Episode 2×05: In which Kim is the real Charlie Hustle, Hamlin is the absolute worst, and a piece of Chuck’s past is revealed.
Episode 2×05: “Rebecca” (written by Ann Cherkis; directed by John Shiban)
I was lucky enough to be able to see “Rebecca” a few days early. The episode was screened before the Better Call Saul panel at Paleyfest, where the show-runners and the cast were absolutely lovely and engaging. I have to admit, though, that I was more star-struck by the writers in the room (which I know is kind of strange, but hey, I appreciate their craft and they are a damn talented bunch). Many of them, including 2×05 writer Ann Cherkis, were in the audience. Basically the whole thing was super cool and I’m even more obsessed with this show than I was before (and I didn’t think that was even possible). Moving on.
I predicted a few weeks ago, when “Rebecca Bois” appeared at the top of Chuck’s sheet music in episode 2×02, that Rebecca was Chuck’s wife. I wrote a whole blog post about my Rebecca predictions and I’m happy to report that the teaser of “Rebecca” proved me right about basically everything. I enjoy being right, I’m not ashamed to say it, so that was fun for me.
In the teaser we see Chuck and Rebecca preparing to have Jimmy over for dinner. Chuck is healthy with no aversion to electricity, and while he is still very much the tight-assed Chuck McGill we all know, Rebecca softens and humanizes him. We can see that they lead a very rich, sophisticated, and happy life together. Rebecca is a classical violinist and she seems just the sort of woman that Chuck would be attracted to. She’s very refined and elegant and classy—the type of woman who is impressive without being intimidating. They seem happy, if a bit stuffy.
Chuck is not super thrilled that Jimmy is coming over and he acts like Rebecca is a saint for agreeing to host Jimmy for dinner. It becomes clear that Rebecca hasn’t met Jimmy yet, and Chuck is very nervous about how it’s going to go. Chuck decides they need to have a secret signal between them in case things go downhill and he wants to kick Jimmy out of the house. Rebecca agrees to the Carol Burnett ear pull, even though she seems to think it’s a bit much. I do wonder here how much Chuck has told Rebecca about Jimmy’s past, but it’s just dinner. How much damage could he possibly do? It’s not like he’s going to Chicago Sunroof their dining room table…
Anyway, Jimmy shows up early with a six-pack of Old Style, and Chuck doesn’t appreciate either of those things. Chuck and Rebecca are a finely-aged-bottle-of-wine couple, not a cheap-beer couple, but Jimmy is oblivious. He’s just trying to be polite, as he is when he wipes his feet excessively on the welcome mat (which is the single funniest thing in this entire episode, btw). This is the first time he’s been at Chuck’s house and he isn’t at all comfortable there. During dinner, Jimmy is awkward but sweet, apologizing for not being at their wedding (even though, apparently, Yo-Yo Ma was). Jimmy compliments Rebecca’s cooking (even though he doesn’t know what risotto is) and she thinks he is kind, if a bit rough around the edges.
We learn that this flashback takes place shortly after Jimmy moved to Albuquerque after the Chicago Sunroof incident. (On the official BCS Insider podcast, writer Ann Cherkis says that this takes place 10 years before the show’s present-day, so around 1992). He’s been working in the HHM mailroom for a week, during which time he’s learned a lot about the intricacies of photocopying. He’s also learned a lot of lawyer jokes, which he decides to tell at the table, in rapid succession, to an amused Rebecca and a not-so-amused Chuck. Chuck is fake laughing but he’s uncomfortable and at one point he gives Rebecca the ear-pull signal, but she’s so enjoying Jimmy’s company that she doesn’t even see it. She even tells a lawyer joke of her own.
