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Small Details In Better Call Saul Only True Fans Understood

When "Breaking Bad," one of the most acclaimed and awarded TV dramas of all time, ended its five-year run in 2013, fans at least had "Better Call Saul" to look forward to. Co-created by "Breaking Bad" captains Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, the semi-comedic spinoff featured Bob Odenkirk reprising his role as sketchy bus-bench lawyer Saul Goodman ... or rather small-time public defender and nail salon-inhabiting lawyer Jimmy McGill as he became Saul Goodman. Set a few years before the events of "Breaking Bad," "Saul" adds substantially to the "Breaking Bad" universe of Albuquerque's seedy criminal world. That also means it's loaded with references to its parent series, not to mention clues to Jimmy/Saul's past, present, and future.

Saul was right about his future

Near the very end of "Breaking Bad," as Walt's criminal empire is crumbling and threatening to take down everybody associated with it, a panicked Saul (Bob Odenkirk) tells Walt (Bryan Cranston) that he's no longer his lawyer, but rather "Mr. Low Profile." "If I'm lucky," he goes on. "A month from now, best-case scenario, I'm managing a Cinnabon in Omaha." And while "Better Call Saul" is a prequel series to "Breaking Bad," it starts with a brief update on what happened to Saul after the events of "Breaking Bad": He's posing as a mustachioed man named Gene, who manages a Cinnabon franchise at a mall in Omaha, Nebraska.

The car makes the man

As "Better Call Saul" begins, Jimmy is tooling around Albuquerque in a tiny yellow Suzuki Esteem that has seen better days. In the pilot, he parks it outside the courthouse next to a big fancy Cadillac. That moment of unfair comparison must have stuck in Jimmy's mind because after he "becomes" Saul Goodman, he winds up driving a Cadillac nearly identical to that one. The idea that he needed to drive a Cadillac to be a legitimate lawyer was further driven home in the "Better Call Saul" episode "Marco." Jimmy's old scam partner, Marco (Mel Rodriguez), finds out Jimmy's a lawyer and assumes that he's "riding around in a white Caddy, making bank."

That nursing home looks familiar

In the "Better Call Saul" Season 1 episode "Alpine Shepherd Boy," Jimmy tries to attract aged clients needing their wills drawn up by studying the behavior of TV's Matlock, and then going where everyone loves "Matlock": a nursing home. He glad-hands the elderly in a Matlock-esque linen suit and passes out gelatin cups emblazoned with his name and the slogan, "Need a will, call McGill!" The name of that nursing home is Casa Tranquila, and it's the same place where bell-ringing "Breaking Bad" bad guy Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) lived.

There's graffiti left by a familiar criminal

Before he was a meth-making young adult on "Breaking Bad," Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) was a troublemaking teenager. He would have been in that period of his life during the time frame "Better Call Saul" takes place in. Which is to say that the graffiti tag on the outside of a phone booth Jimmy uses on the third episode of "Better Call Saul" that spells out "JPi" was almost certainly left by a young thuggish Jesse. "Saul" co-creator Peter Gould more or less confirmed it, saying that the idea wasn't in the show's script, but that "sometimes folks in the art department or on the set add a little something."

Lots of people live on Juan Tabo

When "Better Call Saul" begins, Jimmy is working as a public defender — the "attorney that will be provided for you if you cannot afford one" as guaranteed in the Miranda rights read upon arrest. He isn't paid as much as he'd like by the city of Albuquerque for his services: $700, according to his paycheck. Also on that check: Jimmy's address of record, which is 160 Juan Tabo NE. That same street was previously mentioned on "Breaking Bad." When Walt sends Jesse to kill fellow meth-maker Gale, it's to Gale's home at 6353 Juan Tabo, Apartment 6. That means Gale lived down the street from Jimmy, who was sleeping in the back room of the nail salon that he kept as his office. (In real life, the building at 160 Juan Tabo NE really is a nail salon.)

Belize is a very important country

By the end of the first season of "Better Call Saul," Jimmy is still trying to attract elderly clients by volunteering at a retirement home, working as a bingo caller. A bunch of B numbers in a row make Jimmy slowly lose his cool. As he does so, he keeps having to vamp for B words: "'B' as in 'betrayal,'" "'B' as in 'brother,'" and "'B' as in 'Belize.' Beautiful place. So I've heard. I would love to go there, but let's face it, that's never going to happen." So far, so good for Saul, because on "Breaking Bad," "send him to Belize" was a code phrase Saul and Walt would use that meant "have them murdered."

Bank on this reference

Prior to the broadcast of the fifth episode of the second season of "Better Call Saul" in 2016, the show's official Twitter account teased that Hamlin, Hamlin, McGill would "welcome a familiar business as a new client." The client that lawyer Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) brought in turned out to be Mesa Verde, a massive local financial institution. It also happens to be the same credit union where Walter White started the events of "Breaking Bad." He goes there in the pilot episode to withdraw his life savings in order to buy the RV that would become his mobile meth lab.

Mike always packs a lunch

In the "Better Call Saul" Season 1 episode "Pimento," Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) takes a job as a heavy on a drug deal. One of the other toughs (Steven Ogg) is perplexed that Mike brought along a sandwich — pimento cheese, of course — instead of a gun. But that's just the way Mike rolls. Back on a Season 4 episode of "Breaking Bad," Mike and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) are on a stakeout together. Mike offers Jesse a pimento cheese sandwich.

