Better Call Saul: Bad Choice Road
April 14, 2020 9:03 AM - Season 5, Episode 9 - Subscribe

In the wake of Jimmy's traumatic misadventure, Kim takes stock of what is important. Jimmy attempts to return to business as usual, but it's more difficult than anticipated. Gus and Mike set a plan in motion.

Of course Jimmy takes all the wrong lessons from his ordeal on a terrifying Better Call Saul (Donna Bowman for TV/AV Club; rating: A)
Last week I held out hope that Mike got through to Jimmy — that his speech about doing what he had to do to keep his loved ones safe changed the way Jimmy would approach the intersection of Kim and his work. Well, it did. But I should have known that the Jimmy who walked out of the desert wouldn’t be changed in a way that could do any good for anybody else. Call it Saul’s Law: If there’s a wrong lesson to be learned from his experience, that’s the one Jimmy will learn.
‘Better Call Saul’ Recap: Welcome to the Dark Side -- A traumatized Jimmy returns home from the desert, while Kim makes a big move (Alan Sepinwall for Rolling Stone)
A review of this week’s Better Call Saul, “Bad Choice Road,” coming up just as soon as I leave the Yankees to play amateur ring toss…

“Oh, Jesus, what have I got myself involved with here?” —Jimmy

So, do we need to start referring to Kim Wexler as The One Who Mocks?

“Bad Choice Road” begins with a sequel to the great montage from last season’s “Something Stupid” (FanFare post). Again, a cover of the Sinatra song plays as we see Jimmy and Kim in split screen. In that earlier episode, the device was used to illustrate the growing emotional distance between them; here, it’s emphasizing the physical distance, as Jimmy and Mike finish the desert trek they began in “Bagman,” while Kim frets back in the apartment. Occasionally, the couple’s movements are in sync, but in wildly different circumstances, like when she enjoys a clean glass of water from the kitchen sink while he has to swallow more of his own piss. The original montage concluded with its separate images merging back together, even as Jimmy and Kim’s lives kept drifting farther apart. Here, the image is never whole, because our leads are in separate locations. But by the end of this fantastic episode, the two halves of Better Call Saul itself, long held separate, finally merge into one thrilling, terrifying story.
Not much music this week (Tunefind)
posted by filthy light thief (62 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If Rhea Seehorn doesn't get an Emmy for that performance, it will be proof positive there is no such thing as justice in this world. I mean...Damn!
posted by Thorzdad at 9:38 AM on April 14, 2020 [20 favorites]

I was literally holding my breath during that Lalo scene. Don't fuck with Kim. In hindsight, I guess it shouldn't be surprising that she would be better than Jimmy at dealing with cartel folks.
posted by Automocar at 9:44 AM on April 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

If nothing else (and there's a lot else) this brilliantly written episode should definitively shut up the "we don't like Kim" idiots.
posted by mediareport at 9:47 AM on April 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

If Rhea Seehorn doesn't get an Emmy for that performance, it will be proof positive there is no such thing as justice in this world.

I know everyone will be talking about that final scene - one of the most thrilling and perfectly filmed of the series - but I actually dropped a tear at Kim's earlier scene with Jimmy, after she'd seen the bullet hole in the coffee mug. Her reaching out to Jimmy was so incredibly touching, and that was before she had to react to him lying to her face, again. Such excellent acting. I'd call it Emmy-worthy but the Emmy award has proven itself to be so worthless that would probably qualify as an insult.
posted by mediareport at 9:51 AM on April 14, 2020 [13 favorites]

I haven't held my breath that long in a long time. I had no idea how that final scene was going to play out. I didn't think Mike would take out Lalo as that would open up a giant can of worms, both with authorities and the cartel. As usual with that show, it played out way differently than I expected.

From now on every time I retell a story I'm going to add "I had to drink my own piss" on the second retelling.
posted by bondcliff at 10:03 AM on April 14, 2020 [8 favorites] of the most thrilling and perfectly filmed of the series...

An effective part of the filming, at least to my eyes, was how there were so many shots from behind Kim when she is ripping Lalo a new one. All you see is the back of her head, which is how you'd frame the shot if something really violent is about to happen. It's almost telegraphing that, at any second, Lalo is going to quick-draw and blow Kim's head off. It's a subtle thing, but really amped-up the tension for me.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:04 AM on April 14, 2020 [7 favorites]

It's almost telegraphing that, at any second, Lalo is going to quick-draw and blow Kim's head off.

I was half expecting that and was already anticipating the internet rage that would follow.

We all know Kim isn't part of the BB universe, or if she is she's never mentioned, so it seems likely that something is going to happen to her at some point and we only have one season left, correct? I'd guess there's going to be at least part of a season with Saul trying to live without Kim.
posted by bondcliff at 10:07 AM on April 14, 2020

That was absolutely brutal!
I had this flash when I saw the title of next week's episode, "Something Unforgivable," when I thought "wait is that a callback to 'Something stupid'"-- the music played over the opening montage a while back with the split screen of Jimmy and Kim going about their days, starting out together and then slowly growing apart?

And then I thought nah, that's a stretch. And then this week's episode opened with the split screen and the same music. Waaaaaah. 

