May 25, 2018
Better Call Saul: Where There's a Will...
This week’s Better Call Saul has it all—comedy, drama, pathos, zither music, Hummel figurines, hunting trophies, talking toilets, Jell-O, and maybe even a clue or two about Mike’s mysterious past
Mrs. Kravitz watches from the window as the weirdo neighbor she never sees dashes out in a tin-foil blanket to steal her paper. We hear the crinkle crackle of that blanket as Chuck cowers in bed, right where we left him, after seeing the “Hero” headline and realizing his brother pulled another fast one.
There’s knock on the door. Police. Uh-oh.
When they ask him to open the door, Chuck quotes Melville: “I’d prefer not to.” The cops must have been absent from school that day, as they don’t get the Bartleby reference. One of them goes around back, sees the camp stoves, and thinks he may have found a meth lab. There are a lot of those in Albuquerque.
Chuck quotes the law, but they aren’t interested. He agrees to open up only if they’ll put away their electronics, especially the taser, so they bust in and taser him. Amazing they didn’t kill him as Albuquerque police specialize in extemporaneous executions of the mentally ill.
Meantime, Jimmy is driving up to the gate of a mansion that, in the desert landscape, appears like an enchanted castle in a fairy tale. He’s meeting a potential client who saw him on TV.
“Call me Ricky,” the man says, potentially another Melville reference. They sit on leather chairs and drink fine scotch, surrounded by Ricky’s excessive display of hunting trophies. Ricky talks about hiring Jimmy to help him secede from the United States. Is that music playing, or is there a heavenly choir in Jimmy’s head? Either way, it’s from Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte—an opera in which appearances are deceptive. Ricky asks Jimmy’s rate. We watch Jimmy calculate before he comes up with $450 an hour. Ricky tells him he’ll put him on retainer—a million dollars, half up front, half after they win. He goes to get the money and brings Jimmy back a tray stacked with bills. Psyche! They’ve got Ricky’s picture on them and are from the Republic of Sandia (watermelon in Spanish).
Next, we see Jimmy arriving at the home of Roland J. Cox—a seemingly normal, suburban dad who has invented “Tommy the Talking Toilet” to help potty train toddlers. Roland throws marbles into the bowl to start the conversations. What comes out, in a deep adult voice, sounds like Larry Craig caught on tape in an airport men’s room. “Fill me up, Chandler!” “You’re sooo big” “Oh yeah.”
Jimmy thinks it may be a moneymaker, but not exactly in the way Roland had in mind. Viagra, notes Jimmy, was initially a blood pressure medication. Roland calls Jimmy “disgusting.” Jimmy counters that Roland is the one who invented a “sex-toilet.” The meeting doesn’t end well.
By the time Jimmy gets to the third client, an old woman with a Hummel collection (a sly reference to S1:E4 of Breaking Bad “Open House”), he’s just waiting for the crazy. While Mrs. Strauss is a bit eccentric in making her final bequests, she’s also delightful and sweetly flirty in an “aren’t you a spicy one!” kind of way. They riff off each other. She even pays cash up front.
Back at the salon, Jimmy is painting Kim’s toenails after hours and talking about his day. Mrs. Strauss’ wasn’t the only will he worked on. Kim talks about all the good Jimmy could do in elder law. The two of them are sweet together, and she brings out the good in him—not the “s’all good, man.” Her phone rings. It’s Howard with news about Chuck, who’s landed in the hospital.
Chuck appears catatonic when Jimmy and Kim show up. The doctor is talking about commitment. She doesn’t buy Jimmy’s “allergy to electricity” description of Chuck’s “illness.” The doc describes Chuck as being “incoherent” when the police arrived. That brings him around. Chuck speaks up, detailing his symptoms and sounding reasonable, but the doctor knows a fixed delusion when she sees one. She sneakily flips on a switch under his bed when he isn’t looking, but Kim and Jimmy are. Chuck doesn’t notice, proving to all of us that his illness isn’t physical—even if the symptoms are.
