‘Better Call Saul’ Recap ‘Bagman’: Friend of the Cartel

In the “Better Call Saul” recap, Jimmy goes to retrieve Lalo’s bail money and chaos ensues after the bullets start flying…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

When six seasons of “Better Call Saul” finally wrap up next year, we will all look back at pivotal episodes and those that helped to define the series.

It’s hard to imagine when that list is compiled that the latest episode titled “Bagman” won’t be somewhere on there. Much like the classic “Breaking Bad” episode titled “4 Days Out” where Walter White and Jesse Pinkman drive into the desert to cook meth only to get stranded when the RV refuses to start again, the latest installment of “Better Call Saul” puts two key characters in a very unenviable position.

This time around it’s Jimmy McGill and Mike Ehrmantraut stranded in the desert but they aren’t cooking meth but instead the two of them get stuck out in the middle of nowhere, on the run from a gang of thieves determined to rob them of $7 million. Along the way, somebody pees in a bottle to quench their thirst, a sniper rifle takes down a truck and the infamous space blanket that decorated so much of this series thanks to Chuck McGill’s aversion to electromagnetism reappears like a ghostly apparition returning to from the dead.

The episode was directed by “Breaking Bad” creator and “Better Call Saul” co-creator Vince Gilligan and his signature style is painted everywhere. In an episode without much dialogue, Gilligan has to physically punish his characters in an unforgiving backdrop to get the story across — and he does so brilliantly.

With that said, let’s get to our recap of the latest episode of “Better Call Saul” titled “Bagman”…

Finder’s Fee

The episode begins with a return to Mexico to a Salamanca family warehouse where a couple of cartel kids are cleaning out the bloodstains from a Cadillac, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the drug running business. A car arrives and out steps the infamous Salamanca cousins, who have previously appeared in both “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.”

This time around, they enter the warehouse and go into a private storage room that is filled from top to bottom with stacks of cash. The cousins quickly snatch up huge wads of bills and putting them inside two unmarked duffle bags. They carry the bags out to the car and exit the warehouse again without saying a word to anybody.

In case you didn’t figure it out, the Salamanca cousins were retrieving bail money their relative Lalo, who is currently sitting in lockup on murder charges.

Last week with some assistance from Mike Ehrmantraut by way of Gus Fring, Jimmy was able to secure bail for Lalo but the judge ordered a hefty sum — $7 million — but the new head of the Salamanca family didn’t even blink at that figure.

Back at the jail, Lalo has tapped Jimmy to go retrieve his bail money from the cousins, who will be crossing over the border to make the delivery. He says that Jimmy won’t raise any suspicions and he’s the perfect person to complete this task.

After taking down directions that will lead him to the middle of nowhere, 30 miles down a dirt road near the border, Jimmy finally questions how he went from cartel attorney to Lalo’s errand boy when he has a whole cast of characters surrounding him who could do the same job. Lalo might trust Nacho Varga with a lot of his business but he doesn’t like the idea of handing him $7million in cash in hopes that he’ll return.

As Jimmy scoffs at the task set before him, Lalo finally tells him don’t worry about it — he’s relieved of his duties and somebody else will take care of it for him. Lalo seems much more concerned with the newspaper he’s reading with a story about one of Los Pollos Hermanos’ locations being burned to the ground that Jimmy losing interest in being a friend of the cartel.

Jimmy gets up to leave but then stops at the door.

He’s made it this far and last week Lalo promised him being a friend of the cartel means he’s going to make a lot of money. Thus far, Jimmy has only worked under fear of reprisal but now he sees his opening. He names his price — $100,000 — and for that Jimmy will go retrieve Lalo’s bail money.

It doesn’t take much for Lalo to agree and now Jimmy’s got his job and a six-figure salary to go along with it.

Back at home, Jimmy gives Kim the full disclosure about his job working with Lalo Salamanca and the payday he’s receiving for going to get the bail money. Jimmy does his best to play it off like this is just something a cartel lawyer might do but Kim obviously sees right through his ploy while telling him that this is much too dangerous and he should bow out now.

Jimmy continues to say how this is no big deal — he’s just going to go pick up the money and return home before she’s even off work the next night. Little does he know that picking up $7 million in unmarked money is never going to be as easy as just driving to a location and taking two gigantic duffle bags filled with cash.

Jimmy finds that out the hard way the very next day.

Friend of the Cartel

When Jimmy arrives in the desert at the exact time dictated to him by Lalo, he sits and waits for a few moments while rehearsing his greeting for whoever will show up with the money. The Salamanca cousins eventually arrive and they are more confused than anything after hearing Jimmy’s poor attempt to speak Spanish to them.

They drop off the bags without saying a word and then drive away.

Jimmy loads up the cash in the back of his Subaru Esteem and begins the long drive back to civilization. He’s singing a money-infused version of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” when he fails to notice a Jeep pull out from behind him. As he waves them to go around, he doesn’t seem particularly worried when that doesn’t happen but a second later when he runs into a pair of trucks ahead that are waiting for him, Jimmy soon realizes that his job to pick up $7 million of cartel cash wasn’t going to be as easy as described to him.

Maybe he should have asked for more money.

The hijacking crew quickly takes the bags of cash out of the car and then one of the bandits signals to another one that there’s no reason to leave a living witness. So a gun is placed to Jimmy’s head as he begins begging for his life. A second later, blood splatters across Jimmy’s freshly pressed pastel shirt but it’s not his own.

