Better Call Saul season 2 premiere countdown: 8 days left!
Episode 1×03: In which we meet Slippin’ Jimmy, the Kettlemans cause trouble for everyone, and we get to know some of the supporting players in the Better Call Saul universe.
Episode 1×03: “Nacho” (written by Thomas Schnauz; directed by Terry McDonough)
The cold open of “Nacho” gave me what I’d been waiting for: a flashback. We started the series with a flash-forward (my current favorite six minutes of television), but I really wanted to meet Slippin’ Jimmy. I got my wish: the teaser opens with a younger, healthy Chuck visiting a client in prison. He dumps one of those monster Zack Morris cell phones in the bin, along with his keys and other personal items—a not-so-subtle reference to everything Jimmy has to put in Chuck’s mailbox, per his entry requirements. The guard takes him to confer with his client, and hallelujah: it’s Slippin’ Jimmy McGill. (He’s got a pretty sweet mullet, too. I’m already impressed.)
We learn that this scene takes place before Jimmy moved to Albuquerque, and that he hasn’t seen Chuck in five years, but now Jimmy’s locked up and he needs big brother’s help. Jimmy acts pretty slick at first, making light of his arrest which he describes as “a bit of a pickle.” Chuck is not even remotely amused and he tries to get Jimmy to understand the severity of his situation. He tells him that not only is he facing property damage and assault charges, but that he could be labeled a sex offender.
Jimmy seems to think that’s absurd and tells Chuck that all he did was something called a “Chicago Sunroof,” which he doesn’t seem to think warrants a sex offense charge. Here is where I as a viewer immediately Google “what is a chicago sunroof,” but at the time this first aired, the Internet gave me no answers. I took the innocent-until-proven-guilty approach but I was forced to wonder: is Jimmy McGill a freakin’ sex offender? Exactly how bad was Slippin’ Jimmy?
To Jimmy, it’s a foregone conclusion that Chuck is going to get him out of this jam. Chuck is the man, after all. He’s got a “big bag of tricks” and “clever technicalities… reasonable doubt type stuff.” But Chuck isn’t exactly offering up any legal counsel. Instead, he asks Jimmy if he called their mother and cried for help on the phone. Jimmy denies it. “She hears what she wants to hear,” he says.
Jimmy tells Chuck that he knows he’s a “lousy brother” and a “big screw-up” and he gives Chuck an insincere apology, the kind Chuck has no doubt heard before. Chuck is completely done with Jimmy’s bs and he calls for the guard. He’s ready to let Jimmy rot in prison and he’s not willing to help him if he doesn’t take this seriously. Jimmy begs and pleads with him to help. He’s being sincere now, because he’s terrified and Chuck is his only hope. “If I do this,” Chuck says, “IF, do not make a fool out of me.” Jimmy promises to go straight and his voice breaks as he says, “Please, Chuck. Help me.”
Aaaaand I’m already crying as the theme song plays over a woman’s fingers, ashing a cigarette into Saul’s scales of liberty.
We see Jimmy in the salon at night, taking some of Mrs. Nguyen’s off-limits cucumber water and mixing it with some clear liquor. I feel like gin would go best with cucumber water, so I’m gonna go ahead and assume that’s what he’s drinking (and I kind of want one now). He looks at the matchbook with Nacho’s number on it and he makes a call, but it’s not to Nacho.
And finally, we get our first real introduction to Kim, the blonde lawyer lady who has been lurking at the periphery of the Better Call Saul universe for the first two episodes. From the few scenes she’s been in, it’s clear that she has an intimate relationship with Jimmy, but the nature of their relationship is undefined.
Jimmy calls her at two in the morning, waking her from a dead sleep, but even in her semi-conscious state she recognizes Jimmy’s voice on the phone. The first thing she asks is if Chuck is okay, and when Jimmy tells her he’s fine, she assumes (perhaps jokingly, perhaps not) that Jimmy has called for some late night dirty talk. Jimmy assures her that the conversation will remain “PG-13 at worst” and then invites her over for a free pedicure. It’s obvious that Kim knows he lives in a nail salon, and that they have enough of a past together that a 2am call is not out of the ordinary. This is clearly more of a Have They/Haven’t They than a Will They/Won’t They, which is more refreshing than a cold glass of cucumber water because the Will They/Won’t They trope is tired and I’m sick of it. Moving on.
