"Five-O" is the sixth episode of the first season of Better Call Saul and the sixth episode of the series altogether. When a tragic past comes back to haunt Mike, he seeks help from an unlikely source; Jimmy's moral compass is tested.
In a flashback, a train flies through the Southwest scrubland. When it pulls in to Alvarado Transportation Center in Albuquerque, a passenger steps onto the platform: Mike Ehrmantraut, travel-worn and carrying a lone duffel bag. He waits inside the station until his daughter-in-law, Stacey, arrives to pick him up. As she pulls the car around, he heads toward the station’s restrooms and, strangely, enters the empty women’s room. He buys a maxi-pad from the coin-operated vending machine on the wall, then ducks into the men’s room. Unbuttoning his shirt, he reveals a fresh bullet wound underneath a blood-soaked bandage on his shoulder. Grimacing, he applies the pad to the wound, then buttons back up and heads out of the station.
Back at Stacey’s house, Mike pushes his young granddaughter Kaylee on a swing set. He takes a break to make small talk with Stacey, who seems to be keeping him at a distance. When she asks how long he’s planning to be in town, Mike tells her that’s he going to stay indefinitely, to help out her and Kaylee. Stacey doesn’t seem thrilled by this news. Finally, she brings up what’s bothering her: She overheard Matt -- her husband, Mike’s son -- having a heated late-night phone conversation just a few days before he was killed. When she asks Mike if he was on the other end of the line, he denies having any memory of such a call, and advises her not to dwell on it. Catching a cab outside Stacey’s house, Mike finds a veterinarian who will stitch up his wound without asking too many questions. When the morally-ambiguous vet offers to refer Mike for some “work,” Mike declines and says he’s not looking for that type of work.
Back in the present, Mike sits opposite Philadelphia detectives Sanders and Abbasi in an interrogation room at the Albuquerque police station. Though he’s not under arrest, Mike demands a lawyer: James M. McGill, Esq.
At his new client’s request, Jimmy arrives at the station with a cup of coffee, which Mike instructs him to spill on Detective Abbasi after Mike answers his questions. Realizing that the stunt is a diversion that will allow Mike to steal the detective’s notepad, Jimmy refuses -- even after Mike reminds him that Jimmy owes him a favor for his help with finding the Kettlemans. When the detectives begin questioning Mike, Jimmy insists they start from the beginning and explain the events that brought them to New Mexico. Exasperated, Abbasi obliges: Mike was a cop in Philadelphia for nearly 30 years, and his son Matt, a rookie cop, was killed in the line of duty nine months ago. Matt, along with his partner, Officer Troy Hoffman, and his sergeant, Jack Fensky, were ambushed while responding to a shots-fired call in a bad neighborhood. Hoffman and Fensky escaped the attack, but were killed six months later, shot to death in a similar ambush. Operating under the theory that Hoffman and Fensky were involved in some unethical business that might have led to them, and Matt, getting killed, the detectives hope Mike can shed some light on what might have gone down. Mike admits to seeing Hoffman and Fensky in a cop bar on the night they were killed, but offers nothing more. He also says he wishes he could help the detectives, but he was drinking pretty heavily in those days, and doesn’t remember anything else. Jimmy listens to Mike’s story quietly, gaining compassion for the man who so tragically lost his son.
As the group prepares to leave the interrogation room, Jimmy makes up his mind: He pretends to lose his balance, and spills coffee all over Detective Abbasi. Considerate Mike immediately whips out a handkerchief and dabs at the irritated detective’s jacket, successfully lifting his notepad.
After studying Abbasi’s notes about the case, Mike goes to Stacey’s house to confront her about calling the Philadelphia cops -- he now knows she's the real reason why they’ve come to town. Upset, she explains that she made the call after discovering a large amount of mysterious cash hidden in the lining of a suitcase. Thinking Matt must have been involved in something criminal, she begs Mike to tell her the truth about her husband. “My son wasn’t dirty!” a livid Mike roars before storming out of the house.
Flashback to three months earlier: It’s a cold, dark night in snowy Philadelphia. Mike surreptitiously breaks into a police cruiser parked behind a bar. Later on, inside the bar, Mike downs a few drinks, then notices Sergeant Fensky and Officer Hoffman across the room. He drunkenly makes his way to their table and throws his arms around their shoulders. Pulling them close, he whispers: “I know it was you.”
When it comes time to close the bar for the night, Mike is the last patron to leave. As he stumbles home, Fensky and Hoffman roll by in their cruiser and offer to give Mike a ride. When he declines, they insist. They usher Mike into the back of the police car, and relieve him of his gun. Jovially, Fensky presses Mike about what he said to them earlier in the night. Still heavily intoxicated, Mike declares in no uncertain terms what he meant: He’s sure that Hoffman and Fensky were responsible for his son’s murder. The cops trade glances as Fensky tells Hoffman to drive to an isolated location.
