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Recap / Breaking Bad S2 E8 "Better Call Saul"

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Season 2, Episode 08:

Better Call Saul
Walt calls Saul.
Written by Peter Gould
Directed by Terry McDonough
Air date: April 26, 2009

"Why don't you just kill Badger? Follow me, guys, but if a mosquito's buzzing around you, it bites you on the ass, you don't go gunning for the mosquito's attorney! You go grab a flyswatter! I mean, so to speak."
Saul Goodman

No, this isn't the show. Yes, this is where the seed was planted. And yes, the show eventually had its own episode called "Breaking Bad" if you were looking for that. Anyway...

Badger conducts business on a bus stop bench when he is approached by a lankey, nerdy-looking man looking to buy meth. Badger suspects this prospective customer may be an undercover cop and makes fun of him, but when he seems to have turned him off, asks for him to come back, amenable to any suggestion that he is not a cop. The young man tells Badger that, according to the law, an undercover police officer must confirm he is such if asked directly. After denying that he is a cop, he buys meth from Badger.

Unfortunately for Badger, his initial suspicions were spot-on; his customer was, in fact, an undercover cop, who immediately arrests Badger.

Having had sex the previous night, Jesse and Jane lay together in his apartment as a late night advertisement for Saul Goodman's legal services plays on the TV. However, Jane abruptly leaps up when he suggests they smoke marijuana, explaining that she is a recovering drug addict who has been clean for eighteen months.

Marie tells Walt that she's worried about Hank, who has holed himself up in his bedroom since the Tortuga incident. When Walt visits him, Hank admits that he was taken off guard by the war-like atmosphere in El Paso, but says that seeing a shrink about it would kill his career. Walt suggests that Hank could talk to him about it, explaining how his cancer diagnosis helped him conquer his fear of everyday life.

At Jesse's apartment, he and Walt split up $90,000. Walt, expecting more, asks Jesse about the missing money. Jesse explains that Badger hasn't put in his full amount. When Jesse calls Combo to ask for Badger's whereabouts, he learns that his friends were too intimidated to inform Jesse of Badger's arrest.

Pulling himself together, Hank returns to the DEA field office in Albuquerque and is greeted with applause by his colleagues. Gomez informs Hank that Badger was picked up with the blue meth that Hank is so interested in. The two decide to head to the police station to join the APD in questioning Badger.

Detective Getz, the undercover cop who busted Badger, interrogates Badger, while Badger is peeved because he still believes that the cop is trampling the Constitution, though he hasn't said anything revealing... yet. He might be just about to, however, when Saul Goodman, a disreputable, ambulance-chasing, morally-unscrupulous criminal attorney and local celebrity comes into the room and chases Getz off. After a brief mix-up caused by him thinking Badger is being held on a public masturbation charge, Saul says he should be able to get Badger out of trouble, just so long as he uses his phone call to call up someone capable of meeting Saul's fee of $4,650. Saul's interest in the case only increases when he encounters Hank and Gomez in the hallway, talking about Badger. Knowing that there's no way two DEA agents would be involved with a street case involving a nobody like Badger unless there was something big going on (and thus, a chance for Badger to make a deal) Saul starts talking business with the agents.

Jesse takes Walt to Saul's law office at a strip mall, explaining to a hesitant Walt that they don't want a criminal lawyer (a lawyer who defends criminals), but a criminal lawyer (a lawyer who is also a criminal).

Walt loses a coin toss to determine who will go into Saul's office and pay his retainer fee. So he goes in incognito, sporting a hat and sunglasses to conceal his identity, and claiming to be Badger's uncle. Saul explains that Badger may be in the clear; all he has to do is answer the DEA's questions and he would likely be released. Walt, however, doesn't want Badger talking to the DEA, knowing that it would lead to his own arrest. He begs Saul to do everything he can to keep Badger from talking to the DEA, but Saul explains that it's the only way he can avoid jail time. Desperate, Walt offers Saul a bribe of ten thousand dollars. Surprisingly, Saul turns down the offer.

