Mar 19, 2018
Better Call Saul: No Place Like Home
Jimmy’s not Saul yet, and he proves it by trying to be the good guy. How well do you think that’s going to work out for him? But at least maybe he’ll get a new friend out of it
Previously on Better Call Saul, we watched Nacho exit the nail salon as Jimmy eyed his phone number on the matchbook. Was this a crossroads? The big score he wouldn’t be able to turn down? The beginning of Saul Goodman as we knew him?
We open with sounds—muffled voices, footsteps, and metal clanging on metal, which seems to be an aural motif. Keys and a cell phone the size of a pregnant guinea pig are dropped in a metal bin. Is Jimmy visiting a client in the slammer? No, that phone is a signal we’re a few years in the past. These are big brother Chuck’s keys and phone.
Jimmy is the client, in a Cook County cell on a number of charges. We don’t know what he’s done exactly, but it includes property damage, trespass and a non-specified sex offense—which Jimmy dismisses as a “Chicago sunroof” thing. While it probably wasn’t skull fucking, it was big enough that Jimmy called his mother in tears and Chuck flew in from Albuquerque. Jimmy makes some bullshit “It’s time I started making both of us proud” statement and actually uses the phrase “Am I right?” Chuck has had enough of the con and is about to leave. Then we see how scared Jimmy really is. He’s hit bottom and is ready to hand his fate over to a higher power—his brother. Chuck tells him everything he was involved in stops now. And Jimmy agrees.
Roll credits and we’re back in the show’s current present.
One perk of living in back of a nail salon is at night you can have all the cucumber water you can drink. Jimmy is up late looking at that matchbook. He makes a call, but it’s to Kim, the blonde lawyer from Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill—the one with whom Jimmy has some not-yet-defined-for-us relationship.
The first thing she wants to know is whether Chuck’s alright. Then she tells Jimmy, “I’m not talking dirty to you. And you’re not talking dirty to me.” He tells her it’s a quality PG conversation, and we get that these middle-of-the-night calls are not such an unusual occurrence, but maybe not so frequent of late. He offers her a “limited time only” free pedicure and footbath. Yup, definitely advantages to his current address. She’s not going to accept. He keeps talking because that’s what he does. Somehow he gets her to mention the Kettlemans’ name. She’s going to be second chair on their case. Everyone who watches The Good Wife knows what that means. He asks, “Where did they store the dough?” He’s annoying her, but she’s listening. Then he floats the idea that Kettleman family could be in danger…if bad people got an idea.
When that makes her take notice, he says he’s drunk and just spinning things. He hangs up and says aloud, “I’m no hero.” But then he tosses and turns and goes out to a phone booth, bringing a voice-disguising device made with a cardboard tube, a rubber band and paper—not exactly McGiveresque—but he’s no Walter White. When the Kettlemans finally answer the phone, he tells them they’re in danger, but they can’t understand him so he blurts out the message in his own voice.
He may not be a hero, but so far he’s a lot more willing to go out of his way not to have blood on his hands than Saul Goodman was when he first met him on Breaking Bad. What’s going to happen to change that?
The next day, Jimmy is back in the men’s room at the courthouse, badgering a prosecutor on the other side of a stall. The prosecutor keeps saying no. Turns out, the prosecutor had confused two of Jimmy’s clients, setting off Jimmy’s righteous anger, which finally breaks down his opponent, who agrees to the plea.
Way to do a good job for your clients, Jimmy!
He gets a call and has to leave the courthouse, but as usual he doesn’t have enough tickets to get out of the parking lot. Frustrated with Mike, he presses the button to open the gate himself and drives off, yelling, “Screw you, geezer.”
Clearly, he does not yet know with whom he is dealing.
The call was from Kim. The Kettlemans are missing, and their house was ransacked. He drives over, telling Howard he heard about it on the scanner. Kim’s knows he knows something, that his call was not a coincidence.
What a perfect little noir set-up this is! Jimmy is innocent—at least of this. He knows something, but he can’t go to the police. What does he do? If he does nothing, the Kettlemans, including their kids, might all be killed. He calls Nacho on a pay phone, leaving several increasingly desperate messages that he wants to “de-escalate the situation” and that there are “no rats.” The phone rings. He picks it up, but no one is on the other end.
He tries to leave. His car won’t start, and he sees a large man walking toward him. He gets out. Another man approaches from the other direction. He turns a corner and runs. They both run after him. When a patrol car pulls up, he’s elated. Then he’s tackled to the ground. Turns out the men on foot are cops and they’re taking him to his client, Nacho, who’s requested him.