The origin of Saul's ring

After his old con partner and best friend Marco dies, Jimmy attends the funeral on the "Better Call Saul" episode "Marco." The mother of the deceased gives Marco's ring to Jimmy, which he reluctantly places on his pinkie finger. This is the same ring that could be occasionally spotted on Saul's pinkie on "Breaking Bad." The reference on "Saul" goes a little deeper. After the funeral, Jimmy and another mourner smoke a cigarette outside the church, and the other guy recognizes the ring. One of the times it's most prominent on "Breaking Bad" is when Saul holds up a plastic bag containing a cigarette loaded with ricin, which Walt eventually uses to kill Lydia.

The news of Gus's return was hiding in plain sight

Many "Breaking Bad" characters have shown up on "Better Call Saul" as younger versions of themselves. Perhaps the most memorable criminal from "Breaking Bad" was ruthless meth kingpin/fried chicken purveyor Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). He showed up in Season 3 of "Better Call Saul," but that was old news to hardcore "Saul" fans, who had figured that out at the end of Season 2. How? The clues were in the season's episode titles: "Switch," "Cobbler," "Amarillo," "Gloves Off," "Rebecca," "Bali Ha'i," "Inflatable," "Fifi," "Nailed," and "Klick." Take the first letter of each title, rearrange them, and it spells out "F-R-I-N-G-S-B-A-C-K." When the code was cracked, "Better Call Saul" co-creator Peter Gould said, "I guess we really underestimated the genius and hard work of our fans."

Ken wins

Kim gets a taste of the grifter life in the Season 2 premiere episode, "Switch." After attending Marco's funeral at the end of Season 1, Jimmy announces his intention to quit practicing law. When Kim asks what he'll do instead, he shows her, zeroing in on obnoxious stockbroker Ken (Kyle Bornheimer) at a hotel bar. Posing as Viktor ("with a K") St. Clair and his sister Giselle, they pique Ken's interest with a story about a large inheritance they don't know what to do with, then proceed to polish off a high-end bottle of tequila at $50 a shot, leaving Ken with the check.

If this particular obnoxious stock bro seems familiar, he was also the object of Walter White's ire in the "Breaking Bad" Season 1 episode "Cancer Man." There, Ken's boorishness is punished when Walt sticks a wet gas station squeegee under the hood of Ken's car (which features a license plate reading "Ken Wins"), causing the engine to explode. It seems that the universe, or perhaps just Vince Gilligan, is trying to tell Ken something.

About that tequila bottle

After conning Ken out of that very expensive tequila bottle in "Switch," the bartender gifts "Giselle" with the bottle's distinctive cork, resembling a crown-like thrust of agave leaves. Over the remainder of the series, that cork will come to symbolize Jimmy and Kim's relationship, as well as the reckless streak hiding underneath Kim's straight-laced, responsible exterior. When Kim quits her lucrative banking law job to pursue a pro bono defense position at the end of Season 5, the cork is the one thing from her office that she takes with her.

However, that fictional brand of tequila, Zafiro Añejo, has more significance than Kim could even know. Eagle-eyed "Breaking Bad" fans will recognize the bottle from the Season 4 episode "Salud," where it serves as a symbol of a very different type of freedom. After years of biding his time, meth kingpin Gus Fring finally makes his move against the cartel that controls him and who murdered his partner, Max, using a poisoned bottle of Zafiro to wipe out Don Eladio (Steven Bauer) and the rest of the cartel leadership.

Poor Francesca

Much of the tragedy in the "Breaking Bad" universe comes from the corrupting influence of men like Walter White and Jimmy McGill, as the show documents how the poison in their hearts seeps out to infect those around them. Jesse Pinkman and Skyler White were perhaps Walt's greatest victims. In approaching "Better Call Saul," viewers know where Jimmy McGill is headed and worry about what his transformation into the Saul Goodman will mean for Kim.

For a prime example of this corrupting influence, look no further than the series' before-and-after portrait of Francesca Liddy, Jimmy's longtime receptionist played by Tina Parker. In "Breaking Bad" Francesca is a jaded and miserable accomplice to Saul's schemes who shakes down Walt for $25,000 over a broken glass door. On "Better Call Saul," however, we see the moment she first shakes Jimmy's hand, a bright and eager new hire at his and Kim's short-lived shared legal practice. All she wants is a fresh start after working for the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Department for nearly a decade, but like Jesse, Skyler, Kim, and many other poor souls in these men's orbits, she has no idea what she's getting herself into.

Huell's sticky fingers

"Breaking Bad" featured many audacious and intricate plans over the years. However, one moment that stretched credulity occurred in Season 4 when Saul's associate Huell Babineaux (Lavell Crawford) lifted a specific cigarette (containing a vial of poisonous ricin) from a pack in Jesse's pocket without Jesse — or anyone else — noticing. The theft was all part of a masterful plan by Walt to get Jesse back on his side in his war against Gus Fring, expertly manipulating Jesse's emotions and leading to the most explosive season finale in the show's history. But still, how did Huell swipe that cigarette? Is he just that good?

"Better Call Saul" answers that question with an emphatic yes, he is just that good. Throughout the series, Jimmy's imperious older brother Chuck (Michael McKean) suffers from a debilitating sensitivity to electromagnetism. However, in the Season 3 episode "Chicanery," Jimmy uses Huell's sticky fingers to slip a charged cell phone battery into Chuck's pocket without his knowledge. This has the ultimate effect of dramatically revealing at Jimmy's disbarment hearing that Chuck's condition was psychological, not physical, all along — a moment as explosive and devastating, in its own way, as Gus Fring's last stand.

Hiya, Ira!

