In the Better Call Saul recap, Jimmy deals with the fallout from his commercial to drum up business for Davis & Main and Mike comes to a crossroads about what he’s willing to do for money…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer @DamonMartin
One of the most amazing things about Better Call Saul is the intricate way the writers have pieced together the back stories for both Jimmy McGill and Mike Ehrmantraut that can easily fall into place when recognizing the men they become just a few years later once they break bad.
For Jimmy, it’s his refusal to play by the rules while walking his own path — a path that typically colors well outside the law. Sure, it gets the job done but at what cost?
Meanwhile, Mike is in desperate need of some big cash to help take care of his daughter-in-law and granddaughter, but at this stage of the game, there are still some lines he just won’t cross. Clearly he’s adapted to a new code by the time he’s introduced to Walter White for the first time and this latest episode may have given us a look into what that happened.
It’s a brilliant, subtle hour of television where it appears on the surface that not much happens, but when you start peeling back the layers, this latest episode might be one of the best precursors yet to see how it all unfolds into Breaking Bad.
With that said, let’s recap the latest episode of Better Call Saul titled ‘Gloves Off’….
If you want next level money, you have to do next level work.
Those are the words echoing through Mike’s head as he tosses down a pile of money at the start of this episode while lumping a frozen bag of carrots on his hamburgered face after the latest job he completed.
Flashback to a week ago, Mike’s called in by his old pal Nacho and offered a stack of cash to make Tuco Salamanca disappear for good. See, Nacho has been partners with Tuco for years but his volatile temper is only compounded when he’s juiced up on crank or crystal, which is his latest favorite tasty treat.
Add to that, Nacho’s side business where he’s been buying and selling narcotics behind Tuco’s back, and he sees it as just a matter of time before he’s landing in the crosshairs of his partner’s gun.
Mike isn’t sold on the job because killing your partner is a bell that can’t be unrung, but Nacho decides to tell him a story about Tuco that convinces him that it’s worth it.
It seems years ago while Tuco was all about the crank, he had a dealer named Dog Paulson, who was his supplier. Out of nowhere one day, Tuco decides that Dog has been selling to the competition and he’s going to put him through his own special ‘lie detector’ test to see what he’s been up to. Dog swears up and down that he hasn’t been going to anybody but Tuco, but before he can finish his sentence, the hot-tempered drug kingpin has unloaded a sawed off shotgun blast that tears him in half. Nacho just happened to be standing behind Dog at the time and not only did he catch a face full of blood, but he also got a piece of the drug dealer’s skull lodged in his shoulder that won’t come out again.
It’s a constant reminder that Tuco lives with his finger on the trigger and one wrong move could land him in an unmarked grave right next to Dog.
So Mike decides that the job is worth doing but it’s not going to be a drive by or some half-assed plan where he’s racing for his life like he just pulled off a liquor store robbery and he has to beat the cops to the highway. Instead, Mike opts for a long range attack — so he visits his old pal Lawson (who you probably remember from Breaking Bad) and he looks into buying a rifle that he can use like a sniper to take Tuco out without anybody knowing where the shot came from.
But at the last minute before he makes the purchase, Mike has second thoughts. He’s lived through war once already and the last thing he wants to do is start another one with Tuco and the Mexican cartel. So he goes to Nacho with an alternative plan that will put Tuco behind bars for a good long while and nobody has to die.
Let’s Make a Deal
After running a commercial without permission in hopes of drumming up more business on the Sandpiper Crossing lawsuit, Jimmy nearly loses his job at Davis & Main but ultimately Cliff Main decides that he’s a man who appreciates second chances. So he gives one to Jimmy with the explicit rules that this is strike one and strike two and the watchful eyes of the entire firm will be on him for the foreseeable future.
Jimmy’s out of hot water but unfortunately Kim suffers a much different fate for knowing about the commercial and not warning HHM that it was coming. Now, technically Kim knew about the commercial under the false pretence that Davis & Main had already signed off on it and Jimmy even got a call congratulating him on the success the ad had while running for a single day in Colorado. But once the truth comes out, Kim refuses to toss Jimmy under the bus and instead takes one for the team.
