For my money, there is no one better at opening an episode than Vince Gilligan and company. No one. And tonight’s Better Call Saul episode “Amarillo” boasts a doozy.
With Ernest Tubb crooning “Waltz Across Texas” as his accompaniment, Jimmy strikes a classic cowboy pose. You know the one. The stuff cowboy-silhouette yard art is made of. Decked in a Stetson, armadillo bolo tie and cowboy boots — apparently Wrangler does not make business suits — our guy leans against a wall that’s painted like a giant Texas flag. He’s, indeed, in Amarillo.
A passenger van pulls up and the driver gets out, apologizing to his passengers for the troubles. Jimmy approaches and hands the guy a little payola as he opens the hood of the van, buying Jimmy a captive audience of Sandpiper residents for his spiel — beginning with Alma Mae Urbano and ending with the whole truckload. Ah, Jimmy and his way with the Nanas and Bobos!
Cut to the HHM conference room where babyfaced Erin gives the assembly the lowdown on the magistrate judge’s propensity to side with plaintiffs in cases like this one. Good news! How about some more good news, says Cliff. Over 200 new Sandpiper clients have signed on, isn’t that right, Jimmy? And Jimmy has goals — 200 more in the very near future. A nice full class for each region’s class. Super, says Clifford. Let’s move on.
Or … not.
Guess who’s managed to venture out and sit amongst the unwashed and electrified for a second time? The other Mr. McGill. And he’d like to cross-examine Jimmy about those astounding results. Amarillo in particular. Could these improbably numbers possibly draw suspicions of solicitation? Especially since the elderly are involved? And … Jimmy?
The price of excellence in teamwork is eternal vigilance, after all.
Jimmy spins a yarn about how he knows how to get the elderly to spread the word to spread, er, no knocking on doors required. A McGill Brother stare down ensues — one that Jimmy wins. Not so much, when he tries to footsie with the newly wizened Kim beneath the table. But her rebuff does inspire him to announce he’ll scrap the visits and find another route to that next 200.
After the meeting, Kim stalks off, Jimmy in pursuit. Catching her on the landing, he snorts that he’d like to know where Chuck’s sanctimoniousness was when he was chasing down mall-walkers as they were building the case. Still stinging from last week’s Warmolt deal, Kim is unmoved.
“What happened in Texas?” she demands. No one can stare at Jimmy like Kim can stare at Jimmy. Not even Chuck. Jimmy spins again. Says the noble end justifies the creative means, which, by the way, did not either take place in the day room.
She assesses him. “You said in there you would find another way. Did you mean it?”
“Chure!” Jimmy breezes, but Kim is just … done.
“I need you to understand something very critical here,” she tells him. “I put myself on the line to get you this job. … You know I believe in you. But then I made my beliefs known to them. And now everything you do reflects back on me.” On Howard, too, since she convinced him to give Jimmy this shot.
“You and I both know you can do this job,” she says, locking eye with him. “But please. You just have to do it right.” Define “right,” Kimmy, because that’s where I think the roads diverge.
Meanwhile, Mike is at Stacey’s house and his daughter-in-law has quite the tale to tell. Gunshots — right outside her house for the last two nights. Keeping her from sleeping. Yes, she called the cops, but they dismissed her.
Mike says he’ll stay put, but Stacey doesn’t want that. Why doesn’t she want that? I would want that if I was a single mom and someone was shooting up the joint. I would want that even if I wasn’t a single mom and someone was shooting up the joint. Mike is just the houseguest for this sort of situation. But they have history.
Back at Davis & Main, Jimmy and Omar are tallying the uncommonly lousy results of the direct mailer. Jimmy tells Cliff he thinks Sandpiper staffers are tossing them out before the residents can even see them — which would be actionable as hell. So how about a different tack? One that’s darn-near guaranteed.
See, the blue hairs are predictable. Love their schedules. And 3pm is all about the Murder, She Wrote. Always. So they sneak one ad in there and boom! Guaranteed eyeballs. And guaranteed eyeballs equals guaranteed phone calls the Sandpiper staff can do nothing about.
Cliff says they tried an ad once, but it’s not really his thing. Still, he’ll hear Jimmy out when he gets back from his trip.
Turns out the original ad is one of those mesothelioma deals that you cannot escape if you have cable TV. Omar remembers how hard they worked on that wavy background. “Whatever happened to showmanship?!” Jimmy wants to know. Uh. The partners were happy with this one.