We learn why Jimmy really called Kim: not for dirty talk or pedicures but for intel on the Kettlemans. We’re not sure of Jimmy’s motives yet: could he actually be trying to help Nacho rip them off? He asks Kim about “the primo client your dipwad boss stole right out from under me” but Kim isn’t indulging him. “The Kettlemans made a choice,” she says, and she tells him that she will be second chair if it goes to trial. She tells Jimmy, “Be happy for me,” and he lets it go.
But he’s not done digging. He asks Kim, “Where’d he stash all that dough? I mean, besides for buying that idiotic boat—Hello, guilty!” She refuses to talk details of the case with him and almost hangs up, but when Jimmy starts talking about how Craig Kettleman is probably a target and that “his whole family could be in danger,” Kim sits up and takes notice. She questions him about why he would say something like that and he makes the excuse that he’s drunk, but she doesn’t quite believe him. He says goodnight to Kim and hangs up.
But Jimmy can’t sleep. Even if he believes he’s not a hero, he’s not ready to give up trying to be one. He makes a contraption out of an empty paper towel roll and some tissue paper, and then he drives to a payphone on a deserted street. When he dials the Kettlemans’ number, their answering machine picks up and we hear the whole Kettleteam doing one of those saccharine-sweet family messages that kind of make me ill: “[in unison] Hello! You’ve reached Team Kettleman!”
Jimmy hangs up and calls back, and Team Kettleman answers again, but on the third call, Craig finally picks up. Jimmy uses his makeshift voice-distortion device to try to tell him that the family is in danger, but Craig can’t understand a word of it. Betsy comes downstairs and Craig puts the phone on speaker, but Jimmy’s muffled warnings are completely unintelligible. Finally he drops the disguise and says, in his own voice, “Kettlemans you’re in danger they’re coming for your money bye,” and hangs up. Craig and Betsy slowly realize what they’ve just been told. They go to the window and peer out into the night, and parked outside the Kettlehouse is a van with a shadowy figure in the front seat.
Jimmy’s back at the courthouse, wheelin’ and dealin’ in the men’s room, and he’s got the prosecutor cornered in the stall. The poor man is just trying to take his dump in peace but Jimmy’s on a mission. He’s trying to work out a deal for his client but the prosecutor won’t budge. Turns out, he’s got his cases mixed up, and Jimmy flips his lid: “I’m busting my nut here every day for 700 a throw, inhaling your BM, which is straight from Satan’s bunghole, and you can’t tell one defendant from another?” The prosecutor takes Jimmy’s deal, but the victory is short-lived because he gets a call from Kim. She asks him what he meant by the things he said on the phone and he tries to play the drunk card again but then she drops a bomb on him: the Kettlemans have gone missing.
Jimmy needs answers, and fast, but he’s held up by everyone’s favorite curmudgeonly parking attendant. Naturally, Jimmy has no stickers. He’s in a rush. Mike is doing his crossword puzzle in the booth, barely paying attention to Jimmy except to tell him, “you know the drill, money or the validation.” But Jimmy’s not having it—not today—and he reaches in to Mike’s booth and hits the button to open the gate. He peels out, screaming “Screw you, geezer!” at Mike, who responds as one would expect:
Jimmy busts ass over to the Kettlehouse, where he finds Hamlin and Kim, along with a ton of police activity. Jimmy gets out of the car and Hamlin walks over to him, and while he’s civil to Jimmy it’s clear he wants to know what the hell he thinks he’s doing there. Jimmy claims he was just “surfing the police scanner” but Hamlin wants him gone. “There’s no business for you here,” he says, but he gives him a general overview of the situation: a neighbor saw the door wide open and found the place ransacked and Team Kettleman is gone, no note.