Later that night, we see Chuck and Rebecca in bed together. Rebecca tells Chuck that Jimmy is great and she didn’t know what he was so concerned about. And now the impossible occurs: I actually feel sorry for Chuck McGill. He tries to crack a lawyer joke and it falls completely flat. Like, crickets chirping in the distance flat. Rebecca doesn’t even understand that he was trying to tell a joke until after it’s over. And the thing that kills me about this is that, if Chuck would have just loosened up at dinner and thrown that exact same joke out there when Jimmy and Rebecca were into it, it totally would have landed. It wasn’t better or worse than any of the other lawyer jokes told at the table. Chuck just doesn’t understand how to make people laugh and he’s insanely envious of how easily it comes to Jimmy. He just wanted to make his wife laugh and he failed miserably. It’s sad to watch Chuck’s face fall when he realizes that she just doesn’t find him funny, and it gives a bit more context for Chuck’s bitterness about Jimmy’s people skills.
Back in the present day, Jimmy is in his office typing something up (and using two fingers to type, which is hilarious and somehow absolutely perfect for Jimmy McGill). He calls Kim, who doesn’t pick up, but he’s still determined to help her out of the mess he got her into. It’s very late and Jimmy thinks he’s alone in the office, so he’s surprised to run into second-year associate Erin Brill at the printer. Erin, who saw Jimmy throw a soda can in his office trashcan, reminds Jimmy of the company’s recycling policy (Davis and Main takes it’s ecological footprint very seriously, after all). Jimmy couldn’t care less about this (or the corporate climate of Davis and Main in general). He just wants to leave and go find Kim.
But Erin isn’t having it, because she’s got a bunch of notes on a brief that Jimmy handed in to Cliff. It would appear that Jimmy has not bothered to learn Davis and Main’s house style, which Cliff takes very seriously (since he’s the one who created it). So here’s poor Erin Brill, who has been given Jimmy’s brief to correct (presumably by Cliff Main himself), and she’s just trying to go over some notes with him so she can get back to her own work and (hopefully) not have to correct Jimmy’s work every time Cliff finds it lacking.
Erin is just trying to get Jimmy to do things the way that Cliff wants them done; she’s trying to save him from himself (and save herself from having to go through all of his work). And Jimmy is just a complete dick, pulling rank on her and trying to make her feel small. But you know who doesn’t budge? Second-year associate Erin Brill. She lies and says she’s not babysitting him for Cliff (even though it’s obvious that she has been told to keep an eye on him) and she tells him she wants to take care of the notes on his brief ASAP. And what does Jimmy do? He lies to her face and then sneaks off into the night to go find Kim. What. An. Ass.
Kim is in the doc review basement of hell and she wants nothing to do with Jimmy. She’s not picking up her phone; she’s just hard at work alongside two much younger associates, listening to hip-hop at almost midnight, plugging along. The two guys are deferential to Kim and think that they can’t leave until she says they can, but Kim doesn’t care what they do. She’s not concerned with anything except getting her work done and digging herself out of the hole she’s in.
Jimmy shows up uninvited with a master plan to fix all Kim’s problems: she should sue HHM. Kim looks at him like the complete idiot he is and notes, quite correctly, that it would be career suicide for her to sue her own firm. Jimmy is still insistent that Kim’s position is a result of Chuck’s unhappiness with him, but Kim believes that Howard is behind it, just as he was when she lost the Kettlemans. But Jimmy is convinced that it’s all about him and Chuck, and he refuses to hear otherwise. When he says he’ll quit Davis and Main so that Kim can get her position back, Kim has had enough. She starts dropping some serious truth bombs on Jimmy, starting with the fact that it’s no great sacrifice for him to quit the job that he has absolutely zero appreciation for, and adding that he shouldn’t insult her intelligence by pretending that anything he is doing is for her.
Kim Wexler knows that only she can get herself out of this position; Jimmy is scorched earth when it comes to her career and she wants to keep him as far away from it as possible (without actually breaking up with him, at least for the moment). She tells Jimmy to focus on getting his own shit together and leave her to save herself. [If I haven’t yet mentioned how much I love Kim Wexler, allow me to say that I love Kim Wexler, and I love the way Rhea Seehorn plays Kim Wexler, and I love everything about this scene.]
In this episode, we see Kim hustling in much the same way as we saw Jimmy in season 1. She’s scrappy and determined, and she’s going to reach out to contacts and cold call through lunch and keep her head down until she can pull through and show Howard that he has made a mistake sticking her in doc review. She is determined to prove her worth to Howard and show him that she is invaluable, and she’s willing to put in all the work and long hours and frustration it takes to get herself back in his good graces.
