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'Better Call Saul' recap: 'Rico'

Jimmy finds his first big case and a new partner.

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Ursula Coyote/AMC

Better Call Saul

TV Show
Crime, Drama
Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould
Bob Odenkirk, Michael McKean
Current Status:
On Hiatus

It has been kind of thrilling, watching Better Call Saul find its voice, rhythm, and sense of humor over the course of the first season. The makings of each element have been present from the beginning, but seeing an episode like “Rico,” which doesn’t benefit from the “Breaking Bad bump” the way that “Five-O” did, this feels like such a richer, more nuanced show than the one that started eight weeks ago.

This week’s cold open flashback plants us at the very beginning of Jimmy’s law career. No longer Slippin’ Jimmy, Chuck’s former fraternal disappointment has a new gig, mailroom clerk at HHM, but he’s been spending his nights and weekends doing something a little more constructive. There’s one piece of mail that Jimmy can’t open, and not because that would get him fired. This letter is addressed to him, but he takes it to Kim—then exiled to a dark, box-filled pocket of the office—to open it. As Jimmy tells Chuck after receiving a smooch from Kim, he’s passed the bar, which catches his brother by total surprise. Thanks to correspondence classes from the University of American Samoa (“Go, Land Crabs!”), James M. McGill is a bona fide, certified lawyer, and therefore, available for more significant employment at HHM.

I want to call out the next scene for a second because it’s a perfect example of the creative team approaching a sequence in a way that almost no one else on TV does. Howard interrupts a small celebration in the mailroom and asks to speak with Jimmy alone. Closing the door behind them, the others leave, and—at least in terms of sound—so do we. Cutting out the dialogue from Howard and Jimmy’s conversation could (wrongly) be taken as an empty style choice, but think about what we’re really missing here. We know Howard, and we understand Jimmy’s reputation at this point. By muting the sound, the show is demonstrating that we know these guys well enough to fill in the blanks ourselves and be completely right. This, in essence, is an exchange we’ve already heard, and the scene acknowledges this. Jimmy, no matter how hard he tries, cannot improve his station, because the people in power won’t have it.

In the present tense, that struggle continues, though Jimmy has made some significant strides. Though Howard gets to go on TV and brag about the Kettleman deal that Jimmy is responsible for, the elder law specialist cannot be deterred. At Sandpiper Crossing, an assisted living facility, Jimmy meets with his new client. Mrs. Landry is having her will and testament finally drawn up, but unfortunately, she doesn’t have the money to cover Jimmy’s fee. She will, however, be able to pay him once her allowance comes through. Allowance you say? Jimmy wants to hear more. According to Mrs. Landry, things like pension and social security for all of the Sandpiper residence first go to the caretakers, who then deduct expenses before depositing the remainder and doling out a bi-weekly allowance. Now, that doesn’t seem quite right, so Jimmy takes the initiative of teaching a few of Mrs. Landry’s friends how to read their invoices, something the management isn’t too pleased about.

And just as that suspicious look from the receptionist would suggest, there’s more to the Sandpiper story. At Chuck’s—who has, as predicted, finished some of the work his brother left boxed up at his house—Jimmy is looking for a Sandpiper receipt from a previous client. As the two McGills learn from the coded entries on the front of the bills and the fine-print key on the back, Sandpiper Crossing is overcharging its residents, and there’s decent proof of concealment. This could be a class-action lawsuit on fraud charges, but according to Chuck, Jimmy needs more evidence.

That means heading back to Sandpiper, but the staff has wisened up to Jimmy’s scheme. At the front desk, he’s welcomed with a “no solicitation” sign and the sound of a document shredder. The staff doesn’t want to let him in, but he can’t be kept from the bathroom, where he pretends to have IBS and drafts a demand letter on the back of his notepad and a few squares of toilet paper. If the person in the office doesn’t stop shredding documents immediately, they risk destruction of evidence charges on top of fraud. It’s an impressive show of legal maneuvering on Jimmy’s part, but all it does is get him kicked out.

NEXT: Brotherly teamwork