Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Better Call Saul asks what it means for Jimmy to be “morally flexible”

Jimmy and Kim reprise an iconic season 1 image
Ursula Coyote/Sony Pictures Television/ AMC

Some friendly advice for BCS (and BB) viewers: Every time the creative team gives you a set piece that delivers exactly what you want, hold onto your wallets. You’re the mark.

Last week, Jimmy told Kim at the hotel bar that “the stuff I liked about being a lawyer, selling people, convincing people? I don’t have to be a lawyer to do that.” In the end, as we saw, he decided being a lawyer for a while served his interests. But he reserved his right to break the rules. This week, Jimmy relishes his chance to sell the police on an alternate theory, shall we say, of Daniel Warmolt’s incongruous affluence and disinclination for scrutiny. He spins his tale of wealthy elderly reclusive patrons willing to pay big bucks for “squat cobbler,” videos of bare asses in pies and pastries. (If the term doesn’t ring a bell, maybe you know it as Hoboken squat cobbler, full moon moon pie, Boston creme splat, or Simple Simon the ass man.) As he adds detail after hilarious detail (“Technically he does a crybaby squat; not all squatters cry”), the officers’ bafflement turns to fascinated incredulity. It’s the criminal defense equivalent of the Viktor-with-a-K con from the premiere, a web of pure fabrication that plays right into the police’s jaded worldview: People are sick; anything’s possible; it’s almost too crazy not to be real.

But to seal the deal, Jimmy buys some baked goods and films Daniel sitting on them. It’s not clear he needed to do this to convince the police. Rather, as he’s gleefully recounting the scam to Kim, it seems that he takes some pleasure in humiliating the idiotic dipshit. In doing so, though, he crosses a line—he fabricates evidence. Kim’s horrified, but for Jimmy, it’s a way of being both Slippin’ Jimmy and James M. McGill, Esq. He’s keeping it isolated from Davis & Main, he assures her; strictly pro bono work. He’s trying to have the cocobolo desk and flip the forbidden switch at the same time.

And always lurking at the conference table where Howard Hamlin convenes the combined forces of the firms working on the Sandpiper case is Chuck, the face Jimmy was picturing when he told Kim: “Besides, people don’t see me as a lawyer.” In Santa Fe he’s banished Chuck’s specter, more or less. But when Howard lets slip to Chuck that his no-good brother has snowed some firm into hiring him, Chuck slips on the space-blanket-lined suit and makes the superhuman effort to corporealize. Kim’s there to bolster Jimmy’s confidence, but Chuck’s ominous surveillance is a reminder of the new parameters of his game. In Jimmy’s previous incarnations—ambulance chaser, elder law entrepreneur—Chuck was homebound and barred from active participation in Jimmy’s world, while still enjoying rent-free accommodations in his psyche. Now Chuck’s condescending, suspicious gaze has grown legs, just when Jimmy has made up his mind to evict his brother from his head.

The problem with Jimmy’s education as a grifter is that he has grown addicted to having an audience. Look at how he has the company car delivered to the nail salon so that the techs can fawn over it and the owner can choke on her bile. Marco served admirably, both aiding and applauding the performance. Kim fell into the same role last week, but she wouldn’t commit to the partnership. So Jimmy brought the show to her, so to speak, and as they eat surplus Boston creme pie together, she eats up the account—until it crosses the line into legal malpractice. “I cannot hear about this sort of thing ever again,” she tells him, and he answers: “You won’t.” He’s not going to stop obstinately flipping that switch, and she’s not going to ask questions about it. But her scruples mean that he has no cheering section for what he does best, and is determined to keep doing to poke Chuck right in his squinty narrowed eyes.

Many of us would be happy to take Kim’s place on the bleachers. Nothing gives us more pleasure than idiotic dipshits getting what they deserve, authorities getting pantsed, the hero crushing his enemies and hearing the lamentations of their women. Yet while we enjoy Jimmy putting one over on the cops, Gilligan and Gould (and this episode’s writer Gennifer Hutchinson) are picking our pockets. Our desire for great television, with its often limited range of pleasures, is turned against us. We love that Jimmy’s having his cake and eating it too, until Kim points out that he really can’t. The outlaw lawyer is a contradiction in terms. It cannot be. If we swallow it without question, then we’re living in a fantasy world, convinced that what we want should have some relation to what we’re actually going to get.


That “SG WAS HERE” scratched into the concrete wall at the start of the season isn’t just a defiant claim of identity. It’s a cry of protest against the conditions of the rest of Jimmy’s life—one in which he can never tell the story. A life without an audience. A vanishing act where the magician never returns to stage to accept the applause. Jimmy’s tragedy is that he never knows that we exist—as if, of course, we could have ever saved him.

Stray observations:

  • Who is Rebecca Bois, you ask? Turns out John Teti and Gus Spelman have some ideas … or maybe they don’t. But they certainly have ideas about why it’s fun to have ideas! And in their Polite Fight video, they’ll tell you all about them. Plus they’ll be reading your comments here to get better ideas for next week.
  • The Mercedes is great! Except the World’s Second Best Lawyer mug Kim got him as a gag gift won’t go into its cupholder (“must be metric,” he grumbles). He can’t even take any pleasure in the sunroof because it reminds him of the “Chicago sunroof” incident and how Chuck held it over his head all those years.
  • Nice to see Michael McKean use his musical skills in the cold open, playing piano with a metronome (and starting over with a twinge of frustration every time he screws up). The piece is actually a duet for piano and flute, but poor Chuck is a solo act after Jimmy’s departure. Maybe he can get together with Clifford Main and jam sometime. (Fun fact: Did you know that in 2003 Ed Begley, Jr. bought the Telecaster that George Harrison plays on the rooftop in Let It Be, in order to donate it to the Harrison estate?)
  • By contrast with Jimmy’s performative bent, Mike never needs anybody to know how awesome he is—which of course, makes him more awesome. Daniel can’t believe he has a day job at the parking lot, but of course, his failure to appreciate such commitment to routine is his downfall.
  • Mike’s also good at sizing up Nacho, who has something to lose if he doesn’t give back those baseball cards as Mike demands (in response to Daniel’s touching plea “some of them were my dad’s”)—namely his relationship with the brutal Tuco Salamanca, who doesn’t know about his side gig with the pills. I doubt his father, who seems to run an honest upholstery business, would be thrilled about it either.
  • Daniel is poorly suited for criminal life in many, many, many ways (“It’s probably a bad idea that you talked to the police, being a criminal and all”), but one is how attached he gets to objects. His concern for the future of his flame-encrusted Hummer, destined for Nacho’s buddies at the chop shop, is endearingly futile.
  • Nice to see that Jimmy picked up a University of American Samoa sweatshirt at the bookstore during his education (modeled here by Kim as they eat pie together).
  • “Our clients will always be our best resource. Plus, they have ribbon candy.”