I'm so scared for Kim. AND Jimmy. Stupid is one thing, but I don't want to see unforgivable.
posted by torticat at 10:34 AM on April 14, 2020 [2 favorites] it seems likely that something is going to happen to her at some point...

There was a whole lot about Kim's diatribe that, in a very twisted way, was a sales pitch to Lalo that the cartel needs someone like her to "get their shit together" so to speak. I could very easily see Kim whisked out of the country and put to work handling cartel business.

Then again, With Mike listening in, he might tell Fring what he heard and Gus might recognize Kim's value as a business asset. Or, a plant deep in the cartel's home office.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:35 AM on April 14, 2020 [15 favorites]

Honestly, my kid was coming down the stairs as Kim was raging at Lalo and made a comment (I forget what) ... and it made me think it was in Interview. "That Mrs. Goodman, she knows all this shit and she's not afraid of me when I'm only menacing. Tell me more about shell companies."
posted by tilde at 10:37 AM on April 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Jinx, Thorzdad.
posted by tilde at 10:38 AM on April 14, 2020

There feel like so many ways this could still go for Kim. She realized that Jimmy was pushing their relationship to the breaking point with his new criminal lawyer role, so she said they could get married, and he said yes. They agreed to be open and honest with each-other, but then Jimmy started withholding information, so she adapted again, accepting that he did or experienced things he still isn't comfortable saying. The hole in the mug, plus bullet holes in the car (per Lalo), implies a shoot-out, but she stood up for him to Lalo, spinning a very viable story and going as far as to say "And for the record, he doesn't lie, not to me, not to his clients."

This came after Kim told Jimmy that she quit her job, and she wants to focus on pro bono work. He thinks she needs to have another plan, after he brought home $100k for being a bagman. Yes, he went above and beyond what he had expected, but that's still $100,000 for essentially two days of work. Clock a few more days like that, and they're living comfortably on his salary alone, even in the big, fancy houses they were looking at earlier. This is 2004-ish, and they're still in New Mexico, so high-end homes are in the low multi-millions.

Which is a round-about way of saying I'm not sure why Jimmy is worried that Kim doesn't want to work. She's not the one dreaming of bigger and better. It seems she realizes she has a moment of freedom to pursue what makes her happy, while Jimmy is doing what makes him happy. And they're happy together.

This episode de-escalated one moment, only to put me more on edge for the future possibilities, mostly for Kim. And now the new podcast is up. BBL ;)
posted by filthy light thief at 10:41 AM on April 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

(I apologize for and retract the word "idiots" in my first comment. It's far too obnoxious for a disagreement in taste; I should have used "crowd" or something similar. I don't quite understand how anyone wouldn't feel Kim has long since become the heart of the show, but it's not an intelligence test. I'm sorry.)
posted by mediareport at 10:42 AM on April 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure why Jimmy is worried that Kim doesn't want to work.

That was the only false note for me in this episode, and I eventually settled on Jimmy being so addled by his trauma that he wasn't thinking straight. Any other time, he'd have been immediately supportive, if not enthusiastic, about Kim leaving the suits behind to strike out in the direction of her heart.
posted by mediareport at 10:46 AM on April 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Agreed. My other thought, besides trauma-addled thoughts, was that he's thinking about his experiences. For him, that kind of work was something Chuck told him to do to hone his skills when he was starting, not something to return to later in your career.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:13 AM on April 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Makes me think with Kim personally taking home her totem (the expensive tequila stopper) that’s she’s going to set up Sauls Pass Through, Ice Station Xebra.

And she’s going to hire their receptionist back and she hates jimmy cuz Kim leaves and sticks her with him.
posted by tilde at 11:17 AM on April 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Did I miss a scene where Gus told Mike to do all this stuff, beginning with the stakeout and sniper fire last week, to make sure that nothing interferes with Lalo getting his bail money, getting out of jail, and getting out of the country? Presumably, this is why he was ready to shoot Lalo in Saul's apartment: to keep the cartel from learning of Fring's involvement.
posted by thelonius at 11:59 AM on April 14, 2020

do Jimmy and Kim own a Paul McCobb Planner Group coffee table? Maybe!
posted by mullacc at 12:03 PM on April 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Did I miss a scene where Gus told Mike to do all this stuff

Mike was tracking Saul's car? So I guess we are to presume that yeah, Gus was taking precautions to make sure nothing went sideways... which isn't too crazy, considering the 7 million in the trunk.

And then Mike reported back to Gus afterwards on the attackers. We're supposed to connect the dots, I think. At least that's all I got.
posted by torticat at 12:20 PM on April 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

MRS. GOOOOOODMAAAAAAAN! I KNEW Kim wanted to be Mrs. Goodman and I was right. Before Kim left the office she took with her the tequila bottle top from the last time she stepped out as Gisele which was foreshadowing to Gisele's next outing at her apartment. My husband and I were both screaming during that scene, it was incredible.

