Better Call Saul season 2 premiere countdown: 3 days left!
Episode 1×08: In which Jimmy goes dumpster diving and the McGill brothers team up for a takedown.
Episode 1×08: “RICO” (written by Gordon Smith; directed by Colin Bucksey)
“RICO” opens with a flashback that shows us Jimmy working at the HHM mailroom. Throughout the first season, Jimmy has always seemed very familiar with the inner workings of HHM, and now we know that he used to work there. The teaser opens with Jimmy cheerfully delivering mail to the HHM employees. He greets everyone by name (and the first guy’s name just happens to be Gene…) and everyone seems fond of him.
Jimmy wheels his cart into Kim’s office, which looks like it might just be a desk in a storage closet. She’s super busy but she makes time for Jimmy, who hold up an envelope that he’s afraid to open. Kim looks nervous for him as she opens it but as soon as she reads the letter he face lights up. And then this happens:
I can’t remember if I actually screamed or kept it internal, but either way it made me (and the McWexler shippers) very happy. Just look at Jimmy’s face. Have we ever seen him that happy? Of course the kiss doesn’t canonically confirm that they were a couple back in the day (and I’m fine either way), but if this is meant as a friend kiss then they are very good friends. I almost don’t even care what’s in the letter—almost.
Jimmy goes up to Chuck’s office (which is bigger than my first apartment) and interrupts him while he’s dictating. He hands Chuck the letter and Chuck says, “Is this a joke?” But no, it’s real. James Morgan McGill passed the New Mexico bar exam. He finished his undergrad credits at community college, got into law school at the University of American Samoa (Go Land Crabs!), and did a distance learning program to earn his degree—all while still working in the mailroom.
Chuck responds as one might imagine: with a thinly veiled disdain for correspondence learning and complete shock that Jimmy could do all this without his help. But he did, and Chuck doesn’t know what to say. Jimmy asks him, “Are you proud of me?” and my heart breaks a little because Chuck hesitates before he says yes. Then Jimmy asks Chuck if he’ll hire him.
(Seriously, Chuck? Come on, man.)
Chuck says that it’s not just up to him but he will discuss it with Howard and the other partners.
Down in the mailroom, Kim and two of Jimmy’s coworkers (and, yes, their names are Bert and Ernie) are throwing him a little party for passing the bar.
Hamlin comes down and congratulates Jimmy, calling him a “regular Charlie Hustle” (which just so Hamlin that I can’t even). He takes a piece of cake and asks the others if he and Jimmy could have the room. Kim gives Jimmy a subtle two thumbs up on her way out, and when she closes the door it cuts off the sound in the room. All we can hear is the whirring of the photocopier in the foreground, but it’s clear from Jimmy’s body language that Hamlin is giving him bad news. Hamlin opens the door and we can finally hear him when he says, “Let’s reassess in six months. Thanks for understanding, Jimmy.” But it’s clear that Jimmy does not understand at all.
The theme plays as a tarantula crawls over Saul’s technicolor ties in the desert.
We’re back in the present and Kim’s back in her old office, hanging her law school diploma up on the wall. We can see she graduated cum laude from the University of New Mexico (clearly money well spent by HHM). Howard comes into her office as she’s unpacking her things and tells her to “come bask in the glow” at the Kettleman press conference. She doesn’t seem to care much about said glow but she goes anyway, and Howard and the HHM team end up on the news.
Cut to Jimmy at the reception desk of the Sandpiper Crossing assisted living facility, watching Hamlin et al. on the TV. He’s just tickled about it, too.
Jimmy signs in to see his client, Mrs. Landry, but before he goes to see her he stops in the TV room to hand out some business cards. The old folks’ home is Jimmy’s bread and butter, after all. When it comes time for Mrs. Landry to pay Jimmy the $140 fee for her will, she doesn’t have enough money (and this part made me so sad because she’s so sorry and clearly mortified and I just want to give her a hug). She tells Jimmy that maybe she could ask for an advance on her allowance but Jimmy is very sweet about it, telling her that she can send him the rest whenever she has the money (and even knocking the fee down to $120). He really is amazing with old people.
Jimmy leaves but the thing she said about the allowance sticks with him so he goes back to ask her about it. He knows that she has social security and pension checks coming in and he’s thinking that maybe her family is stealing her money. That’s not the case, though. Her “allowance” comes from Sandpiper. She explains the system to Jimmy: all her checks go through Sandpiper first, they take out her fees and expenses, then the rest goes into an account and she gets $500 a month.
She says they do it that way to make everything as easy as possible for the residents, but Jimmy doesn’t like the sound of it. She shows him one of her monthly statements, which has near microscopic fine print, and now Jimmy has caught the scent. He meets with some of the other residents in the TV room and goes over their statements with them. The receptionist overhears him and doesn’t like it one bit.
