In the “Better Call Saul” season 5 finale recap, Lalo faces off with his true enemy in Mexico and Jimmy begins to discover that someone he loves is breaking bad…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
“Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t determine who’s the sucker in the first 5 minutes of sitting down, then you are the sucker.”
Those are words spoken by Matt Damon in the film “Rounders” as he explains his approach to poker where card sharks often seek to feast on the fish sitting at the table across from them.
For the better part of the past five seasons on “Better Call Saul,” Jimmy McGill has been the shark and he’s eaten up plenty of foolish people dumb enough to sit across the table from him. He’s graduated from “Slippin’ Jimmy” — the small time con artist who took a shit through somebody’s sunroof — to the manipulative and conniving Saul Goodman, who is quickly turning into one of Albuquerque’s most request attorneys for the criminal with a bank account enough to hire him and still hit the 2-for-1 sale on the way home.
Throughout the series, Jimmy has run his con on a number of people — sometimes he got caught, most times he didn’t but he was getting better and better with each passing trick he played. Along the way, Jimmy’s girlfriend turned wife Kim got a taste for his particular brand of getting over on the other guy.
First it was convincing a douchebag in a restaurant to pay for an expensive bottle of tequila but over time, Kim has followed in Jimmy’s footsteps in order to pull off bigger and bigger con jobs. In fact, last season when it looked like Kim was ready to say enough was enough with Jimmy’s ability to constantly skirt the law to get what he wanted, she begged him for more.
But the key for Kim Wexler throughout “Better Call Saul” has been that Jimmy can never treat her like the mark. He’s done it to her a few times — most recently when he showed up to a meeting with her clients at Mesa Verde ready to make a settlement and instead did a complete 180-degree turn to stick the knife in the bank’s belly and twist it until he got what he wanted, which was originally what she wanted as well.
Once he arrived home, Kim lambasted Jimmy for making her the sucker at that meeting because he pulled a con without her knowledge. But just when it looked like this partnership was about to come to an end, Kim once again made a move no one saw coming when she suggested getting married with an agreement that they would tell each other the truth no matter what.
In the “Better Call Saul” season 5 finale while Jimmy is hiding under the covers and terrified that Lalo Salamanca is waiting for him around every corner, Kim almost seems energized after telling the cartel boss to get his fucking house in order. She goes off to work as if nothing’s changed and later that night she returns with a new con game that she wants to enact in order to bring Howard Hamlin off his high horse while also scoring a multi-million dollar payday for both of them.
We’ve known for a long while that Kim absolutely has morals — especially when it comes to the downtrodden who can’t fend for themselves. In many ways that’s how Kim connected with Jimmy because he was the down-on-his-luck, troubled younger brother of a law superstar and all he wanted was for somebody to give him a chance. Kim stood by his side because it seemed like no one had ever really had Jimmy’s back.
That’s not the case when it comes to the rich and powerful who love to beat down the little guy. Kim went out of her way to takedown Mesa Verde, the very bank who was putting coin in her pocket. And now she’s ready to go to great lengths to torch Howard’s career in order to set up a self-funded law practice where she can continue to help the indigent from being squashed by the system.
The more and more we see of Kim from season to season looks like she’s the one breaking bad and it’s Jimmy who wants to pull her back from the ledge.
With only one more season to go, it seems possible that Kim will take her latest vendetta to the point where she’s ready to incinerate Howard Hamlin but perhaps it will be Jimmy that lights the final match in order to save Kim from herself. In that move to save the woman he loves, Jimmy might finally shed his past and truly become Saul Goodman — but making Kim the sucker in her own plot to bring Howard down might be the bridge too far that dooms their relationship.
Food for thought as we move into the final season next year but first things first, let’s recap the season 5 finale for “Better Call Saul” titled “Something Unforgivable”…
I’m the Bad Guy
The “Better Call Saul” season 5 finale picks up just moments after last week’s episode ended with Jimmy and Kim anxiously awaiting confirmation that Lalo Salamanca has pulled away and left their apartment complex. They lock the doors and after Jimmy receives confirmation from Mike that Lalo is really gone, he finally comes clean with Kim about everything.
