Better Call Saul recap: Let's punch it out
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One thing about Better Call Saul: t's big on mementos, objects imbued with meaning far beyond the sum of their parts. A silver space blanket. An onyx pinky ring. The cap from an expensive bottle of tequila. A curved shard of glass half-buried in the dirt. And now, in the opening moments of "Black & Blue," something new for the collection: an old-fashioned slide rule, suspended in lucite, with a dedication in German.
In Liebe… Deine Jungs.
You can look up the translation if you're curious, but you don't need to know what it says to guess what it means — or in whose memory this keepsake was created.
Anyway, hold that thought, because after the title credits we're back in Albuquerque, where the mystery of Lalo Salamanca's (Tony Dalton) whereabouts is starting to make things tense. Kim (Rhea Seehorn) can't sleep knowing that Lalo is still out there, but that puts her in better shape than Gus, (Giancarlo Esposito) who not only can't sleep but appears to be on the verge of a total nervous breakdown. All he can do is wait around for Lalo to take a shot at him, and for a control freak like Gus, this is basically hell… until, right in the middle of a relaxing midnight toothbrush grout-scrubbing session, he suddenly has an epiphany: Lalo can't make his move just yet. And just like that, Gus has a plan again.
We don't know what it is, though, and the opacity of our characters' intentions is becoming an ongoing theme. For instance, take Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim's big plan to frame Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) as some sort of cocaine-addled purveyor of prostitutes: Did you think that this was the plan? The whole thing? Ha! You are like little baby. (Full disclosure: I am also like little baby, I totally thought this was the whole game.)
In hindsight, of course, Cliff Main (Ed Begley Jr.) was always going to confront Howard about this — which he does — and Howard was always going to figure out that Jimmy was the culprit, which he also does. (As Howard notes later in the episode, Jimmy didn't even try to cover his tracks, a sure sign that there's more going on here than meets the eye.) But while Howard is realizing that he has a Jimmy McGill problem, Kim is meeting with her former paralegal Viola (Keiko Agena) and oh-so-subtly pumping her for information about the judge in the Sandpiper case. Oh, yeah. This thing goes way deeper than just making Howard look like he's dabbling with hookers and blow.
Meanwhile, Jimmy is doing his best to settle in at his new office, coaxing a perplexed and reluctant Francesca Liddy (Tina Parker) back into service as his secretary ("Where's Ms. Wexler?" she asks, presciently echoing what has become the most pressing question in the history of the Breaking Bad universe, if not the history of the world.) Francesca finally agrees to come back to work for Jimmy if, in addition to more money, she gets to have some say in the decorating. Wait, does this mean the cheesy Declaration of Independence motif was her idea? Discuss!
Cut to Jimmy pulling up at his last appointment of the day, ominously located behind a chain-link fence laced with barbed wire. It looks like a trap, but the show has so thoroughly primed us to fear a reappearance by Lalo that it's genuinely a surprise when this mysterious location turns out to be a boxing gym, and Jimmy's promising client turns out to be Howard Hamlin — with an unconventional solution to this ongoing war of attrition.
"Let's punch it out," says Howard.
This boxing match — what can one even say? It's pure art, a slapstick masterpiece that defies description, and I challenge anyone to watch it without howling with laughter, especially when Howard lays Jimmy out with an uppercut and quips, "You've mistaken my kindness for weakness." (Eh, personally I would've gone with a riff on one of Jimmy's own catchphrases here — "How's that for speedy justice, ya schmuck?!" — but Howard is his own master.)
Of course, Howard didn't just bring Jimmy here to beat him up; he's hired a P.I. to watch his every move. And yet, one gets the sense that it's Jimmy, not Howard, who still has the upper hand here. As he ices his bruised face, Jimmy tells Kim he should have left Howard standing there instead of taking the bait. Ah, Kim says, but he had his reasons.
"Because you know what's coming next," she says.
Ooooh! That's promising! What's coming next? We can definitely speculate: There's something about the judge in the Sandpiper case, and especially something about his mustache, and of course, we know that Jimmy is always game to play dress-up for the sake of a con. But any further revelations will have to wait because, right now, we're saying goodbye to Albuquerque…
And güten tag to Lalo Salamanca, whose quest to prove that Gus Fring is a traitor has taken him a long, long way from home. We find Lalo at a bar in Germany, where he flirts with a striking woman who once, she says, almost visited New Mexico.
This is Margarethe, Werner Zeigler's widow. This is where Lalo is hoping to find evidence of what Gus was really building underneath that laundromat. And this is extremely nerve-wracking because Margarethe doesn't know anything about what her husband was working on, and Lalo has a well-documented history of murdering people when they turn out not to be useful to him. Their conversation ends with him walking her home (side note: if you managed not to scream out loud when she says, "I'd like to invite you in," you are stronger than I.) And while Lalo doesn't kill Margarethe, man, they sure dangle the hell out of the idea that he might — as he breaks into her house the next morning to rifle through Werner's things, as she comes home unexpectedly and nearly catches him, as she climbs the stairs to the office where we know Lalo is lurking — gun in hand!
The good news is that Lalo escapes out a window, leaving Margarethe and her sweet little dog to enjoy the rest of their lives in peace. The bad news is the "boys" who sent her that lucite-encased slide rule are about to have a very bad day.
Until next week.
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