That evening, Walt and Jesse, wearing ski masks, kidnap Saul and drive him out to the desert, where a shallow grave was dug. Saul thinks they're with the cartel and panics, frantically begging for his life in both English and Spanish until Jesse tells him they're not part of the cartel, which causes Saul to finally relax. Holding Saul at gunpoint, Jesse makes his ultimatum; Saul must do everything in his power to have Badger cleared of his charges and released, but he is not to talk to the DEA under any circumstances. Saul suggests killing Badger to silence him, an option which Walt seems to seriously consider, but Jesse adamantly refuses to kill his friend.

Walt then begins to suffer from a coughing fit, which Saul recognizes from his earlier visit, causing him to deduce his identity as Badger's "uncle". After having Walt and Jesse slip dollar bills into his pocket to ostensibly protect them under attorney-client privilege, Saul explains that someone has to go to jail. It's just a matter of who...

Based on the description of Heisenberg that Badger gives to Hank (a middle-aged bald man), Saul finds the perfect man to take the fall: James Kilkelly, also known as "Jimmy In-n-Out". Kilkelly has made a career out of going to prison for the right price, having preferred life on the inside to freedom. All he needs is $80,000, in addition to a pound of Walt's meth.

Hank and the DEA set up a sting operation to catch Heisenberg, with Badger agreeing to get meth from the fake Heisenberg in exchange for his freedom pending Heisenberg's arrest. Badger arrives on time, but Jimmy is late. Eventually a different bald man sits next to Badger, who doesn't know this isn't Jimmy. When the real Jimmy sits down on a nearby bench, Badger is busy soliciting the wrong man, trying to make the deal. Walt speeds around the block to the bench and makes Jesse intervene. After Jesse exits the car, Walt zips over to the stakeout vehicle to talk to Hank, thereby blocking their view and buying time for Jesse to redirect Badger. Jesse directs Badger to the correct bench and Jimmy's arrest goes down as planned. Hank, however, has his doubts that Kilkelly could possibly be Heisenberg...

Later, Jane drops by Jesse's apartment and they make love.

While Walt is grading tests and cleaning up his classroom, Saul pays a surprise visit; he chastises Walt on being so easy to find, stating that if his private investigator could easily find him, the DEA could too. Walt initially suspects that Saul had come to blackmail him, but Saul clarifies that he wants to help Walt. Walt has a product that is very valuable, but he lacks connections and criminal know-how, something Saul could provide in exchange for a nominal fee. As he leaves, he advises Walt that if he wants to continue expanding his empire, he'd "Better Call Saul!"

This episode provides examples of:

