Better Call Saul
“Piñata” (Episode 406)
September 10, 2018
Last week on Better Call Saul saw the start of some major plans for Gus Fring’s eventual criminal empire. Elsewhere, Jimmy and Kim were frustrated, to different extents, at the feeling of being stuck (and, in Jimmy’s case, mugged). Read our entire recap and review here!
Caught up? Great! Let’s to tonight’s episode, “Piñata” … after the jump (SPOILERS BEWARE)!
HHM Offices, 1993. We’re flashbacked to a time when Jimmy AND Kim were mailroom clerks at HHM. The difference being that Kim is on the ball, both as a mail clerk and as a future lawyer – schooling Jimmy on all of the big things going on in the firm, including the latest legal success of his brother, Chuck (Michael McKean making a cameo appearance).
When Chuck walks by, we get some backstory that Kim is in her third year of law school at UNM and she thanks HHM for that. While Jimmy watches as an awkward third wheel, Kim exhibits some of her legal acumen, asking Chuck on certain case law that may have affected his case. He’s impressed and also, kind of put off. Chuck is the kind of guy that wouldn’t really like women in a major law office. Howard comes by to whisk Chuck away for celebratory drinks. Kim watches, ambition in her eyes …
“That’ll be you soon …”
“Yep,” is Kim’s simple response. See you later, Jimmy! Jimmy resumes picking up the office Oscar picks but he’s looking a bit depressed now. You can sense that maybe he thinks he should be doing something more. And, as some kind of kismatic answer to his unspoken prayer, he passes HHM’s Law Library.
We see Jimmy slip inside and then head to the title sequence …
Kim’s Apartment/Office. It’s late at night and Kim is recording notes on various Mesa Verde zoning applications. Her attention is being pulled to a criminal case sitting off to the side. She is struggling to pull herself to her Mesa Verde train of thought (she’s leaving a question for Viola to track down in the recording with lots of dead (distracted) air). She covers the criminal case file with a Mesa Verde folder. That’s certainly metaphoric.
In the bedroom, she finds Jimmy sleeping and a notepad laying on top of him. On it, he’s written out several iterations of a Kim and Jimmy law firm. Each version of the law firm name has “Kim Wexler – Banking Law,” but under each of Jimmy’s names, there is a different kind of practice (insurance, immigration, bankruptcy, gaming, intellectual property and the list goes on).
Its revelatory as to Jimmy’s view of Kim’s abilities as a lawyer and how, he must not realize she’s doing these criminal cases now (or doesn’t care). Kim’s face falls. On page 2, there are drawings of the WM logo he has always played around with …
The next morning, Kim asks about CC Mobile and whether he’s made the therapy appointment. He breaks it to her that he decided not to go (after telling her he would) and she questions it but then, let’s it go.
“You have to do what’s best for you.”
Hmmm, is Kim talking about herself here or Jimmy? Jimmy takes off for work. Kim heads to Schweikart & Cokely, a law firm Kim’s previously sent a client to, Billy Gatwood. Rich Schweikart, the man she’s meeting with, says they’ve just kept going with the strategy Kim set up. Which is a compliment, really. Moving past small talk, Kim gets to the reason for the meeting? She pitches herself as bringing a Banking Group to S&C.
The Underground Construction Site. Mike and Fring take a tour of the now totally cleared underground construction site we saw last week. A reminder that the German, Werner Ziegler, got the job to build … whatever it is Fring wants built (we know what that is, we’re pretty sure). There are are two 2 pre-fab housing units sitting in the middle of the space – that’s where Werner and the construction guys will live.
Mike tosses off a list of quality of life items he thinks Fring needs to install as to help ensure that the construction men, who will be living in total isolation for almost a year, don’t go crazy. “Make a list,” Fring responds positively. Next on Mike’s list, security. He wants a “full camera perimeter” inside and out. Keep people out … and in. They’ll also need a trailer built to house the cameras which is staffed round the clock by at least 5 guys, working in shifts. I list all of this to give you an idea of the giant scope of this project. This is an expensive undertaking.
Tyrus comes in and whispers to Fring something about an infection. Gustavo’s face falls a bit and tells Mike he has to leave; Give Tyrus your list and it’ll all be gotten. Fring leaves and Mike begins to rattle of his items list as we head to commercials. The last bit we hear is about how the mighty Germans will rip through consumer grade tread mills — they need to get the heavy duty stuff. I didn’t even know that was a thing. Well, maybe he just means gym-quality tread mills. Anyway, commercials!
CC Mobile. Jimmy is doodling more Wexler McGill logs and talking to someone on the phone about who makes giants signs, like the kind casinos use. Oy, Jimmy. Luckily the conversation is interrupted by a guy looking for Jimmy McGill the attorney. You found him, pal. Jimmy drafted the Will for this guy’s grandma and now she’s died and this guy, Brett Dunst, wants some help resolving the trickier parts of the estate. Geraldine Strauss was the grandma and Jimmy seems genuinely very sad at her passing. I’ll note that he also takes a minute to inquire about the status of her Hummel figurine collection (shame, Jimmy. SHAME!). To his credit, Jimmy tells Brett that he isn’t practicing law any longer and refers him to HHM (the name is a coincidence he says).
