TV Recap: Better Call Saul – Who Is Listening?

Better Call Saul
“Talk” (Episode 404)
August 27, 2018

I hope you like Mike because we get a LOT of him tonight. Which, for my money, is a great way to spend an hour of Better Call Saul.  Mike is angry,  Jimmy is bored, Kim is lost, and Nacho is still bleeding.

Before you read the recap of tonight’s episode, get caught up on all of last week’s action with our deep dive recap & review here! Caught up? Good. Let’s get into tonight’s episode … after the jump (spoilers beware)!

Our cold open tonight is a nostalgia piece, a young boy – based on the clothes, let’s say we are in the late 1970s, early 1980s – watches his father make a cement block. We never see dad’s face but before his work dries, he lets the boy write his name in the cement (a timeless tradition). The boy writes, “Matty.”

We come back to the present where Mike (and Stacey) are sitting in someone’s living room. This is some kind of support group, it feels like.

“You wanted me to talk. I talked.”

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, Kerry Condon as Stacey – Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Title Sequence.

We come back to a long tracking shot of a faceless man walking through a barrio to deliver a kilo of drugs. Back in the car, he shows the driver the cash.  “Done.” Is this the Fring local suppliers working the turf in place of the Salamancas?

Cut to Jimmy in bed (the shower is running so I guess Kim is already up and at ’em. Working girl that she is).  Anyway, Jimmy gets a call from a wireless store, CC Mobile, where he interviewed for a job. They offer him a shift supervisor but after a beat of hesitation, Jimmy turns it down.

“My plans have changed.”

Indeed, Jimmy.  Indeed.

Kim, before she leaves, finds Jimmy shaving in the bathroom and suggests he go see a shrink.  She hands him a number of a person she already found, close by.  Jimmy hems and haws about making an appointment and then, “Oh Geez, I almost forgot to tell you. I got a job.” Looks like we’ll be seeing him as a shift supervisor at CC Mobile after all …

This news makes Kim happy BUT, she still wants him to call the shrink.  “Coffee’s on.” A kiss and she’s outta there. As soon as Kim leaves, Jimmy backtracks and tries to get that CC Mobile job back …

Courthouse. As Kim comes through  the metal detector, she gets the courthouse docket lowdown from a guard. That’s a nice service to have. Up in Judge Benedict Munninger’s courtroom, Kim is quietly watching the various mundane proceedings that passes through a courtroom on any given day. Judge Munninger (the wonderful, Ethan Phillips) stops at one point and asks Kim if she has a matter there that day? Nope, she says, just watching.  Oooooookay, says the judge and he continues.

Not convinced, the Judge calls her back to his chambers for a talk.  They make some small talk and he quizzes her on what she is doing with her life. Hearing she’s on her own, he pitches her a case he heard about, in case she is interested in taking it on.  He gives a long winded explanation, at the end of which, Kim guesses correctly that he’s told her the plot of The Verdict. The Judge’s point? Being a lawyer is a repetitive and soul crushing experience, replete with domestic stabbings and janitors throwing pee, and Kim’s not going to fall back in love with the law trolling the Judge’s courtroom. Stick to Mesa Verde, is his advice.  That being said, they always need public defenders and the Judge tells her that if he catches Kim hanging around again, he’ll put her to work.

I think this is the coolest Judge ever.

After lunch, Judge Munninger takes his seat and sees Kim, again, hanging out in his courtroom. He takes a pointed pause to stare at her and then carries on.  Kim is calling out the Judge to put her to work and give her life some meaning.

Mike’s Diner. Anita (the inimitable Tamara Tunie) joins Mike’s lunch and crossword puzzle already in progress. She asks him out to see her friend’s band at the Launchpad but he turns her down, they’ve got “group” tonight and he told Stacey he’d be there. She takes it “well,” but after a pause, Mike says that maybe he can stop by the Launchpad after …

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, Tamara Tunie as Anita – Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Anita turns the conversation to one of their group members, Henry. Anita is worried about him but Mike says that Henry is fine. Also, Henry is a liar. Anita is shocked that he’d accuse Henry of this but Mike lays out all of the issues with Henry’s stories – he even tells Anita about Henry’s “tell” when he’s lying (he rubs his wrist). Mike KNOWS people. They make a bet that Henry’s story will be different tonight.

