Over the course of recapping and reviewing Better Call Saul, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to talk about themes of corruption, of making choices, of doing what’s right versus doing what’s necessary. But with this week’s Bali Ha’i, we look at themes of authenticity, of fitting in, and of loyalty. Loyalty in particular is kind of a new conversation in the Better Call Saul universe.
When Kim gave Jimmy the coffee mug a couple of weeks ago, and then it didn’t fit into the cupholder of the Davis & Main-provided car, that was some pretty straightforward symbolism about whether or not Jimmy would fit in at his new firm. (Spoiler Alert: No.) This week’s episode, Bali Ha’i, ends with Jimmy taking a crowbar to the cupholder. So, metaphorically, we have to wonder if that’s going to work—if he can just force Davis & Main to play by his rules. With a dull-as-dishwater Sandpiper commercial airing, and Erin hovering over him with a checklist, that seems unlikely.
Sleep is a good metaphor for being at peace. Not really a metaphor—sometimes it’s literal—but Jimmy’s insomnia seems like more symbolism, or an extended motif about his frustrations.
I dictate notes into my phone while I watch Better Call Saul, and at one point, captured the following:
Golfing with the big bowl of balls. Playing basketball with the big ball of balls. Over the edge with the big bowl of balls. The big bowl of balls is bouncing down the stairs.
I’d have kept going, but Professor Spouse made me stop.
Jimmy is not at peace in his Davis & Main-provided condo, with his Davis & Main-provided big bowl of balls. He can sleep blissfully on the disgusting little fold-out in the back of the nail salon, and he’s just cautious enough to keep paying the rent for it. The shyster in the back of the nail salon is who he really is. That’s when I jotted down “it’s about authenticity”.
Meanwhile, Kim is in a pretty dark place, despite being out of the doghouse. She’s not even eager to unpack in her new-not-new office, to Howard’s surprise.
It seems to me that Kim isn’t answering Jimmy’s calls, but that she’s been quietly listening to him sing to her every morning. The complex feelings playing across her face are a joy to watch—Rhea Seehorn is absolutely amazing here, just sitting on the edge of her bed, amused, annoyed, delighted, hesitant, unhappy.
Later, we learn that she started in the mailroom at HHM, and eventually became an attorney there. It goes a long way towards explaining her affinity for Jimmy, and her belief in his journey. His success is hers, his journey is hers, and she wants him to win at it, to prove to herself that she can win. So, when she jumps into a con, she’s embracing his world, just as he embraces hers. But she doesn’t want to keep the money, because it’s not really her world.
Maybe “Giselle”’s little con is like a bride who has a one-night stand right before the wedding. Last chance to sow wild oats. Maybe it means she’s preparing herself to take Schweikart’s offer. It seems unlikely, since Patrick Fabian as Howard Hamlin is a regular cast member. On the other hand, Dennis Boutsikaris is such a distinctive presence that it seems unlikely he was cast as a throwaway character. (Although, how distinctive can he be when I invariably confuse him with Ron Silver?) (Ron Silver died in 2009, so I should definitely realize it’s not Ron Silver when I see Boutsikaris in anything new.)
We were just supposed to scare you, that’s all. –Thug
You try harder next time. –Mike
Is Mike authentic? He seems to walk a strange line. Yes, he’s grieving and guilt-ridden, and loyal above all to his daughter-in-law and granddaughter—largely as a result of that guilt, although his love for Kaylee is surely genuine. Yet, is he himself? He has a code to which he adheres, he tries to do right, he even gives Nacho back a hunk of money in the end. He’s smart and he uses his smarts to outwit self-styled tough guys. He’s also smart enough to recognize when a tough guy is the real deal, as when the murderous brothers from Breaking Bad appear. Their mere presence is enough for Mike to wake up and realize he cannot go up against a cartel boss single-handedly. But for all his welcome-mat tricks and his morality, he plays by his own rules, no one else’s—how well did that go over on the police force?
How you manage to live so long with a mouth like that?—“Tio” Salamanaca
After Mike pistol whips the thugs his hands tremble. Fear? Anger? Adrenaline? Who is he?
But about loyalty. Mike is loyal to Kaylee and to his code. Is Kim loyal to Howard and HHM? Is Jimmy loyal to Chuck? Finding a fit, and having that fit reflect your loyalties, is what troubles all of these characters.
And by the way, I rarely mention it, but the show is a visual feast. I’m including one more illustration, just to prove the point. Every shot is gorgeous.