In the “Better Call Saul” season 5 debut recap, Jimmy starts his new business, Gus deals with his Lalo Salamanca problem and Gene in Nebraska meets an admirer…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
It’s been a long 16 months since “Better Call Saul” season 4 came to an end but season 5 finally arrived on Sunday night with a mind-blowing episode.
The last time we saw Jimmy McGill, he had just given a heartfelt speech about his connection to his brother Chuck while addressing the New Mexico Bar Association in an attempt to get his law license back. Jimmy was dinged in a previous meeting for not being sincere enough, which Kim correctly assessed because he never bothered to mention his brother’s passing during the hearing.
Jimmy was able to remedy that problem and his response was so moving even Kim was convinced that he finally faced the realization that his brother was gone and he was never coming back. Unfortunately, Kim’s trust in Jimmy failed to recognized that his entire speech paying homage to his brother was nothing more than his latest grift to get his law license back.
Then after receiving the good news that he could practice law again, Jimmy immediately pivoted to get rid of the last name “McGill” forever by telling the Bar Association that he would now be operating under his new name — Saul Goodman.
While Saul was just getting his new practice up and running, Mike Ehrmantraut was dealing with his own problems after the foreman hired to handle the construction of Gus Fring’s super lab went rogue in an attempt to have a rendezvous with his wife after missing her for weeks as he worked on the project. Werner never imagined his escape would mean dire consequences but that’s exactly what happened when Mike was forced to shoot him dead.
In the midst of all of this a new player arrived in Albuquerque as Eduardo “Lalo” Salamanca showed up to take over his uncle Hector’s business following his “accident”. It didn’t take long for Lalo to inject himself into the entire Salamanca empire — particularly when he took a closer look at Gus’ operation and this mysterious construction project underway.
In the season 5 debut of “Better Call Saul,” Gus decided to answer all of Lalo’s questions — or at least offered him an explanation to his curiosity. Meanwhile, Saul Goodman began practicing law under his new name while Kim continued to struggle to understand his new approach to gathering clients.
But before any of that unfolded, we get an update on Gene Takovic — the manager of the Omaha Cinnabon, who previously practiced law under the name Saul Goodman.
With that said, let’s get to our recap of the “Better Call Saul” season 5 debut titled “Magic Man”…
Do The Point
As a tradition similar to past seasons on “Better Call Saul,” the debut episode begins with an update on Gene Takovic — the alias that Saul Goodman has been living under ever since he had to disappear in the wake of Walter White being exposed as the meth-kingpin of the southwest United States. Last season saw Gene suffer some sort of medical condition that caused him to pass out in the middle of his shift managing the local Cinnabon.
A trip to the hospital where he was forced to use his fake ID along with a ride with a creepy cab driver giving him looks in the backseat while driving him home made Gene more paranoid than ever before that he had been discovered.
Gene cautiously gathered some goods — including a box filled with loose diamonds — as he prepared to skip town. Before leaving, Gene kept a close eye on his apartment as well as calling back into the Cinnabon to see if anybody had been looking for him in the aftermath of his visit to the hospital.
After realizing that the coast was clear, Gene decided it was safe to stay in Omaha as he returned to his job at the mall.
On his lunch break after going back to work, Gene runs into that same creepy cab driver who gave him the ride home from the hospital. The cab driver named Jeff is certain he’s seen Gene somewhere previously — in fact he knows he recognizes the face after previously living in Albuquerque.
Jeff pokes and prods at Gene until he forces the downtrodden former attorney to utter his famous catchphrase — “Better call Saul” — and even forces him to do the point just like those commercials he made famous. The whole time, Jeff is flanked by a friend standing behind him, which makes his confrontation even more adversarial no matter how friendly he tried to be.
Before leaving, Jeff tells “Gene” the name of the cab company where he works and advises him to call any time he needs a ride — and he’ll never be more than five minutes away.