Jimmy goes to Chuck’s to look through his files for anything else Sandpiper-related. He sees that Chuck has done his wills (as expected) but Chuck calls him out for leaving them there on purpose, knowing he would do them. He tells him to “stand on his own two feet,” which I found kind of ridiculous since nobody held a gun to his head. Chuck didn’t HAVE to do the wills; he CHOSE to do them because he’s desperate to work again. He didn’t do the wills with the intent of helping Jimmy; he did them for himself. He did them because he liked it. He did them because he’s good at it. He did them to feel alive. (Remind you of anyone?) So, yes, Jimmy knew that would happen, but it’s not really on him.
Jimmy has Chuck look at one of the Sandpiper statements and shows him what he’s discovered: all the expenses are coded and listed in the finest-of-fine print. Sandpiper is grossly overcharging residents for simple items like Kleenex, toilet paper, aspirin, etc. and is trying to conceal it by making it nearly impossible to read the bill. It adds up to some serious money, and Jimmy thinks that there’s a real argument to be made for fraud. Chuck agrees, but he can’t believe the evidence was right in front of him, in the work he did for Jimmy. Jimmy found something huge—a potential class-action lawsuit against a large corporation—that Chuck completely missed, and that fact isn’t lost on either of them. Jimmy tries to play it off, saying it was just luck, but Chuck is not happy.
Jimmy goes back to Sandpiper to gather more intel but the receptionist won’t let him in. They have a brand new “no solicitation” policy.
She won’t let him in to see his client and suggests that they find somewhere else to meet in the future because Jimmy will not be allowed on the premises. Jimmy can hear a paper shredder going in a nearby office and he knows they are trying to destroy evidence. He fakes a case of I.B.S. and goes to the bathroom, where he writes a demand letter on toilet paper. He serves it to the receptionist and demands that they stop shredding. (And then I learned that the legal term for destroying evidence is “spoliation,” which is cool word that I will probably never get to use in any conversation that is not about this episode.) Jimmy doesn’t get far with the Sandpiper lady before the security guards chuck him out the door.
Mike is hard at work on a crossword puzzle in his booth when he gets a call from Stacey asking him if he can help her out by watching Kaylee. Mike tells her, “anything you need, I’ll be there,” and if you were wondering what Mike looks like when he’s thinking about spending time with his granddaughter, you’re welcome:
From this conversation, which is very brief, I think it’s safe to assume that Stacey didn’t rat Mike out to the cops. I didn’t really think she would, but I’m happy that she didn’t have some crisis of conscience where she decided it was “the right thing” to turn Mike in for killing the pieces of shit that murdered her husband for no reason. Like, I understand objectively that “murder is wrong” but I gotta say, I’m on Team Mike with this one. Those guys had to go.
Still banned from Sandpiper, Jimmy waits for the receptionist to leave for the night before sneaking onto the property to look for the shredded evidence. He’s going for a good old-fashioned dumpster dive, which makes me wonder why he didn’t change out of his Matlock suit first. Don’t get me wrong, watching Matlock Jimmy wading through garbage and dirty adult diapers is incredibly entertaining, but I’m pretty sure Jimmy is smart enough to change into something more dumpster-appropriate before heading over to Sandpiper. I’m willing to let it slide, though, because look at this:
Jimmy is trying not to puke, sorting through a whole lot of gross nothing, when the two security guards come out and dump even more garbage right on his head. He manages to keep quiet but then his cell phone rings. Luckily, the guards are gone, but he whispers when he picks up.
On the other end is Rich Schweikart of Schweikart and Cokely, the firm that is representing Sandpiper Crossing. They received Jimmy’s makeshift demand letter and it’s clear that Schweikart isn’t taking Jimmy seriously. He basically says as much when he tells him that the only reason he actually called was out of respect for Chuck, because he figured they might be related. Jimmy isn’t about to be blown off by this guy, though, and even though he’s neck-deep in trash, he lets Schweikart have it. Jimmy tells him his client is facing charges of elder abuse, fraud, and deceptive and unfair trade practices. Jimmy is all business but Schweikart calls it a shakedown and hangs up.
Jimmy crawls out of the dumpster, covered in all sorts of filth. He kicks the thing and then he falls down, which is super graceful as you can see.
