May 25, 2018
Better Call Saul: How to Get Fired (S2 E7 Recap)
Inflatable, the seventh episode of Better Call Saul season two, will be a disappointment to Breaking Baddettes, those alleged fans of the BCS-precursor/sequel, who were mostly just addicted to its violence. There’s little of that here, but for anyone whose Technicolor fantasies are more likely to run to ditching a job but keeping the bennies, rather than pulling off a top secret train heist in the dessert, this one’s for you.
The opening features very young Jimmy McGill, and thankfully they didn’t just digitally manipulate Odenkirk’s face and put it on a child’s body though he probably could have pulled it off. He’s working in his dad’s store – the one Chuck told Kim all about a couple of weeks ago. The time period is set for us by magazine covers. Time features Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon on the cover and asks “Watergate: Can trust be restored?” thus establishing that the nation itself has been conned.
Jimmy, who’s supposed to be sweeping up, takes down a Playboy, and sits with the broom between his legs. Heh!
He hears his father’s voice ask how the sweeping is coming and casually lies to him. Then he overhears a man come in with a hard luck story and he tries to warn his dad using words like “grifter,” “rip off” and “con.” His father, the man Chuck described as not even knowing what sin was, will have none of it. He asks Jimmy to mind the till while he goes to the back of the store to see if he can finds some spark plugs for the stranger to whom he’s just given $10. The stranger seems to see into the boy’s already deformed soul, and buys two cartons of Kools, showing off his wad of cash and telling the boy that the world is full of “sheep and wolves” and he needs to decide which one he is. He leaves. Jimmy’s father comes out from the back, and realizing the stranger is gone, goes out to find him, still trying to help. Jimmy who has already put the $8 for the cigarette’s into the till, takes it out and pockets it. Was that his original sin? Ripping off his father not so much out of greed, as anger, and disappointment? A resignation that the stranger was right and this is the way of the world? Or is Jimmy, as Chuck would tell Kim, simply a man who can’t help himself, an asshole by nature?
As predicted, Jimmy is defending Mike on the gun charge, only it looks like there won’t be any charges. He and Mike have a chat with the prosecutors. Mike doesn’t admit ownership of the gun, only that he knows it wasn’t Tuco’s. Finally, one of the prosecutors looks at Mike and asks, “Did he threaten you? Or pay you off?” Jimmy announces that they are done. If Tuco faces a gun charge, Mike will be acting as a witness for the defense. They leave. At the elevator, Jimmy starts talking about his own run in with Tuco, how crazy Tuco is, and how Mike is doing the right thing, also Jimmy tells him “This one is on me.” When the elevator arrives a raging Mike gets on, and tells Jimmy to take the next one, and to bill him. It’s not simply that Mike doesn’t want a hand out. He doesn’t want to see himself as having anything in common with a coward like Jimmy. A man who “talks” his way out of danger isn’t a man.
Back in his Santa Fe office, Jimmy starts dictating his resignation letter to his trusted assistant. Omar looks like he’s going to cry – the car, the apartment, the signing bonus. It’s so much to give up. Jimmy says he’ll get to keep the bonus. The check is cashed. But Omar knows more than the lawyer whose contract class was via correspondence. Jimmy reviews the fine print. No bonus if he quits in under a year or is fired for cause. He tells Omar the letter was just a moment of temporary insanity brought on by stress. They’ll never speak of it again – to anybody – ever.
When next we see Jimmy driving away, his coffee cup, now in the broken holder, the round peg in the now square hole, sort of fits, but it shakes when he drives. It’s not anchored, and still very much a metaphor. He passes an inflatable figure in front of a men’s clothing store, waving in the fan-driven wind.
The figure of course is another metaphor. Like Jimmy it’s an empty bag of wind, but it gives him an idea. We watch the light dawn on Jimmy’s face. No one mimes thought better than Bob Odenkirk.
And then this week’s montage sequence begins, and it is truly a masterwork – caper music, split screens, rhythm. Jimmy improvises and constantly ups the ante.
He’s Charlie Hustle, and his current hustle is to be fired, but just for being a jerk, not for cause. When loud suits aren’t enough, he adds loud handkerchiefs, and when that still doesn’t work, he is simply loud, and doesn’t flush the toilet, and finally, he brings in the bag pipes. Of course, Cliff who is no fool knows what he’s doing, but can no longer take the campaign. But of course, Cliff, who took a chance on him, who believed him, who didn’t fire him for cause when he had the opportunity (after the commercial) wants to know what he did to deserve this. He asks Jimmy to explain how he was mistreated. Jimmy does feel bad, not so bad he gives back the signing bonus, but bad enough to pay for the cocobolo desk. He tells Cliff he did try to make it work, and that for what it’s worth, he thinks Cliff’s a good guy. But Cliff thinks he’s a asshole because he is. One can only imagine the smug look of satisfaction on Chuck’s face when he finds out what happened, how Jimmy performed exactly in the manner he would have predicted, proving Big Brother right once again.