Prequel films and shows will often include callbacks to their predecessors and inside jokes, both as a treat for longtime fans and to color in the detail of the world. "Better Call Saul" does this better than most, in part because it has such a rich original text to work from "Breaking Bad." We all want to know how Jimmy McGill became Saul Goodman, and we all worry about where Kim is during the events of "Breaking Bad," sure. But what about the guy who runs Saul's pest control business/meth lab cover?

Character actor Franc Ross appeared as Ira, the manager of Vamanos Pest Control, only once in "Breaking Bad," during the Season 5 episode "Hazard Pay." There, Ira's fumigation tents provide a convenient cover for Walt and Jesse's mobile meth lab. It's a role that required little of Ross other than to look just a little scraggly, but when the time came to cast the role of a small-time crook whom Jimmy hires to steal a valuable Hummel figurine in Season 4 of "Better Call Saul," producers Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould brought back Ross, as Ira, once again. With that decision, this petty burglar becomes a man with a future, and that exterminator becomes a man with a past.

Lalo and the bell

For most of the run of "Better Call Saul," the show depicted two largely disconnected worlds. Viewers got to know the legal world of Jimmy McGill, which was mostly new to the series, while learning more about the world of Mike Ehrmentraut, Gus Fring, and the cartel, which viewers first became familiar with in "Breaking Bad." However, Season 4 saw many of its characters take giant steps toward being the people we know they will become. These transitions included Jimmy officially taking the Saul Goodman name, Gus beginning construction on the super lab, and Hector Salamanca's stroke, which led to his relocation to the Casa Tranquila nursing home.

However, just as things were starting to get a little too familiar, a new face arrives at the end of the season with Eduardo "Lalo" Salamanca (Tony Dalton), as charming a monster as the "Breaking Bad" universe has ever seen. Lalo comes to America to take over the business from Hector and generally be a thorn in Gus Fring's side. He also comes bearing a very familiar gift for his tìo in a brass bell taken from a hotel that he and Hector burned down together after murdering its owner. This bell will become Hector's primary means of communication on "Breaking Bad," and eventually, the device that will take Hector's final revenge against Fring.

Half measures

Mike Ehrmentraut (Jonathan Banks) spends a lot of time around people he doesn't really like, especially in his job as an all-around fixer and bag man for Gus Fring. He finds an unexpected kindred spirit, though, in Werner Ziegler (Rainer Bock), the German lead engineer constructing the superlab. Werner and the other engineers are working in complete seclusion, and Mike can see that he is cracking under the pressure. When Werner asks for a furlough to return to Germany for a few days to see his wife, Mike refuses but allows him to have extra time to talk to his wife on the phone. That small kindness leads to Werner escaping from the compound and going on the run.

When Mike tracks him down, there is no other option than to kill him. Werner offers to keep quiet and give all his money back to Gus, but none of it matters. The situation calls to mind what Mike would later tell Walter White in "Breaking Bad" Season 3 about the folly of taking half measures when a full measure is needed. Mike's compassion got the better of him, and now someone has to die because of it. It's a lesson he would learn more than once.

Vacuum repair

Each season begins with a black-and-white flash-forward to the present day, showing Jimmy's drab new life. Jimmy is now known as Gene Takovic, a Cinnabon manager at an Omaha mall who lives in constant fear of being discovered by the feds, the cartel, the nazis, or all three. After a fainting spell at the top of Season 3, Season 4 sees him picked up from the hospital by a cab driver (Don Harvey) with an Albuquerque Isotopes logo hanging from his mirror. Terrified, Jimmy flees to a diner on the state line at the start of Season 5. When he tentatively returns to his Cinnabon job, he is confronted by the cab driver, who appears to be nothing more than a pushy Saul Goodman fan.

Nevertheless, Jimmy runs to the stockroom and makes a phone call. A familiar voice answers when Ed, the vacuum cleaner repairman who disappears people on the side, picks up. Ed is played by legendary character actor Robert Forster on "Breaking Bad" and in the 2019 sequel film "El Camino." As reported by Entertainment Weekly, Forster's brief scene here was actually filmed during the production of "El Camino," long before anything else in Season 5 was filmed. Sadly, Forster would not live to see Ed's final appearance as he passed away in October 2019, several months before Season 5 would air. The premiere episode is dedicated to his memory.

Old Hank, new Hank

Season 5's "The Guy for This" brings back three fan favorites and sets up a major piece of "Breaking Bad" lore. When low-level Salamanca dealer Domingo Molina (Max Arciniega) is picked up by Albuquerque PD, Nacho and Lalo hatch a plan to get him turned into a confidential informant, feeding false information to the DEA. The two agents Domingo talks to are Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and his partner Steven Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada). 

Hank, of course, is Walter White's brother-in-law, while Domingo, soon to be known as Krazy-8, will one day be the first person Walt intentionally kills in Season 1 of "Breaking Bad." In fact, Domingo's confidential informant status is what gets Hank on the trail of the mysterious Heisenberg in the first place.

Hank comes off as a glad-handing jock at the start of "Breaking Bad," the polar opposite of his brother-in-law. However, as the series continues, Hank gains layers, in no small part due to Norris' excellent performance, and by the final season he was one of the most nuanced and sensitive characters on the show. "Better Call Saul" sets the clock back to a more alpha male period in Hank's life, but it doesn't forget the depth that he's shown. The boorish side of Hank is real but also a performance, in much the same way that Saul Goodman is both an act and an expression of Jimmy's true self.