Then he rounds the corner and sees a very obvious (and very clean) paper-recycling bin. Jackpot. He takes garbage bags full of shredded documents to Chuck’s house and works through the night trying to piece them together. It looks like a truly impossible task, and Jimmy hasn’t gotten very far by morning when Chuck comes down to find his dining room covered in trash. Jimmy explains the situation, assuring Chuck that he acquired all the shredded paper legally (i.e. he didn’t break in to Sandpiper like Chuck assumed he did). Then Chuck actually does something nice: he says Jimmy can work at the house and tells him, “I don’t mind the company.” He goes to make him some coffee but by the time it’s ready, Jimmy is passed out on the floor. Chuck even gets a pillow and puts it under Jimmy’s head.
By the time Jimmy wakes up, Chuck has made a lot of progress. He’s even discovered Jimmy’s “smoking gun”: an invoice from a medical supply company located in Nebraska, which means interstate commerce, which could potentially make it a RICO case. Chuck is almost manic at this point and starts rattling off case law that he wants Jimmy to pull. Chuck uses the word “us” when he’s talking to Jimmy about their work on the case and Jimmy has to make sure he heard him correctly. But it’s true: Chuck wants to work with Jimmy on the case. Chuck goes to shake his hand but Jimmy pulls him into a big bear hug. Jimmy’s got the same happy puppydog face he had with Kim in the teaser, but Chuck is clearly not a hugger.
Jimmy calls Kim at the office and asks her to print out a bunch of case law for him. It will end up being thousands of pages, take her hours, and cost upwards of $400 to do, but she’s willing to do it for him. He gives her Chuck’s billing code and she is shocked to learn that they are working together on a case, and not just because the McGill brothers make an unlikely pair. Kim seems especially concerned with the fact that Chuck is working on a case outside of HHM even though he’s a partner. Also, she hasn’t seen him since the hospital incident and she’s surprised that he’s even up to it. Jimmy says that it’s good for him to be working a case and Kim agrees to print everything and bring it to them, but when she hangs up with Jimmy there’s something in her face that says that the whole thing isn’t quite sitting right with her.
And now we get to see Mike in Pop-Pop mode with Kaylee, which is the best, cutest thing ever. Kaylee is playing sculptor and Mike calls her the “Michelangelina” of Play-Doh.
Stacey comes back from work and has an important question for Mike. She tells him she’s been carrying around Matt’s dirty money and she doesn’t know what to do with it. She’s a single mom now and money is tight and she wants Mike to tell her if it’s okay to spend it. He says that if the money “does a single good thing in this world,” she should spend it, and Stacey is relieved even though it’s just “a drop in the bucket.” Mike looks disturbed by the fact that Stacey is struggling to make ends meet, and if I had to guess I would say that Stacey knew full well when she told him about her money troubles that he would want to help them.
Schweikart is in his office, complaining about his White People Problems (something about a malfunctioning chip in a luxury car that he had to have towed to Telluride—oh, the horror), when he receives a fax: a copy of the pieced-together medical supply invoice. When he registers what he’s seeing, he knows it’s time to take the case seriously. Jimmy is not going away, and now he’s got the evidence that Sandpiper was trying to hide.
Schweikart and two associates, Reese and Jergens, show up at Chuck’s house for a meeting. Jimmy greets them outside and tells them to leave all their electronics because of Chuck’s “medical condition.” Schweikart says he’d heard about Chuck’s condition and then he laughs. (And while I don’t particularly care for Chuck, WOW is this Schweikart guy a dick.) They go inside and Chuck’s dining room has been transformed into a makeshift conference room. Jimmy asks them to wait and then goes to get Chuck.
I don’t usually feel bad for Chuck, but here he’s so anxious that he’s practically paralyzed. He says, “I don’t know if I can do this,” and I know that feel so I’m rooting for him to make it through the Sandpiper meeting without having a full-blown panic attack. Jimmy tries to give Chuck a pep talk as he ties his shoes for him (awww) and it gets him going just enough to make it into the dining room. The Sandpiper lawyers all stand as Chuck enters the room.
Schweikart shakes his hand and reminds him that they worked together on a case once. Chuck is trying his best to engage with him, and he half-ass smiles and nods, but he looks like he’s screaming inside and wants to be anywhere but where he is. Schweikart is singing Chuck’s praises, even going so far as to tell Chuck that he thought he’d be arguing in front of the Supreme Court one day. In Chuck’s current situation, that’s probably the last thing he wants to hear.
Chuck is still basically silent so Jimmy takes the lead in the meeting. Schweikart is willing to concede that there were some “accounting errors” that resulted in some of the residents being overcharged, and that they have calculated the damages at $46K. They are willing to give an additional $54K for the McGills’ expenses, making the settlement an even $100K. Sandpiper admits no wrongdoing and the clients are made whole again.
Chuck is silent and Jimmy keeps doing the heavy lifting, telling Schweikart that they are pursuing a RICO case against his client. After conferring with his associates, Schweikart asks Jimmy how much it would take to settle, and Chuck finally speaks: “Twenty million dollars or we’ll see you in court.”
