Jimmy and Kim have problems. That’s the short version of this week’s episode of Better Call Saul. And while their problems are similar in some ways, they’re also quite different. But that will require a longer explanation.
Kim’s new problems stem from last week’s old Jimmy problem. Her chat with Chuck got her out of the doc review dungeon, but her relationship with Howard — her direct, day-to-day boss — is still so strained that it resulted in a kind of Reverse Sorkin, where the camera followed them on their walk from Kim’s office to the meeting with the bank clients she met last week, but the snappy walk-and-talk dialogue was replaced with icy silence. (It’s fun to see Howard back in villain mode a little bit, right?) And the non-paperwork tasks they’re giving her again are mostly suicide missions, too, like arguing unwinnable positions in court with no backup.
All of which leads to her taking two lunches at a fancy New Mexico restaurant. The first lunch, immediately following her court appearance, was paid for by Richard Schweigart, who offered her a cushy way out of HHM by coming to work for him. (To what extent this is a real offer based on her legal skills and not part of the larger Sandpiper chess match, I don’t know. But if you would like to offer to pay off my school loans and give me a healthy raise, I’ll at least consider being your pawn.) The second lunch, or at least part of it, was paid for by some philanderous tool who hit on her and promptly found himself caught up in the web of notorious New Mexico con artist Gisele St. Clair.
And that brings us to Jimmy, who ends up meeting Kim for that midday grift after some work problems of his own. Like Kim, his problems stem from his unsanctioned Sandpiper commercial. Unlike Kim, he’s not having a mini-crisis over a boozy lunch. Kim still seems to want the corporate lawyer life, just with some fun on the side. Jimmy’s dealing with something much deeper. He can’t sleep in his cushy corporate apartment, opting instead for the lumpy old futon in his old office. And he’s taking a crowbar to his company Mercedes to make his coffee cup fit in the cup holder. These are not very subtle metaphors. It’s kind of like he underwent a transplant when he took the Davis & Main job, trying to replace a diseased organ with a healthy one, and now his body is starting to reject the new organ, one grating note from his pixie ninja babysitter at a time.
Things will not end well for Jimmy at Davis & Main, because things do not end well for Jimmy anywhere. You have to imagine he’ll be off on his own again soon enough. The bigger question is how this all plays out for Kim.
Mike has problems, too. But whereas Jimmy and Kim’s problems fall under the career/existential “What do I really want out of life?” umbrella, Mike’s problem falls under the slightly more urgent “Two large Mexican hit men in colorful suits are standing on a roof and threatening to kill my granddaughter and me because I got one of their relatives arrested by letting him turn my face into taco meat” one. I mean, I don’t want to play a game of Who Has It Worse? because everyone has their own challenges in life, but… no. Mike definitely has it worse. By my count, he has now ticked off four Salamancas. That is too many ticked-off Salamancas.
The nice thing about Mike’s ongoing misery and freefall into the southwest underworld, however, is that it lets us take these little day trips back into the Breaking Bad universe. Jimmy’s journey, as enjoyable as it has been, hasn’t really ventured into that territory at all this season, outside of the occasional little wink at the audience (the tequila con on “KEN WINS,” the Ice Station Zebra references, the eye-catching commercial, etc.). And Jimmy and Mike have barely crossed paths, too. In a way, it’s almost like Mike is starring in his own show-within-the-show this season (working title, Mike’s Way), and that show is the real Breaking Bad prequel, leaving Jimmy the time and freedom to go off and become Saul at his leisure. It’s really working, too. At the expense of Mike’s face.
Odds and ends:
– The tricky thing about standing menacingly on a rooftop across the street from the person you are trying to intimidate is that your plan hinges entirely on that person noticing you. Like, what if Mike had been having such a fun time with his granddaughter in the pool that he never saw The Cousins over there? How long were they willing to wait? Because I’m not going to lie to you: I’m picturing those two standing up there in silence for hours before finally giving up and walking back down the stairs all sad and defeated, and it is cracking me up.
– This makes two episodes in a row where Jimmy plays third fiddle on his own show, behind Kim and Mike. It says a lot about the confidence of the people running this show that they’re willing to let the guy whose name is in the dang title hang back for back-to-back installments, and it says a lot about the quality of the show that it has not suffered because of this decision one iota.
– I liked Richard’s line about being the “sole degenerate drinking during the workday” and how it was “vintage,” because heeeeyyy this is the same network that ran Mad Men. I have no idea if that was intentional or if I just miss Mad Men so much that I’m making winks and nods out of innocent blinks and neck stretching, but still. Roger Sterling would be proud.
– The company the $10,000 check from Viktor and Gisele’s mark was made out to? “Ice Station Zebra,” the movie Jimmy and Kim were watching the other week and the title of one of Saul’s future illicit holding companies.
– Mondays, right?