Better Call Saul “Expenses”

Better Call Saul S3E7 “Expenses”

 

            There were questions coming in before Better Call Saul started concerning what the atmosphere of the show would be like. Saul Goodman had a dark sense of humor and most were excited to see it on display for the length of a full length spin off series centered on him. The problem is, that’s not how this show started. We started with and for now, still have Jimmy McGill, a charming, hardworking, and down on his luck attorney who has a bit of a reckless side to him. Jimmy has always had a darker side to him, slippin’ Jimmy at best and full on Saul Goodman at worse. Up until now, Jimmy has been able to repress this darker side of him. “Expenses”, seems to be a turning point though. As the expenses, both financial and otherwise add up and take their toll, Jimmy descends into a darker place, one where he hasn’t been before. Also featuring along with Jimmy’s descent we have Nacho reuniting with a former business partner and Mike finally getting back in the swing of things. Let’s get it rolling.

You just knew that Nacho was going to do something with that pill he hid from Hector and here we are proven right. Nacho heads over to the house of fan favorite, Pryce. Pryce is shocked to find him there just waiting in the dark and after the pleasantries are exchanged, Nacho shows Pryce the pill tells him of his plan. Twenty grand is on the line so Pryce accepts. Pryce has smartened up a little though. Pryce tries to rehire Mike as a body guard since his last solo venture with Nacho didn’t end so well. After initially refusing, Mike decides to take the job and goes with Pryce to meet with Nacho. Mike even walks Nacho through his plan to make sure he isn’t doing something he won’t regret. Seeing that Nacho fully intends to go through with this, he tells Nacho to take out the bad pills and put the good ones back in as soon as Hector takes the bad one so no one will suspect the medication. Mike’s showing off that brain of his after some downtime. He also requests something of Nacho but we cut away before we see what it is. Any guesses?

“Expenses” features a rare cold open that isn’t super removed chronologically from the current show but looking to make a message. In fact, we start in the present time, a short while after the ending to “Off Brand”. Jimmy lines up outside the Albuquerque parks department building waiting to get his court mandated community service over with. He and several other people who are looking to pay their debt to society pack into a van and head off to an underpass of Interstate 25, with the task of picking up the trash that drivers throw from their cars. Jimmy, being the busy man that he is, uses the time to multitask. When you’re setting up commercials that need to air the next day or even the day of, there’s simply no time to wait for after community service to return calls. After four long hours of work, everyone rolls into the van and Jimmy is in for an unpleasant surprise. He is surprised to see his supervisor only clock him in for half an hour of work. They were out there for four hours and Jimmy picked up the most trash out of the group! Jimmy tries to explain this to his supervisor, looking to at least get an hour on his timesheet. His supervisor quickly retorts that they could make it zero. A disgruntled Jimmy exits the scene, one disappointment down, many more to go.

As soon as they get back to the parks department, Jimmy sprints over to his car and frantically changes into his best Steven Spielberg attire, not before wiping himself down with wet wipes, wouldn’t want to smell like trash in front of your clients now would you? Jimmy races off to his client, a man running a faltering furniture store. It’s here we learn that the commercial making business isn’t going to well for Jimmy. He tries his best to convince his client to go all in and take the extra commercial slots but this guy is in as tough a situation as Jimmy. He barely convinced his wife that airing one commercial would be a good investment. He asks Jimmy if they could possibly do the remaining commercials on credit but Jimmy doesn’t have that kind of time to pay bills, so for now it’s only one commercial for our furniture salesmen. That’s not good news for Jimmy as he’s already selling these commercials for less than he needs and he has to give a portion to each member of his college camera crew. At this pace, he can forget about turning a profit.

Before turning a profit though, one has to break even. After a long and not so profitable day, Jimmy heads over to Wexler McGill as Kim and Jimmy get to paying the bills. Kim asks Jimmy point blank if he’s taking money from his bank account to pay for his part of the expenses and Jimmy gives her a very unconvincing answer of “no”. The situation is proved to be all the more desperate when Jimmy goes to pay for his delivery Chinese food and can only tip the guy a dollar. We know Jimmy to be a nice guy, so it’s a safe assumption that he’d be a decent tipper but he’s literally down to his last dollar. Jimmy has no choice but to lowball him.