A threat? A warning? It’s unknown but Jeff obviously knows Gene’s true identity and it seems highly unlikely that he just wanted to reminisce with an icon of commercials shown on local television in Albuquerque. Instead, Jeff likely knows that Saul Goodman is a wanted man and that gives him a lot of leverage over this unassuming Cinnabon manager.
In a panic, Gene calls back to the vacuum cleaner repair shop in New Mexico where he forged his initial escape after Walter White was exposed. He reaches out to Ed — played by the late great Robert Forster — and requests an adapter to a Hoover Max Extract Pressure Pro Model 60.
Ed tells him the price has doubled but he can pick him up in Omaha on Thursday. Initially, Gene agrees but then he has a change of heart and cancels his ride out of town. It seems Gene Takovic is tired of running and he’s not going to be extorted or threatened by a cab driver who recognized his face.
Instead it seems like Gene Takovic is ready to fight back and relive his glory days if only for one more job.
The Chicken Man
Ever since following Mike and doing his best to track down a man named “Werner Ziegler” who had some kind of attachment to Gustavo Fring, Lalo Salamanca has been obsessed with finding answers. He obviously doesn’t know that Nacho Varga is secretly working for his family’s enemy but Lalo is smart enough to know that Gus has more going on than the fast food chicken restaurants he runs by day and the drug operation he controls at night.
First things first, Lalo has to deal with a product issue after finding out that some of the customers buying from the Salamanca family dealers are complaining that the product has been stepped on and cut down in quality. Lalo pays a visit to one of the distributors and finds that about half the batch isn’t the same as the rest.
That’s when Lalo gets called to a meeting with Gus by Juan Bolsa, who has arrived in Albuquerque to settle their latest dispute.
When Lalo arrives at Gus’ chicken factory, he finds Bolsa waiting there as well to discuss the recent problems with the product. Gus tells him that he hired a man named Werner Ziegler to handle a construction project for him in his legitimate business as the owner of “Los Pollos Hermanos”. Gus then reveals that somehow Werner found out about his secret drug operation and decided to steal two kilos of project and make a run for it.
While Gus had Mike out hunting for Werner, he was forced to buy two kilos of local project to replace the stolen merchandise and that’s what ended up going to the Salamanca dealers, thus the difference in quality.
Gus then explains that Mike eventually tracked him down, killed Werner for stealing from them and the construction project was delayed but not scrapped. He then tells Lalo that the entire project surrounded a new cooler being installed at the warehouse.
Gus even takes Lalo to the warehouse where construction is underway — with Mike acting as a foreman and the rest of Werner’s men doing the building. Lalo briefly introduces himself to Mike, who seems unimpressed.
Of course, Gus apologizes profusely for the grave error and for lying about the product being stolen. He took care of the problem and now the operation is back on track. He also hopes that answers all of Lalo’s questions.
It’s safe to say Lalo is skeptical at best because everything was conveniently laid out to explain Werner’s disappearance, Mike going on the hunt for him and the inferiority in the project he’s been selling. Lalo then questions Bolsa about the nature of their relationship with Gus and his side of the operation.
Bolso enforces the fact that Gus is a top earner and the Salamanca family needs to learn to co-exist with him because Don Eladio isn’t getting rid of him any time soon if ever. We all know how that plays out for Don Eladio in “Breaking Bad” but for now he’s got Gus’ back and the Salamanca’s are just going to have to learn how to play nice.
As for Mike, he wraps up his business with Werner’s men by paying each of them off and sending them different routes to return home to Germany. He gets assurances from all of them that they won’t breathe a word and the fact that Werner was executed should give them pause before they decided to double cross Gustavo Fring.
Finally after the payoffs are done, Mike reports all of this information back to Gus, who then tells him that construction on the super lab will have to stop for now because Lalo Salamanca snooping around is a real problem for them. Gus agrees to pay Mike a salary even if he’s not working until they can finally get construction on the super lab started again.