I think Jimmy's being unsure about her quitting is because the reality of how unsafe he has made the both of them finally made it into his thick skull and he's terrified. He wants Kim to be safely tucked away in the lovely offices of Davis & Main where she has all the power & control she's supposed to have. He's not wrong for feeling that way. I'm sure if she had quit under literally any other circumstances he would have reacted differently but all reactions are based on what's currently going on.
posted by bleep at 2:08 PM on April 14, 2020 [9 favorites]

This from the AVClub review:
Earlier in the episode, Lalo was tantalizingly close to resuming his anti-Fring whisper campaign in Mexico, releasing Gus, Nacho, Mike, and Jimmy from his orbit. Now he knows that Saul’s not just somebody Nacho brought in, but part of a team working together—and keeping it secret from him.
That ... seems like a bit of a stretch? It seemed more to me like Lalo didn't believe Saul and his ever-more grovelly storytelling but kinda did believe Kim's anger; and did recognize the "you don't trust your own people" kernel of truth. He undoubtedly has suspicions but he doesn't yet know that Saul has any connections beyond Nacho, no? and he certainly doesn't know that Saul is in the Gus/Mike orbit.

Although Lalo's chauffeuring instructions to Nacho did change from drop-me-at-the-border to all-the-way-to-Mexico and that really doesn't feel like it's going to end well for Nacho. (Maybe they're setting up an echo of Jesse's unwilling trip to Mexico in Salud?)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:10 PM on April 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Also did anybody else notice they were watching His Girl Friday? I was delighted to find out that Kim lives that movie as much as me. Both couples have interesting and unconventional ways of proving their love to each other that are not clear to the audience until explained - but in Jimmy and Kimmy's case the explanation is done on Kim's face.
posted by bleep at 2:26 PM on April 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

It seemed more to me like Lalo didn't believe Saul and his ever-more grovelly storytelling but kinda did believe Kim's anger

That's where I landed, too, but we're left in the dark re: what Lalo believes or doesn't about Kim's explanation. Off the top of my head the possibilities seem to be:

1. He believes her and has dropped the idea that something weird happened beyond Jimmy's story
2. He knows or suspects Kim and Jimmy are still lying, but acknowledged her critique that his target is not Jimmy, but the folks who tried to steal his money, and he left to focus on them

If 2 is true I can't think of a reason why he wouldn't grab Jimmy and take him (or both of them) somewhere to torture for the full story. That would be much more in character than just leaving. Unless he's impressed by Kim's fierceness or something?
posted by mediareport at 2:35 PM on April 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

It seemed clear to me that he simply realized she was right. It didn't really matter what happened in the desert, or else it was Lalo's problem and not Jimmy's, Jimmy was actually an asset and he didn't have enough of those to throw away this one. Lalo has never been shown to be an idiot or someone who can't regulate his emotions.
posted by bleep at 2:44 PM on April 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

I think Kim just unwittingly signed Nacho’s death certificate. She got through to Lalo just enough to distract him. You could almost see his ears perk up and his head cock to the side when she questioned why the fuck he can’t trust any of his own people and what the hell is going on in his own operation anyway? And so he trots off. All the way to Mexico.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:46 PM on April 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

That was among the most amazing ten minutes of television ever created at the end.
posted by azpenguin at 2:48 PM on April 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

I mean here’s this waaay outsider, straightlaced hot white woman who is completely unintimidated by him. Not to mention she’s the wife of someone he considers a huge sucker who undersells himself. Gave him big pause.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:50 PM on April 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Might be a little bit too much 3D chess here, but I assume Lalo realized Kim was lying but also that she was smart and ballsy enough that Jimmy/Kim could be actually be a formidable team in Fring's world. If he knows that but leaves them with the impression that he believed Kim's story, then he can take advantage of knowing Jimmy/Kim are working for Fring in the future.
posted by mullacc at 2:54 PM on April 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

That was the only false note for me in this episode, and I eventually settled on Jimmy being so addled by his trauma that he wasn't thinking straight. Any other time, he'd have been immediately supportive, if not enthusiastic, about Kim leaving the suits behind to strike out in the direction of her heart.

"Jimmy" would have been supportive and enthusiastic and encouraged her to follow her heart, but that's because "Jimmy" was full of optimism that you do what feels right and it all works out. That changed when he gave into despair in the desert and lost the last bit of his optimism. "Saul" has no blind trust that everything will work out. Kim is walking away from sure money so that she can focus on doing good. Saul is doing the exact opposite. If he supports Kim in this and accepts that she's actually on Good Choice Road, he would have to admit that he's the one on Bad Choice Road. He can't do that because he's gone all in on being an amigo del cartel and he's stuck with it.

Count me as another vote for Kim taking over the cartel's business. That's how she can support herself while she does her pro bono work. Nobody sees her or knows about her in BB because she's just that good, but she's clearly the only one with the brains and guts to control all these assholes and make it all work. This speech combined with her speech to Kevin and her general competence in everything she does makes me want Kim to be in charge of everything for ever.
posted by Dojie at 3:19 PM on April 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

Also I thought it was an interesting detail at the nursing home when the nurse comes and says your uncle loves it when we sing happy birthday and he's like yeah ok, and then a shot of the uncle obviously in hell. They included that to remind us that Lalo is a master code switcher and never flashes the wrong persona. Kim reminded him what persona would be more appropriate with them going forward and he realized she was correct because as we have seen, that's one of his strengths.
posted by bleep at 3:39 PM on April 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

...and then a shot of the uncle obviously in hell.

How can you tell? I swear, I cannot see any difference in his expressions. He seems to always be in hell.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:27 PM on April 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ha, Tio Salamanca was extra snarly and rolling his eyes (like a wild animal, not an annoyed teen). I definitely got that he was in hell.

