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‘Better Call Saul’ Truth And Lies: Nothing Good Happens In The Desert

Better Call Saul is a show with range. Some characters like Jimmy/Saul lie constantly, others like Mike tell the truth to a fault. With that in mind, our coverage this season will be structured as a collection of true and false statements about each episode. Welcome to Better Call Saul Truth And Lies.

TRUTH — Nothing good happens in the desert

When did you realize things were going to go bad for Jimmy?

Actually, wait. I should be more specific about this. A reasonable argument could be made that things have been going bad in one way or another, in the singular as well as cumulative fashion, from the day we met him. Probably before, too. His whole life has been murky shortcuts and questionable decisions lined up one after the other. No, we need to really laser in here. We need to focus. Let’s try it again: When did you realize things were going to go bad for Jimmy in his quest to pick up Lalo’s $7 million in bail?

Was it when the Jeep pulled out behind him? That was really the last moment where you could have thought it might be okay, in the seconds before the ambush. But you’re smart. You probably caught on before that.

Maybe it was when he wasted the water to clean off his shoes. That was pretty brutal foreshadowing. I saw him do that and I was like, “Welp, he’s definitely running out of water now.” I didn’t leap all the way to “and he’ll have to gulp his own urine,” but that’s why Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould make this show and I just make jokes about all of it.

Was it even earlier than that, maybe when he kept insisting to Kim that everything would be okay? Or when he almost walked out on the whole thing before doubling back to do it for a $100k fee that Lalo agreed to very quickly? Those were pretty solid tipoffs. It was all in front of us for so much of the episode.

But I’ll tell you when I realized it, and I say this not to toot my own horn as much as to make an important point: I knew as soon as Lalo said the drop would happen in the desert. Nothing good happens in the desert. Ever. Especially on Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad, but also in general. If someone says to you “Hey, let’s meet way out in the desert,” you should say no, because one or both of you is going to die or face a harrowing near-death experience. Same goes for the woods. Nothing good ever happens in the woods, either. Or the ocean. “Hey, let’s you and me get on a boat and head out to sea for the day.” Nope. No, sir. I’ve seen movies and television shows. I know how this ends. You are going to shoot me and fling me overboard, on purpose or by accident. Absolutely not. Zero chance. Same applies to cornfields and any building with gargoyles on it. Not gonna catch me sleeping.

The point here is that you should stay inside. In your house. Even when there’s not a pandemic. Just to be safe.

LIE — It is a good thing that Kim met Lalo


It says a lot about this show that two of its main characters spent the entire episode dodging bandits and trying to walk 30 miles through the desert and it ended on a cliffhanger where they’re still out there sweating and sunburned and dehydrated but I came out of the episode infinitely more worried about the fate of Kim Wexler, a person who has access to air conditioning and bottled water. Part of that is the future knowledge we have from Breaking Bad. Neither Jimmy nor Mike are going to die in that desert. They both have a lot to do still. So much. They’ll be fine. Fine-ish. Alive, at least.

A bigger part is the thing I’ve mentioned almost every week in these posts, how not knowing Kim’s future gave us a glimmer of hope on a show where everyone else is careening toward doom. And it looked good for her as recently as two episodes ago, when she was yelling at Jimmy for sandbagging her at the Mesa Verde meeting and it seemed to all logical parties that the big break-up was imminent, the one that separates her and Jimmy and keeps her safe and sends him diving head-first into the darker parts of his soul. The one I had naively assumed was coming because, come on, they’re not going to kill off Kim, right? Right???!!!

But then she up and proposed marriage and demanded Jimmy tell her everything — everything — even if it meant being a courier for $7 million of drug cash, figuring that their marital status would keep her safe because she could never be forced to testify against him. What she didn’t see coming, though, was Lalo, who cares not for spousal privilege and testimony as much as he cares about applying force to sensitive areas and acquiring the kind of information that allows him to do that. She’s in trouble now. Real trouble. Lalo knows she’s Jimmy’s — Saul’s, I know, this is still weird — wife, which means he now has leverage over his attorney.

I physically cringed when Mike said she’s in the game now, but she is, to a small degree, the same way Nacho’s dad is in the game. She’s the tiniest kind of player in the game, but so are pawns, and pawns are the first pieces to go. I do not like this. I do not like this at all. Kim has dipped her toe into the Breaking Bad universe now and that doesn’t turn out great for anyone, historically. A big part of me hopes Kim and Nacho fall in love and move to Bora Bora. I’m handling this great, thanks for asking.

