May 5, 2018
Better Call Saul: Gal, Singular (S2, E5 Recap)
This week’s episode is owned by Kim Wexler, and will go down in history as the night America fell in love with Rhea Seehorn, but it’s not where we begin. We start with a very different Chuck, changing a light bulb without breaking a sweat.
His wife, Rebecca, a violinist, who happens to be a great cook with a beautiful smile is making dinner. Chuck warns her that her guest may be a little hard to take, and suggests the old Carol Burnett plug on the ear as a symbol she can employ, if the evening gets a little rough. In contrast to Kim and Jimmy who speak to each in film references, Chuck feels a need to explain the gesture to Rebecca, but is interrupted by the knock on the door.
The guest, is of course, Jimmy, who has recently come to town and is now working in the mail room at HHM. It’s the first time he’s meeting his sister-in-law. He missed the wedding, which he apologizes for, though one has to wonder whether or not he was actually invited.
While Jimmy, who brings a six-pack and talks about the learning curve in handling the complex copier, seems like the epitome of the ne’er do well brother from another class, he almost immediately begins to win Rebecca over with his sincere compliment to her cooking. He talks about looking for a place. Clearly, staying in his brother’s home was never an option. He mentions his co-workers, not the lawyers of course, the guys in the mail room, and “a gal – singular,” whose identity we can only guess. When conversation is exhausted, and there’s the beginning of an awkward lull, he fills in the gap with a lawyer joke.
Chuck begins to tug his ear. Rebecca doesn’t notice. She’s too busy laughing, and Jimmy tells more. He’s been listening to them all week in the mail room. Rebecca tries to tell one of her own, but she can’t quite remember the punchline, Jimmy finishes it for her and it’s almost like they’re dance partners. She gives him class, and he makes her funny.
Chuck is now desperately pulling down the ear, but she never notices. Later, they’re both in bed reading. Chuck tries to tell his own lawyer joke, but it takes Rebecca, who wasn’t really listening a second to get it, and when she laughs it’s clear she’s just being polite. Chuck doesn’t just look humiliated, he’s crestfallen. After all, there’s only one thing more intimate than making a woman laugh.
We’re back in the shows main timeline. Jimmy hasn’t been fired yet. He’s burning the midnight oil, at but not for Davis & Main. He calls Kim, who of course won’t answer and tells her he’s found something that could save her.
He goes to the not very complicated copier where he’s approached by Erin an overeager young associate also working late. Cliff gave her the brief Jimmy wrote and she has some notes. We see a rainbow of post-its sticking out of the document in her hands. Jimmy immediately points out that she’s a second year associate, and he came in as a fourth year, and what’s up with that? She starts telling him it’s only that she’s more familiar with the house style. They favor two spaces after a period – because they are still living in the 1950’s, and also he uses too many quotes, and says “clearly” and “obviously” too much and maybe they should just sit down and go over it right now?
Jimmy tells her he’ll grab his favorite pen, and meet her in her office, but of course he’s got someplace else to go, and he drives the sixty plus miles from Santa Fe to Albuquerque to see Kim, who is still in the dungeon even though it’s past midnight. What’s his plan? She should her firm. He tells her again how this whole thing is Chuck punishing him through her, and she tells him that it’s not. It’s Howard, who did this same thing before when the Kettleman’s left. And if she did sue the firm, it would be career suicide. Jimmy offers to quit Davis and Main. Kim is more annoyed. Quitting a job he’s been “trying to tank since day one” isn’t exactly the greatest sacrifice he could make. He tells him, not to save her. “You don’t save me. I save me.” It’s a defining declaration, not unlike declaring yourself the one who knocks.
The next day, Kim uses her lunch break to turn the back staircase into an office. She places her own multi-colored post-its on the wall, and starts calling contacts — close ones and almost cold ones, and crosses them off one by one. She’s going to hustle up some business and work her way out of prison.
Mike calls Stacey, who’s lounging by the pool at her new place. She even has the dog now. But Mike hasn’t seen Kaylee recently and won’t till his face looks less like a slab of raw meat. Erin drives through the gate with Jimmy, who makes her stop the car. Mike won’t tell him what happened, which leads to both a Fight Club reference and to Jimmy’s humming the theme from Rocky.
They’re in Albuquerque to get a court date for a filing. Jimmy asks Erin to please let him talk to the clerk as this is his turf and it’s going to require a little finesse. The clerk of course, gives Jimmy the usual round of no, until he offers her a beanie baby, at which point Erin grabs it with ninja like reflexes and tells him he can’t commit bribery. It’s clear she’s in charge, and while he may not be in a dungeon, he’s still in the cornfield.
After that, he goes into the men’s room, where he runs into Bob, the district attorney, who’s wearing a cheap suit with client vomit on the collar. Bob is envious of Jimmy’s new life at a primo law firm – the car, the assistant, the office with the fireplace. He begs for details, even though everything he hears seems to cause him great pain.
