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‘Better Call Saul’ Review: The Con Is On In the Scattered but Terrifying ‘Coushatta’

Season 4, Episode 8, keeps moving these stories forward, with tragedy on the horizon.

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill - Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

“Better Call Saul.”

Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures

[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “Better Call Saul” Season 4, Episode 8, “Coushatta.”]

Case Summary

Teased at the end of last week’s episode, Kim’s plan to keep Huell out of jail unfolds over the course of the hour, a brilliant multi-pronged strategy that overwhelms the District Attorney’s office with evidence that a previously convicted pickpocket is the pride and joy of small town Coushatta, Louisiana. Not only does Jimmy make a cross-country trek to create the illusion of a “Miracle on 34th Street”-esque letter-writing campaign, but his vast store of burner phones allow for his crack team of New Mexico university student helpers to assist in selling Huell as a beloved figure of the town.

The outside pressure and Jimmy’s talent for theatrics get Huell off the hook, but while Jimmy knows all too well what a huge risk they took, Kim is on fire, and Mesa Verde or pro bono work isn’t satisfying her anymore. Her last words of the episode — “let’s do it again” — prove chilling, if only because it’s clear no good will come of this. It’s not that Kim and Jimmy might get caught for helping Huell the way they did. It’s whatever might come next.

The Least Legal Move

Thanks to the show leaping forward many months last week, Nacho is fully healed, and now operating at a higher level than ever within the cartel. The catch? While he might have the necessary bluster in place (ripping out an underperforming employee’s earring might not be traditional management technique, but it seems effective here), he’s absolutely miserable in his nice house with his drugged-out lady companions, knowing that the thing he really wants — a life without the cartel, and his father safe — is perhaps impossible now.

This is reinforced by the arrival of Lalo (Tony Dalton), whose coming was foretold long ago, and delivers fun subtle messages like “You’re gonna die.” Nacho may hope to get out, but that may be the impossible dream.

Michael Mando as Nacho Varga - Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

“Better Call Saul.”

Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Oh, That’s Right, It’s a Period Piece

All those adorable little flip phones, lined up in rows, reminding viewers once again of how satisfying it used to be to slap a phone shut.

Meanwhile, the production design did a smart job keeping the site design for the Free Will Baptist Church pretty simple; usable to modern eyes, but not too advanced (except maybe for the rotating slideshow at the center of the page). Bonus points for the use of the Comic Sans font, as well.

Unrelated to the time period, but worth mentioning: At the time of writing this, the church site was not yet online, but the phone number listed on the home page — 318-426-9662 — not only uses a Louisiana area code but is functional. (Go ahead and give it a call.) “Saul,” as always, excels at the details.

UPDATE: Now that the website is live, it’s a treat to explore, including additional audio and text testimonials on Huell’s behalf and the church’s upcoming calendar. The ultimate message? “This congregation’s keener on Huell than butter on a biscuit.” Well-said.

What’s Up With Mike?

It’s always rare for Mike to reveal a new piece of biographical info, so thus it’s worth noting his simple description of his father, a man who left behind “a cold water flat and a stack of bills.” Clearly Mike didn’t think much of his old man, though it’s a burden that seems so familiar to him that he barely even considers it real trauma.

It’s interesting to consider Mike as he’s presented at this point in the show’s history, since he’s dangerously close to the terrifyingly competent enforcer to whom we were first introduced in “Breaking Bad.” Yet he has yet to do anything truly awful/life-ending; he may be prepared to do so, but at this stage everything about his attitude speaks to a desire to avoid trouble at all costs, as witnessed by his deft handling of the situation at the strip club. That said, “do you understand what I am saying to you?” is something that you never want to hear Mike say, and hopefully Werner recognizes that.

Gus Watch

Watching Gus and Mike discuss the construction of the lab reveals just why these two prove to be such an effective team; they both have an appreciation for craft and caution which despite their very different backgrounds makes them extremely compatible.

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, Giancarlo Esposito as Gustavo "Gus" Fring - Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

“Better Call Saul.”

Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures

“It’s From a Movie!”

Given Kim’s love of classic film, it’s not at all a shock that she drew inspiration for this particular con from “Miracle on 34th Street” — specifically the heaps of mail sent in to defend Kris Kringle’s identity.

On The Journey From Jimmy to Saul

Jimmy shopping for storefronts is yet another reminder of the path he’s on; while the rodent-infested dump he looks at isn’t where Saul Goodman eventually puts out his shingle, it’s a reminder to look out for any place next door to a Vietnamese restaurant.

Cocktail Hour

Shout-out to IndieWire senior editor Hanh Nguyen, who was able to identify Mrs. Nguyen’s booze offering to Jimmy as Mijiu, a Chinese rice wine with an alcohol content ranging from 12 to 20 percent. The way he sips at it, you can tell he’s definitely had worse, and the gesture (along with Mrs. Nguyen’s advice) was an unexpectedly heartfelt one, given that this is a pair who have had a somewhat contentious relationship since the very beginning.

There’s also a reappearance of Kim’s souvenir Zafiro Añejo bottle top, which Jimmy gave to Kim after they got together at the beginning of Season 2 — a night that also included the two of them running a much lower-stakes con together. Kim’s not exactly happy in life, and the ways in which she’s choosing to deal with that are getting all tied up together with her relationship with Jimmy and her career, and again, it’s really scary for those who have become attached not just to the character, but her unique bond with Jimmy. It’s all tied up in that abstract piece of thorny glass, and every time she looks at it, it’s pretty clear that she’s got something massive on her mind.

Julie Pearl as ADA Suzanne Ericsen, Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler - Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

“Better Call Saul.”

Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures

Best Quote

“She’s not my wife… I don’t know.”
— Jimmy

The way in which Jimmy corrects Mrs. Nguyen’s assumption about his relationship status says everything that needs saying about just how much Kim means to him. Yes, technically they’re not married, but at this point that’s strictly a technicality; yet at the same time, the two of them are in such different places in their lives, wanting different things, that trouble looms in the horizon.

Jimmy’s approach to Kim has always been a cautious one, letting her lead the dance more often than not — because when he does push her beyond her comfort zone, she’s more than capable of shutting down. (It’s not at hard to believe that when they were first together, she was the one who ended it.) While he seems comfortable with the lack of control he might have in the relationship, that doesn’t stop him from wanting more, a scenario that may truly spell doom for the two of them, considering that Kim seems far less interested in settling down and far more interested in exploding her life.

In Conclusion, Your Honor

“Coushatta” struggles with the same problem that many “Saul” episodes experience, when trying to service so many storylines: There’s not much of an overriding theme here, a sense of scatter that’s hard to ignore.

However, as each storyline continues to advance, there is an ever-developing feel of characters feeling trapped — by their circumstances, by their bad decisions, by the ironies of fate. It’s the underlying unease that has always driven this show forward and made it so very relatable to its audience, despite being so specific with its world-building. Much like life, it’s unlikely an epic disaster is on the horizon. But that doesn’t meant the tragedies to come won’t be just as heartbreaking.

Two more episodes left this season. God help us all.

Grade: B+

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