In the “Better Call Saul” recap, Gene calls home for an update and starts running a whole new scam in Omaha while Saul Goodman returns alongside some familiar faces…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Since the first episode of “Better Call Saul” debuted all the way back in 2015, the assumption has been that Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul would eventually return as Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.
There were thoughts within the creative team that perhaps bringing the characters back in the first season would be the best possible way to transition the “Breaking Bad” crowd into “Better Call Saul” but ultimately creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould opted against that idea. Instead, Cranston and Paul remained on the sidelines season after season until the Emmy award winning pair finally made their triumphant return in the latest episode appropriately titled “Breaking Bad.”
Now Walt and Jesse don’t return for any flash forward moments — at least not yet where Mr. Pinkman is concerned because he’s still alive and well in Alaska — but instead the flashbacks return Saul Goodman to the first moments he encountered the future meth kingpins when they held him hostage after trying to get Badger released from prison without flipping on them.
The difference this time is seeing how everything unfolded from Saul’s perspective, which makes the title of the episode make that much more sense. When Bob Odenkirk first appeared on “Breaking Bad,” the episode was titled “Better Call Saul” and now in return, Walt and Jesse return in an episode titled “Breaking Bad.”
While the flashbacks to see Walt and Jesse again — along with a classic appearance from Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut — are the real highlights of the episode, the story taking place in Omaha is far from finished and moments taking place throughout are certainly done as a parallel between the two situations.
When Saul first met Walt and Jesse, he saw the potential for a money making scheme that could net him millions even if he was dealing with what he thought were two bumbling amateur drug dealers who could be more trouble than what they were worth.
Fast forward to 2010 when Gene Takavic is sick and tired of just being a manager at Cinnabon, he’s once again taking unnecessary risks just for the sake of feeling the thrill of it all and that might just end up as his final demise when the series ends in two weeks.
With that said, let’s recap the latest episode of “Better Call Saul” titled “Breaking Bad”…
A New Perspective
For the sake of clarity, we’ll go in sequential order starting with the flashbacks to the time during “Breaking Bad” and then fast forward to Gene pulling schemes in Omaha.
When the episode begins, Saul Goodman has a bag over his head and he’s bouncing around the back of a 1986 Fleetwood Bounder after being kidnapped by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. The scenes with Saul and his eventual business partners don’t seek to just replay the same exact moments from “Breaking Bad” but rather what we didn’t see during the hour where Albuquerque’s fastest talking lawyer made his debut.
After convincing Walt and Jesse that he wasn’t a threat to them and thus convincing the pair to unmask themselves, Saul prepares for a ride back to his office in the same vehicle that dragged him out to the desert in the first place.
In the back of the “Crystal Ship” as Jesse dubbed it, Saul discovers the meth cooking operation that Walt started as a way to supplement his income after being diagnosed with cancer. Before long, Saul realizes that Walt is responsible for the blue meth that’s been tearing up the streets of New Mexico as the hottest product on the drug market since cocaine first arrived in the United States.
As they sit in the back of the RV after Walt is unable to get it started, Jesse asks Saul about Lalo — the name he uttered when they first dragged him out to the desert. The usually quick witted lawyer clams up when Lalo is mentioned because it certainly brings back a flood of bad memories — not the least of which was Howard Hamlin’s murder and his wife Kim leaving him days later.
The interaction is brief but it’s so great to see those three on screen together. It turns out those moments were actually filmed all the way back in April 2021 during a brief window when Cranston and Paul could get free to return for “Better Call Saul.” In fact, these scenes were shot long before the rest of the episode had even been written but obviously the creators behind the show knew exactly what they wanted when Walt and Jesse finally returned.
It’s likely both will return because Cranston had previously teased that he and Paul returned for a scene they shot together as well as each one have a separate scene with Odenkirk as Saul so stay tuned for those in the final two episodes.
Back at his office, Saul is relaxing on the ground with his Swing Master — a machine that swivels his legs back and forth and such a comfort that he buys another one years later in Omaha has Gene Takavic starts to become his old self again — and that’s when Mike Ehrmantraut enters.
Mike has been serving as Saul’s private investigator after he used the black book obtained from the crooked veterinarian to begin building his law practice. When Mike arrives, he gives Saul updates on a cheating spouse and a great second story man (aka a thief) who could be trusted and wouldn’t rat if he got busted.