  • Amoral Attorney: It doesn't take long to establish Saul as this. Or as Jesse puts it:
    Jesse: Seriously, when the going gets tough, you don't want a criminal lawyernote , you want a CRIMINAL lawyernote .
    • Saul even goes so far as to recommend that Jesse and Walter have Badger killed to keep him from ratting them out to the DEA.
  • Bad Boss: Saul is seen sexually harassing his secretary.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": When going undercover as a drug addict, Getz ends up overplaying the part. Luckily for him, Badger ignores his gut instincts and sells him meth anyways.
  • Black Comedy: Walt reacting to Jesse's refusal to kill Badger with some frustrated/annoyed noises and head shaking is still funny at this stage, because of its incongruity with the situation and because of what the audience assumes it knows about Walt's character.
  • Bribe Backfire: Saul throws back Walter's bribe and tells him to leave or he's calling the authorities. Subverted in that Saul is not actually an honest man; he just suspected Walter of being an undercover cop.
  • Brick Joke: Badger points out a van labelled "Duke City Flowers" and suspects it of being an undercover van when talking to an undercover cop. When Badger is involved in the drug sting against Heisenberg's doppleganger later, one of the undercover vans that drives up to bust the fall guy is labelled "Duke City Flowers".
  • Call-Back: To the previous episode, when one of Walt's students was unsuccessfully trying to plead with him for a passing grade, arguing "58, I was close". At the end of this episode, we see Walt giving another student's paper a grade of 40, with the comment "NOT EVEN CLOSE".
  • Can Always Spot a Cop: Hilariously subverted. A guy approaches Badger trying to score, and despite Badger being The Ditz, he laughs the guy off, saying he knows the guy is an undercover cop, and points out nearby vehicles he insists are police vehicles acting a surveillance/backup. The guy tries to claim he isn't a cop, shows that he's not wearing a wire, and finally convinces Badger by using the "undercover cops have to admit they are if you directly ask them" myth. Badger sells him some meth, only to find that his intuition was right when the guy pulls a gun and badge and arrests him. (And every vehicle Badger pointed out swoops in during the arrest).
  • Captain Obvious: We get this gem from Saul Goodman's very first TV ad:
  • Cerebus Retcon:
    • Without going into further detail, Better Call Saul provides very good reasons for Saul to be having a panic attack at being kidnapped, taken to the desert, tied up and terrified that a "Lalo" might still be after him.
    • Saul cheerfully telling Walt that this whole character is just an act, his real name is McGill, and uncomfortably changing the subject after he's divulged too much.
    • Saul enthusiastically going into business with Walt initially seems like it's him trying to get himself a bigger payday than what he normally gets. Better Call Saul reveals that there ends up being much more to it than that, specifically when it comes to how Walt's behaviors matches up with a certain someone from Saul's personal life.
  • Con Man: Saul has Jesse and Walt pay him $80,000 as both his and Jimmy's fee for taking the fall as "Heisenberg". Except Saul later mentions that he can guarantee that the prosecution's case will develop some unexpected problems, and Word of God states that Saul got Jimmy Off on a Technicality. Maybe some of that went towards Jimmy's bail after he was arrested, but Saul claimed that the fee was being charged because Jimmy would be going to jail for them, only it turns out that Jimmy isn't actually going to jail at all! In short, Saul just swindled Walt and Jesse out of $80,000 and they never noticed.
  • The Consigliere: Saul offers to be Walt's, referencing the Trope Codifier as he does so.
    Walter: I don't understand, what exactly are you offering to do for me?
    Saul: What did Tom Hagen do for Vito Corleone?
    Walter: [Stammering and shocked by the comparison] I'm no Vito Corleone!
    Saul: No shit. Right now, you're Fredo! But with some sound advice and some introductions, who knows...
  • Continuity Nod: Emilio is mentioned, as Jesse details how he was seemingly caught red handed on charges only for Saul to get him off. Also, Saul knows that Spooge's lady killed him, not any gangster, in part because he used to represent Spooge.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Saul briefly mentions a grudge with "Ignacio" and "Lalo" when Walt and Jesse kidnap him. Both end up becoming major characters in Better Call Saul (the former usually being called "Nacho").
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: A verbal one. Saul completely mops the floor with the squishy cop that was interrogating Badger.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Saul sets himself up as an excellent one.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Saul's iconic commercial that plays on Jesse's TV uses different sound effects in this episode compared to the ones heard on the standalone webisode (which would be referenced in Better Call Saul itself) that was released later on.
