AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 6: “Bali Ha’i”
Directed by Michael Slovis
Written by Gennifer Hutchison
* For a review of the previous episode, “Rebecca” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Inflatable” – click here
With the previous episode giving us more insight into the troubled relationship between the Brothers McGill – Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Chuck (Michael McKean) – this week’s “Bali Ha’i” promises even more developments.
We start out with an image similar to where we saw Chuck in the last episode with his former wife. Except it’s Jimmy, in bed. Alone. Unable to sleep, Jimmy flicks through the channels from infomercials to C-Span to a Sand Piper commercial like the original one before he got his hands on it. Things aren’t looking so glamorous here for ole James McGill. He spends a bunch of the night throwing little decorative wicker balls around, in different ways, different made-up games. Until he can’t take it anymore. He heads over to the old spa, to the shifty backroom where he practiced law before Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr) scooped him up, before Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) got right in the picture. Before all this. Back there, Jimmy can lay his head down and actually get some sleep. Almost heavy handed, yet love this opening sequence. Great writing, on the nose.
Meanwhile, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is just as interesting a character. Her whole life has been thrown for a whirlwind since Jimmy’s commercial fiasco. On her answering machine, she gets a message from Jimmy singing the titular song “Bali Ha’i” by South Pacific. He’s clearly in love, bad. Even though he screws up, even though he can’t keep from being criminal, he is charming.
Nothing is going too smooth for Jimmy right now. Not his life, not even fitting the coffee mug Kim gave him into the cupholder of his car. Back to Kim, though. She is trying to get a read of Howard now that she’s no longer banished to the boardrooms of nowhere sorting files. Howard upsets me; he’s like a robot, a soulless man who puts on a mask. Either way, they meet with Kevin Wachtell (Rex Linn) and Paige (Cara Pifko) on the new business.
Then there’s Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). He’s greeted at home by an associate of Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) named Arturo (Vincent Fuentes) who requires an answer re: the deal from last episode. “Respectfully I‘m gonna have to say no,” advises Mike. Afterwards, he literally lays a welcome mat on his front porch. Curious.
Kim’s in court doing her thing over the Sand Piper case. At the defense table is Rick Schweikart (Dennis Boutsikaris). He takes it upon himself to talk with Kim. “You went down swinging and I admire that,” says Schweikart. He ends up inviting her out for lunch, which might possibly lead to something better career wise for Kim. Let’s hope. She acts grateful to HHM, but you know there are some bad feelings on that part. He gives her a good pitch about the life of a lawyer, and offers her a position at his firm; including helping to pay off her student debt, et cetera, all the bells, the whistles, too. And still she is reluctant. Too loyal. Perhaps says something about the way she is with Jimmy, as well. Her loyalty brings her nothing in the end, sadly.
At his place, Mike reveals the trick to his mat – underneath is a sheet of paper, helping him figure out there’s been people at the door. He checks everything carefully, rubbing the door frame, the knob, checking for any sign of people entering his home. He heads inside, gun drawn. All I keep thinking is, despite whatever’s happened since, Mike must’ve made an impressive cop once upon a time. He isn’t perfect, though, the way he does things is so methodical. And it doesn’t feel contrived as a character, like the writers are almost visible there crafting him in front of us. His character comes off as organic, especially considering how Jonathan Banks plays him.
He ends up getting the jump on two guys waiting for him. It’s Arturo and another man. “What‘s the message?” asks Mike. They were only trying to “scare” him. Nonetheless, the older man wins out, then washes the blood of his hands and gun in the sink. You can tell he doesn’t want to live this life. More than that, his hands are shaking, it’s giving him pause about all of the things he’s forced to do; all out of necessity. Even further, his granddaughter and daughter-in-law are stuck at the motel. Everything is pressing down on Mike.
The worst yet? He spies two men watching him – another Breaking Bad reference, as the Cartel brothers Marco (Luis Moncada) and Leonel (Daniel Moncada) loom in the distance. Trouble; big fucking trouble. And Mike don’t like that. Not when it involves his family. What I like is that he’s still tender with his granddaughter while stressed to the maximum, he doesn’t freak out and haul her away like a madman. The writing of his character is excellent and nuanced.
Kim does consider the offer she got earlier, sticking around the restaurant bar after Schweikart leaves. Then a man tries picking her up, which she seems to dig. At least a little. All of a sudden, she calls Jimmy: “I‘ve got a live one on the hook.” So that hook up on the verge of happening wasn’t exactly one after all. More so it’s Kim realizing she may be more like Jimmy than she’d ever imagined. They start running a con on her target. Jimmy reels out a big story about their dot-com company maybe going public, drawing out the big fish in him. Looks like Jimmy and Kim are a couple again. Momentarily, anyways.
At a groceteria, Nacho (Michael Mando) receives Mike. There, he meets with Hector, the Cartel Brothers and Arturo along as protection. Hector wants Mike to go to the D.A, to get Tuco (Raymond Cruz) off the hook for the gun possession. No more cash, either. “How about the payment is you get to leave?” Hector asks, and warns all at once. Everything starts getting tangly, with Mike reaching for his gun, starting to make everyone nervous. Seems for now a deal is struck. $50,000 and Mike takes the rap for the gun.
Hector (to Mike): “How you managed to live so long with a mouth like that, hmm?”
Luckily, Mike does have Nacho on his side. Not that it makes things better for Nacho. But Mike offers up half of the money to him; payment for a job completely improperly.
On the other side of town, Jimmy and Kim are waking up together. They pulled a fast one on their friend at the restaurant, coming out of it with free drinks, dinner, and a nice “souvenir” cheque made out to Ice Station Zebra Associates. Amazing. Also, Kim is wobbling between wanting to leave HHM, and not knowing what’s best for her. Just like her situation as a lover to Jimmy – maybe not the best thing for her, and she keeps on keeping on like an addiction. The cup she gave him not fitting in the holder is symbolic of their lives together; they do not fit. So in the end Jimmy uses a tire iron to smash the holder apart. He makes the cup fit. A perfect parallel to the relationship with Kim. They don’t fit, but he is determined to make his life fit the required structure. No matter what the consequence or price.
This is such a great season. Very excited to see next week’s episode, “Inflatable”, so stick with me as we cruise through Season 2 together.