Episode 2×02: In which Mike takes care of business and Jimmy tries to have it all.
Episode 2×02: “Cobbler” (written by Gennifer Hutchinson; directed by Terry McDonough)
Episode 2×02 gave us something that we haven’t had before on Better Call Saul: screen time for all of the show’s main characters within a single episode. I’ve been wanting more character development for Nacho since he hasn’t been given much screen time yet, and I can never have enough Hamlin, so this episode really delivered. It was well balanced and brought together many different characters in ways that felt natural and it shifted from Jimmy’s story to Mike’s story and back quite seamlessly.
The teaser opens with Chuck playing the piano. The name Rebecca Bois is written in cursive on the sheet music for “Sicilienne” by Gabriel Faure. He keeps time to a metronome, and while he plays beautifully, he gets incredibly frustrated with himself when he messes up. He is interrupted by Hamlin, who has come to deliver his groceries and some news: Jimmy got a job at Davis and Main. Chuck says, “As what?” and Howard looks at him with a “you’ve got to be kidding me” face.
Some things never change, and Chuck’s complete inability to imagine anyone hiring Jimmy as a lawyer is one of those things. He can’t understand why Clifford Main would hire Jimmy given his background and education, but the Sandpiper residents love him and Clifford decided to take a chance on him. Howard tells Chuck that he gave Clifford an accurate picture of Jimmy but he “didn’t stand in the way” of Jimmy being offered a partner-track position at the firm. Chuck acts like he’s happy for Jimmy but they both know that he isn’t.
It is interesting to me that Howard tells Chuck that Kim was the one pushing for Jimmy to get the Davis and Main job. Not only is this the complete opposite of what Kim told Jimmy in the season 1 finale (she said that Hamlin was the one pushing for it, which would make sense considering Kim doesn’t have any pull at Davis and Main), it also seems like unnecessary information to tell Chuck. I wonder if maybe Howard is covering his ass here because he knows Chuck is not happy about Jimmy getting the D&M job. When Howard leaves, Chuck goes back to the piano but he can’t play. He’s rattled and all he can do as stare at the ticking metronome.
They are about to have a Sandpiper meeting in the HHM conference room and Kim sneaks in before everyone and rearranges the seats so she can sit next to Jimmy. It’s a nice little stealth maneuver and it shows that Kim is just as into Jimmy as he is to her. The two play footsie during the meeting (which is SO cheesy and high-school romance but somehow fits their relationship) and then afterward they go for a smoke in their usual spot.
Jimmy is talking about buying a place halfway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe and Kim has already inserted herself into the equation. She’s daydreaming of horseback riding and glasses of wine at sunset and then she says, “we should get one of those smokers” for barbecuing. The “we” isn’t lost on Jimmy, and when I think about how badly he wanted Kim to leave HHM just to work with him in season 1, his reaction here seems less than enthusiastic.
Kim is openly jealous that Jimmy is getting a company car on top of all the other Davis and Main perks. It’s a company that clearly treats its employees better than HHM does and we start to see that, while Kim is genuinely happy for Jimmy, she is envious. For the first time ever in their relationship, Jimmy is just as if not more successful than Kim. And then she gives him a gift: a travel mug that says “World’s 2nd Greatest Lawyer”—and she tells him she’s “just keepin’ it real.”
It’s a gag gift and it’s meant to be cute, but there’s some truth behind it. The mug fits perfectly in the cup holder of the Esteem, but then Jimmy says goodbye to everyone’s favorite shitbox car and hello to his brand new company Mercedes, and the mug doesn’t fit. Jimmy just tosses it aside and gets on the road to work. It’s about as subtle as a hammer to the skull: for whatever reason, Kim isn’t going to fit into Jimmy’s new life.
Mike is in his booth when the world’s worst criminal, Price (aka Daniel Wormald), pulls up in his PLAYUH-mobile. There’s a funny little Jurassic Park moment where the rumble of Price’s Hummer causes ripples in Mike’s coffee, and then he looks up and makes this instant-classic Mike Ehrmantraut face:
Mike isn’t about to let this idiot go talk to the police. He tells him to pull around and (against what I’m assuming is every fiber of his being) Mike gets in the PLAYUH-mobile to have a little chat. Mike learns that Price called the cops because his baseball cards were stolen along with the drugs, and Mike states what should be obvious: as a criminal he should not be voluntarily talking to the police. Price says that he’s not there in his capacity as a criminal; he’s there as the victim of a crime. He is so clueless and entitled that he doesn’t understand the nature of criminality, which Mike explained to him the first time they met. Price sells drugs that don’t belong to him and profits off them, and whatever else he may be, he is always a criminal.