    • When they encounter each other early in the episode, Hank is only familiar with Saul by reputation, while Saul doesn't work out that Hank is a DEA agent until he sees his badge. In the Better Call Saul series we see that they had already crossed paths, and that Saul had played a part in setting up Krazy-8's status as a DEA informant. That said, it was a one-off encounter, and Hank is heavily preoccupied with the Heisenberg case at present to remember he previously met Saul, not to mention Saul himself went through quite a lot since that last meeting to remember a DEA cop he had a fleeting encounter with.
    • When Saul turns up at J. P. Wynne High School, he says that his P.I. charged him for three hours' work tracking Walter down, "so I seriously doubt it took him more than one". Said P.I. is later established in Better Call Saul as being Mike, whose character hadn't even been conceived of at the time, and it's hard to think of Mike deliberately overcharging someone, although it could be taken as Saul embellishing to make it clear to Walt he needs better advice on the game. Then again, Mike was also checking on several other of Saul's clients at the time, which might have factored into the price.
  • Establishing Character Moment: As if his cheesy TV commercial wasn't enough, the first time Saul appears in the flesh, he wipes the floor with a gawky cop that was interrogating Badger.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Saul turned down a $10,000 cash bribe to throw Badger's case, surprising Walt and Jesse. Subverted, as Saul later reveals that declining the offer was actually self-protection, not any moral objection on his part.
    • Walt and Jesse reject Saul's suggestion to kill Badger — albeit Walt apparently at least deems it an option worth considering, while Jesse rejects it immediately — and are willing to sacrifice 80 thousand dollars to keep him out of prison instead.
  • Fake Nationality: In-Universe. Saul claims that the Jewish name is just for his business, as crooks are big into the Jewish lawyer thing. He claims that he's really of Irish descent and his true name is McGill, which would be confirmed when Saul got his own prequel series.
  • Fall Guy: Saul helps set one up for Heisenberg, since Walt and Jesse refuse to off Badger.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Right after the stakeout deal, Jimmy In-'N'-Out pretty much gets straight up and puts his hands behind his head before any cops are even seen. You can hear the sirens, but it was a bit of a dead giveaway that this was staged. One thinks that Hank probably noticed that too.
  • Heroic BSoD: Hank has undergone one after witnessing the decapitated head-turtle bomb of Tortuga and the deaths or maiming of his fellow agents.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Saul is set up as one for Walt and Jesse, and this is the first, minor step of setting up his thus far unnamed PI Mike as one for him.
  • Idiot Ball: Badger realizes he's probably getting set up as part of a drug sting when he notices what look like surveillance vehicles parked nearby, and the customer he's selling to is a little confident in himself. The undercover cop manages to get him to fall for the old "undercover cops can't deny that they are cops when asked directly" urban legend.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: One of the ways Badger tries to get Getz to prove he isn't a cop is by challenging Getz to punch a random stranger in the face. Getz slips out of it and refuses to do it by claiming that the guy Badger told him to punch would certainly kick his ass.
  • Lying to the Perp: Getz lies to Badger that the Must State If You're a Cop myth is actually a law written in the Constitution to trick him.
  • The Mob Boss Is Scarier: Walt tries to invoke this when he's looking for a reason to convince Saul not to have Badger cut a deal, relaying the story about how Jesse supposedly crushed Spooge's head under the ATM. As mentioned under Continuity Nod, Saul laughs it off because he has inside, personal knowledge of the players at work and knows that Spooge's lady did it.
  • Must State If You're a Cop: The episode opens with Badger selling drugs on a park bench. A lanky looking dude named Getz walks up to him and asks if he's selling. Badger says he smells bacon, pointing out two "inconspicuously" parked vans that must be surveillance vehicles. Getz denies that he's an undercover cop and actually considers not going through with the deal, especially when Badger makes him lift his shirt to reveal that he's not wearing a wire. After a bit of pondering, Getz then has an epiphany: if you ask a cop to identify himself as a cop, he is obligated to tell you. It's in the US Constitution. So Badger asks him if he's a cop. Getz holds up his hand, like he's swearing under oath, and says he's not a cop. Satisfied, Badger sells him a packet of meth. Getz takes the meth, then promptly whips out a gun and police badge, and arrests Badger on the spot (hilariously, the vans that Badger identified as police also pull up). Later, while Badger is being interrogated, he is still peeved at Getz because he still believes that urban legend and thinks Getz is screwing around with the Constitution.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever Saul did that made him think the Cartel would want to kill him and whoever Ignacio is, he never mentions it to Walt and Jesse again.
    • However, again, it's worth noting that it's only a Noodle Incident within the context of Breaking Bad. In the context of the larger franchise, it will eventually become a Resolved Noodle Incident during Better Call Saul.
