In the latest Better Call Saul recap, Jimmy gets his heart broken in one of the best episodes of the season and Mike fulfills his duty on a job and takes his first step towards a whole new career…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
It was unclear when ‘Better Call Saul’ went to series just what kind of show it was going to be.
Of course from the start everybody knew it was a ‘Breaking Bad’ spinoff and we were going to see ‘origin’ stories from Saul Goodman and Mike Ehrmantraut, who were both series regulars, but beyond that there was no set path this series was going to travel. On ‘Breaking Bad’, Bob Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman was a con-artist and shyster and generally used as comic relief on a series jam-packed with hearty issues.
And ‘Better Call Saul’ started out much the same way (despite a rather sad, Cinnabon filled debut opening scene shot in black and white) with Jimmy McGill (aka Saul) as a lawyer with funny cases and even wiser cracks than we ever got to hear when he was dealing with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. The show was fall over hilarious for most of the first half of the season and while there were definitely serious overtones in some episodes, the comedy far out weighed the drama.
A pivotal changing point this season happened when Mike Ehrmantraut’s back story was told in episode six titled ‘Five-O’ and what started out as comical quickly turned stoic and serious with Emmy award winning performances all around. The tone was set for the back half of the season with even more of the same in episodes seven and eight as Jimmy’s one-man law practice started to get serious with a major criminal case settled in one hour and huge lawsuit started in the other.
The culmination of that lawsuit happened in this week’s penultimate episode for season one titled ‘Pimento’ as Jimmy’s huge case took a turn for the big time before crushing him under the weight of it all — and his brother Chuck was the one stepping down on his throat.
All season long (and throughout my recaps), I was convinced that Jimmy’s older brother Chuck was suffering from some sort of mental collapse that was only made worse whenever he saw his sibling falling back down the path where he was once called ‘Slippin’ Jimmy McGill, who was a common thief and grifter. Instead as we found out in brutal honesty tonight, Chuck wasn’t afraid his brother was reverting back to his criminal ways — he was pissed off that Jimmy was so presumptuous that he could actually breathe the same air as him in the world of legal geniuses.
We’ll get back to that in a bit, but first let’s recap everything else that happened tonight including an all time favorite Mike scene.
Jimmy is on fire after finding a slam dunk class action lawsuit against Sandpiper, a company who owns numerous elder care facilities across the country. They’ve been ripping off their residents for huge sums of money and now Jimmy has the proof to nail them to the wall and get paid handsomely for his troubles. The only problem with this great case is like any major lawsuit, nothing happens quickly and there are hundreds of motions that can be filed not to mention huge piles of paperwork that have to be sorted through before any of this will ever see the inside of a courtroom.
The first sign that Sandpiper is going to play hardball comes from their lawyer when he files a restraining order against Jimmy from actually stepping foot on their property to deal with clients. It doesn’t take long for the judge to toss out the request because how else will Jimmy go see his elderly clients who can barely walk, much less trot out for a lunch date with their attorney. Chuck clues him in on what Sandpiper’s lawyers are actually doing — they plan on miring the two man McGill team in so much legal work that it will be nearly impossible for them to actually get any real progress done on the case.
“We can Erin Brockovich the shit out of this!”
~ Jimmy tells Chuck enthusiastically
Unfortunately, Chuck and Jimmy alone just don’t have the manpower to combat these constant legal skirmishes and they need help. While his suggestion doesn’t exactly set Jimmy on fire in the end he has to concede — they need the big guns at HHM to back them up to make sure this slam dunk lawsuit actually gets on the court for any chance that they get a shot at the basket.
If there’s one upside to this entire deal at least Jimmy will finally get his office at HHM next to Chuck.
Later that night with Jimmy sound asleep, Chuck puts on the space blanket, goes out the mailbox and finds his brother’s phone. He places a call in the middle of the night and whoever he’s reaching out to knows who is on the other end. By the end of the episode, this one moment might be the most heartbreaking part of the entire series.
Following a meeting with a shady vet that lands Mike a new job, he first has to stop by and see his daughter-in-law Stacy and his granddaughter Kaylee to drop off a new puppy he bought for his extended family. Stacy isn’t sure about keeping the puppy at first, but there was no way she was going to try to pry that fluffy little thing loose from Kaylee’s grip after she spent about ten-minutes with the dog. While visiting his family, Mike gets a call for a new ‘job opportunity’ and before long he standing in the middle of a quiet, empty parking garage.
Inside, Mike runs into two more men tasked for a simple protection job that apparently requires three people. The first guy looks like he was headed to an audition for WWE while the other guy is doing his best ‘Mr. Blonde’ impression by trying to impress everybody with the number of guns he’s carrying at one time. He’s also astonished to learn that Mike isn’t carrying a weapon.
When the man who needs protection arrives, Mr. Blonde quickly tells him that Mike isn’t even smart enough to carry a gun and he should just let him go and pay the two intelligent bodyguards $750 each instead of $1500 split three ways. Mike’s solution is to tell Blondie that if he needs a gun, he’ll just borrow one of the eight or so he’s packing. When he challenges Mike to take on, the former Philly cop obliges, takes a gun, smacks him in the throat with it and then disarms him of the other six or so weapons hidden all over his body. The big bearded guy runs away scared and all that’s left is $1500 all for Mike Ehrmantraut.
The job is pretty simple — the guy who needs protection is selling some sealed pharmaceuticals to some unsavory types and Mike is his backup. When the buyers arrive we find Nacho (Tuco’s No. 2 man) back for the first time in several episodes and he’s picking up the pills from the seller, Mr. Price.