Rhea Seehorn for all the Emmys and Oscars and recognition as the Gen X Meryl Streep. Have all y'all been watching the "Ethics Training with Kim Wexler" shorts that AMC puts out with each episode? She gets to do a little more comedy than does in the show and it's great.

My favorite thing about this show (and Breaking Bad (and Ozark, which is spiritually a BB spinoff)) is the cycle of something going drastically wrong, the heroes having to think their way out of it, and that triggering the next thing to go drastically wrong—all that escalating until you're machine-gunning Nazis from the trunk of your car. I think Kim standing up to Lalo is the pivotal moment that decides her fate, whether it's a shallow grave in the desert or a cushy job in the Madrigal legal department.
posted by ejs at 5:11 PM on April 14, 2020

I'm curious if anyone that didn't think too highly of the last episode (Bagman) has had a change of heart/mind? I'm a big believer in critical review of series in it's entirety, particularly with modern "arc" television but of course this is television and though every episode may be like a chapter in a book, the experience is significantly different, even if you binge.
The great thing about BCS and others like it (The Wire (yes I'm one of those guys) for example) is that despite there being a massive story the majority of the episodes are amazing in and of themselves in the way we experience them, similar to a great episode in an episodic show.
I liked Bagman but understood some of the reaction but for me, Bagman makes this episode better. Throughout Bad Choice Road I kept thinking back to Bagman in a way I usually don't when thinking back to other episodes. I felt these episodes together put me in an intense frame of mind, like when you're stressed and thinking to much and feeling desperate. It really put you where the characters were. Amazing.
posted by juiceCake at 5:47 PM on April 14, 2020 [8 favorites]

I liked Bagman but understood some of the reaction but for me, Bagman makes this episode better.

Same here. I was fine with Bagman as an episode, but even more fine with it now given what it teed up.

Am I entertained? I am most definitely entertained.

Rhea Seehorn is on the Insider podcast for this episode, so I'm certainly going to give that a listen because goddamn.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:16 PM on April 14, 2020

Am I the only person who sees oranges in a crime show and things? "Huh. A Godfather homage. Something bad'll happen." (If you've never seen those old movies, oranges are frequently present in scenes where someone dies or is nearly killed.) I noticed them in Kim and Jimmy's kitchenette an episode or two ago, and I noticed their connection to that very big, orange fish, but I enjoyed the way they were played here.

Kim peels the oranges as she gently probes Jimmy, digging for truth, trying to be his confidant; when she pulps them to make juice, the noise triggers his PTSD, a legacy of what really happened in the desert, that very truth she was gently probing for.

And, even better, the whole thing serves as an internal homage: the jump-cuts and hitter-cam used here were also used, to a lesser extent, to indicate Jimmy's trauma way back int he very second episode, after he saw Tuco break a couple of people's legs. And, hey! That PTSD was triggered by breaking breadsticks, much as this is triggered by juicing oranges! So the external homage that was set up is really just an internal homage, and one that flips the script: in The Godfather, oranges herald impending mortal danger. Here, they're about involuntary recollections of past traumas. Nifty.

But, of course, that's not the end of it. This extra-length episode is essentially "That's not the end of it," the episode. Heck, Mike flat-out tells us that, when he tells Jimmy, "it's not the end of the story." And sure enough, Jimmy's deflections and Kim's acceptance, even after she lets him know she knows he's lying, aren't the end of it. Even their fight when Jimmy will not give Kim the autonomy and support she gives him, a typical emotional climax we'd expect to build to a flashpoint, isn't the end of it. No, Lalo's chilling entrance in the apartment is the real climax of the episode. And even when that has passed, Lalo says to Nacho, "We got a long way ahead of us." (That is the end of the episode, if not the season.)

And that's an interesting thing, in an episode full of characters ready to let things end, desperate, in fact, for them to end, for a chapter to close and a new one to open. Nacho wants hi time int he cartel to end; Gus and Juan Bolsa, in different ways, want an end to the feud with the Salamancas; Jimmy wants to put his desert experiences -- and likely Lalo -- behind him; even Hector probably wants that birthday party to end sooner rather than later.

But only Kim actually manages to close something out for herself, quitting the big law firm and Mesa Verde to seek something she believes in, and perhaps to be (silent) partner in crime to Jimmy. (As everyone has noticed, there's a reason she takes the tequila bottle topper with her, as it's always been the memento of the addictive thrill of conning with Jimmy.)

She's also the sole character in this episode who's not directly tied into the crime side of the show, or not until the final scene, anyway. (OK, there's also the hapless prosecutor, who finally gets his own closure when a traumatized Jimmy whiffs an easy hearing after rushing back to work a little too soon.) For all that Jimmy tries to tell her that she's made bad choices, it's his bad choices that keep haunting him, indeed, all the crime characters find the past coming back around to them in different ways. Kim is, interestingly, the character who moves forward in life, able to see a past achievement as a real one, but a finished one; nothing can take an experience from her, after all.

But even she is uncomfortably following the same road Jimmy has followed: remember when he was (much less happily) making bad money at PD work? He does, hence his inability to understand why Kim finds it fulfilling. Remember when it was jimmy who told a crook -- Nacho, then -- that he was being foolish, doing crime stupidly? Now Kim gets to do that, and to a much bigger criminal. And remember when it was Jimmy McGill managing to lawyer someone else out of being killed by an angry Salamanca? Now it's Kim who manages it for him.

