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Review: ‘Better Call Saul’ Season 2 Episode 6, ‘Bali Ha’i,’ Can’t Find The Perfect Fit

Review: 'Better Call Saul' Season 2 Episode 6, 'Bali Ha'i,' Can't Find The Perfect Fit

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Better Call Saul’ Season 2 Episode 5, ‘Rebecca’ Gives Kim the Spotlight

Case Summary

Jimmy’s having trouble sleeping in his fancy Santa Fe apartment, especially since he’s doing it alone. And Kim in Albuquerque doesn’t seem particularly happy either, as she listens to his daily voice-mail serenade. While she’s been freed from document review thanks to Chuck, Hamlin is pissed at her, and she’s left alone in court to defend a motion for the Sandpiper case. They lose the motion, but Rick Schweikart, the opposing attorney, is impressed by her and offers her a job over a nice lunch. Kim’s tempted but unsure and chooses, as a distraction, to call in Jimmy for another Viktor and Giselle con. By the end, maybe they’ve fully reconciled, but Jimmy still seems at odds with his new life.

Oh, and Mike can’t shake off the Salamancas. Yes, plural Salamancas. Don’t worry — we’ll get to that.

Opening Credits Extreme Close-Up

The tattered Yellow Pages, attached to a lonely desert pay phone, advertise for Saul Goodman’s goods and services. Lonely is a word that comes up a lot, this week.

Remembering What Hasn’t Happened Yet (The "Breaking Bad" Tie-In)

Proof that nine times out of 10 "Better Call Saul" will reward the idlest of Googling, Kim and Jimmy’s mark, Dale, writes them a check issued by Cradock Marine Bank. Not only is that the same bank which lawyer Dan Wachsberger used to make safe deposit box payments to Mike’s gang in "Breaking Bad," but Cradock Marine’s D.C. branch was the bank at the center of the "X-Files" episode "Monday" (written by Vince Gilligan and John Shiban, and a personal favorite)…

Oh, and yeah. These guys show up.

Hi there, Cousins!

What’s Up With Mike?

So this week, Mike officially declines Hector’s "offer" to take $5,000 in exchange for sparing Tuco the gun charges resulting from the assault two weeks ago. But he does so knowing full well that that’s not the end of the story, and Mike is rarely ever wrong about this stuff. Thus, Hector Salamanca takes Mike seriously after Mike easily subdues an initial round of hired goons and sends Leonel and Marco Salamanca to intimidate Mike — and threaten little Kaylee. The Cousins were a terrifying and predatory force in "Breaking Bad" Season 2, but even if you don’t remember every detail of their largely silent acts of violence, the menace in their brief appearances here still communicates an awful lot. Mike has the balls to stand up to Hector… But only to ask for more money.

Oh, That’s Right, It’s a Period Piece

The noble and beloved answering machine: Oh, we remember them well, especially the way they let you screen your calls when your maybe-boyfriend rings you up every morning for a musical selection from "South Pacific."

Also, Jimmy’s search for late-night entertainment would probably play a lot differently today. Nowadays, someone looking for a televised soporific has no shortage of VOD options. (Random suggestion for any insomniacs with streaming services: HBO original dramas like "Behind the Candelabra" and "Game Change." There’s something about Julianne Moore’s Sarah Palin impression that I find very soothing.)

On The Journey From Jimmy to Saul

On the one hand, Jimmy does seem truly dedicated to his quest to live a decent, law-abiding life. He’s working with Erin despite her many nitpicking demands, and, as he tells Kim, there’s a lot that’s great about his life, like "a car that’s all one color." But he barely hesitates a heartbeat when Kim asks him to drop everything and meet her in Albuquerque for another con, and there are still facets of this life that chafe at him, such as that goddamn cupholder in his new corporate car, which won’t accommodate the coffee mug Kim gave him… until, that is, he gets his hands on a tire iron.

What matters here, with Jimmy’s final beats, is that the symbolism isn’t clean and obvious. Of course, Jimmy’s new car reflects his new life and his new corporate position. But the "World’s 2nd Best Lawyer" mug was a gift from Kim, who this week acknowledges something Jimmy won’t say out loud — she was the reason why Jimmy took the Davis & Main job. Jimmy’s relationship with Kim, at this stage, represents the same ethical push and pull that consumes his current status quo in general. It’s not a simple equation. We just know that Jimmy’s now reached the point where blunt force is the preferred solution, and thinking about where that might lead us is pretty scary.

Random aside: Right before the beginning of Season 2, AMC sent critics copies of a slightly altered version of this mug.

