Last week’s episode of “Better Call Saul” saw the return of Lalo Salamanca for the first time since the season premiere. In Germany, the devious Lalo has tracked down Margarethe Ziegler, wife of the late Werner Ziegler, and snuck into her home to retrieve a mysterious wooden slide rule, apparently the “evidence” he has been searching for to prove Gus’s involvement in his botched assassination attempt. What he will be doing with that slide rule, and perhaps Margarethe, is yet to be seen.
Back in Albuquerque, Gus and Mike are still (unsuccessfully) scoping out Lalo, and Gus has hidden a handgun in the caterpillar tracks of an excavator in his as yet uncompleted underground meth lab. Whatever mysterious plan he has in store for this gun has also yet to be revealed. Meanwhile, Howard, fed up with Jimmy’s games, has put a private investigator on the unsuspecting Jimmy. The last we saw of him and Kim, Kim warned Jimmy, “You know…you know what’s coming next.”
Let’s get into the final episode before the mid-season finale, titled “Axe and Grind,” directed by none other than the multitalented Giancarlo Esposito:
Season 6 Episode 6: ‘Axe and Grind’
In this week’s cold open, we get a flashback sequence. This time, it’s Kim’s (or, “Kimmy,” as her mother calls her…) A young Kim, around 12 or 13, has been caught shoplifting some jewelry, much to her mother’s apparent shock and anger. Despite her mother’s insistence to the store manager that she pay (via Kimmy’s allowance), the manager kindly declines, but insist she not do it again.
Outside, it becomes clear that Kimmy’s mother is just as devious as her. With a sly little grin, she congratulates Kimmy for getting away with her crime, and even hands her a stolen piece of merchandise which she shoplifted from the manager herself. Kimmy looks out the window, pondering over what this might all mean for her.
Turns out the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
We’re getting what might be our first view into the inner life of Howard Hamlin as he prepares for his morning, in a way so meticulous and diligent he almost draws parallels to Gus Fring. His wife, Cheryl, dumps his beautifully-made latté into her thermos without a care in the world to his beautiful design as they discuss who should go to a fundraiser (she decides to go alone). “Probably for the best,” he says to himself. Howard then warns her, vaguely, about any unscrupulous or strange action Jimmy might take which she may notice. “Duly noted,” she says, before exciting as swiftly as she came.
We then see Howard at his private investigator’s, who gives him the rundown of Jimmy’s daily routine. Like Howard’s, it seems to be pretty consistent, with the exception of one visit he made to the bank. There, he withdrew a stack of bills likely adding up to the tens of thousands. When asked if there were any reason Jimmy might do this, Howard replies, “No legitimate reason…”
We’re now revisiting the shady vet, Caldera, who used to provide Mike and other criminals with discreet medical treatment. There, Jimmy and Kim are enlisting his help for their plot against Howard. They seem to plan on somehow making Howard ingest some kind of psychotropic substance which would have the intended effect of “two Red Bulls on an empty stomach,” noticeably similar to an upper…such as cocaine. Caldera then reveals he’s retiring from his criminal lifestyle and leaving town, saying he’s had enough, so that he can focus exclusively on his (legitimate) veterinary practice. He also hints at connections to Ed Galbraith, the “Disappearer” (portrayed by the late Robert Forster), while showing Jimmy his little black book of underworld contacts (the same one seen among Saul’s possessions in his house in the season premiere flash forward). When Jimmy privately expresses shock and bewilderment at Caldera walking away from such a lucrative income, Kim simply says, “Well, he knows what he wants.”
Jimmy, meanwhile, who is testing out a micro-dosage of what they plan to give to Howard, now has pupils the size of saucers.
At the courthouse, Kim passionately defends her client on a drug charge, even implicating the judge herself for potentially committing the same “crime” (hanging a dangler from his rear-view mirror) which got him pulled over in the first place. Partway through the trial, Cliff Main enters to witness Kim in action.
Afterward, Cliff asks Kim her thoughts on Howard. She has nothing but kind words to say, even going so far as to credit him for her job and marriage. Cliff then suggests the possibility of a legal organization similar to the Jackson Mercer foundation, which funds justice reform programs on the East coast, being set up in Albuquerque, and hints at Kim’s potential involvement.