Hamlin is done wasting time on Jimmy and he walks away, but Kim comes over, looking none too pleased to see him. She wants to know exactly why Jimmy said the things he said about the Kettlemans being in danger because now no part of her believes that it was just drunk Jimmy talking. Jimmy tries to tell her it’s just a coincidence—“It’s crazy. It’s Ripleys.”—but Kim has had enough. She tells him that the two kids are missing and asks, “You would say something if you could help find them, right?”
Jimmy is obviously shaken and he looks guilty as hell but he doesn’t give up what he knows. He’s not lying when he says he doesn’t know what happened to the Kettlemans, but he’s not telling the whole truth, either. Now Kim is completely done with him and she tells him to get out because she doesn’t want to have to do any more explaining to Hamlin. She acts very differently toward Jimmy when Hamlin is around—like she doesn’t want Hamlin to see them together outside of official HHM business.
Jimmy’s next move: he’s gotta get a hold of Nacho and find out what the hell is going on. He finds himself another payphone (and Breaking Bad fans might have noticed Jesse Pinkman’s “JPI” tag on it). He calls and it goes to voicemail after one ring: “Nacho. Leave it.” Jimmy is trying to stay under the radar, saying “this is the party you spoke to the other day,” and telling Nacho that he wants to help him “de-escalate” the situation. He gives him the payphone number and hangs up, but he calls back almost immediately, more frantic this time. “There are no rats on this ship,” he says. “I can put out this fire.” He keeps trying until finally he gets a call back, but the caller does not speak.
Now Jimmy is spooked and he wants to get out of there but the Esteem won’t start. He sees two men walking towards him and he gets out of the car, trying to act casual and failing. He takes off running and they give chase, and when a police car shoots out of an alley and corners him, he thinks the police are there to help him. Wrong. They take him down hard and Jimmy yells, “I’ve got bad knees!”—a nice throwback to the first appearance of Saul on Breaking Bad, when Walt and Jesse have him down on his knees in the desert. The cop takes his ID and realizes who they’ve got: “It’s his lawyer.”
Turns out, the cops already have Nacho in custody for the Kettlemans’ disappearance and he asked for Jimmy as his lawyer. When Jimmy enters the interrogation room he thinks he’s there for legal representation—he did offer up his services to Nacho when he came to his office—but Nacho doesn’t look at Jimmy when he enters. Jimmy tells Nacho that it was “a wise move” to call him and starts giving him legal counsel. Nacho looks, in a word, terrifying. He’s still as stone and staring daggers at Jimmy, who chooses to ignore it and keep lawyering.
We learn that a neighbor took down the license plate of the van outside the Kettlehouse, the cops traced it to Nacho, and when they searched it they found blood in the back. Jimmy tells Nacho that the feds are getting involved and advises him to cooperate and show remorse. Jimmy is confident that if Nacho tells the cops where the Kettlemans are, he can get his sentence knocked down to the minimum: 18 years. Nacho has yet to say a word but Jimmy is still yapping away. “They take this good behavior thing very seriously,” he says, and he asks Nacho to tell him that the family is okay. Jimmy 100% thinks that Nacho kidnapped the Kettlemans, but after a long pause Nacho finally speaks:
We find out that not only did Nacho not commit this crime, but that he thinks that Jimmy gave his score to another crew. Nacho thinks he’s being set up, which is very bad for Jimmy, because this is not the type of guy you want to screw over. Tuco might be the crazier of the two, but Nacho will kill you just as dead if you cross him. Nacho tells him that, yes, he was there the night the Kettlemans went missing, but he was just casing his place so he could plan his robbery. The Kettlemans were fine when Nacho left.
