‘Better Call Saul’ Season 5, Episode 9 Recap: Bullet Holes

‘Better Call Saul’ Season 5, Episode 9 Recap: Bullet Holes

At last, proof positive: Kim is a much better liar than Jimmy.

We know because as the pair try to win over a skeptical looking, handgun-packing, fish-tank tapping Lalo, it is Kim who proves a far more convincing, far nimbler fabricator. Lalo mentions the bullet holes he found in Jimmy’s car — which turn out to be the biggest holes in Jimmy’s story — and Kim instantly has a simple and plausible explanation.

“Bullet holes?” she says, feigning astonishment. “That’s it?”

They are no doubt the work of New Mexico’s legion of yahoos, she says, who will shoot at anything made of metal. Kim also serves as a character witness, telling Lalo that Jimmy is a man of integrity. The kind who doesn’t lie, she lies.

Our favorite con man, it seems, has married a far more talented con woman. She doesn’t merely persuade Lalo. She admonishes him. For not having a better criminal enterprise, for not hiring more trustworthy minions.

“No offense,” she says, “but you need to get your house in order.”

It’s a nonviolent, psychologically fraught ending to an episode that is low on action and very interior. If the tale told here has a chewy center, it is the speech Mike gives to Jimmy about the ways that people choose a road, often based on a small decision, and then find it impossible to exit that road. This is a pretty fatalistic vision of life, and one to which Mike sincerely subscribes. With good reason. When he tried leaving his own road a few episodes ago, he wound up a depressed drunk with a death wish.

Is Jimmy every bit as chained to his fate? Probably. By accepting a bag of cash in exchange for serving as Lalo’s mule, and by mentioning this mission to Kim, he has cast his lot with the Mexican cartel in a way that can’t be uncast.

Nacho, certainly, is stuck on his road. Mike’s efforts to convince Fring to remove the gun he is pointing — at times literally — at the head of Nacho’s father comes to naught. Mike argues that Nacho delivered Lalo, as promised, and is due a chit. Fring is unmoved. He likens Nacho to a dog that bites all of his owners.

For viewers, who know Nacho as both a criminal and a human with a soft spot for his father and for compulsive women, this seems unduly harsh. But all that Fring knows about the man is that he tried to kill his previous drug-lord boss, Hector Salamanca.

Lalo, on the other hand, doesn’t worry much about his own fate. He makes bail, gets released and nears the Mexican border when it occurs to him that he should double check Jimmy’s desert escape story. Why he didn’t think of this before he arrived at the water well/meeting spot is unclear, and this actually gets to one of the more interesting conundrums for the writers of “Better Call Saul.”

How smart, capable and menacing should Lalo be? It’s no fun if he’s dim or merely intelligent, right? What made the contest between Gus and Walter White so compelling in “Breaking Bad” is that each was trying to outsmart the other, and both were surpassingly devious. Their schemes and counter-schemes made them ideal enemies.

So far, I’m not sure that the writers have invested Lalo with enough malignant gifts to serve as a Gus-worthy foil. He is charming, he is murderous, and he certainly can jump from high places and land on his feet (Into a ravine in this episode; out of the ceiling of a Travelwire last season.)

But he’s always a step behind Gus. He was snowed about the meth superlab. He was manipulated into prison and later manipulated out of prison. This week, he jumped bail, just as Gus planned, and appears to be lamming it to Mexico, just as Gus planned. (Well, he was headed in that direction when last seen.) And as Kim snookered him in that living room showdown, Mike had the cross-hairs of a rifle pointed at Lalo’s chest.

The point is that Lalo might need more game. As a fan of the show, and a fan of suspense, I kind of wish that Gus’s organization was now genuinely imperiled. It seems the worst Lalo can do, at present, is compel Gus to blow up his own restaurants. Which is bad.

But there’s one episode left in this season. From which cliff are we currently hanging? Kim’s death appears off the table, at least for the time being. I sort of expected that by now Lalo would pose an existential threat to Gus Inc., and we would all be wondering if he was about to sic the Feds on the guy, or preparing to murder Gus, as counterproductive to the cartel’s interests as that might be.

We still don’t know whether Lalo will be back for Season 6., though it seems likely given Jimmy’s brief reference to him in Season 2 of “Breaking Bad.” My wish: that he gets back to Mexico and then returns next year, with reinforcements and new ways to cause havoc. A lot more havoc.

Odds and Ends:

  • In addition to saving Jimmy’s life, Kim changes career paths in this episode. She’s had enough of the tedium of regulatory work on behalf of a growing regional bank, and she would like to become a public defender. This irks Jimmy, who is — as he has been at other moments — focused on the money. She’s undaunted.

  • The woman has range. She even knows what kind of soaking bath cures a guy desiccated in the desert.

  • So, Don Eladio was behind the attempted hijacking of Lalo’s $7 million in bail cash. At least, that is what Gus has concluded after talking to the elegant, even-tempered señor. The question is, why?

    Here’s why, according to Gus: “He was trying to protect his business by protecting our business.”

    All right, hive mind, let’s buy a vowel and solve this puzzle.

    My guess is that Eladio wants to scuttle the bail deal on the theory that keeping Lalo behind bars is good for Fring’s drug enterprise, and thus good for Eladio’s. It’s a fair assumption. As far as Eladio knows, Lalo has been nabbed by the police and is going to wind up, like his cousin Tuco, neutralized behind bars. Eladio doesn’t know that Lalo was causing huge problems for Fring while in jail. He certainly doesn’t know that Fring has a double agent in the cartel, and that Fring torched his own restaurant. Finally, Eladio doesn’t know that Fring orchestrated Lalo’s release.

    So Eladio hired some gangsters to steal the cartel’s own money, hoping to keep Lalo in the Big House.

    For Fring, what’s the end game here? Remember, he said that anything that happens to Lalo on this side of the border is his responsibility. So his plan is surely to let Lalo escape to Mexico and then kill him there, without raising any suspicions.

  • Lalo is in a hurry to get home, unaware that home for him is now one of the most dangerous places on earth.

What are you hoping to see in the finale? Share in the comments section.

And remember, if anyone asks if you pushed your car into a ditch, the wrong answer — perhaps the worst answer — is “I don’t think so.”

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