Kim then makes her way over to Jimmy’s office, which has undergone a complete renovation thanks to Francesca’s genius interior design skills (it still doesn’t exactly resemble what we see on “Breaking Bad,” however). She then congratulates Kim on her marriage to Jimmy, who she is learning for the first time to refer to as “Saul.”
Jimmy is working on a project with his film kids, in which he has hired an actor to impersonate Rand Casimiro, the lead mediator in the Sandpiper case. Outside, Kim then informs him about Cliff’s offer of inviting her to a lunch which could set her up well with the potential Albuquerque Jackson Mercer foundation, and he is thrilled. She, however, is worried about it taking place on the same day as “D-Day,” hinting at the upcoming scheme they have in store. Jimmy is unperturbed about this. “You don’t have to be there on the day!” he says. “Was Eisenhower on Omaha Beach? No!”
We jump-cut to a man in the middle of the German forest, chopping wood with an ax. Soon, he is greeted by Lalo, and becomes immediately defensive and frightened. When the German asks him (in English) if he knows him, Lalo responds, “Well, I don’t think we’ve officially met.” Immediately, the German grabs his ax and runs, and Lalo whips out his gun and follows him into an abandoned cabin. Inside, the German ambushes Lalo, who pleads with him, telling him he’s looking for “Fring.” “I wanna know what he’s building,” Lalo explains. The German, bewildered, asks him how he found him, and Lalo responds, “Margarethe Ziegler.” It becomes clear that this man was a member of Werner Ziegler’s construction team. He becomes afraid that Lalo has hurt her, but Lalo denies it, and tricks him into bending forward, cutting him with a hidden razor blade. He then hands him a belt to act as a makeshift tourniquet, so that he doesn’t bleed to death. The two of them are “gonna have a talk,” Lalo says, likely intent on discovering what Gus is currently building in Albuquerque.
At “Saul’s” office, Francesca is hesitant about making a certain call at Jimmy’s behest, wondering if what they have in mind is even legal. When Jimmy takes her outside to the back (next to the dumpster) and essentially coerces her into doing so, it turns out she’s impersonating the daughter of a patient at the Sandpiper old folks home, and gets information on how to infiltrate a meeting regarding mediation (a meeting which will heavily involve Howard and Cliff, given their involvement in Sandpiper’s ongoing class action lawsuit). When they re-enter Saul’s office, they find his (likely deranged) client urinating in Saul’s mini-waterfall display.
At the laundromat Gus and Mike are using as a base, Gus’s right-hand man Tyrus presses Mike as to why he removed men from his Mike’s house. Mike says that he is stretched thin, and felt he had to make a judgment call. “Boss has a problem, he knows how to reach me,” Mike responds when pressed. “If you have a problem, I’m right here.” Tyrus then walks out.
Mike then heads to his own place, where it’s revealed he diverted the men he took from his own house to keep an eye on his daughter-in-law and granddaughter, who believe he is in Chattanooga. Via the phone, he and Kaylee go “stargazing” together (though Kaylee has a telescope), as Mike looks at her from afar with binoculars. “Same time tomorrow night?” Stacey asks him after they wrap up. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he replies.
At Jimmy and Kim’s place, they prepare for “D-Day,” only one day away. (One sticky note on their board reads, “Red Bull?” Another, below “D-Day,” is simply a drawing of a nuclear explosion). Jimmy then suggests they go out. When Kim asks where, he replies, “Omaha Beach.” Omaha Beach is appropriately HHM, on whose lawn they drink wine, and toast to “tomorrow.”
The following day, while in line to purchase an incredibly expensive bottle of Zafiro Añejo (a fictitious brand of liquor) in pre-emptory celebration, Jimmy starts freaking out. Turns out he saw Casimiro, the man who they planned on impersonating in the video earlier, and he has broken his arm. This means that that whatever fake photos they have of him are of him with his arm intact, and the plan won’t work. When Jimmy calls Jimmy in a panic, he resolves that “We’re gonna pull the plug, and we are gonna live to fight another day.” Kim, however, is not having it. “What other day?” she replies. Despite Jimmy’s pleas that she continue on with her plans, she only says, “It happens today,” before doing a U-turn in the middle of the highway, ditching her plans for the Jackson Mercer foundation, intent on going through with the plan, no matter what it takes.
Next week will be the mid-season finale, so strap in folks, because it’s about to get bumpy.
“Better Call Saul” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. Eastern on AMC. After a seven-week break, part 2 of season 6 will begin airing on Monday, July 11.