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Better Call Saul season 6 episode 2 review: ratcheting up the heat (with no AC)

The heat is on for Nacho Varga, while Jimmy and Kim turn to a surprising source to help with their scheme.

Michael Mando points a guy in Better Call Saul
(Image: © AMC)

Our Verdict

Smart set up and payoff makes for a superior episode of Better Call Saul as trouble begins to escalate for everyone.

For

  • Gus and Hector's confrontation
  • Surprising old faces
  • Kim Wexler once again being awesome
  • Michael Mando is crushing it this season
  • Excellent action and suspense

Against

  • Jimmy and Kim fall to more of a B-story role this episode

NOTE: This recap contains details about what happens in the Better Call Saul season 6 episode 2, "Carrot and Stick." Read our Better Call Saul season 6 episode 1 recap here.

Nacho (Michael Mando) just can’t seem to catch a break. The Better Call Saul season 6 premiere ended with him stuck in a hotel in Mexico waiting for Gus’ (Giancarlo Esposito) guys to bust him out. However, as we know from Gus’ conversation with Mike (Jonathan Banks), things with this safe house aren’t what they appear to be.

The episode picks up with Mike going to Nacho’s apartment in Albuquerque, kicking out two of his lady friends who are having way too much fun with dominoes. They search for a safe and crack it open, finding cash and Canadian IDs for Nacho and his father. Then they switch the safe out, but this time add an envelope to the pile. It’s a bit heartbreaking, yet fascinating, to see Mike really fall deeper into the grasp of Gus, as he willingly sets up Nacho. But, much like his counterpart in the legal system, sometimes you don’t have much of a choice.

Speaking of, Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) are still scheming about how to destroy and discredit Howard, with last week’s country club shenanigans being only phase 1. We soon find out phase 2 is going to require some familiar, surprising faces. This takes Jimmy to a small scale business operation in the middle of nowhere, accompanied by an inflatable Statue of Liberty that Breaking Bad fans are sure to recognize.

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill

Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul (Image credit: AMC)

Jimmy shrewdly convinces these unsuspecting players in his scheme to seek out Cliff Maine (Ed Begley Jr.). This subplot contains some hilarious and welcome surprises. 

What’s notable about this episode is how much Kim has absolutely evolved into the true mastermind behind the "Slippin’ Jimmy/Kimmy" grifter duo. In this episode alone she ends up coming up with majority of the plan and is the proverbial "stick" after Jimmy tries and fails to employ a carrot. Jimmy seems a bit frightened by it all (as he should be).  

Elsewhere, Gus attempts to manage the Lalo (Tony Dalton) situation. Knowing nothing can be traced back to him or the truce between him and the Salamancas, as well as his reputation, will be destroyed, he needs a scapegoat — Nacho. 

Thankfully, Nacho’s paranoia gets the best of him and he begins to wise up. Unable to get a hold of Mike and noticing what should be an abandoned shack conveniently located in view of his room has a running air conditioner and a peep hole, he knows immediately something is wrong. Gus is setting him up. 

Nacho’s resourcefulness has always been one of his best defining features. It’s one of the reasons we love the character so much. As actor Michael Mando himself described (opens in new tab) in a recent Q&A at the annual Paleyfest, Nacho is one of the few characters in the Breaking Bad universe that’s actually trying to "break good." We want the best for Nacho and are in constant anxiety knowing he’s in danger.

But unfortunately, Gus makes the target on Nacho’s back official. Bolsa (Javier Grajeda) arranges a meeting between Gus and Hector (Mark Margolis) to ensure there’s no bad beef between them and to convince Hector that Gus wasn’t behind the "assassination" of Lalo, even though Hector knows better. Cunningly, Hector plays along and shakes Gus’s hand. Gus is smarter than that, however, and while he takes Hector’s hand, he’s convinced more than ever that their attempt failed and Lalo is still alive. 

This is a pure Breaking Bad scene at heart, with constant suspense over the shifts in competition for smartest guy in the room. It really showcases the craftiness of both of these characters and their legendary rivalry. It just doesn’t bode well at all for the one character no one’s looking out for, Nacho.

As it turns out, the safe that Mike had set up at the beginning of the episode is fed to Bolsa, who is the only one who thinks Nacho acted alone. Bolsa and his men raid Nacho’s apartment and find the safe, but we finally get to see what the envelope is that Mike planted. Sure enough, it’s falsified offshore bank statements and a phone number that Bolsa ends up calling, tipping him off to the hotel Nacho is holed up in.

Before anyone can get to him, Nacho breaks out of his room without anyone seeing and bursts into the air conditioned shack to find the man watching him, discovering he works for Gus. After dealing with him, Nacho knows he has precious little time to escape. But it’s too late. The Salamanca cousins (Luis & Daniel Moncada), as well as Bolsa’s forces, arrive to take Nacho in alive. 

Nacho puts up a hell of a fight and manages to escape. This is an absolutely thrilling sequence, played off by terrific action fostered by its set up and payoff. 

The noose is tightening for Nacho, but is he a survivor like Jimmy? Between the Salamancas, the cartel and Gus, the odds are not looking good for him. But if there’s one thing this universe has in spades, it’s miraculous escapes. Anything is possible for Nacho and we can only hope for the best as the rest of the season plays out.

Also: Better Call Saul we hope don't die in season 6

Mike is a proud, sarcastic nerd with a penchant for comic books, comic book movies, and movies in general, and occasional delusions of grandeur. He's also a UC Berkeley graduate who decided to go into writing over pre-med because he figured he'd ultimately save more lives by not being a doctor. He's a Slytherin and a Pisces, so he's very emotionally sensitive, yet also evil, but can be defeated by exploiting his insecurities. His goal is to live one hell of a unique life, and it's been working so far! His proudest moments are being retweeted by James Gunn and Ryan Reynolds in the same week, and getting 999,999 points on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland. 


You can find Mike's writing around the web at publications like The Nerds of Color, What to Watch, Spoiler Free Reviews, and That's It LA.