Better Call Saul S3E3: “Sunk Costs”
The sunk cost fallacy, of which this episode of Better Call Saul derives its namesake from, refers to when someone, instead of acting and making choices rationally, becomes emotionally invested in something they’ve put time or money into and decides they’re in too deep to quit now. Many people in tonight’s episode are prime examples of the sunken cost fallacy as Kim goes all in on mission save Jimmy, Jimmy risks jail time and likely disbarment to clear his name and Mike decides he’s not done with Hector Salamanca just yet. How did we get there? Let’s recap.
While I mentioned Mike last in tonight’s intro, I’ll start with him as I’d like to talk about that super clever cold open we got in the episode. While I’m sure the cold open could have stood on its own and symbolically said something while sharing no actual relation to the story, we find out it’s a flash forward to a time, probably long after yet another clever scheme from Mike. The shoes are a bit more beat up and the Regalo Helado truck has been swapped out with a Los Pollos Hermanos truck, showing us that there has been a changing of the guard. Before the new guard, however, we need an old one and that’s the topic at hand as we pick up the episode in the present. Mike picks up the phone that he found on the road from last episode and has an agreement to peacefully hear out what the caller has to say. The caller, to no one’s surprise is Gus and these two who end up having a long and trustful relationship in the future, finally meet each other for the first time. The atmosphere is what you think it would be, two no nonsense guys just talking about business, nothing else. Mike confronts Gus about the note and finds out that it was in fact him that left the note. Mike correctly deduces that he and Hector are rivals. Gus says that it is not in his best interest for Hector to die, yet. Gus agrees at this point to leave Mike alone if Mike is content with his revenge and leaves Hector alone. Mike will not forget that Hector threatened his family though and while Gus points out that most people would be satisfied with what Mike already got away with, Mike says he’s not quite done with Hector yet and comes up with a brilliant plan to further sabotage Hector. Gus gets behind the idea and helps Mike execute the plan and with that is the start of a very interesting business relationship between the two.
Mike meets up with a connection Gus has, a doctor in Mexico whose appearance may ring a bell for some viewers. Mike tells him he needs a “yeah big” amount of illegal substance. The doctor sets him up and Mike heads close to the border, another familiar spot as this is where Hector’s truck drivers stop to drop off their guns before crossing the border, as seen in “Fifi”. Mike takes his drug in powder form, tosses it into a pair of shoes and throws them up on a phone wire. As soon as the next Regalo Helado drivers stop for gun check, Mike fires shots off in the distance to make the two drivers think it’s just some hunters. The two unsuspectingly get back in the truck and drive away, not before Mike delivers a shot to the sneakers and watches the powdery substance fall all over the back of the truck. The two drivers promptly get arrested at U.S. Customs. Bravo Mike.
Back on the Jimmy side of things, we pick up right where we left off. Jimmy is awaiting his impending arrest and Chuck, basking in his latest victory, tells Jimmy he will be pressing charges and ultimately, it’s for his own good, all the while proving his condition is kind of bogus as he takes his victory lap entirely outside, he can “power through it” if it means bringing his brother down. Jimmy rejects his brother’s twisted love for what looks like the true final time as he tells Chuck that he won’t be there next time something goes wrong and Chuck will die in the hospital alone and by the very means that his illness is derived from. With the swearing off of brotherhood complete, Jimmy goes through processing at the precinct and goes to his arraignment where the judge is surprised to see him in this new light in court. Once again you can’t say Jimmy isn’t a hard worker. He’s been at this courthouse so many times to count that all the prosecutors have to excuse themselves from the upcoming trial on account of personal bias. He’s always had that charisma and along with his condition, is probably reason enough that Chuck does not actually want this to go to court. To have to inconvenience everyone, go through the struggle of being in an electrical place and watch as Jimmy and his charm work down the charges to something more manageable? Not a chance. Also important to remember is all that Chuck really wants is for Jimmy to not be a lawyer. Back in the big reveal in “Pimento”, Chuck says he can handle Slippin’ Jimmy as his brother but Slippin’ Jimmy as a lawyer is something he simply can’t stand for. With all this in mind, its little surprise to me that he comes up with “a better solution for everyone”.
What is this solution you ask? To avoid the legal jargon involved, it simply comes down to Jimmy avoids jail time but he has to confess to the New Mexico Bar Association to all the crimes he’s accused of and face disbarment for them. If he rejects the deal and goes to trial, he’ll likely lose and face jail time with his disbarment anyway. At this point both Kim and Jimmy become victims of the sunken cost fallacy as Kim throws her hat in the ring and says she will fight with him to win the case. It’s going to be oh so sad to see Kim’s fall from grace if she has one because she’s proven to be such a likeable character, her only mistake? Growing attached to Jimmy, who to Chuck’s credit, does have a tendency to break some rules and potentially hurt people in the process. For Jimmy, he can’t let Chuck win because his law license means so much to him. With Chuck out of his family life for good, all he has is his career and Kim, who he has thanks to his career. The odds are small for Jimmy but he’s invested far too much in himself to back down now. In an act of solidarity, Kim and Jimmy hold hands and form an M, for McGill, the name they will be trying to clear.
In order to keep some level of surprise, Giancarlo Esposito as Gustavo Fring was not credited last episode. He now is and his name is preceded with the word “with”. I guess Michael McKean as Chuck has a monopoly on the word “and” for role call.
Something to keep an eye out, Kim has her hands full as is with Mesa Verde and her work life is basically her entire life as we saw this episode. Might she lose them if helping Jimmy becomes a large ordeal? Might that hamper their relationship?
Pacing has always been a big topic of discussion for this show and it’s interesting that last episode had big reveals and payoffs while still having a slower pace. This episode was mostly setting the table but actually moved quicker, only small montages this time, Kim’s around the clock work routine and Jimmy’s processing at the precinct, both montage gold as expected from a Better Call Saul montage.
Yet again, the cinematography is so darn good in this show. The bright shots along the U.S. Mexico border were great as always but the best shot of the episode was at the end, a very sharp contrast in style from the desert shots, was Kim and Jimmy holding hands in silhouette form.
Bad News Ernesto shows up again in this episode. Chuck fired him. Ernie just can’t seem to catch a break. When you stop think about it, Chuck fired Ernie for doing exactly what he thought he would do and it helped Chuck succeed in his plan. I know his loyalties lie with Jimmy but HHM is a huge firm, can’t Chuck just send him back to the mail room?
How great is Francesca as a receptionist? She fixed the paint job for Wexler McGill logo that Jimmy screwed up last episode and it’s straight as can be.
The doctor that hooked Mike up with the drugs is a Breaking Bad veteran himself. He was the doctor that treated Gus and Jesse after the poisoning act Gus pulled on the cartel.
We finally found something Mike isn’t good at, it took him a few tries to get those shoes on the phone line. Guess he’s human after all.
Quote of the Day, Jimmy to Francesca. “This isn’t a typical week around here”. That it isn’t, but it does makes for some excellent television.
“Sunk Costs” does a lot of groundwork and table setting for the larger conflicts to come in the season and captivates the viewers along the way.