May 5, 2018
Better Call Saul: The Saddest Story Ever Told
This week on Better Call Saul – Mike gets a new job, Chuck gets some sunshine, and Jimmy gets totally screwed by the person he respects most in the world
Chuck and his nurse/therapist/caregiver/advocate/little brother, Jimmy, are on a bench outside of Chuck’s house. Chuck is anxious but doing well – especially considering they are only a few feet from a telephone pole with a transformer. Jimmy’s talking softly, getting Chuck to focus on his feet, feel the grass beneath his toes. Good job, Jimmy boy.
In another part of town, Mike has presented Kaylee with the puppy he took by Dr. Slimey’s last week. Kaylee’s in love, but Stacy isn’t so sure. Mike has bought everything the dog needs, so how can she say no? Mike’s phone rings and we hear, “Yeah. Sure. Yep. Got it.” He tells Stacy it’s a job lead. Is he even still at the parking booth, or does he prefer the flexible schedule of the freelance life?
Jimmy goes up against Shrinkheart in court for round one. He’s fighting to be allowed back on the premises at Sandpiper, and he wins. But when he tells Chuck, is his brother impressed? Not exactly. Stacks of paper have arrived from the opposing counsel, and Chuck uses the four words nobody ever wants to hear, “We need to talk.” Chuck says it’s time to bring HHM in. This isn’t a two-man job. Jimmy isn’t thrilled, but he agrees to call Kim to set up a meeting. He then mutters, “Finally out of the mail room,” and mentions getting the office next to his brother’s. Remember, that awkward moment when Jimmy graduated law school and asked his brother about maybe getting a job at the firm and Chuck said, “As what?” It’s happening again.
Later that night, Jimmy is asleep on Chuck’s couch. Chuck puts on his magic anti-electromagnetic cloak and sneaks outside. He goes to the mailbox and pulls out Jimmy’s phone, uses a pencil to dial, and tries to keep the evil device as far away from his body as he can. Who’s he talking to? What’s he’s saying? We cut out after, “No, it’s me.”
Up on a parking garage roof the next morning, Mike is waiting next to a bear/human hybrid. Then a third guy, smaller than the Bear Man but still bigger and younger than Mike, shows up. They’ve all been sent there by the vet. Wonder what kind of pets each of them has. The Bear Man looks like a cat guy. The third man, who’s a cocky loudmouth, probably owns something big, vicious and unneutered – to compensate. They’re each supposed to get $500.
Cocky Guy knows it’s a protection job, and the client is “as green as they come.” He asks Mike what he’s carrying. “Pimento,” Mike tells him, “the caviar of the south.” Cocky Guy is not impressed, and when their client, Pryce – not his real name – arrives in his wood-paneled station wagon, Cocky Guy suggests they cut Mike out of the deal, seeing as how unarmed is unprepared. Mike says he can just use one of Cocky Guy’s guns. Cocky Guy pulls a gun on him and asks him to go ahead. Mike not only grabs his gun but hits him in the throat with it, knocking him down. Then he takes all of his guns and leaves them in a dumpster, while Cocky Guy is barely conscious and writhing in pain. Bear Man runs away. Mike assures Pryce he only needs one guy for the job, and he’ll take the whole $1,500.
Meantime, Chuck and Jimmy are getting ready to go to HHM. Jimmy has lined Chuck’s suit with a magic blanket. It crinkles a bit, but Chuck admits it was a good idea. He can barely feel the imaginary electromagnetism at all! Jimmy can’t call Kim to tell her they’re on the way because his cell phone is dead. That’s weird. He always turns it off when he puts it in Chuck’s mailbox.
Over at HHM, they are turning off all the electricity in preparation for Chuck’s return. The computer server makes a “whoosh” sound like all the engines shutting down on a spaceship. Chuck is greeted by applause. Jimmy, despite bringing in the case that will bring the firms millions, isn’t even noticed. After everyone follows Chuck to the conference room, Kim helps Jimmy with the boxes he was carrying. But if this bothers Jimmy, he doesn’t let it show. He does most of the talking at the presentation, and he’s impressive. Howard is ready to start divvying up the work, but Jimmy reminds him they need to discuss his compensation. Howard offers 20% of the firm’s take. Jimmy seems satisfied. Howard mentions the no referral fee rule, but they can get him $20,000 upfront for his previous work on the case. Jimmy has his invoice ready. Then Jimmy mentions that office he’d like, and Howard clears the room – kind of like the way he did that time when Jimmy was celebrating after he passed the bar.
Howard tells him they want the case but aren’t hiring any new associates. Chuck’s still there but not talking, until he finally says, “I’m very disappointed, and I hope you’ll reconsider.” Maybe not the spirited defense Jimmy was hoping for. Jimmy tells Howard he’ll burn the case to the ground before he’ll let them have it. Meeting adjourned.