This week’s montage sequence, synced to the Gypsy King’s rendition of A Mi Manera (My Way) features Kim as Charlene Hustle, working her cell phone and post-its in the hallway, the toilet, the dungeon, after hours in an empty conference room, and just about everywhere else. It’s a stunningly beautiful sequence, and even though it’s filmed indoors, much of it is set against wide windows on a rare rainy day, with Kim framed as though she were trapped inside – which she is. The scene culminates in her finally getting a bite, and doing a happy dance in the parking garage, which isn’t so easy in a pencil skirt and heels.
There’s a time lapse sequence to the day of the meeting. Kim comes down the stairs to the lobby and stands with Howard to greet the clients — Paige, her contact, and Kevin Wachtel, the CEO of Mesa Verde bank. Kim even remembers how Paige takes her latte, and it’s clear this meeting never would have happened without her. We cut to Howard and Kim walking Paige and Kevin to their car, and it’s a very friendly good-bys, with hugs! Kim and Howard, wave to the moving car. Kim mentions some work she’ll get right on, and Howard tells her he’s giving that to Frances. She has enough to do in document review. He goes back out. We watch her face, and see her heart shatter into tiny shards. The camera pulls away and she looks so tiny next to the building, and we hear the sound of the HHM flag waving in the wind. Seriously, they have a flag.
Howard stops by Chuck’s to tell him the good news and celebrate. He’s brought scotch! Mesa Verde has put them on retainer. When Chuck asks where the business came from, Howard admits Kim brought it in. Chuck is impressed, “She’s out of the doghouse, I assume?” Howard only says, “We’ll see,” but there’s a hard look to him. This has to be about more even than his firm’s reputation. While the scene eliminates any doubt about who put Kim into the dungeon, and who’s keeping her there, Chuck isn’t exactly helping either.
It’s still dark when Chuck arrives at HHM. The lights are all turned off before he enters the building, and he ascends the stairs carrying a propane lamp, with Ernesto behind him carrying a box of files. Chuck works by lamplight until enough light is coming in through the windows for him to turn the lamp off. Then he hears the buzzing, and fluorescent lights come on. He gets up to make it stop and finds Kim by the copier. She apologizes and tells him she had no idea he was there. He explains he’s been coming in before nine because it’s easier for him to work there. He comments on her being there early too, but it’s clear she never left. He asks her to make him some coffee, then apologizes because he can’t make it himself, and then asks her to join him.
Kim looks guarded and miserable. If she had any hope of getting home and even changing clothes, letting alone getting some sleep, that’s now gone. He congratulates her on the business. She asks him if she has a future at HHM.
Chuck explains that she went out on a limb for Jimmy and now Howard blames her for what happened, how he’s done the same thing himself too many times. And then he tells her a story about their father, a candy shop owner, the “personification of good” who Chuck says couldn’t “see sin in any form.” When Chuck was still a law clerk, his father needed help and Chuck came and looked at the books. He realized that Jimmy, who worked in the store, who’d grown up watching his sainted father, had been stealing from the till, to the tune of $14,000 over a period of years, but his father wouldn’t hear of it, and ended up having to sell, and died a few months later.
Kim watches, and it’s hard to read how she’s taking it in. She doesn’t look surprised, but she does look like she’d rather not be there. Chuck can acknowledge that Jimmy “isn’t a bad person” and that he has “a good heart.” But he can’t help being Jimmy, at least that’s Chuck’s story. How much of it is literal truth, and how much Kim believes is hard to know. Chuck tells her he’ll talk to Howard, and try to smooth things over. Is this the beginning of a new friendship or at least an alliance? Or has Kim begun to realize that Jimmy had a point, and she is a pawn, and will be as long as she sticks with the firm?
We’re back at the only diner in Albuquerque, where Mike is having some coffee. Although the figure who walks through the door is in shadow, we recognize the shape of him, his walk, his hat, No it isn’t Heisenberg, who hasn’t emerged yet. It’s Hector “Tio” Salmanaca, alive and well, and there to make Mike an offer he best not refuse. And to the light of Breaking Bad fans, his entrance is of course accompanied by the sound of the order’s up bell. Hector admits that his nephew, Tuco is a “hothead” who should have shown Mike some respect, and deserves to go to jail, but not for eight to ten. He’ll apologize, but Mike needs to tell the police the gun was his, and Tuco grabbed it during the scuffle. They’ll go easy on Mike, his being an ex-cop and all.
While Hector has found out a lot about Mike, it doesn’t look like he knows the fight was anything but a post parking incident pissing match. He’s going to give Mike five grand for his troubles, and he tells Mike he should “think about it.” But clearly the only thing Mike is going to think about is how Nacho was right, and how he’s never going to take “half measures” again.
Looks like Mike will soon be needing the services of a criminal lawyer. As for poor Jimmy, whether Kim becomes Chuck’s new mentee as a means of egress from the cornfield, or whether she’s now pushed over into the dark side, the already frayed line tethering Jimmy to the straight and narrow is about to snap. It seems unlikely his tenure at Davis and Main will last more than a couple of episodes. So what’s his next step going to be? Last year, Howard (as Chuck’s secret surrogate) suggested Jimmy practice under another name. It was a big deal to Jimmy then. It might not be so terrible now, especially if he can get a deal for some start up money in return.