While last week’s episode of Better Call Saul ended with a glimpse of the venal, bitter man Jimmy McGill will one day become, this week’s installment, “Slip,” started by reminding us who he’s always been.
In a flashback, we see Jimmy and Marco surveying the dusty wreckage of his parents’ former shop in Cicero, Illinois. This scene looks like it’s taking place during the week-long final hurrah of cons that ended with Marco’s untimely death; Jimmy is retrieving his childhood coin collection from its hiding place in the store’s drop ceiling so that they can run another scam, this time with an Indian Head penny. And when Marco asks why he hid it there in the first place, Jimmy reluctantly explains: The one time he ever pointed out a valuable coin to his father, a.k.a. Mr. Honesty, his dad ran after the guy who’d paid with it to try to give it back. After that, Jimmy didn’t point out the rare coins anymore; he just swiped them from the till at the end of the day and stuck them in a Band-Aid box. It’s a worthwhile reminder of just where Jimmy first learned to cultivate the hard-heartedness that serves him so well as Saul Goodman; as much as he loved his parents, they were an object lesson in the perils of being an easy mark.
Cut to present-day Albuquerque: Jimmy’s freebie ad package for the music store has brought in an enormous amount of business, which means it’s time for the store owners to follow through and buy his Elite Package: “Seven commercials for the heavily discounted price of $6500.” But rather than behaving like men of honor, the two bearded twits rudely renege on their end of the bargain. It’s time for Slippin’ Jimmy to make an appearance — literally, as Jimmy contrives to trip over a drumstick on camera. Sprawled out on the ground, he groans dramatically, “You guys have liability insurance, right?”
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Meanwhile, in the first of two all-too-brief moments featuring everyone’s favorite grizzled get-it-done guy, Mike Ehrmantraut parks just past the weathered Oasis Motor Court sign and begins combing the desert with a metal detector. It takes several hours — condensed into a single, beautifully-shot minute, in which half a dozen miniature Mikes dig through the dirt like industrious, identical ants — but he eventually unearths what he’s looking for. Casting aside a shovelful of dirt reveals the outstretched fingers of a buried hand, wedding ring still intact. Best guess: This is the body of the good Samaritan who lost his life after Mike chose not to kill Hector Salamanca’s driver (and the “one more thing” he needed from Nacho the last time they spoke).
Back in lawyerland, Kim’s diligent work ethic is beginning to pay off, in the form of referral business from the head honcho at Mesa Verde. And whatever the eventual downside of her association with Jimmy, you’ve gotta love the confidence it’s given her to give condescending Howard Hamlin a swift, professional kick to the ego. After a chance run-in at a restaurant where Howard smarmily claims credit for the success of his “protégé,” Kim turns the tables by paying him back for the law school loans HHM covered — and calls him out for trying to hide Chuck’s illness to protect the firm.
“All Jimmy and I did was show the situation for what it is, and if you were hiding that from your clients, that’s on you,” she says. (The only unfortunate thing about this scene is that Kim doesn’t have a cooler car to drive away in after putting Howard in his place.)
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While Howard is doing damage control after Chuck’s in-court meltdown, Chuck is making remarkable strides with his self-designed exposure therapy. Despite being cautioned by Dr. Cruz not to get ahead of himself, he’s clearly looking forward to having a normal, healthy relationship with light bulbs again — while also looking back with anguish at the years he’s spent in confinement, especially as he realizes that his prison may have been entirely self-made.
“If it’s not real,” he asks, “then what have I done?”
That’s a question with many answers, but the one Chuck fears most might be imminent: After successfully running a gauntlet of electric pain in the grocery store’s freezer aisle, he returns home to find Howard waiting… to discuss the small matter of his malpractice insurance.
And back at the offices of Wexler-McGill, we’re treated to a familiar sight: Jimmy is sprawled on the floor, injured but unburdened of his remaining ad time (and gently twanging that gorgeous Fender Stratocaster signed by Ritchie Blackmore, which is no less than he deserves for his pain and suffering). But even in victory, Jimmy seems defeated: “My back hurts like hell, and people suck,” he says.
This moment is a harbinger of the frequently prostrate Saul Goodman to come, and for Jimmy, it’s a turning point: With his expenses taken care of for the next several weeks, and with Kim thoroughly ensconced in her work for her referral client, this is his chance to pay his remaining debt to society and decide what he wants to do next — and what he wants to do next, as it turns out, is use his legal expertise to bully the pompous community service foreman, and to collect a cool $700 from a fellow miscreant who gets his own freedom out of the deal. I googled myself nearly to death trying to figure out if the sock-money drug dealer appeared in Breaking Bad (tentatively: nope), but what matters is that Jimmy is, y’know, slipping.
And finally, left for last because it was the highlight of this week’s episode: Nacho is moving forward with his plan to get put Hector Salamanca out of commission and thus protect his beloved papa from being roped into the cartel. After creating a dozen dummy pills filled with crushed-up ibuprofen, practicing his palming technique, and performing an act of parkour to sabotage the AC at Hector’s favorite restaurant, everything is set — and props to Michael Mando, who is better than any actor alive at playing outwardly cool while simultaneously conveying an inner state of abject pants-wetting terror. Hector removes his jacket. Nacho removes the pills. And as he fetches his boss another espresso, it’s the moment of truth… and nothing but net. The next time Hector Salamanca reaches for his nitroglycerin, he’ll come up with a mouthful of useless placebo.
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