We cut to Jimmy at the apartment. He’s popped in the Sand Piper commercial he made (you’ll recall that Geraldine was the old lady featured in the commercial) and he reminisces sadly. Kim calls and invites him to join her “somewhere good.” Mrs. Strauss was a fixture client for Jimmy in Seasons 1 and 2 of Better Call Saul and even appeared last season during Jimmy’s bar hearing. RIP Mrs. Strauss.
At lunch, Kim tells Jimmy about the job offer Rich Schweikart made her (sure, that’s a version of events) to build a banking division at S&C. Jimmy is shocked. Kim also mentions the pro bono criminal work she’s been doing and that she likes that a lot. She’s helping people (cheesy as that sounds). Jimmy is doubly shocked that he had no idea. Jimmy pivots and says that he has been thinking about getting into criminal law too (really, Kim asks, incredulously).
Kim, as delicately as possible in this situation, lets him know that S&C will allow her to work Mesa Verde (all those associates she can use for their work) while freeing her up to do practice the law she really enjoys … which is when it finally hits Jimmy that “Wexler & McGill, Attorneys at Law” isn’t going to be a thing. He excuses himself to use the bathroom.
Where he really goes is to have a mini anxiety attack in the restaurant’s kitchen.
“I say do it. It’s a great opportunity and you should jump on it.”
Jimmy’s returned to the table, now composed, and gives his blessing to Kim. She questions him to make sure he’s serious and he uses her line from earlier in the morning to do “what’s best for you.” To Schweikart & Cokely … & Wexler, he toasts.
Stacey’s House. Mike shows up to (finally) apologize for his outburst at the support meeting. He stands by his words but acknowledges there was a time and place. Stacey notes that the group is a mess and Anita is mad but Mike says it’s probably better for him to not reach out. She reassures Mike that she’ll never forget Matty and he acknowledges that he doesn’t expect her to be a grieving widow forever. I love these softer sides of Mike – it reminds you, (a) how complex a character he is and (b) how good an actor Jonathan Banks is. They make amends and Mike says he’d like to pick Kaylee up the next day. Stacey says that’ll be great and calls him “Pop.”
HHM Offices. Jimmy stops by to pick up his $5,000 and notices the empty cubicles. Howard admits to him that the firm is downsizing – with its reputation in the shitter, its all falling apart. Jimmy rips into Howard that he doesn’t have a plan to rehabilitate the firm and is just folding up like a cheap suit.
“Get your shit together, Howard. Oh please, you suffer one little setback and you’re going to let your entire legacy go?”
Howard finally puts his pen down at the “one setback” comment but Jimmy isn’t done. He tells Howard that HHM is all Howard has and so he needs to get out there and fight for its survival. He ends his reverse pep talk by telling Howard that while he’s a shitty lawyer, he’s a great salesman, “so get out there and sell.”
“Fuck you, Jimmy!”
“There you go. Use that.”
Montage Time! Jimmy is back at his Nail Salon Office roots but this time, he’s unloading a big shipment of burner phones. He’s been inspired by his own Howard speech, it seems. We see him on the phone, talking to someone who has set up a spot at “Pinatas.” Jimmy confirms that they’ll have full run of the place and no prying eyes.
Mrs. Nguyen stops by the back room to tell Jimmy she doesn’t want people coming through her shop to buy his phones and then tries to tell him its fire hazard having them there. Jimmy reminds her he pays rent for this office space and anyway, the phones won’t be there long. He gives her one free as some grease on the wheel. Mrs. Nguyen takes the phone but reminds him that get rich quick schemes never work. Jimmy disagrees.
Hector Salamanca’s Hospital Room. Gus is sitting bedside, watching and talking to an unconscious Salamanca. The fever is getting worse and he may die, Fring tells him.
“The Doctor tells me again and again that you may never wake. And yet, I wait.”
Fring then launches into a story from his poor youth. A long story about fruit and a coyote and his ability to sit for eternal vigilance and how in the end, Fring was able to defeat his prey. But didn’t kill it, kept it until it died on its own.
“I believe you will wake, Hector.”
He leaves the sleeping patient in his bed. Gustavo Fring is a scary motherfucker.
Fring Underground Construction Site. Werner and his Germans arrive (they don’t seem very … construction worker like) and immediately take to the amenities in the space (all of Mike’s items have been installed, including an awesome looking bar). Mike and Tyrus gather them for the Rules. Kai (Ben Bela Böhm) doesn’t come right away, instead choosing to pour himself a beer. He finally makes his way over, beer in hand, after Werner scolds him in German. Mike looks annoyed but continues.
