Better Call Saul Season 6 Ratchets Up The Tension With 'Rock And Hard Place'

Major "Better Call Saul" spoilers follow, obviously.

Farewell, Ignacio "Nacho" Varga. Fans of "Better Call Saul" have long expected this day to arrive — Nacho is, after all, one of the few "Saul" characters who had no presence in "Breaking Bad." His fate remained up in the air. And based on the world Nacho operated in, it seemed extremely likely that he wouldn't make it out of the show alive. Nacho's fate hangs over every second of "Rock and Hard Place," the third episode of the show's final season. And even though I was pretty sure I knew where things were headed this week, it's to the credit of the show's writing, direction, editing, and performances that I still spent the final few minutes of the episode hoping for a big twist that would save Nacho one more time. Alas, it was not to be. 

'What else is there to say?'

Before Nacho meets his sad fate, he continues to go through hell. After escaping from the Salamanca Twins last week, Nacho ends up hiding in an oil tanker, completely submerging himself in the crude liquid to avoid detection. But he can't keep this up forever, and he knows it. After getting cleaned up at a gas station, Nacho calls his father for one final conversation. Tearfully, he says he just wanted to hear his father's voice. His father, sensing something is wrong, once again advises Nacho to go to the police. The call ultimately ends with Nacho's father stating, "What else is there to say?" Of course, the old man is right — Nacho should go to the cops for help, if only to save his skin. But that's not what he does.

Instead, he calls Mike, and we get to see the other end of the conversation Mike had with him last week — the one that ended with Mike stating that Nacho wanted to speak with Gus. He does that here, and he bluntly tells the Chicken Man that he knows there's no way out. However, he has one last card to play: if Gus agrees to never hurt his father, Nacho will turn himself in and allow himself to be killed, and shift any blame for the "hit" on Lalo away from Gus in the process. Gus agrees, but that's not good enough — Nacho wants assurances from Mike, and Mike gives Nacho his word that no harm will come to his old man. 

Thus the stage is set for some bleak, depressing final days for Nacho. He's smuggled back home via truck, given a kind of last meal like a man on death row, and then beaten up by Mike for the sake of appearances. Finally, the plan is articulated: Nacho will confess that he was hired by rival drug lords, but not Gus. Then, he's supposed to pretend to make a break for it, at which point Gus' henchman Victor will kill Nacho. 

Broken glass

Things don't go entirely to plan, though. At the start of the episode, we're treated to an abstract, haunting little segment in which the camera pans around a desert location at the start of a rainstorm, eventually settling on a piece of dusty, broken glass lying in the sand. It's unclear what this all means — until the big finale. Mike states he wants to be on hand during Nacho's execution to make sure all goes according to plan. Sure enough, Mike sets up at a distance with a sniper rifle and watches things unfold. 

Nacho, his hand zip-tied behind his back, is hauled in front of Hector Salamanca and Juan Bolsa in the desert and confesses he was the one who set Lalo up. Nacho does a pretty convincing job shifting the blame away from Gus, too. Hector doesn't seem to buy it, but Nacho is able to quickly take the old man's mind off that by confessing that it was he, Nacho, who poisoned Hector's heart pills and put him in a wheelchair. 

It's an immensely tense moment that only gets more unnerving after we see Nacho has a piece of broken glass in his hand. He cuts his zip-tied hands free, grabs Bolsa's gun, and takes him hostage for a moment. Watching all of this, Mike whispers, "Do it." The implication, at least at first, is that Mike wants Nacho to blow Bolsa's head off. Instead, Nacho, realizing there's no way out for him, and also wanting to keep his father safe, points the gun at his own head and pulls the trigger. It's bleak and tragic, but in some twisted way, Nacho has ultimately won, dying by his own hand and in his own way rather than letting anyone else do the deed. It also stands to reason that Mike was in on all of this — he and Nacho spent plenty of time alone together right before the fateful, and fatal, desert meet-up. 

In any case, after Nacho's death, the petty Hector is allowed to shoot his corpse over and over again, as if that will mean anything. We also see now that this is the spot from the cold open, and the dusty glass is the same shard Nacho used to cut himself free. 

Kim Watch! How Worried Should We Be About Kim Wexler This Week?

Level Of Worry: MODERATE.

With Nacho now deceased, Kim is the one remaining major character whose fate remains in question (I guess Howard's fate is up in the air, too, but I have a feeling he'll survive in the end). So how worried should we be about Kim this week? I'd say the level of worry is moderate for now. Kim is still clearly all-in on going after Howard Hamlin, even though Jimmy seems to be simply going through the motions with their scheme. The latest leg of the big con involves getting access to Howard's car, something achieved by bringing in Huell to steal the keys from Howard's car from a valet. By doing this, Jimmy is able to get a duplicate of Howard's car key, complete with a makeshift remote to lock and unlock the doors. However, this leads Huell to ultimately ask Jimmy the big question: why? As Huell rightly points out, Jimmy is a lawyer, and Kim, his wife, is also a lawyer. Together, they make big legit lawyer money. Why, then, do they continue to go through with these cons and scams? Jimmy tries to justify it by stating going after Howard is a good thing. That this is "the lord's work." But Huell doesn't seem to buy that, and neither does Jimmy, really.

Kim, meanwhile, seems to briefly come back down to earth this week. While she's still gung-ho about the Howard scheme, a conversation with Suzanne Ericsen, an assistant district attorney, gives her some pause. Suzanne first reveals that the DA's office has figured out who Lalo really is. Or make that was, because the DA's office, like everyone else, thinks Lalo is dead. The news that Lalo has died is accompanied by word that several other people met their end at Lalo's compound as well. Kim pauses for a long time before claiming that this is "terrible." 

But it's the next part of the conversation that really catches Kim's interest. Suzanne wants Jimmy to help get info on the cartel. She knows that Jimmy must be working with some shady figures, and that since Lalo lied about his name, his attorney-client privileges don't matter. Suzanne takes things a step further and adds that if Jimmy helps, they won't go after him for anything illegal he might have done. 

Based on how Kim has been behaving lately, I honestly expected her to never even mention this to Jimmy. But she does, and Jimmy is unsure how to proceed. When he asks Kim what he should do, she replies that he should do whatever he wants, adding: "Do you want to be a friend of the cartel, or do you want to be a rat?" It's safe to say that the Kim we met in season 1 would never ask such a question — she'd instead tell Jimmy to take the deal. But that Kim is gone. Still, she's also acting out of Jimmy's interest, rightly guessing that if he does become a rat, his life will be in danger. Or rather, even more danger than it normally is. In other words, Kim still cares about Jimmy, but her journey toward the dark side continues. 


  • Let's give it up for Michael Mando, shall we? Mando has been great through the entire run of the show, but he really gets a big showcase here, going through a wealth of difficult emotions before arriving at his character's fate. 
  • Jimmy once again feels like a supporting player in his own show. Give us more Jimmy/Saul!
  • Victor, who is supposed to kill Nacho, is, of course, the same henchman who had his throat cut by Gus via a box cutter in "Breaking Bad."
  • Mike really has bad luck keeping friends in his criminal lifestyle. First, he had to kill Werner Ziegler. Now he has to watch Nacho die. No wonder he always looks so miserable. 
  • No Lalo this week. Wonder what he's up to?