He tells her about retrieving the $7 million, being ambushed by a hit squad and how Mike saved his life by cutting down his would be killers with a sniper rifle. He’s obviously traumatized by what happened and now he’s even more scared after Lalo showed up at his front door. Considering everything that’s happened and how Kim got pulled into the middle of it, Jimmy can’t help but question “am I bad for you?” as he thinks about the cartel killer who just stood in their living room.
Jimmy suggests moving into a hotel for at least the night so they can collect their thoughts and dodge any potential bullets coming for them. The next morning, Kim is getting ready for work and Jimmy wants nothing more than the two of them to enjoy the amenities of this fine hotel. Of course, Jimmy is really scared to send Kim off to work but she’s not the least bit afraid of what’s outside that door waiting for her.
Jimmy is scared while Kim seems emboldened.
She faced down the boogeyman and called his bluff while Jimmy was too terrified to utter any kind of valid defense. As she heads off to work, Jimmy finally gathers his senses and calls Mike looking for answers about what’s happening with Lalo Salamanca following this latest encounter.
Jimmy is so frustrated that he eventually gets dressed and tracks down Mike to his home to confront him about the past 24 hours. When Mike finally arrives at his house, he finds Jimmy banging on his door, demanding answers.
Jimmy’s only concern is Kim — now that she’s been drafted into his war, the only thing he wants is her protected.
Inside, Mike can’t tell Jimmy much about what’s happening much less the puppet master pulling the strings on this particular operation but he promises that Lalo Salamanca will no longer be a problem for him. In fact, Lalo went home to Mexico and Mike tells Jimmy that he’ll never make it back stateside again.
As for Kim, she goes to the courthouse to defend her latest pro bono client and afterwards she reconnects with a colleague, who is working in the public defender’s office. He tells her about the backlog of cases they’re facing but it’s probably of little concern to her since she’s pulling down $250 an hour working as a partner at an upscale lawfirm.
Kim tells him that she’s no longer working there and she’s looking to add onto her case load. He brings her to the file room where she’s greeted by boxes upon boxes of pending cases from people who simply can’t afford legal representation. She’s horrified at first but Kim quickly shifts gears into savior mode as she seeks out the cases who need her attention the most.
As Kim makes her way to a different floor on the courthouse, she runs into Howard Hamlin, who is there with two of his junior associates. She tells him how she’s no longer working at Schweikart and Cokely and she’s now striking out on her own again.
Stunned by that news, Howard pulls Kim aside for a conversation where he proceeds to tell her about his recent interactions with Jimmy. It seems Howard is convinced that Jimmy has become a toxic influence in Kim’s life and their recent encounter is just more proof of that.
He tells her how he made Jimmy a job offer but instead of accepting or declining, his former mail room clerk smashed up his car with a pair of bowling balls and then sent a pair of prostitutes into a business lunch meeting to embarrass him publicly. Howard warns Kim that Jimmy is spiraling out of control and he’s going to bring her down with him.
Rather than take Howard’s warning to heart, Kim almost laughs in his face after hearing the accusations while telling her former boss that he doesn’t know anything about Jimmy or what drives him. Howard answers back with a chilling response.
“You know who really knew Jimmy? Chuck.”
~ Howard Hamlin
Chuck McGill never saw his brother as anything more than the two-bit conman he constantly had to keep out of trouble for the sake of their dying mother. Even when Jimmy turned his act around and tried to make his brother proud by following in his footsteps and becoming a lawyer, Chuck only thought of him as “Slippin’ Jimmy.”
And the reality is Howard is right about Jimmy in this particular instance. The fact that Jimmy got involved with the cartel, took $100K of their money and survived a desert ambush with a hit squad only to have his wife talk her way out of a bullet for both of them speaks volumes about how far he’s gone over the line lately.
But Kim doesn’t seem nearly as concerned but later that night she returns to the hotel and talks Jimmy into staying the night as they gorge themselves on room service and chat the night away. While enjoying dinner, Kim tells Jimmy about her run in with Howard and the revelation he made about Jimmy’s pranks. Jimmy comes clean with her while prefacing his statement that these things all took place before their wedding vows, thus he wasn’t technically lying to her.
Instead of getting bad, Kim essentially laughs at Jimmy’s antics and proudly proclaims he did a good job by knocking Howard down a peg or two. She then begins suggesting new ways they could torture Howard together including shaving his head and drowning his pool in chlorine so every hair left on his body turns a pale shade of white.
