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Better Call Saul S6E5: The Gloves Come Off in “Black and Blue”

Jimmy applies makeup to his black eye in the bathroom mirror while Kim looks on
Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

The following article contains spoilers for Better Call Saul S6E5 (“Black and Blue”), written by Alison Tatlock and directed by Melissa Bernstein.

As I predicted last week, this week’s episode of Better Call Saul (“Black and Blue”) saw the return of Lalo Salamanca. Lalo has been MIA since the end of “Wine and Roses,” and his absence has ramped up the tension. Gus has become increasingly unhinged in his absence, and after Kim found out Lalo is alive from Mike, she’s got double the anxiety because she’s not just afraid of him coming back but also struggling with whether or not to tell Jimmy that he’s still out there.

She decided not to tell him, and while I understand why, I don’t think it’s particularly smart. All the things that they are doing—their entire marriage, really—are dependent on the two of them being on the same page. It’s something that Kim herself demanded of Jimmy as a stipulation for their marriage. It’s interesting to note that this occurred in “JMM” (S5E7): an episode also brought to us by the writer/director team of Tatlock and Bernstein. In “JMM,” Kim and Jimmy discussed the terms of their marriage, and she made it clear to him that if he had the urge not to tell her something, he had to tell her. “Full disclosure,” she said, and it was supposed to work both ways.

But Kim is breaking her own rules here. By her own logic, since she has the urge not to tell Jimmy about Lalo, she has to tell him. Instead, she’s choosing to keep it from him because he’s been through a lot and she doesn’t think he can handle the information—that perhaps it will throw him off so much that it will affect the plan as well as his mental health. But this seems misguided to me. The success of the plan is contingent on the two of them being in full control of the situation as it plays out, and Lalo Salamanca is a wild card.

Kim’s anxiety is apparent from her insomnia, and interesting to note that the time on the clock is 3:17, which looks like LIE upside down. She’s been doing a hell of a lot of lying lately, but none of it truly bothers her except the lie by omission to Jimmy regarding Lalo. Despite the fact that Mike promised her his guys were keeping tabs on her and Jimmy and that they are safe, Kim gets up and places a chair behind the door—one of those gestures that you know won’t actually keep you safe, but that makes you feel just a tiny bit better. She’s smoking inside again—never a good sign—and when Jimmy wakes up, she pretends to be doing some work.

But of course he notices that she’s got the door barricaded, and he comments that he was hoping it was just him still feeling antsy, so it’s clear that Jimmy hasn’t put Lalo completely in the rearview. He just doesn’t know that he’s actually still a threat. She could have told him at this point but she doesn’t. Instead, she listens as he blames himself for the fact that everything went down with Lalo and says that he’s glad that he’s dead. Now she definitely can’t tell him, so she just places her hand on his knee—a small, comforting gesture—and removes the chair from the door while he makes her some coffee.

Kim puts her hand on Jimmy's knee as they sit on the couch in their apartment
Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

I love these tiny moments between Kim and Jimmy where you can see how much they love each other, but it’s sad, too, because right now there is this huge secret between them. What Kim and Jimmy have is something that many people don’t. In each other, they have a partner who completely sees them—all the parts of them, for better or worse—and loves them for all that they are. Their relationship simply doesn’t work without that level of acceptance, and Kim knew that before they got married. But this secret is not only dangerous to them in the general sense that Lalo could pop up at any time and do them some sort of bodily harm; it’s also dangerous to their relationship, which is built on a foundation of total honesty. While I don’t think Jimmy would ever break up with Kim for keeping it from him (in fact, I’m pretty sure there’s nothing she could do that would make him leave), secrets always come back to bite you in the ass later. In this case, I have a feeling that their lack of control over Lalo may somehow affect their control of the Howard plan.

