4 out of 5 stars

Both Saul (Bob Odenkirk) and Mike (Jonathan Banks) use their talents for trickery in this week’s Better Call Saul, with mixed results, although ultimately Saul comes off worst because his scheming almost costs him his relationship with Kim (Rhea Seehorn). Since agreeing to help his girlfriend sabotage her own company’s efforts to evict Mr Acker from his home, in order to build a new call centre, Saul’s thrown himself into a variety of underhanded ways to keep Mesa Verde from building on his client’s land.

And this week, that involves creating numerous cheap and tacky commercials with the help of the filmmaking students he’s employed before, using a greenscreen at the Spa & Nail Bar he uses as an office. Kim goes along with Saul’s dishonourable tactics, at least at first, but then asks him to stop everything and instead come to a fair agreement with Mr Acker receiving $45,000 for his time and trouble. Trouble is, Saul’s an addict and can’t stop himself.

An opening flashback to a teenage Kim (Katie Beth Hall) revealed she once couldn’t trust someone she loves, as her mother (Beth Hoyt) was late picking her up from school because she was out drinking. In adulthood, she’s again on the receiving end of another untrustworthy person close to her. Saul breezes into Mesa Verde’s boardroom with CEO Kevin Wachtell (Rex Linn) and Rich Schweikart (Dennis Boutsikaris) in attendance, refuses Kim’s agreed offer of $45K and makes everyone gasp by demanding $4M instead. And if they refuse to pay, he’ll run the terrible commercials he plays for them, which are full of ludicrous claims against Mesa Verde that will damage their reputation and might tank their business before they clear their name in court. On top of that, Saul realises that Mesa Verde’s logo of a cowboy riding a horse is a technical copyright infringement on a Native American artist whose photograph inspired it, so fighting that additional legal claim will take years and require the marketing pain of removing their logo from view.

Saul’s devious plot works like a dream, but it leaves Kim feeling like just another “mark” in his eyes. Someone whose genuine shock and awe were relied upon to sell the ruse to her workmates, rather than allow her to be an active participant in a scheme they concocted together. Kim simply can’t trust Saul anymore and, after she returns home, Saul seems confused she’s so upset and bitter about what he considered a major triumph. But then, on the precipice of their relationship ending because of the scam, when Saul senses it all slipping away, Kim gives him a surprise ultimatum: go their separate ways or get married. Maybe Kim’s thinking is that marriage is the long-term commitment she needs to keep huckster “Saul Goodman” away and get closer to the Jimmy McGill she fell in love with. But I think she’s dreaming if she thinks Saul’s going to change his ways just because there’s a ring on his finger.

Mike also spends the episode being deceitful, with the intention of helping Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) get rid of his drug rival Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton). He poses as a private investigator called Dave Clark (an alias he used in Breaking Bad) to coerce a librarian into reconsidering her memories of the TravelWire murder from last season, making her think Lalo’s vehicle was present. She then calls the Alburquerque Police Department to update them, leading to the cops pulling Lalo over — which is a serious danger for a man whose life needs to be kept quiet in his line of work.

It was a great way to see Mike back doing what he does best, as he’s more of a tactician than the usual goons Gus employs. Nacho (Michael Mando) had informed Gus and Mike about how Lalo intends to derail his drug business, so this is Mike’s effort to fight back and have Lalo jailed before anything too serious can happen. Interestingly, Mike hears Nacho’s concerns about how Gus is threatening his father’s life, and there’s clearly a glimmer of emotion there from Mike — who isn’t a monster, he just works for one. Once they’ve dealt with Lalo and removed him as a threat, it seems Mike’s going to try and help Nacho get out from under Gus’s boot heel, if that’s even possible now. But is it likely Nacho will ever free of the life he’s chosen for himself, as a character we’ve long assumed isn’t going to be around for too much longer? One can only hope his poor father doesn’t pay the ultimate price for his son’s bad decisions.

“Wexler v. Goodman” was an important enough episode in some ways, certainly in the final scene, but it was mostly built on fun sequences that were easily digestible. Two men playing games with unwitting folk. There was even another amusing embarrassment for Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), who is still being harassed by Saul without even knowing it. Here, Howard had to cope with a business lunch rudely interrupted by two slutty hookers claiming to owes them money, who Saul helped at court and paid to make Howard’s dinner a nightmare. One has to feel sorry for poor Howard, whose life is becoming hellish thanks to Saul’s tormenting. But while it’s fun to see moments like this, as palette-cleansers during episodes, I’m still a little confused about why this storyline’s continuing. It still petty of Saul to be doing all this, as Howard doesn’t really deserve it, and the bigger picture relevance of his scenes aren’t too apparent.

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