But as the conversation continues in bed, Jimmy and Kim’s joke about bringing Howard down becomes more serious. Kim wonders if they could set Howard up for some sort of malpractice that would force him and the other lawyers to settle the long standing Sandpiper Crossing lawsuit that’s been going on for years.
A quick reminder — this is the case that Jimmy first discovered when he became an attorney exclusively for the elderly as he set up the last will and testaments for the old folks around Albuquerque. It was during that time that Jimmy found out a prominent retirement community called Sandpiper Crossing was taking advantage of its residents with all sorts of financial pitfalls that robbed their bank accounts.
Unfortunately, Jimmy handed the case over to his former boss Cliff Main as well as Howard’s firm and they’ve been duking it out with Sandpiper Crossing ever since, which means nobody has been paid from this lawsuit.
Kim suggests a plot to bring charges against Howard that are so damning that he won’t have a choice but to negotiate a settlement. Once it’s all said and done, Jimmy and Kim as former lawyers on the case would stand to make multi-millions as a result and the residents who were screwed over could at least get some money to enjoy during their final years.
At first, Jimmy thinks that Kim must be joking but as she continues to lay out this elaborate plan to bring Howard down, he realizes she’s serious. Jimmy can’t imagine that Kim is capable of such treachery that could not only harm Howard but prevent him from ever practicing law again. She calmly looks at him and says “wouldn’t I?’
As she heads off to take a shower, Kim turns back to Jimmy and points the double finger guns at him with a smirk on her face now that a plan is coming together in her mind.
It’s an eerily similar look that Jimmy had in his eyes last season when he gave an emotional speech before the New Mexico Bar association when talking about his brother Chuck as he attempted to sway their votes to get his law license back. Kim was touched by Jimmy’s passionate plea that turned cathartic as he faced the reality of his brother’s death for perhaps the first time.
But afterwards, Jimmy wasn’t fighting back the tears — instead he couldn’t stop laughing after suckering those fools into believing every word that came out of his mouth. But the members of the New Mexico Bar Association weren’t the only ones who got conned — Kim believed every word of it, too.
As he went to sign the paperwork to get his law license back while also planning to practice under a new name, Jimmy turns to Kim and points with those same finger guns and says “it’s all good, man.”
Now Kim has done the same to Jimmy as she truly begins to break bad.
We know that Jimmy eventually dumps whatever morals he has left when he starts practicing full time as Saul Goodman in that strip mall where he routinely meets with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. Once again, Jimmy’s path to becoming Saul Goodman always looked like a road he was traveling down on his own. Now it appears that Jimmy’s transformation will be made complete by stopping Kim from becoming just like him.
The One Who Got Away
It’s been known long before “Better Call Saul” started that the hierarchy of villains from “Breaking Bad” began with the Salamancas before moving onto Gus Fring and eventually ending with Walter White as the real kingpin of evil in Albuquerque. But the prequel series has really highlighted the genius that helped turn Gus into the mastermind behind the drug trade in the southwest as he quietly waged a war against the Salamancas, who have been his enemies ever since his partner was killed in Mexico many years ago.
Gus’ grudge against Hector Salamanca in particular has driven him to a vendetta that won’t be settled until both men are eventually dead. For now, Gus is mostly trying to solidify his territory and that can’t happen as long as the Salamancas are still setting up shop in his backyard.
So all season long, Gus has been trying to figure out a way to get rid of Lalo Salamanca, the latest thorn in his side, who arrived from Mexico to take over for his uncle Hector after he was forced into a wheelchair for life. But Gus’ biggest mistake came back to bite him in the season 5 finale because he’s constantly treated Lalo as just another Salamanca when in reality this particular member of the family is a much different kind of animal.
Hector has always been a blunt instrument used by the cartel to strike back at its enemies. Tuco Salamanca is a fountain of rage, who is driven by nothing but impulse. The same can’t be said about Lalo, who might be the only person capable of matching wits with Gus Fring, at least until Walter White comes along.