Speaking of which, Phase Four is coming together nicely. Cliff and Howard are meeting with a bunch of the Sandpiper residents to discuss the status of their case, and as Davis and Main associate Erin Brill tries (and fails) to explain the delays to them in a way that they find acceptable, Cliff notes that Howard is nervously bouncing his leg—something totally innocuous but that Cliff, who is now fully convinced that Howard is an addict, can’t help but chalk up to drug use. Cliff watches carefully as Howard takes over for Erin and does his little song and dance to smooth things over with the residents, speaking passionately about how the delay is all meant to stick it to big corporations and champion the little guy. Of course, anyone who knows Howard Hamlin knows that he could give a rat’s ass about the “hardworking folks” and he’d be more than happy to represent a big corporation doing exactly what Sandpiper did if that was his client. There’s no honesty in his little speech, but it does pacify the residents.

Even though Howard was successful, Cliff still feels he has to confront him about his issues, and I have to think that Howard’s line to the residents that he wants “to live in a world where people can trust each other” must have rung particularly hollow to Cliff given the circumstances. Because Cliff has lost his trust in Howard. He makes that clear in the parking lot when he confronts him about everything that went down in Phases 1-3. Howard is, of course, initially shocked by everything that Cliff is saying, but Cliff thinks it’s just more manipulation from him—something he is painfully familiar with given his history with his son’s addiction. He’s seen it before—the denial, the feigned outrage—and he’s not having it.

Cliff points at Howard who stands with his back to the camera leaning against his Jaguar in Better Call Saul S6E5

I said it before and it bears repeating that I think it’s particularly awful of Kim and Jimmy to use Cliff’s family history of drug addiction to their benefit in this way. We can see here how much Cliff really is trying to look out for Howard, coming to him as a friend who truly wants him to get the help he needs. By framing Howard as a drug addict and involving Cliff, Kim and Jimmy are forcing him to relive an incredibly painful part of his past, and it’s just plain wrong. Cliff is a good guy. We’ve seen it time and time again. He’s the opposite of Howard in a lot of ways—just looking at the aesthetic difference between the Davis and Main office and the HHM office is enough to showcase how different these men are in how they approach their practices. I’m not victim-blaming Howard here; he doesn’t deserve what Kim and Jimmy are doing to him, but he’s certainly not a saint. Cliff, on the other hand, has never been shown to be anything but genuinely kind and compassionate, and it’s hard to watch him get dragged into this mess and exploited.

It finally all clicks for Howard, though, because who else could be behind all of this lunacy? He knows it’s Jimmy pulling the strings here, and it’s confirmed when Cliff tells him that he was meeting with Kim when he just so happened to see Howard throw a sex worker from a moving car. Now, I don’t think that Howard believes that Kim is an equal partner in Jimmy’s schemes (and certainly not the architect of it all), but he certainly believes that Jimmy would use her in order to carry out his crusade. Howard tells Cliff that he does have a problem: a Jimmy McGill problem. After telling his assistant to cancel his entire week so he can deal with it, Howard leaves Cliff standing there totally confused as he takes off in his Jaguar to deal with Jimmy.

Meanwhile, business is booming for Saul Goodman, and he’s got potential clients lined up outside his crappy new office waiting for him to open. When Francesca arrives, she’s not too pleased with Jimmy’s new set-up or his new clientele. This is a far cry from the old Wexler & McGill days, and whatever she was expecting, it certainly wasn’t a gross, empty office with a toilet in the middle of the room. Francesca asks where Kim is and Jimmy proudly tells her that they’re married (because Jimmy loves telling people that Kim is his wife), and Francesca tries to keep the shock off her face. None of this is what she was anticipating, and she asks Jimmy why he chose her.

Jimmy says it’s because he trusts her and because he feels bad that they had to let her go, but I think it’s a lot more of the former than the latter. Jimmy knows that Saul Goodman’s work requires a certain level of discretion. He can’t hire just anybody to work for him, and he’s got enough of a history with Francesca that he believes she’ll go along with his new business model. She’s not so sure about this Saul Goodman character, though, and she almost leaves until Jimmy offers her double her salary and a signing bonus in cash. (Side note: the fact that Jimmy has a Velcro wallet is never not going to be hilarious to me.)

