Better Call Saul S05E02 “50% Off”

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Better Call Saul’s “50% Off” is the show at it’s best. The balanced combination of great acting, strong writing, and thrilling action scenes make the show a delight to watch. Alison Tatlock wrote “50% Off”; Norberto Barba directed the episode.

Saul and Nacho, get the most screen-time although viewers get short yet deep insights into other characters. Newly-born Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) is a more evolved, happy Slippin Jimmy wearing loud Saul suits as he adapts to his new life.  Nacho Varga (Michael Mondo) pulls off a heroic save for the drug business but remains caught between Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) and Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).

“50 Percent Off”

The hilarious cold open shows the rapping skells on a bender after hearing Saul announce his felony discount rate at the low rider rally. They use meth, rob stores, steal garden gnomes, vandalize property, score drugs, and are chased around the city happily avoiding disasters. They gleefully yell out Saul’s discount price periodically including the bleary morning after their wild ride.  Their bender ends outside a for- sale house Jimmy and Kim visit at Jimmy’s sudden request.

“We could host movie night”

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We could host movie night

Kim is surprised by the house tour, but goes, saying little beyond “maybe someday” they could own a house.  Kim is an introvert and a thinker, so she always needs time to organize her thoughts before responding later.

Sure, Jan, they could “host movie night” but for whom?  They have no friends and don’t socialize beyond occasional work-related gigs. We remember how well that went when Jimmy got jealous of Kim’s new work buddies and the partner’s ski trip.

Jimmy is charming Kim, selling them both actually, on the house dream that they can enjoy a “normal” life ,  He’s selling the illusion that both are less scarred and less dark people than we know. Jimmy does this – the selling of a dream or illusion- to Kim when things are tough.  When he questions her devotion. His changing into Saul has raised tensions.  Kim isn’t wanting to run cons anymore but is moving steadily towards staying on “right” side of morality.

He’s continuing conning everyone all the time, as Saul, so they are moving farther apart.  The house tour was as to convince them both, I think. She says little, but they have a nice moment when she turns on the steam shower, soaking his clothes and sharing laughter.

She tells Jimmy on the house tour that she doesn’t want to lie to her clients, not any clients. No deception for Kim despite her last client taking the plea deal after the big show in “Magic Man” for him.  She’s decided to use her powers for good but stay tethered to normal and moral work as an attorney.

Kim is an attorney the way she breathes and sleeps- part of her heart and soul.  She found her way last season to do pro-bono work she loves, by heading up the banking division at a huge firm.  She can pay her bills now, dump the headaches of solo practice while helping people. She’ll always be a lawyer helping others.

Jimmy is not like Kim, the law is just a way he can manipulate and scam people making money legally. His gift for gab, the charm-bombing plus natural skills are used in law, right now. He has a great brain and plenty of talent, but, like the scholarship girl in season 5, he’s the outsider, always.  We’ve seen Gene Takovic use the same skills, with lower intensity, in his future Omaha life.

“See you Tuesday for the last 3!”

Throughout “50 % Off” Saul works his way around the courthouse, hunting down his opponents on cases and trying to resolve sentences outside the courtroom.  Lawyers do work together like this in real life and solo practitioners like Saul do try to whittle down workload while making every minute count.  Saul’s big target of the episode is an Assistant District Attorney (ASA) who refuses his offer to settle their block of shared cases now, instead of at a future appointment.  She knows he’s trying to work cases fast to make more money and cut trial prep time; she’s just not willing to help him out since it is not her problem.

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Saul and the A.D.A settle 13 cases in the elevator

Saul’s response is to follow her into elevator after paying off the maintenance man to stop the car between floors.  After a few minutes of Saul practicing courtroom arguments aloud, she gives in so they settle 13 cases sitting together on the elevator floor. After they get off the car, Saul pays off the man, whose brother needs some legal help. That’s a 100% Slippin Jimmy move, dressed in a Saul suit. Beautiful!

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Saul and his elevator maintenance buddy

Nacho’s story is sandwiched between the fun and games of “50% Off” where he is again powerless but caught between Fring and Lalo. Fring ‘s goons kidnap Nacho in the middle of the night.  He is taken to the restaurant where Fring slips into the car and demands he make Lalo trust him.  Fring wants to know what Lalo is doing, thinking and planning and threaten’s tp harm or kill Nacho’s dad should he fail.  So Nacho promises to find a way, somehow.

“He’s gonna get caught”

Opportunity drops into Nacho’s lap when the handy drainpipe somehow clogs and the skells can’t get their meth. Krazy-8 tries to fix the problem but is caught by the cops when the drugs fall out in front of them.  He’s busted, SWAT shows up but the load was left behind during the bust. Nacho sneaks, ninja-like, over buildings, jumps across the roof down into the building, rescuing the load before the cops break down the door. Lalo just knows he’ll get caught so is shocked when Nacho returns with the load.

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Nacho on his mission

Lalo is impressed and immediately stops micro-managing Nacho, even inviting him to eat together. It’s a big first step for Nacho and what Fring wants, but how long can Nacho keep Lalo’s trust?  Lalo also mentions he has “something better” planned for Krazy-8 , now in police custody. Domingo and Nacho are lifelong friends.  Their bond may result in a break with Lalo sooner than Nacho or Fring will want.  Nacho risked everything to get back the drugs and impress Lalo, but his history suggests he won’t be able to keep Lalo’s trust for long.  Something will come along and screw up that hard-earned sweet deal.

“Do it right or don’t do it!”

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Mike has a meltdown caused by Caylee asking too many questions about her father as they work on the playhouse.  MIke drank too much the night before still frustrated by being on Fring’s leash and the retainer after Ziegler’s death. A childcare emergency puts him with Caylee who is naturally curious about her father.  Mike’s fuse is already short and her assumption that Mike and her dad were both good cops tips him into rage.  He screams at her until she runs into the house, where she stays until her mother comes home. Healing that breach, on both sides, is going to be hard.  Alienating his daughter-in-law and granddaughter, because of his guilt and shame only hurts Mike more.

“50% Off” ends with Saul eating ice cream on the street, sharing his good news about their cases with clients.  Nacho shows up in a car and demands Saul get in, despite Saul being visibly anxious.  The car drives off, possibly to take Saul to Lalo or the jail to bail out Krazy-8.