Episode 2×01: In which Gene cozies up with a dumpster, Jimmy and Kim take their relationship to the next level, and Price learns the hard way that you should always listen to Mike Ehrmantraut.
Episode 2×01: “Switch” (written and directed by Thomas Schnauz)
The season two premiere of Better Call Saul gave me a lot of things that I wanted, but nothing more important to me than the return of Cinnabon Gene. I was wondering if they would open this season as they opened the series—with Gene in black and white—and they did exactly that. We see Gene after hours at the mall, closing up the Cinnabon with his coworkers, Krista and Raquel.
And he actually speaks this time! He says goodnight and get home safe to the young women and he exchanges a nod with the janitor on his way to the dumpster to take out the trash. These two short interactions give me the sense that Gene is more settled into his new life now than he was when we saw him at the beginning of the series. He has his daily routine and he sticks to it. He plays it safe.
Gene ends up locked in the dumpster room and I very much enjoyed watching him pointlessly beat the hell out of the door and yell for help. But no one hears poor Gene, and now he is faced with a choice: he can open the emergency exit door (which will trigger an alarm and the arrival of the police) or he can just wait it out.
Gene can’t open the door. He’s too afraid of what might happen if the police come. He waits for almost 3 hours before the janitor comes in and finds him there. But Gene kept himself busy while he was waiting: he carved “SG WAS HERE” into the wall.
I think it’s interesting that he chose to identify as Saul in this situation. To me, it means that there is still a spark of Saul Goodman in him. Of course, Saul would have gone right through that emergency door without a second thought. Gene clearly misses life as Saul, but I think in this specific circumstance it’s not the suits or the money or the cars that he wants; it’s something as simple as having the power and agency to open a door without caring about the consequences. It’s about having the confidence to talk his way out of whatever happens next.
The theme plays over good ol’ Lady Liberty, and now we are back almost exactly where the season 1 finale left us: Jimmy is outside the courthouse before his meeting with Davis and Main, but in “Switch” we see that he actually did go inside before he left. He meets up with Kim, Hamlin, and the team from Davis and Main: Clifford Main, and his associates Brian Archuleta and Erin Brill. (Breaking Bad nerds like me are probably wondering if this Brian Archuleta is related to the school janitor, Hugo Archuleta, who Walt totally screwed over.)
Jimmy greets everyone and then takes Kim aside to ask her, in an almost painfully embarrassing yet somehow endearing way, if the two of them are going to be together if he takes the Davis and Main job. Kim tells him that their relationship and the job are completely unrelated, and that seals it for Jimmy. He politely turns down the job and leaves, and then the scene with Mike at the end of 1×10 is repeated.
I have to say, I didn’t particularly care for this. It felt like an afterthought to me instead of something new, and reusing the Mike scene legitimately annoyed me because I have been a patient fan. Much as I adore Mike and Jimmy’s interactions, I don’t want to watch the same damn scene I’ve already watched a million times waiting for season 2 start. I want new content. It’s not too much to ask. While I understand the merit of the Kim/Jimmy scene—it gives us more context for Jimmy’s decision to start playing by his own rules, and it’s the first blatant reference to them having a more-than-friendly relationship—I wish it would have happened in 1×10. And I just can’t get on board with the repeat scene after. Been there, done that. But this is the only flaw in an otherwise enjoyable episode, and I’m willing to overlook it because I got some angry dumpster trash Cinnabon Gene in the teaser.
During the hiatus, I spent a lot of time wondering where Jimmy was driving off to at the end of 1×10. Now we learn that he went to the nail salon and indulged in some cucumber water straight from the spout, Mrs. Nguyen’s “customer only” rule be damned. This little act of defiance was both hilarious and very telling about where Jimmy’s head is at. He is free now, both from Chuck’s expectations and from any concern that Kim won’t accept him if he isn’t a lawyer. Jimmy rips down his crappy James M. McGill, Esq. sign and leaves us wondering if he’s closing up shop for good.
Mike waits for Price in the same garage where we saw them in 1×09, but this time Price has a brand new ride: a ridiculous yellow Hummer with red decals that look like a fratboy’s tribal tattoo, spinning rims, and a license plate that says “PLAYUH.” It’s the douchiest car I’ve ever seen and Price looks ridiculous driving it.
Mike isn’t about to go to the meet in that thing and he tries to explain to Price that being a criminal requires restraint. But Price is getting a little too big for his britches here. He has decided that Mike’s protection is a waste of money. Nacho has been going to their meets without backup, and Price thinks that he doesn’t need Mike anymore. Mike doesn’t seem to care either way, although he does advise Price that it isn’t smart to go alone. Price won’t listen, though, and Mike walks on him.
