Some long-awaited Breaking Bad characters appear in Gus' orbit, while Jimmy plots his newest scam.
Let’s just get this out of the way: the best thing about Better Call Saul is not, and has never been, its Breaking Bad callback moments. The tragicomic dramas of Jimmy McGill are damn good television on their own, even without the dark-hatted specter of Walter White lurking on the horizon! But with that said, a character from Breaking Bad makes an epic crossover appearance in this week’s episode (no, not that character, but still, a significant one) — and if you let out a little squealing noise when you saw him, well, hey. Me too, buddy. Me too.
But we’ll get to that in a minute. The first order of business in this episode is to clean up the mess from the last one, which left Arturo dead and Nacho in deep, deep trouble with Gus Fring. To cover up the first murder, Gus’ men stage a fake roadside ambush, making it look like Arturo was shot while transporting the Salamanca gang’s drugs. (Sidenote: RIP Arturo, but RIP also to the gorgeous Chevelle that took approximately 7,000 bullets in the making of this scene. Cruel!)
The twist: Arturo wouldn’t have been making this trip alone, which means that Nacho has to take a seat in the destroyed car — and he has to take a bullet, too. He’s shot in the shoulder, gets out wincing, and turns to Victor and Tyrus.
“Can I make the call now?” he asks, but his last words are cut off as Tyrus shoots him again — this time in the midsection.
“Gotta make it look real,” Tyrus says, shrugging like he doesn’t care one way or another if Nacho survives the wound.
By the time the twins find Nacho, he’s in bad shape — and the doctor on call (our old friend the veterinarian) isn’t exactly pleased to be summoned by the Salamanca twins to rescue him. After performing surgery and a sniff test on the wound (to check for a perforated bowel! The more you know!), he leaves Nacho with a warning to never, ever contact him again… which is probably why he wasn’t featured in the cast of Breaking Bad.
But hey, speaking of Breaking Bad! After reporting the “theft” of the drugs to Varga, Gus receives an order that should pique the interest of any self-respecting fan: to find a supplier on this (the U.S.) side of the border. His next stop is a lab, where he finds a helpful, loyal chemist with a gift for tricky lyrics that we’ve all seen before: ladies and gentlemen, it’s Gale Boetticher! (Singing Tom Lehrer’s “Elements” song, because of course he is. Aw, Gale. We missed you, ya big nerd.) This Gale, however, is younger, bearded, and not yet involved in Gus Fring’s criminal enterprise except to test the purity of other people’s meth — which, he points out, is far from quality and riddled with contaminants. (Like chili powder, perhaps? Eh???) But when he offers to cook the product himself, Gus declines.
“You were meant for better things,” Gus says. Knowing what we know about how things end for Gale, this line feels awfully sad.
On a more cheerful note, there’s also a con afoot — and yet another familiar face coming into play. When Mike declines to be part of Jimmy’s Hummel heist, Jimmy reaches out to his criminal veterinarian friend for an alternative lock-picker, who turns out to be none other than Ira of Vamanos Pest. As Jimmy describes it, the heist is supposed to be a straightforward affair: ten minutes to get in, switch the fancy figurine for a cheap knockoff, and get out. But as with so many of Jimmy McGill’s best-laid plans, this one goes awry — in this case, when it turns out that one of the owners of the copy shop is camping out in his office overnight. Ira dives under the desk as the man emerges from the bathroom and calls his wife, leading to the best laugh of the episode as we discover that he’s in the doghouse for the most classic of marital blunders.
“You’re saying I’m thoughtless, that I don’t care,” he moans. “But it is a very, very expensive vacuum!”
Yep, that’s right: photocopier guy is that jackass who bought his wife a vacuum cleaner and tried to pass it off as a present. (And frankly, sleeping in his office is no less than he deserves.) Trapped under the desk, Ira has no choice but to wait until he’s alone again and then phone Jimmy to come help him — which he does, using some sort of magic carjacking technique to send Mr. Photocopier’s sedan rolling away, alarm blaring, as he frantically chases after it. Hummel heist complete!
It’s a sweet little moment of levity — the only one in an episode that both begins and ends on a much darker note. Because after a visit to Mesa Verde, where the sheer scope of the firm’s upcoming expansion seems to leave her unnerved, Kim returns home and reveals to Jimmy what she’d been holding back: Chuck’s letter. She offers to leave him alone while he reads it; instead, he reads it aloud while eating a bowl of cereal at the same time, chomping and smacking his way through his brother’s last words. Contrary to what Kim anticipated, the letter isn’t hateful at all; clearly written before their most recent falling-out (and possibly before Jimmy got his law degree), it’s understated but kind, with Chuck writing that he’s proud of Jimmy and will always be in his corner. Jimmy, still chewing, doesn’t cry.
But Kim does, and can’t stop.
“I need a minute,” she says, as Jimmy rises to follow her — and the hairline fracture in their relationship opens just a little wider. She doesn’t want him to comfort her.
She closes the door in his face.
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