TRUTH — If you have to get stuck in the desert with someone for a long time, Mike Ehrmantraut is a great partner


How excited were you when you realized it was Mike out there with his sniper rifle and old man bucket hat saving Jimmy’s jimmies in the ambush? I was very excited. I was sure it was going to be the Cousins. Which would have been fine. I do kind of love those silent goons. But it was better that it was Mike, for me if not for Mike, who went from torn up about being Fring’s button-man to mowing down bandits at ranges long and close in a desert massacre. Mike is way in now, if he wasn’t way in before. His speech to Jimmy near the end solidified it, the whole thing about knowing why he’s doing it and the people he cares about. This is the Breaking Bad version of Mike we’re seeing. He’s still Mike — he’s always Mike — but he’s even more emotionally checked out than before, which is really saying something because… [gestures toward everything Mike has said and done to this point].

It was good it was Mike at the ambush, too, because Mike is very much a dude you want to be stranded within that situation. Mike knows things, things that will keep you alive in nature. How to rig up a tarp to get water from nothing, how to fix cars, how to avoid breaking your leg in a hole, etc. You need that, especially if you’re a guy like Jimmy whose idea of roughing it is a motel that doesn’t have free HBO. He wouldn’t have lasted six hours out there. He would have chugged his water and started a fire and passed out from dehydration and been hunted down by the last bandit and buried in a shallow grave. Mike is almost like Bear Grylls if a Bear Grylls communicated only through grunts and eye rolls. He is Jimmy’s only hope right now.

It is worth noting here that Gus sent Mike to protect Jimmy and Lalo’s bail money, which means:

  • Gus knew the whole plan even though Lalo said he wasn’t involving Nacho
  • If Nacho didn’t tell Gus, how did Gus know?
  • How is Jimmy going to explain how he got home, because he can’t exactly say Mike helped him
  • (UPDATE: A reader pointed out that Mike could have been tracking Jimmy with the device in the gas cap he put in a while ago and removed when they started fleeing the scene. This is a good point. Please pretend I thought of it.)

And so on. Lots to consider here, provided they make it out of the desert before the end of the season.

LIE — If you have to get stuck in the desert with someone for a long time, Mike Ehrmantraut is a great partner


He’s also very gruff and silent and demanding. You’re not going to have sparkling conversations about the issues of the day. You’re not going to invent fun little games to pass the time. You’re going to walk, all the time, in the blistering heat. He’s going to make you carry the heavy bags of money. The kindest gesture he’ll offer you is a foil blanket to keep warm at night, which is nice unless your older brother wore them compulsively because of a deteriorating mental conditioner that left deep wounds in you that have not yet healed over. Mike will not make you feel better about any of this but he sure might keep you alive. That’s the deal.

Here’s a fun exercise: Spend some time today really thinking about what person you’d like to be stranded with in a desert like this. Real or fictional is fine. I think Matthew McConaughey would be a fun one, although I don’t know if you’d just die in the middle of one of his monologues. It’s a tough mix to find: outdoorsy enough to survive the elements, personable enough to make it bearable. There’s a very limited number of people who check both of those boxes. You really need to think about it. There’s a pretty obvious answer right in front of you. Want me to tell you? Okay, I’ll tell you.

The answer is JUST DON’T GO INTO THE DESERT IN THE FIRST PLACE. Jesus Christ. It’s like you didn’t even read the opening section. Come on.

LIE — The Cousins talk too much


Love these guys. Not a single word spoken in the entire episode. Just perfectly synchronized menacing movement in matching shiny suits and matching shinier shirts. Add them to the ever-growing list of characters I would watch an entire episode or limited series about. What are they up to when they’re not on cartel business? Do they share an apartment? I have this image in my head of two twin beds in one bedroom, of them both waking up at the exact same time and flinging the covers off with the exact same motion to reveal they’re wearing the same pajamas. They go to the bathroom to brush their teeth in their adjoining sinks and then hop in their showers, both in the same bathroom, separated by three feet of tile and a bathmat. I can see this in my head right now, crystal clear. I see them eating cereal and the motion of their spoons is perfectly coordinated. It’s all right there.

I bet one day one of them got mixed up getting dressed and put on the wrong color shiny shirt and it threw them into a minutes-long existential crisis.

TRUTH — If you are chugging your own pee out of a water jug, some part of your day has gone very wrong


But that’s none of my business.