Jimmy stands next to Francesca who looks unimpressed by his new office space

Breaking Bad fans know that the Francesca we met in those days was quite different from the woman we met in Better Call Saul. By the Breaking Bad timeline, Francesca is completely jaded and fed up with Saul’s nonsense—and honestly, who can blame her?—and she’s got zero problem demanding a bribe (as evidenced by my all-time favorite Francesca scene). This is just the first of what I can only assume are many occasions where Francesca gets her palms greased to look the other way on something. But for now, she hesitantly agrees to leave the MVD and work at Saul Goodman & Associates (although she demands input on the decorations). I simply cannot see Francesca picking out that horrendous Constitution wallpaper or agreeing to the Lady Liberty statue, so I’m guessing she only got as far as her domain in the waiting room (if that) when it comes to interior design.

Kim is back at her makeshift office at the El Camino, but this time we see her meeting not with one of her pro bono clients but with her old paralegal Viola. This is another moment where I find Kim’s actions very troubling because she’s set up this meeting with Viola under the guise of just catching up with a friend and colleague, but she’s actually just trying to work her for information for the next phase of the plan. She wants the name of the judge in the Sandpiper case and she knows that Schweikart & Cokely moved Viola over to work on that case. Now, I’m no legal professional, but I’m pretty sure that Viola isn’t supposed to give out that information, but she does anyway because she trusts and respects Kim and has no reason to suspect that she would do anything nefarious with it.

Kim gets what she wanted—the name of the judge, Rand Casamiro—but she gets a little more than she bargained for, too. Viola absolutely gushes over her and what she’s doing for the little guy, and tells Kim how much she admires her. We know that Kim has a lot of respect for Viola, which is why it bothers me so much that she’s willing to put her in a potentially bad situation. Viola tells Kim that she makes her feel better about the law, and that’s got to tug at something in Kim. This is a woman who looks up to Kim and she’s using her, all while listening to Viola tell her how moral and righteous she is. Viola sees her as she wants to be seen (by everyone but Jimmy), and one would think that an experience like this (like last week with Cliff when he basically offered to fund her dream pro bono practice) would make her stop and actually think through these choices that she’s making. It doesn’t, though. If anything, it seems to reinforce her belief that she can successfully live in both worlds. The deeper Kim gets into this whole thing, the more times we see her reach a point where she could easily change direction and chooses not to, the more we get a sense that she’s running out of chances.

A smiling Viola sits across the table from Kim with a cup of coffee

Howard takes a page out of the Jimmy McGill handbook to trick him into a meeting, and we see that Howard Hamlin’s idea of dealing with his Jimmy problem is an impromptu boxing match. Now, Howard is a fit guy, but he doesn’t strike me as the boxing type. I can’t see him risking that pretty face and perfect teeth in the ring just to get some exercise, but here we are. The whole thing is bizarre, and perhaps intentionally so to throw Jimmy off his game. Howard invites him to spar so that Jimmy can get whatever is bothering him out of his system, and it’s clear that Howard has no conception of how deep this whole thing goes. He probably thinks it’s just the same old Jimmy McGill nonsense, that he’s still hung up on his vendetta against Howard and that getting a few good licks in might satisfy him for the moment.

Howard is convinced that Jimmy wants to get caught, and while that is true—Kim and Jimmy no doubt assumed that Howard would put the pieces together and realize Jimmy was behind the mess—Howard doesn’t understand that he’s just a chess piece they are moving around. Howard is the target, sure, but in service of a larger goal: the Sandpiper money. He can’t see that this isn’t personal for Jimmy (although it is personal for Kim); he just assumes that Jimmy has escalated from throwing bowling balls at his car to ruining his professional reputation, and he’s not going to stand for it.

As for Jimmy, he almost walks away. This is not part of the plan, and he knows it’s best to just leave and carry on according to whatever the next steps may be. But of course he can’t resist a chance to punch Howard Hamlin in the face. He was never walking out of that place without getting a few jabs in, and Howard absolutely knew that. So they fight, and Jimmy gets a few good shots in before Howard lays him out with a one-two punch. He warns Jimmy, “You’ve mistaken my kindness for weakness,” which is kind of funny because “kind” is in no universe a word I would use to describe Howard Hamlin, but I suppose he sees himself far differently than others see him. I think a better word choice here would be inaction because Howard never pursued any legal action against Jimmy for messing with his car and just generally let everything that Jimmy did and said go.

