When I spoke to Michael McKean prior to the start of Better Call Saul Season 2, he promised me that, soon enough, people would have a better understanding of Chuck’s trepidations about baby brother Jimmy.
On tonight’s episode, “Cobbler,” we begin to see why. And to see flickers of the Saul that Breaking Bad fans knew — know — and loved, despite ourselves.
And feels pangs for all we now know he has to lose.
Also, we get a new McGill-ism to add to the BCS vernacular. But more about that later. It’s worth the wait. Pie fans, consider yourself warned.
We begin in Chuck’s darkened home. A metronome ticks. Old family photos. Chuck plays the piano. The song is Fauré’s “Sicilliene.” The sheet music belonging to Rebecca Bois. Is she someone in the photos?
Tick tick tick.
For those of you who fuss these things — which is great fun in any Vince Gilligan project — “Sicilliene” was originally intended to be part of the score for Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. The Bourgeois Gentleman. Chuck? Jimmy’s aspirations? Some banal soul between these two odd men out? You tell me.
Over and over, Chuck tries to master the piece. Over and over, he fails. Someone is at the door. Howard, with Chuck’s deliveries. Small talk ensues and Howard tells Chuck he is sorely missed. Well, as a matter of fact, Chuck’s been thinking about coming in. Couple hours each week.
Then Chuck asks after Jimmy. He’s doing well, says Howard. Really well. Like, working for Davis & Main well.
“Doing what?” says Chuck. Oh, Chuck. He’s not in the mail room.
Working, Howard tells him. As an attorney. Seems, every time Davis and Main’s client outreach folks reached out to the old folk, Jimmy’s name came up. Plus, Clifford Davis felt the case could use the continuity. And, you know … Jimmy’s way with people.
Chuck’s face is a picture of bemusement and confusion.
He asks if the Davis and Main folks are aware of Jimmy’s background. And from whence his law degree came? Howard says he pulled no punches … but he didn’t stand in the way, either. Kim pushed the hardest … but Howard did not stand in the way.
“Partner track?” Chuck wonders next. Yes, says Howard.
Oh boy. Chuck … don’t.
Chuck manages to choke out a ”That’s great! Good for Jimmy.” But I don’t think Howard believes its sincerity any more than we do. “Charlie Hustle,” he reminds Chuck. Then “I’ll get out of your hair.” And he does.
Chuck returns to the piano, winds his metronome, and stares as it ticks. He does not play a note.
Cut to the HHM conference room, where Kim looks over the seating arrangement for whatever’s about to transpire, then moves her neighbor, Francis Scheff, to the far end of the table. Jimmy will sit next to her. And as a grey haired gentleman drones on about document management, she nudges her foot into Jimmy’s.
In their usual smoking spot in the parking garage, Kim asks about Santa Fe and Jimmy’s cushy corporate living arrangements with Davis and Mane. Maybe she should make the big move, too.
Jimmy says the digs are certainly cushy, but he’s thinking of buying a place of his own. But maybe halfway between Santa Fe and Albuquerque — since he’s back and forth so much. Somewhere with lots of acreage. Open floor plan for the sake of his chi. Horses, says Kim. So worth the expanse of oats and horse shoes. And, she adds, we should definitely get a smoker.
Jimmy smiles at the suggestion of “we.” Not pushing his luck, he says he has to go because they’re delivering his company car to the salon. Kim ribs him for that, then remembers she got him a present.
It’s an insulated coffee mug. Yellow. Reads “World’s Best Lawyer” … embellished with “2nd” hand inked in red marker between World’s and Best. “Just keepin’ it real,” she says. And he’ll see her tonight if he plays his cards right. A smooch and Jimmy is off.
As her employees ooh and ah over Jimmy’s new Mercedes in her lot, Mrs. Salon Lady stands in the doorway and shakes her head. Good-bye hug, Jimmy teases. Yeah, that would be no. Maybe she’s still sore about the cucumber water deal.
His mug doesn’t fit in the holder. “Must be metric,” he mutters, then takes off down the road to Santa Fe.
Cut to Mike’s tollbooth at the jail. His coffee begins to ripple in its mug, and he looks up and sees Captain Hummer the Playa — whose name is actually Dan Warmolt — pulling in. Mike tells him to pull into the lot and hops into the hummer for the details of why Mr. Warmolt is here. Official business, says Dan. His baseball cards — nooooo, he didn’t tell them about the drugs. Still dumb of him to talk to the cops, says Mike, what with being a criminal and all. Well, he’s not here as a criminal says Warmolt. He’s here as a victim. Duh.
Besides, they called him here. Very dedicated to finding this thief. Mike tells him he’s really here on a fishing trip. They’re not calling him here to talk baseball cards. They’re fishing for other info.
“You go home … now,” says Mike.
“But I have an appointment,” Dan protests. Plus, what about his cards?
Cost of doing business, says Mike. Dan tantrums. Some were his dad’s and he’s getting them back. So there.
Mike says then he’ll do the job himself and Dan compliments his generosity. Oh, it’ll cost you, Mike assures him.
Back at his office, Jimmy works away on the Sandpiper files as the sound of guitar wafts in. The blues. He follows the sound to Cliff’s office. Just blowing off steam, says his boss. He hopes Jimmy has a way to do that, too.
Yes, well, about Sandpiper, says Jimmy. Their attorneys keep mentioning an Optional Allowance Program in initial disclosures, but Jimmy noticed that not a single residence has opted out … making him believe it’s actually mandatory financial arrangement. And if it is, then Sandpiper’s “voluntary” claims don’t hold water.
Cliff is impressed.