The third piece of business was Mike’s investigation into the meth dealers that kidnapped Saul.
Mike reveals their names as Walter Hartwell White and Jesse Pinkman. He quickly discards Jesse as nothing more than a meth head while Walter is a high school science teacher with stage 3 lung cancer. Saul sees an opportunity with Walt because he produces the popular blue meth that has everybody buzzing in Albuquerque but Mike says his boss — he who shall not be named — isn’t even aware this guy exists.
Mike tells Saul that working with somebody like Walt is a risk not worth taking and he should pass on doing any further business with him. But as we all know, Saul is nothing if not a man driven by temptation and the chance to transform Fredo Corleone into Vito Corleone is too good to pass up on.
It’s an interesting scene because even back then Mike was trying to warn Saul away from Walt and Jesse but he just couldn’t do it. A few episodes later, Walt meets Gustavo Fring — he who shall not be named — and that embarks a whole new relationship that ends with the Chicken Man very dead.
It turns out Mike should have listened to his own advice because he also ends up dead thanks to Walter White.
After learning the information about Walt and his real life job, Saul arrives at the local high school to reintroduce himself to his client under much different circumstances this time. Back in “Breaking Bad,” the scene plays out with Walt shocked to see Saul has found him and Saul informing the science teacher turned meth maker that if his private investigator was able to track him down in about an hour, it won’t be long before more people start doing the same thing.
That’s the spark that begins the relationship between Saul and Walt that ends with one of them on the run and the other dead on the ground inside a Nazi meth lab.
Back in Omaha circa 2010, Gene Takavic is trying to get back into his regular mundane life after getting a taste of his old one by running a scam with Jeff the cab driver and his friend Buddy. Gene was forced into working with Jeff after the cabbie realized his true identity as Saul Goodman, which put him at risk of the authorities tracking down one of the only people still alive from the meth empire that Heisenberg started in Albuquerque.
But as much as robbing a mall department store was supposed to be a means to an end, Gene couldn’t help but feel alive again after pulling another of his classic schemes.
Before he can get to any new ideas, however, Gene first has to go to a local payphone where he’s coordinated a meeting with his former secretary Francesca, who has been reduced to managing a small apartment complex where the residents like to stuff weed down the drain, which she’s then forced to pump out with a plunger.
Francesca is still cautious these days because the cops have continued to harass her for information ever since Heisenberg’s real identity was revealed. When she arrives at the payphone, Francesca has carefully watched to ensure nobody is following her and then at 3 p.m. on the dot, she hears a ring.
When Francesca picks up, she hears Saul Goodman’s voice on the other end of the line as he requests an update on everything that’s unfolded since he escaped.
Francesca reveals that Walter White’s death has only amped up their investigation on the still living members of his organization and that means the hunt is on for Jesse Pinkman and Saul Goodman. The cops found Jesse’s car near the Mexican border so that’s where the search for him has turned while nobody seems to be the wiser about Saul’s location.
A quick side note — Jesse’s escape thanks to the Disappearer included that small but crucial detail that his car would be left near the Mexican border while he went north to Alaska in the “El Camino” movie. Francesca’s update proves that Jesse is still free at least when this part of the story is taking place
As for Saul, all of his hidden accounts have been discovered and the money laundering fronts have been shut down. Even his off shore bank accounts were seized after Francesca found out the hard way that she was named as a co-founder for one of them.
Francesca also gives an update on Skyler White — just as Walt intended, the lottery ticket he gave her in the “Breaking Bad” finale that had the coordinates where Hank and Gomez were buried allowed her to strike a deal to remain free from prosecution. She also tells her former boss that Huell got off on a technicality and he’s since returned to his former home in New Orleans.
She also tells him that former prosecutor Bill Oakley — the guy who once worked with Jimmy when he was a public defender — has now crossed over to become a defense attorney and he’s taken over all the bus bench ads that once belonged to Saul Goodman.
Sadly, Francesca can’t account for anybody else from Saul’s past including Kuby but she did get a call from Kim Wexler checking on her after the news about Walter White’s meth empire went national. It seems Kim called to check on Francesca and she also asked about her ex-husband, which injects a whole lot of joy into Gene’s shriveled heart.
