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'Better Call Saul': 'Alpine Shepherd Boy'

Posted on

Ursula Coyote/AMC

Better Call Saul

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks
Crime, Drama

By the end of the series, I have a feeling that we’ll find out that the events of Better Call Saul took place over the course of a couple, crazy months. That’s because once again, this week’s episode picks up moments after the previous one.

Chuck has just made a mad dash for his neighbor’s newspaper, but the paper’s actual owner isn’t pleased with the $5 the electromagnet-phobic lawyer left as payment. So here come Albuquerque’s finest, knocking on Chuck’s door and demanding that he open up to explain what the heck is going on. “I’d prefer not to officers,” Chuck tells them through the door. Since what a suspect prefers isn’t top priority to the police, one of the patrolmen snoops around back and finds the probable cause that Chuck is busy ranting about from behind the front door. Mr. McGill’s destroyed power breaker and stockpiled fuel is enough reason for the cops to break down his door. Chuck’s warnings to them about his condition go unheeded, however, and result in him receiving the very last thing he wanted: a shot from a Taser.

Jimmy’s doing great, though! That little incident with the billboard resulted in a good number of leads. Unfortunately, “good” can only be used to describe the quantity and not the quality. First up is Big Ricky Sipes, an anti-government loon, whose collection of stuffed animals rivals that of your average 6-year-old girl. His are taxidermy, of course. Big Ricky Sipes has plans that live up to his name, and Jimmy is totally game, even after his new client reveals his intentions to secede from the Union. Why would Jimmy ever go along with such an insane scheme? The price is right. Jimmy will get $1 million* as retainer for taking on Mr. Sipes’ case.

*Small detail: Payment will come in the form of Sipes’ self-printed money.

Suffice it to say that Jimmy gets the hell out of there faster than if one of those stuffed antelope came back to life.

Next on the list of potential clients is Roland Jaycocks, who’s a pretty great one-scene character. Roland, a father of two, has turned his once-in-a-lifetime idea into an invention that’s in desperate need of a patent. The gadget is Tony the Toilet Buddy, a speaker that attaches to a toilet bowl and uses motion-sensing tech to deliver positive reinforcement to training toddlers. The catch is that it says questionable things like, “Give it to me, Chandler. I want it all.” When Jimmy understandably calls Roland out on the sexual innuendo, he’s chased from the house.

Perhaps third time’s the charm? For Jimmy, that charm comes in the form of Mrs. Strauss, an elderly collector of porcelain figurines. She needs her will and testament drawn up, and dammit if she’s going to let the Towheaded Twins or the Lute-Playing Angel go to the wrong family member. Luckily, she’s got a nice fellow like James M. McGill to help her out. There’s only the issue of his fee, and we all watch in agony as Mrs. Strauss tortuously extracts $140 from her change purse.

NEXT: The Revenge of Tony the Talking Toilet (not really)


Coin bags aside, the Mrs. Strauss visit went pretty well, possibly good enough for Jimmy to start specializing in elder law, or at least that’s what Kim suggests at the salon that night. She has stopped by again for some chitchat and amateur toenail polishing, but the night takes a turn when she get’s a call from Howard. “It’s about Chuck,” she tells Jimmy, before taking a long pause. Kim really couldn’t have phrased that any better? “It’s about _______” is the number-one TV way to deliver the news of someone’s death. You’d think she’d have a little more compassion. Jeez.

Well, Chuck is alive, but not well. The police brought him to the hospital after shooting him with the Taser and made sure to leave every conceivable piece of electronic equipment on in his room. As soon as Jimmy gets there, he does his best to turn everything off, which is enough to bring hospital security and The Faculty‘s Clea DuVall into the picture. She’s a doctor and wants to talk to Jimmy about what to do with his brother, her vote going toward a 30-day evaluation. When Chuck wakes up suddenly, he seems nearly back to normal. After dumping the last few emitters of electromagnetic radiation, Chuck finally gives us some background on when his condition and its innumerable symptoms started. According to Chuck, his nervous system’s sensitivity to the particular wave frequencies began two years before, and he insists he’s not crazy as the doctor seems to be implying.

But the doctor makes a compelling point. Chuck is liable to hurt himself, even if he says he’s of sound mind. The low-fi setup of his house is basically a campfire ready to explode, and that’s apparently enough probable cause for a court-ordered psychiatric hold.

Jimmy, for his part, just wants to take his brother home, avoiding the commitment all together. That is, he just wants to take his brother home until Howard shows up. Chuck’s former partner arrives to tell Jimmy and Kim that he’s gotten the DA to block any commitment, which sets Jimmy off. Now he wants to have Chuck taken away for care, despite what he said immediately before. The flip-flop was all for show, though, since he knows that Howard’s only concern is Jimmy becoming Chuck’s legal guarantee and removing the partner from the firm, along with a boat-load of money. In the end, Jimmy is true to his word and takes his brother home.

Once there, the brothers have some air to clear. Jimmy believes he knows the cause of Chuck’s recent flare-up, and it wasn’t the journey across the street, as his brother insists. These kind of episodes, he tells Chuck, are patterned to the exploits of Slippin’ Jimmy. Whenever the young McGill gets in trouble, the other gets sick, bringing Jimmy back in line, but that’s all behind him now. The billboard, while suspicious-looking, has been great advertising, and Jimmy promises that his future career in elder law means the end of the Slippy One, which is enough to make Chuck act perfectly fine again.

NEXT: Mike reminds us all why he’s the best


I think we’re getting to the heart of Chuck’s condition here, and the truth of it has much darker implications for Jimmy than I imagined. The situation seems especially grim when you remember that we know where Jimmy ends up, and while I’m not suggesting Saul would definitely mention a brother to his meth-cooking clients, there’s no word of Chuck in that future.

In addition to some real info about Chuck, the latest episode of Better Call Saul also gave us the series’ funniest sequence to date, with Jimmy’s Matlock-inspired, Jell-O-infused trip to the nursing home. “Wait a second. Is that Veronica Lake?” It was perfect Saul and a brilliant turn by Odenkirk.

The episode’s conclusion made me the most hopeful I’ve been about the series since the black-and-white cold open. After his trip to meet with his potential new (old?) clients, Jimmy swings by Mike’s booth at the courthouse parking lot, and this time he’s packing the right amount of stickers and a business card, just in case Mr. Ehrmantraut happens to know any elders. The twist is that we stay with Mike once Jimmy leaves, all the way through to when his shift ends the next morning. He then gets a quick bite to eat at the most Mike place possible—a diner—and follows that up with another familiar activity, sitting in his car outside someone else’s house. In this case, the home belongs to a younger woman, possibly his daughter and the mother of his beloved Kaylee. Based on the look she gives him as she drives past, it’s not a terrible surprise when the cops interrupt Mike’s gangster movie later.

I’ve said it in a previous recap, and I think the point was demonstrated here perfectly: So far, Mike is a much more interesting prequel subject than Saul because of how far he has to travel to reach his Breaking Bad status, and this episode drove that point home. In some respects, this is the diner-loving Mike we know, but he lacks all of his criminal world influence and the character-defining relationship with his granddaughter. I’ve truly appreciated watching Jimmy McGill’s slow-but-steady rise to Saul Goodman, but as a Breaking Bad fan and a lover of great TV, this is the first time since Tuco’s surprise appearance at the end of the pilot that I’m dying to know what happens next.