BETTER CALL SAUL, 5.4 – ‘Namaste’

As Jimmy doubles down on "Saul Goodman," a deeply conflicted Kim brings him an interesting proposition. Gus makes a sacrifice in order to play the long game. Mike attempts to smooth things over with his family.
3.5 out of 5 stars

I’m often surprised when Better Call Saul storylines continue into the next week, or when older characters reappear. “Namaste” was a good example of this happening once again, with Kim (Rhea Seehorn) realising that Saul’s (Bob Odenkirk) unorthodox methods are what she needs to deal with grouchy Mr Acker (Barry Corbin), the sole holdout for Mesa Verde’s planned development in Tucumcari. This brainwave occurred to her in a wonderful courtroom scene when Saul forced a shopkeeper to identify his client as a thief when in reality the real defendant was sitting in the crowd, leading to a mistrial.

Indeed, “Namaste” was dominated by Saul getting up to mischief and growing more confident with his new identity. Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) even returned, after his brief appearance a few episodes ago, trying to schmooze “Jimmy” into returning to HHM and putting his undoubted legal skills to good use. There was a time when Jimmy would’ve jumped at the chance to be a big player in his brother’s firm that bears their surname, but now he’s not so sure, as he’s started to walk his own path. He enjoys being Saul Goodman and running his own affairs.

The cold open, with Saul in a shop full of nicknacks, browsing for items of a certain weight, before choosing three bowling balls, seemed bizarre. But by the end of the episode, it became clear that Saul wanted to throw said balls over Howard’s main gate at his luxurious home, smashing his fancy car’s windscreen (with the titular registration plate ‘NAMAST3’). Was this just Saul acting out, taking last week’s shattering beer bottles to a worse real-world extreme? It did seem a little childish, perhaps, but provides further evidence for just how insufferable Saul has come to see Howard after all the shit they’ve been through.

The way Saul managed to convince Mr Acker to let him be his legal representation was also hilariously weird, with Saul shoving his foot in Acker’s doorway and presenting him with a photo of a man fucking a horse — just to grab his attention, before explaining the image represents what Mesa Verde do to the little man. Saul’s in cahoots with Kim, of course, but the stage is set for an ‘Acker vs. Mesa Verde’ trial, which will likely result in some ‘Wexler vs. Goodman’ action. In a small subplot, which must be going somewhere, however unclear the destination is, Saul also convinced the two crooks from “50% Off” — Sticky (Sasha Feldman) and Ron (Morgan Krantz) — to let him represent them instead of a cheap public defender.

I somehow didn’t expect Hank (Dean Norris) and Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) to return to the show, as it felt like their appearance in “The Guy for This” could’ve been a single extended cameo to please Breaking Bad fans. However, it seems they have a sizeable role this season and might even become regulars on the level of Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito)? I guess it makes sense they’d stick around a while, as Hank and Gomey stake out the dead drops Krazy-8 spilt the beans about. Gus is aware of what’s happening thanks to Nacho being his informant, of course, so he spends an agonizing evening in his Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant waiting for Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui) and Diego (David DeLaO) to report back after leading the DEA on a wild chase. One had to feel sorry for poor Lyle (Harrison Thomas), too — the restaurant employee Gus kept behind to deep-clean the fryer, seemingly as an excuse to loiter around in his office waiting for a call. The way the action sequence with the Albuquerque police and DEA chasing a suspect’s vehicle through a tunnel intercut with Lyle furiously scrubbing a fryer with steelwool was a nice touch. In the end, obsessive-compulsive Gus is down $700,000 but his two men escape custody. Oh, and that fryer’s “acceptable”.

So far, Mike’s storyline this season hasn’t gripped me, but that might be about to change. He’s still grieving and depressed over what happened with Werner Zeigler, but is now trying to make amends with granddaughter Kaylee after scaring her by losing his temper when she kept talking about her dead father. But it seems that Kaylee’s mother, Stacey (Kerry Condon), is having doubt that “Pop” is ready to engage with their lives fully, sensing something’s wrong deep inside. That doesn’t help Mike, who then intentionally walks past the gang that attacked him last week, only this time their greater numbers overwhelm him. He’s brutally beaten, only to awaken in a strange remote place in the Mexican countryside. But who found Mike unconscious and brought him across the border, and why? It could be Gus, as he may want to convince Mike to come back and work for him, especially now he has serious DEA problems to contend with. But maybe it’s Lalo Salamanca, who’s interested in “gringo” Mike and what he knows about Gus’s mysterious engineering project. 

Overall, “Namaste” delivered great character moments for Saul and Kim, while pushing Mike’s story into an intriguing new direction, and doubling down on some sweet Hank and Gomez action that isn’t good news for Gus. 

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