Unfortunately for Price, that means that he does not get to benefit from the same protections of the law as non-criminals. Mike tells him his baseball cards are just the cost of doing business, and then Price has a full-on temper tantrum. He tells Mike that some of those cards belonged to his father and Mike resigns himself to the fact that he is not going to give this up. Mike knows exactly who took those cards and he tells Price he will get them back for him, but that it’s going to cost him.
At Davis and Main, Jimmy is working in his office when he hears guitar music. It’s Clifford Main, playing a tune to de-stress, and Jimmy lingers in the door listening until Clifford catches him there. It’s interesting to note that Clifford is playing music in a relaxed fashion and using it to decompress, whereas we saw Chuck in the teaser playing music and finding it a source of frustration—something that had to be done perfectly to be enjoyable to him. Jimmy tells his new boss that he might have found something they can use in the Sandpiper case and Clifford is very impressed with him.
And now we finally get a scrap of background info on Ignacio “Nacho” Varga: he works for his father in an upholstery shop. Mike shows up there, pretending he wants to get his car interior done. Since Nacho’s father doesn’t speak fluent English, he asks his son to come with him out to Mike’s car to translate. Nacho wants Mike out of there ASAP but he has to pretend he doesn’t know him. It is clear that Nacho’s father has no clue about the other businesses his son is involved in. Nacho’s father is an honest businessman. He tells Nacho to tell Mike that his money would be better spent on a new car, and that if he insists on doing his old car, a cheaper material would be better. When he leaves Nacho with Mike, he tells him not to upsell him. I think Mr. Varga might be the most honest man on the face of this Earth and he is precious and I adore him. I mean, just look at him:
When Mr. Varga has gone inside, Nacho asks Mike how he found him and Mike just laughs because he’s no doubt known exactly where to find Nacho since he did his homework before their first meet. Mike understands why Nacho wanted to cut ties with Price because it’s the same reason he did: that dumbass Hummer spelled both “TROUBLE” and “IDIOT.” Mike tells Nacho that when he stole the baseball cards for easy money, he underestimated just how much of an idiot Price is. He tells Nacho that Price called the cops and now they have a problem, but Nacho doesn’t see how it affects him. Mike had hoped he would make it easy on him but now they have a “carrot and stick situation.” Nacho thinks Mike is threatening his family but it’s worse: Mike says that the name of the stick is Tuco Salamanca.
That gets Nacho’s attention. He isn’t about to let Tuco find out he’s been doing business on the side so he agrees to Mike’s plan: he gives Price the baseball cards and ten grand in cash, and he gets to keep the profits from selling the Hummer. Of course, when Price hands the keys over to Nacho at their final meet, he doesn’t know the PLAYUH-mobile is going to the chop shop. He is giving Nacho a list of things to do for proper car maintenance and then, in one of my favorite lines of the series so far, Nacho says:
Mike gives Nacho a look that says, “don’t antagonize this moron and f**k up the deal” and Nacho has his guys bring the boxes of baseball cards to Price. After making sure all the most valuable ones are there, Price gets the ten grand from Nacho, who tells him very menacingly, “and now our business is concluded.” After Nacho and his crew leave, Price gets a phone call (and OF COURSE “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is his ringtone): it’s the cops. Mike knows they aren’t going away and that his Price problem isn’t solved yet.
Back at HHM, there is another Sandpiper meeting in the conference room. Jimmy is in the middle of explaining his client outreach strategy when Brenda, the HHM receptionist, comes in with a plastic bin. Jimmy takes one look at it and he just knows: Chuck is coming. Hamlin stops the meeting and has everyone dump their electronics in the bin; all the lights in the room are turned off, and everyone waits somewhat uncomfortably. The vibe in this scene is miles away from the season 1 scene where Chuck returns to HHM and received a standing ovation from the entire staff.