Later, Kim approaches Howard. She doesn’t get it. Jimmy brought them the case. It was unfair. He gives her the “partners have spoken” speech, and when she continues to press, he tells her she’s out of her depth, in a tone that’s just short of “Back to the cornfield with you.” But then as she’s leaving, he tells her to come back and shut the door behind her. What great truth will he reveal? Who knows because we cut away before he tells her.
Back over to Mike and his client. Pryce, being an ordinary guy new to crime, isn’t sure how these things get done. “Easy peazy,” Mike explains. “Take the money. Count it. If it’s all there, give the man what he paid for.” A van arrives. It’s one we’ve seen before – Nacho’s crew. Nacho and a couple of the boys get out. No Tuco. Pryce counts the money and notices that $20 is missing. Mike insists Nacho make good on it, which he does. Pryce brings him a box filled with sealed “80 milligram” pill bottles.
In the car, Mike asks for his fee. Pryce wants to know how he knew there wouldn’t be a problem. Mike explains that he did his homework – the secret to success in any criminal enterprise. He knew Nacho was doing this without his employer’s knowledge and would want it to go smoothly. Mike (No Half Measures) Ehrmantrout explains his ethos to Pryce. Nothing wrong with being a criminal, but if you’re going to be a criminal, be a good one.
Night falls, and Jimmy arrives at the Nail Salon with a grocery bag full of liquor. Kim is waiting for him.
Once they’re inside, he starts ranting about Howard. She tells him to take the deal. He wonders what Howard offered her. She sounds defeated. She tells him it’s about his happiness. He can leave HHM behind, be his own man. She doesn’t argue with him or try to defend herself when he calls her a “pod person.” She leaves.
He takes a drink, but we don’t see him drowning in liquor. We see him thinking, maybe he’s thinking about how sad Kim seems — the look of near pity on her face. He plugs in his cell phone and then picks up the landline.
Next we’re at Chuck’s. No electricity in the house yet, but his recovery continues. He’s getting out his ironing board. A recluse doesn’t need wrinkle-free shirts, so this must be a good sign. He notices Jimmy, sitting, waiting in the dark. Jimmy tells him he’s decided to take the deal. He mentions Kim and the hard time he gave her, but she was right. Chuck says he wishes it could have worked out. Jimmy talks about how the two McGill boys could have worked together, fighting for justice. It sounds like a boyhood fantasy, which it probably was. Chuck says maybe they’ll come around one day. Jimmy says he’s so lucky to have Chuck looking out for him, and then he says maybe there’s a way. Chuck could quit – or pretend to. Howard would have to give in. The nuclear option.
“If working with me is what you really want, Chuck…” Jimmy explains, and then he instantly dials back the nostalgic tone and out comes the anger as he tells his brother how he knows he betrayed him. The obvious movie reference, the one that had to be floating in Jimmy’s head was Godfather II – but in reverse. Here it’s the brother with all the power who’s been carrying the resentment, the one with the least reason to feel threatened who breaks the more vulnerable brother’s heart. Jimmy like Matlock or Colombo explains the steps that led him to solve the mystery. When Chuck used Jimmy’s phone in the middle night, he forgot to turn it off and the battery was dead the next day. Jimmy always turned it off. And that’s how he discovered the deleted call, and when he checked with the phone company and found out it was to Howard, it was crystal clear that Chuck had told Howard not to hire him. Jimmy wants to know why.
Chuck, now caught and with nothing else to lose, blurts out that Jimmy isn’t a real lawyer. And then it gets worse. He not only denigrates Jimmy’s fully accredited alma mater, he tells Jimmy that all he ever did was take “shortcuts,” as though working in the mailroom while going to law school weekends and nights was a cheat. He tells his younger bother that people never change, and he’ll always be Slippin Jimmy. He tells him that “Slippin Jimmy with a law degree is like a chimp with a machine gun.”
Jimmy has figured out a bunch of things, things he probably always knew deep down, but now they are out in the open. Chuck was never going to hire him as an associate, and Howard was never his evil nemesis. Howard was just a schmuck doing Chuck’s dirty work. Jimmy tells Chuck that he brought 20 pounds of ice, bacon, eggs, and steak. (Was Chuck doing paleo?) It should last a few days, but he’s not coming back. And then Jimmy walks out.
Is Jimmy now broken beyond repair? Jimmy worshipped his older brother — in a very literal sense. He saw him as the model of how to be a good man and tried to live as he did. But if Chuck is not only human, but petty and a liar, if Chuck is wrong, then what is right? One more episode to go and see how far down the road to Saul Goodman we are. And on a personal note, I’ve decided to avoid contact with all family members ever, because NO ONE CAN HURT YOU THE WAY THEY CAN.