Better Call Saul S1E9: “Pimento”
Massive plot changes are something a lot of shows attempt, whether it be a mediocre show trying to breathe second life into the show or a good show trying to take the leap into a great one, it happens. Better Call Saul joins the massive plot twist club in “Pimento”, its penultimate episode of the first season, does it stick the landing? Let’s recap.
Let us start with Mike. Mike at times, save for one episode has felt like a secondary character, maybe even just to serve a joke in the first few episodes, his story is really coming into his own. In “Pimento” Mike finds himself gearing up for a bodyguard job, looking like it’s going to be a three man job, him, a really big guy, and a really arrogant guy. The arrogant guy goes around yapping about how many guns he has on him and berates Mike for not having any (Mike does have that Pimento cheese sandwich though). It seems like a fair point, a protection job and Mike shows up without a gun? Well Mr. Arrogant asks Mike to try and disarm him and Mike does it easily and effortlessly. That’s all big guy needs to see and he promptly leaves. Scenes like this show why everyone likes Mike.
Mike doesn’t even keep the guns he got by disarming the guy. He’s done his homework on the job and knows that things will not escalate here. First time drug dealer Pryce is trading with a familiar face in Nacho, Nacho is doing this on the side without letting his business partners know so it’s in his best interest to keep everything quiet. So when the count is twenty dollars short, Mike can be stiff and calmly ask that they cover the twenty missing dollars. Pryce is out of his depth here and if he’s going to keep doing this he’s going to have to keep Mike around. Mike mentions on the way home that being a criminal doesn’t make you a bad guy and being a non-criminal doesn’t mean you’re good. “You’re a criminal now. Good one or bad, that’s up to you”.
While that is a very truthful quote from Mike, it also serves a second purpose. It sets up a brilliant contrast with our twist ending. After reluctantly bringing the Sandpiper case to HHM, Jimmy is shocked. The of counsel fee and final payout when they eventually win are both great numbers that Jimmy can help promote his business with but there’s a catch. He won’t actually be working on the case with HHM. When Jimmy goes off on Howard, it’s hard to argue it isn’t merited. He’s brought them a multi-million dollar that appears as winnable as the Kettleman case was losable and even still he isn’t allowed to work at HHM. Jimmy would rather burn the case to the ground than give it to HHM if he can’t work with them on it and he says as much to Howard. Howard does a great job of keeping a secret and not blurting out that is isn’t his fault as we soon learn thereafter.
I don’t know about anyone else but I sure wasn’t prepared for what happened at the end of this episode. Howard has played the role of a villain so far but we find out that’s all a ruse as its Chuck, Jimmy’s own brother that has been sabotaging Jimmy’s career and preventing him from ever working at HHM. It’s heartbreaking to watch Jimmy piece it all together as well as he does. Chuck made a secret phone call to Howard the night before their meeting and it could only be for one reason, to tell Howard that Jimmy will not be hired. Jimmy rightfully notes that it must have been complete agony for Chuck to make a phone call with his condition but he wants to bring down his brother so much that he is willing to do it. Everything fits together perfectly. Chuck was given a hero’s welcome upon his return to HHM, he’s clearly more than just a third of an owner here. If he really wanted Jimmy to work at HHM, all he would have to do is say so. But that’s not what he wants. I don’t doubt that Chuck loves his brother as he says he’s alright with Slippin’ Jimmy. His problem is that the law is sacred in his eyes, he feels lawyers have an obligation to play it by the books and when you give shortcut taking, corner cutting Slippin’ Jimmy a law degree, it’s like “a chimp with a machine gun”. Granted we’ve seen a couple scenes here and there of Chuck being upset about some Slippin’ Jimmy antics but nothing like this. I would have never thought he’d be willing to sabotage Jimmy’s career because of his choice of career and personality not being compatible. While Mike says who you are is up to you, Chuck says that people, in particular Jimmy, don’t change and if that’s the case then this relationship is in a whole lot of trouble. Slippin’ Jimmy will always be a part of Jimmy and Chuck will always hold the law above everything else. Given the delicate state of Chuck’s condition and Jimmy being the primary caretaker, Jimmy cutting ties with Chuck as the episode ends leaves Chuck in an even more fragile place than before.
I’ve held a disdain for Howard from the start as it’s been made out that he’s the one holding Jimmy back but this recent development has got to put him in a whole new light. When Kim goes off on him for not letting Jimmy work with them, he finally lets loose and tells the truth. He’s done a great job of holding the truth in and now that it’s out there it’s probably a huge load off of his back.
The sad part about this brotherly feud is that they both have their merits, no one is clearly in the right or the wrong. Attorney is not the profession to be cutting corners and being morally ambiguous. Jimmy is a family man though and puts that above everything else and he can’t be blamed for that. He’s taken care of Chuck and that entails a lot and it’s a horrifyingly beautiful contrast that Jimmy will do anything for Chuck but Chuck will manipulate Jimmy to get him to hand over the Sandpiper case to HHM, and personally keep Jimmy off the case.
Quote of the Day: “Pimento is the caviar of the south!” That sounded like an odd statement to me so I looked into it and Pimento Cheese’s Wikipedia page mentions that phrase specifically. The show writers later mentioned that they got the quote directly from the Wikipedia page, go figure.
As season one winds down, Better Call Saul throws down a massive plot twist that had subtle clues along the way suggesting it. A heartbreaking scene with brilliant acting leaves us in a place where the show has no choice but to dramatically change.