CC Mobile. Shift Supervisor Jimmy is hard at work at the mobile shop. It’s funny he is a shift supervisor when he is also the ONLY employee in the shop. A supervisor of one.  We get a classic, wordless, Better Call Saul montage of Jimmy being an efficient employee, cleaning and straightening and waiting, repeat. The mundanity of life at CC Mobile is exhausting to watch. Finally, a phone call!! However, it’s just Robby the Boss checking in on how Jimmy’s first day is going.  Robby confirms Jimmy’s suspicion that the store is ALWAYS slow. And their busy store is already filled up. After the call, Jimmy begins the most exciting part of his day – bouncing a rubber ball against the window.

Better Call Saul does these types of shots better than anyone else. They hold just long enough on Jimmy bouncing the ball, over and over again, to the point where you begin to feel uncomfortable and/or utterly bored. They hold the shot just enough. It’s masterful.

Luis Moncada as Marco Salamanca – Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Nacho and the Salamanca Twins are staking out the barrio compound from earlier and an Iroc-Z that has just show up. Nacho takes the binoculars and confirms that it’s the silver sports car that ran him and Arturo off the road.

“I remember the smoked windows. That’s the one that ran us off the road.”

Nacho looks at the compounds defenses as the driver of the car enters the barrio fortress. He begins plotting and tells the Salamancas they’ll need numbers to hit the place. He names the guys he’ll call in for the hit tonight. The Twins look at each other, grab a bag (of guns, I presume) and start walking towards the encampment.  Nacho … is NOT happy with how this is going. He tries to call the Salamanca Twins back but, you can imagine how that goes.

We watch from the car, with Nacho and his binoculars, as the Twins take out the first two guards with some knife-wielding wet work. We hear nothing right now except Nacho’s breathing. The Twins continue their way inside the compound as the muted pops of their guns reach our ears.

Nacho watches the scene unfold and hesitates to join. That is, until reinforcements show up and it’s clear they are going to be able to flank the Salamanca Twins from behind. Forced into action now, Nacho (who is still really not in great physical shape) makes the decision to join in the fight. Have to keep up appearances for the Salamancas, right?

Michael Mando as Nacho Varga – Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Nacho sneaks up on one of the reinforcements and as the killer turns, Nacho takes him down. Is this the first person Nacho has killed himself? He looks fairly shell shocked at the death he has just caused. He limps on to keep helping the Twins. The Twins are pinned down inside the compound and running out of ammo.  Nacho, whose stitches have completely opened up at this point – blood is flowing from his stomach wound, limps and crawls towards the reinforcement gunners. He falls over but never fear, one of the Twins was also still outside and he takes out the rest of the opposition forces.  Nacho gets to his feet. Him and the Salamanca Twin nod in … respect? Shared experience? Still being alive?  The pinned down Twin calmly walks outside, the yard is just littered with bodies. Ding Ding Ding, Revenge has been served.  Commercials.

Luis Moncada as Marco Salamanca, Michael Mando as Nacho Varga – Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

When we return, night has fallen an Nacho still doesn’t look great. Gustavo arrives, they’re in an abandoned garage, and Nacho brings him up to speed on the day’s action.

“We cleared out the Espinosas. They’re all done.”

Fring asks after the Twins and Nacho tells him that Marco (I’m impressed Nacho can tell them apart) took a hit but will be fine. Also, they’ve returned “South” until the heat does down. Nacho gambles with his life and decides to speak aloud what he thinks the whole plan is here. With the Espinosas gone, the cartel has to give their territory to someone and since that someone can’t be the Salamancas, Nacho posits that Fring hopes the cartel gives the territory to him.

“Ger some rest. You have work to do.”

Gustavo Fring … not always so much with the long speeches and words.

Group Meeting.  Henry (Marc Evan Jackson), the guy Mike and Anita discussed earlier shows up late as Lilly is finishing her share. When Stacey goes, she gets very upset with herself as she relates her experience of not thinking about Matty for several hours earlier that day.  She worries that she might forget about him and she’s got guilt over that. Mike, sitting next to her, is breathing deeply and is almost … pulsating as she is speaking. It almost feels like a slow burn of anger bubbling inside him.

The group leader suggests that this might be progress and not, in fact, a bad thing. He suggests that a lot of people in group have experienced the feelings she’s having.  “I know I have,” Henry chimes in. Henry jumps in with his weekly share about Judy and after a bit, Mike audibly scoffs. Uh-oh.  Do you have something to add, Mike?