The doctor, Jimmy and Kim go into the hallway. Jimmy still doesn’t think it’s “100%” psychological or that sending him to a mental hospital is the right thing to do. The doctor is concerned that lighting his home with camping stoves could start a fire, and with no telephone he’d have no way of getting help. She suggests Jimmy isn’t helping, but enabling.
He turns to Kim for advice. She just knows Chuck needs help. Jimmy decides to take his brother home. Then Howard shows up. Howard doesn’t want Chuck committed either—and Jimmy realizes it’s because that would make Jimmy his guardian and he could cash out the partnership. He announces he’s going to do it and starts walking down the hallway. Kim walks after him, telling him not to do this thing out of spite. He says he won’t. He only wanted to see Howard sweat. Do we believe him? Did Kim stop him? Was he tempted?
Back at Chuck’s, Jimmy sees the newspaper on the floor. He blames himself for what happened. “Whenever you think I’ve gone wrong, you get worse,” he tells Chuck. But Chuck insists it was going outside that made things worse. It’s clear now why Jimmy is so invested in NOT seeing Chuck’s condition as 100% psychological. Guilt.
Chuck doesn’t specifically ask whether the rescue was just a stunt. Maybe he couldn’t bear to hear Jimmy deny it or admit it. Jimmy assures him it was all just “showmanship,” “razzle dazzle,” and it got him legit clients. It’s not the return of Slippin Jimmy. He’s going to play by the rules and go into elder law. Chuck finally seems to buy it, like he always does in the end. They’ve danced this waltz before. It’s the same dynamic as taking back a cheating lover or an actively alcoholic spouse. It’s only a matter of time ‘til Jimmy slips again—no matter what his intentions.
Jimmy is in his office-home, watching an episode of Matlock while sketching Andy Griffith’s suit. He’s preparing for his next role. Which brings us to the weekly montage. This time, there’s zither music from the film, The Third Man, yet another work in which people aren’t who we think they are. What are we watching? Old people in a facility eating Jell-O. Why are we watching it? Because Jimmy has provided the tasty gelatin dessert, and at the bottom of each cup is a picture of Jimmy and the slogan “Need a will? Call McGill.” Jimmy, in his white suit, meets, greets, and handles the seniors more like Bill Clinton than Andy Griffith.
Then it’s evening. He’s leaving the courthouse, probably after filing a bunch of papers for his new clients. For the first time ever, he has the requisite number of parking validations, but Mike still isn’t impressed. Why does Jimmy seem so eager to impress Mike anyway? Jimmy mentions he’s doing elder law, mostly wills. He starts to say, “Give me a call if—” and he pauses, realizing if Mike thinks he’s being called a geezer, he might beat the crap out of him. “…If you happen to know any elders.” Nice save, Jimmy!
We stay on Mike now. He’s reading a hardcover book. What is it? If it’s important, it’ll come up later. The night passes. Dawn breaks. Someone relieves him. He goes to a diner. Maybe Albuquerque’s ONLY diner, given how often we’ve been here on Breaking Bad. Then he drives to a street and watches a house. A young woman pulls out of the driveway. She stops for a moment as she passes him. Says nothing. Moves on. We get the feeling he’s there everyday. Those of us who watched that other program can guess who she is. For the two of you unfamiliar, I won’t spoil it.
Mike goes home and watches an old movie, a screwball comedy, The Awful Truth. There’s a knock on the door. Two uniformed cops and a man in plainclothes. “You’re a long way from home,” Mike says to the detective. “I could say the same about you,” the man answers back.
From the previews, it looks like next week we’ll finally get Mike’s backstory, or at least one piece of it. Can’t wait.
- Creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould initially were going to make Saul a half-hour comedy, focusing on the lawyer’s wacky cases. Wonder if they came up with the Republic of Sandia and Tommy the Talking Toilet back then and decided they were too good not to use.
- There is a “real” talking toilet, but it’s actually just a potty seat. The real one is, in its own way, just as creepy and likely to scare the crap out of children.
- The zither music saved it this time, but the show is definitely over the legal limit for montages.