Better Call Saul
“Breathe” (Episode 402)
August 13, 2018
Last week on the season premiere of Better Call Saul, we learned that Chuck did indeed die in the season 3-ending house fire. Most of the season premiere revolved around Jimmy, Kim and Howard getting ready to bury the oldest McGill brother while Mike literally went to work at Madrigal.
Catch up on the entire episode with our deep dive recap & review here.
Time for Jimmy to start moving on and moving forward which brings us to tonight’s episode, “Breathe.” Our recap and review … after the jump (Spoilers Beware)!
Last week, we saw Hector Salamanca being loaded into the ambulance, the result of his heart attack during the Don Bolsa meeting. This week, we begin the episode with one of Fring’s men giving him an undercover medical exam in his hospital room. Hector seems to be in a coma … he doesn’t look great.
We cut to the Examiner giving his report to Fring … apparently he is no longer in a coma but he IS unresponsive. The man recommends that somewhere like Johns Hopkins could provide some sort of specialized care, maybe, but overall, the Examiner feels like Hector is getting what he deserves.
“Isn’t this what he deserves?”
“I decide what he deserves. No one else.”
At the apartment, Kim wakes up along in bed, only to find that Chipper Jimmy from the end of last week is now Up and At ‘Em Early Jimmy today. He’s getting an early start on the day because he’s got a host of job interviews lined up. Kim reminds him that, you know, it’s cool if he doesn’t find a job today seeing as his brother just died and all but Jimmy isn’t having it. Also, he tells her that he’s not going to some meeting with Howard later in the day, “If it’s important, Howard knows how to find me.” Kim continues to look concerned at this Jimmy 2.0.
Manuel Varga arrives at his garage to find Nacho, his son, waiting for him. Nacho is there to tell his dad,” it’s over” [you’ll recall that Hector had ordered Nacho to start running money through Manuel’s garage last season]. Manuel wordlessly lays out that week’s money – never looking at his son. Nacho tells him that he can keep the cash, “no one is coming for it,” but Manuel doesn’t budge. Nacho takes the money and as he’s leaving, his father says his first words of the scene.
“And when is it over for you?”
“I’m working on it.”
**I love the Nacho arc, it’s one of my favorite storylines on this show – Michael Mando has really made this hood archetype a sympathetic and compelling character.**
Neff Copiers. Jimmy has arrived for his first interview of the day; a salesman job at Neff Copiers. Displaying an impressive breadth and depth of copier knowledge (he credits his days in the HHM mailroom), he easily charms Mr. Neff (this is a multi-generational family business) and his assistant, Henry. They tell Jimmy they’ll be in touch and Jimmy leaves. After a beat, he returns and Jimmy plays his final trump card. He gives the Henry and Mr. Neff the full court Jimmy Press Sales Pitch and it’s really something to see him work; a modern day P.T. Barnum. Powerless against his charms and persuasions, Henry and Mr. Neff offer him the job on the spot. Which … really turns Jimmy off. He admonishes them for caving – first they said they needed some time to decide and then they fall for his routine.
“I can be a serial killer. I can be the guy that pees in your coffee pot. I could be both.”
He calls them suckers as he walks away; well, that’s certainly an interesting interview style.
**The best part of this scene is early on when Henry tells Jimmy that people would use one of their high powered copy machines to make counterfeit $5 bills. Jimmy figuratively clutches his pearls and declares such a thing not being right. The humor comes from knowing Jimmy’s future self and moral flexibility – his outrage coming so instant and being so sincere … Bob Odenkirk just kills every facial expression in this show.**
Madrigal. In the least surprising development ever, Lydia summons Mike to Madrigal for a pow wow. Essentially, she wants to know what the hell he was thinking with his “security consultant” song and dance routine from last week?!? She believes that his making appearances raises questions about who he is and why they are paying him … Mike disagrees – putting a face to a name on the books, makes his arrangement look more legitimate. Also, he’s super bored … which he doesn’t say. Lydia tells him he should do everything he can to keep on Fring’s good side and leaves. Mike seems unperturbed — which is really Mike’s default state.
Lovelace Hospital. We find ourselves in Hector’s hospital room with the Salamanca Twins, Leonel and Marco (Daniel and Luis Moncada), standing vigil and Dr. Diseth (John Jaret) checking on his patient. A new doctor is brought in, a Dr. Bruckner (Poorna Jagannathan) just arrived from Johns Hopkins. Dr. Diseth is told that a special grant was made available to the hospital specifically so Bruckner could oversee severe cases in the ward including, coincidentally, Hector’s case. Apparently, Gustavo took his Examiner’s advice very literally about Johns Hopkins and the sophistication of their care. Anyway, Dr. Diseth doesn’t waste a second before handing off the Salamanca Case to Dr. Bruckner. He leaves tracks on the floor like the Road Runner escaping from Wile E. Coyote.
Dr. Bruckner introduces herself to the twins – turns out she speaks fluent Spanish. She tells the nephews that her plan is to try and help Hector’s brain require itself following his stroke. Nacho and Arturo arrive, none too happy to see the Twins already there, and here the rest of Dr. Bruckner’s plans. She wants them, Hector’s family, to speak to him — it’s part of her plan to stimulate his brain. This scene is the definition of “Awkward Moments.” And it’s fantastic. Awkward because, man, the Twins are not the “in touch with your feelings’ type and even more awkward because Nacho tried to kill this motherfucker.
After Bruckner leaves, the Twins command Arturo and Nacho to speak and so, they do what they do – they update him on how the business is still running the way it should and how they are staying on top of the count. No one fucks with the Salamancas, is their basic message – I imagine Hector would actually like to hear this so they’re doing a good job. Not satisfied, the Twins give a look that says, “say more.” Arturo tells Don Hector that he looks good and that the doctors will fix him up. Nacho piles on top of this.