But Kim is more deliberate at it, and, frankly more effective; Jimmy's not wrong when he suggests that his own turn to Saul Goodman was driven by failure, the turn Kim "Still kinda" doesn't understand. His own choices -- his own road -- has been so determined by impulse, reaction, and denial that he can't understand someone whose choices are often the result of introspection or of carefully sizing up the situation.

That's the other thing about this episode: it's about Kim coming into sync with Jimmy, and Jimmy, strangely, falling out of sync with her at the same time. The opening montage signals it, of course; it starts de-synced, with Kim's half in black, and there's a lighting contrast, but their actions are paralleled. It's the inverse of the previous split-screen montage during Jimmy's suspension, where they slowly de-synced. Here, the whole scene plays out in synchronicity right up until Jimmy walks to foreground, getting is signal, and Kim walks to background, passing through an interior doorway in the apartment.

Foreshadowing, no doubt, but of what? The next moment is a smash cut that drops Kim;'s side of the split-screen, only to show Jimmy actually making contact with her again. They were moving in opposite directions, but they connect even as that's happening. It's the path their relationship takes across the episode, and the reminder that Saul Goodman moving into a "big time" he has grave doubts about happens alongside Kim doing a more thoughtful version of Jimmy McGill, the man who doesn't like Davis and Main because it's stifling.

Their argument at the end is stark reminder that Jimmy/Saul now values "success," measured mostly materially and hierarchically, while Kim values work that "matters" and values Jimmy himself. That Jimmy doesn't value himself -- that he'd rather, to some extent, inhabit the performance of Saul Goodman -- is precisely the thing Kim can't quite figure out. She can't do that, and wouldn't want to. Giselle is a pressure release valve, but not a whole other person that banishes some painful reminder of Being Kim Wexler. Jimmy, for his part, can't quite grasp Kim's idea of being true to herself and her experiences -- that word she uses -- because he wants nothing more than to never have experienced certain things.

She doesn't care if he lies to her, as long as he's emotionally honest with her. But Jimmy can't even do that for himself. Given the opportunity to open up to Mike, he almost finds common ground over PTSD, over the desire for justice, but his insistence on knowing how the story will end -- echoes of that scene of his childhood, with Jimmy anxiously wanting to know the ending to the story Chuck was reading him -- sours that, and Jimmy can only respond with contempt when told there are endings he doesn't get to know until they've happened. And whether threatened by Kim's bid for emotional intimacy or threatened more physically by Lalo Salamanca, Jimmy's move is the blind, the deflection: he uses the gross detail of drinking his own urine to survive to try to throw people off the trail.

But Kim and Lalo both see through his deflection, just as they both see through the bullet holes, the evidence of what happened. It's a matched shot hat calls attention to itself: her ye looking through the bullethole in the cup, his through the bullethole in the car. Yes, yes, they're the "holes" in Jimmy's lame cover story. (Really? Mike and Jimmy, together, and that's the best they could do?) But they're also an absence, substance that was there, but now isn't: the hole in Jimmy/Saul., the one left by whatever he lost of himself in the desert, or by helping Lalo get away with the murder of someone "not in the game."

Contrast Kim's technique for ridding herself of Lalo: she uses one truth to deflect his attention, or at least his concern, from the one she and Jimmy need to conceal. Lalo really doesn't have anyone he can trust, so he'd better trust Saul, even if he can't. The only lie she really tells is that Jimmy doesn't lie to her or to his clients; even there, she uses his betrayal to save him, and uses his self-serving protectiveness to protect him.

And that's the tragedy of Jimmy McGill and Kim Wexler: the only way she makes it work is by using his techniques to save him from himself. Does he recognize this? Or is his lack of self-knowledge, his insecurity, his need to be loved only as someone he's not. In the end, how long can you protect someone like that from themselves? How long can you love them when they don't love themselves, where's there's a hole right through the heart of them?
posted by kewb at 6:21 PM on April 14, 2020 [12 favorites]

I'm very scared for Nacho, given Kim's "you can't trust your men" and Gus' "A dog that that bites every owner he's had....can only be disciplined with a firm hand or....put down".

Either Fring or Salamanca will do him in.
posted by lalochezia at 7:03 PM on April 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Am I the only person who sees oranges in a crime show and things? "Huh. A Godfather homage. Something bad'll happen." (If you've never seen those old movies, oranges are frequently present in scenes where someone dies or is nearly killed

There was a Godfather/oranges callback in Breaking Bad - the scene where Ted Bernake trips and falls trying to flee from Huell.
posted by thelonius at 7:16 PM on April 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

Some notes from the podcast:

