Season 6, Episode 5: ‘Black and Blue’
Lalo Salamanca is playing the long game. In previous seasons of “Better Call Saul,” he seemed impetuous (ie murdering that TravelWire clerk) and a big fan of improvisation (ie the impulsive volte-face near the Mexican border to look for Jimmy’s car). That Lalo is gone, or maybe he has learned to fight smarter after appreciating the guile of his enemy.
The new Lalo is not looking for “proof” in Mexico, as Your Faithful Recapper incorrectly surmised, nor is the proof he seeks related to the attempt on his life. He wants to know about what Gus Fring is surreptitiously building — a topic that riveted him starting in Season 3 — and his search has taken him to Germany.
Specifically, to a bar where Margarethe Ziegler (Andrea Sooch), the widow of superlab engineer Werner Ziegler, is acing trivia questions and drinking alone. Repackaged as a debonair international business traveler named Ben, Lalo drops the name of the town where Werner had beckoned his wife to join him during his prohibited, and ultimately fatal, attempt at a brief conjugal reunion in Season 4. Soon, Lalo is frisking Margarethe for the few facts she knew about her husband’s work in New Mexico.
Which isn’t much. Nor, it seems, is there a hefty archive in the Ziegler home; Gus Fring’s minions hauled away anything relevant to the superlab, and maybe a lot more. Lalo’s brief haus invasion apparently produces little of immediate value, other than a good look at the carefully encased slide rule given to Werner, a gift “with love” from “his boys.”
What Lalo knows is that none of those boys showed up at the funeral and their identities are unknown to Margarethe. Surely there was a no-go order given to the crew when it came to Werner’s final send off, a safety precaution imposed by Gus, who halted superlab construction because of Lalo’s snooping.
The Return of ‘Better Call Saul’
The “Breaking Bad” prequel returned April 18 for its final season.
Perhaps Lalo’s next move is to find the occasionally rowdy and very industrious young crew that Werner brought with him from Germany to blast the superlab into existence. How exactly he is going to determine their names is not clear. The handwritten cards he finds in Werner’s house are condolences from friends. And even if he finds those men, what will they know? Presumably, they were never told what they were creating, nor did they know where, geographically, they were working.
Lalo already had a hunch that Gus was building something more ambitious than “the chiller” he told Lalo was under construction in Season 4. Beyond that, Lalo is in the dark but apparently heading toward illumination. At least, that is the hunch of Gus, who appears in this episode to be suffering from symptoms of pre-traumatic stress disorder, if there is such a thing. He is panicked enough about an imminent Lalo assault that he is scrubbing bathtub grout with a toothbrush. He takes Mike and his men to the superlab, reflecting a premonition that Lalo is going to show up there, rather than his house.
“I can put more guys on the place,” Mike tells him, shining a flashlight around the empty space, “if that’s what you’re thinking.”
Privately, Gus secrets a handgun in a superlab nook. The “Better Call Saul” writers are either throwing a feint or signaling that a showdown between Gus and Lalo will happen in the structure that will eventually become the largest and most profitable meth lab in the world. Leaving a weapon there seems to provide Gus with some modest measure of peace.
Howard Hamlin, the other human quarry in this two-pronged tale, has called out his pursuer and summoned him to a boxing ring, in the apparent hope that a few rounds with gloves on will put an end to their feud. As Jimmy later nurses his wounds with Kim, he is baffled as to why he took the bait. Your Faithful Recapper is confounded by the fisticuffs themselves. A boxing match? It seems a goofy contrivance even in the context of Jimmy and Kim’s credulity-strangling plot to frame Howard as a drug addict.
Thankfully, Howard has more in mind than resolving his differences with Jimmy using the Marquess of Queensberry rules. He’s hired a private detective to follow Jimmy. This is good news for anyone who wanted this strand of the show to acquire more intrigue.
That said, Jimmy and Kim seem so utterly nonplused that Howard has discovered their plot that we have to assume it was part of their plan. (Howard suggests as much when he says Jimmy failed to hide his tracks and wanted to get caught.) Perhaps tipping off Howard, compelling him to hire a pro to tail Jimmy, was in the blueprint. Certainly, Kim and Jimmy never speak about tweaking their scheme. On the contrary, Kim implies that everything is on track.
“Because you know,” she says, when Jimmy wonders aloud about why he indulged Howard and strapped on those gloves. “You know what’s coming next.”
Odds and Ends
There is a parallel worth noting between Gus and Kim. Neither can sleep and for the same reason. They think Lalo is about to appear. So Gus has hired bodyguards and a surveillance team. Kim has wedged a chair against her apartment door.
The Most Entertaining Appearance of the Week award goes to Francesca Liddy (Tina Parker), who turns up at Saul Goodman’s grim, unfurnished office and can hardly process what she’s seeing. Jimmy is using a new name and has pivoted away from elder law to serve unseemly clients who have lined up outside the door like it’s Wal-Mart on Black Friday. She agrees to join this new enterprise — a decision she will rue by the end of “Breaking Bad” — under two conditions. A raise, plus “I get a say in the decorating.”
Francesca, if you’re responsible for the US Constitution theme of Saul’s office and those Roman columns, we need to talk.
Mrs. Ryman is a Toto fan!
It’s not just existential dread that is driving Gus a little nuts. Even before Lalo showed up, construction of the superlab was behind schedule. The delays are expensive, of course, and risky as well, given that Gus’s secret German partner and equipment supplier, Peter Schuler, was on the verge of a nervous breakdown when we last saw him. The delays also add plausibility to a key plot point of “Breaking Bad.” Walter White exploited Gus’s fear of falling behind on the lab’s meth production schedule to save his own life. We have a better sense than ever of why that ploy worked.
And our question of the week for the comments section: What do Jimmy and Kim have in store for the man who is going to mediate the Sandpiper Crossing lawsuit? Kim has wheedled the name of the gent from an unsuspecting, somewhat fawning former associate at Schweikart & Cokely. Jimmy and Kim then get a look at the man in a copy of a bar journal and take note of his handlebar mustache.
“That’s a lot less face to worry about,” Jimmy says.
Looming plot twist alert! This is arguably the most baffling line of the season so far and clearly an important one.
What does it mean?