And just like that, Alpine Shepherd Boy is back! Turns out Jimmy has enlisted its elderly owner, whom we met back in episode 5 of Season 1, to star in his ad, which will be filmed by a pair of film student doofs who are having a little trouble giving a shit about Jimmy’s vision — even when he invokes those great ad men (yes, really) Orson Wells, Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman.
He explains the heartrending concept of the commercial, which involves the Hummels, a rocking chair, no heat and a serious dose of melodrama. Then his star makes her entrance. On her stair climber. Done up just exactly like Ms. Angela Lansbury, star of Murder, She Wrote. Jimmy beams.
Mike, his signature sandwich and transistor radio in tow, sets up camp outside of Stacey’s house. Sure enough, come dawn, there are a series of fwapping sounds. A vehicle slowly approaches. Mike grabs his gun … and watches as a station wagon creeps by, newspapers landing noisily on the concrete as its driver flings them into driveways. Come morning, with no shots fired, Mike drives away.
Climbing wearily into his tollbooth, he gets a call. He races to Stacey’s where she points out what she says is a bullet hole in her home. Happened at 2:13 this morning, she says, because she looked at the clock. Three shots, all in a row. She didn’t call the police, because what is the point?
Small problem. Mike was outside her home at 2:13 in the morning. And there were no shots. He doesn’t say this, though, but asks her, instead, if it’s possible she was dreaming. She wasn’t dreaming. She was here. He wasn’t.
Except he was.
Mike tells her he will get her and Kaylee out of the house. She nods and walks away.
Back at Jimmy’s swank corporate digs, Kim and Jimmy are hanging out. Kim says she misses the salon’s vibrating chairs. He says he’ll make her chair vibrate, baybeeeee! Then he shows her the ad, “Who Stole My Nest Egg?”. It’s a black and white marvel of heartstring-tugging schmaltz, starring the highly effective faux Lansbury. He used Visine for her tear. Genius, right?
Kim says she would most certainly call if she were among the Lansbury watchers, but she can’t believe Cliff went for such a thing. Jimmy assures her that it’s all on the up and up — he’s in charge of the department, after all. But as she gets up to fetch more wine, we see something unfamiliar: Jimmy’s conscience giving him a nudge.
The next day, the VHS cassette bearing the ad sits on his desk. Noting the silent phones, Jimmy makes a judgment call. Taking the tape to Howard’s office to await his return, he double backs and, instead, has Omar Fed Ex it to the Colorado Springs station. Nothing ventured …
Oh, hey, sketchy veterinarian. Long time no see. Checking out Kaylee’s pup as he talks, the guy tells Mike he has a bodyguard job for him that pays $200. Otherwise he knows a loan shark who needs “enforcement and recovery.” Pay is great, it’s steady work and — most of the time — things stay perfectly civil. Mike says he’s not breaking legs and that’s final. What else? Next level pay requires next-level work, sketchy vet says. Until then, Kaylee’s dog is fine. Get out.
Mike takes the $200 gig.
Back at Davis & Main, Jimmy paces, waiting for phones to ring. Minutes tick by. More minutes. Then one line lights up. Another. Two more. Then ten. Faux Lansbury has done the job. Amid the din, Omar gives Jimmy a thumbs-up.
This time, Mike stays over at Stacey’s but doesn’t sleep. The vet calls. Job became available, but he doubts Mike will take it. Still, serious money … and the guy asked specifically for him.
Back at Jimmy’s, he and Kim watch Rock Hudson’s Ice Station Zebra when Jimmy’s own phone rings. It’s Cliff. Jimmy prepares to collect his congrats. Congrats are not what Jimmy gets. Scrambling away from Kim’s earshot, Cliff hands him his ass, and soundly. Jimmy tries to Jimmy his way out of it, but Cliff is not assuaged. They’ll continue the discussion in the morning. With the partners. Ouch.
Jimmy fakes a pleasant ending to the call for Kim’s sake. She calls him “Golden Boy” and snuggles in.
Meanwhile, Mike meets his new employer under very Break Bad-esque conditions. Dark of night. Abandoned warehouse. In fact, it kind of looks like the place Bad’s finale went down, if memory serves me proper.
It’s Nacho. Nacho has a problem. Is it a who or a what, Mike wants to know. It’s a guy. And the guy must go away.
So what say you, Saul/Bad fans? Who is it that must go away? And did the end really justify the means with Jimmy’s ad? Are you starting to see Chuck’s point? Are you surprised that Jimmy would risk Kim’s wrath again? What’s the deal with Stacey’s hole-riddled story? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
New episodes of Better Call Saul premiere Monday nights at 10/9CT on AMC.