Finger guns

At the end of Season 4, Jimmy gives an emotional speech about his late brother Chuck at the hearing to reinstate his law license. The speech works, and Jimmy is thrilled — not just to be able to practice law again but to have bamboozled the reinstatement committee. This 180-degree turn startles Kim, who was as convinced of his sincerity as anyone else. However, the true twist of the knife comes when Jimmy requests a DBA (Doing Business As) form so that he can work under a new name. He turns to Kim, shoots his index fingers out at her, and says, "'S'all good, man!" 

Kim gets her chance to return the finger gun gesture at the end of the following season, though. As Jimmy wrestles with what it means to be a cartel lawyer, Kim has been having a career crisis of her own. She quits her job at a swanky practice and turns to pro bono defense work, and when her and Jimmy's old boss Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) hears this, he assumes (not incorrectly) that Jimmy is a bad influence. The suggestion so enrages Kim that she spends that night dreaming of ways to ruin Howard, both personally and professionally. When Jimmy, troubled by seeing his own impulses reflected back at him, asks if she's serious, Kim spins around and gives him finger guns. But not just that, she shoots them and blows off the barrels. It's both a playful and troubling moment, as Jimmy and the audience wonder if straight-laced, responsible Kim is about to break bad.

The Goodman Estate

Season 6 throws viewers a curveball. For the first time, a new season doesn't start with a black-and-white flash-forward to the miserable life of Gene Takovic. Instead, we're treated to a different type of flash-forward, maybe even a flash-sideways, as movers clean out the tacky Albuquerque home of Saul Goodman. A roving camera captures every gaudy detail, from the black and gold color scheme to the neo-classical columns and the solid gold toilet. This is the first time we have ever seen Saul's house from the "Breaking Bad" years, and it feels all-too appropriate for that version of the character — but still a million miles away from the apartment that Jimmy and Kim share.

Easter eggs are sprinkled throughout. Despite this being Saul's house, traces of Jimmy McGill can still be seen. Fans will notice the MBT orthopedic sneakers he used to powerwalk around the mall, the film crew ball cap he wore when running Saul Goodman Productions, his Ritchie Blackmore-signed Fender Stratocaster. The fact that all of those are callbacks to Season 3 suggests that this season, the last featuring Michael McKean as his brother Chuck, might hold some special significance to the show's endgame. 

In Saul's bathroom we see prescription drugs, including Viagra and Minoxidil — which is used to stop hair loss — representing the toll that being Saul Goodman takes on Jimmy. Most significantly, Kim's Zafiro Añejo cork falls out of a bureau and into the street, unnoticed and abandoned. The sequence ends with the camera lingering on the agave-shaped bottle top. Of all the questions for this final stretch of episodes to answer, what happens to Kim is the most pressing.

Albuquerque Country Club

The first step of Kim and Jimmy's plan to professionally and personally ruin Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) involves planting cocaine in his locker at the Albuquerque Country Club. The country club counts ABQ bigwigs such as Howard, Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr.), and Kim's old Mesa Verde boss Kevin Wachtell (Rex Linn) as members. Kevin sees Jimmy trying to worm his way into the club and puts his foot down with the club manager (James Urbaniak), but when the manager attempts to get Jimmy to leave, Jimmy calls out the club for anti-semitism (a callback to his stated reason for the Saul Goodman name change in "Breaking Bad").

Albuquerque Country Club had made an appearance in "Better Call Saul" Season 5, but its existence and location were established much earlier. In the Season 1 finale of "Breaking Bad," the house belonging to Jesse Pinkman's deceased aunt, where Krazy-8 was killed and Emilio's body was dissolved in acid, is on the market. Showing it to prospective buyers, the realtor notes that it is "within walking distance to the country club." Knowing that Jesse cared for his aunt as she died of cancer, it's entirely possible that Jesse is just a stone's throw away at the moment when Jimmy slips drugs into his former boss' locker.

Twins and cars

Nacho (Michael Mando) begins Season 6 on the run. After allowing Gus' mercenaries into Lalo's compound at the end of Season 5, he takes off into the woods and ends up hiding out in a run-down motel just south of the border. Gus' henchman Tyrus (Ray Campbell) tells him to wait and a truck will stop by to pick him up in a few days. However, Nacho is now the cartel's number one enemy, and soon his cover is blown. When Salamanca gunmen converge on the motel, Nacho makes a daring escape in a hot-wired pickup truck.

It is a terrifically tense scene with an unexpected visual foreshadowing. Leading the cartel forces are the fearsome Salamanca twins Marco and Leonel (Luis and Daniel Moncada). When Nacho gets the stolen truck started, he barrels in reverse toward the twins. They neatly step out of the way of the truck, but the moment visually recalls their ultimate fate at the hands of Hank Schrader in Season 3 of "Breaking Bad," when Hank's SUV crushes Leonel's legs. 

This encounter is not nearly as deadly for the twins, or for Nacho, who escapes the motel parking lot with his life, but now must consider the very real possibility that Gus has abandoned him to the cartel to tie up loose ends.

The Kettlemans return

The second part of Jimmy and Kim's plot against Howard involves spreading the rumor of Howard's drug use around the Albuquerque legal community through an unwitting patsy. Jimmy needs to find someone whose greed will allow them to be easily led by the nose. 

He finds that person, or rather persons, in Craig and Betsy Kettleman, the hapless criminal couple whose embezzlement of county treasury funds and attempt to implicate Jimmy in a bribery scheme was a key plotline in Season 1. Now working as tax preparers out in the middle of nowhere after Craig's 16-month prison sentence, the couple holds a bitter grudge against Jimmy. However, they are unable to help themselves when he dangles a carrot in front of them in the form of a civil suit alleging that Howard's drug use impaired his counsel in their case.