When he sees Nacho, Jimmy does what he does best. He talks. He tells Nacho what the police have—a neighbor called in the license plate of the van and there’s blood in the van. The feds are involved. Jimmy can get him a good deal…18 years.
Nacho thinks Jimmy set him up and gave the job to another crew. The van was there because he was casing the house, but he never went in. The only blood belonged to the skateboarders and maybe Jimmy. He only told one person about the plan—Jimmy—and if the police start looking around and get into Nacho’s business, Jimmy is going to be dead. Jimmy has one day to get Nacho out of jail.
Outside the cell, Kim and the cops are waiting. Kim is pissed he’s representing the main suspect. He tells the police to check the blood in the van and it won’t belong to the Kettlemans, but they tell him that’ll take weeks (because this isn’t like all those other television franchises where they go straight to the lab and get it done). On Kim’s word, they agree to take him to the house. Kim thinks he knows something and will “crack” because it’s not just Craig and Betsy who are gone, but their kids, and Jimmy is not (yet) the kind of hardened monster who would poison a child or anything.
Jimmy notices little Jo-Jo doll is missing. Therefore, it was staged. The Kettlemans faked their own kidnapping to get away with the money. Has he cracked the case? Maybe on a more conventional show, but not this one. The police counter that the kidnapper could have let her take the doll to shut her up. The Kettlemans’ cars are at the house. No one picked them up. If they left, how?
Jimmy has no answer. He takes a moment to talk to Kim not in their presence, tells her some of the truth. He “deduced” from a client that the Kettlemans were in danger. He tried to warn them anonymously.
Kim’s best moment in the episode: “You didn’t do the sex robot voice?”
He admits he did, which is probably what scared them. He begs her to help convince the police that the Kettlemans kidnapped themselves. Otherwise, Nacho will kill him. She’s tells him the police aren’t going to listen to her and there’s no way Howard is going to incriminate his own clients. Desperate, Jimmy goes back to talk to Nacho, but before he can park his car, the old-fart parking attendant says, “I suggest you find parking elsewhere.”
When pleading doesn’t work, he says, “I’m going to park right here,” and leaves the car. Jimmy is at that point—and who hasn’t been there—when you’ve got to go off on the next person you see. Unfortunately, he’s decided to go off on dark-Yoda. He taunts him: “You got a poop-filled diaper to throw at me? You gonna gum me to death?”
Dark-Yoda does not lose his cool, but then Jimmy points a finger at Mike’s chest. Bodily contact is made, and the next thing we know, Jimmy is on the floor, writhing in pain.
Then we’re back with the cops. They’re trying to get the old parking lot geezer to help them out and press assault charges unless Jimmy will work with them, but when Mike hears Jimmy’s story, he tells the cops that he’s changed his mind.
Jimmy realizes Mike believes him. But why? Mike tells him his story made sense. Jimmy asks how he thinks the Kettlemans got away, given their cars were left behind. Mike tells him about a bookie he knew when he was “on the job in Philly” who skipped town—only he didn’t. He was two doors down in a foreclosed house. Mike doesn’t think the Kettlemans got very far. “Nobody wants to leave home.”
Jimmy is stumbling over the idea that Mike was a cop. What’s so hard to believe about that? Retired people take shit jobs all the time. Has Jimmy never been to Home Depot? But we’ve just been given a key to Mike—even if we never watched that other show. He was once a cop in Philly, and now he’s a parking lot attendant in Albuquerque. While some might think the New Mexico desert beats the crap out of a northeast winter, Mike is a man who never wanted to leave home.
Jimmy returns to the Kettlemans’ house, which is conveniently no longer being watched by the cops. He follows a trail—a literal one—from the backyard out into the woods, and he keeps going ‘til after dark when he hears singing. The Kettleman family are cozy in a tent lit by a propane lamp—no electromagnetic fields for them.
Jimmy barges in, shouting, “Here’s Johnny…” because he may have been Slippin’ Jimmy once, but he’ll always be the kind of nerd who is constantly referencing films in his head.
His sudden appearance frightens the Kettlemans, but he soon has the kids on his side when he tells everyone they’re going home. The twelve year old says, “Finally.” Ma and Pa Kettleman beg to differ, and Jimmy grabs a duffle bag to help with the packing. Betsy tries to pull it from him, and a whole bunch of cash—like 1.6 million dollars—pours out.
Overall, another solid episode, but Jimmy’s finding the Kettlemans and their money was just a little too easy, wasn’t it? Even if they panicked after his anonymous call, how long could they have stayed out there? And wouldn’t the police have noticed the trail, seen tracks or something? How were they planning on getting away?
Let’s hope we get some answers next week that satisfy.