In the “Better Call Saul” recap, Jimmy and Kim make final preparations to go after Howard and Lalo pays a visit to a German with an axe to grind…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer.
Jimmy McGill was never quite a good man but he also wasn’t exactly a master criminal when “Better Call Saul” first began.
If anything, he was a two-bit hustler who liked running a good con every now and again but he was far from the mastermind who would help Walter White build a criminal empire around the purest meth drug fiends in the southwest had ever tasted. The evolution of Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman has been the entire purpose of this series yet only now are we really starting to see a fully realized character capable of doing the things he does in “Breaking Bad.”
That said, Jimmy’s transition into the slick talking defense attorney turned criminal appears to be less and less about his own machinations and more and more about following the woman he loves down a road with no exits.
Kim Wexler has always been seen as the last stop of morality that kept Jimmy from fully embracing his criminal ambitions but that may not be the case. In fact, the start of the latest episode showed how Kim once got busted as a young girl for attempting to steal a necklace and earrings from a store and her mother showing up as a disciplinarian scolding her for her actions.
Of course once they got out of the store, Kim’s mom all but celebrates her daughter breaking the law while presenting her with the necklace and earrings that she ended up stealing from the store. Kim’s mom wasn’t all that upset that her daughter was stealing but rather that she got caught.
It’s those lessons that Kim never forget, especially after meeting somebody like Jimmy who was willing to indulge and encourage her worst instincts. Now that she’s had a taste of what it’s like to break bad for the greater good, Kim is willing to do whatever it takes to satiate that thirst.
That includes a personal vendetta against her former boss Howard Hamlin that has Kim nearly frothing at the mouth with anticipation to see his ultimate downfall. She’s willing to push to whatever extreme necessary to ensure this mission is completed and she’s taking Jimmy right along with her.
With that said, let’s get to our full recap for the latest episode of “Better Call Saul” for the episode titled “Axe and Grind”…
Preparation for D-Day
As Kim’s plan to bring down Howard Hamlin comes closer and closer to completion, final preparations are at work in this episode to put all the chess pieces on the board.
Nothing is fully realized — that won’t happen until next week in the mid-season finale — but the set up as always with this show is utterly fascinating.
The first stop is Jimmy paying a visit to Dr. Caldera — the less principled veterinarian willing to put two interested criminal parties in touch with each other while patching up the occasional henchman for a payoff. It seems Dr. Caldera is providing Jimmy with a drug that essentially serves as a souped up dose of caffeine that will make the most avid coffee drinker jittery beyond belief.
Jimmy takes a test run and his pupils grow to the size of quarters, which is exactly the desired result both looking like he just snorted the lines off a baseball diamond.
In the midst of the conversation, Dr. Caldera reveals that he’s closing up shop soon to turn his full focus back on his real passion, which is saving animals. He’s no longer interested in keeping one foot in the criminal world so he’s currently planning on auctioning off his little black book, which is coded with all the various people he’s connected with over the years.
Jimmy is very interested in that book, which also happens to contain a business card for Best Quality Vacuum, which is a key clue to the future of “Breaking Bad” because that’s the business owned by Ed Galbraith (played by the late Robert Forster) — the disappearer who creates false identities and helps criminals like Walter White and Saul Goodman slip away free before the law catches up with them. It’s safe to say, Jimmy gets his hands on that black book and that may serve as the missing link between his current criminal enterprise and the much bigger one he builds in a few years.
Through all of this, Jimmy wonders why Caldera would give up a lucrative career as a criminal fixer but Kim definitely understands his motivations because the doctor is ultimately going to do what he loves. That’s the same driving force behind Kim’s motives to build an law practice that would help people unable to help themselves — but much like her mother taught her years earlier, nothing is so bad as long as you can get away with it.
In other words, Kim wants to do good deeds but she can’t quite let go of her desire to stick it to Howard Hamlin and that itch will cost her later in this episode.
Meanwhile what Kim and Jimmy don’t know about Howard is that his life is already falling apart without any help from them.
