Only Better Call Saul could open an episode with a beautiful sequence involving an ant discovering an ice cream — the one Saul (Bob Odenkirk) dropped on the pavement at the end of “50% Off” — and alerting its nest to the sweet treat’s whereabouts. It didn’t have much of anything to do with the rest of this episode, “The Guy for This”, but it’s exactly the kind of artistic flourish that marks Better Call Saul out amongst its peers.
The episode itself was somewhat held together by the storylines belonging to Saul and Kim (Rhea Seehorn), who both essentially got pulled into terrible work situations. Saul was in the most danger, as he was picked up by Nacho (Michael Mando) and driven in silence to see Lalo (Tony Dalton), half-expecting to be whacked or something, only to realise his legal services are required in order to get Domingo “Krazy-8” Molina (Max Arciniega) out of custody. Lalo wants Saul to represent Krazy-8 as his lawyer, so he can avoid jail by giving the DEA information about Gus Fring’s (Giancarlo Esposito) dead drops. It’s not something Saul is interested in doing, but when Lalo pays him $8,000 upfront for his trouble… one can sense Saul’s remaining morals are being further eroded by the idea that representing the interests of criminals like the Salamanca’s has its financial perks.
A highlight of the “The Guy for This”, for Breaking Bad fans, was the ensuing storyline with Saul meeting with Krazy-8 in jail and going through their strategy with the DEA. And who should be representing the Drug Enforcement Administration? None other than Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and his partner Steven Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada), both familiar Breaking Bad characters. There had already been strong rumours Hank would be appearing in this season, so I can’t say the surprise was totally out of the blue, but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon this year.
And it was great to see both actors again in this universe, particularly Dean Norris, who slipped back into playing the cockier early version of Hank as if he’d never been away. Better Call Saul has cleverly delayed its “fan service” cards, in terms of bringing back Breaking Bad favourites, to ensure audiences are invested in the show itself and not just watching to see familiar faces from the mother show. Anyway, Lalo’s plan goes well, with Krazy 8 agreeing to become Hank’s CI (criminal informant) in exchange for release and police protection. The only problem for Saul is that, as Lalo puts it, “when you’re in, you’re in” and he’s going to become the Salamanca’s lawyer of choice going forward.
Unfortunately for Lalo, he’s still blissfully unaware that Nacho is actually a mole for Gus Fring and reporting everything back to his rival about what’s happening between Krazy-8 and the DEA. Gus decides to keep the dead drops running as usual, so as not to arouse suspicion, but isn’t too happy that the pretence will cost his business $500,000. Nacho himself remains a key part of season 5, so far, as he’s the tether between Gus and Lalo’s storylines. And in a separate subplot for himself, we caught up with him lounging around in his expensive but empty home with two strung-out girls… just as his homely father Manuel Varga (Juan Carlos Cantu) comes by to discuss an unexpected offer to buy his upholstery shop. It would be enough money for him to retire, but he rightly suspects that Nacho is behind the whole thing and just wants him to leave town. Manuel is too proud to do this, so has refused the money, leaving his son Nacho to stew over the fact his beloved father’s life is in danger unless he keeps feeding Gus Fring word about the Salamanca’s plans.
Nacho’s storyline is quickly becoming one of my favourites, as he’s a similarly conflicted character to others on the show; a nice guy who got in with a bad crowd, partly because he wanted a shortcut to success and wealth that working in his father’s shop couldn’t provide. The story also connects to some of the show’s themes about dysfunctional families and simmering resentments that can build up between those you love.
Mike’s (Jonathan Banks) storyline continues to be the weakest of those in play right now, as he’s still grieving over having to kill Werner Ziegler. Here, Mike drowns his sorrows in the bar he once spent time in with Werner, only to irritatedly ask the barman to take down to postcard of the Sydney Opera House that Werner had pinned up behind the bar. In a slightly unnecessary moment afterwards, while working home, Mike is set upon by a gang of thugs who try to rob him, but he’s able to break their leader’s arm and scare them all into submission.
One of the more intriguing storylines this week actually belonged to Kim, which does happen because her role on the show is less predictable in many ways. We know where Saul, Gus, and Mike are heading in general terms, but I’m always fascinated to see what Kim’s role continues to be. Here, Kim is knee-deep in the pro bono cases she thrives on but is ordered back to the bread-and-butter of Mesa Verde by her boss, Rich Schweikart (Dennis Boutsikaris), who wants her to take charge of a situation involving a cantankerous homeowner in Tucumcari. The old man, Mr Acker (Barry Corbin), is refusing to vacate his property and make way for a new call centre to be built on his land, despite every one of his neighbours accepting generous sums to move on. It was quite humorous to see the Acker residence is now the sole house standing in the middle of a desert. But, for proud Mr Acker, it’s a matter of principle because he thinks his hundred-year lease should be honoured (and he has 70 years left on it), despite Kim’s insistence there’s a legal loophole he can’t ignore and should just take the extra $18,000 being offered for him to stop being a pain.
What was interesting about this storyline is how it kept subverting expectations. It seemed likely that Kim would use her skills and charm to sweet-talk the old man into facing facts, by first using her professionalism and tact, before returning later to try blunt honesty and an olive branch offer to help Mr Acker with his move personally. The scene was set for Kim to achieve a breakthrough, but Mr Acker instead saw through both tactics and refused to give an inch. An exasperated Kim was forced to return home and throw beer bottles off a balcony onto the street, in pure frustration, joined by Saul because he’s been through a similarly tough day. Both having a moment of unity, individually made aware that the choices they make affect how others perceive them.