Better Call Saul Season 6, Episode 8 Recap: Lalo and Gus Face Off

Better Call Saul Season 6, Episode 8 Recap: Lalo and Gus Face Off

Published July 12, 2022
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By Michael Hogan

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The Breaking Bad Cinematic Universe (or BBCU) is populated with people who possess superhuman powers of perception. They play the game of life like chess masters, correctly predicting their opponents’ next three, four, even five moves. Lalo, Gus, Kim, Jimmy, Walter—they all possess this ability, to a greater or lesser degree. It’s not realistic, per se, but it’s fun to watch.

The show also encourages us, as viewers, to dust off our own powers of perception and try to deduce larger truths from small pieces of information. Take this week’s cold open. At first, all we see is sand. That’s nothing new—the whole show is set in the New Mexico desert. But wait: there’s water. It’s the ocean. A shoe is floating in the ocean. A man’s shoe. A lawyer’s shoe, you might even say. As the camera pulls out, we see more: a car, an open driver’s-side door, a vanity license plate. NAMAST3. And here, on the dashboard, a wallet and a wedding ring.

We know this is the late Howard Hamlin’s Jaguar. We know we’re far from where Howard died, because there’s no ocean anywhere near Jimmy and Kim’s apartment. We can deduce that someone set this up to look like a suicide. And we can deduce that the person who did was not Lalo Salamanca. Lalo’s planning powers are second to none, but he’s not big on cleaning up after himself.

My first thought, then, was that Jimmy and Kim set this up. But I was wrong. This staged suicide was too perfectly conceived and executed even for them. I should have known from the beginning there was only one person who could pull it off: Mike.

After that, we’re plunged back into the hellish scene in Jimmy and Kim’s apartment, with Howard still dead on the floor and Lalo still smirking and brandishing his silencer. Tony Dalton’s portrayal of Lalo has been inspired from the start, but his Jokerish antics really shine in this scene, as he explains, in a voice worthy of a preschool teacher, that he has a simple job for Jimmy. All he has to do is drive to Gus Fring’s house, ring his doorbell, calmly empty a loaded revolver into him, then drive back. “This guy, he’s a housecat,” he says, not very reassuringly. “He kinda looks like a librarian!”

Jimmy is smart enough to know that Lalo’s promise not to hurt Kim can’t be trusted, so he persuades Lalo to send Kim to do the hit instead, just to get her out of there. (Gus, later in the episode, will be smart enough to know that Lalo can’t be persuaded, and conclude correctly that this was all part of the sociopathic Salamanca cousin’s plan.)

Once Kim is gone, however, Lalo finally drops the Mr. Charming routine, not that it was fooling anyone. He ties Jimmy to the chair, gags him, tells him he blames Nacho for slaughtering his household in Mexico, and says he’ll be back for answers. Before he goes, he cranks up the volume on the old movie Jimmy and Kim had been watching to drown out his captive’s screams. When Lalo finally does go, Jimmy struggles to get loose, but only manages to fall sideways onto the floor, where he ends up face to face with Howard’s corpse.

This movie on the TV. What is it? Could it hold any clue to what’s in store in the show’s final episodes? Well, it’s a 1950 film called Born Yesterday, and the blond actress whose face was frozen on the screen during all the commotion is none other than Judy Holliday. Here’s the first paragraph of Wikipedia’s plot summary:

Bullying, uncouth junkyard tycoon Harry Brock goes to Washington, D.C., with his brassy girlfriend, Emma “Billie” Dawn, and his crooked lawyer, Jim Devery, to “influence” a politician or two. As a legal precaution, Devery presses Harry to marry Billie, as a wife cannot be forced to testify against her husband.

A woman who marries her husband so she can’t be forced to testify against him. That concept ring a bell? Yeah, thought so.

To expand Billie’s horizons, Harry hires a journalist named Paul to tutor her (played by William Holden, so you know where this is going). It turns out Billie is pretty damn smart, and she and Paul fall in love.

When she stands up to Harry, he reacts violently, striking her and forcing her to sign the contracts related to his crooked deal. Meanwhile, Devery has persuaded Harry to sign over many of his assets to Billie to hide them from the government. When Harry experiences Billie’s new independence, he tries to intimidate her into signing his assets back to him. Billie and Paul use her leverage to escape from Harry’s domination. She promises to give him back his property little by little as long as he leaves them alone. A brief final scene reveals that Billie and Paul have married.

What does this tell us about where Better Call Saul is headed? Anything? If Kim is Billie, is Jimmy Paul or is he Devery? Is Harry Lalo? Or is he Gus? One thing we know for sure is that Kim and Jimmy are not headed for a classic Hollywood ending. Could it be that Jimmy is Harry, and Kim will use her legal and economic powers as his spouse to get clear of him once he finally breaks bad for good?

