Jimmy's "flexible morality" and skill for creative storytelling help Mike out a jam.
Better Call SaulAirtime: Mondays, 10pm
Cast: Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn
Air Date: 2016-02-22
When Better Call Saul made the decision to include, for lack of a better term, the origin story of Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), the key to the dynamic of the series would be how they balance both Mike and Jimmy's (Bob Odenkirk) individual stories. Last week, we saw no interaction between the two aside from recapping what we'd already witnessed at the end of season one. This week, however, the two come together at what seems like the perfect time for both narratives, and it all happens with a simple question from Mike to Jimmy: "Are you still morally flexible?"
The answer is ultimately "yes", but it's how and when the question's posed that becomes important to both characters. At the end of last week's episode we saw Jimmy take the "job of his life" at Davis & Main; we catch up with him this week as he continues to work on the Sandpiper case that he first stumbled upon last season. Jimmy seems satisfied with his work, and especially the perks that come with it (car, house, desk), but it's Kim (Rhea Seehorn) that's outright thrilled for Jimmy and takes every opportunity to congratulate him on his success.
The two share one of their patented cigarette scenes and discuss Jimmy’s plan to look for a place somewhere between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Soon Kim’s pronouns turn from "you" and "I" to "we", and for the first time she seems far more interested in starting up a real relationship with Jimmy than ever before. This is further evidenced when she gives him a gag gift of sorts in the form of a "2nd best lawyer" travel mug. The joke doesn't land as well as she probably hoped, and when Jimmy finds out the mug doesn't fit in the cup holder for his brand new company car, it's tossed aside and destined to be forgotten. The symbolism of this moment isn't lost, just as is Jimmy’s exasperated look at his new sunroof -- thankfully not of the "Chicago" variety.
While Jimmy is settling into his new life as a partner-tracked lawyer, Mike continues to come to the aid of clueless and inexperienced criminals. When luck has his paths cross once again with the stuttering Mr. Daniel Wormald (Mark Proksch), Mike's there to stop him from walking right into the belly of the beast that is New Mexico law enforcement. Mike displays his usual tough love, first chastising Wormald for being a criminal dumb enough to voluntarily talk to the cops, but soon agreeing to help Wormald find his stolen baseball cards.
To do this, Mike pays Nacho (Michael Mando) a visit at his father's car company under the guise that he's interested in some new alligator-skin upholstery. He quickly and convincingly explains to Nacho the reason, namely Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz), why it’s in Nacho’s best interest to get the cards back to Wormald before the police get any further involved. Jonathan Banks is his usual, brilliant self during this scene in which grave threats lie just below the surface of every word he speaks. Nacho eventually agrees, seeing the cards as far from worth that hassle he could experience if Mr. Salamanca finds out about his little side project dealing pills. He agrees to give Wormald back his precious cards in exchange for his ostentatious and utterly ridiculous Hummer.
Jimmy, on the other hand, is keeping everything above board, working to find examples of wrongdoing on the side of the Sandpiper organization. It's during a meeting with the partners at HMM, where Jimmy is explaining that the odd pack-rat habits of the Sandpiper residents will be one of their biggest assets, that Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) returns to his seat at the conference table -- equipped with his specialized suit. Jimmy's thrown off, almost unable to complete his thought, when Kim is able to calm him with a well-placed hand on his knee. Jimmy has all but abandoned the idea that he's responsible for his brother, and has decided to emphatically remove himself from his long shadow, so when he shows up unexpectedly Jimmy can't help but feel there is some ulterior motive to Chuck’s sudden return.
"To bear witness", Chuck responds when his motivation is questioned. Although this is about as cryptic an answer as he could have given, it’s clear to Jimmy that he's not there as a cheerleader hoping to help Jimmy reach his goals. Instead, Chuck comes off as jealous and lonely and unable accept that "Slippin’ Jimmy" may very well be on his way to a respectable law career. All this is swirling around Jimmy’s head when he finally gets the call from Mike, and his flexible morality is once again put to the test.
Now that Mike has successfully negotiated an agreement between Wormald and Nacho, he must make it so the cops look no further into the case of the nervous dork and his hidden wall compartment. Mike wisely turns to the only lawyer who revels in the chance to lie and manipulate his way out of suspicion. And lie and manipulate Jimmy does, in one of the more overtly comedic moments of the series to this point.
The hole in the wall, Jimmy explains to the detectives, isn't for drugs or guns or stolen goods or anything, strictly speaking, illegal. Instead, it's where Mr. Wormald keeps his… videos. Videos which show him performing none other than a "squat Cobbler", which Jimmy explains consists of a man putting his bare ass in a pie or pastry in an attempt to stimulate a viewer's sexual fetish. It's a ridiculous excuse, but just absurd enough that it seems impossible any man would fabricate such a story, thus leaving the detectives satisfied, if not a little grossed out.
Kim, predictably, is enthralled by Jimmy’s story as the two sit on her band sharing a Boston crème pie. But when Jimmy gets to his punchline, the fact that he actually made Wormald take a video of himself sitting in pie, she's less than thrilled. As proud as she was to see Jimmy commit to life as a lawyer, she's now equally disappointed in him for risking all his success by fabricating evidence, all for what seems like a joke.
This scene, the final of the episode, shows how far apart the two are, even when they seem so perfect for each other. As Jimmy told Mike so emphatically on the phone, he’s morally flexible; while Kim’s able to have fun screwing over Mr. Financial manager, she's not nearly as flexible when it comes to risking disbarment.