After being forced to kill an innocent man for doing nothing more than wanting to see his wife, Mike doesn’t seem all that interested in playing fixer for Gus Fring any longer. He tells the Chilean to keep his goddamn his retainer because Mike will not be returning to work.
Obviously we already know that Mike ends up as Gus’ right hand but how he returns to the fold after this latest incident remains to be seen. Gus has plenty to deal with right now as Lalo Salamanca promises to be a worthy adversary and now he’s down at least one man after Mike Ehrmantraut decided to terminate his services.
Justice Matters Most
Kim Wexler has tried really hard to be a good and moral attorney but it’s awfully hard when she’s constantly slumming with Jimmy McGill.
After hearing him decide to change his name to Saul Goodman in the wake of his meeting with the Bar Association, Kim can’t help but wonder where this conniving will stop.
Back at home, Kim presents Jimmy with a present — a new briefcase inscribed with his actual initials JMM along with a coffee mug proclaiming him the world’s second best lawyer. Jimmy tells her that even while practicing law as Saul Goodman, he’ll proudly carry the briefcase — and if anybody asks he’ll just say the letters stand for his motto “Justice Matters Most.”
He then starts rattling off ideas about how he’s going to build his client list and it all goes back to his cell phone business. It seems Jimmy understands that the people who needed burner phones were more than likely not on the right side of the law. So what better way to build his law practice than dealing with those same people who already know him as Saul Goodman, except now instead of selling them cell phones he’s going to keep them out of jail.
Jimmy then sets up a tent in the same neighborhood where he was selling those pre-paid cell phones and he starts a giveaway. He hands out a cell phone to anybody and everybody who needs one while telling them that the first number on the speed dial is programmed to call him directly whenever they need legal help. Even after running out of phones, Jimmy offers a 50 percent discount to any first time customers needing legal help for a non-violent felony.
His next move takes him to the courthouse along with his student video team dressed as reporters, who confront one of the prosecutors from the District Attorney’s office. Jimmy’s performance as “Saul Goodman” gathers quite a crowd and afterwards he’s handing out business cards left and right to the people who caught the show. Jimmy is slowly but surely building his practice with a rather unconventional client list.
As for Kim, she’s in court with one of her clients, who was arrested after trying to sell a truck load of mini-refrigerators to an undercover cop. With his prior convictions, Kim’s client is looking at a potential 2 or 3 year sentence but she manages to get the D.A. to agree to five months behind bars and he’ll likely be home in two months due to overcrowding at the jail.
It’s a sweetheart deal but Kim’s client doesn’t want to take it. Instead he wants to take his chances at trial where she warns him it will likely end much, much worse for him.
When Jimmy arrives to take her to lunch, he’s baffled that Kim’s client is turning down a deal that will see him back home in a matter of weeks instead of years. He tells her that together they can scam him into accepting the plea deal if she pretends he’s a member of the District Attorney’s office there to present new evidence while informing them that the deal they made is off the table.
Kim flat out refuses — and she’s forced to bite back at Jimmy when he won’t seem to accept that she’s not going along with his scam.
Jimmy leaves but Kim returns to her client and tells him exactly what Jimmy told her to say. She claims that he was a member of the District Attorney’s office and because new evidence has been discovered his five month deal has been pulled. That’s when Kim’s client realizes just how bad this could go for him and he pleads with her to talk to the prosecutor to try and get his plea deal back on the table.
Kim agrees —but later she walks into the stairwell, throws her briefcase against the wall and allows the guilt of scamming the system to wash over her again. Kim has pulled a number of schemes with Jimmy at this point and for a long while, it felt like an incredible rush. It seems now Kim is sacrificing her own morals for the sake of playing the game by Jimmy’s rules and she’s beginning to hate herself for it.
“Better Call Saul” will return with the second episode of the season 5 premiere on Monday night at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.