‘Better Call Saul’ Recap: ‘Straight From Satan’s Bunghole’

Editor-at-Large
02.17.15 44 Comments

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So, let’s quickly take stock of where we are in Season 1 of Better Call Saul and how we got here.

Jimmy wanted rich clients, so he paid off two morons to scam Mrs. Kettleman, but the scam went awry, and he ended up pleading for his life in the desert by briefly asserting that he was an FBI agent named Jeffrey A. Steel. During this pleading, he spilled the beans about the Kettlemans and their illicitly obtained millions, which brought Nacho and a robbery plot into his life. Jimmy then developed a conscience and tried to tip-off the Kettlemans anonymously, masking his voice with what appeared to be the type of hazer tube teenage potheads blow funky smoke through to mask the smell. The Kettlemans got skittish and ran, and the prime suspects were Nacho and Jimmy (and Jimmy’s life depended on clearing their names), so Jimmy got his Sherlock on, piecing together the missing doll and the camping sticker on the car (and Mike’s story about the vanishing bookie) to deduce that the Kettlemans were hiding out in the desert. Then, this:

My point here is that we may be taking for granted how masterfully this plot has been strung together so far. A has led to B, B has led to C, and all three of them have led to D, with really very little in the way of wasted motion. The show has also managed to do all of that in just three episodes, and we now have the rest of the season to see how it all plays out. Things could go a number of different ways from here. Finding the Kettlemans probably frees Nacho and makes progress in Jimmy’s plan to land them as clients (one way or another), but there’s still the matter of the ruined heist and the fact that Jimmy is staring at the cash in the tent. Lotta balls up in the air here. I can’t wait to see how they come down.

*****

One of the few problems with Better Call Saul is that it opened up the prequel box in my head, and now I can’t get the sucker shut again. For example, after Mike spurned the cops and decided to help Jimmy, he delivered this brief speech…

Look, when I was still on the job back in Philly, we had this case. This bookie disappeared after the Super Bowl. Cowboys-Steelers? Took $6 million in bets, skipped town when things didn’t go his way. Now, everybody thought he was on the beach in the Bahamas or dead in the Jersey Pine Barrens… wasn’t the case. He was two doors down from where he lived, in a foreclosed house. Hid there for six months without anyone suspecting.

… and now, the only thing I can think about in the entire world is a young Mike Ehrmantraut walking the beat in Philly in the late 1970s (the Cowboys and Steelers met in the Super Bowl in both 1976 and 1979). Wide collar, fedora, thick ’70s-esque mustache, cruising around town in a huge boat of a car with ABBA or Philly’s own Hall & Oates blasting out the open windows, running down well-dressed perps in full-length red leather jackets and platform shoes, the whole shebang. Kind of like Starsky & Hutch crossed with the music video for “Sabotage.” I vote we give Vince Gilligan and company a $20 million CGI/make-up budget to age Jonathan Banks down 40 years — kind of a reverse Brad-Pitt-in-Benjamin Button thing — and greenlight a Breaking Bad pre-prequel called The Philly Beat.

I don’t think I’m being unreasonable here.

*****

– Be careful what kind of stickers you put on your car if you’re thinking of faking your own kidnapping to go on the lam. That’s like Crime 101, Kettlemans.

– Speaking of the Kettlemans, it’s becoming pretty clear that Mrs. Kettleman is running the show here, no? Maybe she didn’t do they actual bookkeeping acrobatics to acquire the money, but between the scene in the diner where she shot down Jimmy’s offer and the scene in the tent where she fought him tooth-and-nail while a defeated-looking Mr. Kettleman cowered in the corner with the kids, methinks the lady wears the pants in this family.

– I liked the “Here’s Johnny” bookends in the episode, first when he sees his brother in jail and again when he probably scared all of the hell out of the Kettleman children in the tent.

– The flashback at the beginning of the episode gave us another little window into Jimmy’s pre-Saul life, as well as Chuck’s. If calling in your big shot big brother from halfway across the country to help you weasel out of “trumped up horse crap” — “It was a simple Chicago sunroof!” — that could result in you being labeled a sex offender doesn’t scream screw-up, then I don’t know what does. The hair didn’t help.

– Nacho calls Jimmy’s skateboard nimrods “skate rats.” Yeah, that sounds about right.

– Jimmy repeatedly calling Nacho from that pay phone was painful. Like the scene in Swingers, but with actual stakes. Feeling so embarrassed that you want to die is bad. Dying alone in the desert would be worse.

– It was nice to see Jimmy turn things around on the prosecutor in the bathroom, catching him off-guard after realizing he had the wrong client. Anytime you can score a win against an adversary while telling him his poo smells like “Satan’s bunghole,” I mean, that’s a solid day. Good for Jimmy.

– Two things about Jimmy’s late-night drunken call: 1) No one can resist a good sex robot voice, and 2) when the cats are away, the mice will DRINK ALL THE CUCUMBER WATER THEY WANT, DAMMIT.

In conclusion, please do not rip open my illegal money sack. Your thoughts below.

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