When Chuck enters (wearing the suit with the space blanket lining—you know, the one his dedicated, loving brother sewed for him with his own two hands…) Jimmy can’t look at him. He tries to regain his composure but he’s totally frazzled. Chuck’s presence has completely derailed him and it’s not until Kim puts her hand on his leg and gives him a little “you got this” look that Jimmy is able to get his mind right again. She supports him and she gets him over that hump. I can’t blame Jimmy. I wouldn’t be able to think straight either if someone was looking at me like this:
He’s just so ice cold and haughty, especially compared to the way the Davis and Main guy is politely waiting for Jimmy to finish his thought. And Chuck always manages to surprise me in the worst ways; just when I think I can’t hate him more, he calls Jimmy over to him in the hallway after the meeting. Jimmy would have been fine to just go about his day but he can’t completely ignore him in front of everyone. He’s not trying to be nice, though. He asks Chuck what he’s doing there, to which he replies, “My name is on the building,” as smugly as he possibly can. Hamlin is standing in between them and takes off as quickly as possible because, Oh Boy, is that uncomfortable and he wants absolutely nothing to do with whatever is about to happen between the brothers McGill. When Howard is gone, Jimmy repeats his question—“Why are you here?”—and Chuck is absolutely chilling when he responds:
It’s moments like this one where I have to just slow clap it out for Michael McKean, who is so phenomenal as Chuck. With a lesser actor I’m sure I would still hate Chuck, but it wouldn’t be as passionate and all-consuming a hatred as I have for McKean’s Chuck.
Jimmy’s phone rings and Chuck winces and walks away. It’s Mike, asking if Jimmy is still “morally flexible.” Jimmy watches Chuck walk away down the hallway and, without hesitation, asks Mike where and when he needs him. While I think Jimmy might have gone along with it anyway, the fact that he just had to deal with Chuck coming into the office for the sole purpose of f**king him up in the meeting really makes it a foregone conclusion that Jimmy is going to go rogue here.
Mike has decided that the solution to his Price problem is Jimmy, who he knows will be able to get the cops to drop their investigation into one Mr. Daniel Wormald, suspected idiot drug dealer. And boy, does Jimmy deliver. He manages to get the cops to drop their investigation into Price by telling them that the hiding spot they found in the house was used to conceal some Mr. Wormald’s fetish videos, in which he performs something called (among other creative names) a “squat cobbler.”
Jimmy is totally making this up as he goes but he manages to convince the cops that it’s a real thing (while making sure that there’s nothing about it that is explicitly pornographic): a grown man, fully dressed, sits in a pie and wiggles around. Of course, Mr. Wormald is a special talent because he does a “cry baby squat” where he tears up, and also he wears a costume of some sort. (In my mind there is a giant man-baby diaper and pacifier involved but I’m not married to the idea.) The cops buy Jimmy’s story because it’s too ridiculous to be made up—that, and Jimmy and Price actually make a squat cobbler video to show them, just in case.
(On the BCS Insider Podcast for this episode, the creators confirmed that they did actually shoot the squat cobbler video footage, and I assume it will be available as a Season 2 Blu-ray extra.)
Jimmy brings the leftover pies to Kim’s place after his video shoot with Price and they sit on her bed eating some sort of cream pie (banana? coconut? I can’t tell but it looks yummy) while Jimmy tells her the story of his day. She’s laughing at the absurdity of it and she’s impressed with his ability to spin a story like that on the spot to sow doubt, but then he tells her that they actually made the video and it crosses Kim’s line. Jimmy fabricated evidence to exonerate his client, which could lose him that cushy Davis and Main job and also get him disbarred.
Kim is upset with him for doing something to jeopardize his job but Jimmy tells her that it was an “off the clock thing” that had nothing to do with work. He doesn’t seem to grasp the fact that there is no such thing as an “off the clock” thing for a lawyer. Jimmy doesn’t distinguish between the scam they ran on KENWINS for the tequila and fabricating evidence in a legal investigation. Kim knows that there is a very important difference: scamming douchebag Ken had nothing to do with work. Jimmy thinks she’s “splitting hairs” and (much as I hate to admit it) Jimmy starts to prove Chuck’s point here. Jimmy is a good lawyer, but he really does not respect the law at all. Kim does, though, and she’s upset with Jimmy. Really upset, but not break-up upset. She tells him that she cannot know about this type of thing in the future (i.e. anything that could put her job at risk).
She doesn’t tell him to stop doing these things; she just doesn’t want to know. It’s plausible deniability, and Jimmy understands, but he’s still a bit taken aback by it. I think, after the KENWINS scam got them together, Jimmy felt that he could share every part of who he is with Kim. He learns here that he can’t actually tell her everything because she’s not going to be okay with his “moral flexibility” if it crosses the legal line. He tried to have it all—the dream girl and the dream job, all while staying rebellious and morally gray—but he realizes that he can’t keep that up forever. He has to make a choice between living life (and practicing law) on his own terms, or staying within the lines like Kim. Since we all know exactly what path he chooses, what remains to be seen is just how spectacularly Kim and Jimmy’s relationship implodes as he moves towards becoming Saul Goodman.