Airdate: March 16, 2015
Directed by: Larysa Kondracki
Showrunners: Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould
Written by: Vince Gilligan (creator) & Peter Gould (creator); Gennifer Hutchison (episode)
After last week’s focus on Mike Ehrmantraut [Jonathon Banks] and his reasons for coming to Albuquerque, this week we spend more time with Jimmy [Bob Odenkirk]. Things with the Kettlemans are coming to a head, and Betsy [Julie Ann Emery] isn’t happy when people try to accuse her dear Craig [Jeremy Shamos] of any kind of malfeasance. So how do they take the increasing pressure? Click through for my synopsis and review.
<<Spoiler Alert: The following review will discuss Better Call Saul Season 1, Episode 7 “Bingo” at length, as well as discussing ongoing storylines.>>
Before we get to them, however, we begin the episode dealing with last week’s mess – specifically, the notepad that Mike stole from Detective Abbasi [Omid Abtahi]. Opening on a series of Wanted posters, the camera pans down to see the always stoic Mike sitting beside a slightly twitchy Jimmy. They’re in the police station, and they are quickly joined by Abbasi and his older, quieter (wiser?) partner Detective Sanders [Barry Shabaka Henley]. Abbasi gets right in Mike’s face, but it doesn’t seem to faze him at all. Jimmy stands up and tells the cop that he does the talking, not his client. Abbasi continues to push physically at Mike, while Sanders does his best to quietly calm him.
Abbasi’s overt sense of righteous indignation is a nice contrast to the world-weariness of the other three men, and when Jimmy gives his patently false story (they found the notepad on the ground on their way into the station), he nearly foams at the mouth as he threatens both Jimmy and Mike with arrest. Sanders manages to get him to leave, with Abbasi telling Mike as he leaves that they’ll be talking to his daughter-in-law later in the morning.
Mike dismisses Jimmy against his advice, and sits with Sanders for a few minutes. Sanders commiserates, and tells Jimmy that there were not a few cops who felt the two that got killed in Philadelphia got what was coming to them. Mike, still cagy despite speaking with his friend, doesn’t bite. Sanders offers some good advice – to talk to his daughter-in-law before he and Abbasi do – but Mike tells him he’s satisfied with whatever she chooses to say. He almost looks resigned, certainly tired, and he’s willing to put his fate into her hands; after all, it was her husband that the other two cops murdered. They finish their conversation, after also talking about how young blood like Abbasi might be just the thing that the department needs, with Sanders pointing out that the young guns just don’t get that “Some rocks you don’t turn over.”
His tacit approval of Mike’s actions (and it’s clear that both he and Abbasi know that he took out the two bad cops), seems sincere on the surface, but Jimmy isn’t nearly so confident as Mike, and tries to get details of the conversation outside when Mike comes out. Mike, however, tells him that his services will no longer be needed, and that “It’s in somebody else’s hands.” Jimmy follows up with the funniest line of the night: “Please don’t say it’s HHM.” As Mike drives away, Jimmy tells him he’ll send his bill later, foreshadowing a very cool sequence later in the episode.
Later that morning, Jimmy makes his daily visit to Chuck’s [Michael McKean], bringing the ice and papers. However, Chuck doesn’t answer at first, and Jimmy gets mildly panicked, looking for his brother. He hears him faintly, and finds him out the back door, counting up to 120. He rushes back inside, and explains that he’s trying to acclimate himself to the electromagnetic energies. His encounter with the police, and visit to the hospital, have scared him, and he wants to try to get back to normal, to find a way of dealing with his “illness.”
Before he leaves, Jimmy wheels in several boxes of files, and drops them off on the middle of the floor in Chuck’s study. Chuck is very uncomfortable with the intrusion, but doesn’t say anything as Jimmy kind of fast-talks his way through the situation, leaving before Chuck can say no. This is, of course, a set-up. Jimmy pretends to not even know the right kind of legal document he needs to file for a will, Chuck correcting him out of habit, and after he gets outside, Jimmy peeks in the window to see Chuck going through the files – mission, I suspect, accomplished.
Cut to later in the day, and Jimmy is driving Kim [Rhea Seehorn] to an office building in an industrial park. After getting a set of keys from the security desk, he shows Kim around the space he wants to set up his office in. It’s quite roomy, with lots of offices, and she’s very supportive of his decision to move out of the nail salon. After showing her the boardroom he shows her his office, which he plans to decorate with a cocobolo desk – because he loves the sound of the word. (It is, by the way, a beautiful wood endemic to Central America – here’s a link with more info.)
