The following is a recap and review of the ninth episode of the fifth season of Better Call Saul, available on AMC in the U. S. and on Netflix internationally. Expect story spoilers.
In the penultimate episode of the fifth season of Better Call Saul — titled Bad Choice Road — Jimmy McGill (played by Bob Odenkirk) has returned with Lalo’s bail money, and now he has to come up with a cover story to protect him from further harm. But it isn’t easy to fool Lalo (played by Tony Dalton) or Kim (played by Rhea Seehorn). Bad Choice Road was written and directed by Thomas Schnauz, who has directed at least two episodes of every season of Better Call Saul, including Wexler v. Goodman also from this season.
After the shocking point of no return-esque events of Bagman, the previous episode, you would be forgiven if you thought that the show would then go easy on us with a nice and cozy follow up episode that deals with the fallout by simply lining up the chess pieces for the season finale. But this isn’t that kind of show. Instead, it is an explosive episode that rivals the previous episode as one of the best of the series, in large part due to the unforgettable and intense scene at the very end of the episode.
The cold open does something very interesting. The show puts the morning activities of Jimmy and Kim side-by-side in split-screen. Jimmy is making his way back with the bail money and he looks like he’s been through the wringer. Kim looks fine, but she is being eaten up by worry. Their lives are separated by a black line in the middle of the frame, and “Something Stupid,” plays in the background (it’s a terrific montage that features Jimmy and Kim moving in sync in spite of how different their circumstances are). By marrying they have become joint at the hip, and if one is in the game, so is the other. They did something stupid and now the lines that separate them are blurred. Kim’s tears of relief when she hears Jimmy’s voice are powerful, but this episode will show that they aren’t out of the woods yet. They’re in too deep, and Kim’s confrontation, in the previous episode, with Lalo — another ‘stupid’ thing done out of love for Jimmy — is already starting to bite her. Love makes people do crazy things. Yes, even something stupid like making yourself known to the cartel.
In this episode, Jimmy, not knowing just how much Kim has made herself known to Lalo, tries to keep her out of harm’s way by lying to her about what happened in the desert. But it’s too late to lie about your work friends to your wife, Jimmy. Kim knows he’s lying. The people at the courthouse know Jimmy’s lying. And, yes, even Lalo suspects it, and that’s the really scary part. Lying to him is a dangerous game, like Jimmy’ll come to find out.
Kim is no longer kept at an arm’s length away from the cartel. She sees the damage it has done to her husband when she’s home, she felt it as she was waiting for Jimmy to call her, and she can tell it from the way the PTSD-stricken Jimmy is lying to her. He’s scared, and he knows that he can’t escape it now. She knows it too. She knew it when she saw the pierced coffee mug. She’s seen the other side of the cartel friendship, and it sits with her. She carries the baggage with her to work, and we see how Kim just isn’t settling back into the mundanity of her day job. Instead, she quits while she holds on to the bottle stopper that she so cherishes. It, of course, being a symbol of she and Jimmy’s escapades. She’s in the game now, and she’s leaving the safety of her Schweikart and Cokely job behind.
Mike, meanwhile, meets with Gus, who is quick to find out exactly who ordered the hit on Jimmy. These scenes also see Mike fight for Nacho Varga’s freedom. Gus is not sympathetic to Mike’s plea. Nacho (played by Michael Mando) is under the impression that he’s about to be cut loose, that he can escape the mess he’s in, but Gus isn’t likely to allow that to happen.
Lalo, while on his way back to Mexico, decides to test Jimmy’s story and he finds it severely lacking. The evidence in the desert doesn’t exactly line up with what Jimmy told him. He’s hiding something from him, and that is enough for Lalo to return up north to confront Jimmy and Kim in arguably the best scene in the entire show.
Lalo interrupts Jimmy and Kim’s argument about Kim quitting her job. He needs to know what Jimmy lied about and why. This is what Jimmy feared. Lalo, the personification of everything Jimmy fears, is standing in their apartment and asking for answers he wouldn’t like. Jimmy is, once again, out of his depth. It’s a long and intense scene, but it also flies by because of how well it is executed and performed. Tony Dalton and Rhea Seehorn turn this scene into a true acting showcase, in which Kim proves just how good she is at defending her client — Jimmy, in this case. It’s almost scary just how good and strong she is when faced with danger. She gets Lalo to back off, and I think it shocks Lalo. He leaves without saying anything after Kim fiercely defended Jimmy. Tony Dalton is so intense in this long scene, and his request for Jimmy to tell the story again is so menacing. Like I once wrote about Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem’s character from No Country for Old Men), Lalo makes your blood run cold. It’s a scene that cements Tony Dalton’s Lalo as one of the best antagonists in the greater Breaking Bad universe.
Like the previous episode, this is Better Call Saul at its very best. The show has married the different elements of the show that once felt so distinctly different, and the result is something quite extraordinary. The tension-heavy final scene is a jaw-dropping moment for the show and its characters. It’s an episode that nicely juggles quite a bit of setup, but, at its heart, it is an episode about the dangerous, passionate, or stupid choices that have taken Kim and Jimmy this far and the danger they’ll now be faced with together.
– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.