Her punishment — a banishment to the basement for file review plus the loss of her corner office that she worked so hard to land in the first place.
When Jimmy finally shows up after attempting to warn Kim what was coming, he finds her on the bottom floor at the end of long, dingy table where she’s working by the light of a single desk lamp. He feels awful that she’s taken the punishment for something he did. To make matters worse, she threw herself on the sword rather than pass the blame off on him.
Jimmy: “I’m talking to Howard”
Kim: “And what? Call him a pig fucker again? Yep, that’ll help.”
If there was on surprise here it’s that Kim doesn’t break up with Jimmy but instead admonishes him for continuing to fuck up her life by constantly breaking the rules. It appears he’s on strike two already with her as well.
So to rectify the situation, Jimmy sucks it up and heads over to his brother Chuck’s house to see if he can talk some sense into the other partner at HHM to get this black cloud lifted from above Kim’s head. When he arrives, Jimmy finds Chuck shivering under his foil blankets, barely able to sit up much less form full sentences.
So Jimmy cares for his brother — just like he always did before.
In the morning, brotherly love turns to spite when Jimmy asks Chuck to put Kim back where she was just a day before and in exchange he’ll give up practicing law forever. Chuck is tempted to take the offer, but he realizes that he would just be giving into another of Jimmy’s bad instincts to fix a problem rather than dealing with it.
“You want perspective? I’ll give you mine. You’re my brother and I love you but you’re like an alcoholic who refuses to admit he’s got a problem. Now someone’s given you the keys to the school bus and I’m not going to let you drive it off a cliff.”
Jimmy’s best efforts to free Kim from the basement fall flat but it’s just another case where the needs of the few outweighed the wants of the many. Jimmy always reverts back to what he knows best — being a con artist even in the subtlest ways — and it’s everybody else around him that catches the shrapnel. This time it was Kim and as willing as he was to give up his own career to save hers, she wouldn’t be there in the first place if Jimmy was just willing to play by the rules.
Of course we all know that breaking the rules is part of what will eventually transform Jimmy McGill, Esquire into Saul Goodman, Attorney-at-Law.
To ensure he cashes in on a $25,000 payday, Mike unfurls a plan that ends with Tuco Salamanca in jail on a five-to-ten year stretch for assault, carrying a concealed weapon and robbery.
It all goes down at the same taco stand where Tuco and Nacho meet their dealers to collect money. Mike shows up at an opportune time and “accidentally” dings Tuco’s fender, which results in a very friendly exchange inside the restaurant. Obviously, Tuco wants restitution for his damaged vehicle but Mike is so utterly frustrating that the volatile drug dealer is doing everything in his power not to boil over.
Finally after Mike is ‘forced’ to hand over his wallet, he pushes Tuco over the limi and he grabs the old man and begins pummeling him with a series of punches. Little does Tuco know that before he arrived at the restaurant, Mike called in a ‘tip’ to the cops that a fight broke out between gang members.
So just as Tuco is blasting away at Mike’s face, the cops show up with guns drawn demanding to leave the old man alone.
“That all you got?”
~ Mike to Tuco
One final punch lands with a thud but the job is done. Mike takes a few lumps but ultimately Tuco ends up in jail, looking at up to 10 years in prison for all those charges and because the cops witnessed the assault, he doesn’t even have to testify in open court. Tuco will go away and Nacho will be free to run his business.
But Nacho has a curiosity for Mike that he needs answered — why play it safe for $25,000 and the risk that Tuco will come back looking for him when he gets out of prison versus $50,000 and just putting a bullet in his head? Mike picks up the money and leaves because in his own mind he’s likely remembering a story he’ll tell Walter White one day when speaking about how to deal with Jesse Pinkman.
There are no half measures in a business like this. You either go all the way, or you pay for it in the end.
And that’s going to come back to bite him one day.
Tune in for the next episode of Better Call Saul on Monday night at 10pm ET on AMC