Has everyone calmed down from “Five-O”? I sure hope so, because this week’s episode very deliberately shifts momentum back down to Better Call Saul’s more familiar pace, but to great effect.
The episode opened with another smart visual flourish in what is becoming a series of smart visual flourishes. Jimmy and Mike sit beneath the “most wanted” board at the Albuquerque police station, hoping to return the notebook they happened to “find” in the parking lot. The notebook just so happens to be the one that the young Philadelphia detective claims Mike stole, and now Jimmy and his client are hoping to end the matter. The cop suspects that exactly what happened happened, but there’s not enough evidence to prove that Jimmy spilled the coffee so that Mike could swipe the booklet and examine it for any possible evidence connecting him to the deaths of two crooked cops. “The state of Pennsylvania can extradite people for returning lost property?” Jimmy says. “Wow, that is bold legislature.” That’s okay, the detective assures them, because they’re stopping by his daughter-in-law’s place later to see what she has to say. A chat between Mike and the more veteran detective quickly squares things, however, since there seems to be an understanding between the two. “He’s got to learn though,” the detective says of his partner. “Some rocks you don’t turn over.”
Even though Mike won’t disclose his conversation with the detective to his lawyer, there’s still the matter of Jimmy’s fee, which the ex-cop will repay in a very cool way later in the episode.
Having put a nice, little bow on the storyline from “Five-O,” “Bingo” jumps right back into a very Saul story and everything that comes with that, like Chuck. Jimmy’s brother is making progress. When the younger McGill comes home, bearing ice for his big bro, he finds Chuck outside. He’s been standing there for a whole two minutes. (A new record!) Chuck’s recent run-in with Albuquerque PD and the subsequent hospital stay has convinced him that he needs to work on fixing himself. The short trips into the sun are his way of building up a tolerance to electromagnetic radiation, just like how Wesley made himself immune to iocane powder in The Princess Bride. Jimmy, pleased with the progress that his brother seems to be making, drops off a load of his files, which—based on his secretive glance through the window— might have more to do with getting Chuck back in the game than storage issues.
Because based on the office that Jimmy looks at with Kim, there really shouldn’t be too many storage issues. The suite, which will serve as Jimmy’s home base, is enormous, with room for a cocobolo desk and a maybe partner (Kim), if she’ll have him. As flattered by the offer as she is, Kim can’t leave HHM, especially not as she’s getting ready to strike a plea bargain for Craig Kettleman. Yes, the Kettlesman, the character that just won’t go away, are back and ready to hear from their lawyer. The way Kim sees it, there’s no favorable ruling coming from their case. Crag is looking at 30 years with a guilty verdict. The best option for them is a deal that Kim brokered with the D.A., which would lock Craig away from 16 months̬ (probably fewer) after returning the money, of course.
The money? What money? The Kettlemans didn’t take any money, or at least, that’s what they insist to Kim, who’s summarily fired for not offering a jail-free option. Instead, the Kettlemans opt for Jimmy and the passion he promised back in the pilot. Except, times have changed. Jimmy specializes in elder law now (and emcees bingo!). He can’t poach Kim’s big client, but Betsy Kettleman thinks that’s exactly what he should do, even after he asks them to go back to HHM. You see, there’s still the issue of the $30,000 that the Kettlemans gave Jimmy after he discovered their “camping trip.” That’s enough leverage for the Kettlemans to get exactly what they want from Jimmy. “We’re in this together, Mr. McGill,” Betsy says. “Come what may.”
To be fair to the Kettlemans, they haven’t met Mike.
NEXT: Mike goes to work…
Before Jimmy comes up with his excellent scheme, there’s a brief, dark period where he takes on the case in earnest. He heads over to HMM to grab the case files and see just how bad things have gotten for Kim. Losing the Kettleman case has added another eight years to her path to partner, but she doesn’t blame Jimmy for taking on the insane clients. Finally able to speak freely, Kim admits that there’s very little chance that Jimmy can top her deal with the D.A., and he has to agree.
While “Bingo” obviously lacks the Breaking Bad-ness of “Five-O,” it deserves credit for taking the time to make us believe the relationship between Jimmy and Kim. Up until now, the show has relied on brief hang-outs, chit chats, and expository dialogue to make us buy them as not only friends, but former phone sex buddies. Here, we feel it when Jimmy wants something from Kim and that he’s willing to help her, even if it means costing him that new office. Theirs is the most realistic relationship in the series, which has fallen short in that area so far.
And now a riddle: What do you do when you find yourself in a pinch in Albuquerque? You call Mike Ehrmantraut.
As a means of collecting his fee, Jimmy enlists Mike’s help to make the D.A. deal a little more appealing to the Kettlemans. The ex-cop and forever badass leaves a wad of Jimmy’s bribe out on the back porch, covered in a liquid that reacts to UV light. After Craig picks up the bills and the rest of the house turns in for bed, Mike is able to break in and follow the trail of UV fingerprints straight to the entire stash. When Jimmy drops by the next morning to tell them that the money is gone and back in the hands of the D.A., Craig begins to see the light and convinces Betsy that there’s only one solution: go to prison and hopefully stay off the show for good. Because for as sensational of a character as Jimmy/Saul is, the Kettlemans have felt like caricatures, even next to him.
Jimmy delivering the Kettlemans back to Kim means two things. 1) She will likely return to the good graces of HHM, and 2) Jimmy can’t afford his new office, which lines up exactly with the running theme of the show. The world has made itself clear, when it comes to Jimmy. As long as he holds onto what remains of his conscience, he won’t have the things that he wants. Returning his bribe and staying loyal to Kim means that he can’t have his office. Caring for Chuck and believing that he’ll get better keeps the money owed to his brother tied up in HHM. If the first seven episodes of Better Call Saul have made anything clear it’s that there’s more to Jimmy’s transformation into Saul than a strip mall office and some TV ads. He’s going to have to sell his soul.