Jimmy’s luck continues to trend in the wrong direction the next day. Today he’s got a commercial to shoot for a guitar store, well, he did have to. The owners decide to pull out, bringing up a fair point, these old “Gimme Jimmy” commercials are airing to target the elderly and likely won’t be on when a broader audience is watching. After Jimmy can’t convince the owners that grandmothers like guitars, he desperately offers to film the commercial for free on the condition that they pay for the remaining time slots if and when the first commercial drives in more business. They do the commercial but when it’s time to pay his crew, it’s coming out of Jimmy’s pocket this time. Jimmy looks so defeated after all this that makeup girl tries to give her share of the money back to Jimmy. Jimmy hasn’t quite hit rock bottom yet and he shows some decency and insists that she keep it.

Later that night, Jimmy takes Kim out for drinks and we once again see the financial toll Jimmy is experiencing as he has to change cards so their tab won’t go over his limit. The couple run through the crowd looking for someone they could hypothetically scam but Jimmy gets super dark when he focuses in on one jerk. Jimmy’s plan of selling said jerk a useless credit card for five grand concerns Kim to the point where she has to remind him that they’re not actually going through with this. Jimmy and Kim have done relatively harmless scams before but with Jimmy in such a financial bind, he let his dark side get the best of him as he mulled over how to scam that jerk, solely because he’s that desperate for money.

It’s also worth noting that Kim had a meeting with Paige at Mesa Verde in the episode. While financial expenses aren’t bothering her, something else is. She is actually feeling guilty about what they did to Chuck during Jimmy’s bar hearing. It causes her to snap at Paige, but she apologizes for it. Kim later confesses that all they did at the bar hearing was bring down a mentally ill man. With Jimmy’s financial burdens and Kim now starting to feel sorry for the brother that Jimmy has already sworn off, there seems to be an inevitable rift looming in their relationship.

Speaking of Jimmy’s expenses and his feelings for Chuck, we get a display of both of those in the last scene. Jimmy goes over to the malpractice insurance company as a Hail Mary, absolutely desperate for money. Not only does Jimmy find out that he can’t get a refund for the year he won’t be practicing law, he also finds out that his premiums will be going up 150% due to the suspension. In “Off Brand”, it may have seemed like Jimmy won the brotherly battle, but “Expenses” just kept bringing Jimmy lower and lower until he hits this breaking point. In an absolutely brilliant display of acting by Bon Odenkirk, Jimmy fakes a nervous breakdown and “accidentally” reveals that his brother Chuck had a real nervous breakdown at the bar hearing which is all on record. Chuck’s malpractice insurance is from the same company and it will now almost assuredly go up. This is the darkest we’ve seen Jimmy get. He’s hurt Chuck along with other people in the past but it was always to help someone else, there was always a noble cause behind it. This is far different though. Jimmy gains absolutely nothing out of this and it is a move made completely out of spite. For the first time, Jimmy hurt Chuck with the sole intent of hurting Chuck. Where Jimmy goes from here is a bit of a scary though. All this time we wanted Saul Goodman to get here but Jimmy McGill turned out to be so likeable that Saul’s first real appearance here is unsettling instead of exciting.

Other Thoughts

What’s up with Mike and the woman he meets at the playground construction site, Anita? Her story of her missing husband seemed to be the point in which Mike decided to take the job for Pryce.

The jump cut to end Kim’s very brief nap was well done and a very clever way to show how little free time Kim actually has.

Jimmy stands behind a brick wall to open the episode, a call back to “Amarillo”. That Jimmy had swagger though, standing behind a mural of the Texas flag and wearing his cowboy hat and bolo tie. Jimmy in “Expenses” is wearing a plain green sweater and standing behind a plain brick wall, getting ready for community service. How the times change.

Meanness, much like kindness, can be paid forward. Jimmy’s community service supervisor tells Jimmy they can make it zero when Jimmy asks for more time. Jimmy then says the same thing to the delivery driver when he asks for more than a dollar tip.

Leave it to Pryce to install a high tech home security system, and then leave the screen door open. Way to go.

This episode makes Jimmy/Saul the character with the most episode appearances in the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe. A busy fellow.

If that was the last breath of Jimmy’s car then rest in peace Suzuki Esteem. You brought us many jokes and will be greatly missed.

“Expenses” is a darker episode of Better Call Saul that shows off Saul Goodman for the first time and makes us ponder if that’s really what we want.

Grade B+

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