Mike is back in the parking booth, talking to Stacey on the phone. After his ass-beating from Tuco earned him 25K, he was able to get Stacey and Kaylee out of their house and into a hotel (a dog-friendly place with a pool that little Kaylee just loves). Mike has told Stacey that he got in a car accident and doesn’t want Kaylee to see him until he has healed. Whether Stacey believes this story or not doesn’t matter; what does matter is that she is more than willing—even pressing for Mike to have a relationship with Kaylee and to come visit, which (other than keeping them both safe and sane) is what Mike wanted out of this whole thing.
Up pulls Erin Brill with Jimmy in the passenger seat, and when Jimmy gets a load of Mike’s face he can’t help but give him some good-natured shit. Mike, of course, doesn’t appreciate it in the least. Jimmy introduces Erin as his babysitter and Mike as his grandpa. Poor Erin is trying to be polite but she’s probably terrified because, well, Mike Ehrmantraut is terrifying.
Inside the courthouse, Jimmy tries to make it clear to Erin that they are on his turf now. He’s the one that has the experience and the relationships there from his time doing PD work, and she’s got to follow his lead to finesse the contract counsel administrator. It’s the same Beanie-Baby-loving lady from Season 1, and she’s just as unimpressed with Jimmy now as she was then—until he pulls out a little gift for her, of course.
The clerk’s eyes light up and she’s about to take it and give Jimmy the appointment he wants but Erin snatches it right out of Jimmy’s hands. To Erin, this is a bribe, whereas to Jimmy, it is a gift. Jimmy wants to “grease the wheels of justice” but Erin refuses to let it happen; it isn’t above board, and she believes in doing things the right way (not to mention that the reason she is there is to keep Jimmy from doing exactly this type of thing). The look on the clerk’s face is so priceless; her eyes just follow the Beanie Baby bear the whole time and when she realizes she’s not getting it, she gives Erin a death stare and sets their appointment for the following month.
Jimmy is furious at Erin but she tells him, “I’m not trying to get you in trouble. I’m trying to keep you out of it.” Jimmy can’t stand her and he’s horribly rude to her all the time, but she’s really just trying to help him. Obviously he finds her irritating—her job is to make sure he follows the rules and Jimmy hates following the rules—but that doesn’t mean that we, as an audience, have to see her in the same way Jimmy does. I’ve seen some Erin Brill hate floating around on the interwebz and I have to say, I don’t understand it. This poor young woman has to babysit Jimmy “I Do What I Want” McGill on top of doing her own work. She deserves a medal as far as I’m concerned. [I just really love Erin Brill, ok? Deal with it.]
Another season 1 character makes an appearance when Jimmy escapes from Erin in the men’s room: DDA Bill Oakley, who is impressed and more than a little bit envious of Jimmy’s position at Davis and Main. This scene really shows how totally unappreciative Jimmy is. He’s got the sick office and the company car and the assistant—it’s Bill’s dream job, and he’s not shy about that fact.
Here is this hardworking guy with literal vomit on his suit from one of his “scumbag” defendants, and he’s just talking to Jimmy and daydreaming about what it must be like to be in Jimmy’s shoes. And Jimmy doesn’t appreciate any of it. He doesn’t care about the corporate climate at Davis and Main or the company’s rules, he doesn’t respect his coworkers, and he doesn’t appreciate what anyone did to get him a job that, frankly, he doesn’t deserve. You’d best believe that Bill Oakley would learn the Davis and Main house style and recycle his soda cans properly if he was in Jimmy’s position.
Immediately following this scene where we see how very little Jimmy appreciates what he has, there’s a great montage (edited by the incredibly talented Kelley Dixon) where we see Kim hustling and busting her ass at work, all set to the tune of the Gypsy Kings’ “A Mi Manera” (a Spanish-language cover of Sinatra’s “My Way”). Kim is displaced, working in various areas all over the HHM building—the women’s bathroom, the stairwell, the parking garage—and she’s got her post-its with her contacts and all the information she needs to try to bring some new business to HHM.
