The Better Call Saul Lie Detector Test is a weekly recap of the major events of the final season, separated out by their apparent truthfulness at the time. This is not one of those recaps that gets into granular detail about things. It will miss the occasional callback or foreshadowing. But it will be fun. Sometimes, that’s what’s important.
Season 6, Episode 3: “Rock and Hard Place”
There was a way out for Nacho
When did you realize this was not going to end well for Nacho? Specifically, I mean, like this situation. Was it when he briefly escaped the Cousins by submerging himself in gross discarded oil? Was it when he called his dad in tears for a pained goodbye? Was it when he laid out the plan to Gus, or when Mike poured the drinks, or when everyone met out in the unforgiving desert to settle it all once and for all? Or did you think, even then, that he’d find a way to slither out of it all once again?
I was bouncing back and forth all episode. I figured bad times were coming for Nacho, soon to soon-ish, only because he was up against both the Salamancas and Gus and he didn’t really have an ally out there beyond Mike, who was only an ally in the sense that he helped Nacho go out on his own terms after beating his face in a bit so it looked real. This was never going to end well for him. It couldn’t have. It shouldn’t have, really. People get punished for their actions in this universe. The only character who made it out of Breaking Bad, really, was Jesse Pinkman, and even he only got away after living in a cage for a while to cook meth for Nazis. It was not, in any substantial way, ideal.
But still, sad. That phone call with his dad is going to stick with me for a while. Some of the characters on this show are bad dudes, with Gus being the primary example. Nacho always struck me as more of a decent dude who made bad decisions. That’s relatable. I can understand that, even if I don’t, like, support working for/with a violent drug cartel. I’m glad he went out his own way, I’m glad he got to tell some people off, and I’m glad he was probably able to protect his dad in the process, but mostly I’m just sad.
Words are important
I don’t have the stats in front of me and I’m not going to hunt them down on my own but I’d wager good money that this episode used fewer words than about 80-90 percent of all other episodes of scripted television. Including half-hour comedies. This sucker opened with nine full minutes — riveting minutes — without a single word. Think about that a little bit. The whole thing had a 45-minute runtime, the last few minutes of which featured the death of a prominent and sympathetic figure, and they just had no dialogue at all for the first 20 percent of the proceedings. That’s… it’s kind of incredible.
It helps that everyone involved here is very good at their jobs. The long opening shot at the beginning with the desert and the flower and the rain and the mysterious piece of glass, all of which seemed to be saying something, and then by the end of the episode very much did. There’s a confidence here. I feel like I’m in good hands watching the shows. These people know what they’re doing and if I give them space/time to do it, we’ll all be okay. That’s a cool feeling.
It also helps that the episode’s most loquacious character didn’t appear until the 18th minute of the commercial-free runtime. That’s a little hilarious. We’ll come back to this. The point is that I don’t know of another show that does more explaining with less actual telling. The degree of difficulty is high here. It’s all pretty cool.
Mike is having a lot of fun
Mike is a conundrum. On one hand, he’s an okay guy. He has a code. There’s honor in the way he does what he does. I think the show kind of wants us to like him, which is why they didn’t actually show him beating Nacho’s face like an old catcher’s mitt, and why Mike gave that speech — one sentence counts as a speech for Mike — about how anyone would have to go through him to get to Nacho’s dad. And yes, of course, the glass thing, which helped Nacho avoid a slow and painful death in the event things went sideways. Helpful. A nice gesture.
But also… not great. The “not my call” thing was weird, especially with it being right up against his vow to protect Nacho’s dad, like Mike is picking and choosing spots to stare down Gus. Which he is, I guess. He just seems to not be enjoying any of this at all (to the extent Mike enjoys anything), and it’s the only part of this that rings weird to me given that he’s still doing all of this once we get to Breaking Bad. On another show, one that isn’t a prequel, this would all be leaning toward Mike going half-Wick on his employers and the cartel. And yet, still, somehow, I love Mike. I cannot and will not explain this to you or anyone.
It would be really funny if they do just alter the whole timeline and have him kill Gus, though. I would respect it, if only for the shouting and chaos. It would ruin both shows, probably, and would be so weird, but I think that part of it would be fun. For me. Which is important.
