Better Call Saul
In a matter of weeks, Jimmy went from putting the finishing touches on Wexler-McGill’s office backsplash to baiting CC Mobile customers by painting outlandish rhetorical questions on the storefront’s façade. It’s not that far afield from what Chuck might have deemed the chicanery of Jimmy’s efforts to court business via oversize billboards and cockamamie TV ads, but the ends don’t necessarily justify the means. Jimmy’s just trying to keep busy, taking on the shift-supervisor gig at a poorly trafficked cell-phone retailer to help keep one foot firmly planted in thankless reality while the other is itching to step into another pile of found money.
Turns out that little Hummel’s score netted him and Ira quite a chunk of change, and Ira — who’s putting on his own airs of legitimacy by stocking vending machines for a beverage distributor — is antsy for another go at some quick, clean money. Jimmy knows where a veritable fortune in Bavarian figurines can be found, but he isn’t ready yet to descend from representing elderly Mrs. Strauss against ne’er-do-wells to robbing her blind as a shortcut to solvency.
Not that any of this is about dollars and cents for Jimmy (that comes later, when the moral center’s been fully hollowed out as Saul). It’s got more to do with his wanting to be in the mix, in demand, doing anything but laying low until his license gets (hopefully) reinstated in ten months. Throw in the additive of grieving and lamenting where things went wrong with Chuck, and the last thing Jimmy can figuratively afford is to rest on idle hands, playing solo handball inside CC Mobile’s four walls for hours on end.
Had Jimmy chosen to commit his free time to seeking therapy like Kim suggested, who knows how differently his future could have turned out? But Kim’s not necessarily taking her own advice. Having physically recuperated and made every effort to absolve Jimmy of his guilt over Chuck’s death as a proxy for placating her own, she’s stuck in a rut wondering what could be worth working herself into a nearly fatal stupor ever again. Mesa Verde, the ostensible corporate banking cartel, isn’t it. Unfortunately, old mentor (we assume) Judge Munsinger (ubiquitous character actor Ethan Phillips) reprimands her that she’s “not the first to try and rediscover their love of the law by trolling my court.” Though, a la Jimmy defying expectations by taking the CC Mobile gig at all, Kim plants herself right back in front of his bench to observe the next case. Perhaps the judge underestimated how he’s not the first older male figure to grouse about his wife’s new diet plan while dissuading Kim from having lofty ambitions. You kind of see where she and Jimmy’s divergent paths are headed.
And for anyone wondering why Anita didn’t stick around until the Breaking Bad years, this episode’s grief counseling session offers a clue. Mike, fed up with group member Henry essentially trolling them every week via made-up anecdotes about being a weeping widower, takes his anger out on everyone in the room. Including Anita and Stacey. “He knew you wouldn’t notice, and you didn’t,” he sneers. “All wrapped up in your sad little stories, feeding off each other’s misery.” (Nearly as harsh as Jesse’s dismissal of his rehab leader in BB.) We know Mike’s dealing with the unbearable burden of — in his mind — failing his late son Matty, no less than Jimmy is crumbling under the weight of what happened to Chuck. Maybe more. But what Anita and Stacey and anyone else in his life will have to reconcile — as Kim will (or won’t) regarding Jimmy — is that Mike’s not going to talk through his problems so much as pave over them like the cement he showed Matty how to pour and concretize in the cold open.
Nacho’s arguably in the most immediate peril of all Saul protagonists, and tragically he’s also the most sensitive. That’s not an asset in his current predicament. At Gus’s insistence, he’s pegged regional dealers the Espinozas as he and Arturo’s assailants and brought Marco and Leonel along to stake and take them out at their Westward Ho Motel HQ (a once-real spot, the remnants of which in “Talk” are striking reminders of various destinies not quite manifest). Ergo, more territory for Gus to claim (get this Bunsen burners ready, Gale!), and more disgust and mistrust sewn among the Salamancas and basically everyone else.
Gus isn’t exactly transparent about whether the cousins surviving their shootout at the Westward Ho (putting them and Nacho in exclusive company) is to his liking, nor is it obvious whether — at a later meet-up — he’s intent on asking Mike to take Hector’s nephews out. He could want Nacho gone, or be sending Mike south of the border to meddle his adversaries’ business in yet some other ingenious way. Whatever the ask, Mike will take it. Because thrilling as dressing down Madrigal warehouse supervisors may be (right up there with seducing cell-phone shoppers and working out bank-acquisition legalities), it doesn’t exactly give him purpose. Without that, we’re doomed to search for meaning in the series of happenstances that got us this far. And to rejoin the prophet Ira, who the hell would listen?
Apart From All That
• Was that a Nicoise salad Anita was eating? Looked pretty good.
• How good is Jonathan Banks?
• The apparent direction for Ethan Phillips as Judge Munsinger: Chew louder.
• It’s perhaps telling that Kim opted not to observe Judge Papadoumian, one of Jimmy’s faves.
• Telltale sign Jim and Kimmy’s relationship isn’t fully lived-in: Neither ever cooks a real dinner for the other.
• Scotty Blakey spin-off? No?
• The Domingo whom Nacho refers to is indeed Krazy-8.
• If only anyone loved these other tough guys the way Nacho’s dad loves him.