Better Call Saul Season 5 Episode 9 – ‘Bad Choice Road’
We have reached the penultimate episode of season five already and it is an outstanding addition. The tension this week has never been greater. This episode is a combination of great acting, writing, directing and production.
Kim alters her life after Jimmy’s stint with the cartel in the desert; Jimmy has seeped further into the shoes of Saul Goodman; Mike offers words of wisdom; Lalo’s bail is finally paid as he plans to cross the Mexican border; Nacho’s work as an informant to Gus on Lalo lingers.
The episode begins with a side to side of Jimmy and Mike in the desert and Kim down in the dumps at home. Jimmy holds up his phone and persists in searching for a signal; he finds a connection a calls Kim immediately. It’s an emotional reunion and Kim is relieved that he is alive. The next shot of Jimmy and Mike is at a gas station as Viktor and Tyrus (Gus’ goons) pick them up. They had been in the desert for a gruelling 36 hours. Jimmy heads over to the court to deliver the bail. When he arrives, the attendants are shocked at the massive bags he hauls over the counter of $7 million. Jimmy is in a bad way and looks completely drained, physically and emotionally. The attendants spend a lot of time counting the bail money and a court worker/judge arrives and asks Jimmy who is client is and where the seven million came from. Jimmy responds that it’s not his right to say where his client got his money. This is the beginning of them looking into Lalo’s “Jorge Deguzman” identity.
Jimmy returns home to a rejoicing and relieved Kim. She readies a bath for his deeply sun burnt skin as Jimmy sits mellowed. He has scars on his shoulders from the weight of the money bags and various other marks on is body. Jimmy divulges into his journey but omits the story of Mike and the cartel chase. This is a clear violation of their marital truth pact but is the type of information which would seriously complicate their relationship. Jimmy tells her what he got in return and points her towards one of the money bags with his cut from the job. Kim is dumbstruck when she sees the money and digs around to discover Jimmy’s bullet-holed flask. She is further shocked and distressed but keeps quiet when Jimmy asks her if she found the bag. This is the first rousing of Kim’s suspicion to the truth about what happened in the desert.
The next morning, Jimmy wakes up and discovers that Kim has taken a day off work to recuperate with him from yesterday’s drama. He is eating his cereal when Kim switches on the fruit blender. The sound of the fruit being processed is loud and triggers a reaction from Jimmy who is scarred by the sound of the guns in the desert. He drops his bowl off the table. Kim comforts Jimmy as they move to watch TV. Jimmy is deep in thought about the desert event as he sits with Kim and is snapped out of this by the sharp ringing of his cell phone. Jimmy answers and it’s a client. He is impaired but determined to see to the case at hand. Kim advises Jimmy to stay home and questions him about what actually happened in the desert. The moment is tense, and Jimmy hesitates until he says that he resorted to drinking his own urine. Kim’s facial expressions say it all as she knows he is hiding something. Jimmy leaves and attends to his case. He loses the trial to Bill Oakley (Peter Diseth) who goads and irks him. This throws salt in Jimmy’s wounds as he is fed up and walks away.
Given Jimmy’s absence, Kim decides to turn up at work and finds out that her morning work has already been taken care of. She is left with files informed by the receptionist. Kim enters her office and begins to voice record observations on some of her cases until she stutters and eventually cuts. She walks out of her office and asks Rich (her boss) for a talk in his office. The camera shows them walking inside the room as the door closes. We see what happens through the blinds of the office window and cannot hear the conversation but make out, via the acting in Rich’s reactions that Kim is hanging up her boots at the firm and Mesa Verde. This drastic choice is a big event in the show and represents Kim’s love for Jimmy if anything. Kim goes to the receptionist and asks her to gather her files and belongings. She asks if Kim is moving to another case but is replied to by being told to be reassigned. Kim proceeds to leave but stalls for a second as she remembers a memento in her office which she grabs. This is an abrupt outro for Kim who worked incredibly hard for her position at the company.
Lalo meets Jimmy outside of the courthouse after he is released. He is happy and asks how the bail money was collected. Jimmy repeats the story he told to Kim, again omitting Mike’s intervening, but telling him that his car broke down six or seven miles from the drop-off point. Lalo is satisfied with the story and tells Jimmy that by the time the authorities realise Deguzman was a fake he’d be long gone south of the border in Mexico. Nacho then turns up and picks up Lalo. We later see him being praised by Lalo about the explosion at the Las Palmas branch of Los Pollos Hermanos.
Nacho is at home in the evening and is on the phone with Mike, informing him of Lalo’s plans to go to Mexico. Later we see Mike meet Gus and passing on the information. Gus discusses the desert melee and Mike tells him that the assailants had a tattoo on them. He draws it for Gus and Gus calls and has a conversation with a partner from the cartel. He gets off the phone and tells Mike that the guy responsible is the guy he just spoke to and notes that he only did so to protect his turf. The tattoo is from a Columbian gang.
Mike mentions to Gus that Nacho wants out and that he has fulfilled his role with Lalo and isn’t needed. Gus notes that he is a good asset and he need him. As Mike leaves he stops and tells Gus that he put a gun to Nacho’s father’s head and that he is not comfortable with the situation. Gus gives Mike an analogy to cement his decision. He says that a dog who bites every owner it has can only be dealt with by a firm hand or being put down. Gus’ message is loud and clear, and Nacho is stuck in the game which he later realises when ordered to drop off Lalo to be collected and sent to Mexico.