Of course, there is no real possibility of a lawsuit, nor does Jimmy really want to represent them. Instead, he is counting on them to take his idea and run to every other big-name lawyer in town, starting with Clifford Main, who just saw a baggie of cocaine fall out of Howard's country club locker. When the Kettlemans figure out Jimmy's scheme and threaten to go to Howard, Kim buys their silence with the correct assumption that they are fleecing their rural clients. She may end up buying something else from them, too, as the episode ends with her eyeing the very familiar blow-up Statue of Liberty decorating the front of their building.

Kim's multi-colored sticky notes

In the third episode of Season 6, "Rock and Hard Place," we see Jimmy and Kim's battle plans in their secret war against Howard, marked out in multi-colored sticky notes on the back of a painting in their apartment. We don't get a very good look at the notes themselves, and what we do see is indecipherable. They include a drawing of a carrot (perhaps a reference to the "carrot and stick" used on the Kettlemans in Episode 2), notes that simply say "phone call?" and "costume," as well as one that is just a cartoon angry face.

All will presumably be made clear as their scheme enters its endgame. However, what's important is not what is written but what is written on. Longtime "Better Call Saul" fans will no doubt recognize the multi-colored sticky notes from Kim's montage in the Season 2 episode "Rebecca." On the outs with Howard and Chuck over her association with Jimmy, Kim (still working for HHM at the time) is relegated to document review duty. But even while toiling away highlighting paper after paper, she hustles to bring in new clients for HHM, using those sticky notes to keep track of her prospects. The montage, scored by the Gipsy Kings' Spanish language cover of Frank Sinatra's "My Way," is a great showcase not just for Rhea Seehorn but for Kim as well, an early glimpse of her nearly pathological need to power through bad situations.

Gotta make it look real, right?

Nacho is brought back over the border in a hidden compartment underneath the bed of a Los Pollos Hermanos truck. Nacho, who survived the attack on Lalo's compound at the end of Season 5 and managed to escape the Salamanca cousins in the previous episode's motel siege, knows that he is a dead man. Ultimately, he is doomed to be killed either by the cartel or Gus Fring — the "rock and hard place" of the episode's title. He agrees to be "captured" by Fring and to later "confess" to the Salamancas that he betrayed Lalo at the behest of a rival Peruvian cartel in exchange for a quick death and his father's safety. However, when Nacho arrives, Fring decides that his face is not sufficiently beaten up to make their ruse believable. "Gotta make it look real, right?" he says to Mike, who pours them both a shot of whiskey before beating him bloody offscreen.

This is not the first time Nacho has been subjected to extreme violence to sell a deception. In Season 4, when Gus discovers that Nacho caused Hector Salamanca's nearly fatal heart attack and stroke (using a bottle of fake pills), he uses that knowledge to press Nacho into acting as a cartel informant. To make sure he avoids suspicion and remains in the cartel's good graces, Gus has his men stage an attack on Nacho and his partner Arturo (whom Gus' men had already killed), leaving Nacho shot through the side in the middle of the desert, injured but not in danger of dying.

Mike and Nacho

The "Breaking Bad" universe is so skilled at getting its characters into no-win situations and then having them wiggle free through some clever way that it is ironically more shocking when a no-win situation turns out to be exactly that. Such is the case with Nacho, marked for death by the cartel for his role in the death (or so they think) of Lalo Salamanca and an expendable witness to Gus Fring's failed coup. In his last living moments, he tells Juan Bolsa and the Salamancas what Gus wanted him to say, but instead of staging an escape and getting gunned down by Victor, as was the plan, he makes his final stand. 

In a blistering performance by Michael Mando, Nacho unloads his contempt for the cartel and confesses to causing Hector's stroke. He uses a shard of a drinking glass hidden in his hand to break free from his zip tie and hold up Juan Bolsa with his own gun. But rather than murder the cartel leader, he turns the gun on himself.

Mike watches this from behind the scope of his sniper rifle, far away. The two had been partners of sorts from the beginning of the series. Mike recognized that Nacho was a good kid who went down a dark path, just like his own son Matt did years before and just as Jesse Pinkman will do years later. Nacho's death, like Werner Ziegler's at the end of Season 4, will no doubt haunt Mike. Though we know that Mike will stay with Gus in the long run, their immediate relationship will very likely suffer in the aftermath of this devastating loss.

Wendy and the Crystal Palace

After an episode that was relatively light on Jimmy and Kim, Episode 4 ("Hit and Run") gets into the weeds with our favorite married lawyers and packs in several high profile callbacks to "Breaking Bad." First and foremost is the first "Better Call Saul" appearance of the Crossroads Motel, nicknamed "The Crystal Palace" by Hank Schrader way back in Season 1 of "Breaking Bad" when attempting to scare Walt Jr. straight. The motel is apparently Albuquerque's number one spot for junkies, dealers, and sex workers of all stripes, and for their next play against Howard, Jimmy and Kim hire the services of the palace's most famous resident, Wendy (Julia Minesci).

Last seen serving as Jesse Pinkman's lookout in "Breaking Bad" Season 3, Wendy is put to more public use here, as Jimmy, hilariously disguised in his best Howard Hamlin costume (complete with a deep tan and blonde highlights), borrows Howard's car and throws Wendy out of it — right in front of where Kim and Cliff Main (Ed Begley, Jr.) happen to be having a business lunch. The plan goes off nearly without a hitch, though Wendy's love of Mug Root Beer — a callback to her testimonial ad which ran on the AMC website as a webisode during Season 2 of "Breaking Bad" — almost throws off their timing.

