A review of the week You better call Saul, “Bad Choice Road”, coming as soon as I leave the Yankees to play the amateur ring ring…
“Oh, Jesus, what did I get involved with here?” -Jimmy
So should we start talking about Kim Wexler as the one who laughs?
“Bad Choice Road” begins with a sequel to last season’s big montage of “Something Stupid”. Again, a cover of the song Sinatra plays as we see Jimmy and Kim on split screen. In this previous episode, the device was used to illustrate the growing emotional distance between them; here, it emphasizes physical distance, as Jimmy and Mike finish the desert trek they started in “Bagman”, while Kim worries about returning to the apartment. Sometimes the couple’s movements are synchronized, but in extremely different circumstances, such as when they enjoy a glass of clean water from the kitchen sink when they have to swallow more of their own piss. The original montage ended with the fusion of his separate images, even as the lives of Jimmy and Kim became more and more distant. Here, the picture is never complete, because our leads are in separate places. But at the end of this fantastic episode, the two halves of You better call Saul himself, long separated, eventually merges into an exciting and terrifying story.
Jimmy and Kim have met Lalo in prison separately in past episodes (and Jimmy a few times before, helping with the Krazy-8 problem), but when he enters their home, armed with a gun and a smile , any distinction between the cartel and the civil aspects of the program has ceased to exist. Earlier in the episode, Kim leaves Schweikart and Cokely, and Mesa Verde, because banking law is bothering her now; in the process, it seems that the series has left almost no interest in non-criminal life. Mike warns Jimmy of the wrong route he has taken and the impossibility of leaving it. Jimmy will later ruin the lesson by trying to convince Kim that she made a terrible mistake when she quit her lucrative job, but it is already too late for her and him, and You better call Saul. Everyone has been on Bad Choice Road now, and there is no turning back.
Where “Bagman” was focused almost entirely on Jimmy and Mike’s painful desert odyssey, “Bad Choice Road” is a fairly traditionally structured episode until this long climax in and around the apartment. We catch up with almost all the actors (except Howard, who exists today as a symbol of life that Jimmy and the series both leave) and advance various sub-plots. Gus discovers that the bandits were hired by Juan Bolsa, who seems very unhappy that Lalo is coming out of prison and going back to Mexico to get involved in his business. Mike tries to negotiate the release of Nacho from control of Gus – or, failing that, for the safety of Mr. Varga – but the Chicken Man is adamant in his belief that Nacho is too treacherous to be managed by anything but fear ( *). Lalo says goodbye to Hector, trying to assure the frail and bitter old man that he will return after the heat has fallen, but his last look at his uncle (who is silently participating in a nursing home birthday celebration, looking silly and sad in a party hat) suggests that he knows it’s the last time they’ll see each other. Kim leaves the firm and Jimmy even appears in court on behalf of a client, although the only thing we see is the embarrassing sequel, as Bill Oakley scoffs at him for snatching the jaws of victory.
(*) With hindsight, Gus scores a point. Nacho had previously asked Mike to kill Tuco, then poisoned Hector. Trying to assassinate difficult bosses is his choice.
Jimmy left his game because he is naturally traumatized by what he did and saw in the desert. He moves more slowly due to severe sunburn, but he also seems to think more slowly. Familiar sounds like Kim operating the juicer now remind her of shots and explosions. He lies to Kim about what really happened, unaware that she has ever seen the bullet hole in the travel mug she gave him. He is dismayed to realize that the only person he can talk to about it is Mike. When he sits in Mike’s sedan, he seems genuinely shaken by the thought of these dead men, even after Mike argued that it was a killing or being killed situation. The memories of Fred Whalen’s murder upset him even more, and even Mike suggests that Lalo will soon be taken care of to upset him. It’s as far removed as possible to imagine that Jimmy McGill was from Saul Goodman (*), who in his very first appearance advised Walter White to kill an underlying asset.
