I was starting to worry that “Better Call Saul” was gonna be content to stay in first gear forever, so thank god for this episode.
Let’s pick up where we left off. Chuck McGill’s neighbor’s driveway, $5 bill under a rock, cops pulling up to Chuck’s house. Seriously, what kind of neighbor calls the cops on you just because you burst out of your front door wearing a space blanket, stumbled, deranged and bewildered, across the street and stole their newspaper? If my neighbors called the cops on me every time I did that, my birdcage would be a lot messier and my neighbors would be at least $20 poorer. It’s a victimless crime, Albuquerque. Get with the times.
This leads to a pretty hilarious exchange between Chuck (“Officers, let’s discuss something called ‘probable cause.'”) and the police (“Guy sure as shit sounds like a tweaker. Is he coming out, or are we going in?”), which eventually leads the latter to bust down Chuck’s door and tase his ass. And THAT is how you do a cold open, kids. You electrocute an old man. Hooks ’em every time.
Before we learn Chuck’s fate, we get to spend the day with the newly famous Jimmy McGill as he drives around the ABQ to visit potential clients. First up is one Mr. Richard “Call Me Ricky, Boy!” Sipes, a Cliven Bundy-flavored patriot who bemoans Jimmy’s “Asian piece of shit” car and wants to enlist his help in seceding from the United States. Jimmy smells payday and begins to spin a tale of a years-long fight for freedom that could end up at the Supreme Court, and Sipes eats the whole thing up. “I’d like to put you on retainer. How’s $1 million even sound? Five hundred up frunnt, five hundred when we’re done.” Sipes goes off to get Jimmy the first half in cash while Jimmy tries not to choke on the expensive scotch he’s drinking. When he brings back a tray piled with bills, Jimmy takes a stack of hundreds and sees President Ricky Sipes’ smiling face staring back at him from the bill on top. “Tax-free and backed by the full faith and credit of the sovereign Sandia Republic!”
Inventor Roland J. Cox (whom approximately two of you will recognize as Brad Blevins from The Onion’s criminally under-adored fantasy football spoof Tough Season) has an idea that will change toilet training forever and needs Jimmy to help him with the patent. Y’see, you apparently have to give kids lots of encouragement when they’re dropping a deuce because this show is set in a universe where they don’t just do that in in their pants whenever they feel like it and hey you’re on diaper duty and YOU WILL NEVER FEEL CLEAN AGAIN so Roland came up with Tony the Toilet Buddy. It’s a speaker with a motion sensor, so when a kid’s doing its business, Tony will sense it and say encouraging things like, “Oh yeah, that’s the way!” or “Gosh, you’re big! You’re so big! My goodness! Look at you!” or “Fill me up, Chandler! Put it in me!” Jimmy tries to turn a negative into a positive with, “I’m not saying this won’t make money…” but Roland takes it the wrong way and kicks him out of the house. Such big ideas for such a small-minded man. GO BIG OR GO HOME, ROLAND.
Old lady taking her motorized chair down the stairs and hobbling over in Jimmy’s direction with the Alpine Shepherd Boy figurine she finally found. She’s finally putting her will together, and she’s got to decide to whom to bestow that figurine and what appears to be several dozen of its brethren to her many surviving family members. Jimmy turns up the huckster charm and before long has $140 cash from the lady. Just for a will! Didn’t even have to go to court! It’s no cool half-million in Sipesbucks, but it’s still pretty great.
Later, he’s painting Kim’s toenails and talking girl stuff with her and she floats the idea that elder law ain’t a bad gig. Somebody needs to speak up for geriatrics when they can’t do so themselves, so why couldn’t it be a greedy scumfuck like Jimmy? And then Kim gets a phone call and Chuck’s in the hospital and everything goes to hell again.
This next scene is cool in that it gives us some more insight into Chuck’s condition while also giving Jimmy a good freak-out scene toward everybody who doesn’t care about his brother as much as he does. Dude’s in the hospital after the taser thing, and the first thing Jimmy does is start turning off all the lights and the machinery, much to the dismay of medical professionals in the vicinity. Here it comes out that Chuck has, according to Jimmy, “acute electromagnetic hypersensitivity.” Or, to put it in Jimmy’s layman’s terms “he’s allergic to electricity.” The brothers list a whole rash of symptoms that occur whenever Chuck gets near anything that beeps, but the doctor[ref]The great Clea DuVall, who makes the most of what didn’t have any right to be more than your average thankless spout-some-backstory-and-medical-bullshit TV doctor bit part[/ref] ain’t buying it and thinks that maybe some of that shit is in his head. She, having known Chuck for all of 20 seconds, has decided that he should be committed and that Jimmy should testify for it. This pisses Jimmy off one way, which makes it all the more fantastic when fucking Howard Hamlin shows up and pisses Jimmy off the other.
Hamlin is all “We’re definitely with you on not getting Chuck committed,” and Jimmy’s all, “Of course you are because if he got committed then I’d be his guardian and I’d cash him out of the firm.” So he tells Hamlin he’s committing Chuck, but just for the sake of pissing Hamlin off. That’s noble, right?
When Jimmy and Chuck get home from Chuck not being committed, we get another Jimmy does a tap dance around Chuck’s feelings and Chuck stares at him disapprovingly from under a space blanket scene. Blah blah blah, Jimmy’s going into elder law and “Slippin’ Jimmy’s back in Cicero, dead and buried,” blah blah blah. But as soon as he believes Jimmy’s on the straight and narrow, Chuck throws off the space blanket, feeling much refreshed. So yeah, definitely in his head. Whatever.
Next up is a Jell-O montage. No, I’m not even kidding. Buncha old people at an old people place, eating Jell-O. And what, to their wondering eyes, should appear at the bottom of that Jell-O cups but a caricature of Jimmy surrounded by the words, “Need A Will? Call McGill!” Fucking beautiful, “Better Call Saul.” Fucking. Beautiful. Even more beautiful is the appearance of Jimmy himself, working the room in a straight-up “Matlock” suit (no seriously, he had the suit designed by watching episodes of “Matlock”). This is gonna be awesome.
The last five minutes of the episode made me the happiest, though, because they did something the show hasn’t yet done: They followed a character other than Jimmy McGill around for a while. The transition is great, too. Kinda “Slacker“-style. First we got Jimmy, bucks up and doing good in his ridiculous Matlock suit, driving away from the courthouse, where he obviously runs into Mike Ehrmentraut. A little jovial back and forth (“What’cha reading, there? The complete rules for parking validation?” “No, the rules for parking validation are actually pretty simple. Most people get ’em on the first try.”) and Jimmy drives off, leaving us with Mike as he completes the night shift, goes to a diner, buries his face in his hands as if doing so opens up a window to the black hole into which he can crash-land his flaming wreck of a life, then goes and stares at a house for a while until the house’s owner drives by and gives him el ojo mal. Then he goes home and watches some TV until the cops show up. Some dude Mike recognizes is at his door, and Mike says by way of greeting, “Long way from home, aren’t you?” And the dude responds with, “You and me both.”
This episode was great, and I’m gonna say that’s largely because it was flashback-free. Think we’ve finally found cylinders No. 3 and 4 on this show. Only question now is whether we’re driving Jimmy’s “Asian Piece of Shit” or Saul’s Caddy.
Full disclosure: I thought there were way more synonyms for “apocalypse” than there apparently are, so I’m pretty much cashed on armageddon puns. That’s why this week’s episode gets a rating of…