  • Not Used to Freedom: "In-N-Out" Kilkelly, who having spent too much time in prison doesn't know how to function in modern American society and longs to be back in a cage again.
  • The Oner: The opening undercover drug bust is set up this way. There are no changes of camera angle. However, if you look closely, you can clearly see that the take used hidden cuts: the scene was entirely shot from one angle and plays out in one take, but it was necessary to be able to edit multiple takes together, so people walking in front of the camera are used to hide the cut. It clearly wasn't perfectly executed (look at the guy in the park in the background), but it's still nicely done.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Walt pretends to act as the clueless brother-in-law to Hank to deliberately block his view of Jesse telling Badger to change benches.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted for this episode - there are two characters with the first name "James": James Edward "Jimmy In-'N-Out" Kilkelly, and Saul, whose real name is James Morgan "Jimmy" McGill.
  • Perp Sweating: Getz tries interrogating Badger before being ushered out of the room by Saul.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Saul explains that he turned down a bribe not because he has anything against bribes, but because he doesn't take them from people he doesn't know. What if they're part of some sort of effort to bust him after all?
  • Properly Paranoid: Badger should've listened to his instinct telling him that lanky-looking loser was an undercover cop...
    • Take note that the 2 disguised vans that converge on him are the same 2 that Badger pointed out as obvious disguised cop vans.
  • Prison Rape: When Walt is posing as Badger's uncle, Saul makes inappropriate jokes that this will be Badger's fate if the boy doesn't hurry up and talk to the DEA.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Walt and Jesse are able to have Badger exonerated for selling meth and maintain their empire as unknown to the DEA, but they had to hand over more than 90% of their total revenue to Saul Goodman for his services.
  • Pet the Dog: Walter helps Hank pull himself out of depression by telling him about his own experience with fear.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Saul's reaction to two guys marching him out to the desert and sitting him in front of an open grave? After he figures out they're not after him personally and are amateurs, he does the old trick that Kim used on him when Chuck was trying to get him disbarred: he gets them to put a dollar in his pocket as a "retainer," claims that they're now under attorney-client privilege, and offers them advice on better ways to handle their problems. This isn't remotely how attorney-client privilege works, but savvy Saul guesses - correctly - that these guys wouldn't know that.
  • Schmuck Bait: Badger getting busted in the beginning. The Cold Opening is one Overly Long Gag of Badger being suspicious that the 'customer' is an undercover cop. Badger even points out the "inconspicuous" surveillance vans parked nearby. Despite all of this, the cop still manages to get Badger to let his guard down by getting him to fall for the old "cops can't deny they're cops when asked directly" urban legend.
  • Sexy Whatever Outfit: The female "cop" in Saul's commercial is wearing a sexy police outfit.
  • Special Effects Failure: Saul's commercial is clearly just him poorly rendered in front of a greenscreen. Deliberate, mind you.
  • Stylistic Suck: Saul's commercial is full of this, from the obvious green screen to the terrible acting. It has to be seen to be believed.
  • Too Clever by Half: Badger is smart enough to notice the telltale clues that a particular drug deal he's about to be involved in is actually an undercover bust, yet he still falls victim to the old "cops can't lie if asked if they are cops" urban legend. Later in the interrogation room he's peeved at the detective because he still believes that urban legend and thinks the cop is screwing around with the Constitution!
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: Badger gets arrested after being baited into selling an under cover cop meth by falling for the urban myth that undercover cops have to reveal themselves if asked about their secret directly.
  • Van in Black: The APD uses vans for fake businesses to spy on Badger's drug dealing. Badger was able to tell they were fakes and suggests to the undercover cop that they should use garbage trucks.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Saul wonders why Walt and Jesse don't just kill Badger.
  • Your Mom: Saul to Hank:
    Saul: I sense you're discussing my client. Anything you care to share with me?
    Hank: Sure. Your commercials. They suck ass. I've seen better acting in an epileptic whorehouse.
    Saul: Is that like the one your mom works at? Is she still offering the two for one discount?

"If you want to make more money, and keep the money that you make, Better Call Saul!"


Video Example(s):


"I'd Better Call Saul!"

Albuquerque Lawyer Saul Goodman's promotional TV ad features amateurish editing, blatant greenscreen effects, and cheesy voice acting.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (26 votes)

Example of:

Main / KitschyLocalCommercial

Media sources: