Welcome back to our weekly breakdown of the minutia of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s Better Call Saul. While Alan Sepinwall provides his always excellent coverage of the series (here’s his write-up of the most recent episode), here we will look at some of the details viewers may have missed, callbacks to Breaking Bad, references to other shows or movies, and theories on the direction the series is heading. We scour Reddit threads, Twitter, listen each week to Kelley Dixon’s Better Call Saul Insider Podcast, and attempt to curate the best intel about each episode.
This week’s episode, “Sabrosito,” took us all the way back to 1999.
Breaking Bad fans will obviously recognize the pool setting in Mexico with Don Eladio. It’s the same pool where Gus poisoned members of Eladio’s cartel in Breaking Bad. According to the Insider podcast, the Better Call Saul flashback is set in 1999, while the Breaking Bad scene is set around 2008. The only thing that has changed is the color of the deck.
According to the episode’s director, Thomas Schnauz, it was a lot colder for the Better Call Saul flashback, which meant that poor Steven Bauer had to hang out all day — from sun-up to sun-down — in a speedo in very cold temperatures. Schnauz said that his teeth were chattering some of the time, and there were a few shots in the scene where it was apparent he was cold, but Schnauz is clearly being hard on myself, because I couldn’t find any.
Another fun note about that scene is this: Javier Grajeda — the actor who plays Juan Bolso, a Mexican cartel boss who is killed by Gus in Breaking Bad — is an old roommate of Bryan Cranston’s. The casting department didn’t know that until Grajeda showed up on the Breaking Bad set and reunited with Cranston. Bolso, recall, was also the man who ordered the death of Tortuga in Breaking Bad and has his head placed on a turtle.
The Winking Greek
Don Eladio’s necklace has also been around a long time, as we can now see. Here, he is wearing it in 1999.
Mike pulls it off of him on Breaking Bad after Gus poisons him.
Gus also taunted Hector with it on Breaking Bad.
The name of Hector’s ice cream store front is a nod to Don Eladio and his necklace, El Griego Guiñador (“The Winking Greek”). The silver eye necklace is a Greek-derived charm against the evil eye, hence The Winking Greek.
These are the notes, by the way, from when the writers were trying to come up with Don Eladio’s name back in Breaking Bad season four.
Viewers can be forgiven if they thought they were being transported back into Breaking Bad with that very first shot from the pool. It bore some resemblance to the season two shots of the pink teddy bear floating in the pool (and Gilligan himself said that this episode was basically the “63rd episode of Breaking Bad.”) But what’s really cool about that opening scene is how it mirrors the final scene for Don Eladio (via Reddit user HartPURO). He entered the show in a pool, and exited the show in the same pool.
It doesn’t square precisely with the Actor Allusion TV Trope, but it’s amusing to consider that Walter White watched Scarface with Walter White, Jr in Breaking Bad and that two actors in the movie they were watching also play characters within their own universe. Steven Bauer plays Don Eladio in Better Call Saul/Breaking Bad and Manny Ribera in Scarface, while Mark Margolis plays Hector Salamanca in Better Call Saul and Alberto the Shadow in Scarface.
The Fire Station
As one Redditor, Pedroskywalker, points out (and the Insider podcast confirms), the fire station Gus visits in this episode is the same one that Walter White left Holly in Breaking Bad.
Note also Gus’s joke to the firemen is a subtle nod to Gus’ future death: “I hope I’ll never need your services.”
This is a pretty great little detail in case you missed it: In the scene after Mike tells Jimmy that “it’s nice to fix something for once,” he’s reading an issue of Handyman magazine in the parking garage booth. By the way, that is a real magazine that exists.
I have no idea what Jimmy’s long game is with the both the pictures that he had Mike take or Kim getting Chuck to admit there is a tape, and Chuck ensuring that the tape is on the record (by mentioning the $3.98 for the tape). I assume that Jimmy is going to try and use the information to discredit Chuck as mentally ill and get him removed from the bar. According to the Insider podcast, it’s complicated, there’s a lot of legalese involved, and it will all pay off in the next episode. I am most curious, however, about why the writers singled out this photo.
“Oh wow. A gas lantern sitting on top of a stack of Financial Times,” Jimmy says to Mike.
I mention it only because the director of photography on the show mentions in the Insider podcast that there is a scene in an upcoming episode that is lit entirely by a lantern. I wonder if it’s the same lantern as the one in this photo and how it will all come back into play.
Will Chuck inadvertently set his house ablaze?