Better Call Saul: All the Breaking Bad References in “Breaking Bad”

As its title suggests, the Better Call Saul episode "Breaking Bad" contains many references to its parent series. Here's what we found!

Gene Takovic on a pay phone in Better Call Saul season 6 episode 11.
Photo: AMC

This article contains spoilers for Better Call Saul season 6 episode 11.

Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, the masterminds and showrunners of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, have a keen appreciation for fan service. By all accounts the two men and the writing staffs they’ve assembled are unfailingly kind and polite individuals and those qualities carry into their respective relationships with the shows’ fandoms. 

That’s why Gilligan and Gould were uncommonly forward in announcing well ahead of time that Breaking Bad lead characters Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) would appear in Better Call Saul’s final season. We’re all friends here, so why try to even hide such a notable “twist?”

That’s also why when it was revealed that Better Call Saul season 6 episode 11 would be titled “Breaking Bad,” it was fair for most fans to assume that this was the episode in which Walt and Jesse appear. Well lo’ and behold, Walt and Jesse do make their Better Call Saul series debut in the aptly named “Breaking Bad.” Not only that but the episode is positively filled with references to the classic series that Saul spawned from.

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With that in mind, let’s examine all of the Breaking Bad references in “Breaking Bad.” Let us know if we missed anything in the comments!

Walt and Jesse 

What time period Walt and Jesse would appear in on Better Call Saul was a topic of much debate among fans. It was unlikely that the duo would pop up in the Gene Takovic timeline as Jesse was busy with the events of El Camino and Walt was, well … dead. Flashing all the way back to the events of Breaking Bad also seemed like a tenuous idea given that it would require a now 42-year-old Aaron Paul to once again portray a kid in his mid 20s. 

Welp, turns out that was not a concern for Better Call Saul as the show does indeed go back to the events of Saul Goodman’s introduction in Breaking Bad season 2 episode 8 “Better Call Saul,” which first aired on April 26, 2009. The show elects to get around Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul’s aging process by having them merely keep their hats on. Here is everything referenced in this sequence.

  • Breaking Bad had no shortage of iconic vehicles from Walter White’s Aztec to Jesse’s eventual El Camino but the duo’s mobile meth lab RV is undoubtedly the most important. “Breaking Bad” elects to open its episode with Saul in the back of said RV. We know for sure that it’s the iconic RV in question due to the taped over bullet holes on the door.
  • Walt’s difficulties with starting the RV foreshadows the events of “Four Days Out” (the very first episode after Saul’s introduction into the series) in which engine troubles strand Walt and Jesse in the desert. 
  • “Can we please not do this in the desert? Anywhere but the desert!” Saul pleads to his captors. He’s undoubtedly thinking about his time lost in the desert with Mike in Better Call Saul season 5 episodes 8 and 9.
  • We get to hear Saul once again mention “Ignacio” and “Lalo” as he pleads for his life. This is actual dialogue from Breaking Bad that led to the characters of Nacho Varga (Michael Mando) and Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) in Better Call Saul. When Jesse asks Saul who Lalo is later he responds with “nobody.” 
  • Saul asks Walt to try the engine again because “they’re gonna find us buried in a sandstorm a thousand years from now.” This is a sneaky reference to “Ozymandias,” the classic Percy Bysshe Shelley poem that lends its name to Breaking Bad’s most epic episode

The Francesca Phone Call

Back in Better Call Saul season 4 episode 5 “Quite a Ride,” Saul Goodman asks Francesca Liddy (Tina Parker) to be available at a certain pay phone on Nov. 1, 2010 at 3 p.m. We finally see the culmination of that phone call in this episode. Instead of it being a grand Saul Goodman redemption plan, however, it seems as though he really just wants to catch up on the latest news with his old employee. Thankfully that gives us plenty of Breaking Bad era tidbits. 

  • “So the maestro buying the farm didn’t change anything?” Saul asks, referring to Walt’s death. Unfortunately not, Francesca responds. The feds are still very much interested in the Heisenberg case since his associates Saul Goodman and Jesse Pinkman are still out there. 
  • All of Saul’s money laundering facilities are gone – the nail salons, the vending machines, the laser tag facility, and even an offshore bank account opened in Francesca’s name. 
  • Saul wants to know how his former enforcer Kuby, played by Bill Burr, is doing. Francesca doesn’t know. 
  • Francesca is pretty sure, however, that Huell Babineaux (Lavell Crawford) is back in New Orleans, bringing closure to a storyline that Breaking Bad fans have long wondered about. It turns out that the DA holding someone under false pretenses is generally frowned upon by the legal system. 
  • Saul also asks about Danny and Ira. Francesca doesn’t know their fates either. Danny was never seen on Breaking Bad but was a criminal associate of Saul’s who ran the laser tag facility. “Breaking Bad” director Thomas Schnauz confirmed in post-episode interviews with The Hollywood Reporter and Rolling Stone that “Danny” was indeed Better Call Saul’s Daniel Wormald (Mark Proksch) as many fans suspected. Ira (Franc Ross) was the proprietor of Vamanos Pest who Saul first met in Better Call Saul.

Cancer Man

Not every Breaking Bad reference takes place in the past timeline of “Breaking Bad.” One very prominent one takes place in the “present” in which Gene Takovic runs his new doxxing scam with Jeffie (Pat Healy). In the pursuit of stealing powerful men’s identities, Gene comes across an unnamed stockbroker (or some other financial job). 

When Gene discovers that man (Kevin Sussman) has cancer, one might suspect that he’d call the job off. Instead, however, Gene seems even more adamant that the job must go forward. When Jeffie’s accomplice balks at robbing a cancer-stricken man, Gene fires him and decides to do the job himself…and sloppily so. As evidenced by the police sirens in the tease for next week, going forward with robbing this man may be the end of Saul Goodman once and for all. 

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So why must Gene proceed with this scam? It’s partially because this “Cancer Man” reminds him of another “Cancer Man” he once knew. 

“A guy with cancer can’t be an asshole? Believe me: I speak from experience.” Gene says. 

But also, perhaps this cancer man reminds Gene of another man he once knew: Saul Goodman. In their first bar meeting, the stockbroker says “there’s a special place in hell” for people who cheat the system like the folks at Enron. Unbeknownst to this man, he just so happens to be talking to the Enron scandal-level equivalent of the criminal lawyer underworld. 

Mike Ehrmantraut

The inclusion of Breaking Bad’s Mike Ehrmantraut is not unusual for Better Call Saul. The “fixer” played by Jonathan Banks has been a main character on the show from the very beginning. The brief scene presented in “Breaking Bad,” however, represents the first time we’ve gotten to see the character interact with Saul Goodman during the Breaking Bad era on Better Call Saul. Here are some things we gleaned:

  • It would appear that a back massages is one of the telltale signs that the former Jimmy McGill is going “Saul Mode.” Saul attempts to take his meeting with Mike while prone on the machine like Lyndon B. Johnson on the toilet. Mike makes him sit up and be an adult though. We later see Gene enjoying a newly-ordered back massager. 
  • “What about this Heisenberg fellow? Saul wants to know. Mike, being Mike, has all the information you’d ever want to know about the great Heisenberg and his associate Jesse. This is how Saul knew where to find Walt at J.P. Wynne High School, an event we see at the end of both “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.”
  • Saul mentions “He Who Must Not Be Named” to Mike, referring to Gus Fring.

The final two episodes of Better Call Saul air Monday, Aug. 8 at 9 p.m. ET and Monday, Aug. 15 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.