The character of Saul Goodman was introduced to the world over 13 years ago, when Breaking Bad aired its “Better Call Saul” episode in 2009. And this week’s Better Call Saul episode, titled “Breaking Bad,” brought several things full circle. Many fans were excited to see and correctly anticipated the return of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman in this episode. But beyond tying up a few dangling loose ends and just giving us fans an epic reunion of sorts, the purpose of Walt and Jesse’s return was more to call attention to Gene Takovic’s willingness to fall back into his old ways.
An Update on Everyone
Just like last week’s episode, we’re in black-and-white again. But unlike any other post-Breaking Bad-era episode of the series, another character from Better Call Saul is the focus here. Francesca is plunging a stopped-up kitchen sink unsuccessfully, telling the two guys who are very clearly not helping her not to put any more stems and seeds down the drain. Their unending attempts to convince their landlord that they don’t do drugs of any kind fall on deaf ears, as Francesca is no dummy. She tells them that she isn’t concerned so much about what they do in their free time, as long as it doesn’t damage her property. The two tenants don’t take anything she says seriously, so Francesca leaves the apartment.
As she’s driving through the streets of Albuquerque, Francesca realizes that someone is following her. She tries to evade the car behind her by making several turns, and eventually, the car drives away. She still seems fidgety and paranoid, but she heads to her destination anyway. Upon arrival at a closed, run-down gas station (which turns out to be the same gas station that Jesse Pinkman paid for the RV’s gasoline with blue meth when he was short on cash), Francesca pulls up in front of a payphone there. It’s 3 o’clock, and she waits for the phone to ring. (This phone call was planned in the flash forward of season four’s “Quite A Ride,” while Saul was packing up to disappear after the fall of Walter White and while Francesca was frantically shredding documents.) After one minute passes, she hears it ring and runs over to pick it up.
Gene is on the other line. He wants an update on All Things Albuquerque. But before she’ll divulge anything to him, she demands he give her what she asked for. So Gene tells her where the stash of cash is hidden, and she successfully retrieves it. When she gets back to the phone, he asks for the lowdown — he wants to know everything that’s happened and if the heat is still as hot as it was when he left town. She tells him that Walter White’s death has changed nothing. Skyler White made a deal with the DEA to stay out of prison, so the only ones left to arrest are him and Jesse. So this means she’s constantly being followed, her mail is being opened, her home phone clicks every time she uses it … every move she makes and every conversation she has is watched, in the hopes of her leading the authorities to Saul Goodman. She is absolutely miserable.
Gene then asks her about his stashes of cash. But she tells him that everything is gone — the vending machines, the nail salons, the laser tag business, his offshore accounts … everything was seized. Francesca then tells Gene that she did receive one phone call in the aftermath, from Kim. She called to check in on her, to ask how she was holding up after everything went down. Francesca then tells Gene that Kim asked about him, wondering if he was still alive. This bit of news seems to give Gene a small glint of hope, so he does something that he’s been able to avoid doing since high-tailing it out of Albuquerque: he tries to call Kim Wexler.
After hanging up with Francesca, Gene calls Information for the number to a Palm Coast Sprinklers located in Titusville, Florida. When the phone on the other end picks up, he asks to speak to Kim Wexler. We don’t hear the conversation, but we sure see it. As we’re outside the phone booth looking in on Gene, while the loud noise of 18-wheelers running up and down the road behind us blocks out any sound coming from within the booth, we see Gene go back and forth from being very angry to pleading his case to angry again. When the call is over, Gene walks around the phone booth and kicks in the glass out of anger.
The Crystal Ship Travels Again
The cold open for “Breaking Bad” took place in a familiar vehicle. With glass bottles clanging and rattling, and with a hood over his head and his hands and feet bound, Saul Goodman has just been kidnapped and is in the back of an RV. He can’t see anything, and he starts speaking Spanish to anyone who’ll listen, promising cash in exchange for his freedom. When the RV comes to a stop, we are back in the Albuquerque desert in the “Better Call Saul” episode of 2009, and a masked Walter White and Jesse Pinkman are pointing guns at Saul and demanding that he make sure one of their associates keeps his mouth shut and doesn’t reveal Heisenberg’s true identity to the DEA.
