Last week’s episode of “Better Call Saul” was a first for the show, as we saw the legendary Jimmy McGill – now Gene Takavic – exclusively in his post-“Breaking Bad” identity. After months in hiding, cab driver Jeff (formerly portrayed by Don Harvey, now Pat Healy) forced Jimmy to bring out his inner Saul Goodman as the two executed a dramatic, and elaborate, plan for Jeff to essentially steal a bunch of luxury items from a boutique store in the mall. Perhaps this is the advent of Gene beginning to “break bad.”
In addition, we’ve got about six years to fill from Jimmy and Kim’s breakup to the start of Gene’s employment in the Cinnabon. So what really went down behind-the-scenes that we didn’t get to see on “Breaking Bad”? Well, we may just get our answer tonight, in the third-to-final episode of the series, titled, yes, “Breaking Bad.”
Let’s get into the episode.
Season 6, Episode 11: ‘Breaking Bad’
Our cold open seems to give us our first glimpse into “Breaking Bad,” as a masked Walt and Jesse are in the midst of their famous kidnapping of Saul in season 2. “It wasn’t me! It was Ignacio! He’s the on–!” Saul shouts, before getting cut off by the theme song, which itself gets cut off even sooner than it did last week. Whatever Vince and co. have in store for us…it’s about to get real.
We’re back in black-and-white, and Francesca is in the midst of unclogging a sink via toilet plunger in the apartment of a couple of frat bros, of which she seems to be the manager. Eventually, she gets tired of it, and leaves. “It’s a simple up-and-down motion,” she rebuts when they protest. “Like you’re used to?”
Francesca, like Jimmy in Omaha, is highly on edge, worried that every potential driver or pedestrian may be a fed, out to get her. In reference to a season 4 flash-forward, Francesca heads toward a pay phone Jimmy told her to catch around the time he left Albuquerque. The line rings at 3 pm sharp, and she picks up. On the other end is Jimmy (or “Gene”). He gives her instructions on how to retrieve some payment (buried in a complex Saul-esque contraption in the nearby desert).
Back on the line, she reports to him that she’s still being tracked, and the feds have completely unearthed Saul’s entire operation, laser tag, nail salon, and overseas operations included. And given how they found “Pinkman’s car at the border,” “Saul” seems to be the only remaining Walter White contact left for the feds to track. Jimmy, à la Walt in New Hampshire near the end, seems to be all but desperate for contact, and encourages Francesca to stay on the line.
Before leaving, Francesca drops a bombshell: she received a call from Kim, asking her if she was okay. Then, apparently, she asked about Jimmy, wondering if he was still alive. Francesca didn’t tell her anything…but she asked. To Jimmy, that means a lot.
After heading back on the road, Jimmy can’t help but turn back, and heads back to the pay phone. He asks the operator for a “Palm Coast Sprinklers” in Florida. When he gets connected, he asks for Kim Wexler, who apparently works there. From outside the booth, we see Jimmy get into an argument before throwing a fit, slamming the phone against the box before kicking out the glass window in a rage. He then walks away.
Upon some reflection, Jimmy decides to go back to Jeff’s, greatly amusing his mother, clearly new to the Internet, with “funny cat videos” on YouTube. Upon Jeff’s return, however, “Gene” insists they excuse themselves, much to Marion’s dismay.
Jimmy asks Jeff what his work hours are, then tells him they need to get their hands on some barbiturates. Although he is confused at first, Jeff gladly accepts the invitation to go “back in business.” Wordlessly, Jimmy toasts him.
At a bar, Jimmy, now “Victor,” appears to be in the early stages of another scam, this time faking some alcohol consumption (via a tube up his sleeve) alongside a bearded blowhard who sits next to him. Outside, the blowhard catches a cab before Jimmy – a cab which is all but certain to be driven by Jeff.
In the cab, Jeff hands his drunken passenger a water bottle, likely laced with the barbiturates, and is directed by a colleague on the two-way radio to head to the airport after he’s finished with this route. “Copy that,” Jeff responds.
After dropping off his extremely drunk passenger, Jeff secretly tapes over the lock to his house, essentially allowing for an easy break-in, which his friend who radioed him to go to the airport a few minutes earlier, Buddy, proceeds to do.
The passenger, whose name is revealed to be Alfred, is knocked out on the couch, and Buddy extracts his wallet from his coat, taking snapshots of every bit of identification he can. He then goes to his desk, takes out a bunch of personal documents and files, and photographs that – as well as some more detailed bank info – before leaving.
We’re back in the “Breaking Bad” timeline, and after Saul agrees to represent Walt and Jesse, they enter the RV, aka the meth lab, where Saul ogles over the equipment, much to Walt’s dismay. He soon puts two and two together, realizing that Walter is indeed Heisenberg, the manufacturer of the iconic “blue meth.” In the dark and silence, while waiting for the RV to start, Jesse asks who Lalo is. “Who?” Saul responds, pensive. “Lalo,” Jesse says. “You seemed pretty freaked out.” “It’s nobody,” Saul says quickly, desperately trying to dismiss the thought, before encouraging Walt to start the engine and get going.
Back in the future (aka the present), Jimmy orders a Swing Master (yet another indication of his return to “Saul Goodman”), and it is revealed that the scam Jimmy, Jeff, and Buddy pulled on Alfred is becoming a part of a normal routine, where they sell all the information they steal for a profit.
One day, during one of his scams, Jimmy, as “Victor,” encounters a man who needs to pop some pills for his cancer. He apparently pulls at Jimmy’s heartstrings, and even seems to give him a modicum of guilt, though Jimmy goes through with the plan anyway.
Back in the “Bad” days, Mike enters Saul’s office, repulsed at his Swing Master, and insists he won’t talk to him until he turns it off. Saul reluctantly does so, and during their conversation, it becomes clear that Mike is Saul’s private investigator, and he confirms to Saul that Walter White is indeed a high school chemistry teacher with stage 3 lung cancer. Mike encourages him to ditch the “amateur,” who is likely to die anyway, but Saul insists he is “170 pounds of clay ready to be molded.” Although Mike seems to briefly convince him otherwise, we all know which path Saul chooses to go down. In any case, the new influx of info really seems to be weighing on him.
In the present, Gene receives a phone call at his house, sending him into a rage. He demands to meet at Jeff’s garage. There, Marion notices his aggression from afar as he drags Jeff and his friend inside.
Buddy reveals that he couldn’t go through with the plan, as he had too much sympathy for their cancer victim. “So? A guy with cancer can’t be an a**hole?!” Gene exclaims. “Believe me, I speak from experience.” Gene has truly reached his breaking point, insistent on going forward with the plan anyway, and fires Buddy in a rage, dragging a reluctant Jeff into the plan despite his hesitation.
We cut back and forth between 2010 and 2008, as Gene and Saul respectively enter the cancer victim’s house, and Walter White’s school.
Both Gene and Saul have made their decision to break bad. What happens next – at least with Gene – remains to be seen.
“Better Call Saul” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on AMC. Only two episodes remain before the series finale on August 15.