A look inside the Hamlin household shows Howard meticulously putting together his suit and tie combination before making a perfect cup of cappuccino with a peace sign drawn in the frothy milk. He sets down the cup to present to his estranged wife Cheryl, who can barely greet him with a good morning before looking annoyed at the effort used to make a cup of coffee.
She barely acknowledges the gesture before pouring the coffee into a travel mug and then scoffs at Howard’s suggestion that they attend a charity benefit together when she could just as easily do it alone.
Howard’s home life looks as bleak and lonely as the one Saul Goodman seems to lead after discovering the gaudy household he put together after becoming Albuquerque’s No. 1 strip mall attorney.
Before they finally split for the day, Howard informs his wife to be aware that she might be hearing about some strange allegations connected to Chuck McGill’s brother Jimmy and he just wanted to give her the heads up that he’s not exactly sure what might be coming next. She once again shrugs her shoulders as if she couldn’t care less what accusations are made against Howard because whatever marriage these two once shared is all but in shambles.
Back at the office, Howard meets with his private investigator who shows him several days of photos where he’s been following Jimmy around in his daily routine. Nothing is out of the ordinary except for one transition where Jimmy went to the bank and pulled out what appears to be $20,000 in cash.
That’s a highly suspicious amount of money for an attorney to need in cash, which puts Howard on high alert to whatever move Jimmy is making next.
It turns out Jimmy was one step ahead of Howard because he anticipated the private investigator and now he’s using that against his former boss in this scheme.
When Kim arrives at Jimmy’s office that night, he’s working with his student film crew to stage a set of photos alongside a lookalike who is mimicking the judge serving as the mediator for the People vs. Sandpiper Crossing class action suit. Kim got his name last week and it turns out the plan is to dress up an actor to look like the judge and pose him in photos where it appears he’s taking some sort of payoff from Jimmy McGill.
The scheme appears to play out like this — Howard gets a look at those photos and accuses the judge of misdeeds when he has a mediation session scheduled the next day at his law firm and on top of that, Jimmy and Kim are orchestrating a way to somehow dose their former boss with this mystery drug that will make him look like he’s an 8-ball deep after breakfast, which will only further his mania during this meeting.
Jimmy even manages to pull his receptionist Francesca into the scheme by having her call Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill while posing as a relative of one of the Sandpiper crossing victims so they can join the mediation session and listen to everything unfolding as it happens.
While all of this is happening in the foreground, there’s plenty happening elsewhere that should probably serve as a cautionary tale for both Kim and Jimmy to put a stop to this plan.
At court that day, Kim uses a rather brilliant legal strategy to showcase how one Albuquerque cop was targeting a client of hers for a search and seizure. Cliff Main happened to be in the audience to watch it all unfold and he applauds Kim for her slick maneuver.
Afterwards, Cliff reveals to Kim that the Jackson-Mercer Foundation — a justice advocacy group based on the east coast is interested in opening an office in the southwest. Cliff believes Kim would be the perfect person to work with this group to help those less fortunate who need legal counsel.
This is everything Kim has wanted and assuming she lands the gig, she would no longer need the Sandpiper Crossing settlement to fund her law practice. The only problem is the meeting with the Jackson-Mercer people takes place in Santa Fe the very next day — at the same time when Howard Hamlin’s career is supposed to be toppled over.
Over at Jimmy’s office, Francesca is watching her beautiful waiting room decimated by her boss’ less than cordial clients. One guy puts out a cigarette butt on the sofa and another pees in the fountain she had installed in Jimmy’s personal meeting room.
Seeing her reaction pretty much explains how this décor gets changed to plastic chairs, a plexiglass wall dividing Francesca from the clients and the loud Constitution wallpaper with fake Roman columns inside Saul Goodman’s chambers that we see in “Breaking Bad.”
