Better Call Saul Recap: Let’s Make a Deal

Jonathan Banks as Mike. Photo: Ursula Coyote/Sony Pictures Television/ AMC
Better Call Saul
Episode Title
Bali Ha'i
Editor’s Rating

A few episodes back, Cliff cautioned Jimmy about being "disingenuous." Yet here he is, helping Kim rationalize what's arguably a lateral move to Schweikart & Cokely by drawing a parallel to having joined Davis & Main. "I'm good, I got what I wanted," he argues insincerely. "You with the Schweikart thing, you could have everything you ever wanted. What's not to love about that?" Especially if S&C upgrades her ride from a Mitsubishi to something snazzier, like Jimmy's monotone Mercedes. Ya know, the one that taunts him daily with its dimensionally disabled cup holder — the cup holder he violently mangles after Kim drives off so it can finally accommodate his "World's 2nd Best Lawyer" mug, a symbolic vestige of his life before corporate servitude if there ever was one.

Still, S&C namesake and senior partner Rich Schweikart (a returning Dennis Boutsikaris) offers Kim a pretty sweet deal, even if he's clearly preying on her vulnerability and maneuvering to hurt his rival more than catch a rising star. He and Kim just sparred at a perfunctory Sandpiper hearing, one she was dispatched to in lame-duck capacity as a consequence of Howard's ongoing grudge. It seems Chuck meant well by insisting on Kim's extraction from doc-review duty, but his intervention wounds Howard's pride beyond words. In fact, Howard won't even look Kim in the eye as they convene to meet with Mesa Verda. So as she and Rich (if she may call him Rich) do lunch over a Moscow Mule (for him) and iced tea (for her), and he promises the moon and more as perks of S&C's largesse, how could she not feel more than flattered, but compelled?

In a very different tête-à-tête, Mike and Hector meet again — only this time on Tio's turf, at El Griego Cuinador, hours removed from daylight. They aren't alone. Nacho is there, eyeing watchfully, keen to observe Mike's maneuvers. Hector's henchman Arturo (Vincent Fuentes) is seated, stewing after Mike thwarted the cartel's home invasion and cold-cocked him with a pistol. And then there are two other special guests, a pair of silent assassins whose appearance in Better Call Saul is likely to generate more enthusiasm than any villainous Breaking Bad cameo short of Gus Fring. They are also the reason Mike's agreed to show up at the restaurant and strike a deal with Hector. They're the kind of loyal family thugs who'll scale to the top of buildings, stare down their target from above, and point air guns at his innocent granddaughter. Yes, they are none other than Hector's twin nephews Marco (Luis Moncada) and Leonel (Daniel Moncada), hardened from being raised by tyrants like Hector, molded by Santa Muerte worship, and years away from meeting their fate in a botched parking-lot hit on DEA agent Hank Schrader. In other words, they are at the peak of badassery. And Mike knows it. He relents to the pressure and agrees to take the fall on Tuco's gun charge, but for a price: $50,000, precisely the total he'd have scored for taking Tuco out permanently in the first place. Everyone wins, right? "You willing to die for this?" Hector wonders, reasonably enough. "Maybe I need the $50,000 more than you do," Mike replies dispassionately, an echo of Jimmy straining to tell Kim what she needed to hear.

If Nacho found Mike to be an exotic sort of criminal up until now, he's doubly puzzled by the old man's hubris at the bargaining table. Later, he volunteers to drop the cash off at Mike's place himself so they can talk. Mostly, he wants to look Mike in the eye and be sure he won't blab about their little conspiracy to get Tuco behind bars. Satisfied, Nacho turns toward the door, but Mike stops him and hands him half his take, explaining, "We made a deal. I didn't hold up my end. Your problem is coming back sooner than we expected." Mike's comeuppance for fessing to the cops isn't clear, but the meaning behind his honorability is. Their business isn't finished until after Tuco gets free.

Though, hey, who is ever entirely unaccountable to someone? At a certain point, relationships become obligatory. We're always seemingly paying off a literal or more imperceptible debt, and in turn acquiring new foils and adversaries. Kim's done everything short of shine Howard's shoes, but he still kicks her when she's down. She's even got her own junior-associate babysitter, Julie (Manhattan's Audrey Moore), to rival Jimmy's do-gooder taskmaster Erin. It's enough to make a woman bolt to the nearest bar for a Moscow Mule, slip into her alter ego Giselle, call in fictitious brother Viktor, and dupe some womanizing engineer out of $10,000 for a phony startup under the auspices of — what else? — Ice Station Zebra Associates. Or, in Jimmy's case, keep a man up all night watching Chia Pet commercials and ultimately seeking consolation in the noisy, cramped confines of Day Spa & Nail's boiler room (or perhaps seek out a new identity entirely, mwahaha). But as the on-again, off-again couple get dressed in Kim's apartment and contemplate their latest ruse, the thought has to cross their minds: Is conning a wealthy lowlife out of $10,000 any less dubious than bilking elderly nursing-home residents out of their savings? Where do they each draw the line, and which side will they ultimately stake out? I think we know the answer with Jimmy. What remains to be seen is exactly when and why.

Apart From All That:

  • Those opening titles sure do suggest Saul's unveiling sooner than later.
  • That Americana imagery on Jimmy's TV must have made an impression, given the "We the People" motif in Saul's future décor.
  • Kim awaiting Jimmy's sing-song messages each day is kind of sweet.
  • Of course Kim likes the Carpenters.
  • Stupid drive-side shoulder-strap snags.
  • That "Welcome" mat move is some stealth shot.
  • The sad thing? Both Jimmy and Kim are great lawyers.
  • Fun fact: Episode director Michael Slovis, aside from his many credentials on Saul and Breaking Bad, was DP on the Leftovers pilot.
  • Six years in the mailroom is a loooong time.
  • Wait, is Kim from Kansas City? And did we already know that?
  • Rich, reflecting on the time he realized, "I'm just a BB gun to these four Howitzers." That's some fun writing — thanks, Gennifer Hutchison.
  • Mike warns Kaylee to listen to "pop-pop" as the twins pantomime a pop-pop sound with their finger guns. Intentional or no, still awesome.