Enter Spooge

Jimmy's usual glad-handing and stuffed animal bribes around the courthouse are given the cold shoulder, as word has gotten around that he represented Lalo Salamanca (under an assumed name) in court. His newfound status as a cartel lawyer may have lost him a few old friends, but he soon finds that it has made him a great many more new friends, as Mrs. Nguyen's (Eileen Fogarty) nail salon is overrun with a menagerie of tweakers, bikers, and assorted dirtbags eager to have Saul Goodman as their counselor. A prospective client named Spooge (David Ury) lays it out plainly to Jimmy: They want him because he is Salamanca's man.

"Breaking Bad" fans might themselves feel a tweak at the sight of Spooge — a tweak of familiarity, that is. He is much more put together while waiting his counsel in Saul's nail-salon-cum-office-lobby, but he is no doubt the same addict who will one day mug Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and steal his meth, only to get his head smashed in by a stolen ATM in the "Breaking Bad" Season 2 episode "Peekaboo." His doom, much like Jimmy's, is still years away, but the seeds have been planted.

Kim and Mike

Once upon a time "Better Call Saul" had two mostly separate, mostly equal storytelling tracks: Jimmy's adventures in the Albuquerque criminal ecosystem, and his adventures as a fledgling lawyer. Every so often those tracks would merge, only to split back apart; one set of characters rarely if ever interacted, or even knew anything about the other. As Jimmy began to work as Saul Goodman, and to live as him too, those tracks began to converge more and more, but there were still some surprising boundaries that had yet to be crossed.

Episode 4, directed by Rhea Seehorn, is the first of the entire series in which Kim and Mike meet and talk face to face. Kim has spotted a mysterious car following her around town; when she confronts the driver, he drives away. Later, after Kim has spent the day meeting with clients at a Mexican restaurant, Mike strikes up a conversation, letting her know that the men in the car were his guys; he's keeping an eye on Kim and Jimmy because of Lalo. Fans looking forward to a face-off between the show's two most subtle actors were not disappointed: When Kim states that Lalo is dead, Mike gives her a hard look and the smallest of head nods, and Kim reciprocates with an inscrutable change of expression of her own. Everyone is on the same disturbing page; Lalo is alive. When Kim asks why Mike is telling her this instead of Jimmy, Mike reveals himself to be as big a Kim fan as the rest of us: "Because I think you're made of sterner stuff."

The Office

Episode 4 begins with the chronological first appearance of the Crystal Palace and ends with the first appearance of a different landmark: Saul Goodman's office, the strip mall "cathedral of justice," to borrow Kim's phrase from earlier in the season. After the nail salon is flooded with potential clients drinking up all the complimentary cucumber water, Mrs. Nguyen finally evicts Jimmy, which sends him on a search for somewhere good and cheap to relocate. As they peer in through the dusty plate glass windows, Seehorn's camera shoots them from inside the storefront, evoking memories of Saul's waiting room from "Breaking Bad." Though this is Saul's new home, we haven't seen the last of the nail salon, as Jimmy will attempt to sell it to Jesse as a money laundering scheme in Season 3.

The revelation that Lalo is alive weighs heavily on Kim in this scene, but she chooses not to tell Jimmy, letting him bask in the glow of the bright future in his mind. For Jimmy, that future involves the two of them, but can the same be said of Kim and her dreams of a pro bono, socially conscious legal practice? She is notably missing in "Breaking Bad"; could it be that this moment, in which she withholds the fact that Lalo may be coming after them, is the beginning of the end?

I get a say in the decorating

Episode 5 marks the return of Francesca (Tina Parker), whose brief tenure at the short-lived Wexler McGill law office in Season 3 ended abruptly when Jimmy's license was suspended. She has been offered a job manning the reception desk for the newly formed Saul Goodman & Associates. The only problem is that the reception desk is nothing more than a folding table with a telephone, and the office remains an empty storefront with a toilet in the middle of the floor as we saw in the previous episode. Francesca rightfully balks. She sees Jimmy's name change, Kim's absence from the practice, and the line of ne'er-do-wells waiting outside as one red flag after another. However, money talks. After Jimmy agrees to double her salary and offers her a cash "signing bonus" out of his wallet, she takes the job with one condition — "I get a say in the decorations."

Francesca's request calls back to her first appearance in the Season 3 episode "Witness" when Jimmy asks her opinion on the poorly thought-out WM logo he has painted on the new Wexler McGill office. She notes in that scene that "the M is a little crooked" and Jimmy, to his chagrin, sees that she's right. The callback to that moment here leaves us to consider how much of Saul's tacky, ostentatious aesthetic actually comes from Francesca.

I coulda been a contender

In Episode 5, Howard has finally put the pieces together and realized that Jimmy is behind the baggy of drugs found in his country club locker, the Kettlemans' claims of misconduct due to Howard's supposed drug use, and the scene of Wendy getting pushed out of his car directly in front of Cliff Main. Therefore, he does what any normal person in his position would do — he lures Jimmy to a boxing gym under the guise of being a prospective client, then challenges him to a match. Jimmy, when confronted, doesn't own up to any of his chicanery, but he does join Howard in the ring. "You must have gotten into a few good scrapes in the old neighborhood," Howard goads. "Yeah," Jimmy responds. "I coulda been a contender."

