Better Call Saul
Thank goodness for Omar. Jimmy’s eager assistant will do just about anything for his boss, be it ordering supplies, organizing a de facto call center to field inquiries from Sandpiper residents, or helping haul office furniture around when he should be at home with his kids.
On this fine Santa Fe afternoon, he saves the day by simply cautioning Jimmy that if he resigns from Davis & Main after less than a year, he’s obligated to pay back his massive bonus check. This would be bad. Jimmy needs that money to invest in Wexler-McGill, the conceptual partnership he’s dreamed up for himself and Kim. He’ll have to toil a little longer, it seems, though what’s another several months when they both spent a decade working their way up from mailroom duty just to get a whiff of partner status with a legitimate firm?
Maybe that’s the point. Maybe Jimmy’s finally had enough of long-term tradeoffs. He’s ready to gamble with literal house money rather than play by rules that have nothing to do with how he’s made his way in the world. Plus, he’s ready to have a little fun, which bodes well for us viewers — and nothing screams good times like a colorful, business-casual, inflatable AirDancer popping and locking in the wind on a hot New Mexico day. Or at least that’s when it hits Jimmy: He doesn’t want merely want to erect billboards over the desert freeways or buy ad time in between segments of Murder, She Wrote. He wants to be the billboard. He wants to be Saul Goodman. If not in name, just yet, then certainly in his choice of hideous, pastel-colored suits and infantile means to an end.
Cliff initially withstands his charge’s transparent efforts to get himself fired and retain his barely earned bonus cash. He looks the other way when Jimmy disrupts client meetings by mashing vegetables into a buzz-sawing juicer and nags the janitorial staff late at night. He even lets it go when Jimmy gloats about routinely failing to flush the toilet (and “we’re not talking about a number-one,” reminds Erin), let alone when he reasons glibly, “We need the water.” But once Jimmy decides to “blow off steam” with midday bagpipe practice, Cliff — ever the folk-guitar purist — has had enough. Jimmy’s out of a job and flush with capital for Wexler-McGill (minus $7,000 for the cocobolo desk, which he insists on settling up). “For what it’s worth, I think you’re a good guy,” Jimmy says on his way out the door. “For what it’s worth, I think you’re an asshole,” Cliff barks. The parting barb rolls right off Jimmy. To invoke Bachelor vernacular, he’s no longer here to make friends.
Fortunately, he still has one client whose billings can ease that sizable desk fund. A man of his word, Mike shows up at the D.A.’s office — with Jimmy by his side as counsel — to change his tune about Tuco Salamanca’s gun. Sort of. “The gun wasn’t Salamanca’s is all I can tell ya,” he grumbles to the prosecutors, stopping short of declaring himself its owner. As they part ways, Jimmy cautions Mike about messing with Tuco and commends him on swallowing his pride. As further consolation, he declares, “Today, it’s on me.” Too bad Mike’s pride is still lodged like a lump in his throat. He tells Jimmy he’ll pay in full, then suggests they ride in separate elevators while he stews. Mike is no victim, no matter how Hector tries to change the narrative about what went down at El Michoacano or get under his skin by demonstrating the cartel’s menace. As Mike pulls up within sniper’s distance of El Griego Cuinador, he simmers like a man self-possessed.
Kim’s moment of clarity is more subtle, but just as bold a step forward. Her meeting with Schweikart & Cokley goes well enough. Unexpectedly, they’re more interested in learning about her life before servitude at HHM than brushing up on her professional credentials. She opens up about her childhood in a small town on the border of Kansas and Nebraska (hence her Royals merchandise) and her fears of getting stuck working a job at the Hinky Dinky and marrying some lunkhead high-school sweetheart. Then as now, all Kim wants is “more.” That’s when it hits her that Jimmy was right: Taking the S&C job would be a lateral move — symbolically if not in every comparative detail. The epiphany dazes her enough that during salutatory handshakes, she remarks, “It was great to meet you … Howard,” ostensibly conflating her future and current bosses.
Smoking a cigarette on the rooftop level of the parking garage, she peers out toward nothing in particular, contemplating everything. There’s no inflatable suit-and-tie AirDancer buoyantly expressing her destiny, but something like lightning strikes. She stares into the mock Wexler-McGill business card Jimmy had given her and reconsiders his notion. À la Mike splitting hairs with the D.A., she tears the card in two, shows up at Day Spa & Nail (where Jimmy and his cocobolo have set up anew) and proposes “Wexler & McGill … solo practitioners” sharing an overhead space. This way, Jimmy can bemuse as many funeral-home owners as he wants with what Cliff would deem his “optical migraine” wardrobe, while she can tactfully drum up business from the likes of Mesa Verde Bank. Much as Hector has yet to fully grasp Mike’s ethos, Kim, sadly, hasn’t quite accepted that Jimmy no longer wants to operate within or around anyone’s principles but his own.
There are several occasions throughout “Inflatable” in which someone poses their counterpart a philosophical question to the effect of, “Which way are you choosing at this fork in the road?” In the episode’s opening minutes, a grifter gets one over on Jimmy’s dad at the corner store, then senses Jimmy’s disapproval and coldly advises, “There are wolves and sheep in this world. Figure out which one you’re gonna be.” Mike made his decision years ago to be a predator rather than prey, and there’s no reneging on that now. And as for Jimmy — whether Kim sees it or not — he’s no less than a wolf in Saul’s clothing.
Apart From All That:
- Omar has kids?!
- Hard to say if Jimmy’d been a Boys Life or Psychology Today kid.
- It all started with that light switch.
- Love how the paintings on both Jimmy’s and the D.A.’s wall can be read as either comforting or dire.
- Jimmy, in his own way, embodies a certain American spirit. Again, it’s not surprising that Saul adopts such nakedly patriotic chic.
- Interesting that Jimmy is framed much less righteously in Howard’s seat than his former boss.
- Maybe Rich also lost Kim at, “You pulled yourself up by your bootstraps.” Guess we know who he voted for in 2000.
- Jimmy, tellingly, to his “director”: “You’re the nerd. Just make it cheap.”
- And yep, that’s the house where Stacey and Kaylee live in Breaking Bad.
- Breaking Bad crew alum Colin Bucksey returns for a third spin behind the Saul wheel. Wonder if he reminisces about Wiseguy with Jonathan Banks.
- All hail the Esteem!