The Better Call Saul Lie Detector Test is a weekly recap of the major events of the final season, separated out by their apparent truthfulness at the time. This is not one of those recaps that gets into granular detail about things. It will miss the occasional callback or foreshadowing. But it will be fun. Sometimes, that’s what’s important.
Season 6, Episode 5: “Black and Blue”
Gus is doing great
Gus Fring is a meticulous man, in all facets of his life. He’s meticulous in his day job as the head of Los Pollos, which we saw last week when he told Mike to find new security guys who could work a griddle up to his standards. He’s meticulous as a criminal mastermind, as we’ve seen any number of times when his smile turns to ice and all emotion drains from his face. And he’s meticulous in his personal life, with a closet full of neatly pressed shirts to drive it home.
I think this is one of the reasons the Lalo thing is getting to him. Lalo is… I don’t know if “not meticulous” is the right phrase, because it’s not like he’s sloppy. He just gets by more on charm and a smile and some sly little tricks. If Gus is doing math, Lalo is playing music, just whomping away on a piano to see what, if anything, works. He might be in Mexico one week and then, to pick an example completely at random, show up at a martini bar in Germany the next. Gus has trouble with that because he’s a man of order and logic and Lalo plays by feel. It’s still two cobras circling each other, it’s just that one of the cobras wears glasses and the other has a terrific mustache. I kind of want to see this now.
And so, the paranoia. The seeing threats around every corner. The stares off into the distance at his chicken restaurant when he mentions the “spice curls” he pitched to the higher-ups and how that ties into the superlab. The thing at the end where he plants a gun in the wheel well of a piece of heavy machinery down in the same superlab, a piece of foreshadowing that Chekhov himself could appreciate. We know Gus wins because, well, this is a prequel and he seems to be in the cartel’s good graces once Breaking Bad starts, but the journey of it all is still a blast.
Two titans faced off in the ring
Howard sniffed out Jimmy’s involvement in the various drug and/or prostitution flimflams that have been plaguing his life recently, which, I mean… yeah. This one did not exactly require high-end detective work. If you know Jimmy McGill and he doesn’t like you and you start noticing strange drug/prostitute things in your life, there’s a pretty straight line you can draw there. Jimmy has a style. He barely even made an attempt to hide anything, beyond maybe the thing where Kim is actually the mastermind and not just an accomplice. But still.
The point here is the boxing match. Two middle-aged dudes flailing fists into each other’s livers, both gassed moments into the fight, all of it culminating in Howard clocking Jimmy on the chin and laying him out on the mat. It was a sad display all around, both as an athletic endeavor and for what it all meant for Howard, which I’ll come back to later. Mostly I just wanted to post a GIF of some sad punches. What a delightful show this is, just giving us a weird sad boxing match in the middle of a tense prequel that is zooming toward a conclusion with multiple characters’ fates in the air.
I knew exactly what was happening in that opening scene
Better Call Saul does this, the short little art film cold opens that seem to mean nothing at first and then means a lot by the end of the episode. This time it was the creation of a little slide rule thing encased in glass that Werner had in his house, because of course Werner, another meticulous man and builder of things that are sometimes drug superlabs, would have a glass-encased slide rule in his home.
The thing here is that, because we’ve seen a few meth-cooking montages like this over the years and because it was announced that Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul will pop up at some point, the part of my brain that is entirely the DiCaprio Pointing Meme was like “IS THAT WALT COOKING METHA-… oh.” It’s fine. I’m doing great.
Howard is going to be fine
Here’s the thing about Howard: He’s one of a few main characters on the show whose fate we don’t know. It’s basically down to him, Lalo, and Kim at this point, now that Nacho is buried in a desert somewhere. We also know:
- He is kind of at war with Jimmy and Kim
- They referenced something coming “next,” which sounded like a big ominous deal
- Jimmy and Kim are not the murdering types
All of which makes this interesting. Right now I have my money on Kim surviving and fleeing back to the Midwest, and Lalo dying in the superlab via the gun Gus just hid, but… I don’t have a handle on Howard. Again, I don’t think he dies, unless his new plan of following Jimmy gets him mixed up in bad cartel business somehow. But something has to happen where he’s no longer a significant part of Jimmy’s life, only because there are no more weird boxing matches once Breaking Bad starts. I guess for now I’ll go with “framed for something and disbarred and maybe went to jail.”
