Season 5, Episode 2: ‘50% Off’
You’re playing Texas Hold ‘Em poker with Lalo Salamanca and he raises you $200. You’ve got a strong hand. Three eights. Do you see Lalo’s bet? Raise him another $200? Whoop-whoop in anticipation of pay dirt?
Or do you fold, as Domingo (Max Arciniega) does early in this week’s episode? Given the air of menace that surrounds Lalo, this is arguably a very wise career move. It is also apparently the birth of Domingo’s nickname, Krazy-8, bestowed upon him by Lalo, who thinks his petrified employee isn’t petrified at all. He’s merely loco.
It’s just one of many short cons played in “50% Off,” an episode in which just about everyone, in true “Better Call Saul” style, is playing everyone else. The most productive con might be Jimmy’s, who manages to buttonhole the assistant district attorney Suzanne Ericsen (Julie Pearl), by conspiring with a maintenance guy to disable the elevator between floors. The two lawyers wind up negotiating deals for Jimmy’s clients, one after another, in 20 minutes.
If you’re taking on so many cases that you must resort to such tactics, you need to dial it down a bit. Which is another way of saying that Kim was right. The limited-time offer of half-off legal counsel was a bad idea. Jimmy concedes as much as he and Kim make an impromptu stop to look at a house for sale. And the episode demonstrates the downsides of priced-to-move legal advice in the opening scene, which follows two meth-addled yahoos who celebrate Saul’s introductory bargain rate by launching into a multiday bender.
Let’s leave aside the implausibility of this bacchanalia. (Seriously, would anyone think, “Let’s go insane for a while because once the cops nab us, we won’t spend huge sums on a lawyer”?) Those yahoos wind up at one of the apartments where the Salamancas peddle their meth, using a delivery system — a drain pipe — that proves catastrophically flawed. When it jams, the newly christened Krazy-8 climbs a ladder to perform some ad hoc home improvements, and that is where the cops find him when they arrive.
The collaring of Krazy-8 offers Nacho an opening. He has already been treated to the scare of his life by Gus Fring, who sends Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui) into a restaurant where Nacho’s father is eating with some friends. It briefly looks as though Nacho is about to witness the gangland slaying of his padre, when Gus shows up and twists the thumb screws a bit more: Win Lalo’s trust, he tells Nacho. Figure out his plans. Share them. Or else.
Nacho gets the chance to turn Lalo’s head through an apparent suicide mission to retrieve the meth left in the stash house that was quickly abandoned once Krazy-8 was nabbed. Precisely how Nacho manages this feat of drug superhero-dom is unclear, but Lalo watches from his car as the show unfolds, munching on a snack as if he were at the movies. When Nacho returns, sweating but alive, meth in hand, Lalo is suitably awed — and in a trusting mood.
So much so that Lalo delegates to Nacho the decision to send dealers back to the streets. And he shares a meal and a beer with his underling, quickly signaling that he has weighty matters on his mind. Will Krazy-8 flip? He won’t, Nacho says, but offers to have him killed anyway. Nah, says Lalo.
“I’ve got something much better for him.”
We don’t yet know what that something else is. But soon after Jimmy emerges from his elevator tete-a-tete with Ms. Ericsen, Nacho pulls up in the passenger seat of a car and instructs the counselor to get in.
A bit of back story. Nacho and Jimmy met in Season 1, and their relationship includes a very unpleasant detour to the desert. Jimmy had gotten crosswise with the volcanic Tuco Salamanca in one of the show’s early and most disastrous short cons. Nacho worked for Tuco at the time and helped haul Jimmy to a forsaken patch of land outside of town. There, Jimmy frantically produced what might have been his finest closing statement, and saved his own life.
Nacho and Jimmy subsequently had more amicable dealings, but that terrifying round trip to the desert would surely have been on Jimmy’s mind as Nacho rolled up in that car.
We’re left to surmise that whatever “much better” plan Lalo has in mind, it is likely to involve Jimmy. Of course, it was inevitable that Jimmy would get tangled in Lalo’s life, a development that was preordained, in a time-bendy kind of way, courtesy of an early episode of “Breaking Bad.” Walter White and Jesse Pinkman haul Jimmy to another part of New Mexico’s ample desertscape and make a good show of threatening to kill him. (They, too, were worried about a recently arrested colleague.) Once Jimmy figures out that these two masked men were not sent by Lalo — “Lalo didn’t send you?” he screams — he is vastly relieved.
Then again, Lalo’s “much better” plans for Krazy-8 could involve an idea that springs from his meeting with his uncle, Don Hector (Mark Margolis), in some kind of nursing facility. Now wheelchair-bound and mute, Don Hector tries to help his nephew figure out how to handle Gus Fring, whose machinations mystify Lalo. Fring is protected by the money he makes for the cartel, Don Hector suggests, through a bit of tactical bell ringing.
So expect Lalo to go on the offensive against Fring and his supply system.
Finally, the episode’s saddest scene belongs to Mike, who rages at his granddaughter after she asks one too many questions about her deceased father. Mike blames himself for his son’s death, as longtime viewers know, and his guilt and self-loathing have recently been re-triggered by his murder of the homesick construction manager, Werner Ziegler, at the end of Season 4.
It’s excruciating to watch Mike lash out at the one person he seems to love unconditionally, and to whom he will try to give all of his ill-gotten fortune in “Breaking Bad.” But the outburst might also help explain a mystery. Throughout “Breaking Bad,” Mike happily spent time with his granddaughter, but he interacted with his daughter-in-law in a way that strongly suggested that the two were estranged. Maybe they will reconcile. But if they don’t, this is why — or perhaps, it’s the start of why.
Did I miss a con? And some smaller questions. Can we talk about the shower in that house for sale? Can we talk about how no customers have been seen at the Mexican restaurant where Lalo now cooks? It almost seems to be a money laundering front.
Opine in the comments section, please. And may your criminal record be as clean as Doris Day’s greatest hits.
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