‘Better Call Saul’ Recap ‘Bad Choice Road’: Time to Play the Game

In the “Better Call Saul” recap, Jimmy returns from the desert, Gus discovers who orchestrated the ambush and Lalo realizes his lawyer’s story doesn’t add up…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

“Better Call Saul” has produced a lot of award worthy scenes over the past five seasons but it’s hard to imagine one better than the latest installment featuring a tense standoff for the better part of 16 minutes between Lalo Salamanca, Jimmy McGill and his new bride Kim Wexler.

To see these three play off each other with such flawless execution not only speaks to the writing in the episode but also to the performances from each of the actors.

Silence can be deafening in a scene but the taut moments when Lalo was tapping on an aquarium while Jimmy could barely muster enough spit in his mouth to swallow showed that this was a game of life or death. It was nearly impossible to imagine everybody made it out alive, especially with a sniper rifle aimed through one of the windows.

Add to that, between “Better Call Saul” and “Breaking Bad” there have been quite a few iconic speeches including the infamous “I am the one who knocks” — but Kim Wexler telling Lalo to get his shit together and stop threatening the one man he trusted to bring back $7 million to bail him out of jail was just breathtaking. If the Emmy awards don’t start etching Rhea Seehorn’s name on a trophy right now, something is truly wrong with the world.

That final scene will be talked about for some time to come — but before we get there, Jimmy first has to make it back from his desert sojourn with Mike and Gus has to discover that the hitmen sent to the desert to stop that $7 million from making it back to Albuquerque was no accident.

So with that said, let’s get to our recap of the latest episode of “Better Call Saul” titled “Bad Choice Road”…

PTSD

After dodging a hit squad out to rob $7 million, Jimmy and Mike continue their long trek through the desert in an attempt to make it back to civilization. A split screen shows Jimmy still sipping from his pee bottle while stumbling closer and closer to a spot where his cell phone will receive a signal as his wife Kim Wexler is frantically worrying about his whereabouts at home.

Finally when Jimmy sees that miraculous bar on his phone, he places a call and Kim answers with tears in her eyes when she hears his voice.

The next time we see Jimmy and Mike, they have made their way to a truck stop. They’re both wearing outfits that make them look like a couple of dorks but they are sipping on drinks and no longer baking in the hot New Mexico sun. Before long a dark SUV arrives with Tyrus and Victor inside, who will give them a lift back to the city.

Tyrus informs Mike that a flat bed truck is en route to clean up the murdered hit squad that he took out one by one with his sniper rifle to make it look like nothing ever happened. He also informs Jimmy to begin working on his story because he’ll never be able to tell anyone about the ordeal he really suffered through a day earlier.

Once they get back to town, Jimmy goes directly to the courthouse with the bags of money and a cashier counts out $7 million to pay for Jorge De Guzman’s bail. Even the district attorney is shocked to see that kind of cash being counted out but Jimmy isn’t about to tell her where his client gets those funds.

After the money is verified, Jimmy is handed back the extra $100,000 that was inside the duffle bag that serves as his payment. A few minutes later, Lalo Salamanca emerges from his holding cell ready to enjoy his first breath of freedom. He chides his attorney ‘Saul Goodman’ for running late but Jimmy has a built in excuse — his car broke down and he was forced to walk several miles in the desert before finally making to a spot where his cell phone worked.

Thankfully, Jimmy got picked up in time — and with the money intact so he could pay Lalo’s bail and secure his release. Before leaving in a waiting car, Lalo makes sure to mention that he met Mrs. Goodman after Kim paid him a visit to see if he could help find Jimmy. Lalo can’t help himself but to joke with Jimmy about how he batted way out of his league by getting Kim.

That’s not nearly as concerning to Jimmy as the fact that Lalo now knows Kim exists, which puts her directly in the line of fire.

Still, Lalo seems more than satisfied with the service he received and he tells Jimmy that his status as a ‘friend of the cartel’ is cemented so he can expect a lot more business to come his way.

When Jimmy finally returns home, Kim is there to greet him with an oatmeal bath to soothe his sunburn as she anxiously awaits the story about what happened.

He tells her the same story he told to Lalo — his car broke down and he was forced to walk alone through the desert until he made his way back to civilization. When she asks if this was all worth it, Jimmy tells her to go look in his bag because he’s expecting her to find those stacks of cash.

Kim finds the money but she also discovers his bullet ridden coffee mug that she bought him once he got his law license back. She knows Jimmy is lying to her but Kim also recognizes that he’s not quite right after the night spent in the desert.

