By Kat Rosenfield
March 23, 2020 at 10:10 PM EDT
Warrick Page/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Kim Wexler has always been a woman who knows how to set a boundary. She knows where her limits lie; she knows when to say "enough." She knows this when Jimmy doesn't, a key difference between them. It's what makes her good for him (and sometimes, though not always, what makes him good for her).

It's also, as we learn in the opening moments of "Wexler v. Goodman," a skill she had to learn early and often. The episode opens on a teenage girl, holding a cello and waiting alone in a dark and deserted school parking lot for her ride home. A car pulls up, finally, the girl's identity revealed when the woman inside says, "Kimmy, get in" — but of course we already knew this was Kim. You can see it in her facial expression, hear it in her directness as she asks her mother where she was, whether she's drunk.

"It was one beer," mom says.

Kim says, "It doesn't smell like one beer." 

And because Kim Wexler knows how to set a boundary, she shoulders her cello, gathers up her backpack, and walks the three miles home.

Roll credits, and we find ourselves back in Albuquerque circa 2005, where Jimmy has assembled his student film crew for a new project. The group watches a vintage Mesa Verde commercial, a little low-budget work of art that's all about family, freedom, and wide-open spaces. Don Wachtell, Kevin's father, talks about "the freedom to bank;" Kevin, a cherubic ginger-haired kiddo, gazes up adoringly at his dad. What's this about? The specifics of Jimmy's latest scheme are intentionally kept vague (in service of a later, fabulous payoff), but as we segue from this brainstorming session to a group of community theater actors shooting against a green-screen backdrop in the nail salon, two things are clear: 

  1. This plan might have been Kim's brainchild, but it's Jimmy's baby. He's off and running, having the time of his life, all of last week's reservations about attacking Kevin Wachtell personally totally forgotten.
  2. Whatever this is, it's going to be amazing

So, what a bummer when Kim shows up and tells Jimmy to forget the whole thing. Rich is suspicious, she says, and she just wants this to be over, even if she has to write a check herself to give Acker an appropriate settlement deal. Jimmy protests — "There's no way to prove anything!" he says, and man, isn't that a perfect line? It's the kind of reassurance that only a born scam artist could find comforting: sure, people will mistrust and suspect you, but they'll never be able to prove you did it. For Jimmy, that's good enough. But for Kim, it's not, so it's over. (Yeah, sure it is.)

The episode cuts back and forth from here between Jimmy's barely-legal shenanigans and some criminal mischief in the meth world, but for brevity's sake, we'll just sum up the latter: Nacho delivers the news that Lalo Salamanca is planning to destroy Gus Fring's business bit by bit — raiding his trucks, getting his dealers arrested — until the cartel decides he's not worth the risk. So clearly, Lalo's gotta go… or at least, he needs to be slowed down. Enter Mike, who methodically feeds information to the police until they're looking for Lalo's Monte Carlo in connection with several crimes, including the murder of that wire service clerk last season. By the end of the episode, Lalo is boxed in by half a dozen cops and appears to be cooperating, but he's also got a gun in his car and a penchant for impromptu violence, so it might be a little early for optimism. Either way, none of this matters anywhere near as much as the unexpected Breaking Bad cameo from Detective Roberts, seen here solving the exciting mystery of a bad smell coming from underneath someone's porch. ("Well, if the porch isn't big enough for you to get under, then there's probably not a dead body.")

And really, this episode is all about Kim and Jimmy: antagonists at law, lovers at home. Jimmy is still finding new and creative ways to torment Howard Hamlin, who has to realize sooner or later that the chaotic string of bad luck he's experiencing — bowling balls flying over his security gate, hookers accosting him at lunch and shouting about sexually euphemistic "tugboats"— all stems from a single source. But the real drama comes at the meeting to settle Mr. Acker's case with Mesa Verde, where Kim opens the negotiation by proposing a $45,000 payout… and Jimmy goes off the rails. 

What happens next defies description, but look, I'll try: A DVD is produced. The room is darkened. Kim tries to get Kevin to leave, and Jimmy counters: "You'll want to see this! Your dad is in it!" 

The DVD contains a series of advertisements. The actors from the start of the episode appear, making allegations about a bank besieged by black mold, mishandled funds, the owner and founder walking around with his pants off. They never actually name the bank in question — legally, this is key — but behind every actor is Don Wachtell in his cowboy hat, saying, "YUP!" The words BARE GENITALS slide together over Saul Goodman's onscreen head as he encourages viewers to call his number. They may be entitled to a large cash settlement!  

Chaos erupts in the room: Mesa Verde's lawyers say the ads can't run, they're defamatory. Jimmy shrugs: Sure! He can always hand them to the local news! But the ads are just an appetizer (or an omen: down the line, this exact type of commercial will make Saul Goodman a local celebrity). The real trouble is Mesa Verde's logo — which, Jimmy has learned, is modeled on a photograph taken years ago by an uncredited and uncompensated Native American photographer. So while Mesa Verde's lawyers scramble to keep those ads off the air, Jimmy will bury them in lawsuits for copyright infringement… unless.

And hey, good for him. Whatever lies in store for Saul Goodman down the road, this is a moment when he did, in fact, get justice for the little guy. Mesa Verde still gets its call center. Mr. Acker will keep his home. The photographer whose work was cribbed from will be fairly compensated. The only damage done is to Kevin Wachtell's pride, and who cares about that? Let's celebrate!

Or at least, that's how Jimmy sees it. But when Kim comes home to him at the end of the day, she doesn't want to celebrate. She takes off her shoes and rolls up her sleeves like she's getting ready for a fight, and she lets Jimmy have it.  

“You played me," she says. "You made me the sucker, again.” 

And suddenly, what was supposed to be a celebration has turned into the unhappiest of endings. Jimmy promises to do better, Kim says they both know he can't. This will happen again, and again. Something has to give. Something has to change. She can't do this anymore, she says — and then she says the unimaginable. The unthinkable. 

"Either we end this now and go our separate ways, or… or... or… 

...Maybe we get married?"

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