From there, after a change into a more appropriate suit, Jimmy goes into the belly of the beast itself, HHM, to make Kim an offer. He’s put together a proof of concept business card with both their names on it and proposes a partnership. While initially he seemed thrilled about her getting out of HHM, now he says it’s a “lateral move,” and tells her that Schwiekart is just Howard buy another name.
But Kim has a question for him, about the type of lawyer he’s going to be. He tells her he’ll be the straight and narrow kind and starts to elaborate, but he feels his pinky ring, and realizes he’s conning her, and he stops himself. He makes a confession that’s not just honest, it’s self-aware. He can’t keep trying to be someone else, not for her, not for Chuck. That path always ends in disaster.
Kim tells him they can’t work together, which doesn’t mean that they can’t be together. She asks if he’s ok and he says he’s fine, but he’s clearly disappointed, and hurt, even if he knows she’s right.
Meantime, Mike is with Stacey, looking at a nice house in a good neighborhood, and where might have seen that real estate agent before or rather in the future? (Albuquerque is a small town isn’t it?) Mike’s going to make it happen for her and Kaylee, and she’s not going to ask too many questions about how.
Jimmy has his old shit car back and says something about “the kidney donation” people not wanting it. It’s a cheap visual comment on his winding up back in the same place, but it feels forced, and strangely unrealistic for a show that gets so many details right. Car “donations” are a scam. with the cars generally be crushed and sold for the metal, usually within a day of being given up. Besides, if Jimmy has enough cash to offer to pay off Kim’s loans, couldn’t he have gotten something a little flashier.
Omar has driven a U haul to the Nail Salon, and helps Jimmy squeeze the cocobolo desk into his tiny office-home. Afterwards, Jimmy wants to take him out for a drink, but it looks like this workplace bromance has come to an end. Did we know Omar has kids? And a life?
Jimmy arranges everything on his desk. The cheap desk lamp droops on cue. A stolen Davis and Main mug becomes a pen holder. The answering machine looks bulky and outdated even for 2002. Jimmy starts to record his old message in bad faux-British, but then uses his own voice, though not confidently.
Mike drives some place where he can look over at El Griego Cuinador, Hector’s ice-cream shop hangout, and not be seen. Clearly, he’s concerned about an ongoing threat that must be remedied, and this time with no half measures. Is he going to torch the place? Is he the reason that Hector will be in a wheelchair?
Kim scores at her interview and we learn more about the mysterious Ms. Wexler. She was just a small town girl, who would’ve wound up working at the Hinky Dink or “best case” married to the owner of the gas station, but she wanted “more.” It’s something we already knew about Kim, even if we’d never actually heard it before. As she leaves, there’s a horrible verbal accident. Shaking hands she calls Schwiekart, Howard. She immediately realizes her mistake and is far more mortified than her possible future employer.
Her car is on a rooftop lot, where she stops to smoke a much needed cigarette. Something clicks – probably Jimmy’s words. The view from the garage is better, but it’s still the same trap. She looks at the card Jimmy gave her, and rips it in two.
Some time later she goes to the Nail Salon, where Mrs. Nguyen, tells her Jimmy is at a meeting. He comes out with his film crew, talking about some upcoming project. He seems happier than we’ve seen him in the entire episode. Relaxed, and when he tells Kim he’s enjoying being his own man again, he’s not lying. This time she’s the one making the offer. They could be two independent entities, solo practitioners, sharing “the housekeeping” but not the practice.
Jimmy tells her he doesn’t know what to say – which is generally not a good sign. She tells him to say yes, but we cut out before his reply. Coincidentally, it’s at least the second series to end this week on a verbal cliffhanger. The Good Wife featured Alicia about to tell her long estranged husband whether or not she’d be willing to prolong the fiction of their marriage just through his latest indictment.
Will Jimmy say yes? Or with more time to think, does he decide bringing Kim anywhere near his practice could be a disaster for him, her, or them? Will Mike’s plan – whatever it is – once again require Jimmy’s services? Your comments and theories welcome below.