In the ‘Better Call Saul’ recap for the season 4 debut, Jimmy deals with the fallout from Chuck’s shocking death, Mike gets to work and Gus keeps an eye out…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
As ‘Better Call Saul’ season 4 kicked off on Monday night, it felt like perhaps there were maybe 20 lines of dialogue spoken throughout the entire episode but it was a powerful reminder of the past, the present and the future.
Jimmy got the news that his brother Chuck died in a fire and spent the majority of the episode almost in a catatonic state as a reaction to that tragic event — or at least that’s what it seemed.
Mike started to collect his checks from Madrigal as part of his money laundering agreement with Gus Fring but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about this fixer from ‘Breaking Bad’ to ‘Better Call Saul’, he’s not the type of guy to sit around and just take money without doing anything to earn it.
As for Gus, he was left in the aftermath of Hector’s stroke while Nacho was quietly trying to cover up the fact that he was the one who caused it and little does he know that he’s being watched by the very man who wanted the elder Salamanca dead more than anybody else in the world.
And of course we also got a brief update on Gene — the manager of the Omaha Cinnabon after he passed out last season — in what played out as one of the most tense scenes in the history of the show.
With that said, let’s recap the ‘Better Call Saul’ season 4 debut titled ‘Smoke’….
Paranoia, Paranoia, Everybody’s Coming to Get You
Following his collapse at the end of last season, Gene from Omaha was not looking too good when the paramedics arrived to take him to the hospital. Thankfully after some extensive tests, Gene was given the all clear as the doctors told him that he didn’t actually have a heart attack. While there were no real reasons given for him passing out, Gene was treated and released from the hospital the same night.
Throughout his entire stay in the hospital, Gene was keeping a close eye on the nurses and law enforcement officers because he knows one good look at him and a glance at an America’s Most Wanted list will reveal that he’s actually Saul Goodman aka Jimmy McGill aka one of the only known accomplices of the notorious Heisenberg who is still alive.
On his way out of the hospital, Gene engages in a tense question and answer session with the receptionist about his driver’s license and social security number, once again raising his suspicions that somebody will recognize him.
The truest fear, however, comes after Gene gets into a cab that is supposed to take him back to the mall where he works. The cab driver has a air freshener from the ‘Albuquerque Isotopes’ — the minor league baseball team from Saul Goodman’s old stomping ground — and he can’t help but notice that the driver keeps locking eyes with him in the backseat. The paranoia gets so bad that Gene asks to be let out on a random side street as he tries to make a quick getaway before the driver can get an even better look at him.
As Gene stands there in the middle of a sidewalk, he looks back and the cab hasn’t moved since letting him out. Did the driver recognize him as Heisenberg’s accomplice or is Gene from Omaha just letting paranoia get the better of him?
It seems we’ll have to wait for more on this later in the season to find out.
Paycheck to Paycheck
It’s Mike’s last day at the tollbooth before he heads out to spend some quality time with his granddaughter while telling his daughter-in-law that he’ll be available to pick her up whenever needed because he sets his own hours at work now.
Mike’s job is work in the loosest sense of the word as he’s just collecting checks from Madrigal Electromotive after Gus Fring assisted him in setting up a money laundering scheme so he could keep the money he stole from Hector Salamanca.
But when Mike gets home and receives his first paycheck — at over $10,000 as a security consultant — he just can’t sit around, watch baseball and enjoy a beer.
Instead, Mike engages in an elaborate security check on the Madrigal warehouse after stealing an employee’s badge and then proceeding to wander the facility, find all sorts of weak spots for entry and exit, security camera blind spots and a number of other issues.
Mike finally confronts the warehouse manager, who is unbelievably confused by this unannounced security consultant showing up and basically damning this place as a massive risk to the company. Mike then tells the manager if he has any questions he should contact Lydia Rodarte-Quayle and she’ll be able to answer for him.
It seems Mike is going to take his job seriously whether Madrigal wants him to or not.
Somebody’s Watching Me
After Hector Salamanca collapsed at the end of last season when his right hand man Nacho switched out his heart medication, he was taken away in an ambulance at the start of the newest episode while Gus Fring kept a close eye on everything that was unfolding.
Hector had just been informed that Gus would now be leading the import of drugs over the border and it left him seething with anger. When Nacho’s counterfeit pills finally did their job, Hector doubled over in pain as a victim of a massive stroke.