Jimmy's line is, of course, a reference to the Marlon Brando classic "On the Waterfront," but it's also a reference of sorts to Jimmy's "Network" moment with Howard in the show's very first episode. Jimmy has a habit of hiding his discomfort and anger behind comedy and movie references, and Howard has always subtly (or not) looked down his nose at him. Even his suggestion that he and Jimmy "punch it out" is rife with condescension. Later, as Jimmy nurses a black eye, he wonders out loud to Kim why he got into the ring at all, instead of simply walking away from Howard, but we know the reason. It's the same anger and insecurity that drove Walter White down his dark path.

I fight for you

Just as Francesca has inserted herself into the Saul Goodman hype machine, Kim remains vicariously living through Saul's war on good taste and subtle messaging. After his boxing match with Howard, Jimmy attempts to apply concealer to his black eye, insisting to Kim that he has court in the morning and can't show up in front of the judge "looking like Leon Spinks." Kim, however, sees the shiner in a more positive light; it seems only natural to her that a character like Saul Goodman would strut into court with his face bashed in. She even comes up with a solid slogan off the top of her head — "Saul Goodman: I fight for you!"

If that sounds familiar, it's because that actually was (or rather, will be) a Saul Goodman commercial. Filmed during Season 4 of "Breaking Bad" and available as a DVD extra, the ad specifically targets combat athletes who have lost revenue due to injury. The end of the ad features Saul in boxing gloves, punching toward the camera, almost exactly how Kim imagines it years earlier while sitting in the bathroom she shares with Jimmy. One of the biggest questions of the series is what happens to Kim, as she's never seen or referenced on "Breaking Bad." This moment suggests that maybe she was there for some or all of "Breaking Bad" as a silent partner, just out of sight.

In Liebe ... Deine Jungs

Lalo Salamanca lives ... in Germany. Episode 5 begins with a good old-fashioned montage of something getting made — a staple of the "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul" visual style. Here, a person in a protective white suit pours liquids and powders into a bubbling container. At first, we might wonder if this is yet another glimpse into the world of crystal meth production; instead, it appears to be a commemorative paperweight, an engineering ruler suspended in polyurethane and inscribed with "In Liebe ... Deine Jungs," which roughly translates to "With love ... your boys." 

By the end of the episode, we learn that the paperweight was made for Werner Ziegler, the head engineer on Gus' superlab project whose death at the hands of Mike at the end of Season 4 was covered up as an accident. The "boys" referenced here were the other engineers whom Werner supposedly saved in his final moments. That was the story told to Werner's wife Margarethe (Andrea Sooch), who in turn tells it to a handsome American named Ben sitting in a German bar. "Ben" is our man Lalo, of course, and his subtle romancing of Margarethe is a play to get into her home to search for evidence of whatever Werner was doing out in the desert for Gus. The world thinks Lalo is dead, and like Walter White in the final episode of "Breaking Bad," that somehow gives him the ability to appear and disappear at will, breaking into the Ziegler home and rifling through Werner's old papers for some clue. We don't yet know if he found anything of note. When Margarethe returns home unexpectedly soon, Lalo disappears through a window.

Young Kim

Season 6 Episode 6, "Axe and Grind" returns to the world of Omaha in the mid-1980s and the troubled childhood of Kim Wexler. Last seen in Season 5's "Wexler vs. Goodman," young Kim (Katie Beth Hall) waits in the manager's office of a department store. She's been caught trying to shoplift a necklace and a pair of earrings, retail price $34.50 plus tax, and her mother (Beth Hoyt) reads her the riot act in front of the sympathetic manager Mr. Pearson. On a show like "Better Call Saul" we're accustomed to one con or another being pulled at any given moment, and sure enough, Mrs. Wexler's outraged act in front of the manager is just a ploy to get Kim off the hook. She even lifts another jewelry set to give Kim as a kind of reward. "I didn't know you had it in you," Mrs. Wexler says.

Where the flashback opening scene in "Wexler vs. Goodman" is an early example of Kim's belief that she can turn any bad situation good through sheer willpower, the flashback in "Axe and Grind" gives us some insight into her fondness for Jimmy's petty criminal ways; director Giancarlo Esposito, stepping behind the "Saul" camera for the first time, frames the moment when Kim's mother drops the concerned parent act much like Jimmy's "S'all good, man!" heel turn in the Season 4 finale, holding the camera on Kim's reaction to being an unwitting stooge. But the scene also serves as something of a warning to viewers as the series heads into its final episodes: Jimmy, despite what Howard Hamlin might think, did not corrupt Kim or lead her astray unwillingly. Kim Wexler can break bad all by herself.

Reunion Tour

"Axe and Grind" brings back a number of notable "Better Call Saul" characters that haven't been seen in a season or more, possibly as a last hurrah as the series moves into its endgame. There's the cold open featuring young Kim and Mrs. Wexler, of course. In present day, Jimmy and Kim check in on shady veterinarian Dr. Caldera (Joe DeRosa), who is moving out of town and leaving his work as a black market middleman behind in Albuquerque; a look at his encrypted "little black book" of criminal contacts reveals, among other things, the business card of a certain vacuum cleaner repairman. Later, Jimmy enlists the help of his longtime college student film crew (Josh Fadem, Hayley Holmes, and Julian Bonfiglio) as part of his ongoing Howard/Sandpiper plot with Kim. In Germany, Lalo tracks down Kai (Ben Bela Böhm), one of Werner Ziegler's "boys" working on Gus' superlab in Season 4, and takes an axe to his foot. And Mike's daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon) and granddaughter Kaylee (Juliet Donenfeld) make a short return from afar, as Mike stargazes over the phone with them from the empty house across the street, pretending to be out of town on business.

