Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut.
For an on-again-off-again couple struggling with their professional partnership, operating under “the fallacy of sunk costs” is an awfully capricious gamble. But Kim believes in Jimmy. His face literally comes out of the shadows and into light when we see him through her eyes, though they’re both objectively obscured in silhouette. Tonight’s closing scene — in which Kim encourages Jimmy to battle back against Chuck’s Machiavellian conspiracy to revoke his law license — evokes their secreted smoke breaks at Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, effectively reinforcing their bond. Jimmy wants to “take that PPD and shove it right up Chuck’s ass.” Problem is, Chuck desires no less than to turn out Jimmy’s light like it were one of his desktop lanterns.
Farther out on Albuquerque’s fringes, Mike meets Gus face-to-face under the unambiguous desert sun, fresh off his overnight stakeout. Having been burned one too many times, Mike gets right to the point, uncrumpling Gus’s cryptic windshield note and deadpanning, “You care to elaborate?” As is Gus’s way with a worthy adversary, he obliges directly and respectfully. Their impasse is no impasse at all. Gus needs Hector alive but compromised, while Mike wants to smite the son of a bitch on principle. Naturally, they resolve to send Mike south of the border, where he scores cocaine off a crooked clinician (a bizarro Caldera, if you will), stuffs it in a pair of sneakers that he slings over a wire along Hector’s exportation route, and strategically snipes the right shoe from a distance so the powder sifts from above, descending onto the rear grill of a passing Regalo Helado truck. Having already stowed their weapons beneath a tire in the brush miles back, Hector’s henchman are promptly busted by U.S. border patrol with no choice but to hoist hands overhead and hope their boss doesn’t have them executed in jail. Easy-peasy.
As Jimmy readies for his night in county jail on various felony and misdemeanor charges related to the dustup at Chuck’s house, surviving among the fittest boils down to his old counterpart DDA Oakley’s (welcome back, Albuquerque’s own Peter Diseth!) terse advice, which differs only slightly in spirit from Gus and Mike’s M.O.: “Pick the biggest guy, punch him as hard as you can.”
The fortunes of those more ambitious may rise and fall, but in that courthouse, Oakley is a constant. He’s like the desert insects invariably buzzing in Mike’s ear as he measures his next move. Those gnats will outlast him, Gus, Victor, and Tyrus (man, Tyrus really did wait a while for that promotion), and Oakley will still be double-fisting vending snacks and bingeing case files long after Jimmy jettisons his ethos for Saul and Saul starts over as Gene and Gene does or doesn’t wake up after hitting the floor at Cinnabon.
Equal parts of Jimmy admire how Oakley’s conformed and resent what his role in the grand scheme suggests about all our insignificance. He’s rather Walter White–ian in that way, an insight we can glean from Better Call Saul that Breaking Bad had neither room nor need to elucidate. Being gifted an untouched cafeteria burger makes Oakley’s week, but Jimmy won’t rest until he’s redeemed, even if the scales of justice themselves collect his ashes.
That same restlessness is at the root of potentially irreconcilable differences between him and Kim. In a nearly wordless rush, director John Shiban and writer Gennifer Hutchison fast-forward us through Kim’s dedicated morning ritual of rising at 5:30 a.m., putting on a pot of coffee, heading to the North Valley Fit franchise across from her office, then promptly to work, ponytail bobbing and expression pursed. She’s oblivious to the fact that, simultaneously, Jimmy is being booked and broken down. Chuck is a convenient, common foil (no Mylar pun intended) for them, but his meddling is divisive, and at some point Jimmy will slip and do something defenseless, then Kim will move on, investing only in herself.
“Sunk Costs” foreshadows several betrayals familiar to any Breaking Bad fan, and continues to explore the collateral damage borne of grudges, brotherly or otherwise. But it is mostly about alliances. Mike understands the implications of carrying out this job for Gus, and it’s not as if he has much at stake in his part-time gig manning a parking-garage booth. (When has a show ever centered so much drama in and around parking garages?) Meanwhile, the lines are absolutely drawn between Kim and Jimmy (and one supposes Francesca, who may be spooked out of the job, but at least symbolically aligned their initialed wallpaper first) and their shared nemesis Chuck. Big brother’s got the goodwill of an entire legal community, plus the help of “tough but fair” Belen prosecutor Kyra Hay (Vice Principals’ Kimberly Hebert Gregory). If only the episode’s fateful stop sign was on the other side of the border.
• LBI Bail Bonds might just become one of Saul’s allies.
• Oh, if only Chuck knew how Jimmy comes out on the other side.
• Accounting for hair, Jimmy’s a solid six feet.
• Hello to Herman’s Head’s Molly Hagan as Judge Asch.
• Maybe that will teach Hector to be more open to meth.
• Nice but bittersweet callback to Viktor and Giselle.
• Hopefully, unlike Jimmy, Ernesto gets to keep his sweet ride.