TV News

“He’s Doing It Really Badly”: Mike’s Survival Skills In Better Call Saul Called Out By Expert


  • An expert criticizes Mike’s survival skills in the Better Call Saul episode “Bagman,” specifically his flawed attempt at creating a solar still.
  • The expert suggests that in desert survival situations, rationing water is ineffective, and it’s better to consume and carry water in your bladder.
  • The concept of drinking urine for survival is primarily psychological, and the portrayal of it in films and survival shows is misleading.



Better Call Saul‘s Mike Ehrmantraut gets negative marks for his desert survival skills from an expert. Portrayed by Jonathan Banks in Breaking Bad, which would then continue into the spinoff Better Call Saul, Mike was the no-nonsense fixer of Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Seemingly able to think his way out of any situation, no matter how tricky or personal, Mike only required a bit of patience for his plans to come together. He was not too different from Bob Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman in that way, though their methods and objectives tended to be massively different.

In a video for Insider, survival expert Les Stroud patiently demolishes the desert-focused Better Call Saul season 5 episode “Bagman.” Stroud, the host of Survivorman, takes issue with Mike’s approach in particular and details how the typically resourceful character ends up falling short. The expert also dings some of the moments that involve Saul. His comments, which can also be viewed in the below video, are as follows:

“Mike, in this scene, is trying to create a solar still. In my opinion, he’s doing it really badly. The concept of a solar spill is that you encase materials such as plants, or even you could have saltwater from an ocean. And then you cover it over in the heat of the sun. And you have a cup there and you have this taut material across the top with a weight in the middle. And then you get the condensation on the underside of that tarp. It trickles along, drips down into the cup. It’s very, very difficult. It’s very time-consuming. And the reality is in this scene, they do it just before nightfall. It doesn’t work at night. It’s something that has to happen during the day in the sun. So that’s why you know, they’re not getting a pass on this particular scene, they did it wrong.

“I’ve done it exactly like the scene that they show here. I’ve done it at the edge of the ocean on many occasions. And after 24 hours, I maybe have collected an ounce at best in perfect conditions. I’d go easy on that. When it comes to conserving water in the desert, the reality is you can’t. So if you only have a limited amount, the best thing you can do is actually consume it and carry it in your bladder. Rather than trying to ration little tiny amounts of water. Rationing food is one thing. Rationing water is something else altogether. If you have copious amounts of water, then great, ration it out. You can last without food for about 10 days. But in the case of water, you’re good for about three days. After three days you can’t function.

“So the urine question, I know that there are certain survivalists who have said, ‘Oh, it works, it works.’ The way it works, first of all, is primarily psychological. So it’s a matter of putting liquid in your mouth, but you have to remember all of those toxins that are coming out of your body are coming out often through your urine. So you’re toxifying your own self when you when you ingest it. Secondly, and this is an important point here—when films and many survival shows want to portray drinking your own urine, you look at what they’ve collected, and they’re peeing like a racehorse when you’re dehydrated, you dribble and it’s brown.

“This is the paradox of the desert is that you can freeze to death. And that’s going to be at night. So during the day, it’s insanely hot. And so the heat just dissipates very quickly. And it gets very, very cool to the point of frost on the ground, I don’t want to underestimate the value of the space blanket, they do serve a purpose, they can literally save a life, they can be warm. I’ve found the better way to use them is to actually create them into a shelter. And if you create a shelter and use it that way, and then crawl in, I found that actually works better than trying to wrap it around my body when they’re all crinkly. […] I’m gonna give these survival clips a 5 out of 10. They showed a lot of cool things to do. Solar still. They brought up the concept of drinking your own urine.”

Better Call Saul’s Lack Of Survival Accuracy Works Better

Better Call Saul finale Easter eggs

Better Call Saul is typically praised for its accuracy. Against hard competition, it’s been cited by a few real-life lawyers as one of the more accurate legal shows. Even Mike’s sniper skills, when graded by an expert, received some praise. The same season 5 episode, which was written by Gordon Smith and directed by series co-creator Vince Gilligan, gets few details right. However, the installment, which received three Emmy nominations, goes well beyond the question of accuracy. It’s about Mike and Saul on a personal level, a note that resurfaces during the show’s farewell.

The Better Call Saul finale starts off with a flashback to Saul and Mike in the desert from around the time “Bagman.” Saul asks Mike what he would do if he had a time machine. He repeats the question, in other flashbacks, to Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and seems to want to ask the same of his brother Chuck (Michael McKean). In that first scene, Mike says that he would use the time machine to go back and avoid taking his first bribe.

Related: What Saul’s Time Travel Question Means (& What He Would Change)

Mike adds that he would also like to go forward in time, maybe five or ten years, in order to check on the people he cares about. Saul doesn’t extend the same honesty to Mike, all filled with bravado, but it’s clearly a significant moment for both to have prevailed and done so together. It’s one of the key purposes of Better Call Saul going out to the desert, and it wouldn’t have the same resonance if there was the prevailing sense that the characters were experts in the situation.

Source: Insider


Back to top button