Better Call Saul “Off Brand”

Better Call Saul S3E6 “Off Brand”

After last week’s trilling episode of Better Call Saul, you knew it would be difficult to provide an encore. “Off Brand” admittedly provides a step back down, but it’s only a drop back to the usual level of quality the show has given us, which is still extremely good. In “Off Brand”, Jimmy and Chuck deal with the ramifications of Jimmy’s bar hearing on their own and in their own separate ways and Nacho makes a return to prominence as he finally gets his first meaningful screen time, over halfway through the season. Let’s jump right into it.

The cold open for ‘Off Brand” puts the limelight on perhaps the most underused starring cast member of a television show right now, Nacho! It’s count day over at Taco Michoacán as Nacho counts the money from his dealers to make sure they’re not coming up short. Hector Salamanca is in the back of the restaurant reading the sports section of the newspaper. Things are going just fine until one dealer, Domingo “Krazy-8” Molina is short on his count. Nacho’s a nice guy so he doesn’t press him too hard about the count being short and just reminds him that he will have to make up the difference next week. Hector is far less forgiving, telling Nacho he should show Krazy-8 who’s in charge here. Nacho reluctantly heads outside to bring Krazy-8 back inside and proceeds to brutally beat him in the kitchen. I’ve always felt that Nacho seemed like too decent of a person to be in “the game” and it seems like he’s of the same thinking as he is clearly rattled from the beating. When he goes back to his real job, doing upholstery work with his father, Nacho accidentally pierces his hand with the upholstery sewing machine. While I would be yelling in excruciating pain from that, Nacho doesn’t even flinch. The pain that needle caused is nothing compared to the mental trauma he has to deal with from being in the game. Like most cold opens in Better Call Saul, there might not be a super direct relation to the plot, but if offers fascinating insight to the way characters, in this case Nacho, think and act.

While we’re on the topic of Nacho, we may as well finish talking about the rest of his portion of the episode. Per Gus and Hector’s deal, Hector gets a certain amount of Gus’ drugs. Hector sends Nacho over to pick up the contraband for him, instructing Nacho to take six bags instead of the previously agreed upon amount of five. Nacho heads on over to the meeting spot and does as his boss told him and nearly loses his life in the process. Gus’ men don’t take too kindly to Nacho taking more than the agreed amount. Nacho is only saved by an occupied Gus who is real estate shopping with a certain Breaking Bad veteran elsewhere doesn’t want to deal with the problem while he isn’t there.

After Nacho brings the goods back to Hector, his head clearly isn’t in the right place as Hector’s stunt nearly got him killed. At this point, it’s safe to add him to the list of people who want Hector dead, he joins Mike and Gus in that club. Honestly, if this wasn’t a prequel in which we knew that Hector was alive in the original series, it would be a safe bet that at some point, Hector would die in Better Call Saul. If it’s any consolation though, I think we are rapidly approaching the accident that will prevent Hector from walking or talking ever again. Hector receives news that his nephew Tuco got thrown in solitary confinement after stabbing someone in jail, likely making his winding down sentence into one that won’t be ending any time soon. Hector flips out and in the chaos, he drops his medications. Nacho cleverly hides one of Hector’s pills underneath his boot until Hector leaves. I get the feeling Nacho will play a role in Hectors upcoming accident and just maybe, that pill may have something to do with it.

And now we turn our attention back to the McGill brothers. For those wanting to see the immediate aftermath of Chuck’s meltdown, you might be a little disappointed as we pick up the bar hearing just in time for closing statements. You know Chuck’s rant sealed the deal for against getting Jimmy disbarred so we don’t really need the closing statements even though Kim continues to do an amazing job there. Jimmy does not get off scratch free though, he has to serve a twelve month suspension from the law. With our sentencing complete, let’s get into how both brothers react.

Chuck goes into full hermit mode for about a day. Frankly, he took it pretty well as I thought he’d be in hermit mode for a lot longer than that. Rebecca tries her best to get him to open his door and talk things out but she has no luck. The next day, Howard gives it a go and proves to be more successful. After Chuck opens the door for Howard, Howard begins telling Chuck that while this wasn’t the result he wanted, it is still a very favorable one. A year is a long time and one screw up gets Jimmy tossed in jail and a likely disbarment as well. Howard mentions that Jimmy is very likely to screw up so he’s not really worth Chuck’s time anymore as Jimmy will just sink himself. They toast to new beginnings over some fancy aged scotch and Chuck gets started on those new beginnings.

Turning over a new leaf for Chuck leads to something genuinely shocking, coming to terms with the fact his condition is mental. He starts by taking out the batteries from his tape recorder and focuses on just holding them. Chuck then ups the ante considerably as he takes a walk into downtown Albuquerque (wearing a sweet space blanket hoodie) with all of its bright lights and makes a phone call in front of the brightest building in town. The call is to Dr. Cruz, the doctor that first pointed out that Chuck’s condition was mental, even if Chuck wasn’t hearing it at the time. You have to wonder what his end goal is here. Does he genuinely just want to get over it? Does he want to get better so he can more effectively try to end Jimmy’s law career? I would lean towards the latter but Chuck’s in a vulnerable position right now so who really knows what he’s trying to do.