Price goes to the meet alone and I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that he is wearing shoes and a watch that match his stupid car. Nacho pulls up, takes one look at this idiot, and knows he’s got the upper hand. No Mike means that Nacho is fully in charge of the situation, and he uses that to his advantage. Nacho’s face when he is sizing up the situation is also priceless and needs to be included here.
Nacho is friendly and a bit playful with Price. He puts him at ease while he sneaks a peek at his registration info (and we learn that Price’s real name is Daniel Wormald, but I’m gonna keep calling him Price because I do what I want).
Now Nacho knows where Price lives and I just know this isn’t going to end well for this moron. We all know how much Nacho loves to steal from criminals. Nacho has worked Price perfectly and gained his trust, and now he’s in a great position to completely screw him over. Price is completely clueless that he’s just made a huge mistake and the moral of the story is that everyone should just listen to Mike always and if you don’t, you’re an idiot and you deserve whatever happens to you.
Back in Jimmy land, we find him chillin’ in some resort pool with a floating tray of chips and crab dip, a cocktail, and his cell phone in a Ziploc baggie floating nearby. Jimmy is living the dream—no work, all play—when Kim comes and interrupts him.
Jimmy tells her it’s clarity, not crisis, that has brought him here. He’s pretending to be some guy named Mr. Cumpston, and I wonder if he’s using some sort of fake ID or if he’s just using the name of a guest who is staying there. Either way, Slippin’ Jimmy is in full effect. Jimmy and Kim sit in the bar and Jimmy tries to put some $50 shots of tequila on poor Mr. Cumpston’s tab but Kim isn’t having it. She wants to know what the hell is going on with Jimmy that would make him turn down the Davis and Main job and ask her, seemingly out of the blue, if they are going to get together.
Jimmy tells her that ever since he moved to Albuquerque, he’s been doing what Chuck wants, and he’s done with that now. Kim points out, correctly, that Jimmy quitting the law is exactly what Chuck wants, but Jimmy says that he has decided to use the things he actually enjoys about the law (convincing people and selling people on something) and apply those skills to other things (i.e. scamming hotels out of expensive tequila). Kim truly believes that Jimmy is a great lawyer. She can’t understand why he would work so hard for so long just to give it all up and Jimmy decides to use the show-don’t-tell approach.
Enter KENWINS, the douchelord from Breaking Bad who stole Walt’s parking space and ended up with a torched car as a result.
Ken is on his Bluetooth, being exceptionally loud and vulgar, and Jimmy can’t help but notice him. He tells Kim to follow his lead and then he starts his scam. He pretends that he and Kim are siblings who have inherited $1.4 million from an uncle and don’t know anything about investing money. Ken takes the bait and invites them to sit down over drinks and talk strategy. Jimmy introduces himself as Viktor and then looks to Kim, who introduces herself as Giselle Saint Claire. Jimmy could not be more proud (and, let’s be real, aroused) as she sits and explains their South African heritage. Kim is actually quite good at the whole thing and you can actually see Jimmy falling more in love with her with every lie she tells.
Jimmy and Kim get Ken to buy them shots of that expensive tequila: the Zafiro Añejo, which just so happens to be the same tequila Gus Fring used to poison Don Eladio and his cartel crew in Breaking Bad.
They finish the bottle and stick Ken with the bill after filling out paperwork using their fake names, and they run out of the bar to the pool area all tequila drunk and high on the rush of the scam. Kim and Jimmy exchange looks, and it’s like an unspoken agreement between them—are we doing this? yes, we’re doing this—and then Kim kisses Jimmy (and all the McWexler shippers have a collective freak-out).
Cut to the next morning at Kim’s place. Jimmy has spent the night, but they didn’t do a sex scene, which I think was the right choice because the thing I love about Jimmy and Kim’s relationship is that so much of their intimacy is implied and unspoken. There’s an adorable, funny scene where Kim won’t let Jimmy use her toothbrush (and quite right, too, because that’s disgusting), and Jimmy uses her finger as a brush. Someone GIFed it and it’s worth linking here because, to me, it says so much about their relationship:
As Kim gets ready for work, Jimmy says it would be great if they could do that every night. If he had his way, that is exactly what they would be doing. Kim enjoyed their little adventure but she would never consider making that a regular thing; she lives in the real world, where she needs to get her ass to work on time or Hamlin will stick her in doc review. She basically kicks Jimmy out of her place, which I thought was a bit harsh. She knows he lives in a freakin’ nail salon. She could have let him chill for a bit, but hey—her place, her rules.