- Visiting cast includes Rhea Seehorn, foul-mouthed Thomas Schnauz (director and writer for this episode), Marshall Adams (director of photography)
- Most complicated cast and elements:
-- The rattlesnake, who isn't de-fanged or de-venomed, and wanted to go up hill as rattlesnakes are want to do (where Mike and Jimmy were),
-- The fish, who avoided the in-bowl camera and wouldn't swim the direction they wanted, despite people saying "here, fishy-fishy-fishy" (Peter Gould noted that only made sense, as thousands of years of fish evolution should have taught them that anyone saying "here, fishy-fishy-fishy" doesn't mean to do anything nice for the fish), and
-- The sun, which Tom sketched out as part of the opening scene, but Marshall and the photo crew had to figure out what lens to use and when to shoot to make those sketches a reality
- Tom included as many ominous references to Kim meeting an untimely demise as possible in this episode, including the oranges (a Godfather thing that kewb and thelonius mentioned), Kim looking through the mug with the bullet hole (as if she's in a gun sight), and of course, Mike's sight on Kim in that tense, final scene.
- There's another juicer sequence, but in Nacho's place. It was mostly cut, but may make it onto the BluRay as an extra. In this episode, there's a nod to Breaking Bad where dual cameras are used, and the editing cuts between the two to amp up the stress of the juicer scene that was kept.
- For the eagle-eyed among us: the interior of the apartment is a set, but the exterior is a real-world location, and they don't quite match (and there are different sets each season, as we slowly see more of Kim's apartment, with some similar mis-match issues from the Breaking Bad days when the White house interior didn't match the exterior)
- In-joke: Jonathan Banks calls Tom Schnauz "The Little Prince" on set, back when Tom had Mike say "who is going to kill who" instead of "whom," which rubbed Jonathan the wrong way. This is why that was the book Mike was reading to Kaylee.
- Tech details: this season is shot on the ARRI ALEXA LF, because it now offers more than 4k resolution. Apparently it does better to capture skin-tones, and is a more cinematic camera. And Marshall talks about the Laowa macro lens, specifically a video of shooting through the pages of a book; and Pro8mm are one of the final shops processing 8mm film (in the US? World?)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:03 PM on April 14, 2020 [8 favorites]

Anyone else catch the skaters from the first couple of episodes in the background, late in the episode? Still on the grift, or are they only in it now for love of the game?

And, yeah, what an episode. I don't think that Lalo has any sort of big scheme in mind; he simply a) trusts in his own razor-sharp instincts and b) doesn't much trust in anything or anyone else, and the former will override the latter. He picks up on the, yes, holes in Saul's story after he gets to the pick-up spot and realizes that he hasn't seen Saul's car, and probably doesn't believe that Saul walked out of the desert with all that cash by himself, but he also realizes that Kim is right: as doubtful as Saul's story is, not trusting people got him thrown in jail and almost lost him $7 million. He might even be canny enough to realize that, if Saul did get help, that help might be still hanging around, either part of Gus' operation or just watching out for a certain ahem-ahem criminal lawyer.

As for Kim, well, damn baby. The real MVP.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:26 PM on April 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

Mike is soft in the prequels! This is what kept occurring to me in the last episode as he inspired Jimmy into living in the desert or comforted him in the car. It's REALLY what I thought about as he pled poor Ignacio's case. I'm starting to do a mental math on Kim and Nacho, because it feels impossible that they both might make it. Mike's regard makes me think Nacho is especially doomed -- of course Mike has a weakness for young men in over their heads (and for maximum pain Nacho did nearly everything right except for getting involved in all this to begin with).

Re: Kim, every once in a while I'll google a show and a Reddit thread complaining about an incredible female character will inevitably surface. I think poorly of these people, but I'm never surprised they exist.

(Also I was YELLING that Jimmy's piece-of-shit car already had bullet holes in it! C'mon! I know Jimmy is off his game, but that's the most easiest explanation, yes?)
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:29 PM on April 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Something remarkable over these last two episodes is watching Kim realizing how dangerous a situation Jimmy has gotten himself into. In Bagman you could see the genuine fear, almost terror, in her as she pleaded with Jimmy not to do the cash run. That’s something we’ve never seen from her. Her emotions usually run with anger, or frustration when things go bad, but she’s always been able to control them, often to her advantage. (It’s part of why she’s so good at scamming.) Even as a kid, she keeps her cool when she refuses to get in the car with a drunk mom. Then she makes the rash decision to go see Lalo in jail, and you can tell she realizes she’s made a bad, bad choice, as she sits in the chair knowing she is now in danger. Now at the beginning of Bad Choice Road, once she gets the call from Jimmy and then collapses in tears. These episodes are the first time we’ve really seen her emotions get away from her control, when we really see her as more of a vulnerable human being as we all are at times.
posted by azpenguin at 9:20 PM on April 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

If 2 is true I can't think of a reason why he wouldn't grab Jimmy and take him (or both of them) somewhere to torture for the full story. That would be much more in character than just leaving. Unless he's impressed by Kim's fierceness or something?

I don't think he's impressed, per se.

I think he knows heavy hitters are involved with Jimmy (who else is going to come to the rescue for a smarmy dumbass lawyer in the middle of the desert? It's not like Jimmy got out of an obvious gun battle by himself), and Lalo's plan was to show up hard and get the two civilians to offer up what exactly is going on. Jimmy was on his way to doing so, but Kim stepped in and the hard act was no longer going to be enough.

