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Close to the end of episode S5E4 of Better Call Saul Lyle, an assistant manager, is closing the restaurant after a shift and saying bye to the workers of Los Pollos Hermanos. One of them mentions that he forgot to cover the fryers, Lyle responds that he will take care of that. He locks the door and goes into the restaurant kitchen to find Gus Fring checking the fryers. Fring asks whether the state of the fryers is acceptable to Lyle and indirectly pressures him to clean them again.

All of this is happening while Fring is awaiting a phone call about the DEA capturing his drug money from the dead-drops, which were exposed by Lalo Salamanca's plan. The plan was revealed to Fring by Nacho.

The scenes cut between Lyle's vigorious, tense cleaning of the fryers and

The DEA's operation to intercept the money and arrest the person carrying it

which in my opinion is a really peculiar mix.

What I found very perplexing about this scene is the choice of the events shown and Fring's side of the dialogue:

Lyle: Everything alright, Mr. Fring?

Fring: This is acceptable to you?

Lyle: I thought Deshawn did a good job. Uh... I'm not seeing anything. It's...

Fring: I understand.

Lyle: Uh, you know, like, now that I look closer... Yeah, I think I see maybe... Yeah. Okay. I'll take care of it, Mr. Fring.

Fring: All right.

Lyle: Yeah. I'm sorry about that, sorry.

My thoughts:

Both of the events represent the two sides of Fring's life. Both people shown work for him.

Fring seems very harsh, it's as if he was letting his frustration out on Lyle, who complies to clean the fryers against his will, as at first he deems them clean. Fring disapproves of the result repeatedly and Lyle cleans them again. This is very unlike Fring, who usually is highly professional and does not take out his emotions on others.

Is there any other significance in this scene? How can the choice of the scenes shown be explained?

  • The whole "My thoughts:" part feels to me like it should be an answer instead of being part of the question. – BCdotWEB Mar 13 at 10:32
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    @BCdotWEB I felt like those were basic level observations and not quite the full picture of what the scene ment, and some context was lacking. – B.Swan Mar 13 at 14:36
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Gus Fring is a very fastidious and put together sort of man. He's very controlling of every single aspect of both his criminal and public facing careers. This extends to his control of all those who work for him as well. What looks, on the surface at least, to be some form of OCD here, is clearly far more nuanced and far more about how he's had to develop such a focus over the years to become an acceptable asset within the Cartel. An organisation that will always see him as the Chilean outsider, no matter how much money he brings in...

Having to wait for the call from his people has him in a very uncomfortable state of impotence. He's also about to lose a great deal of money, which won't go over well with Juan Bolsa et al.

Just as the human kicks the dog - the dog bites the cat - and the cat finds a mouse to swat at - poor Lyle is the mouse... although, more accurately, he's really just collateral damage to Gus's pressing need to, at the very least, get his kitchen appearing spotless; and so feel a little more in control of things.

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    I really like that you put the events in the perspective of Fring's relationship to the Cartel, as this whole plan is ment to damage it. Also Fring's lack of control leading to his frustration explains why he acts overly controlling towards Lyle, it makes perfect sense. Thanks for sharing! – B.Swan Mar 13 at 14:32
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Kenny Herzog's interpretation @ Vulture:

At Gus’s unusually steely suggestion, Los Pollos Hermanos’ eminent employee takes repeated turns toiling away at the fryer until it’s glistening to his boss’s satisfaction. Lyle is, through no fault of his own, bearing the brunt of Gus’s muted frustrations. While Lyle furiously takes Brillo to basket in a tightly wound flop sweat, Gus stoically awaits word from Victor that their plan—sacrificing $700K of their own dead-drop deposits to stay one step ahead of both Lalo and the law—has been seen through. Only then is Lyle’s work deemed “acceptable.” The execution of their strategy, though precise, is the outcome of an operation that is, at best, acceptable.

Alan Sepinwall's interpretation @ Rolling Stone:

The other literal cleaning job happens over at Los Pollos Hermanos, where Gus’ loyal assistant manager Lyle winds up staying long after his shift is done, working his fingers raw with steel wool as he attempts to scrub the deep fryer to his boss’ satisfaction. Poor Lyle has no way of knowing about Gus’ other life as the Chicken Man of Albuquerque, nor that this concern over the fryer is how Gus deals with his anxiety as he waits to see if Victor and Tyrese can complete the con job that Nacho has set up with Hank and Gomez. It’s a striking sequence, not just for the way Lyle’s mundane task is contrasted with the much higher stakes of Victor leading a DEA task force on a semi-wild goose chase. This feels like the first time on Better Call Saul — and one of the few times in Giancarlo Esposito’s entire time playing the role — where we are seeing Gus Fring sweat. He is so used to being master of all he surveys (even when he is playing subordinate to the Salamancas or Juan Bolsa, he is clearly manipulating events) that he seems startlingly vulnerable as he sits in his office and waits for the text, taking out all his mounting frustration on Lyle.

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