The cops show up at Price’s place because the inevitable has happened (and much faster than I thought it would): Nacho ripped him off. (Breaking Bad fans might recognize one of the cops, Officer Saxton, as the same guy who came to the White house when Skyler called the cops on Walt.) The cops take note of Price’s ridiculous car on the way in and they survey the scene: the place is trashed but the only thing missing is Price’s most valuable baseball cards. Price mentions that some cash was taken but he is evasive about it because HELLO IT’S DRUG MONEY YOU MORON DON’T TELL THE COPS ABOUT IT. Price tries to bring the cops’ focus back to his missing cards, but they already know something’s not right about the situation.
In this scene (and also in the scene with Mike earlier in the episode) Price is being very Walt—early Walt, book smart with no street smarts. Price is trying to tell the cops how to do their job, he thinks he knows better than Mike, and he thinks that he’s invincible. He bought the flashy car, which he is proud of and sees no reason to hide. He’s asking for trouble but he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room and that it’s totally fine to call the cops about his baseball cards even though the real crime is directly related to the fact that he’s a drug dealer. There’s just something so arrogant about the way he feels entitled to a police investigation. Meanwhile, the cops aren’t buying what he’s selling. They know there’s something fishy going on, and when Price goes to get his baseball card manifest, the cops notice a clear patch of floor in front of the couch.
The cops discover a hidden compartment in the baseboard behind the couch, but it’s empty. Whether it held money or pills or both, we don’t know, but if the sneak peek of 2×02 is any indication, we will find out the details of the crime very soon.
Jimmy is back at the pool while Kim is at work. He’s calling her, trying to get her to join him in a new scam, but she’s not picking up the phone—you know, cause it’s a weekday and she’s at her job, working on the big, important case that Jimmy made and used to actually care about. Jimmy looks at his pinky ring—Marco’s ring—and he makes a decision: he’s going to take the Davis and Main job. Kim straight up told him that they will not be grifting people together on a nightly basis and, while she may love him for who he is, Jimmy knows that to really have a future with Kim, he needs to live in the real world, not in Jimmy land. The only person in the world who loved Jimmy as a full-time scam artist was Marco, and he’s gone now. Chuck will think he’s a scumbag no matter what he does, so it’s really only Kim that Jimmy cares about at this point.
So he goes to Davis and Main and he takes the job. Now, I just want to say that the D&M office is THE COOLEST and I want to work there really badly. All the people seem warm and friendly, the office space is very welcoming and interestingly decorated. It’s the polar opposite of the sterile glass house that is HHM, and I find myself thinking that Jimmy could really make this place his own. Davis and Main seems much more suited to his personality than HHM. I mean, his office has a fireplace in it. Who wouldn’t want to work there?
His assistant, Omar, tells him that he can have basically anything he wants—his choice of company car, art on the walls, food and drink stocked in the fridge. The only thing Jimmy asks for is a cocobolo desk, which Omar says he’ll get right on. (I would literally kill someone for the desk that is already in Jimmy’s D&M office so he can feel free to send it to me when the cocobolo shows up.) Jimmy is taking it all in when he sees the switch in “Switch.”
As a viewer, I instantly know he’s going to flip it. He just is. He can’t help himself. Here is Jimmy McGill, newest member of the Davis and Main team, who is being offered anything his little heart desires on the company’s dime, and all this idiot wants to do is flick that switch and see what happens. I understand it, though. I, too, am the type of idiot who, when told not to do something, wants to do exactly that thing.
Nothing happens when he flicks the switch—at least nothing that he can see. I think it’s important to note that Jimmy just assumes there are no consequences because he can’t see them, when really he has no earthly idea what that switch does. It doesn’t matter to him, though. He didn’t even hesitate.
The bookends of this episode—Gene with the door and Jimmy with the light switch—speak volumes about this character’s trajectory. Right now, he’s Jimmy McGill (baby-stepping toward Saul) and Jimmy is not afraid of the consequences of flipping that switch. It’s a gesture full of youthful bravado, where you think that actions have no real consequences and everything will ultimately work out in your favor. Gene knows better. He’s been through the shit and he knows what real consequences look like. He would rather spend a full night locked up with a dumpster than chance pushing that door open and dealing with the cops. “Switch” reminds us that Better Call Saul is, among other thing, the story of how this character goes from the guy who flips that switch to the guy that wouldn’t dare.
Another thing I enjoyed about this episode was the way Jimmy and Nacho sort of mirror each other. KenWins was Jimmy’s mark (or one of them), and Price was Nacho’s mark. Better Call Saul is frequently concerned with what it means to be a criminal. Jimmy’s tequila scam happens to be on the right side of the law (just barely), whereas Nacho’s theft is not, but are they really all that different? I don’t believe that they are. Ripping someone off is ripping someone off, whether that person is a douchebag stockbroker or an idiot drug dealer. The question of what is legal is really more about one’s methods. Now that Jimmy is tiptoeing down the road to becoming the “criminal” lawyer we all know and love, I imagine Jimmy’s methods are going to change.