(*) What a stretch of three episodes this has been for Bob Odenkirk, from the vitriolic maniac of Saul Goodman from “JMM” to the raw physics of “Bagman” to Jimmy’s intense vulnerability throughout. He’s still great in this role, but the versatility required to play these three very different iterations of what is still clearly the same character is impressive, even by the standards he established in previous seasons. I would like to see Saul have a huge night out at this year’s Emmys (even if they take place virtually), but Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn in particular should really be the winners in their categories.
Mike assures Jimmy that he will get over this trauma in time, and with Lalo heading for a permanent end, it seems for a moment to Jimmy that he has a chance to bring his world back to something that resembles normal. But a combination of fate, Kim and Lalo have other plans for him. Like Mike says, once you go down the road, you’re on that road, no matter how hard you try to turn it off.
Lalo turns out to be much smarter than anyone wants, realizing that he and Nacho have not passed Jimmy’s broken car on the way to the well to meet the cousins. He orders Nacho to take him north in search of the thing, and is careful enough to notice the tracks left by Mike and Jimmy when they pushed him into the ravine. Lalo looks damn superhuman in this streak, even making a heroically relaxed jump from the edge of the ravine to the overturned vehicle below. At that time, I couldn’t help but wish we could have seen this guy in front of Saul Goodman’s most infamous client, as it is as if he had all of the most dangerous qualities of the enemies of Walt – the physical threat from Tuco or the Cousins, plus an insight and understanding of a strategy that can be fring-esque, without being as blinded by revenge or as Gus or Hector can be – wrapped in a smiling packet and tenacious. This will not happen, although he may still be alive during the events of breaking Bad. (Saul initially thinks Lalo sent Walt and Jesse after him, although he could very well be out of the loop on everything by then.)
Instead, we get something even more wonderful and largely unexpected: Lalo being verbally panted by our heroine, our beloved, the great Kim Wexler.
When Jimmy learns that Kim has left his job, he assumes that she is overreacting to her imminent death experience. His adventure in the desert influenced his decision, but not the way he thinks. Although she is alarmed by the possibility that he dies there (and finally lets herself cry when he calls to say he is alive), it looks more like she could have taken a day and a half off for a more banal reason and still feeling the same lack of connection and interest in the return. She doesn’t want to be that person anymore, and she hasn’t for most of this season. The sense of play over Everett Acker’s house was as much Kim unconsciously trying to escape a job that she had hated as it was she trying to do well by this grumpy old man.
That said, Jimmy’s peril, and the lies that flow from it, tell her about it, put her on an emotional journey that may perhaps prepare her for Lalo’s arrival at the door of the apartment. She knows that Jimmy is lying to him about what really happened, and even confronts him about it. But the news that Lalo met his wife rightly terrifies Jimmy and keeps him lying, even when she assures him that she won’t judge him. At another point in their relationship, it would create a rift between them, but the fight that led to her marriage proposal fundamentally changed – or maybe just broke – something in Kim. Now she just wants Jimmy and will continue to make concessions to allow the relationship to continue. Even knowing that someone shot her, and he won’t tell her, it seems like something she quickly learns to compartmentalize. When they finally quarreled in their apartment, it was not for what happened in the desert, but for Jimmy’s reaction to his departure from the company.
However, they fail to bring this argument to a conclusion, because suddenly Mike frantically calls Jimmy, and Lalo stands at their door, as laid back and laid back as usual. (“Hey, guys!” He declares, as if he were coming for a Commercial spaces marathon with chips and dive.) They have no other choice but to let him enter, and as he crosses the threshold, Kim passes unequivocally into the world which shelters Mike, Gus, the Cousins and, finally , Heisenberg.
Between the law firm’s argument and Lalo’s pop-in, the sequence of the apartment takes approximately 16 minutes. It’s an eternity for a single TV scene, even a bifurcated scene like this. (The other acts in the episode are deliberately shorter to allow this one to run without interruption for those watching it live.) On the one hand, it seems endless, because Lalo, as usual, is a dog with a bone, and continues to make the story repeat to Jimmy and again, teasing new details each time even if he does not believe his lawyer. The longer it lasts, the more everything is tense, just like Kim’s pure injustice being present.
