Better Call Saul Recap: Batteries Not Included

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Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill. Photo: Michele K.Short/AMC/Sony Picture
Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul

Mabel Season 3 Episode 1
Editor's Rating 3 stars

Everyone in Better Call Saul is a bit obsessive. Mike can spend hours tearing down a station wagon until he finds some proof that he’s been bugged. Kim is more than capable of spending a whole night tweaking punctuation on paperwork if it tamps down her guilt. And then there’s Gene, a.k.a. future Jimmy/Saul, whose quality of life relies on staying firmly inside the lines of his slavish routine at Cinnabon. The moment he breaks character — skipping past Saul and going right for Jimmy’s primal instinct as a public defender to shout advice at a shoplifting teen — any illusion of ordinariness is made plain as just that. Then we see Gene, icing spatula in hand, collapse to the ground.

Kim will eventually succumb to her own hastily constructed reality. She’s already uncomfortable around Paige, who’s still incredulous at what she believes was HHM’s address snafu. Kim’s increasingly tense and resentful toward Jimmy, who cluelessly carries on as if they didn’t reel in Mesa Verde disreputably. He asks her to cover a consultation while he mends fences with Chuck, and can’t even keep his own clients’ names straight. But all that matters is he and Chuck bonded over childhood memories of book time and knockoff Disney night-lights.

“For ten minutes today, Chuck didn’t hate me,” Jimmy muses to Kim. “I forgot what that felt like.” He’s melancholy, but relieved that, at minimum, Chuck appears to have moved on from bitterness over Jimmy’s plot and resumed life as a consummate crank. Unfortunately, Chuck is far from through settling scores, and takes the tape of Jimmy’s confession to Howard, who’s simmering with rage but also unsure of what good the document will do now. In fact, he “can’t even think of a single use for it.” With a smirk only a vengeful sibling could muster, Chuck assures him, “I can.”

Back by his sniper perch overlooking Hector’s desert kill shack, Mike is taunted by a similarly terse message left scribbled on his windshield —“Don’t.” He races to Five J’s Auto Parts, where he’s clearly not a first-time visitor, even if he’s never come across the poor man’s Sam Elliott (Forrie Smith) who warns of the shop’s eminent closure. Waiting for a taxi by the register, it dawns on him: Sons of bitches put a tracker inside my gas cap. The ensuing scenes of Mike jerry-rigging his Caprice with an identical, primitive GPS device that will reverse-monitor his pursuers once they retrieve it serve two ends: underscoring the wild variances in momentum of Mike’s detective work, and foreshadowing the imminent return of Gus Fring, who knows a thing or two about being tracked by the time he contends with Walter White. And, bonus, they’re an excellent showcase for Jonathan Banks’s roof-of-mouth smacking, lip curling, peanut de-shelling subtleties.

The circumstances also allow for a 3 a.m. rendezvous with Caldera (Joe DeRosa), the creepy underworld vet who gets a bit snippy when Mike beckons him with orders to procure a radio-frequency beacon tracker ASAP. Caldera’s one of several characters who’ve been passing through Better Call Saul’s atmosphere without brushing up against its looming dangers, for now. Poor Ernesto, who already was somewhat entangled in the McGill brothers’ feud, got in deep after witnessing a snippet from Jimmy’s confessional tape and subsequently catching Chuck’s highfalutin wrath.

But of all the aliases and split personalities that populate “Mabel,” who could have ever expected Fudge Talbot to resurface. You remember Fudge, the crotchety old man Jimmy hired to impersonate a wheelchair-bound hero pilot so they could film an inspiring ad on an Air Force base. To some extent, it’s Captain Bauer’s (Brendan Fehr) fault that he was gullible, but having since seen the commercial, he storms Jimmy’s office with a tirade about how “the wheel’s gonna turn; it always does.” In truth, it’s already begun its rotation, but unlike Mike, Jimmy’s not interested in steering its course. It’s starting to sink in that guys like Bauer and Chuck will never see past his minor missteps, and the surer path might be living down to their expectations. Jimmy isn’t Harry Thurston Peck’s titular Mabel, and the time for magical thinking is through. But as Saul, he may just find his voice.

Apart From All That:

As always with BCS, it’s the molecular details: Mike’s Army-grade MTSAR-RF 65 tracker, Gene’s vintage McGohan pre-amp, etc.

Sure hope Corina or Tiffany knows CPR.

When confronted by Bauer, do not confuse B-52s with B-29s.

Rebecca, Mabel, Fifi … this show loves its female eponyms.

Takes about as long to file regulatory paperwork as locate a military GPS device. Good to know.

Speaking of magical thinking, there goes Saul’s rainbow.

More on late Breaking Bad sound mixer Eric Justen, whom “Mabel” was dedicated to.

Better Call Saul Recap: Batteries Not Included