Or maybe he buckles down and becomes light heavyweight champion. Probably not, though.
Kim is a mastermind at home security
Kim Wexler is:
- Barricading hotel doors closed with loose desk chairs
- Smoking a lot of cigarettes
- Making sad/pained faces when coworkers tell her that she makes them feel good about the law
Kim Wexler is not doing great. I would not exactly list this as breaking news, but it does seem like it’s all becoming a little too real for her after that meeting with Mike last week and the revelation that Lalo is still alive. This is all going to get very stressful going forward. I don’t want to talk about it anymore right now.
The food at Los Pollos Hermanos is delicious
My gut says yes. I do not think Gus would stand for substandard food quality even at a restaurant he uses mostly as a cover for an international methamphetamine operation. The bigger question I have here is… how good?
Is Los Pollos like a Popeyes of the Southwest? Is that what we’re getting at? Does Gus actually hate Popeyes and see them as his primary competitor? Do they have folksy little commercials that air regionally with a silly little spokesman? Do people get angry about it when the argument comes up? Do websites do rankings of fast-food fried chicken places in the BB/BCS universe and, if so, where does Los Pollos rank? Can you imagine how wild it would be if the CEO and founder of, like, Bojangles, was secretly running an international meth ring?
This is a problem I have. I’m supposed to be watching this show critically, as a professional, for work, and then I realize I’ve just spent 15 minutes on chicken fantasies.
Lalo Salamanca is the most fascinating character on television
There are a couple things happening here, which I will attempt to explain…
The first is that Lalo is a complete sociopath. He flew to Germany and tried to seduce the wife of a man whose death he was mostly responsible for, using a fake name — I was so disappointed he went with “Ben” and not something fun like “Victor Biloxi” — and a martini to woo her a bit. He didn’t get invited in, which was probably good for Werner’s wife, because she might not have made it out of there alive then. But he did find out where she lives and was able to use his startling athleticism again to leap over fences and out windows and do everything short of dance through lasers like a jewel thief in a heist movie.
(Gus kind of figured this out, too, by the way. He knows Lalo is doing Germany things and coming for the superlab, which is why he hid the gun there. There are various Reddit deep dives you can examine to track this all back. The point is that the people who make these shows are very good at their jobs.)
The second thing here is that I know he’s an evil sociopath who will kill anyone who stands in his way or even just off to the side of his way a bit and yet… I love him very much. I got so excited when I heard his voice after he spent a few episodes on the bench. I would watch a whole episode of him just sipping martinis and chatting up people at a bar. I know this is probably not the correct takeaway here but… I don’t know. It’s where we are.
I was extremely nervous that Lalo was going to kill that dog
MY SWEET BOY
LOOK AT HIM
LEAVE HIM ALONE
Our timelines are careening toward each other
Hello again, Francesca, Jimmy’s secretary who is now Saul’s secretary, and who really seemed to roll with all the new information that was thrown at her, once the money was right: Jimmy being Saul now, Saul representing criminal instead of sweet old people, a toilet in the middle of the new office, etc. We see a lot of her once we go full Breaking Bad in the timeline, but it was good to see her here hustling Jimmy into extra salary and a signing bonus.
I was happy to see her. Give her a spin-off next. I am barely kidding.
It must be thrilling to say the words “cancel my week”
I was so envious when I heard Howard say this. I still am. I want to say it to my editor as soon as I submit this. Actually… no. That won’t work. This is something you say to a secretary or assistant. Which means I need a secretary or assistant. This is getting complicated. Now I have to spend the rest of the week trying to hire someone, which defeats the purpose of trying to cancel it. This is a disaster.
I think the best option I have at this point is to throw open my front door and scream it into the heavens. It probably won’t work but I bet it’ll feel good. Baby steps.