The other familiar part to make an appearance is not a person, but an immediately recognizable prop: An Albuquerque Isotopes car air freshener, exactly like the one hanging from the mirror of Gene Takovic's bothersome cab driver (Don Harvey) in Season 4 and 5's flash-forwards. The air freshener here is not the same one, but its presence is a reminder of what the future holds, and how little we really know of what's going to happen.

It's Classy!

Francesca (Tina Parker) has already made good on her request to have a say in the decoration of the new Saul Goodman and Associates office. When Kim stops by to give Jimmy some big news, a very excited Francesca gives her a tour of their new digs — drapes hung over the windows, nicely upholstered chairs, everything painted in a soft lavender, and molding on every wall. "I've even got a pair of water features coming," she tells Kim, "for serenity." Kim seems genuinely impressed, even as she (and we) know that this waiting room is all wrong for Saul Goodman's roughneck clientele. Francesca learns that lesson the hard way just a few scenes later, when a prospective client puts his cigarette out on the arm of one of those chairs.

The lavender room is Francesca's first draft; in just a few years, she and Jimmy will refine it into the wood-paneled, plastic-seated, entirely unwelcoming way station that we first saw in Season 2 of "Breaking Bad" — with Francesca's desk safely behind glass instead of out in the open as it is in this episode. Perhaps this would have been a good waiting room, even a great waiting room, for the Wexler-McGill law practice. The office would have mostly been for bankers and the elderly. But Saul Goodman is a different breed than Jimmy McGill; Francesca will figure that out soon enough, likely not long after she's forced to make a legally dicey phone call pretending to be the daughter of a senile Hamlin Hamlin McGill client. And Kim Wexler is ... well, is she a different breed? The jury is still out.

Irene Landry is back

Just as the show brought back the Kettlemans at the start of the final season, the episode "Plan and Execution" (the mid-season finale of Season 6) re-introduced Irene Landry (Jean Effron), the kindly, guileless Sandpiper Crossing Retirement Home resident who hired Jimmy to oversee her will in Season 1's "Bingo." When Jimmy discovers that Sandpiper has been grossly overcharging Irene and other residents for services, he mounts the class action suit that, years later, is at the heart of Jimmy and Kim's plot against Howard.

Irene is on hand at the mediation between her and her fellow clients (represented by Howard and Cliff Main) and Sandpiper (represented by Kim's former colleagues at Schweikart and Cokely). She has a front-row seat to D-Day, the long-awaited settlement of Jimmy's class-action suit, as well as the final unraveling of Howard Hamlin. This isn't the first time that Irene has been a witness to Jimmy's low-down tricks, though.

Irene herself was a victim back in Season 3 when Jimmy purposefully alienated her from her mall-walking friends to force her to take Sandpiper's settlement offer. Jimmy's fancy mall-walking shoes were seen stashed away in Saul Goodman's closet in Season 6's opening scene. At the time, playing with an elderly woman's emotions turned out to be a bridge too far for Jimmy. Now, she is as much a pawn as everyone else.

Chicanery Part 2

So what was Jimmy's plan to settle Sandpiper and ruin Howard? At long last, we have a full view of the scheme, and it goes something like this: Plant evidence and stage incidents that make it look like Howard is a drug addict; anticipate that Howard will hire a private investigator to follow Jimmy around and get said PI on Jimmy's payroll; stage incriminating photos where it appears that Jimmy has bribed the case mediator; contaminate those photos with a non-traceable toxin (courtesy of Dr. Caldera) that makes Howard sweaty and dilated as if on drugs; ensure that Cliff Main would be so bewildered and humiliated by Howard's actions that he would have no choice but to take Sandpiper's settlement offer, thus getting a big payday for their clients and for Jimmy.

Other than a quick last-minute photo session when Jimmy sees that the mediator has his left arm in a sling, the plot amazingly goes as planned. And Howard is a smart man — he knows what has happened, he knows that Jimmy and Kim are responsible, and he knows that the plot is intricate enough that trying to describe it to someone on the outside would make him look like a lunatic. Just like Jimmy's brother Chuck, the victim of another multi-step Jimmy scheme in Season 3's "Chicanery," Howard can see all of Jimmy's moves but is powerless to stop them from wreaking havoc. And — just like Chuck — Jimmy's plan has tragic unintended consequences.

The shaken soda can

The ghost of Chuck hangs over D-Day as surely as his portrait hangs in the HHM conference room where "Plan and Execution" plays out. Early on, when a nervous young HHM employee drops some soda cans on the floor of the conference room, Howard helps him clean up and gives him a tip on how to keep a shaken can from exploding when opened: Set it on a flat surface and rotate it a few times. Howard mentions that he learned this trick from Chuck — the moment speaks to both men's meticulous, overbearing natures, thinking they can keep accidents from happening by simply controlling the situation. It's never said out loud, but one might also guess that Chuck learned this can trick after years of getting pranked with exploding soda cans by his younger brother Jimmy.

The fact is that sometimes explosions just happen, no matter what we might try to do to impose ourselves on the situation. Sometimes, things just spill out. A drunk Howard shows up at Jimmy and Kim's apartment to confront them and find out exactly why two people who he would call colleagues and even friends would want to ruin his life so thoroughly. But Howard is not their only visitor that night, as indicated by the flicker of the candle on the living room table (echoes of Chuck's lantern in his final moments). Lalo Salamanca has broken in. To Jimmy and Kim's terror — and before they can do anything — he shoots Howard in the head for being an inconvenient witness. Blood splatters the apartment, and just like a shaken soda can, there's no way to put what has spilled back inside.