Hoffman and Fensky take Mike to an abandoned lot far from the city. As Fensky and Hoffman exit the car, stealthy Mike slides a gun out from between the backseat cushions -- he hid it there earlier in the evening when he broke into their cruiser, and stashes it under his jacket now. Fensky and Hoffman pull a wobbly Mike from the car, prop him up against a street lamp, then step away to discuss how to handle the situation. Fensky convinces Hoffman that the safest thing to do is to shoot Mike with the gun they took off him earlier, making it look like his death was the suicide of a grieving father, as no one will ask any questions. Mike, who has only been pretending to be drunk, coolly compliments Fensky on his clever plan. The cops whip around to face him, but it’s too late: Mike’s already got his gun cocked and pointed right at them. Fensky attempts to fire at Mike, but discovers the gun he took from Mike is empty. Mike shoots Fensky twice in the chest. Hoffman tries to pull out his gun, but Mike quickly dispatches him with a bullet to the head. In the meantime, Fensky is able to draw his duty gun and opens fire on Mike, one of his bullets hitting Mike in the left shoulder. Mike returns fire, a bullet hitting Fensky in the neck. As Fensky tries to crawl away while bleeding to death, Mike slowly walks towards him and steps on his leg, preventing him from reaching for his weapon again. Fensky tries to beg for his life, but an unmerciful Mike finishes him off by shooting him in the head. Mike collects his gun from Fensky and walks off. Next stop: Albuquerque.
Back in the present, Mike tells Stacey everything. He says that he was a dirty cop, the entire precinct was full of dirty cops, but Matt was not one. When Hoffman offered Matt a cut of dirty money, he wanted to inform against his partner. Matt called his father to ask him what was the right thing to do, Mike knew that if Matt ratted out on his partner, he would create bad blood between him and the entire precinct, this would've been bad for him, could've even got him killed. So Mike dissuaded Matt from going to Internal Affairs. During the phone conversation that Stacey overheard, Mike tried to protect Matt by convincing him to take the money, telling his son that he himself was dirty, too. Matt always treated Mike as his role model, he wanted to be an excellent police officer just like his father was, but this revelation crushed him. Even though he was completely against taking the money, he accepted his father's advice. Unfortunately, it was too late. Because he hesitated in taking the money before, Hoffman and Fensky worried that Matt was going to turn them in, and set up the ambush that killed him. “I was the only one that could get him to debase himself like that, and it was for nothing,” a devastated Mike laments as he holds his tears. Stacey approaches Mike, stunned by this outpouring of honesty, and asks: "If they killed Matty... Who killed them?"
“You know what happened,” Mike replies, composing himself. “The question is, can you live with it?”
- Saul Goodman and Mike Ehrmantraut are the only main characters that appear in this episode.
- There is an anachronism in this episode. Mike presumably leaves Philadelphia for Albuquerque in late 2001 or early 2002. The train he is riding, the New Mexico Rail Runner, was launched in 2006. Anachronism aside, it's odd that Mike arrives on the New Mexico Rail Runner instead of on Amtrak's Southwest Chief, since that runs through Albuquerque and he presumably would have to take that once he got to Chicago (since almost all trains through the Midwest go through Chicago).
- At first glance, it seems odd that Mike would travel all the way from Philadelphia to Albuquerque via Chicago by train. But consider that he had just been shot and the bullet may have still been lodged in his body. So if he tried to fly, the bullet would have set off the metal detector at the airport. The TSA agents would have found the bullet wound and they would very likely have reported him to the police. The same police who were investigating Hoffman and Fenske's deaths, that is. And, of course, Mike was in no condition to drive such a long distance. So the best option would have been to take the train.
- A Saul Goodman ad from a tattered phone book is shown hanging at a payphone.
- Greg Sanders: "You look like Matlock."
- Jimmy: "Uh, no, I look like a young Paul Newman dressed as Matlock."
- —Greg Sanders and Jimmy about Jimmy's costume.
- Jimmy: "So I'm here because you want me to assault a police officer."
- Mike: "I am asking you to take a few ounces of lukewarm coffee and spill it on him. I doubt that satisfies the definition of "assault," but, hey, you're the lawyer."
- —Jimmy and Mike about Mike's plan to steal the detective’s notepad.
- "Look, don't let Mr. Ehrmantraut's dancing eyes and bubbly, bon vivant personality fool you. He's actually, believe it or not, somewhat taciturn. Shall I fan you gently, so you don't go into shock?"
- ―Jimmy about Mike to the detectives.
- "You know what a cop fears most? More than getting shot, more than anything? Prison. Getting locked up with everybody you put away. You threaten a cop with that, you make him dangerous, and that's what I told him. I talked sense. No one was getting hurt. But if you go to the I.A., if you even look like you're going ... He had a wife, a kid, responsibilities. Take the money. Do something good with it. Well I tried. I tried. But he wouldn't listen. My boy was stubborn. My boy was strong. And he was gonna get himself killed. So I told him. I told him I did it, too, that I was like Hoffman, getting by, and that's what you heard that night: me talking him down, him kicking and screaming until the fight went out of him. He put me up on a pedestal. And I had to show him, that I was down in the gutter with the rest of them. [in tears] Broke my boy. I broke my boy."
- ―Mike, confessing his complicity in Matt's death to Stacey
- Stacey: "Hoffman and Fenske, if they killed Matty...who killed them? What happened?"
- Mike: "You know what happened. The question is, can you live with it?"
- —Stacey and Mike about Matty's murder.