After the Sandpiper guys leave, Jimmy asks Chuck what the hell he was thinking pulling that 20-million-dollar price tag out of nowhere. Chuck reminds Jimmy that Schweikart said that Sandpiper has twelve different facilities (which are likely spread across a few different states), which makes the case a “multi-state federal class-action lawsuit with a RICO kicker at the penalty phase.” (I’m not a lawyer, but that sounds like a pretty big deal to me.) Chuck says 20 million is actually conservative for the scope of Sandpiper’s fraud.
Chuck sees how big this case really is and he’s back in full effect, taking charge and telling Jimmy exactly what the game plan is. After the way he froze up in front of the Sandpiper guys, it’s interesting to see how easily he finds his voice and his confidence when it’s only Jimmy in the room.
And now allow me to present to you Mike Ehrmantraut with an adorable, medium-sized lapdog:
He’s back at the vet’s office, getting a check-up for his sweet little rescue pup. (I’m like 99.9% sure Mike adopted this dog solely so that he would have a legit reason to go see the sketchy vet, and that having a puppy for Kaylee was just an added bonus.) Mike isn’t just there for a check-up, though. He’s looking for “that kind of work” now, presumably to help Stacey and Kaylee with their money troubles. The vet asks his “dos and don’ts” but Mike says to just tell him what he’s got and he’ll tell him what he’ll do. (And this is a shame because I would have loved to hear Mike Ehrmantraut’s wills and won’ts list.)
Jimmy returns to Chuck’s after hoofing it all over the mall bringing in new clients for the class action. He’s exhausted and he plops down on the couch before remembering that he left some code provisions for Chuck in the car. He tells Chuck to give him a minute to rest and then he’ll go get the stuff but he basically passes right out. Chuck is completely lost in his work—so completely lost in it that, when he needs the stuff from Jimmy’s car, he walks right out the door, grabs the keys from the mailbox, and gets the box out of the trunk.
There are no signs of pain or distress; he’s just a guy getting some stuff out of a car. That is, until Jimmy comes outside and calls his name. He snaps back into himself and becomes conscious of the fact that he is outside. In a wide shot, we see Chuck drop the box, and then the credits roll.
I have a lot of feelings about “RICO”—a LOT of feelings—and most of them are about Mailroom Jimmy. If someone told me before I’d ever watched Better Call Saul that Saul Goodman was once a con artist named Slippin’ Jimmy in Cicero, Illinois, I would have easily believed it. It makes sense, even without any other info about Jimmy McGill. But if you told me that Saul Goodman once worked in the mailroom of a law firm while working toward his law degree and passing the bar over the course of many years, I would not have been able to picture it. Saul is an instant gratification kind of guy, so seeing Mailroom Jimmy pass the bar after years and years of hard work and self-discipline was just so wonderful. (Plus it came sealed with a kiss from Kim.)
But since Better Call Saul is what it is, this moment of pure, unadulterated joy couldn’t last for more than .5 seconds. No, here come Chuck and Hamlin to piss on poor Jimmy’s parade. His brother isn’t even proud of him and Hamlin won’t give him a chance at the firm. Now, to be fair, it was really presumptuous of Jimmy to think that HHM would just give him a job right off the bat. Sure, nepotism is a thing that exists, but given everything he’s been through with Chuck and the fact that he’s got a criminal past, he really shouldn’t have been that surprised. It would actually be incredibly unfair for him to instantly get a job at HHM (even though the Jimmy apologist in me wanted to burn the world to the ground when Hamlin rejected him). He’s allowed to be disappointed, because he had a dream and they killed it instantly, but that’s about it.
In “RICO” we see again exactly how good of a lawyer Jimmy McGill really is. Jimmy’s instincts are spot on. The second he heard “allowance” out of Mrs. Landry’s mouth, he knew something was up. He let his hunch guide him and he found compelling evidence of fraud almost immediately. Could he have built the case without Chuck’s help? Possibly, but it would have taken him a hell of a lot longer. “RICO” shows us that the McGill brothers make a great team—they are both bright legal minds, albeit with polar opposite personalities. Chuck brings the gravitas and Jimmy brings the razzmatazz. It remains to be seen how successful this partnership will be, but “RICO” shows us what it could be. There is such potential there for these two guys to work together to take down Sandpiper Crossing, and this is just one of many instances over the course of the season where we are given a glimpse at Jimmy’s full potential. Jimmy’s potential, both as a lawyer and as a person, is something that comes up again and again, and what makes Better Call Saul so emotionally taxing is the knowledge that he ultimately wastes it.