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‘Better Call Saul’ Season 3, Episode 9: Miscalculations


Similarly, it looks increasingly as though Nacho’s father, rather than Nacho, will suffer for Nacho’s work with the cartel. The scene in which the compromised son pleads with the principled father — let Don Hector Salamanca run your upholstery shop for a while, and don’t make trouble — is an emotional highlight in an episode that was mostly about callousness and calculation.

The only ray of hope for Nacho is that his pill-switch plan to kill Salamanca will soon work. But the plan has flaws, as evidenced in the brief scene in which the Don appears, fuming over phoned-in orders from Mexico to continue using Gus Fring’s transportation network of trucks. Salamanca has an attack of whatever ails him and cures himself by taking some kind of medicine. It may be a different medicine or from a different bottle. Perhaps the attack simply passes on its own. In any case, he’s still standing.

Nacho might need a Plan B.

Back to money: It ruptures Chuck’s relationship with the law firm he helped found, Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, when malpractice insurers show up to hike rates at the firm. Chuck threatens litigation, prompting Howard to suggest that Chuck retire, teach and write that long-discussed book about the Commerce Clause. (I smell a best seller.) This is a major miscalculation, and far beneath Howard’s usual standards of diplomacy.

The letter Chuck soon sends is the opening salvo in a coming legal war. For a moment, I thought that maybe Jimmy and Chuck would unite in common cause against H.H.M. And maybe that will happen if it turns out the Sandpiper case isn’t actually being settled. We have only Jimmy’s word and that splurgy bottle of tequila to tell us that the deal is done. He might be wrong about that.

As was true with regard to the next-to-last episodes of earlier seasons of “Better Call Saul,” I find myself unsure where the plot is heading. I don’t mean that the story lacks options. Plenty is happening. I could list 10 things that might occur next week, many of them riveting.

I just mean that I don’t have any sense that we are headed for a particular crescendo — that some specific element of suspense hangs before us, demanding we return to see how it’s resolved.

In short, this felt like a midseason show, not a penultimate one.

Odds and Ends:

• It was a delight to watch Lydia (Laura Fraser) meet Mike in the offices of Madrigal Electromotive, largely because we know that Mike will come to loathe and nearly kill Lydia in “Breaking Bad.” He is thoroughly un-charmed by her from the get to. This first meeting might be the highlight of their relationship.

• The brand of tequila Jimmy brings to his failed celebration at the end of the episode is Zafiro Añejo, which reappears in “Breaking Bad,” laced with poison, to wipe out the Mexican cartel. With Kim’s accident happening soon after Jimmy uncorks this non-poisononed bottle, the brand now seems like a harbinger of disaster. When it shows up, run.

O.K., I’m off to chair yoga.

Correction: June 13, 2017

An earlier version of this article misidentified on second reference the kind of liquor Zafiro Añejo is. It is tequila, not vodka.

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