I think in real life, #2 is what would have happened. But, in show life obviously Jimmy can't die and Kim getting tortured to death wouldn't be a good end to her story. However, I think she made things extremely harder for both her and Jimmy in the long run. Lalo is probably going to murder Nacho in the next episode, and unless Kim turns completely to the dark side and literally hard sells her way into being General Counsel for the New Mexico branch of the cartel, I think there is a decent chance something real bad happens to her soon as well.
posted by sideshow at 11:16 PM on April 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also, hats off to the DP and Giancarlo for giving Gus some of the most awesome "crazy eyes" I've seen in a character at the end of the "you must put a dog down blah blah blah" scene.
posted by sideshow at 11:19 PM on April 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

(Also I was YELLING that Jimmy's piece-of-shit car already had bullet holes in it! C'mon! I know Jimmy is off his game, but that's the most easiest explanation, yes?)

Well, in real life, bullet holes as portrayed in the scene would only look like that for a few days before they started rusting. Kim's explanation (people just shoot shit in everywhere in the desert all the time) works better.
posted by sideshow at 11:26 PM on April 14, 2020 [6 favorites]

I liked how they set up Jimmy going to court and getting his ass handed to him, without Kim there he would have cracked in no time. Also the fact she saw the mug with the hole in it and thus didn't flinch when Lalo mentioned the shot out car.

I know the extent that Gus is prepared to go to to help his enemies and harm himself is supposed to represent how committed he is to the long game but sometimes it stretches credulity.
posted by onya at 3:23 AM on April 15, 2020

I’ve nothing to add, except the two words that I heard come out of my mouth as the credits rolled and I finally breathed: “Jesus Christ”.
posted by chill at 6:04 AM on April 15, 2020 [6 favorites]

I'm so deeply satisfied with this season (Kim, Nacho, ugh, not looking good for either of them).

I can't be the only one thinking that it's going to be a long hiatus until the final season is written, shot and edited. The mister and I may have to go back and rewatch the whole series.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:31 AM on April 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Lalo's 8 foot leap onto the bottom of the car was a nice little stunt.
posted by Bodechack at 10:55 AM on April 15, 2020 [13 favorites]

It really was a nice stunt, and deceptively longer than it seemed based on Thomas Schnauz's notes about the episode.
posted by gladly at 11:12 AM on April 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Kim’s hair was in a messy bun! Then her hair was down! And when she did put it up, it was a more relaxed ponytail. Will we ever see the bouncy, curled pony tail with the wrapped band again?
I have a weird fantasy that Kim and Lalo will hook up. I think it would be hot. I do not want her to do that really because he’s a psychopath, but I still like the idea. I also still think she might bail out of town and take Howard with her. It would be a sad ending for Kim because she could be so much more, but I can see an ending where she thinks, “Howard is safe and rich and he can be a house husband while I build a practice in LA.” And in that scenario, she would be really sticking it to Jimmy m/Saul and he would be heart broken because Howard: ewww.
My mind goes weird places. But I definitely think her relaxed hairstyle is a big clue that the old Kim is gone.
posted by areaperson at 11:26 AM on April 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Im working on a theory that the way we think about characters who are good/neutral/evil and lawful/neutral/chaotic represents characters who either want to protect the dignity of others or take it away, thinking about the root word of dignity which is "to take" which means dignity represents someone's ability to take. If your dignity is gone that means the other people around you won't permit you to make your own choices and take what you want for your own.

Kim and Jimmy are attracted to each other because they're both interested in bestowing dignity where it belongs and taking it away from people who are abusing it. And they each admire how far the other is willing to go to make it happen, even if the path is bumpy. If you look at Kim's Wikipedia page, her whole character arc is the two of them getting into these wild schemes for the purpose of setting someone's dignity at the appropriate level. Even from their very first restaurant scams.

Look at the scheme that Jimmy pulled to make HHM lose Mesa Verde with the switching of the street numbers. Kim went out and hunted for that account and Chuck and Howard took it away. They abused their power to take what they wanted and left Kim with none. That wasn't going to fly for Jimmy.

That's why the case with the house rankled Kim deeply. Kevin was abusing his power to take whatever he wanted for his own use even when he had alternatives. Kim was so dug in to her conviction that she was willing to sacrifice her own dignity to make it right but Jimmy loves her too much to let that happen, so he pulled out all the stops to give her a win. Jimmy used his con skills to manipulate Kevin into listening, which was ultimately his expensive downfall. So their marriage was a culmination of this dynamic.

Then, in the scene in the apartment, Kim did the exact same thing Jimmy did. Took a huge risk, made a big blustery show, and used her con skills to manipulate Lalo to listen, and ultimately believe their story. And she did it for the same reason, to put Jimmy's ability to take back at the level where it belonged, because it was dangerously trending out of their control at that second.

That's why Kim is fed up with Mesa Verde and walked out. It's also why Jimmy is scared. In that position she had all the dignity they had fought for her to get and now she won't have any for the foreseeable future. He knows what it's actually like being a public defender and he doesn't want that for her.

This is why I believe the show is trying to tell us that Kim is Mrs. Goodman to her core, ride or die.
posted by bleep at 1:32 PM on April 15, 2020 [10 favorites]

I liked Bagman but understood some of the reaction but for me, Bagman makes this episode better.