This is not, however, a simple tour. They get to the corner office, a large space with great views, and she tells him he should make this his office. However, he’s saving it for someone else. Yes, I along with every other viewer out there cringed when he said this. Of course that “someone else” is Kim, and he asks her to be his partner. The reason we all cringed inwardly before he even asked her is that this is yet another case of Jimmy putting himself in a situation where he can’t get what he wants – setting himself up for disappointment, as it were.
To her credit, Kim lets him down really easy, pointing out that she’s about two years from making partner at Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill (HHM), and that she not only feels that she owes them, she does owe them – they put her through law school. To deflect, she decides to go look at the office kitchen, which she then oohs and aahs about. The camera lingers on Jimmy a bit as Kim leaves the room – he doesn’t say anything, nor does he need to, his deep inner sadness cracking his wise-guy facade for just a moment.
Back in her office, Kim is meeting with the Kettlemans, Betsy and Craig. She tells them that there is both bad news and good. The bad is that there is little chance of them not being found guilty; the good is that she’s managed to wrangle out a tremendous deal with the DA that will reduce Craig’s potential jail time from 30 years all the way down to 16 months. Of course, it is all contingent on their returning the money. “Give back the money?” Craig starts to ask, but Betsy quickly puts her hand on his arm, saying, “But there is no money. We’ve told you, Craig is innocent.” Kim presses them, trying to explain that this is their best choice, and offers to give them some time to think things over. Betsy tells her it won’t be necessary, and that she’s fired. Cut to Howard Hamlin [Patrick Fabian] chasing them through the hallways, until Betsy tells him to stop harassing them. He turns and gives Kim the evil eye – he’s blaming her for not being able to rein in patently insane clients.
Under the I
We cut to Jimmy calling bingo at the retirement home. He’s full of witty banter, mostly about staying healthy and getting their wills done. In this scene, more than any other so far, he comes across as a slick, slightly slimy, gameshow host. When an elderly patron calls bingo, her prize is a notebook with a kitten on the cover. This gives her an excuse to wax poetic on her two Siamese cats, Oscar and Felix. Just in case we didn’t get the allusion, she adds that “Felix will wash himself. Oscar won’t. He…he just won’t.”
As she’s speaking, Jimmy’s phone rings. Excusing himself, he uses his faux British accent to answer. Guess who – the Kettlemans.
They meet at the same diner they met in back in Episode 101, telling him they want to hire him. When he asks why, Betsy, incredulity painting her face, says “They treated us like we were guilty.” He hesitates, so she points out that they’ve already paid him a “retainer.”
Jimmy goes to the bathroom to call Kim, and she pleads with him to get them to go back to HHM. He agrees, although he sees it as an uphill battle. He goes back, and tells them he’s moved on to elder law, so he can’t take them on. He tells them that Kim is a great lawyer, and that she’s worked out the best deal possible for them, so they should go back and return the money. Betsy insists, “There is no money with which to make a deal,” eliciting a wonderful monologue from Jimmy:
Can we all three just parachute down from cloud cuckoo land, because we know, without question, there is money. I distinctly remember a spirited game of tug-of-war over this money, momey which we then discussed at length. You made many excuses justifying your possession of said money. It’s there, it exists.
Betsy twitches a little as he talks, but she’s nothing if not resilient in the moment, reminding him that if there were money, and they were to return it, there would need to a full accounting of it – a full accounting, as Craig emphasizes. Embezzlement with a side of Blackmail.
At HHM, Hamlin leads Jimmy to Kim’s office, where the boxes of Kettleman files are piled up, about six or seven of them. Jimmy asks where Kim is, and Hamlin tells him she’s been moved to the east wing – basically out of the main office, signaling his disapproval. Jimmy calls him out on the pettiness of his actions, but Hamlin shuts him down.
Jimmy struggles with the boxes, taking them down to the parking lot where he finds Kim smoking. She’s understanding – she knows just how crazy the Kettlemans, especially Betsy, are. She wishes him luck, but tells him that there is no way he’s going to get them off – most of the money was stolen through expense checks Kettleman wrote to himself, making it pretty damned easy to trace.
Jimmy tries, going through the files, but gets more and more frustrated as he does. There’s no way to get the not-guilty verdict the Kettlemans are demanding, and no apparent way Jimmy can avoid being implicated along with them because of the threat of them revealing his bribery. He sits back, and his eyes drift to the ceiling. A pained look on his face, he climbs up and takes his hidden moneybox down, removing the last stack of $10,000 along with a few loose bills.
We cut to night, outside the Kettleman house. Mike is there, and he’s spraying the 10K stack with a liquid that leaves no visible trace. He places it on an RC truck, and drives it over to the Kettlemans’ back porch. As they’re getting ready for bed, Craig comes outside and sees the money sitting there. He and Betsy call the kids into the room, and we see them silently giving the kids the third degree from Mike’s perspective out back. Betsy goes running upstairs with the cash, but she turns the lights out before hiding it, so we don’t see where she puts it.