As for the blood in the van, he tells Jimmy, “They DNA my ride, all they’re gonna find is the blood of your skate-rat twins and whatever piss and shit you leaked out while you were in there.” Nacho tells Jimmy that he’s the only other person who knew his plan but Jimmy maintains his innocence. Nacho tells him that if the cops find anything on him or his business partners, that it’s going to be a bad scene for Jimmy. Really bad. As in:
When Jimmy leaves the interrogation room, Kim is waiting for him. She’s not pleased that he failed to mention he was representing the lead suspect in the case. From Kim’s perspective, this is very shady (especially considering he showed up at the crime scene asking questions) and you can tell she’s pretty disappointed in him. He swears that he didn’t even know Nacho was a suspect and she seems to believe him. Jimmy tells Kim and the detectives that Nacho is innocent and doesn’t know the whereabouts of the family. Kim’s not buying it, though, and she tells him he doesn’t have to stand behind attorney-client privilege when the Kettlemans are in danger. Of course, Jimmy knows that Nacho is telling the truth, but he can’t tell the police how he knows because he’d be signing his own death sentence.
He decides to tell them to test the blood, which is a risky choice since his DNA may very well be in the back of that van, but it’s his only option at this point. The cops say the test will take weeks, so he asks to see the house. Kim is insistent that the cops allow Jimmy to see the crime scene.
The Kettlehouse is trashed, and Kim wants to make sure that Jimmy understands the seriousness of what’s happening. She thinks that if he sees the house—especially the children’s rooms—that he’ll crack and tell them whatever it is that he’s hiding. Jimmy is visibly shaken and when they get to little Jojo’s room, he admits it. But he truly doesn’t know anything, so he tries to crack the case of the missing Kettlemans. He notices that, in every picture, Jojo is holding a doll, but the doll is nowhere to be found. And that’s when Jimmy gets a bright idea: the Kettlemans kidnapped themselves.
Jimmy knows Craig Kettleman stole that money, and it follows logically that he might want to actually get away with stealing said money. They can’t run, because it would make them look guilty, but if they were “kidnapped,” they become victims. It’s the perfect plan, except that the cops think Jimmy’s full of it and they’ve already looked into whether or not the Kettlemans left town on their own. There’s no record of them traveling anywhere and their cars are still at the house. He’s out of options, so Jimmy asks Kim if he can talk to her “on the QT.”
Jimmy admits to Kim that he warned the Kettlemans that they were in danger. He says that he “deduced” that Nacho was going to rob them and called the Kettlemans anonymously to give them a heads up. Kim looks at him and she just knows: “You didn’t do the sex robot voice, did you?” (And now all I want to know is in what other situations has Jimmy used said sex robot voice and why does Kim know about it.) Jimmy says the call probably spooked them and they took off, and he sounds very Saul when he tells her: “file that under ‘unintended consequences.’”
Without giving her any details, Jimmy tries to make it clear to Kim that Nacho is a very bad guy, and that he’s gonna make a “meat piñata” out of him if Jimmy doesn’t get him out of jail. Kim is very emphatic that Jimmy should go to the police but he refuses because he knows if he does, he’s a dead man. No, he needs to convince the police to stop looking at Nacho and go after the Kettlemans, and he needs Kim’s help to convince them to do it.
Kim believes him now but she still won’t help him. She doesn’t have the pull to get the cops to investigate the Kettlemans and Hamlin would never do it because it would mean incriminating his own clients. “You see,” Jimmy says, “this is why people hate lawyers.” Then Kim says, “Even if it were up to me, you know I couldn’t,” and again, I wonder why she wants to keep Hamlin out of the loop when it comes to all things Jimmy. It’s obvious that Jimmy and Hamlin have a pretty icy relationship, but what exactly is going on there, and where does Kim fit into it? Whatever it is, Jimmy understands it, even if I don’t. He accepts that Kim won’t help him and leaves to go beg Nacho for his life. Kim looks like she feels guilty, but not guilty enough to tell Hamlin the truth about the situation.
Jimmy returns to the courthouse and finds himself at Mike’s mercy. They didn’t part on the best of terms when Jimmy jumped the rail, and now Mike refuses to let him in.