In this respect, let’s have the biggest possible writing award for the tale of the single bullet, fired by Mike in a successful attempt to save Jimmy’s life. The bullet kills the guy who is about to take out Jimmy then travels onwards and enters his car. It leaves a hole we eventually see Lalo peering through when he finds the wreck. It enters the “best lawyer” mug given as a gift of love to Jimmy by Kim - losing him his potential survival coffee and causing him enough of a pang of guilt for him to take the mug with him - even in his state of shock. The bullet leaves a hole in the mug that we later see Kim peer through as Lalo did - establishing to the audience alone that she knows there was a gunfight even as she tells Lalo it had to have been recreational target practice. Finally the bullet lodges in the alternator - giving Mike the chance to quip “the alternator’s shot” and throwing away the chance of a simple get away by car. That’s a hell of a lot of Narrative weaving work for a little lump of lead!
posted by rongorongo at 11:25 AM on April 16, 2020 [11 favorites]

giving Mike the chance to quip “the alternator’s shot”

that bugged me a bit; I had a 94 sentra and the alternator would die; I'd need a boost to get it started but it would stay running.
posted by tilde at 12:35 PM on April 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

I had a car with a bad alternator and it would only run about 15-20 minutes before dying and needing another jump.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:15 PM on April 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

Maybe I am missing something, but I don’t think they’re suggesting of all of the hundreds of bullets fired that it was the first one that did all that damage.
posted by chill at 3:51 AM on April 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

~giving Mike the chance to quip “the alternator’s shot”
~that bugged me a bit; I had a 94 sentra and the alternator would die; I'd need a boost to get it started but it would stay running.

Did you miss Mike's quiet "Literally" after announcing the alternator being shot?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:12 AM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Nope. I’d chalk it up to poetry.
posted by tilde at 8:12 PM on April 17, 2020

I have to put down a marker before the season finale. I predicted earlier that this season would wind up the pre-BB story, and the final season would be about Gene. Well, I'm gonna say here that when Gene said in this season's cold open that he would handle the situation himself, that he's gonna reach out to Kim.

Tune in tonight to watch my theory get shot to ribbons. I can't wait.
posted by whuppy at 1:28 PM on April 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

I thought Jimmy's failure to support Kim's decision to quit her job had everything to do with him not believing that their relationship/arrangement will last much longer. He thinks he is either going to do something terrible that will alienate her or get himself killed or have to run off to Omaha. Probably a big dose of the first one, given his history, especially with Chuck. In some part of his mind, he probably doesn't see a soft landing for himself but would rather go out as a god with lightning shooting from his fingers or whatever but he is far from reconciled with that being Kim's fate as well.
posted by nequalsone at 1:20 PM on April 28, 2020

Reviving a long dead thread here because I'm finally catching up on Better Call Saul and after this episode I have thoughts:

-Kim's speech to Lalo was great part of a fantastic scene and a nice callback to how she spoke to Kevin - she responds to threats with arguments and logic, trying to pick the other person's line of attack apart - great for a lawyer, maybe not so great with the cartel.

-feels like the previous episode and this are setting up some of the shape of things to come - when Mike told Jimmy out in the desert why he was doing this ("I have people - they don't know what I do for them - I keep it that way"), and Mike's conversation about what can happen to people in "the game" in this episode - he wants to keep Kim out of the game. Jimmy will do this shit to take care of her, and run the risks, but he doesn't want her to be involved or to know and the legal protection of spousal privilege doesn't mean shit in the cartel's world. So I think that's why he reacts to her quitting the way he does - he needs to keep her out of this world.

-on the plus side of that, it gives me a vision of the future where Kim is working as a public defender somewhere - maybe in Albuquerque, but probably not - and taking care of Ice Station Zebra in her off hours. It means she's living her passion, and also gets to still have a hand in the world of scams that Jimmy lives in, but keeps her distant enough to avoid the cartel and the future problem that is Heisenberg.

-on the negative side, Kim at this point maybe knows a little too much...I'm hoping she still gets out alive, but maybe she's the first person Saul puts in touch with the vacuum cleaner salesman. Maybe Kim is out there somewhere, living a quiet, anonymous life as a school teacher or something in a mid-sized city somewhere in America. Maybe the final scene of the final episode of the entire show is Gene going to meet whoever Kim is now.

Whichever way this goes, I keep reminding myself that Jimmy is a con man, and I have to wonder if by the time we get to BB Jimmy isn't just running a big, complex, long con on somebody - the cartel, the cops, or maybe just the audience...

Anyways, I'm sure the final episode of this season will destroy some part of my theory, as will the final season. But that was how I was starting to see things take shape at this point.
posted by nubs at 12:55 PM on April 7, 2022

I’m re-watching in anticipation of the new season, and noticed a fantastic detail I missed the first time.

Saul is in Mike’s car to discuss his PTSD, and Mike gives his whole “you chose to get on a road” speech. After Saul gets out of the car, way in the background down the length of the sidewalk — a bit blurry even — are two kids messing around on skateboards. This is a subtle but unmistakable callback to the skateboard scam guys of S1E1 who Saul enlists to run his own scam which inadvertently but undeniably put him on the road to where he is today.
posted by mikepop at 1:39 PM on April 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

> Maybe I am missing something, but I don’t think they’re suggesting of all of the hundreds of bullets fired that it was the first one that did all that damage.

It might be the second bullet… after the second guy gets shot, you can briefly see the bullet hole in the car.
posted by brendano at 8:40 PM on April 22, 2023

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