Aerial shot of Jimmy sprawled out on the floor of the boxing ring as Howard stands over him

But not anymore, because now Jimmy is messing with his career, and we know from his therapy session that his work is the one thing in Howard’s life that gives him any sense of joy or accomplishment. And then, of course, there’s the money, because Howard Hamlin with his Jaguar with vanity plates and bespoke suits is not the type of guy who would do well without a six-figure salary. Jimmy is messing with his livelihood now, and he’s drawing the line. We learn that Howard has hired a private investigator to follow Jimmy and tell him everything he does and everyone he meets with. I can’t decide whether I think Jimmy and Kim have factored this in to whatever comes next. Part of me thinks perhaps not just because last week Mike specifically told Kim not to worry about being followed and to ignore it, so it would be interesting if Jimmy noticed he was being followed, told Kim about it, and that’s when she chooses to tell him about Lalo and that he doesn’t need to concern himself with whoever is following him.

This week’s Jimmy and Kim adventures end with Jimmy coming home with a black eye from his bout with Howard. As he applies some foundation to see if he can cover it up for his court appearance in the morning, Kim jokes that it might be a good look for a Saul Goodman commercial. “I’m Saul Goodman. I fight for you!” she says in jest, but of course we know that Saul does actually end up using variations of that line in some of his later commercials. One of those commercials is one that Gene watches in the series premiere (“Uno”), and it makes that incredibly depressing scene even worse to know that one of the lines from his commercial came directly from Kim.

Kim relays the information she learned about the judge from Viola and produces a Bar Journal article with a picture of him. Jimmy comments on the man’s mustache and says, “That’s a lot less face to worry about,” to which Kim replies, “Unless he shaves.” Is Jimmy planning on playing dress-up again but with a judge this time? This plan has been so wild that I’m not even going to try to speculate on the specifics of the next phase, but whatever it is, it sounds ominous because when Jimmy asks Kim why he ended up sparring with Howard, she answers, “Because you know what’s coming next.”

We don’t get much of Gus this week, but what we do get is fascinating. We’ve seen Gus losing control more and more over the past few episodes, but in “Black and Blue” he’s really starting to crack up. First, we see him at work, doing a walkthrough of the restaurant and silently terrorizing his employees with his keen eye for errors. As he works the register, he begins to feel like he’s being watched and ends up going outside and looking around in a state of extreme paranoia. Even back at home, he’s not sleeping. After an incredibly funny bit where Mike is transported into Gus’s neighbor’s home in the trunk of Mrs. Ryman’s car, Mike finds Gus manically scrubbing the grout in the bathtub with a toothbrush. This is, I think, the most unhinged we’ve seen Gus so far. He’s at the end of a rapidly fraying rope and, unsatisfied with Mike telling him that it’s just a waiting game at this point, he insists on taking a trip to the superlab.

Mike stands in the background as Gus angrily scrubs the bathtub with a toothbrush

The lab is left unfinished after things ended poorly with the Germans. The excavation tunnel is still there, but Mike assures him that it’s blocked and no one can get through that way. Mike leaves Gus in the lab and he ends up counting his steps to measure a certain distance and hiding his gun in a piece of machinery. I can help but think that it must absolutely infuriate Gus to be in that space—the incomplete lab which should already be up and running if it weren’t for Lalo. When he looks at that space, he must see all the time, money, and effort already spent on it and the fact that he’s unable to move forward while the threat of Lalo still looms must be absolutely unbearable. This is a man who is ready to snap, and since we know that somehow Gus comes out on top, I would hate to be on the other end of it.

Gus’s trip to the lab is a perfect lead-in to the end of the episode where we finally see the return of Lalo Salamanca, who pops up in Germany. Lalo’s return is also teased in this week’s cold open, where we see the creation of an acrylic plaque set to a German song (“In Stiller Nacht” by Pink Martini and The Von Traps). The plaque contains a slide rule and is inscribed “In Liebe… Deine Jungs” (German for “With Love, Your Boys”), so it is clearly a memorial from Werner Ziegler’s crew. The choice of a slide rule is an interesting and appropriate one because the fact that Werner used old-school methods of measurement is exactly why he was chosen for the job by Gus back in “Quite a Ride” (S4E5). At the end of the cold open, we see the manufacturer’s sticker placed on the plaque—Voelker’s—and it is placed in a box, presumably for delivery to Werner’s widow, Margarethe.