However, Mike is far smarter than the Kettlemans. He breaks into their house quietly, efficiently, and enters. Remember that fluid he sprayed on the bills? He pulls out a UV flashlight, and follows the traces – fingerprints and smudges – left behind by the money. He follows it to an upstairs bathroom, where he finds the cash hidden under a false bottom beneath the bathroom sink.
Back at Jimmy’s office, Jimmy thanks Mike for “not taking off with this.” He places the 10K bundle in, and follows it with another $20,000 in loose notes. “What are you doing?” Mike asks, an actual emotion – shock – showing briefly on his usually stony face. Jimmy makes air quotes: “The right thing.” “So we’re even,” Mike says to Jimmy – here’s the “bill” that Jimmy told him he’d send him earlier in the episode. For Breaking Bad fans, this is the first time we get to see Mike working as a Fixer for Jimmy, which is a pretty important part of his later (earlier?) characterization.
The next morning finds Jimmy back at the Kettleman house. Betsy asks him if he has any news on their case, but he tells them that before he gets into that, they should go check on their money. Betsy starts to protest, so Jimmy adds “In the cupboard underneath the bathroom sink.” She runs upstairs, Craig looking disbelieving. Betsy comes back down and threatens to call the police, to have Jimmy arrested; here, her facade actually breaks down for a moment, as she isn’t able to get the word “stolen” out.
Jimmy points out that criminals can’t complain to the cops when their stolen goods are taken by someone else, so Betsy pulls out her last card – the bribery. Jimmy agrees that if she were to reveal that, it would mess up his career pretty badly, but then he trumps her: at present, the DA is only after Craig; if Betsy reveals the bribery, it will implicate her as well, and they’ll both do jail time. She still tries to resist the reality presented to her, but Craig finally takes a stand with her, using their children’s future well-being as a way of talking her down.
Jimmy drives the Kettlemans over to HHM, where he meets and hands them off to Kim in the parking lot. As the elevator doors close, she mouths “thank you” at him.
He heads back the office he wanted to lease. He looks around, conflicting emotions running over his face. He goes into the corner office, hanging his head down, the very image of the beaten down Jimmy we’ve come to know. Suddenly, he kicks the office door shut, and kicks it a few more times. Practically in tears, he slumps to the floor. He’s facing the true cost of “doing the right thing.” If he’d taken the easier, less noble route, he’d still have his money, his office, his dreams intact. Heck, he might have even ended up with Kim partnering up with him and moving into the office, as her prospects at HHM were pretty dim before he got her the Kettlemans back. But no, he did what he knew was right, and again he finds himself at the bottom, with just an unvoiced thank you to his name.
As he sits there, his phone rings. Wiping his face, and trying to keep the quaver out of his voice, he answers again in his faux British secretary voice. Jimmy’s back in the office.
This was another excellent episode, although to be frank not quite as mind-blowing as last week’s. Seeing Mike’s origins was a pretty special thing, but getting to watch him taking his first turn as Jimmy’s fixer here was almost as good. McKean continues to knock every scene he’s in out of the park, and even the lesser parts – Betsy and Craig come to mind – are played with such quirky relish that it’s hard not to sit there watching the show with a silly grin on your face.
The themes tonight were a little lighter, something which is nice to have after the darkness we’ve been descending into recently, but don’t expect that to continue. Previews suggest that Chuck and Jimmy are going to come across something sinister in the files he’s left, and knowing Jimmy, it’s going to lead him down yet another path to murky morals and difficult choices.
Where Breaking Bad was largely about good things happening to bad people (save for final come-uppances etc.), so far Saul appears to be more about bad things happening to a good person. Jimmy isn’t perfect – he wasn’t called Slippin’ Jimmy for no reason – but he sincerely seems to want to do the right thing. It’s largely about how he is perceived by those he loves and respects. First it was his decision to try to shield Chuck from his more questionable activities back in Episodes 104 and 105; now, it’s his decision to sacrifice a potentially lucrative situation and a great office in order to protect Kim from her boss’s vindictiveness. These are the actions of a person who cares, a person who, despite associations and appearances, is a fundamentally decent human being. Yet we know that Jimmy is quite literally transformed by the time we see him in Breaking Bad. The joy – and the pain – will be in the journey. But I think I’ll still be rooting for him right to the end.
Steve’s Grade: A-
Yet another solid episode, cementing the early relationship between Jimmy and Mike. Self-sacrifice and basic human decency are becoming the calling cards of our would-be shyster lawyer.