With Hector on his way to the hospital, Nacho is desperate to get rid of the evidence of those pills he used to poison Hector but he’s got plenty more to worry about right now.
First things first, Nacho is called in for a meeting with Gus and Juan Bolsa where he is informed that he will still be handling the pick ups and deliveries for the Salamanca crew even with Hector out of action.
As Nacho leaves the tense meeting, he immediate rushes to a nearby bridge where he dumps the pills and throws the bottle away as if to celebrate that he got away with nearly killing Hector. Little does Nacho know that he’s being watched the entire time as Victor — Gus Fring’s longtime soldier — has bugged his car and followed him wherever he’s been going. Now Victor has seen Nacho toss the pills and the bottle but what will this information mean to Gus?
Cross to Bear
Of course the bulk of the episode dealt with the aftermath of Chuck McGill’s death as the ‘Better Call Saul’ season 4 debut picked up just hours later.
While Jimmy is still searching for steady work while suspended from practicing law for the next year, he’s avoiding calls from Howard Hamlin until he leaves a frantic message on Kim’s answering machine. That’s when Jimmy rushes over to Chuck’s house and he finds the place a smoldering heap as a result of the tragic fire that just took his brother’s life.
Jimmy seems crushed, unable to even muster the words to react to what just happened.
Back at home, Jimmy is nearly catatonic as he can’t even sit on the phone long enough to hear Howard read off the obituary that he’s prepared for Chuck. The only conversation Jimmy can handle is telling Kim about all of Chuck’s electric devices — from the microwave to the dishwasher — sitting in the backyard outside of the fire, which was a clear sign that his brother had relapsed after trying to beat his mental condition that had him convinced he was allergic to anything with electricity running through it.
After sharing a bottle of tequila, Jimmy and Kim fall asleep on the couch before attending Chuck’s funeral the next day.
Jimmy sits in the church pew as a cavalcade of former colleagues and co-workers stop by to offer their condolences. Jimmy sits there in silence, seemingly still stunned from the news that his brother is dead.
Later that night, Howard pays a visit to Jimmy and Kim’s apartment where he feels the need to pass along some news as well as his own confession.
First things first, Howard knows that a fire starting in Chuck’s house due to a lantern falling over was suspicious at best because of all the care and precaution that he took with those ever since going electric free. That means Chuck’s death wasn’t an accident but instead a suicide.
That doesn’t seem to rock Jimmy too bad.
Howard then reveals to Jimmy that Chuck was retiring from Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill but not because he wanted out of the business. Instead, Howard was forcing him out after their malpractice insurance rates were jacked up after the company found out about Chuck’s mental illness.
Now of course Jimmy led to that insurance situation after he told the company about his brother’s condition as a way to get back at him. Jimmy was attempting to get a refund on his own insurance while he was not going to be practicing law for the better part of a year and that’s where he got the idea to stick it to Chuck by “accidentally” telling them about his illness.
In other words, Jimmy led to the insurance rates being raised, which then led to Howard forcing Chuck out of the practice and that ended with the elder McGill brother taking his own life.
In that moment of Howard’s teary eyed confession, Jimmy pauses for a moment and then looks at his former boss before saying something quite unexpected.
“I guess that’s your cross to bear, Howard”
Howard breaks down, Kim is shocked to see Jimmy so flippantly allow him to take the blame for Chuck’s death while it seems like a weight has suddenly been lifted off his chest. Jimmy smiles and runs around the house, feeding the fish and making coffee as if he doesn’t have a care in the world.
And maybe now he doesn’t.
For years, Jimmy did everything possible to make it up to his brother for all his shortcomings and then he tried desperately to gain his approval. But Chuck never wanted Jimmy to succeed — he was the one who told Howard not to hire his brother at the law firm and just days before his death he told Jimmy that he really never cared that much about him at all.
Through that brutal revelation, Jimmy seemed to finally let go of his admiration and desire to seek his brother’s approval. Now he’s free to live his life no longer tethered to the anchor that was his brother weighing him down.
Jimmy can finally be Jimmy…or perhaps more importantly, he’s on his way to becoming Saul Goodman.
‘Better Call Saul’ returns next Monday night at 9 p.m. ET on AMC with a brand new episode.