Mike tells them about the sleeping arrangements, the shopping list (whatever you need, you’ll get) and the phone to Mike and his guys (need something, call). Kai makes a crack about getting some girls. “Anything within reason,” Mike confirms. With no more questions, Mike takes his leaves – work begins tomorrow.
On the way out, Werner assures Mike that the men will focus once the work begins, “I’ll see to it.” Mike shakes his hand and reminds Werner to ask for anything he needs to make “this” go better. As Mike exits, we see the security protocol is in place. Mike looks at a security cameras above the door and the lock disengages, and then this happens for an outer door as well.
I’ll note we get the glimpse of the outside of the construction project and this is definitely the place where the industrial laundromat, Lavandería Brillante, will be in Breaking Bad. Ergo, this confirms our suspicion that this mysterious construction project is Gus Fring’s Superlab.
At the security trailer across the way, Mike and his two video guys on duty watch the Germans goof around. Mike warns them to keep an eye on Kai.
That night, back in town, Tracksuit Jimmy confronts the 3 punks who jumped him last week. Jimmy offers to pay them protection – $100 each night he’s out selling just to leave him alone. Money for nothing. They counter with demanding Jimmy gives them everything he has now and 1 of the punks pulls a knife. Tracksuit Jimmy takes off running.
Running through Albuquerque, running through Albuquerque, running through Albuquerque, Jimmy runs himself into a dead end and the punks are getting ready to finish him off.
“You should’ve taken the deal.”
The punks turn around to find 2 large, hooded figures with guns. Cut to the 3 punks, bound and gagged and hanging upside down in a piñata factory. The goons come out with a bat and begin demolishing piñatas. The 3 Punks may be urinating themselves. The camera here is so funky, keeping the punks right side up and everyone else upside down. It’s vertigo-inducing. Tracksuit Jimmy comes out asking if the boys want the pain fast or slow? Jimmy ungags the head punk who now promises to leave Jimmy alone. The piñata smashing continues in the background. Jimmy gets them to agree to leave him alone and spread the word that he’s off limits.
Jimmy announces they’re done but the goons aren’t listening, it seems. They continue to smash piñatas and Jimmy is looking a little nervous now. Well, Jimmy says, “if its that important to you” and he spins around head punk. Ahhhh, this last bit was part of the act. Anyway, Bat Goon stops his bat just at head punk’s nose and I’m POSITIVE that head punk has urinated himself. The goons leave. Wait, WAIT! Is that … could that be … we’ll discuss it below.
“You get one warning and that was it.”
Jimmy drops the bat and leaves the punks hanging upside down as he walks away.
Have we begun to see the end of Jimmy and Kim? Seems we’ve definitely seen the end of the Wexler & McGill law firm. One of the most pressing questions since Better Call Saul began is …”what happens to Kim?” She’s not in Breaking Bad and was never mentioned during the run of the show so, at some point, Kim exits Jimmy’s life. Is this is the start of that?
For at least two episodes now, Kim and Jimmy having been wrestling with their individual restlessness. Neither is happy where they are – Jimmy feeling like he’s treading water while he can’t practice law but watching Kim kick ass and Kim, treading water as a soulless corporate lawyer while desiring to do good. It’s interesting that tonight, each of them tells the other that they have to do what’s best for them but neither really means it when they say but uses their own advice to start making life moves … life moves that will maybe, likely, lead to the demise of their relationship.
Jimmy’s final act with the goons and the punks … this is some Saul Goodman shit right here. Setting them up and then using the goons for intimidation … and that final threat. There is no Jimmy McGill warmth in his final warning … these punks won’t like what happens if they fuck with the cell phone guy again. And was that Lavell Maurice Crawford reprising famed Saul Goodman bodyguard, Huell Babineaux? We only get a dark, side angle of his face but I think it might be.
As we’ve been noting the last few episodes, we’re racing almost full speed now towards the character we know as Saul Goodman and getting further and further away from the sweet, lovable Jimmy McGill we’ve seen the last few seasons. It’s so exciting and being doled out in such an interesting way.
Superlab. That exterior shot confirmed, for me anyway, the conjecture I began last week that this was obviously the foundation for the creation of Gustavo Fring’s Superlab meth factory. As he notes in his story told to Salamanca, he knows Hector’s going to wake up and Gus isn’t waiting to start making moves. Gustavo understands a war is coming and he’s preparing himself now for that day and for the days afterwards when he is the kingpin. It’s an interesting game of 1 sided chess he is playing now.
This was a largely moving pieces around the board episode but I will enjoy watching the Superlab construction as it gets underway and Mike has to babysit the Germans. Things aren’t going to end well for Kai, can we all agree on that now? Also, watching the strands of Kim and Jimmy’s relationship fray as he delves into his phone sales and she begins her new career at S&C.
Also, and almost as an aside, what will Howard do in response to Jimmy’s angry pep talk to get his shit together? Will this negatively affect Kim in some way? Jimmy, himself?
Last, where was Nacho, man?
Until next week!