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Expenses Make Jimmy Desperate on Better Call Saul

Last week Better Call Saul moved on in decisive fashion from the plot driving the first half of season 3. This week slowed down considerably, as expected, as everyone began putting their plans into action. By the end of the episode we saw the closest thing yet to the Saul Goodman we all knew and loved from Breaking Bad. You know what? It kind of hurt. I’m not ready to say goodbye to Jimmy McGill just yet, but “Expenses” made clear that Saul is coming, and sooner than most of us want.

Spoilers for 3×07 “Expenses” below

Recap

Jimmy begins this week performing community service as part of his PPD terms. He spends most of his time on the phone with potential commercial clients. Using the phone is not allowed, so despite the work he did he only gets credit for 30 minutes of the 4 hours he spent working.

Afterwards he hurries to his car and changes before heading to film a commercial for a client. He tries and fails to sell the rest of his commercial spots. When he pays his crew we see he’s making basically no money off these commercials. Later when he and Kim go over their expenses (Ha, they said it!), he hands her an envelope full of money to make up the difference between them, which Kim suspects came from cleaning out his bank account.

Next up we see the return of Price, the discount Walter White pharmacist Nacho ripped off last season. Nacho waits in his house for him and offers to pay an excessive amount for empty capsules of the pills Hector takes. He gives Price the capsule Hector dropped last week.

Their shared acquaintance, Mike, shows up to help with the playground at the church. Three volunteers offer to help, including a woman named Anita. He goes to work that night and finds Price waiting nearby. Price wants to hire him for the meeting with Nacho but Mike refuses. He also suggests Price find a way out of the scheme.

Kim sneaks a few hardly helpful minutes of sleep before a meeting with Paige, who loves what they did to Chuck. No surprise, she clearly dislikes Chuck. During their meeting a tired, cranky Kim snaps at Paige over a disagreement and quickly apologizes. Kim also expresses regret for what she and Jimmy did to Chuck.

Meanwhile, Jimmy hurries to film another commercial after more community service. His car won’t start after picking up his crew and they have to take the bus. Unfortunately for him, the client has second thoughts and Jimmy has to offer his services for free in exchange for an increased rate based on any increased business.

When he pays his crew afterwards, the makeup girl tries to give him his money back since he’s losing money. Jimmy refuses.

Mike attends another church meeting with Stacey, where Anita talks about giving her dead husband’s clothes away. She mentions a uniform, and afterwards Mike asks her about it, wondering if her husband was a cop. Turns out he was Navy, and he was lost after going on a hike. His body was never found. Afterwards, Mike calls Price to accept his bodyguard job.

Jimmy and Kim decide to distract from their troubles by going out for drinks. They eye potential marks for cons and discuss strategies to con them. With one particularly hostile piece of work Jimmy seems to actually want to go through with a scam, but Kim snaps him out of it. She tries to talk to him about her guilt over Chuck but Jimmy dismisses it angrily.

Meanwhile, Mike and Price meet with Nacho. Nacho tells Mike about his plan to switch the pills, and Mike tries to warn him against it. He warns about “other parties” involved besides the Salamancas, meaning Gus, and tells Nacho to make sure he switches the pills back after Hector dies.

Finally, we end this week with Jimmy visiting the insurance office providing his malpractice insurance. He tries to get a refund or a put it on hold so he’s not actively paying, but they can’t help him that way. Jimmy eventually has a very convincing breakdown about the difficulties in his life. During this breakdown he offhandedly mentions Chuck’s breakdown, which the insurance lady takes note of.

Jimmy leaves with a smirk on his face, satisfied to have struck another blow at Chuck.

Review

For those of us who love Jimmy McGill, this episode was a stark reminder of the man he will someday become and just how sad it will be to watch Jimmy go. Even at his worst Jimmy tends to come across well. He will at least be personable, with kind motivations fueling his immorality. For the first time I can think of since the season 1 finale, when he spent all his time scamming people with Marco, no kinder side existed to Jimmy’s actions.