Kim is getting out of this with her life and/or soul
Let’s check in with Kim Wexler:
- Advocating the riskiest alternative in their car-based flimflammery operation against Howard Hamlin
- Correcting the prosecutor who kept saying “Jimmy” by dropping a kind of smart-ass “He practices under the name Saul now”
- Explaining Saul’s option to him by saying he could be a friend to the cartel “or a rat”
Kim is loving this. Maybe too much. I said this last week mostly in jest but I’m going to say it a teeny bit more seriously now: There’s a little Walter White in her actions this season. She’s getting the same little twinkle in her eye when she’s planning evil stuff. I still don’t think she ends up dying, only because she’s never mentioned in Breaking Bad and the people who make this show would never leave that kind of loose string dangling, but I can see a few ways that she isn’t in New Mexico anymore. Or at least not practicing law.
Bad times are coming for Kim. I don’t know how bad yet, but they’re coming. It’s going to suck a lot.
I could watch an entire episode that’s nothing but Mike putting stuff together and/or taking stuff apart
I’m pretty sure on this one. I like watching him do this stuff. A part of me suspects I could watch 45 straight minutes of him taking apart a car and putting it back together in complete silence. That might be hyperbole, though. I might get bored as hell after about a half-hour. It might help if he had a partner who could occasionally respond to his grunts, just to break things up.
Let’s go with… oh, let’s say Sydney Sweeney. As herself. In Better Call Saul. Cranking on cars with Mike. This is a good idea.
(It is not a good idea.)
Nacho’s dad is probably okay
I need to be clear about two things here:
- I suspect Nacho’s dad will survive now, mostly because of Mike’s declaration, although Gus is so cold and brutal that I could see a scenario where he circles around Mike to do it anyway
- If anything happens to him, I will not get out of bed for a week
Please. I’m begging you. Leave him alone. I know what I signed up for here. I know most of these monsters are staring down a violent or sad end. I’m fine with that. Just let me have this one thing. I need it. Thank you
It would be good to know somebody like Huell
Yes, of course, I mean this in the “it would be nice to know a guy who is capable of lifting car keys off a valet and knows a key guy who can make a copy and a makeshift keyfob out of a disconnected cell phone keypad” way, because, like, you never know what kind of situations you’ll find yourself in as your life unfolds. Better to have this guy around just in case than finding yourself needing a guy like this with no one to call.
But, mostly, I mean you need someone in your life who will watch you plan out some elaborate and illegal car key ruse for as-yet-unclear purposes and will pull you aside and say, “Look, I’ll do this if you really want me to, it’s what I do, but… what the hell are you doing here, buddy?” Those people are worth their weight in gold. Even if it’s, like, a lot of gold. Huell is the best. Give him a spin-off next.
That guy at the garage was a pretty good dude
- Saw a strange man hosing oil off of his entire body outside his garage
- Brought the strange man a towel
- Let him use the phone
Just a real solid dude here. I was terrified something bad was going to happen to him. Acts of kindness are rarely rewarded on this show. I hope he finds Nacho’s dad and they bond overrunning small businesses and they become best friends. Maybe they could vacation together. I don’t know. I’m just spitballing here.
It is wild that Saul Goodman is now like the fourth or fifth most intriguing character on the show that has his name in the title
Take a minute later and think about this one, after you think about the other stuff I said to think about. We have one of the most popular characters from an all-time great show, in a spinoff that has his name in the title, one that goes back in time to tell everyone how he became the flashy criminal lawyer we all saw and loved… and he straight-up did not appear in a pivotal final season episode for the first 18 minutes. I counted. That’s a little crazy, right?
It’s not a complaint, though. Probably the opposite. Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan have built a world so littered with fascinating characters that they can just burn off an hour with their alleged main character doing not much more than a car shenanigan or two. Yes, there was the Lalo business with the suspicious prosecutor, but still. Mike, Kim, Nacho, Lalo, all of them have more intriguing stories right now. Some of that is because we don’t know where most of them end up yet. But a bigger part is that… I mean, it’s just a good show.
Better Call Saul. Good show. Heard it here first.