A plaque containing a slide rule inscribed "In Liebe... Deine Jungs" sits in a black case

And we get to meet Margarethe Ziegler in “Black and Blue,” and I can see why Werner was willing to risk it all for some time with her. Lalo is not immune to her charms either as he poses as an American named Ben from New Mexico—specifically Jemez, the town where the hot springs that the Zieglers were to meet in “Winner” (S4E10) are located. Lalo has been in search of some proof he can bring to Don Eladio that Gus has been working against the Salamancas, and he’s decided to look for that proof in Germany. All he knows is Werner Ziegler’s name and the fact that he was involved in constructing something for Gus, so he seeks out Margarethe for more information.

Lalo is a charming guy and he’s easy on the eyes to boot, so it’s no surprise that Margarethe is taken in by him, willing to have a few drinks with him and open up as he very subtly works her for information. We learn that the official story she was given was that Werner died in a cave-in after saving the rest of his men, that the lawyers wouldn’t give her any information about what he was working on and that they took anything “proprietary” from her home. We also learn that none of Werner’s boys attended his funeral, although they did send flowers and keepsakes.

Lalo sits at a bar with a martini
Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

There is a real chemistry between Margarethe and Lalo and I don’t think it’s completely fake on his part. He’s obviously using her for information, and if she’d invited him in, he would obviously have gone, but I don’t think he ever had any intention of harming her. I think he actually came to like her in the brief time they spent together. There’s something touching about the way he responds when she tells him, “in another life.” At the risk of sounding like a Lalo apologist (because he’s absolutely a bad guy…I get it…I do), I would like to think that he really means it when he says that in another life maybe things could be different. I don’t think Lalo feels guilt very often, but I believe that meeting Margarethe makes him feel something. Of course, one could argue that Gus might have had Mike kill Werner just for escaping even if Lalo hadn’t tracked him down, but that’s beside the point. We get a kinder, gentler Lalo Salamanca here, and I really don’t think it’s all for show.

Instead of killing Margarethe’s little barking Daschund when he breaks into her house the next morning, he goes over and sweet talks him and pets him until he calms down. (See, even dogs love Lalo!) Granted, Baerchen is hardly a vicious guard dog, but still—a truly evil bad guy would kill the dog. When Margarethe returns home because she forgot her phone, there’s a moment where you can see Lalo is truly bothered by the fact that he may have to hurt her. He takes his gun right out because of course he’ll do it if he has to, but he doesn’t want to. He actually cares. This is not a guy we have ever seen hesitate to kill someone in his path—innocent or otherwise—so that one little look he gives when he hears her come in says a great deal.

But he doesn’t kill her, because he finds the plaque and it’s enough for him to just take off out the window instead of confronting her when she comes upstairs. I truly believe he would have killed anyone else, but he just genuinely liked Margarethe and didn’t want to hurt her unless he absolutely had to. He jumped out a second-story window to avoid having to kill her, so I think that says all that has to be said. I feel validated in Lalo as my choice of favorite villain in the BCS/BrBa universe and now I’m just waiting for someone to write Lalo x Margarethe fanfiction because I would absolutely read it.

Margarethe smiles at Lalo as they sit at a table together in a bar

See you next week!

Written by Alison Morretta

In addition to her position as Senior Editor and Writer for TVObs, Ali is a freelance editorial consultant and author of numerous nonfiction reference books for middle school and high school students. In her spare time, she enjoys obsessing over various television shows, especially Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. When not overanalyzing TV shows, she is wrangling her hyperactive Corgi, who is inarguably the cutest dog that has ever existed.

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  1. According to IMDB Kim’s mother (‘Mrs Wexler,’ no first name) makes an appearance again in S6E6. Same actress as in S5E6 (freezing) cold open. The ‘Young Kim’ actress from S5EE6 does not appear in the S6E6 credits, so I hope we see Mrs Wexler in the ‘current’ timeline.

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