'Better Call Saul' season 3, episode 2 recap: Welcome to Los Pollos Hermanos!
Chuck's adverse allergic reactions to electricity (psychological or not) make him a paranoid enough character on Better Call Saul, but in season 3's second episode, "Witness," he appears to take it to another level. He's watching the entrance to his house intently, and he has a man inside with a set of poker cards, playing at the table. The man's cards have holes poked in them, which he explains is what happens to sets of cards that are repurposed after they're used in casinos.
As Chuck quickly points out — before the man does — the holes are poked into the cards so they can't be used by cheaters at the casinos. The Chuck we meet at the beginning of Better Call Saul probably wouldn't have known that, but he's becoming wiser to the world of his brother, Jimmy. It's not clear what exactly Chuck's doing, but it's most likely an attempt to bring Jimmy down with the taped confession from season 2's finale. Will it work? More on that later.
Introducing Los Pollos Hermanos
Cut to two henchman in a car, one asleep and the other playing through a word-search puzzle. He circles "trajectory" — a fitting noun for Mike Ehrmantraut, who's watching them, and whose trajectory in "Witness" is leading him right to the doorstep of Breaking Bad villain Gus Fring. With the battery in the gas cap of his car successfully switched at the end of last week's premiere, Mike eventually pursues a second car that pulls up, and the journey is as convoluted as the manic disassembly of his old car.
It takes all night, but Mike reaches some kind of conclusion in the early morning when the man parks his car in a parking lot, carries his backpack inside the building and leaves shortly after. Mike's wary of what could've happened inside — but he also looks perplexed. This is because, to the delight of Breaking Bad fans everywhere, the man is entering a Los Pollos Hermanos. The music swells on cue, which is somewhat hilarious: The show just built some very palpable suspense for a fucking fast-food logo.
An old friend of Saul Goodman's
Back at Jimmy and Kim's shared offices, the two interview someone to act as their hybrid personal secretary and paralegal. It's yet another Breaking Bad cameo, because it's Francesca — who plays Jimmy's secretary for his Breaking Bad office when he becomes Saul Goodman. She's best remembered for a scene opposite Walter White in season 4's finale, in which she epically shuts him down when he asks for Saul's whereabouts until he coughs up over $20,000 to pay her. In essence, she's the perfect secretary for Saul in Breaking Bad.
With Better Call Saul being a prequel, however, she isn't there just yet. She quit her job at the DMV, which Jimmy accurately describes as the "fifth circle of hell," though he's instantly giddy about hiring her and wants her to start ASAP. Kim's a bit more skeptical, but Francesca proves her worth by answering the office phones and quickly responding to Jimmy's cues. Some examples: Refer to him as Jimmy, not Mr. McGill. Speak in a friendly tone to the elderly callers and reference their favorite restaurant, Cracker Barrel. She's doing a fine job, until she gets a harsh response on the phone from an "Ehrman-trout?" In one of my favorite lines of the season, she tells Jimmy, "This one really don't want to talk about Cracker Barrel." No, Mike doesn't want to talk about Cracker Barrel — he wants to talk Los Pollos Hermanos.
Meet Gus Fring
Mike asks Jimmy to get breakfast by himself at the Los Pollos Hermanos, where the henchman went through, to keep an eye on the man once he walks in and see who he interacts with. It's a brilliant sequence, all the more entertaining because Jimmy is very clearly not cut out for spying (while acting casual as he adds cream and sugar to his coffee, he leans on the soda machine that quickly shoots out some soda). He doesn't, however, attract the attention of the henchman, who eats his meal in a corner booth of the restaurant.
You know where this is going: the introduction of Gus Fring. He is, full disclosure, my favorite TV villain of all time. The scene embodies Fring's mantra of hiding in plain sight — at first, we only see him faded out in the corner of the restaurant, efficiently wiping up tables and picking up trash from the floor. He makes his way past Jimmy, who barely gives him a glance. It's all rather innocuous. You wouldn't think twice about the scene if you weren't familiar with Breaking Bad. But chances are, the majority of Better Call Saul viewers know of Fring, or at least what to expect from him. So the scene plays out as a psychological thriller. Fring is almost ethereal, cutting in an out of the frame like the great white shark of Jaws or the shape-shifting, eponymous monster of It Follows. It's not until the man leaves and disposes of his trash that Jimmy thinks to search through the garbage to see what he might've left behind.
"Can I help you?"
It's the first words Fring speaks in the show, and thankfully for Jimmy, he unhooks his watch from his hand and uses it as an excuse for searching through the trash. Fring is, as per usual inside Los Pollos Hermanos, courteous and helpful. Jimmy exits the restaurant without anything to report to Mike, who is dumbfounded. Again, as the two chat in his car, we get a glimpse of Los Pollos Hermanos through the rear window — and Fring now outside the restaurant sweeping up trash. It's only when Jimmy drives away that his gentle demeanor turns into a scowl. Yep, Fring's back.
Mike keeps track of the restaurant and all the cars that pass through, though it's a speedy Cadillac Escalade with booming music that catches his attention when it pulls up in the back of the building. Sure enough, it's one of Fring's henchman, and one Breaking Bad fans will recognize: Victor. Once again, if the name doesn't ring a bell, I'll give you a two-word hint: box cutter. Mike follows Victor.
Mike's pursuit of Victor ends abruptly in the middle of nowhere, when the tracker in Victor's car (from Mike's gas cap) leads him to an empty stretch of road. However, on closer inspection outside of the car, he sees the gas cap and a cell phone on top of it. It's ringing — and Mike answers the phone. This is all we get from the Mike/Fring storyline in episode 2 of Better Call Saul, and I'm anxiously waiting for their first face-to-face, which should come next week.
Meanwhile, Chuck's assistant Ernesto arrives to Kim and Jimmy's office (if you recall, he found out about the tape last week). He wants to tell Kim about Chuck's tape, since he believes he'll breach his employment contract if he tells Jimmy directly. One thing leads to another, and Jimmy is caught up to speed on Chuck's deception. He is also deceptively calm about it when Kim tells him, and it's only when she's out of sight and all of his clients are done for the day — Francesca did great work, by the way! — that he storms off.
We finally learn about Chuck's somewhat audacious plan. The man with the poker cards is a private investigator. With Howard's approval, Chuck's hired 24-hour surveillance of his house in the event that Jimmy tries to break into his home and steal the tape — hence the paranoia. Harold is a bit skeptical that it's going to work, as he notes it's been eight days since they first set the whole thing up. What fortuitous timing, then, for Jimmy to barge into Chuck's house.
I do mean barge — Jimmy literally kicks down the door and tears through the house to find the tape. He eventually destroys it, and by that point, Harold and the P.I. come out from the dining room and reveal themselves. Chuck now has two witnesses and, in turn, a stronger legal case against Jimmy's confessed felony. Perhaps those season 3 photos of Jimmy in a prison jumpsuit are coming sooner than we think.
Mic has ongoing coverage of Better Call Saul. Follow our main Better Call Saul hub here.