The next morning, Jimmy is still just as rattled as the sound of a juicer rattles through his brain with flashbacks of what he just survived and a sudden bang sends him leaping off his bar stool and tossing a bowl of cereal out of sheer surprise. Jimmy’s clearly not dealing with the aftermath of his near death experience but he tries to resist that anything is wrong.

He even goes back to work that same day to help a client but that backfires spectacularly when he loses a case that was seemingly unwinnable for the prosecution. Afterwards as he’s being taunted for his poor performance in the courtroom, Jimmy can’t even muster a snappy response because he’s so haunted from the previous day that nothing else is seeping into his brain.

Finally, Jimmy goes outside where he meets with Mike Ehrmantraut, who has arrived to offer him some advice after their hellacious night together. Jimmy wants to know when this feeling will finally go away. When can he begin to get back to normal again?

Mike can’t tell him an exact date because it’s different for everybody. He also didn’t have a gun pointed at him with a triggerman just seconds away from killing him. As tough as it may be for him to accept this particular fate, Mike also reminds Jimmy that he put himself on this particular path no matter how much he regrets it now.

“We all make our choices. Those choices, they put us on a road. Sometimes those choices seem small but they put you on the road. You think about getting off but eventually you’re back on it. The road we’re on led us out to the desert and everything that happened there and straight back to where we are right now. And nothing — nothing can be done about that. Do you understand that?”
~ Mike Ehrmantraut

Jimmy is still shell shocked but he’s even more stunned that Mike is the only person on Earth he can talk to about what happened to them.

Dog on a Leash

Mike is handling the ordeal in the desert much better than Jimmy as he returns to Gus Fring to report what happened. He tells him about the Colombian hit squad that was sent after the money – he recognized their gang ink after seeing the same group back east when he was a cop in Philadelphia.

Mike assumes that the gang trailed the Salamanca cousins across the border, waited for them to leave and then ambushed Jimmy to take the money. After Gus sees the symbol they were wearing, he realizes that this wasn’t just some crew looking to steal $7 million from the Salamanca family.

He places a call to Juan Bolsa — the cartel boss, who handles Gus Fring and the Salamanca’s in America and reports directly back to Don Eladio. Juan seems quite unconcerned to find out about the hit placed on Lalo’s lawyer and the attempt to steal the money. Juan promises to look into it further but Gus already has his answer.

Gus knows that Lalo taking $7 million to pay for his bail so he can return to Mexico creates more problems than it solves. So Juan was ready to prevent Lalo from leaving prison so he could remain a problem of the American government rather than a thorn in the side of the cartel.

Still, Gus is content sending Lalo back to Mexico for now because that will leave the Salamanca organization without a true leader, which makes them ripe to be overtaken.

Before leaving Mike makes one final request of Gus — he wants him to cut Nacho Varga free and stop pointing a gun at his father as a means to control him. Gus counters by pointing out that Nacho has already proven his disloyalty when he tried to kill Hector Salamanca by switching his medication and leaving him in a permanent state of paralysis. Gus believes Nacho will be better served to stay as the figurehead for the Salamanca family while he’s secretly pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Gus also has no interest in removing the noose that’s been placed around the neck of Nacho’s father. Gus sees Nacho as a dog who likes to bite people — there are only two ways to control an animal like that and the second choice is putting him down for good. Mike now knows that Nacho’s only way out will likely be death because Gus has no intention of letting him go free until he’s finally crippled the Salamanca organization once and for all.

Time to Play the Game

While Jimmy was off blowing a court case, Kim returned to her office one last time before deciding corporate law was no longer her beat. Kim has been struggling with her place at Schweikart and Cokely all season long — mostly built around her disdain for Mesa Verde forcing a man out of his home after living there for decade.

Now with a passion for pro-bono work, Kim finally decides enough is enough and she hands over her keys to the company car, grabs the top off the bottle of tequila that she took on the night she teamed up with Jimmy to con arrogant stock broker Ken Wins, and exits the building with a big smile on her face.

At the same time Kim was saying goodbye to her job, Lalo Salamanca was saying farewell to his uncle Hector.

Because he’s trying to avoid murder charges, Lalo has no choice but to head back to Mexico, which means he’s going to have to leave the Salamanca organization in the United States. He tells his uncle that Tuco will get out of prison in 11 months and he can take over at that time.

The revelation about Tuco getting out of prison seems to bring us that much closer to the start of “Breaking Bad” because he’s the man in charge when Walter White first comes to prominence as a producer of pure, blue meth. Lalo notes that his cousin Tuco is a hot head but he’ll make sure to leave someone behind to keep an eye on him to ensure he maintains control.