I understand his desperation, but the typical Jimmy charisma didn’t exist. Or at least not towards a good purpose. He started out angry and only grew angrier throughout the episode. By the end he screwed Chuck for no reason other than pure spite. “Expenses” showed a darker side to Jimmy we’ve only glimpsed so far, and it’s sad to think this will increasingly become the norm for him.

It’s hard to watch Jimmy struggle like he is. His commercial scheme isn’t working, he’s falling behind on his bills, and he’s probably going to have to give up on the office building. He has worked so hard to get where he is and now he risks losing it all. Unfortunately, his desperation always brings out the worst in him. We saw it here yet again.

Saul Goodman undoubtedly cares about money more than anything else throughout Breaking Bad. While Jimmy has certainly been concerned with money since the beginning of Better Call Saul, he still retains a basic decency throughout. He gave back the money the Kettlemans stole, after all. Seeing his decency gradually break down is sad. Jimmy can be such a kind, loyal person. He can also be a morally bankrupt piece of crap. It’s unfortunate to know which side wins out in the end.

Kim very much represented the audience this week, even more than she usually does. She has always looked kinder on Jimmy than others do, because like us she sees the good person Jimmy has usually been. She knows he means well and is seduced, for lack of a better word, by how damn likeable Jimmy is. At the same time she recognizes the selfish, immoral impulses beneath the surface and feels uncomfortable about them. Kim spends a lot of this episode worrying about Jimmy’s crueler instincts, just like we do as he grows increasingly desperate.

She and Rebecca are not so different regarding what they expected of Jimmy post-hearing. Even with her more familiar knowledge of the conflict between them, and having placed herself firmly on Jimmy’s side, Kim still expected the brothers to reconnect. She assumed this a particularly rough patch that Jimmy and Chuck would eventually overcome. Especially with Chuck’s mental illness now out in the world and undeniable.

Now that Jimmy’s made clear his intention to full abandon Chuck, she feels guilty. Of course she does, she’s an amazing person who wants to believe the best of people. With Jimmy’s troubles over, she feels guilty for potentially destroying Chuck’s career. This culminated in her snapping at Paige for insulting Chuck and questioning her work.

I expect over time, as Chuck works to heal and Jimmy sinks further and further towards becoming Saul, the audience will feel the same guilt she does. I fully understand the “Fuck Chuck” movement. He’s a narcissistic, egomaniacal, impossibly rigid man who holds a bitter, unfair grudge towards his brother. Chuck committed indefensible sabotage against Jimmy out of a desire to protect his sense of superiority. I’ve hated and still hate his guts for his focus on ethics at the expense of morality.

However, he is mentally ill. Anyone would expect Jimmy to help his brother heal from a mental illness. And over time the fans will probably sour on Jimmy as he continues to take these shots at Chuck. In fact, I won’t be surprised if Jimmy eventually “returns the favor” for Chuck sabotaging his chances at HHM by sabotaging Chuck’s recovery.

At that point, Better Call Saul fans may no longer say “Fuck Chuck”. We’ll probably be saying “Screw Saul”.

Other Thoughts:

  • Jimmy clearly on the brink the entire episode
  • Bob Odenkirk’s fake acting in the insurance office was damn impressive. I remained on the fence about Jimmy’s sincerity until he mentioned his brother “screwing up the numbers.”
  • I have no idea what will happen now with Chuck’s insurance. Obviously his rate will increase, but the consequences of that increase are less clear.
  • Kim’s lack of sleep also played into her breakdown with Paige. The poor woman is sneaking 5 minutes of sleep at a time, you can’t live like that.
  • Mike’s broom trick to create texture with the drying cement is awesome. I assume this is common knowledge and I’m just clueless about cement.
  • Price really is baseball crazy. I suppose some of my fellow Fandomentalists can relate. Not myself. I’ll watch golf for 10 hours before baseball.
  • Look, I’m the last person to shame anyone for anything, but how do you confuse Pink Floyd with Deep Purple?
  • Mike’s eventual fate turns out a lot like Anita’s husband. If I didn’t know the direction he eventually heads, I’d totally root for them to hook up.

Images Courtesy of AMC

Bo
Written By

Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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