This scene shows us a little more about what happened the night we met Saul Goodman. After their negotiations end and Saul recognizes Walter White by his horrible cough, Saul gets to see the inside of the “Crystal Ship” (a moniker that Walt loathes), and he realizes that he could help these two guys make a lot more money than they currently are, all while taking a nice cut for himself. Later in the episode, we get to see Saul back in his U.S. Constitution-wallpapered office, and he gets a visit from Mike Ehrmantrout. Mike gives Saul an update on several surveillance cases, and then he tells Saul about “Heisenberg,” a high school chemistry teacher who is very small potatoes and isn’t worth the time or effort to get into business with. Saul says he understands, but we see the wheels turning in his head. Saul has no plans to give up on Heisenberg, and the last flashback we see from this Breaking Bad episode is Saul walking into Walter’s high school to offer him a deal to work together.
Saul Goodman Returns
Like an addict using a drink or drug of choice to mask pain, Jimmy McGill relied on scamming others to avoid facing his heartbreak. Saul Goodman made a career out of it! And whatever was said on the other end of that phone call to Titusville, Florida seems to have pushed Gene right back into his old habits. We see Jeff the cab driver pull up to his and Marion’s house, and Gene is inside at the kitchen table, teaching Marion how to search for funny cat videos on her new computer. While she’s having the time of her life laughing at the little furry troublemakers, Gene and Jeff go out to the garage to talk. There, Gene offers Jeff to get back into business with him, even after all that talk in last week’s episode about never doing anything nefarious or illegal again. Jeff jumps at the chance to make easy money, and Gene’s first question is, “Where can we get some barbiturates?”
We later see Gene (who is pretending to be his alter ego Viktor here) singing some really bad karaoke. One guy at the bar is loving the performance, and when the song mercifully ends, Gene — er, Viktor — sits next to the guy named Alfred and pays him some cash. Apparently, the horrible karaoke performance was a lost bet to Alfred, and Viktor just can’t help falling for more and more of Alfred’s rigged bets. The drinks keep coming, but every time Viktor gets one, a mechanism up his sleeve suctions out the liquor from his glass and deposits it … somewhere. So while it looks like Viktor should be as drunk as Alfred, he’s stone-cold sober all night. At the end of the night, with a wallet filled with Viktor’s cash and having drunk about twelve too many drinks, Alfred gets into a cab to go home. And while we watch Gene outside the bar emptying the hot water bottle that was strapped to his stomach of all the liquor it collected, Jeff the cab driver is offering a barbiturate-laced water bottle to Alfred.
At Alfred’s home, Jeff helps him get inside safely and then tapes over the door lock before he leaves so it can be re-entered later. When Jeff drives away, Jeff’s associate Buddy walks up to the house and effortlessly enters the front door. Inside, a passed-out Alfred is snoring on the couch, so Buddy gets to work. He removes Alfred’s wallet from his jacket and takes pictures of its contents: his license, credit cards, insurance card, everything front, and back. He replaces the items in the wallet and returns the wallet to Alfred’s jacket. Then, he goes to Alfred’s home office and takes pictures of his past tax documents, investment papers, bank statements, and passcodes for online accounts … everything that is important and confidential to Alfred has now been captured without detection. Buddy then exits the front door, removes the tape from the lock, and leaves the property.
This scam continues: we see Gene schmoozing some gullible guy at a bar, either by falling for stupid bets or by asking for naïve financial advice … whatever it takes to keep the victim drinking. Then, Jeff picks up the inebriated victim in his cab and takes him home. Finally, Buddy steals all the personal information he can find. It’s an elaborate identity theft scam, one that won’t be detected for possibly months, as all the victims are very wealthy. And it seems like Gene has created a fail-safe ruse, one that will keep Gene and his two helpers from getting caught, until Buddy comes to a point where he can’t go through with it anymore.
While taking photos of the latest victim’s personal identification, Buddy realizes that the guy has cancer, because he recognizes the pills in his pocket as similar to those his own father needed during his cancer battle. Gene tells him that every one of their victims has a sob story, but it doesn’t matter, because they deserve what’s coming to them. Buddy refuses to do the job, so Gene fires him on the spot, and he demands that Jeff take him to the guy’s house so he can finish the job himself.
This decision seems very rash for Gene to make. He has usually thought out every possible piece of the puzzle beforehand so he can plan a proper response, but Jeff points out that so much time has passed at this point, the guy might be close to waking up from his barbiturate slumber. Gene doesn’t care. Upon arrival at the victim’s house, Gene gets out and tells Jeff to pick him up in 20 minutes. Gene then walks up to the back door and, like he did to the phone booth outside Omaha earlier, he shatters the glass without regard to who might see him.
Has Gene thought out his actions here? What if the victim is awake inside? And what happened on the other end of that phone call to make Gene so angry that he fell right back into his old ways? Better Call Saul‘s penultimate episode, “Waterworks,” will air next Monday, August 8 at 9 p.m. EST on AMC. Catch our weekly recaps here.