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Five True Statements About ‘Better Call Saul’: Gus Fring Plays The Long Game Only


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Five True Statements is exactly what it sounds like, a discussion about the most recent episode ofBetter Call Saul’ centered around five undisputable statements of fact. Mostly undisputable, at least. I would never lie to you on purpose. Especially not aboutBetter Call Saul.’

1. Nothing good ever happens in the desert

This is, of course, extremely true and a close cousin of the even more true “nothing good ever happens in the woods.” And it was proven yet again by everything that happened to Nacho this week. Poor Nacho. All he wanted to do was use poison to get out from under the thumb of his crazy uncle and now he’s in a worse position because he’s under the thumb of an equally violent organization that also has leverage on him. Stay out of the desert, to whatever degree you can. You might not end up getting shot twice and operated on by a veterinarian in the back of a speeding SUV but, like, still. Not worth risking it if you can avoid it.

Also, somewhat related to The Ballad of Nacho and the Staged Desert Ambush, does any show do cold opens better than Better Call Saul/Breaking Bad? If one does, I can’t think of it. Part of it is just that those shows do everything better than most other shows, so why wouldn’t they do cold opens well, too, you know? But just the way that whole thing was built, starting with the spike strips then slowly revealing the bigger picture, it was riveting to watch. And it was another example of these shows doing wordless stretches at such a high level you don’t even miss the dialogue. Better Call Saul is a good show. This is what I’m getting at. This and the thing about staying out of the desert.

2. Gus Fring plays the long game

We already knew Gus Fring was a cold and calculated snake because we all saw Breaking Bad. It’s still fun — fun night not be the right term, unless maybe it is? — to see him use these qualities to build his empire in Better Call Saul. He’s playing chess out here. He saw Nacho do something shady with his uncle’s pills and he used that to start a fake war that will allow him to find his own distribution on his side of the border. The man’s mind is always cranking two or three speeds ahead of anyone else’s. You get the feeling that if he never crossed paths with Walter White he might be running the whole country’s methamphetamine pipeline from inside the New Mexico governor’s mansion by now.

And on the subject of playing the long g..HEY IT’S GALE.

GUYS.

LOOK.

IT’S GALE.

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HI GALE.

One assumes we will not see too much of Gale for a while, both because the timeline isn’t quite there yet and because David Constabile has a day job as unrepentant delightful hedonistic Wags on Billions (please do stop here and picture Wags trying to buy into the New Mexico meth business on behalf of Axe Capital), but I do love that Gus gave him the old “Oh no, no I couldn’t possibly ask you to do that” slow sell, because Gus Fring is always closing, maybe just not in that moment.

3. Kim is not having a very good time right now

Pleased to welcome Kim Wexler into the Philip Jennings Troubled Face Hall of Fame.

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4. Breakfast tells no lies

If you were to explain this episode to someone who watched the show, just to relay the facts, it would sound kind of boring. “Nacho got shot in the desert but lived. Jimmy and some new guy stole a figurine. Then he read a letter from his dead brother.” I’m being extra dry on purpose there but the point stands. This was not a busy episode of the show at all, action-wise. Despite that, so much happened, and in important, telling ways.

Let’s look at two small examples. First, Mike declined Jimmy’s offer to steal the Hummel figurine over breakfast at the diner. That was the extent of his appearance this week. But from this tiny scene — the first time Mike and Jimmy have crossed paths this season — we saw a) how obvious it is to the people around Jimmy that he’s flailing in the wake of Chuck’s death, and b) that Mike’s turn from small-time crook to highly-paid cartel security consultant is complete and that he, unlike Jimmy, is now basically the character we’ll see on Breaking Bad. Other people on the show have a way to go. Mike, less so.

The other small thing, which was somehow much bigger and much smaller, was at the end, before Jimmy read Chuck’s letter. Contrast this new morning routine — waking up late, grabbing cereal — with the one we saw in the beginning of the season, where he was up early and preparing restaurant quality dishes for everyone in the house. There’s something obvious about it in this instance (hard to leap out of bed when you spent half the night jimmying car locks outside Albuquerque copy shops), but I feel like it’s telling on a larger level, too. It’s a move from the alarm-using early-rising industrious worker bee to the shady night night-owl who is suspiciously quiet about his actions. It might be our most subtle wink at the character’s upcoming transformation yet.

Now, could you read that and think, perhaps, that I am looking too deeply for Jimmy-to-Saul metaphors on this show? Definitely. But am I wrong on this specific one? No. No, I am not. Because breakfast tells no lies.

5. You should not surprise your wife — or anyone — with an expensive vacuum cleaner as a gift

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Tough night for that guy. Wife kicked him out, had his valuable Bavarian Boy Hummel swapped out for a trash-ass Merry Wanderer, ate a whole sad pizza by himself on the couch in his office, and then, to top it off, his car just started rolling away seemingly out of nowhere. Really just a kick in the pants all around.

And the thing is, he deserved every piece of it. You don’t get your wife a vacuum cleaner as a gift, my guy. Not even if she saw the vacuum cleaner in a commercial and said, out loud, “Ooo, that’s a nice vacuum cleaner.” Not even if your current vacuum cleaner is shooting sparks out the top and sides and caught her pants on fire three different times. Not even if she looks you in the eye and says “I want a new vacuum cleaner.” A vacuum cleaner is not a gift. A vacuum cleaner is just a thing you buy on a Saturday when the old one breaks. Think about it this way: How would you feel if it was your birthday and you were all jazzed about and saw a big wrapped box in the corner and you had to wait all day to open it and then you sat there staring at it through dinner just dying to know what’s in it and then you finally got to tear it open and it was a vacuum cleaner.

That’s how bad it is. I don’t even have an analogy.

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