Better Call Saul recap: Kim gets in the game
Let's talk about the game, and whether or not Kim Wexler is in it. Jimmy insisted last week that she's not — "She's not even game-adjacent!" — and granted, he might really believe that. Especially under the present circumstances: whatever else Kim may be doing, she is evidently not schlepping $7 million through the desert with nothing but a bottle of her own pee for sustenance.
And yet, as a clever split-screen motif suggests in the opening moments of Better Call Saul this week, she is very much adjacent to the trouble Jimmy is in. She's bound to it because she's bound to him, legally and emotionally. He walks and walks; she waits and smokes. She takes a pill; he swigs from his pee-bottle. And finally, the cell phone in Jimmy's hand chirps back to life, and in their shared apartment, the phone rings.
"I'm okay," he says, and Kim — at last, as though she's given herself permission to do it — starts to cry.
Roll credits, and then we find ourselves at a gas station, where Jimmy and Mike are freshly showered and dressed in gift-shop clothes. (The spectacle of Mike wearing actual colors — bright blue board shorts and a sherbert-hued "Land of Enchantment" t-shirt — is both delightful and downright shocking.) From there, it's off to the bondsman's office, where the DA shows up to gawk at the sight of $7 million being run through the cash-counting machines. Jimmy takes back the extra, his cut, and Lalo strides out, free to flee to Mexico. But don't worry, he tells Jimmy: they'll still do all kinds of business together! He's a friend of the cartel now! How reassuring! And in the meantime, he should make sure to "get something nice for the wife" — who, Lalo adds, is quite the looker. Of course, coming from Lalo Salamanca, this compliment is roughly the equivalent of a winking Hannibal Lecter telling you that he'd love to have you and your wife for dinner.
Things have turned a hard corner from Jimmy's early days as a small-time conman, back when crime was about making a little bit of money and having a whole lot of fun. It's all upside down now: Kim eases him into an oatmeal bath and sponges tentatively at his wounds, babying him. She asks if it was worth it. He tells her to go look in the bag, where she finds his $100,000 commission (and his bullet-riddled travel mug, the surest evidence that he's been lying to her) — but he doesn't actually say "yes." Victor and Cyrus told him that the mess in the desert would be all cleaned up "like it never happened," but there's no erasing the psychic wound of what Jimmy experienced. He can't relax at home. He can't escape into work. His snazzy Saul Goodman suit hangs off him, too tight around his sunburned neck and too loose everywhere else, as he walks out of court having lost a case that should've been a slam dunk. He asks Mike how long it'll take for him to feel normal again, but he also feels like maybe he doesn't deserve to feel normal, after he helped Lalo to literally get away with murder and flee the country. Mike tells Jimmy that our choices put us on a road. Jimmy finds this, all of this, completely dissatisfying.
"I can’t believe there’s like a billion people on this planet," he says, "and the only person I have to talk about this to is you.”
Oh, and it gets worse. Lalo has said his goodbyes (most notably to Hector, who we last see looking wistful in a paper party hat) and is on his way to the border when he realizes that something is strange about Jimmy's story: if (as Jimmy claimed) he was lost in the desert because his car broke down, then where is it? Cue Lalo finding Jimmy's Suzuki at the bottom of a ravine with bullet holes in the door. Cue him telling Nacho to turn around and take him back to Albuquerque. Cue Jimmy and Kim being interrupted in the middle of an argument about her quitting Mesa Verde and corporate law to focus on her pro bono clients by a sudden knock on the door. As Kim goes to look through the peephole, Jimmy's phone rings: Mike tells him to keep the line open and put the phone down somewhere so that he can listen in. Because heeeeeeere's Lalo!
We've seen enough of Lalo to know that he's a really, truly bad guy —and that the more cheerful he is, the more likely that he's about to do something deeply and horrifyingly evil. Now, he strides into Jimmy and Kim's apartment, all smiles. He wants to sit. He wants to talk. He wants to hear Jimmy's story about how his car broke down and he walked through the desert all night, over and over again. The more Jimmy repeats himself, the more Lalo grins. He is pure, radiant, gleeful malevolence.
"I saw your car," he says.
It seems impossible that this scene will end without someone getting shot. You know it won't be Jimmy. You hope it might be Lalo (Jimmy has kept the conversation going long enough for Mike to set up on a nearby rooftop and line up Lalo in his crosshairs.) You're prepared (or at least, I was prepared) to throw a beer through the television screen if it's Kim. And then, Kim steps up. (Actually, she steps literally into the crosshairs of Mike's gunsight, because the only thing Better Call Saul loves more this season than a subtle visual metaphor is to clobber you over the head with one. KIM MIGHT DIE! GET IT? GET IT?!!)
"Bullet holes?" she says. "That's what you're on about?"
And oh my God, Jimmy was so wrong. Kim Wexler isn't just in the game. She's the better player. She's the ding-dang champion. And where Jimmy is too freaked out and traumatized to lie effectively in this moment, Kim has the nerve to do what he can't— just like she did with Mesa Verde, turning the tables, gaining the upper hand. She can do this even though she knows Jimmy lied to her, and even though she's scared out of her mind. She calls Lalo Salamanca out. He used Jimmy as a bagman, she says, because he had nobody else he could rely on. This mess, this entire disastrous spectacle, is entirely the result of Lalo's own poor decision-making, his lack of faith in his own people.
"What kind of operation are you running here, anyway?" she snaps. “Next time you have a bunch of money and no one you can trust, leave him out of it. Get your s--- together. Stop torturing the one man who went through hell to save your ass.”
And what a relief: Lalo isn't smiling anymore. He stares at Kim. He stares at Jimmy. And then, finally, he leaves.
It still remains to be seen whether Lalo ever makes it home to Mexico. For now, he's back in the car with Nacho, with a long road ahead… but perhaps not very long to travel it. (Per his earlier comments, Tuco gets out of prison 11 months from now, which means that the cartel hierarchy of Breaking Bad will soon be falling into place — a cast of characters from which Lalo is notably absent.) Is this the end of the Bad Choice Road for the show's charmingest homicidal maniac? For the McGill-Wexler marriage? We'll find out next week, on the season finale.