Everything goes smoothly outside of the $20 Nacho shorted them at first until Mike insists he pays to the full letter of his agreed upon amount for the pills. Nacho pushes, Mike counters and in the end they get the $20.
After Nacho and his crew leave, Price questions how Mike knew that he wouldn’t need a gun when he took this job. See, Mike wasn’t born yesterday and before he accepted the assignment, he did some research on Nacho and found out that he was making this deal behind his boss’ back, which means he was willing to play hardball but would eventually cave because the last thing he needed was a messy situation that would get his side business shut down before it started. The lesson he extends to Price is that if you’re going to be a criminal, you better do your research. When Price realizes that what he just did was a criminal act and he’s feeling kind of bad about it, Mike once again has to set him straight on the world of criminals versus bad guys.
“I’ve known good criminals and bad cops. Bad priests, honorable thieves. You can be on one side of the law or the other, but if you make a deal with somebody, you keep your word. You can go home today with your money and never do this again, but you took something that wasn’t yours and you sold it for a profit. You are now a criminal. Good one, bad one, that’s up to you.”
Mike takes his $1500 payment while taking the next step in the life of crime he later inhabits while working for Gus Fring and eventually Walter White. Mike always struck me as a good man in a bad line of business. ‘Better Call Saul’ portrayal of Mike is only enforcing that notion and his scenes have been nothing short of awe-inspiring all season long.
The next day Jimmy and Chuck head into HHM for a formal meeting with Howard to officially hand over the lawsuit. When they arrive, HHM has been ‘formatted’ to Chuck’s specifications with no electricity and no cell phones anywhere in the building. The old crew welcomes back their boss with rousing applause before the entire main team heads to the conference room to sort out the lawsuit.
Inside, Howard starts doling out responsibilities to his team but before he gets too far, Jimmy has to discuss the particulars of his financial arrangement for the deal. He’s going to get a 20-percent payoff of the final settlement plus a $20,000 fee for ‘services rendered’, and that all goes off without a hitch. The only thing Jimmy needs to know is when can he move into his new office next to his brother?
Howard sends everybody out of the room before telling Jimmy that this deal was contingent on landing the case but the case is all they wanted. Jimmy isn’t getting a place at the table and he’s certainly not getting a corner office next to Chuck’s. Jimmy’s had enough because he thought despite his long standing grudge with Howard, they finally came to an understanding. Instead he was left groveling for a job once again.
Jimmy says enough’s enough, calls Howard a pig fucker (great use of the big curse word this season) and says he’ll burn the case to the ground before he’ll hand it over to Howard.
Kim tries her best to go to bat for Jimmy later that day in a meeting with Howard, but then out of nowhere while her old pal is trying to celebrate with a gin/vodka/bourbon combo, she tells him that he should take the settlement and be on his way. Jimmy once again feels betrayed and sends Kim packing before he retires to his office and finally figures out what happened.
The next day he visits Chuck and tells his brother they still have one last card to play. He can call HHM and threaten to quit if they don’t hire him at the firm. Chuck waffles on the idea and that’s when Jimmy finally springs his trap.
He discovered the deleted call on his phone that was made to Howard at 2am two nights ago and the only person that could have done it was Chuck. He’s baffled as to why his brother would sabotage his shot to get a job at HHM and prove that he was a lawyer worthy of working at such a prestigious firm.
Chuck finally boils over and unloads on Jimmy saying that he’s not a real lawyer. He got his degree from American Samoa University and took online courses for law school and now he’s trying to con his way into a job with HHM — a place Chuck helped build from the ground floor with his blood, sweat, tears and a lot of expensive degrees. He unloads on his brother by telling him that Jimmy finally did something honorable when he went to work in the HHM mailroom and that at the end of the day he could always handle ‘Slippin Jimmy’ but this new person who is masquerading as an attorney is nothing more than a mockery of the entire legal system.
“You’re Slippin’ Jimmy, and Slippin’ Jimmy I can handle just fine. But Slippin’ Jimmy with a law degree is like a chimp with a machine gun.”
The words cut through poor Jimmy like a hatchet because everything he’s done since his brother got him out of jail in Chicago all those years ago was to prove he could be a good person. In one fell swoop, Chuck basically just told him that no matter how hard he tries he’s always going to be a fraud and he should really stop trying. Chuck’s vitriol aimed at his brother is clear — there’s no fast track to the top when you’re talking about the law.
It’s an important message that gets passed along in the episode relating to the criminal justice system in America and how ex-cons are rarely allowed to re-enter society without a huge stigma already attached to them and why the recidivism rates in this country are simply atrocious. If you tell someone they’re a criminal long enough, they’ll finally believe you. Is there some truth to what Chuck is saying about side-stepping your way to a nine-figure job at a top notch law firm? Perhaps. But then again it’s not like Jimmy was going to get accepted at Harvard just because he tried his best.
Jimmy has been doing everything he can to walk the straight and narrow and sure he’s tripped and fallen a few times along the way, but he’s wanted nothing more than to make his brother proud after he went to bat for him. Instead of welcoming him with open arms and appreciating the transformation he’s made, Chuck will never see Jimmy as anything more than a common crook and street criminal. You tell Jimmy that long enough and his veneer starts to crack and Saul Goodman will eventually begin to break through.
Jimmy quickly bolts from his brother’s house and tells him that is the last time they will see each other. Given the fact that Chuck’s name never came up once on ‘Breaking Bad’, there’s a good chance Jimmy McGill became Saul Goodman as an only child.
Next week is the season one finale of ‘Better Call Saul’ so don’t miss it! Monday night at 10pm ET on AMC.