Time will tell!

From there, we warp ahead from 1950s cinematic references to the pop-cultural landscape of the 1980s, as Kim races to Gus’s house to the sound of a pulsing beat worthy of the original Miami Vice series. Things start happening fast, in the dark, while those retro beats pulse away. The other 80s touchstone that came to mind is Beverly Hills Cop. Like Gus, Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley had an almost supernatural ability to see around the next corner and stay one step ahead of his adversaries. And lest we forget, one of those adversaries was memorably played by a gruff, cold-eyed character actor named … Jonathan Banks!

By Anthony Breznican

By Jordan Hoffman

By Chris Murphy

Kim pulls up to Gus’s house, takes the gun from the glove compartment, steels herself, and rings the doorbell. As Lalo surely expected, she is hustled inside by one of Gus’s goons and questioned by Mike. For the second time, Mike is fooled by Lalo’s ruse, and sends almost everyone to Jimmy and Kim’s apartment. Lalo, meanwhile, is hiding in his car outside the laundromat. Once Mike’s fleet pulls out, he sneaks in, narrowly avoiding the attention of the hapless loser Mike left to monitor security cameras. Gus senses that something is off, and asks to speak to Kim. That’s when he hears that Jimmy “talked Lalo out of” sending Jimmy to do the hit, which he knows to be an impossible feat. Suddenly, he knows where Lalo is.

Mike instructs his guys to raid Jimmy’s apartment—but quietly, so as not to “spook the neighbors.” Meanwhile, Gus brings a couple of guys to the lavanderia. They don’t see anything, but he does. A fan slowly rotating that shouldn’t be slowly rotating. Suddenly, Lalo starts shooting out of the darkness. Gus’s guys go down. One keeps moaning, so Lalo unceremoniously dispatches him—then smiles his loco Joker smile.

Mike unties Jimmy, tells him Kim is safe, demands to know how long Lalo has been gone. Now he, too, knows he’s at the laundromat. He tries to call Gus, but Lalo takes the flip phone and chucks it. Like the Joker, he’s ready to make his snuff film. Just as soon as Gus gives him all the evidence he needs to prove to Don Eladio that he’s a disloyal liar. When Gus hesitates, Lalo shoots him in the heart, the bullet lodging in his body armor but knocking the wind out of him all the same.

This is how it should be: a showdown between the two big baddies, nobody else around. We know Gus stashed a gun down there, but we don’t know how he’s gonna get it. So that’s the mystery he will have to solve. Meanwhile, Lalo is genuinely impressed by the underground lair’s scale and ingenuity. He’s excited at the prospect of turning it over to Don Eladio so he can expand the Salamanca empire, once Gus is out of the way. Having recorded all this evidence on camera, he’s ready to put Gus away, but Gus asks for one more minute so he can tell Don Eladio and all the Salamancas what he really thinks about them. This is a fun spin on the eternally bogus Hollywood cliché where the villain has the hero cornered but wastes time giving a speech, only to be foiled at the last moment. Here we can’t really be sure which of these drug lords is the hero and which is the villain, and the speech itself is just a stalling tactic. Although some of what Gus says certainly rings true. Especially the stuff about Don Hector: “I kept him alive. Kept him broken. Before he dies, he will know I buried every one of you.”

By Anthony Breznican

By Jordan Hoffman

By Chris Murphy

“Haha, big talk. You done?”

“Not yet.”

And with that, Gus kicks the big plug at his feet, knocking out the lights in the lab. Darkness, then a rain of bullets. Gus keeps pulling the trigger after all the bullets are gone, just as Lalo instructed Jimmy (and Kim) to do. And that’s it.

Or almost it. Before he dies, we get one last look at Lalo laughing his Joker laugh as blood oozes from his mouth and throat.

Only then, when Lalo has breathed his last breath, does Gus collapse. He’s wounded, we realize. Bleeding from two bullet wounds in his side. But he won.

Not even an off-brand surgery can prevent him from dispatching his duties as manager of Los Pollos Hermanos, of course. Gus calls the kid opening the store and says he’ll be away for a week, attending to a “family emergency.” Suddenly it hits me: this is going to start a war. No wonder they killed off Lalo with five episodes still to go.

Back at the apartment, Mike orders a replacement for the refrigerator he’s apparently using to transport Harold’s remains, then sits Jimmy and Kim down for a fatherly talk. Howard’s body will be disposed of several states away. When the police call, tell the same lie you’ve been telling all along. (Jimmy and Kim pass guilty looks back and forth, but they don’t object.) Go about your business. You’re Meryl Streep and Laurence Olivier. And most important of all: “None of this ever happened.”

Oh, but it did. And the proof is what we see in the final image of the episode: Howard and Lalo, buried together, in a hole at the bottom of Gus’s lab.