But Jimmy’s on the clock, and if it runs out he’s done for. He parks his car at the booth and gets out, taunting Mike as he passes. When Mike gets out of the booth, I know Jimmy’s totally screwed, but Jimmy thinks he’s just a cranky (but ultimately harmless) old man. Jimmy says, “You gonna gum me to death, huh, geezer?” and he pokes Mike in the chest, and now we see the Mike Ehrmantraut we all know and love. He grabs Jimmy’s arm, twists it behind his back, and takes him down hard. Poor Jimmy didn’t stand a chance.
Inside, the cops try to convince Mike to press assault charges on Jimmy so that they can cut a deal: all charges dropped if Jimmy tells them where Nacho has the Kettlemans. The cops are acting all buddy-buddy with Mike, and one of them pats Mike on the arm. I could try to describe Mike’s don’t-touch-me look but I think this says all that needs to be said about how Mike feels about the police:
The cops grill Jimmy but he’s still insistent that Nacho is innocent. He tells the cops again that the Kettlemans kidnapped themselves.
The cops are about to take him to booking when Mike changes his mind. He tells them he’s not going to press charges and the cops start nagging him to get on their team. One of them says, “Whatcha doin’ buddy? I though you had our backs,” and Mike responds, “No, I don’t think I said that, buddy.” Never has anyone in the history of the English language said the word “buddy” with as much disdain and Mike does here. It’s truly a beautiful thing. I aspire to Mike’s level of done with everyone.
Mike leaves and Jimmy takes off after him. He knows Mike believes him, but he wants to know why. Mike tells him a story from when he was a cop back in Philly, where a bookie took off with millions of dollars in bets after the Superbowl. They found the man six months later squatting in a foreclosed house two doors down from where he lived. Mike explains to Jimmy that, “It’s human nature to want to stay close to home, and if this Kettleman figured out how to do it, that’s what he did.”
At the Kettlehouse, Jimmy notices the family camping decal on the Kettlemobile. He goes around to the backyard and finds a gate at the back that leads to a hiking trail. An incredibly catchy song which I 100% downloaded (legally, thank you very much) after this episode aired, “Find Out What’s Happening” by Bobby Bare, plays as Jimmy treks through the desert in his suit and loafers. He knows the Kettlemans are no criminal masterminds. They are out there somewhere, and it’s up to him to find them. At dusk, after hours of searching, he hits pay dirt: Craig, Betsy, and the Kettlekids in a tent, singing “Bingo.” Jimmy calls Kim and says, “I found your dumbass clients.” He promises to bring them in but he’ll need a few hours.
Poor Warren and Jojo look miserable out there but Betsy is chipper as ever. “Let’s really have fun with this, okay Kettleteam!” she says, and they’re about to launch into a rousing rendition of “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” when Jimmy crashes the party.
Jimmy tries to get the Kettlemans to come quietly but Betsy isn’t having it. She gets in a tug-of-war with Jimmy over a duffel bag and it splits open (a far-too-convenient plot device that I’m willing to overlook because I adore this show). The missing $1.6 million spills out and Craig looks guilty as sin, but not Betsy; she looks pissed off at Jimmy, like it’s his fault that they are officially busted. Jimmy just looks at the money and says, “Yeah.” Roll credits.
“Nacho” gave me a lot of what I’d been hoping for. We got the first appearance of Slippin’ Jimmy (and his bitchin’ mullet). We got Mike in classic form. But most importantly for me, we got more insight into who Kim is. While the episode raised more questions than it answered about the nature of Jimmy and Kim’s relationship, it was nice that they actually, you know, gave her a name and more than two lines of dialogue. Much as I love Better Call Saul, it’s a bit of a sausage fest at times, so I was waiting to see what they would do with Kim, the show’s only female main character.
I wasn’t disappointed. Kim is not your average love interest. It’s clear that she really cares for Jimmy, and that there’s a history there, but she’s not a “drop everything for your man” type of gal. She has integrity and she takes the law seriously, and she’s not about to help Jimmy do something that goes against her ethical code. I, for one, am interested to see how their relationship plays out as Jimmy makes his transformation into Saul. I can’t imagine it’ll go all that well, but you never know. With the proper motivation, anyone can break bad.