After last week saw Lalo realize that he had surrounded himself with people he couldn’t trust thanks to a wake up call from Kim Wexler, he jumps in a car with his partner Nacho Varga and they head south into Mexico. Lalo arrives at his own estate in Chihuahua where the compound is surrounded by walls, barbed wire and a full security staff armed to the teeth.
Lalo’s return is greeted by smiles and cheers from the staff, who have all pledged their undying loyalty to him. Lalo has come back to Mexico to get his house in order while hopefully handing over the reins of his operation to Nacho, who he’s come to trust over these past few months.
Little does Lalo know that Nacho is the person he should trust the least. Nacho has been secretly working for Gus Fring ever since the Chilean discovered the swapped out pills that caused Hector to suffer a stroke that put him into that wheelchair for life. Now Nacho is beholden to Gus while still working for Lalo and the Salamancas.
Inside the compound, Nacho learns that he’s going to be introduced to the head of the cartel the next day in order to begin his grooming to take over the operation in the United States.
At Don Eladio’s house, Lalo greets all his old friends including Juan Bolsa, who secretly staged that hit on Jimmy when he went to retrieve the bail money from the Salamanca cousins. Juan Bolsa confirmed as much when he spoke to Gus because he’s beginning to see the Salamancas as more trouble than their worth, especially with Tuco in prison, Hector incapacitated and now Lalo being charged with murder that required a $7 million bail.
But Lalo goes out of his way to endear himself to Don Eladio by presenting him with a Ferrari just like the one Magnum P.I. drives along with a box filled with cash as a present for his homecoming. None of this pleases Juan Bolsa, who sees what Lalo is trying to do by currying favor with the boss now that he’s returned to Mexico.
Later that day, Nacho finally sits down with Don Eladio and he tells the cartel boss how he would run the organization in the U.S. if he was the man in charge. He talks about turning biker gangs against each other in order to take over their meth running territory and Nacho also expresses how he would like to run things his own way.
Don Eladio seems impressed by Nacho and Lalo the same.
After returning to Lalo’s compound, Nacho receives a call from the hit squad that’s being sent to kill his employer that night. He’s instructed to leave the back gate open for them at 3 a.m. and he’s supposed to run for cover as soon as the team enters the compound.
Nacho runs into a problem when he goes outside and finds Lalo sitting by the fire enjoying a drink. It seems Lalo lives by the code Nas wrote in a lyric from his classic album “Illmatic” — I never sleep cause sleep is the cousin of death.
Lalo tells Nacho that he only sleeps an hour or two a night because he uses the rest of that time to out think his enemies, who are slumbering away while he’s working on ways to stop them. Nacho is forced to improvise so he starts a grease fire in the kitchen after going to retrieve some harder liquor and as Lalo goes to investigate, he quickly works to unlock the back gate to allow the hit squad inside.
Nacho is finally able to open the door and he slips outside to run away while the hitmen go after Lalo. Once again, however, the hit squad underestimates Lalo, who is able to use one of his guards as a human shield to stop one of the would-be killers and then manages to take that pan filled with simmering oil to take down another one.
Lalo then uses an underground tunnel he has running in his house to escape but as the hit squad gives chase, he’s circled back around to the other side of the compound. Lalo takes out the last three hitmen including two stuck in the tunnel coming after him.
As the last one lays dying, Lalo finds out that they were hired by a middle man who sent them there to kill him. He looks at the satellite phone in their possession and he forces the last living hitman to call his employer to tell them the job was tough but it’s complete.
Lalo prepares to leave his home but before he makes his last escape, he glances over at the two glasses sitting on a table where he was sharing a drink with Nacho just a few minutes earlier. Nacho is gone but the hit squad was inside, which tells Lalo everything he needs to know about the people he can trust.
Now a wounded Lalo is seeking vengeance against all those who wronged him and he knows with absolute certainty the list starts with Nacho Varga and it stops with Gustavo Fring.
One quick side note — “Better Call Saul” has been woefully underappreciated by the various awards shows, especially when it comes to lead actors Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn. Both should have a cabinet full of statues when it’s all said and done but it must be stated that Tony Dalton, who played the devilishly charming yet menacing Lalo Salamanca, deserves a ton of praise for his work over the last two seasons.
Now we head into the final season of “Better Call Saul,” which is expected to debut sometime in 2021 with production on the show expected to resume later this year.