“You don’t want to hear what I have to say.”

Mike unloads on Henry, blowing up his spot about Judy, and the inconsistent stories, and the sham he’s been peddling. The group leader warns Mike about their rules …

“Yeah, I know your rules. He’s been coming in here for months, selling you a bill of goods. Getting you all misty eyed and loving every minute of it.”

Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Anita tries to calm Mike but he’s in it now. He dares Henry to admit the truth, “you have no shame.” Henry bolts the room but Mike isn’t done. He turns his boiling anger to the room. Accusing the group of being so wrapped up in their “sad little stories” such that they couldn’t notice Henry’s bullshit. The room sits in stunned silence.

“You wanted me to talk. I talked.”

You realize it now, but this is where the episode began. Commercials.

When we return, we see Papa Varga come home, all angry about his son being there. He’s telling him to leave … until he actually sees the state Nacho is in.  He wants to call for a doctor but Nacho begs him that Nacho won’t be safe if he calls anyone. He pleads with his father just to let him rest there a bit. Papa V is very upset.

Madrigal. Mike is back on the job as random security consultant.  This time he is leading an inspection of a shipping truck which has been packed to head out for deliveries.  Interestingly, before they start, he mutes a call from Stacey. Without even really trying, Mike finds several anomalies and corrections that need to be made. Mike would have made a good Catholic school nun. His inspection is interrupted by a phone call. The voice on the other end tells him that “he” wants to see him that night. Fring is the “he,” I presume.

CC Mobile. The shop has not picked up and Jimmy’s throws the “Closed” sign on and takes off.  He heads to Ace Rebar. Why? Because the Bearded Burglar from last week is there filling up his company’s soda vending machines, Desert Beverage. He hands over an envelope of cash, much more than Jimmy expected. The Bearded Burglar tells him that Bavarian Boy sparked a bidding war at the Hummels Expo and they made bank.  Jimmy is impressed at the Bearded Burglar’s honesty of handing over the superfluous cash. The duo agree that they liked working together and Jimmy says he’ll find them something else for them to do.  He tells Jimmy to call the vet when he’s got something. New job. New Phone.

“You never know who is listening.”

The Bearded Burglar is wise.

CC Mobile. Inspired by the sage wisdom of the Bearded Burglar, Jimmy returns to work and paints all over the front windows of the shop: “Is the Man Listening? Privacy Sold Here.”

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill – Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Los Pollos Hermanos Warehouse. Mike arrives for his meeting.  Fring reads Mike the riot act because he knew about Nacho moving against Fring’s interests. Mike doesn’t deny it and says he only said he wouldn’t kill Salamanca, not be his bodyguard. Mike knows, though, that Gus isn’t going to hurt him this night because he knows Gus has an ask, so what is it?

“So why don’t you stop running a game on me and just tell me about the job.”

And Scene.

Thoughts.  No hour of television goes faster, these days, than Better Call Saul.  Tonight was a Mike heavy episode and those are always great nights.  Jonathan Banks brings so much goddamn intensity and gravitas and dry humor to Mike Ehrmantraut that you spend most of his time on screen confused about whether you want him to be your grandpa or if you’re terrified of him. What you do know, though, is that you’re captivated every second he’s on screen. At this point in Mike’s story arc, he’s very much in a transitory place. He’s angry and alone and determined to make the best for Kaylee and Stacey and also, try to live by a version of the moral code he has for himself. I think of it as a pessimistic realist outlook with pragmatic and morally flexible tendencies.   After tonight’s episode, I think we’ll begin to see his “in” with Fring, so synonymous with their Breaking Bad relationship, begin to really deepen.

Jimmy. Oh, Jimmy. You are too ambitious and twitchy for your own good. I can’t believe CC Mobile is going to be happy with the “Man Is Listening” campaign he’s about to unilaterally launch BUT I make you a bet that his store’s numbers are about to explode.

Kim. Not a lot of screen time for Kim tonight but she definitely seems to be searching for some meaning in her corporate life. As a corporate finance attorney myself, I understand the crisis of conscience she might be suffering through here. You spend days making faceless clients richer and at the end of the day, you’re pretty sure you didn’t make the world a better place. I think, with the Judge’s help, she’s going to find her way.

I guess we’ll see … until next week friends!

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