Where can Better Call Saul go after last week’s game-changing episode? Back to black-and-white Omaha, apparently.
Monday’s episode was all about Gene Takavic, finally giving us an update on Saul’s post-Breaking Bad identity. Last we saw Gene (in the Season 5 premiere), he was being tailed by a mysterious guy named Jeff, but he told cleaner Ed Galbraith he would “fix it myself.” Now we see what that looks like: Gene tracks down Jeff’s elderly mom Marion — hi, Carol Burnett! — and ingratiates himself to her with a made-up story about his missing dog named Nippy. (He also secretly snips a wire in her motorized scooter so he’ll have to help her home.) When Jeff gets home from work, he finds Gene laughing it up with Marion in their kitchen — and Gene shoots a puzzled Jeff a smug look .
Once they’re alone, Jeff threatens Gene: “All I have to do is pick up the phone, and it’s bye-bye, Saul Goodman.” But Gene has a better idea: He knows all Jeff wants is a bigger piece of the pie, and he promises to cut him one. “Here’s the deal: I will show you the game, and then we’re done,” he tells Jeff — and a new scam is born. (Gene goes home and puts on his Saul Goodman pinkie ring, to complete the transformation.) Gene starts bringing a couple extra Cinnabons to the mall’s security office, which the head security guard Frank — hi, Parks and Rec‘s Jim O’Heir! — happily gobbles up with his back to the monitors. Gene times exactly how long it takes Frank to finish his bun each time, and he also browses the mall’s Lancaster’s department store, counting his steps as he goes. What is this guy up to?
We find out when Gene sets up an exact replica of the department store’s dimensions in a snowy field, training Jeff to steal the priciest stuff during the three-plus minutes it takes Frank to eat his Cinnabon. Just take three of each item, though, Gene warns Jeff: That way, they won’t notice until they do inventory in three days, by which time the security tapes will have been taped over. Jeff isn’t sure about the scheme, which sounds crazy to him. So Gene invokes the story of Walter White: “I’ll tell you what’s crazy: A fifty-year-old chemistry teacher comes into my office. The guy is so broke, he can’t pay his own mortgage. One year later, he got a pile of cash as big as a Volkswagen. That’s crazy.” That’s enough to convince Jeff to take the plunge.
The Lancaster’s manager Kathy does a morning walkthrough, noting a scuff on the floor, when she’s interrupted by a delivery of a huge wooden crate. She didn’t order it, so she calls the delivery guy’s supervisor — ie, Gene — to complain. Gene launches into a long story about how long it would take him to come pick it up, so Kathy reluctantly agrees to hold the crate there overnight. Now the stage is set, and when Frank digs into his Cinnabon that night as usual, Gene texts Jeff that it’s go time. Jeff emerges from the crate and runs through the store, grabbing Armani suits and Air Jordans just like they practiced. Gene watches over Frank’s shoulder as Frank drones on obliviously about Nebraska football, and it’s all going to plan… until Jeff runs into the freshly cleaned spot where the scuff was and slips, knocking himself out cold. Uh-oh.
Gene can only watch in horror as Jeff lies motionless on the tile and Frank finishes off his Cinnabon. He starts to turn back to the cameras, but Gene stops him by breaking into sobs, crying that he doesn’t know what he’s doing with his life. Frank has a wife to go home to, but “I’ve got no one. My parents are dead. My brother is dead. I have no wife. But kids. No friends. If I die tonight, no one would care.” (Wow… this hits hard, knowing how true it is for Jimmy after what happened to Chuck and Kim.) Frank warmly consoles him, and it gives Jeff time to get to his feet and stagger out of frame before Frank gets back to work. Whew. The next morning, Jeff sneaks out of the store after hiding in the bathroom all night, and a delivery worker picks up the crate, now teeming with luxury goods.
Back in his garage, Jeff and his friend giggle over the newfound riches, but Gene isn’t laughing. He reminds them that they face several decades in prison if they’re caught, and if they turn on him, he’ll rat them out. “You don’t have to threaten us. We’re all friends here,” Jeff pleads, but Gene is firm: “I am not your friend.” He warns them not to try anything like this again and to stay out of his life starting now, ordering Jeff to say the words: “We’re done.” Marion almost catches them, but they pretend to be working on Jeff’s car, and Gene helps her with her groceries, with Marion telling him Jeff fell in with a bad crowd in Albuquerque, but she’s hungry. Gene is a good influence. She asks about Nippy, and Gene says he got him back: “After all that, a happy ending.”
Gene goes back to work at Cinnabon, looking more confident than we’ve ever seen him. He takes his lunch break and heads over to the department store, checking out a garishly colored shirt and tie that Saul Goodman would love. He holds it in front of himself in the mirror… but he finally puts it back and walks away.
Are you satisfied with how Gene’s story ended, if this is the end? And when will we see Walt and Jesse — and maybe even Kim again — in the final three episodes? Drop your thoughts in a comment below.