Meanwhile, Mike walks into an upholstery shop and asks for an estimate on new seat covers. The guy at the desk calls for his son — oh, hey, Nacho — and they head out the door. In Spanish, father jokes to son that Mike’s money would be best spent on a new car.
Mike’s thinking alligator, maybe. Something exotic. No? Well, what would Nacho’s papa suggest? A bell sounds from the building and Nacho’s dad heads in, warning Nacho not to up sell Mike as he goes. Pretty safe to assume that won’t happen.
Nacho asks how Mike found him and Mike cuts to the chase: Nacho underestimated how big an idiot Warmolt really is, and now the cops are on the case of the cards … and the drugs. Sounds like a you-problem, says Nacho. More of a carrot and stick thing, counters Mike. The stick being Mike making sure Tuco knows about his little side business. The carrot … give him back the cards plus ten grand and he’ll still net 60K.
And how exactly does that work says Nacho. Mike just cocks a brow.
Back at Chuck’s house, Ernesto arrives with supplies and finds Chuck dressed, electromagnetic blanket wrapped and waiting for him. Going somewhere, Ernie wonders. Yes, says Chuck. We are. Oh, brother.
Ah. So that’s how the carrot works. Hummer man gets his cards and surrenders the Hummer to Nacho. Warmolt details all the ways Nacho must care for the sweet ride. Premium gas and an extra coat of hand wax are so worth the cash. Nacho says he’ll make sure the guys at the chop shop take good care. No way he’d been seen in that thing — “It looks like a school bus for 6-year-old pimps.”
Oh, Michael Mando. I’m so glad you’ll be around for a good long while.
Nacho’s companion loads the cards into Mike’s trunk. Warmolt takes stock and pronounces the collection complete. Mike collects his cash and Nacho tells Dan their business is concluded. The guy in charge of driving the pimp bus away does a few donuts to put salt in Warmolt’s bright yellow wound as Warmolt fields a call from the cops. His ringtone is “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Because of course it is.
In the HHM conference room, Howard asks Jimmy for an update on Client Outreach. Jimmy says perhaps they should ask the clients directly for the records to speed things along, because those folks hang onto everything. As he talks, a woman comes in with a bin and whispers in Howard’s ear. Howard instructs everyone to turn over their electronics. A stricken Jimmy looks at Kim.
Chuck is here to undermine his brother. It works … momentarily. Then Kim rests her hand on Jimmy’s leg and looks intently at him. Jimmy’s back in business.
Afterward, in the hallway, Chuck calls to his brother.
“Why are you here?” Jimmy asks. Why today?
To bear witness, says Chuck. Oof.
Brother stares at brother for a moment, until Jimmy’s phone rings. Chuck walks away.
It’s Mike calling. “Are you still morally flexible?” he asks. “If so, I may have a job for you.” When and where, says Jimmy.
If Chuck is going to undermine his legit gig, he may as well have a backup gig in place? He’s copping out on the former and resorting to the latter. My heart sinks, either way.
Turns out said client is one Mr. Warmolt. And, Jimmy tells the annoyed detectives, Jim’s just there in “an advisory capacity.” Which, Dan says, he doesn’t really even need because the cards have been found and all is hunk dory and never mind the details and …
…go get some air, advises Jimmy. He’ll take it from here.
And take it, he does. What we have here, he tells the detectives, is a lover’s spat between Warmolt and his “art patron” paramour. Said art being of the digital variety. Namely, you know … videos. Arty ones. OK, fetish ones. Anyway, a little disagreement transpired and the patron helped himself to the videos that were in the hidey-hole, using the baseball cards to make a point. People are just weird. They know how it is, right.
And here is where we are rewarded with our next Chicago Sunroof. Which would be Hoboken Squat Cobbler. Or, if you prefer, Full Moon Moon Pie. Boston Cream Splat. Simple Simon the Ass Man. Whichever moniker you like best, all describe when a costumed man “sits in a pie and wiggles around.” Maybe it’s like Helman’s mayonnaise — different name west of the Rockies. But either way, a Crybaby Squat — squat plus tears — is super special, and Mr. Warmolt is a veritable artist. Fruit pies are the best, if you must know.
The detectives are gobsmacked. Sensing victory, Jimmy notes he could hardly make this stuff up. The world is a rich tapestry, but this particular thread, you do not want to unravel. Except that they do.
Thus Warmolt is free … save for the part where he must star in a video. Real, real quick.
Later, eating unused stunt pie on his bed with Kim, Jimmy explains he is merely a vessel for the muse when Kim compliments him on his storytelling abilities.
Not a story, Jimmy says. The vid exists. Kim’s smile fades. He used falsified evidence to exonerate a client? What if Davis and Main find out?
Jimmy shrugs. He did it pro bono for a buddy.
“Why?” Kim demands. Why risk getting disbarred and losing the best job he’d had? She didn’t mind when they screwed the blowhard out of spendy tequila, he counters. Not the same says Kim, oh so super-correctly. He sounds like every stupid criminal out there … not gonna get caught, no sir. And for what? What is the point?
Which would be the difference between Jimmy on a whim and Slippin’ Jimmy for life. Which, as we know by now, is Saul Goodman. Who comes to no good end. It’s just the path that leads us there … goes … how?
Jimmy says nothing. Kim looks at him for a moment, then tells him that she can no longer hear about his follies, where they pertain to screwing with the law. Never. Not ever again. She means it.
He looks into her eyes. “You won’t.”
Not, we know, because he won’t have tales to tell.
New episodes of Better Call Saul premiere Monday nights at 10/9CT on AMC.