Nacho drives Lalo towards the same drop off point as the money pick up and is on the verge of leaving until he decides to change plan. He tells Nacho to take him six or seven miles back to the point Jimmy said his car broke down. He finds the car in a ravine with bullet holes and heads back to Albuquerque.
Kim and Jimmy are at home. Mike calls Jimmy and tells him to leave his phone on speaker in a hidden place when a knock comes at the door. Jimmy opens the door to nonother than Lalo Salamanca. He walks in and looks around, tapping the fish tank, and asking Kim and Jimmy to sit down. He tells Jimmy to repeat his story on the bail pick-up and repeat it twice more to clarify the truth. Jimmy reveals he drank his urine to Lalo’s disgust. Lalo gets up and tells Jimmy what he found in the desert. An outside shot of the apartment reveals Mike on the top of an opposite building with a sniper rifle aiming at Lalo while he listens in on the conversation. Kim walks up to Lalo, colluding Mike’s targeting, and laments him. She says that she knows why he sent Jimmy because he couldn’t trust anyone and that he is a despicable person. The tension in the scene is skyrocketing before Lalo makes his move and leaves the apartment. Jimmy, Kim and Mike are relieved. Lalo goes out to the parking lot and goes into Nacho’s car as he tells him that there is another change of plan as the scene concludes the episode and transitions into the end credits.
Gripping and Thrilling and Tense
These are the three words that come to mind when describing this week’s episode. The trajectory of this season is thus far riveting. There has been an unexpected turn of events the last two episodes. Jimmy has become involved in serious criminal activity.
The Fate of Kim Wexler
Once more, the stakes have risen as Kim has become involved in the cartel. When Jimmy realises that she went to Lalo, his reaction was of worry and apprehension. Kim defends herself but Jimmy is furious because of the perilous dealings she has inadvertently jumped into. The steepness and gulf between Kim and Jimmy is gaping in this episode. Even though we see Kim taking care of him, Jimmy blatantly lied to her.
The effect of this is definitely going to affect their relationship and the forecast the fate of Kim is worrisome. The danger of Kim’s involvement is in the possibility of her being killed. After all, she is not in or even referenced to in Breaking Bad, so this is the simplest outcome.
When answering the call to his client, Jimmy has the vocal reflex of saying ‘Saul Goodman speedy justice for you’ even after the desert ordeal. From this, it’s safe to say that Jimmy has fully integrated into life as Saul Goodman. Jimmy’s brother Chuck stated earlier in the series that Jimmy is and will forever be ‘Slippin’ Jimmy’ – his miscreant identity who deceived people. This identity is reflective of Saul Goodman.
Saul has governed all of Jimmy’s major decisions in the series and an interpretation of the show’s title ‘Better Call Saul’ may mean that Jimmy ‘better call Saul’ when in troubled waters. There are many theories as to what Saul Goodman is to Jimmy McGill, one of them is that Jimmy dies every season and is resurrected by Saul (psychologically of course) – a bit farfetched by intriguing, nonetheless.
Acting Plaudits to Rhea Seehorn
Rhea Seehorn’s performance was magnetising and great in capturing Kim’s intense emotions. Kim has made some major changes to her life in lieu of Jimmy’s near death desert journey and Rhea’s acting is simply amazing. I have consistently applauded the face acting the characters in Better Call Saul utilise and Rhea exemplifies this. When confronting Lalo, she has a strong front just like in her first meeting with him and when he leaves she breaks from this and her stressfulness and fright is exposed as Jimmy comforts her. Seehorn portrays this to the tee, and we see her great acting when she is with Jimmy and knows he is hiding something.
In a recent review of Westworld, I noted that Evan Rachel Wood should win an Emmy for her role, but I believe Rhea Seehorn will pip her if both are nominated. Her acting as Kim is ridiculously good and I congratulate her work this season with the finale possibly exhibiting yet another echelon of acting supremacy.
This show is arguably the most well written TV drama of all time. The nuances and pauses in dialogue are elite in their morphing of a good scene. I’d like to point out that Lalo’s drop off in the desert was captured perfectly. We see him waiting as Nacho stands behind him and the pauses between dialogue, the shots of the open road and Lalo’s split decision to head back are examples of excellent writing.
The meeting between Gus and Mike is scripted to perfection and when Mike is close to leaving but stays back and tells Gus about Nacho’s desire to leave, Gus’ allegory is brilliant. When Mike meets Jimmy in his car, with Jimmy desperate to know when his PTSD-like condition will end, his simplification of Jimmy’s situation in his good choice/bad choice road analogy is so well put. These are quotable scenes which will be cemented in television history no doubt.
The last but one episode of season five really does set up a cataclysmic conclusion next Tuesday. I am in the dark as to what Lalo has planned. His silence after Kim berating him is uncharacteristic, so he is royally infuriated and contemplating on his plan of action; he decides very quickly what he’ll do when he tells Nacho to drive him somewhere just after he leaves their apartment. Kim and Jimmy are in a sticky situation for sure. The meddling of Gus and crew in Lalo’s business is likely going to be exposed next season and maybe the drug war will ensue; or start and carry over to season 6. The calmness and accustomedness Mike displays after being stranded in the desert is testament to his grit and life experience as Jimmy is left detrimentally affected.