doubly so that Jimmy was in any shape to hump 150lbs of cash through the desert.

Did the rival gangsters not have any potables in their cars (other than the broken jug in the flipped truck)?
posted by porpoise at 7:13 PM on April 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

yeah honestly when the shootout (or "shooting" I guess would be more appropriate term) started I was assuming two snipers each with spotters. Too many angles for one guy, too many bullets too. so I was quite surprised to see one guy, Mike, roll on up afterwards with the one bolt-action.
posted by some loser at 7:24 PM on April 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

Man, I live in the desert and I audibly scolded Jimmy when he used some of his bottled water to wash off his shoe early in the episode... I didn't know what was coming, but any time I drive to the middle of the desert I'm thinking about that.

(That's also why there's always a case of bottled water in the back of my car. Even Jimmy's smart enough to keep some water around considering his car is a junker and he could get marooned anytime. Then again I guess planning ahead isn't his forte.)

I agree they could have showed less trudging through the desert. I know it's a long painful time for Jimmy, but... there's no way to make it exciting to watch.
posted by mmoncur at 7:30 PM on April 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

2) I was surprised he didn’t immediately find a way to kill the guy and take his truck. I assumed that’s what he was going to do when he walked over to the perfect concealment rocks by the road. But two days with very little water wandering in the desert is probably exhausting. I was so sad when the truck flipped.

Absolutely! I expected that was Saul's game plan from the start. And certainly (from everything we've seen), Mike has the skilz
posted by torticat at 8:37 PM on April 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

overly stretched out 40 minutes

Just noticed it was 54 minutes. So much wasted time this week.
posted by mediareport at 8:43 PM on April 7, 2020

Man, I didn't think it was wasted time at all. I thought the whole episode was well paced and devastating. Was so upset at the cliffhanger!
posted by torticat at 8:52 PM on April 7, 2020 [7 favorites]

I'm not as sour on the episode as a bunch of people here seemed to have been. I mean, I get the criticisms, mostly--I agree both that Jimmy should have known better than to take his junker out in the desert with a single bottle of water, and that Mike's taking out the whole gang minus one is a bit of a stretch, even for Mike--but one thing that I miss from BB is that sense of some things simply being too big or intractable as problems to be magicked away by experience or expertise, like Walt's cancer or the huge pile of money that he and Skyler accumulate; even if Mike can pull a lone gunman number on the gang, he can't make water (save for a scarce mouthful) appear in the desert or bars appear on his phone, nor can Jimmy talk away the fact that he'll have to drink his own piss, and pretty concentrated urine, at that. Sometimes, you just have to get your head down and get through it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:17 PM on April 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

The implication of that scene is very clear: Mike spent time as a soldier in Vietnam.

Also, the M40 was a rifle used by Marines.
posted by mikelieman at 11:45 PM on April 7, 2020 [5 favorites]

I thought this was one of the strongest episodes of the series. So much tension, I had to have a break mid-way through. And for its sparseness, the overall plot seemed to move forward more so than on many an episode. We’re finally getting a concrete sense of what might become of Kim, for example.

I said after episode three (I think it was) this season that it feels like they’re finally making the prequel they originally intended to, and Peter Gould pretty much explicitly said that in the podcast. That in episode 48 they’re finally shooting what they thought might be in say episode 2 of the series. I think it’s why I too didn’t make the connection with the blanket, it feels like a callback to a totally different show.
posted by chill at 1:06 AM on April 8, 2020 [7 favorites]

It’s so interesting reading comments on here vs Facebook. (Obviously the depth of thought here is much higher, and I wish Vulture would replace their reviewer with kewb, but I digress.)

There seem to be two camps. One is the “This is an Extension of Breaking Bad” camp that loves blood and violence and tension of the drug/criminal world. The other is the “Character-Driven” camp that’s fine with all that other stuff but really wants to understand the progression and growth of these characters and relationships. So when the Extension fans love an episode, often the Character Fans are much more meh about it, and vice versa. Of course what made BB so great and acclaimed is that there *was* more character development than you would expect from a similar show so it’s not an either/or thing.

This seems to be personified with reactions to Kim. Over on Facebook, there was a whole comment thread on the BCS page about how they should get rid of Kim and just get on with the killin’, to paraphrase. I enjoyed BB and would likely watch BCS no matter what. Without Kim, though, I would not be as rabid and dedicated a fan as I am. Rhea Seehorn’s powerful performance changed this show/world for the better by making the characters more front and center. In some BB episodes it seemed like there was some violence just for flair. BCS has had a better handle on that I think bc it’s more grounded in the effect the violence has on its characters.

Tl;dr: I’m sending the Cousins to anyone who says Kim should be eliminated from the show kthxbye.
posted by emkelley at 5:53 AM on April 8, 2020 [19 favorites]

Can I hire the cousins to be my personal shoppers? Love those shiny shirts!
posted by Corvid at 12:57 PM on April 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

I expect Mike figured on what was going on with Jimmy and pulled off a likely place to catch up to an ambush (if there were one) and follow him back home. Still awfully lucky on the timing.

The ambush was planned as a pincer movement on Jimmy's car: one vehicle coming up from behind but then the other two blocking him from the front (about 38 minutes in). We see that the place chosen to close the pincer is a hairpin bend: the audience sees the two cars ahead at the same time as the respective drivers would have done so. The bend is a perfect location to pull off such an ambush - and this is a plausible reason why Mike may have been waiting here.

