Better Call Saul recap: 'Sabrosito'
The contentious personal and professional history between Gus Fring and Hector Salamanca has never been a secret, but it was also never much more than a side plot back in the days of Breaking Bad: one of many that Walter White leveraged for either personal gain or sheer survival. But in its third season, Better Call Saul is plumbing new depths in the river of bad blood between the Los Pollos Hermanos proprietor and the Salamanca patriarch, and showing just how long and deep it runs.
This week, we open in a familiar setting: It’s a sunny afternoon by the same kidney-shaped pool where Gus Fring will one day take his ultimate revenge, poisoning Don Eladio and all of his men while Jesse Pinkman watches in confused horror. But that day is a long way off — and Don Eladio is not just alive but in top form, taking sadistic pleasure in pitting his subordinates against each other. Hector still has nothing but contempt for Gus (“more like los culos hermanos,” he sneers, reminding us all once again that he’s not just a villain but also a homophobe). But he and his ice cream trucks are vastly underperforming the chicken gang in terms of profit; Hector’s meeting with the cartel boss is interrupted by Juan Bolsa (remember him?), who unveils three beautifully plastic-wrapped piles of cash to Hector’s one sad sack of dollar wads.
The humiliation propels Hector straight to the Pollos Hermanos in Albuquerque, where he and his henchmen (including Nacho Varga) frighten the customers and hold the employees hostage until Gus returns to the restaurant. Hector, in an act of monumental hubris, demands that Gus run the Salamancas’ drugs through his own system; “I am the cartel,” he growls, “and from now on, you are my mule.”
It’s still not clear exactly how Hector will go from swaggering kingpin to geriatric bell-ringer between now and Breaking Bad, but the expression on Gus’ face suggests that it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, at the offices of Wexler & McGill, Kim continues to be both a genius and a precious angel who’s just too good for this world, calling every handyman in a 25-mile radius until she finds the one Chuck has hired to fix his door — and then casually canceling the appointment, for reasons you can probably guess. (Side note: The more Kim proves that she’s the greatest friend Jimmy McGill will ever have, the more worried I am about her total absence from his second life as Saul Goodman. Why isn’t she there? What happens to her? Jimmy, you monster, what did you do?!!)
A few days later, Chuck gets a visit from his friendly neighborhood door repairman: Mike Ehrmantraut, of course. In addition to doing the job at hand (“nice to fix something for once,” he deadpans to Jimmy later), he comes away with photos from inside the house plus a mysterious something-or-other found in Chuck’s address book. It’s not clear yet just what Jimmy is up to — true to its title, “Sabrosito” seems to be mostly about giving us a little taste of what’s coming down the pike — but a conspiracy on Jimmy’s part to keep his law license seems to be taking shape. In his pre-prosecution diversion meeting with Chuck, Howard, Kim, and Ms. Hay (the DA whose obsequiousness to Chuck’s nuttiness knows no bounds), Jimmy manages to avoid explicitly mentioning the incriminating cassette tape in both his written statement and his spoken apology; the only evidence that it ever even existed is an extra $2 on his fine. And after the meeting, when Kim informs Chuck and Howard that she’ll be filing a motion to suppress the taped confession, Chuck plays right into her hands: “The bar association standard of proof is far more lenient than you’re used to. That tape will be played,” he says.
In other words, yep, there’s a copy. (Or as Kim puts it to Jimmy, with a grin: “BINGO.”)
And as Jimmy edges closer to the dark side of the law, Gus makes his own trip to the courthouse to visit Mike — who has already rejected a pile of money for sabotaging Hector’s supply line and is now reading Handyman magazine in his parking attendant booth like he’s thinking of turning over a new leaf. (It’s sad to think that Mike Ehrmantraut was this close to an alternate future in which he traded his gun for an electric drill and lived out the rest of his days as Mr. Fix-It. Alas.) But we know that Gus is eventually going to make Mike an offer he can’t (or at least doesn’t) refuse. Asked if he’d consider working for Gus in the future, Mike replies, “Could be. That’d depend on the work.”
And if the work involves giving Hector Salamanca, Homophobe and All-Around Jerkus Maximus, a lifetime trapped in the cage of his own useless body while Gus methodically destroys everything and everyone he holds dear? Mike, with his particular sense of justice, certainly might enjoy doing that job… and he’d definitely be good at it.
Saul Goodman, first introduced in Breaking Bad, gets his own Vince Gilligan prequel.