After paying off Francesca with another stash of money he had hidden, Gene then decides to call a sprinkler company in Florida where Kim Wexler now works.
As promised, Kim is no longer practicing law and instead she’s selling lawn sprinklers in the Sunshine State. Gene places a call to the business and asks to speak to Kim but we don’t actually hear the conversation.
What we do witness is Gene transforming from excited to irate as he ends up smashing the phone into the receiver before breaking the glass in the booth as he stomps off in anger. It’s been promised that we’ll learn more about that conversation before the series is over but whatever Gene learned did not leave him in a good place, at least where his ex-wife was concerned.
Did Kim get remarried? Does she not want to take his call? It will be very interesting to see how this turns out.
Following that anger inducing conversation, Gene decides to return to Marion’s house — the great Carol Burnett makes her return — where he runs into Jeff the cab driver again. Despite warning him to stay away after they pulled off that department store stealing scheme, Gene has returned with a new idea and he wants Jeff and his friend Buddy to help.
This time around, Gene acts as a loser bar patron Viktor — the same identity he once used alongside Kim when they scammed people together — who saddles up next to other lonely single yet wealthy men where they strike up a conversation. After getting them nice and liquored up, Gene calls for a cab that arrives to take his “new friend” home.
The cab is driven by none other than Jeff, who kindly offers his customers a bottle of water laced with barbiturates that leaves them unconscious by the time they get home. From there, Jeff helps his customers to the door where he places a piece of duct tape over the lock, which then leads to Buddy arriving to walk inside with the person still very much knocked out.
Buddy the proceeds to copy the driver’s license, credit card, bank information and anything else of value that he can find. Buddy isn’t stealing anything that will raise suspicions but rather he’s gathering information that can then be sold to a shady sort who will use that for identity theft down the line.
By the time the person starts getting scammed, they’ve long since forgotten about the drunken cab ride home.
The plan works to perfection again and again with Gene siphoning off his drinks into a water bottle hidden in his coat as he watches these people suck down booze and then need a cab ride home. Each time, Buddy steals the information and they sell it to a third party, who pays them a handsome fee for each person provided.
That’s when Gene starts slipping back into old habits — including the Swing Master that reminds him of the days he had his own office in Albuquerque. The reality as Francesca reminded him when he was asking about all of those seized assets, Saul Goodman escaped with a boatload of money already so none of this is about needing the cash.
Instead, this is Jimmy McGill’s undying need to feed his thrill seeking nature with the schemes he’s pulled that eventually leads him to becoming Saul Goodman and then ultimately stuck as Gene Takavic in Omaha.
The last job we witness involves another poor bastard who drinks too much but then reveals that he’s dealing with cancer — a diagnosis that echoes from somebody else in Gene’s not too distant past.
At first, Gene seems to pause in his plans to rip this guy off but he ends up letting the mark finish his drinks, take the cab home and he returns to his place to await word that the job is done.
The only problem is he gets a call from Jeff and Buddy that something has gone wrong.
It seems when Buddy was rifling through this guy’s jacket, he found the cancer medication and it reminded him of the same pills that his father took before his untimely death. Buddy just couldn’t bring himself to fleece this guy knowing he’s already dying of cancer.
Gene spins into a rage about Buddy’s ineptitude and he fires him on the spot while warning him to keep his mouth shut about everything they’ve been doing. He then orders Jeff to drive him back to the house where Buddy failed to steal the information except for one problem — the duct tape over the door lock has already been removed.
That’s just a small obstacle in Gene’s way as he goes up to the door, smashes a window and reaches in to turn over the lock to let himself inside. Of course this seems like the worse idea ever considering Gene’s entire plan hinges around his victims not discovering they’ve been the victim of identity theft until months later but now he’s essentially just breaking and entering to finish the job that was already started.
A preview for next week’s penultimate episode of “Better Call Saul” showed police cruisers in the same black and white world that Gene Takavic occupies so it seems entirely possible that this need to pull off the con might finally give the authorities at least one major arrest in the infamous Heisenberg case.
It’s also further proof that Jimmy McGill has always been his own worst enemy and the instincts that led him to business with Walter White have now ended up with him becoming a criminal again under his new identity in Omaha because he just can’t seem to stop himself.
“Better Call Saul” returns for the second to last episode next Monday night at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.