Better Call Saul S3E2: “Witness”
As one goes about watching “Witness”, one would probably notice that witness is a great name for the episode. Throughout the episode, we watch Mike stay on the trail of his tracker while ultimately getting Jimmy involved in this long haul game of stalker. If that wasn’t enough, we get a final scene that is one of the best scenes that Better Call Saul has offered us, in which “Witness” gets a much more literal meaning. With all that in mind, let’s get this review rolling.
Right after the cold open which I’ll get into later, we start off with Mike’s portion of the story. Not a whole lot is said, as usual for Mike’s share of the episode but also as usual, a whole lot is accomplished and it’s fantastic to watch. Mike follows his trackers from stop to stop, seemingly following a dead end as he’s getting nothing on them. All the while we get simply fantastic camera work, whether it’s showing us the beautiful Albuquerque lit up at night, or using innovative and awesome looking angles during the chase, it’s all brilliantly done. The chase leads Mike to a familiar place for us Breaking Bad veterans, he’s followed them to a Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant! The chase kind of stalls as he decides against going inside the restaurant himself so he decides on a different course of action, getting everyone’s favorite lawyer to put in some groundwork.
Before we get into the long awaited return of Mike and Jimmy together adventures, Jimmy has some business to take care of. He and Kim are ready to hire a receptionist and the first applicant is also a familiar face, Francesca, Jimmy’s receptionist from his Saul Goodman days in the future. Kim wants to interview more people, and has the perfectly valid concern that she has no legal experience but Jimmy is ready to hire her on the spot, he’s got a commercial airing pretty soon and he wants someone ready to take in the calls. Jimmy gets his way and they get to hire Francesca. Jimmy offers the useful advice of throwing Cracker Barrel into the conversation with the clients and it hilariously works, until it doesn’t. This man who doesn’t enjoy Cracker Barrel and has a last name like trout the fish is none other than Mike, and he’s ready to get his business relationship with Jimmy back underway.
Jimmy meets up Mike outside the Pollos Hermanos parking lot and Mike gives him is job, go inside and keep an eye on the guy that he’s been tracking. Jimmy, eager to get in some work that does not pertain to elderly people, gladly obliges but kind of makes a mess out of it. Of all the things Jimmy is, a spy is not one of them. He makes no attempt to look inconspicuous. He doesn’t take a bite of his Pollos classic, keeps changing tables to get a closer look at the target and for a large portion, blatantly stares him down. It’s little wonder that when everyone’s favorite fast food franchise owner makes his return, he doesn’t go over to collect the bag from Mike’s tracker. Gus Fring is back and you’re going to have to be a whole lot less obvious about what you’re doing if you try to sneak one past him. Admittedly, the watch slip is clever thinking from Jimmy but it comes far too late and by the time he leaves, you just know Gus knows he’s being watched. Jimmy reports back to Mike that absolutely nothing of interest happened and asks Mike what they are going to do next. He sounds disappointed that his part in Mike’s plan has ended, it seems like he’s dying to play another game of spy even though he was pretty bad at it the first go around. Mike tells him that he’s no longer needed and goes off on his own again. A little later, Mike finds the tracker and the gas cap on the middle of a road with a cell phone. He picks it up and talks to the other person. Whether it’s Gus, or one of his henchmen, we don’t know, but Gus is probably impressed Mike made it this far and it will only be a matter of time before these two meet for the first time.
Back at Wexler-McGill, just as Chuck has planned, Ernie goes over to spill the beans. Well he actually went to the building so he wouldn’t leave a phone trace but ends up calling Kim anyway (do forgive Ernie, he’s a bit fuzzy on all this legal stuff). Kim then sends the message to Jimmy and you can just feel and see the heartbreak in Jimmy. He can’t believe his brother would go to such lengths to take out his own brother. For Jimmy, this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. As he takes down the tape for the new logo, he immediately rips it off after he realizes that he’s been doing it Chuck’s way (low and behold, Chuck was right and the logo ended up crooked). It’s time to let his brother know that he’s finally crossed the line.
Before Jimmy gets to Chuck’s place, Howard hilariously has to cut through backyards to get to Chuck’s house in secret. You get the feeling that he too is getting fed up with the McGill feud and just wants to go back to his normal life. The run and climb over to Chuck’s house demonstrated perfectly that Howard is a fish out of water. He’d be happier if Chuck would just drop it so they can finally get back to real work. He says so to Chuck and tells him the private investigator from the cold open is getting expensive and they have to dial it back.
What happened next is such a powerful and tragic scene and made all the more tragic by the fact that it only happened because Jimmy and Chuck both thought they knew each other better than they actually did. Jimmy first miscalculated that Chuck would take the Mesa Verde thing as his own mistake and just move on with his life and miscalculated again when thinking that admitting that he himself switched the numbers around would be enough for Chuck. On Chuck’s end, he agrees to tone down the private investigator to night shifts only, saying he knows his brother too well and he will want to operate in the shadows. How wrong he is as Jimmy comes in guns a blazing in the middle of the day. Jimmy busts open the door, breaks open the desk and destroys a tape (I reckon it might be a decoy tape) and tears Chuck a new one. “No wonder Rebecca left you, what took her so long” had to sting so hard that Chuck is going to need to sleep with his space blanket tonight. The anger displayed by Bob Odenkirk and the shock displayed by Michael McKean are both excellent and brings this scene to life. They’ve had fights in the past, but nothing like this. Some people have been critical of the slow burning pace of the show up to this point, but slow burns often lead to big booms, and boy oh boy did we get one. Next stop, likely jail as Howard and the private investigator stand witness to Jimmy breaking and entering and destroying property. Something tells me the pace is about to pick up in a very fast manner.
The pace is definitely picking up, that tape likely would have been a half or full season arc in season one or two.
It’s kind of sad to see how upbeat Francesca is now when we know how much of a toll working with Jimmy puts on her in Breaking Bad. Jimmy is more straining than the MVD (the DMV for us in normal states), that’s saying something.
How about some criminal trickle-down economics? With Gus’s drug money, he can afford to sell Pollos classics and large coffee for only $3.19. Everybody wins!
Of course the “M”, Jimmy’s part of the logo would be crooked, and the logo in its entirety looks like a stock market crash. Not the thing you would like to replace that old rainbow with.
Interesting to note that at first, Kim didn’t want to talk about Mesa Verde when Jimmy offered too and now when Kim offers to talk about the tape, Jimmy is the one who doesn’t want to talk.
Jimmy’s concern over whether or not Mike’s car had an ejector seat was hilarious, Jimmy wants to play spy and Mike isn’t having it.
Jimmy is not an extra salsa kind of guy. Take that as you may
Quote of the day, Francesca handing over Mike’s call to Jimmy. “This one really don’t want to talk about Cracker Barrel”. Right Francesca? Mike just doesn’t seem like the Cracker Barrel kind of guy.
A signature Better Call Saul slow start turns into a fast and explosive ending as Jimmy and Mike both begin their descent into their darker selves.