“You’re gonna get past this and be stronger than ever.”
Nacho says this last line before commercials with a fierceness which makes me think he believes this is a true statement and he’s kind of worried about it …
Los Pollos Hermanos. We come back from break with Gus sweeping up his parking lot and waiting … for someone. While he’s waiting, Lydia calls to complain/tattle on Mike. Gustavo sticks up for Mike that he’s reliable and if she doesn’t want him to keep stealing employee badges and reeking havoc in her offices, “give the man a badge.” He hangs up on her (don’t blame him) as his appointment has arrived.
Back in Fring’s (very dark) office, his investigator (different than his Medical Examiner), who I think is named Tyrus, gives Gus a recap of Hector’s day. The only thing we didn’t already know is that Bruckner and some specialists she brought in took Hector for a brain scan but, still no changes in his condition. Gustavo takes out some papers from an envelope and while we don’t get to see what they are, an out of focus shot makes them appear like columns of numbers. I imagine this is some Salamanca Drug Ring status report. Financials maybe? Fring tells Tyrus to call “Victor” and have him meet them.
HHM Offices. Kim has come to the meeting in Jimmy’s stead – she’s always looking out for him. Seems that Howard will be liquidating Chuck’s house and he and Rebecca “generously” offer Jimmy the chance to go through and take whatever he wants – they’ll even pay for movers , storage and the like. Hard Pass, says Kim. “He doesn’t want it.” As for Jimmy’s part of the estate, he is getting a check for $5,000. Kim throws shade all over it, saying it’s just enough to show you weren’t forgotten (so you can’t contest) but enough to know, you were really cut out. Howard also tells Kim that he’d like Jimmy to sit on a board for a scholarship endowment Chuck wanted established. And last, a personal note between brothers.
After Rebecca leaves, Kim lights into Howard. About the “Chuck suicide theory.” About the scholarship director position – a scholarship that Chuck would never have given his brother. About Howard trying to make himself feel better at Jimmy’s expense. Kim is shouting by the time she’s done. Properly scolded, Howard asks how he can make it better and Kim warns him to simply stay away from Jimmy.
That night at the apartment, Jimmy fills Kim on his day of job hunting and even mentions the one he turns down (though, not in the spectacular fashion with which he did it). She’s a bit distracted as he is setting up their dinner and a movie date. Kim piles on to him with the start of a make out/nookie session. Sex is always the best way to assuage your unfounded feelings of guilt. I have found that to be the case, anyway. Oh the things that fish has seen from his fishbowl!!
Up early the next day, Jimmy is on his laptop researching the values of certain Hummel Figurines – just like the kind he was shown in the Neff Copiers conference room … outside, we see him leaving a voicemail for Mike. Jimmy tells him he’s got a job for him, one he thinks Mike will like. Oh, Jimmy. What are you doing, buddy?
Los Pollos Hermanos Warehouse. Arturo and Nacho show up for their weekly drug pick up. Arturo tells Nacho they are taking 6 kilos tonight — it’s what the boss would want. Nacho (reluctantly) agrees to back him up. Inside, Arturo balks at the offered 5 kilos, “Salamancas get 6. We’re not leaving without 6.” Victor and Tyrus (Fring’s guys) remind Arturo that the Salamanca boss isn’t giving orders these days but Arturo isn’t backing down. Which is when Nacho pulls his gun – forcing the issue, Tyrus gives Victor a nod to toss them a sixth brick.
Outside, Arturo is celebrating at their victory … right up until the point when Gustavo and his boys put a bag over his head and hog tie him up. Gus has some words for Nacho, who is now on his knees.
“I know what you’ve done. The Salamancas do not. Do you understand what I am saying? Look at me. From now on, You. Are. Mine.”
Fring’s words sink in with Nacho as he watches Arturo slowly expire inside the plastic bag. No more words are said and the episode ends as Arturo takes his final breath. RIP Arturo, you were never going to last long in this world.
One thing Better Call Saul excels at is deep, rich storylines for not only its core characters, but its B and C characters as well. Nothing in BCS, at this point, dictates that we need to be spending so much time with Gustavo Fring or Nacho Varga, but we are. And the net effect of that invested time is a rewarding, fully immersive world building. We are beginning to think about life in Albuquerque outside of the machinations of Jimmy and Kim’s law practices and HHM drama.
By spending so much time developing Nacho and his relationship to Hector and now to Gustavo. And with Fring and his relationship with not only the drug cartels but his Madrigal relationship, we’re connecting the dots being laid out for us in this larger fishbowl. All of these lives are playing out at the same time.
At the end of every episode of Better Call Saul, I can’t help but feel like we are all on some cosmic collision course – that the moment when Jimmy and Mike and Nacho and Fring and Kim will all collide is rapidly approaching and will explode in our face. Maybe literally.
Given all the choices being made by our characters, there is so much potential for devastation and collateral damage … it’s going to be fascinating and heart breaking to watch when it happens.
Speaking of decisions, Jimmy. Jimmy!! What are we doing, buddy? Did you sink the Neff Copier Job because you already latched on to a scheme to steal their Hummel figurine collection? Or, were these mutually exclusive ideas? How far do you think you can push Kim before her sympathies and never ending defenses of you run out? I feel like we can’t be far away. Given how vociferously she went at Howard in this episode, in Jimmy’s defense, I have to imagine any kind of betrayal of their shared and implied trust to act honorably will cause her to break up and leave Jimmy. For good.
We’ll see. In the meantime, sit back and continue to enjoy the ride to Hell – because there is no way any of this ends well!