I am quite willing to believe Jimmy would have driven into the desert without thinking about bringing spare water. In his own mind, he was wanting to play down the seriousness of his mission. He telling himself that he is just being a lawyer in an unassuming car, he tells Kim "I'll be home before you will". To do any preparation would have involved him confronting the seriousness of the situation. Jimmy is an escape artist who is adept at improvising with whatever is there in an environment - contrast to this to Mike who knows that the only way to survive in a barren, arid environment, is to plan and bring what you will be needing.

It is interesting, after all our speculation on Kim's post marriage surname last week - and after Kim's own explanation of spousal privilege - that we see her look of cold horror at being addressed as "Mrs Goodman", by Lalo (who is a master of re-phrasing things). I don't think either she, nor Jimmy, would have thought of that angle.

From the podcast: I am so impressed that the programme makers bothered to consider how much $7m of cash would weigh. Normally a haul of cash, gold, etc is considered to be easily portable by a character.
posted by rongorongo at 4:01 AM on April 9, 2020 [9 favorites]

It is interesting, after all our speculation on Kim's post marriage surname last week - and after Kim's own explanation of spousal privilege - that we see her look of cold horror at being addressed as "Mrs Goodman", by Lalo (who is a master of re-phrasing things). I don't think either she, nor Jimmy, would have thought of that angle.

They didn't want wedding rings, so I'm guessing that she doesn't plan to take his name. I know this is circa 2004, but I know a number of women in their 30s and 40s who have gotten married in the last ~5 years who have kept their own names, in part because of their professional licenses and careers being tied to their names. She might be a bit progressive, but that doesn't seem too unrealistic. Not common, but not too weird.

Still, being called Mrs. Goodman was still a shock.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:39 AM on April 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

In 2004 it was absolutely common for women to not change their names when they married. In my own circle of friends, mostly upper middle class professionals, it was considered extremely odd and noteworthy when I got married and did change my name, and that was 2005. But anyway, Jimmy explicitly stated that Kim was keeping her name.
posted by holborne at 10:36 AM on April 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

"Over on Facebook, there was a whole comment thread on the BCS page about how they should get rid of Kim and just get on with the killin’, to paraphrase."

I didn't know it was possible to be so wrong.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:14 AM on April 9, 2020 [15 favorites]

Hey, filthy light thief...
I tried to map Lalo's directions

So, these directions are likely deliberately obscured. As you noted, the mile markers aren’t that high because they start at the southern border. I say it’s deliberate because they know some fans would try to make the drive out there, and they don’t want people taking a drive on a lark and ending up in some very unforgiving country. However...

Directions to the southern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail

That is pretty much on spot with the directions in the show. They even mention at one point to set the trip odometer so you don’t miss a junction. It’s around 28 miles south on dirt roads from where you turn off on the highway.
posted by azpenguin at 8:35 AM on April 10, 2020 [4 favorites]

Oh wow, pretty much everyone else has said what needs to be said. You are all spot on. (But I have to chime in that I didn't care for this episode. It just seemed to set the characters up to make bad decisions, then let them marinate in it. For fuck's sake, did we really need a shot of Saul drinking piss? Really, in this Emmy-award-nominated show?)
posted by Monochrome at 3:14 PM on April 11, 2020

> Directions to the southern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail
At the cattle guard, there is a concrete monument commemorating the Crazy cook who murdered someone at this site. The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is 200 yards north along the border fence from this monument.
Wait, what!?
posted by Monochrome at 3:26 PM on April 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I got married in ‘98 and didn’t change my name (along with many of my cohort), so please add that to your small data set.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:06 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I got married in 2004, didn't change my name and was frankly low-key shocked that I even knew one woman who did.
posted by gaspode at 7:05 AM on April 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Wait, what!?
In 1907, Frank Evans was working in a crew to build a fence at this location when he fell into an argument with a cook. Who turned out (as so often happens) to be a crazy cook; bad idea apparently.
posted by rongorongo at 7:22 AM on April 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I didn't notice the gas-cap tracker and thought for sure that the whole thing was obviously to use Jimmy as bait to get at the bad guys. I'll have to rewatch.

I'm on Team Kim-is-playing-with-fire. I'm really feeling a little bit of a fatal flaw lurking in the shadows.
posted by rhizome at 3:07 PM on April 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was so stressed out by this episode I considered giving up on the show. It was long and slow, but it was intense. Last week's lightning bolt speech was Jimmy's last cry for help. The trip through the desert broke down the last shreds of his resistance. He lost his Esteem, his world's best lawyer mug, his doofy optimism - the last few things that kept him from crossing the line from mostly pretty good guy to bad guy. He gives up hope, actively participates in a murder, drinks the piss, and casually tosses away the blanket that represented Chuck's respectability. There's no Jimmy left.

I yelled repeatedly in horror at the TV when Kim walked into the room with Lalo. That, to me, ended any possibility of a good future for her, although I still want to hold out some faint hope for Gene to eventually meet up with Kim Wexler, Honorable Defense Attorney. And maybe her Noble Office Manager/Investigator, Nacho. After this episode, I know it's not going to happen. Every character I love is going to be destroyed. I hate this show. It's so good. Ugh.
posted by Dojie at 1:24 PM on April 14, 2020 [8 favorites]

Loved this episode, super intense. The tonal shifts are a bit whipsaw, we're a long way from the crazy Slippin Jimmy hijinx. But then escalating the intensity was a thing well done in Breaking Bad too, so I'm OK with it.

By far the pivotal scene for me was Kim walking in to that jail cell trying to help Jimmy. She knows how dangerous this is in the abstract, but not in the specifics. And she tries to look fierce while also being visibly scared (great acting). I fear that moment is when she sealed her own fate. She's either dead or forced to flee, it's the only way out.
posted by Nelson at 10:09 AM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

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