Last week’s episode of “Better Call Saul” set up a number of plotlines for our main characters headed into the final stretch of the series: Gus and Mike have set up a vast electronic surveillance system to trap and kill Lalo Salamanca (who has not been seen since the season premiere), and have also dispatched teams of men to protect anyone who might be caught in Lalo’s crossfire (including Jimmy and Kim). The last we saw of Lalo, he was headed back to Mexico to obtain “proof” of Gus’s involvement in his botched assassination attempt.
At her urging, meanwhile, Jimmy and Kim are simultaneously crafting their own plot to tank the career of their old boss, Howard. Davis & Main’s senior partner, Clifford Main, just witnessed a coked-up “Howard” kick a prostitute out of his car while speeding off recklessly during a lunch with Kim.
Also, Jimmy’s career as “Saul Goodman” has begun to take off, and we have finally seen the introduction of the place we all know and love as Saul’s office.
Let’s get into episode 5, titled “Black and Blue”:
Season 6 Episode 5: ‘Black and Blue’
Our cold open shows a mysterious chemist mixing familiar substances under the backdrop of an eerie a cappella version of Brahms’s “In Stiller Nacht.” It turns out we’re witnessing the manufacturing of a wooden slide rule inside a lucite block, alongside the German words, “In Liebe … Deine Jungs,” which translates to “With Love … Your Boys.” In classic “Saul”/”Breaking Bad” fashion, we have absolutely no idea what this means, but surely we’re about to find out.
At home, Kim is barely able to sleep, paranoid about Lalo Salamanca, now that she knows he’s alive. When Jimmy confronts her about why she’s up (and why she barricaded the door with a chair), she claims she just can’t sleep and needs to read. Jimmy, however, sees through her, and shares her fears about Lalo (even though he’s still under the impression that he’s been killed). “The nuns back in Cicero would send me to Hell for saying it,” Jimmy says, “but thank God he’s dead.” Kim goes ahead and removes the chair from the door.
Kim’s not the only one with Salamanca on the mind. Even though he hasn’t appeared since the season premiere, Lalo seems to be wreaking havoc throughout Albuquerque. At work, Gus tries to go about his daily routine as manager, but is clearly having difficulties maintaining focus. After helping out a customer, he has to step outside to scan the area.
At the Sandpiper old folks home, who Howard and Clifford Main represent in their class-action lawsuit, Howard delivers an impassioned speech to the elders, inspiring them to keep them to not give up on their case, despite the amount of time it is taking.
Clifford, marveling at the disparity between the Howard he knows and the “Howard” he saw the other day, confronts him afterward about what he saw the other day, though Howard denies it (because it didn’t actually happen). When Clifford mentions that it was Kim he was having lunch with at the time, everything clicks. “I do have a problem,” Howard tells Cliff, “it’s just not the problem you think. I have a Jimmy McGill problem.” He then tells his secretary to “cancel my week.” He has a new problem to deal with.
At “Saul’s” new office, Jimmy’s old assistant Francesca, seen for the first time since season 4, comes to meet him at 9 a.m. sharp, where he offers her her old job back. She is surprised to find out that he has married Kim, and is quite put off by the lack of decor (apart from a commode in the middle of the empty floor), but accepts Jimmy offer (at least, once he agrees to raise her salary).
Meanwhile, Kim meets with Viola Goto, her former paralegal in years past, and apologizes for her sudden departure, which was supposedly to focus on her pro bono work. Viola, not knowing about Kim’s ongoing misdeeds, tells Kim how much she admires her, and that she makes her feel “better about the law”.
In the middle of the night, Jimmy is sent to the residence of a mysterious client, named “Mr. Ward,” which he discovers to be Howard, standing in front of a boxing ring (hence, “H. O. Ward.”) Howard confronts Jimmy about his numerous misdeeds, and tells him to box it out. They do, and proceed to beat the s*** out of each other (legally). Eventually, Howard gains the upper hand and knocks Jimmy out. “I’d like to think that this ends it,” Howard says. “Probably not.”
Afterward, it becomes clear that the boxing match was nothing but a ruse; a façade to allow a private investigator hired by Howard to track Jimmy. “I need to know everything he does, and everyone he talks to,” Howard tells his stooge, who then ominously tailgates Jimmy as he heads home in the middle of the night.
Back at home, Jimmy applies makeup to his black eye, as he doesn’t want to look like this in the courtroom, despite Kim’s assurances that it may play well with the clients. It’s then revealed that Kim was only using Viola to find out more about a judge in an upcoming trial. Jimmy then expresses regret over his actions with Howard, but Kim reassures he did the right thing. “You know,” Kim tells him. “You know what’s coming next.”
Back at the surveillance house, the female owner sneaks Mike inside in the back of her hatchback. Inside, Mike finds Gus, who has been unable to fall asleep, furiously scrubbing a spot in the bathroom with a toothbrush. Re: Lalo, Gus says under his breath, with a sly little smile on his face, “He can’t strike. Not yet.” He then orders Mike to gather up the crew for some kind of venture.
Gus has Mike take him to their Batman-esque underground lair (created by the late Werner Ziegler), where Gus examines the scene. He then hides a handgun in the caterpillar tracks of an excavator, then leaves, satisfied with his mysterious plan.
Turns out, Lalo is nowhere near Albuquerque, or New Mexico…or North America. We finally get our first glance of him as he turns up in a bar in Germany, of all places, where he introduces himself as “Ben.” He starts talking up an intelligent woman named Margarethe Ziegler, who lost her “heroic” husband in a tragic accident…yes, that “accident.” She believes he died in a cave-in but saved his co-workers before getting killed himself. Lalo tries to get her to open up about him and the men he worked with, but she refuses to say more, saying she knows little about it.
“Ben” ends up walking Margarethe home. She tells him she’d like to invite him in, but has work in the morning. He tells her he’s leaving tomorrow. “In another life,” she says. They bid each other goodnight, and Lalo leaves…with a very unsettling smile on his face.
Naturally, Lalo has been planning this little journey for a while. Shortly after Margarethe leaves for work the next morning, he returns and breaks in to rummage through her belongings, surely looking for the “proof” he needs of Gus’s involvement in his own failed hit job. She returns early, however, to retrieve her phone. Lalo prepares his pistol, complete with a silencer. Her little dachshund’s warnings of an intruder upstairs go heeded, and she nervously ascends the staircase, fearful of what she might find.
At this point, Lalo sees the lucite block slide rule from the cold open, and appears to take off with it through a sliding window in her home office. As Margarethe enters the room, she is relieved at the sight of an empty house, and closes the window.
The answers to whatever Lalo has in mind, and whatever significance this sculpture holds, will have to wait until next week.
“Better Call Saul” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. Eastern on AMC. Part 1 of season 6 will continue to air until Monday, May 23. Part 2 will begin on Monday, July 11.