But on the other hand, the sequence – like all the other scenes in this episode, written and directed by BB/BCS Veterinarian Thomas Schnauz – sort of also seems to fly, because it’s so exciting and sharp. Soon, we cut between the apartment itself and the view through Mike’s telescopic sight on the roof of another building in the development. Before Mike decides to take the picture and then deal with the messy cleanup that such an act would entail, Kim literally gets in his way and saves the fucking day, scolding Lalo as if he was just another annoying and mercurial client like Kevin de Mesa Verde. She raises a reasonable doubt about the bullet holes by attributing them to local vandals, then points out how fragile Lalo’s operation must be if he has to trust Saul Goodman to transport this money. It makes this big, scary man briefly feel very small.
“If you don’t trust your men with your money,” she told him, summing up the simple but firm closing argument, “you have bigger problems than if you trust Saul Goodman. Then she advises him: “Jesus, gather your shit!” Whether Lalo believes Jimmy or not, Kim manages to refocus his anger on a target south of the border. He leaves, allowing him, Jimmy and Mike to breathe out, even if neither is particularly comfortable with what just happened – and what almost happened next.
It’s a knockout performance (by Kim and Rhea Seehorn), and a suggestion that Kim could work Jimmy’s side of the street very well if she wanted to. Earlier, Jimmy chastised her for visiting Lalo: “You don’t see Lalo. I see Lalo, OK? I’m in the game. You’re not in the game. “We don’t want it in the game because we know how the game ends for everyone in this world, Jimmy / Saul / Gene included. But since I’m the protector of Kim, this incredible scene made me hope that she would continue to play for a while.
Some other thoughts:
* Continuing our ongoing discussion of what Saul knew exactly about Operation Gus Fring before saying to Walt, “I know a guy who knows a guy who … knows another guy,” we see him riding in an SUV with Victor and Tyrese. We’re getting close to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Saul really knew Gus all the time, and also knew that Mike was really Gus’ employee, and that most of his relationship with Walt and Jesse (after the Walt’s chance to hire him to represent Badger) was a case where Gus was playing puppeteer.
* If you listen carefully to the movie Jimmy is trying to watch with Kim, this is the classic of Cary Grant / Rosalind Russell / Howard Hawks His Girl Friday, who talks about a woman who keeps coming back into a relationship that she knows is deeply unhealthy for her, with a man whose charm and wild professional lifestyle cannot be resisted. And now, I would love to see a version with Odenkirk and Seehorn as Walter and Hildy. Or I would if we didn’t understand it already.
* Leaving the S&C offices, Kim makes sure to grab the bottle of fancy tequila from the time she and Jimmy swindled Ken Wins to pay for it – the symbol of the attraction that Kim can’t quite throw into life criminal.
* A stuntman jumped on the Suzuki Esteem, although Tony Dalton kept asking if he could. He has experience with crazy stunts, having spent some time earlier in his career as a co-host of a Donkeymexican style called No Te Equivoques. This is a young Lalo who is a reckless idiot while wrapped in bubbles. Enjoy.
* Lalo tells Hector that Tuco will be a free man again in 11 months. First appearance of Tuco on breaking Bad doesn’t say how long he’s been out of prison (that’s where Skinny Pete met him), but it’s June 2004 Saul right now, and breaking Bad starts in September 2008. So either Tuco had been out much longer than it appeared in “Crazy Handful of Nothin ‘” (where, from Jesse’s point of view, he just took over the cast of the late Krazy- 8), or he may have additional incarceration in his future. But Lalo’s suggestion that someone should keep an eye on Tuco provides us with a possible explanation of why Hector lives in misery with Tuco towards BB Season two rather than staying in the nursing home. Depending on what happens to Nacho, Hector may be the only trusted person left in the crew when Tuco is released on parole.
* Finally, when Kim hands over the keys of his company car to his disconcerted assistant Marcie, the two spouses are temporarily without a vehicle.