When Jimmy gets the good news from Kim about her job opportunity, he assures her that she can go meet with the Jackson-Mercer Foundation with no worries that Howard’s D-Day will happen even if she’s not around to see it. That night, Jimmy and Kim even share a glass of wine on the front lawn outside the Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill offices to toast Howard’s demise.
The next day, Jimmy heads over to the liquor store to pick up a bottle of Zafiro Anejo — the expensive tequila that served as a drink when he first pulled a con with Kim back in season one. The topper to that bottle is the same one Kim kept from her former office and the same as seen pulled out of Jimmy’s home when Federal agents were categorizing everything after he fled New Mexico under an assumed identity.
The only problem is while Jimmy is standing in line he happens to spot the judge overseeing the Sandpiper mediation later that day. The judge still has his distinctive mustache but he’s also sporting a broken arm.
Jimmy abandons the tequila to call Kim to warn her — the photos they took with the lookalike won’t match because they had no idea the real judge had a broken arm. He calls an audible and tells Kim that they won’t be able to finish the job with Howard right now but they’ll live to fight another day.
Halfway to Santa Fe when she gets the call, Kim decides Howard’s downfall is worth more than her dream job. So she pulls a 180 in the middle of the highway, abandoning her meeting with the Jackson-Mercer people, to drive back to Albuquerque because no matter what else happens, Howard Hamlin’s reign ends today.
Kim’s actions are starting to show why maybe she’s the real criminal mastermind in this husband and wife duo and Jimmy is just following her lead. Then again it seems almost impossible that Kim’s conscience won’t eventually reappear, which could lead to her split with Jimmy and subsequent exit before “Breaking Bad” begins.
Only time will tell if that’s what happens.
An Axe to Grind
The great Giancarlo Esposito stepped behind the camera for this episode to serve as director for the first time so Gus Fring doesn’t actually appear this week but his men remain hard at work protecting every inch of his empire while he awaits Lalo Salamanca’s return.
As Mike continues to run security checks, Tyrus says that the men are stretched thin and he believes they should make some necessary changes including removing people from working on one particular street where nothing is likely to happen.
Mike quickly shuts Tyrus down while reminding him that if Gus has a problem with the security he’s put in place then Gus can be the one to tell him.
As for the street with extra security where Lalo is unlikely to show up, Mike goes there himself and it turns out that’s where his daughter-in-law and granddaughter reside. It seems every night, Mike goes there and calls his granddaughter Kaylee and he walks her through stargazing in a telescope while helping her learn about all the different constellations.
When Stacey gets on the phone, Mike tells her about a job he’s doing away from Albuquerque, which is why he can’t be there in person to teach Kaylee on the telescope. Little do they know he’s actually right across the street keeping a watchful eye on both of them.
As for Lalo Salamanca — after meeting Werner Ziegler’s widow last week and getting a clue about who could tell him what Gus Fring is building, he arrives in a wooded area in a remote part of Germany where a bearded man is chopping wood.
The man is Casper — one of Werner’s loyal workers who was sent home after the job was called off when his boss attempted to escape and was ultimately killed by Mike under orders from Gus.
Lalo’s arrival startles Casper because he knows strangers shouldn’t just be wandering on his property so he quickly surmises this is bad news. Casper grabs his axe and runs into a shed where Lalo gives chase.
Inside, Casper gets the drop on Lalo and knocks the wind out of him with the axe handle, which turns out to be his biggest mistake. As Lalo appears to be getting his breath back, he turns the tables on Casper, knocks his legs out from under him and then chops off a foot with the axe.
While Lalo may have suffered a broken rib, he knows Casper got the worst of it and now he’s looking for information about what Gus Fring is actually building back in New Mexico. It certainly feels like this is all leading towards a confrontation between Gus and Lalo in what will eventually become the super lab but we’re not there quite yet.
For now, Lalo appears closer than ever to discovering what Gus has been constructing under the nose of the cartel and his journey from Germany back to the United States doesn’t seem far.
“Better Call Saul” will return for the mid-season finale next Monday night at 9 p.m. ET on AMC