Instead, sniper fire begins picking off the bandits one by one as they fire blindly into the New Mexico sun with machine guns while a surgeon cuts them down from a hundred feet away. One bandit manages to escape but the rest are left dead or bleeding out on the ground.

As Jimmy cowers by his car, still shaking from nearly being killed several times, a familiar voice rings out asking if he’s been hit and then telling him that he’ll be OK.

That voice belongs to Mike Ehrmantraut, who has been trailing Jimmy and keeping an eye on him as he made his way to the rendezvous to pick up Lalo’s cash.

After Mike finishes off one of the bandits who is still breathing, he notices that his own transportation is leaking gas, which means there’s only going to be one way out of the desert  — in Jimmy’s barely-put-together Suzuki Esteem, which has been a stalwart part of his life ever since this series first began.

Luckily even with a couple of bullet holes in the engine block, Jimmy’s car fires up and so Mike loads the money into the trunk and the two of them take off bound for Albuquerque.

Sadly they don’t make it very far before the car conks out and with a bad alternator, there’s no chance for a makeshift repair in the middle of the desert. Mike grabs the cash and then takes off the gas cap — which signals that he put a locator on Jimmy’s car, which is how he tracked him to the desert in the first place. Remember, Mike used a similar tactic when he was first going after Hector Salamanca several seasons ago.

Before Mike can crash the Esteem one final time, Jimmy jumps into the car to grab his “World’s Second Best Lawyer” cup that was a present from his beloved wife Kim. The coffee mug has a bullet hole right through the middle of it, which serves as the perfect symbolism for the death of Jimmy McGill and the birth of Saul Goodman.

Jimmy may have been a bit of a con artist but he was no cartel bagman — not like Saul Goodman, who just survived a shootout in the desert and lived to tell about it.

Mike and Jimmy then push the car into a ravine and begin their long, long walk back to civilization.

Once it starts to get dark, Mike sets up camp for the night while warning Jimmy to be careful about his water consumption because they will need to make it last. Jimmy’s not as concerned about his water intake as much as Kim worrying about him after she was already frightened that he was going into the middle of the desert to retrieve $7 million of cartel cash.

While Mike tries to convince him that Kim will just think he’s seeing another woman, Jimmy soon clues him into their new shared honesty as husband and wife. Kim knows about Jimmy’s relationship with the cartel, which means she’s now part of the game. Jimmy does his best to distance Kim from that part of the business but Mike understands all too well once she knows what he does for a living, there’s no going back.

Before going to sleep, Mike offers Jimmy his spare space blanket to keep warm and the thought of wrapping up in one of probably sent shivers down his spine. Jimmy watched his brother Chuck put those space blankets all over his house while constantly draping himself in one as well while dealing with his own phobia. Jimmy spent a lot of time caring for his brother and then doing everything possible to topple him until Chuck eventually took his own life.

Now the sight of that space blanket just brings back a wave of bad memories.

The next morning while Jimmy and Mike begin the journey again, Kim Wexler is arriving at the local jail for a visit with Lalo Salamanca.

First, Kim makes the cardinal mistake of letting Lalo know that Jimmy has shared with her almost everything about their working relationship. She assures Lalo that under the spousal privilege law, she could never be compelled to testify against Jimmy or his dealings with the cartel.

She only wants Lalo to help her find Jimmy after he failed to return home.

Lalo more or less laughs off the request and tells Kim that her man is like a cockroach — he always finds someway to survive, which is why he was the perfect person to complete this job. If somehow, Jimmy didn’t manage to scurry away then he’s dead somewhere and she may never see him again.

Without saying much more, Lalo gets up and leaves and Kim is devastated by the possibility of what actually happened to Jimmy. Little does she know between visiting Lalo and Jimmy telling Mike about her knowledge of the cartel that Kim has suddenly has a rather large target painted on her back.

We’ve all been concerned about what happens to Kim considering she never appears in “Breaking Bad” and now a new potential peril has been added to the list of reasons she’s not around when Saul Goodman meets Walter White for the first time.

Back in the desert, Jimmy is teetering on the brink of exhaustion and dehydration as he stares at a bottle filled with his own urine that he might be forced to drink in an emergency. He’s ready to give up but Mike refuses to let him stay down.

Mike tells Jimmy that he has people at home who are counting on him to return — they don’t know anything about his business but they are counting on him — and he’s going to do everything in his power to get back to them. He tells Jimmy he needs to find a similar reason to soldier on despite the circumstances.

A few moments later, Mike spots the last bandit who got away from his sniper rifle and he tells Jimmy to hunker down to avoid being seen. But Jimmy’s had enough hiding and running away — so he wraps the space blanket around his body to serve as reflector for the sun, grabs the bags of money and goes running out onto the road to wait for the bandits to see him.

Jimmy is serving as a decoy so Mike can set up a shot to take out the last bandit so they can make the trip back home without further worry that they’ll be hunted down and killed. With no regard to his personal safety, Jimmy just walks ahead as the bandit’s car bears down on him but thankfully with a second shot of the sniper rifle, Mike takes them out.

The car tumbles, twists and flips behind Jimmy, who barely blinks as the vehicle explodes into hundreds of mangled pieces. Sadly when Mike arrives to finish the job, the bandit is already dead and his gallon of water has been shredded in the accident.

Still it’s mission accomplished as Jimmy helped save their lives and as he takes a swig of his own urine to quench his thirst, he can be satisfied knowing he helped save their lives as he and Mike begin that long walk back home again — but at least now nobody is coming to kill them.

“Better Call Saul” will return with a brand new episode next Monday night at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

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