Cocktail Hour

In case you were wondering about the origins of Rick Schweikart’s preferred lunchtime cocktail, the Moscow Mule was not born in Russia. According to Wikipedia, the drink was originally invented in 1941 Manhattan before becoming extremely popular in Los Angeles. It’s a drink with a name that hints at a more interesting story than the truth. Something about that feels very appropriate, for this show.

"It’s From a Movie!"

Jimmy’s daily serenades to Kim have all been from the musical "South Pacific," and "Bali Ha’i" is a particularly evocative tune to hear Bob Odenkirk warble, as it’s about a magical place, to which we might dream of one day being summoned. It’s a beautiful song.

It’s also about the completely unobtainable.

In Conclusion, Your Honor

Real talk: Seeing Jimmy and Kim reconcile on Kim’s terms, but in the context of another Slippin’ Jimmy-style scheme, made us way too happy after two weeks of iciness. Our dumb lizard brains just want these two to be happy, and happiness isn’t sealed with a fairy tale kiss, but there’s no denying that these two are more content at the end of the episode then they are at the beginning, alone in their echoing apartments.

There’s a lot about the season, at this stage, that feels soaked in inevitabilities, especially when it comes to Mike. It’s not just that Mike’s future — as foretold by "Breaking Bad" — is neck-deep in New Mexico’s criminal underworld. It’s that we’re continually learning the lesson that a minor transgression has larger consequences.

We’re still waiting for something really seismic to happen on "Better Call Saul" this season, but the caliber of execution does keep us engaged. The confidence and quality that every episode brings with it keeps us on the hook during even the least exciting installments. And this week, Mike faced down true terror and Jimmy and Kim crept closer to happiness. We remain hooked.

Grade: B+

READ MORE: The Cast and Creators of ‘Better Call Saul’ Aren’t Interested In Happily Ever Afters

Below, an exclusive clip from Season 2, Episode 3…

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Comments

james la mere

season 2 not much really happening.pretty boring at times.

Arliss

I think people are missing the point. As the show creator said on the first episode of Talking Saul, the show is going to be about how Jimmy becomes the guy in Omaha, not about how Jimmy becomes Saul. Saul is just one step in the process. As far as BB comparisons, the show has already become better than BB ever was. I wish the BB characters would slow down, or stop entirely. It’s totally unnecessary.

Scott Draycott

I completely agree with the fact the show needs Mike !
With out mincing words , to make it more interesting.
It does seem to me that the Sandpiper story line is becoming quite boring and seems to be going nowhere fast and then we are given BB characters on cameos to almost throw water onto our faces to wake us up from the very dull story line that is Sandpiper and I find myself wanting more scenes with Mike and the now growing Cartel elements than seeing the cringe worthy characters like , Howard and Chuck , am I alone in feeling this ?

Carl LaFong

Stu Ronson makes an excellent point. (Several, in fact.) BCS will inevitably be compared to BB and, like all "prequels," is simply less compelling. It’s still one of the best shows currently on TV, but I can’t help feeling it’s a bit anticlimactic after BB. And the "surprise" cameos of BB regulars gets less surprising the more they do it. I know it’s candy for the fans but it’s becoming a bit of a crutch now, and keeping the series earthbound. It really needs to spread its wings, and that’s not easy with a predetermined destination.

Stu Ronson

Does "Better Call Saul" have a flawed premise?

I can’t help but think that the show would have been better served by a different structural conceit than the ones the writers ultimately settled on – namely, the transformation of Jimmy to Saul.

While the transformative approach worked in Breaking Bad (mild-mannered chemistry teacher to drug kingpin), here the transformation is so negligible (dishonest attorney to slightly-more dishonest attorney) as to be borderline meaningless.
Obviously this is just my opinion, but the show feels almost as though it’s been treading water as it seeks to find shades of grey between the main character’s starting point (Jimmy) and his ultimate destination (Saul). It’s simply not as compelling as I believe it could be.

Whereas Breaking Bad introduced Saul to add darkly-comedic mirth to a show otherwise infused with a sense of dread (which I enjoyed), it seems like the writers have been forced here to do the reverse: add more Mike to provide dramatic weight to an otherwise relatively-conflict-devoid show. And that’s forgivable, as the writers clearly love writing about crime and danger and dread …. but this would have been possible had they chosen not to start with Jimmy. At times, the show’s split between Jimmy-stories (law offices, old people) and Mike-stories (crime, danger) seems almost bi-polar.

Though the show is good (and at times great), it feels like a pale shadow of what could have been.

John G.

Mike probably didn’t have the benefit of binge-watching all of "Breaking Bad" before the events of this episode unfolded. Remember, this is a prequel.

Charles Erickson

I thought it was unrealistic for Mike not to know that the Salamancas would end up threatening his granddaughter. Either he isn’t as streetwise as he is supposed to be, or he doesn’t care about his granddaughter as much as he’s supposed to.

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