Is it possible Nacho Varga is the trustworthy person left to keep Tuco under control and perhaps that’s why we never see him in “Breaking Bad” because the hot-tempered Salamanca rarely listens to advice? Remember, Nacho previously worked for Tuco during the early seasons on “Better Call Saul” before he hired Mike Ehrmantraut to remove him from the equation, which eventually ended with Tuco in prison and Hector arriving in New Mexico.

As Lalo leaves the nursing home, he sees his uncle forced to wear a party hat while the other people around him sing happy birthday and he’s obviously saddened that this will probably be the last time they will see each other. Judging by what unfolds in “Breaking Bad,” that’s almost a certainty.

Lalo then jumps in Nacho’s car as they head for the border while Victor follows behind to make sure he departs for Mexico.

After making it to the same well that Lalo used as a marker for his cousins to find and meet Saul Goodman, he tells Nacho to return home and he’ll be in touch. Before Nacho can drive away, however, Lalo jumps back into the car and tells him to drive back in the other direction.

Six or seven miles later, Lalo begins looking for Saul’s broken down car.

Something isn’t sitting right with Lalo about his lawyer’s story regarding his night spent in the desert before finally making his way home with the $7 million for his bail. Eventually, Lalo spots the tire tracks where Mike and Jimmy pushed his Suzuki Esteem into a ravine.

Lalo looks over the car for a moment and then jumps down into the ravine for a closer examination. That’s when he spots the bullet holes in the side of the car.

Lalo climbs back up to the road and tells Nacho to take him back to Albuquerque.

Meanwhile, Kim arrives home to find Jimmy laying quietly in their bedroom. She shares with him the news about her leaving the lawfirm in order to focus more on her pro bono work. She’s also known this entire time that Jimmy has been lying to her about his ordeal in the desert but Kim won’t pressure him into telling her the truth until he’s ready.

Just when it seems like they might have a heart-to-heart, a knock on the door is heard and Jimmy’s cell phone begins to ring. Jimmy answers and hears a frantic Mike on the other end telling him to place the phone down with the receiver open, somewhere it can’t be seen.

The instructions are confusing at first until Kim tells Jimmy that someone is at the door for him. He puts the phone down and opens the door to find Lalo Salamanca waiting for him.

Lalo invites himself inside with his typical smile and charm before sitting down on the couch. He then asks Jimmy to relay to him the story about his night spent in the desert and how he made it home again.

Jimmy begins rattling off the same story he told before — he got the money from Lalo’s cousins, his car broke down six or seven miles later and he hiked through the desert until finally making it to the truck stop where he was rescued. Again and again, Lalo tells Jimmy to tell him that same story and with each version, a few new details are added.

Jimmy tells him about drinking his own pee and the reason he didn’t go hitchhiking (to protect the $7 million he was carrying around in two duffel bags) but he never goes as far as explaining the bullet-ridden car or the hit squad sent to kill him.

As Lalo finally begins to lose his patience and that smiling demeanor transforms into something more menacing, Kim speaks up on Jimmy’s behalf.

By this point, Mike has arrived and he has his sniper rifle trained on Lalo but Kim actually blocks his path when she decides to back up her husband. Kim tells Lalo that he has no reason to question Jimmy’s version of the story — it’s the same one he told to her and they don’t lie to each other.

Kim then questions why Lalo asked his lawyer to go pick up the bail money — is that because there’s no one in his own organization he could trust to take possession of $7 million without trying to rip him off? And as far as the car goes, Kim reminds Lalo that he’s standing in New Mexico where kids love to shoot at things and then destroy them — like what probably happened to the abandoned Suzuki Esteem left in the middle of a desert road.

Finally, Kim begins to wonder if Lalo shouldn’t be more worried about the affairs of his own house rather than questioning Jimmy’s loyalty and the story he’s been told about that harrowing night spent in the desert. Kim doesn’t request but rather demands Lalo to get his shit together before coming to their house to accuse Jimmy of wrongdoing.

Without saying a word, Lalo takes a look at Kim and one more nod towards Jimmy before leaving the apartment. Mike keeps an eye on him from a distance as Lalo heads back downstairs to Nacho Varga’s waiting car. He tells Nacho to drive — they are headed back to Mexico but this trip won’t require them to return to that well in the middle of the desert.

Lalo is smart enough to know there’s more at work here than a crafty lawyer finding a way to survive a night in the desert with $7 million in his possession. But with law enforcement breathing down his neck for this murder charge, Lalo doesn’t have enough time to answer all the questions — at least not right now. So he heads back to Mexico.

As for Jimmy, all he wanted this entire time was to protect Kim from knowing the truth and keeping her out of the game. Judging by Kim’s ability to read the situation and handle Lalo Salamanca, she might just be the real player now.

“Better Call Saul” returns next Monday night for the season 5 finale at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

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