The atmosphere is much different over at the winning McGill brother’s end. Jimmy and Kim are toasting a victory with some champagne back at Wexler McGill when Rebecca stops by. She pleads for Jimmy to come over to Chuck’s as she’s been there for hours and can’t get Chuck to come out. You can really see that Jimmy is finally done with his brother here as he could have easily told Rebecca no out of the fact that his last run in with Chuck not wanting to open his door didn’t go so well. He doesn’t do that though, he just says he owes Chuck nothing, he isn’t his brother anymore, and that he doesn’t care how he’s taking this loss as this is why he brought Rebecca over. We may have said it so many times already, but this is it for real, Jimmy is done with Chuck.

After the celebrations, Jimmy has to deal with reality again. Kim logically points out that they should probably let Francesca go and look to downgrade since Jimmy won’t be practicing law for the year. Jimmy likes Francesca though, and is proud of how much work he put in to getting his life to this point so he asks Kim to keep the same setup and only look to downsize if and when he can’t come up with his share of the rent. Kim agrees to this, the question now becomes, how is Jimmy going to cover his share of the expenses?

Before we can get to that, Jimmy has to take care of business. He has to let his clients know that he’s going to be out of law for twelve months and he takes a day to call every single client, one by one. Every time they show Jimmy with an elderly client, it becomes apparent you need a whole lot of patience to deal with them. That’s just a few a day though, can you imagine having to call all of them and explaining why you won’t be working for a year to each and every one of them? Some good comes out of this though as Jimmy’s very last call is to a client who points out that the Gimme Jimmy commercials air all the time. Why is that a big deal? Advertising his law practice breaks the rules of the suspension, that’s why. The bad news is that Jimmy bought these commercials in bulk so he’s going to have to cancel them and go down thousands, or come up with a different solution.

This is Jimmy McGill we’re talking about here so you know he came up with a different solution. The initial plan was to go around with the college camera crew from seasons one and two and try to get hired to make commercials for people. After this doesn’t work, the makeup artist (who also happens to be treasurer of the UNM drama club) suggests that he make a commercial himself to advertise their willingness to make commercials. What a great idea! The one catch being Jimmy doesn’t want to dilute the brand name that “Gimme Jimmy” has brought to him so he takes on another alias, one we’re all too familiar with.

If you thought that the name “Saul Goodman” would come from Jimmy’s desire to want to air a commercial in order to make and air other people’s commercials, raise your hand. Nobody? I thought so. You can’t blame Kim for being surprised when she sees the Saul Goodman commercial. It’s not the kind of surprise that is immediately followed by good feelings or bad feelings. It’s the kind of surprise where you genuinely do not know how to feel. “Saul Goodman?” she says. “Eh it’s only a name” Jimmy says. We all know it’s more than that though as this is the name and lifestyle that Jimmy is going to turn to before long. To his credit, Jimmy is getting calls left and right from the commercial. The real question is, how long until Saul Goodman the commercial maker becomes Saul Goodman the lawyer? Will he even go back to Gimme Jimmy by the end of the suspension? I’m excited to find out.

Other Thoughts

Anyone think we might get a time jump here? The show hasn’t covered time particularly quickly and Jimmy not being a lawyer for a whole year could take a while, perhaps get old and stale. If we don’t get a time jump I wouldn’t be surprised if the passage of time in the show picks up.

This episode went pretty hard with Breaking Bad references as Gus was looking at an industrial laundromat that should look all too familiar and he was introduced to it by the always paranoid Lydia. She was bound to show up eventually.

Mike made an appearance. Stacy signed him up to help build a church playground. When he can’t recall building that garage with his son, it begs the question, did he ever actually do that or have the past few years been so tough and dark that he just can’t remember doing something good like that?

All the trouble Hector went to get Tuco out of jail earlier was wasted. If Tuco wasn’t family, I doubt he’d be in the business. Far too unstable.

Hector is looking to make Nacho’s dad’s upholstery business as his cover business to smuggle drugs. Nacho doesn’t want any part of it as his dad is a good honest man who isn’t in the game. Hector doesn’t look like he’s making this optional so someone’s going to have to budge.

Jimmy listened to the vet! Jimmy’s goldfish is in a safe home now, on his desk in a tank that has an air pump.

I love that Jimmy brought in his clients as witnesses. Who could discredit the testimonies of old people?

It was hilarious that the boom mic was too big for Jimmy’s car and they had to roll the window down to make it fit.

Quote of the day comes from Jimmy, reflecting on his commercial. “The guy at the station said he’d never seen so many star wipes in a row”. I don’t doubt him. There were plenty of those in the commercial.

“Off Brand” gets Nacho back in the swing of things as the McGill brothers take action in different ways after the results of the bar hearing.

Grade B

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