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How Is Kim Doing After the ‘Waterworks’ Episode of Better Call Saul?

Photo: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television/

In “Wexler Watch,” we assess the state of Kim Wexler following each of the remaining episodes of Better Call Saul. Spoilers follow for episode 12, “Waterworks.”

If it wasn’t already abundantly clear that Kim Wexler is as crucial to Better Call Saul as Saul Goodman, Monday night’s penultimate episode of the series drove that message all the way home: With just two episodes left to close out this masterpiece of a prequel, the Better Call Saul team decided to devote nearly all of one of those episodes to Kim.

And that episode told us a lot, both about Kim’s existence after she leaves Jimmy and a key decision she makes that may set up his downfall. (Carol Burnett is also pitching in on that second point.)

So: Kim Wexler is still alive, right?
Yes, last week’s episode established that Kim is still alive during Jimmy’s “Gene in Nebraska” years, thanks to a phone call Jimmy placed to her workplace, Palm Coast Sprinklers in Titusville, Florida. (More on that call shortly.)

“Waterworks,” an aptly named episode given the sprinkler connection and that stunning Kim breakdown scene on the airport shuttle, shows us what Kim’s life in Titusville actually looks like, and friends, it’s pretty bleak. One could argue that Kim has suffered a fate even worse than death: She’s boring — and stuck in Florida.

Where Kim once had to make high-stakes decisions as a lawyer and (uncredited on her resumé) occasional con artist, now her biggest conundrums include whether to use Miracle Whip in a potato salad and deciding which flavor ice cream to serve at Tammy’s office birthday party. Kim isn’t even equipped to make a call between vanilla and strawberry at this point! She is not herself here.

Well, mostly she is not herself. With the kind of intense, specific detail that is such a hallmark of Better Call Saul, Vince Gilligan, who wrote and directed this episode, makes it clear that Palm Coast Sprinklers is a hilariously banal workplace. (There’s a single three-second scene in which one employee bangs on the top of her cubicle and her next-door colleague wordlessly hands her a hole puncher, which conveys more ennui than entire seasons of The Office.) Yet Kim, as she is wont to do, still manages to excel here. Even though her job seemingly is just to update the Palm Coast Sprinklers catalog, she takes it to the next level, learning pipe jargon and even going to the manufacturing floor to do research. That’s the Kim we know, the Kim who overachieves because her job is something she can control.

Outside-of-work Kim, on the other hand, is apparently content to listen to Rupert Holmes (callback alert!) and be in a meh relationship with a guy who says “yep” repeatedly during sex and plans well in advance to visit the newest branch of Outback Steakhouse. The distance between the life she had with Jimmy and the life she has with this guy (no name is ever given) is most obvious in the scene in which he watches The Amazing Race while she works on a jigsaw puzzle in the other room. Once upon a time, Kim and her husband used to cuddle on the couch and watch old movies together. Now her partner wonders about the dangers presented by The Amazing Race while she tries to put pieces together on her own.

Okay, but how is Kim Wexler doing really?
Honestly, she seems sort of content to live this extremely ordinary life, which, to be fair, is certainly less stressful than watching former colleagues get shot in the head in your living room. But then she gets that call from Jimmy, who identifies himself as Viktor St. Clair, the fake name they used during their tequila con job on Ken back in season two. It turns out that Jimmy actually was yelling at Kim during the phone call we got a glimpse of last week because she told him he should turn himself in and he challenged her to consider why she hadn’t confessed herself. (It feels as if Jimmy almost wants to get caught at this point, doesn’t it?)

Kim takes that challenge so seriously that she submits a written affidavit to the district attorney in Albuquerque and to Cheryl, Howard’s widow, confessing to everything she and Jimmy did and the fact that Howard was murdered. It’s possible Kim could be prosecuted, but, as she tells Cheryl, she doubts that will happen because there is no physical evidence and the only other witness to Howard’s murder was Jimmy. And Jimmy could be dead, Kim explains, a thing she knows is not true. Kim is trying to clear her own conscience, but she’s also effectively turning in Jimmy. She knows this. And I think it’s one of the reasons she completely loses it on that airport shuttle in what is an absolutely extraordinary piece of acting on Rhea Seehorn’s part.

The horror of everything that happened because of her and Jimmy, and of all that she has she lost because of it, comes crashing down on her at that moment. Everything in this episode suggests Kim has been holding it together, compartmentalizing, and containing her pain. Even that scene later in the episode (but earlier in the timeline) at Saul’s office, after Kim and Jimmy sign their divorce papers and she encounters Jesse Pinkman during a smoke break, indicates she has begun to construct walls around her heart immediately after leaving Jimmy. “When I knew him, he was,” she tells Jesse when he asks her if Saul Goodman is a good lawyer. That answer, especially in a scene that nods back to the cigarette Kim and Jimmy shared in episode one, slams the Kim-and-Jimmy story shut.

On that shuttle ride, after she’s reopened that book, Kim can no longer contain her anguish.

And how is Kim Wexler’s ponytail, the barometer of her emotional state?
Ah, this is important. Florida Kim has dark hair that she wears long and kind of messy. The ponytail is gone and with it, apparently, Kim’s fashion sense. Kim seems to have decided that looking mousy is the best way to remain incognito.

But when she goes to the Albuquerque courthouse, she sees a lawyer with a ponytail, in high heels and a pencil skirt, who looks a lot like the Kim who Kim used to be. The former attorney looks at this woman with obvious longing, like a person whose wishes are just out of arm’s reach. Her heart is clearly still in practicing law. But her heart is something she can’t follow anymore. Her conscience won’t allow it.

How Is Kim Doing After This Week’s Better Call Saul?