It could be days or even weeks, but finally Kim gets a call from someone named Paige who wants to set a meeting. After all that time and energy, Kim finally succeeded—all on her own, her way—and she can’t help but scream gleefully and do a little happy dance by herself in the parking garage. It’s adorable, and after watching her struggle to make it happen, it’s so gratifying to watch.
And then it all goes to hell because Howard Hamlin is an asshole.
They have the meeting with Mesa Verde bank and it goes well; Mesa Verde hires HHM on retainer and it seems like a foregone conclusion that Kim, who brought the business to the firm, will be working on it. But no. Hamlin gives it to another associate, Francis, and basically tells Kim to f**k off back to doc review. People at the Paleyfest screening were literally booing when Hamlin walked away from Kim. It would have been hilarious if it wasn’t so gut-wrenching.
Howard goes to Chuck’s house to give him the news about the quarter-million dollars of new business and they toast with some undoubtedly expensive brown liquor. In that moment, they have such a sleazy, backroom-dealing, one-percenter vibe going on. I just hate everything about it and it makes me want to punch myself in the throat.
And the worst part is that even Chuck—once he finds out that it wasn’t Howard’s golf-course schmoozing but Kim’s initiative that brought in Mesa Verde—thinks that she’s earned her way out of the doghouse. Sure, Chuck believes she showed poor judgment by trusting Jimmy, but he is not, as it turns out, responsible for Kim being stuck in doc review. He actually thinks she deserves a second chance, but no—Howard’s all, “We’ll see,” with this pissy little look on his face. It’s just the worst, and every bit of it is about his professional reputation. Howard knows that Kim is a good lawyer and a trustworthy employee. He’s just throwing a tantrum because Jimmy made them all look like idiots. It’s time to get over it, Howard, ok? When even Chuck thinks you’re being harsh, you should probably reevaluate your position.
Chuck is trying a new work strategy: he’s coming in during the wee hours of the morning and working until 9am, so as to minimize his exposure to electromagnetism at the office. It’s great for him, but not so great for poor Ernie who has to be up to drive him. [I seriously hope Ernie is getting paid well to be Chuck’s assistant because it’s second only to Jimmy’s babysitter on the list of Albuquerque’s most thankless jobs.] Chuck works by gaslight in his office until someone turns the lights on right outside his door. When he goes out to investigate, he finds Kim, who is working late yet again. She was just dropping off some Sandpiper stuff and she’s apologetic about the lights.
And then Chuck asks her to make him some coffee. Now, I understand that this man can’t make himself the coffee. I really do. But there’s something about how he asks Kim to do it that makes my skin crawl. Maybe it’s because he’s not asking—not really, anyway. He knows she’s desperate to better her situation and of course she will go and make him some coffee even though she doesn’t want any herself. There’s also the fact that he has an assistant whose job it is to make him coffee, but he asks Kim. It’s so obnoxious that the often-oblivious Chuck even realizes it’s a dick move, and he tries to cover his own ass by telling her to make herself a cup and come into his office for a little coffee klatsch.
Kim isn’t messing around, and after she plays waitress for Chuck, she sits down and straight-up asks him if she has a future at HHM. Instead of actually addressing her question, Chuck uses this time to tell her a story about Jimmy and their relationship with their father. Chuck knows that Kim is a captive audience, and instead of keeping it professional, he chooses to take advantage of her vulnerable position in the company to try to poison her opinion of Jimmy. It’s really manipulative and terrible, but it is interesting to hear a bit of the backstory of the McGills, however skewed the perspective.
Chuck believes that his father, who he was named after, was a saint—“the personification of good.” Everybody in the neighborhood loved their dad (remind you of anyone?) and Chuck believed that his father made their slice of the world a better place. The elder Charles McGill worked hard and he finally achieved his dream of owning his own business: a corner store in Cicero. Jimmy went to work at the store when Chuck was in college and, according to Chuck, over the years Jimmy stole $14K from the till of their father’s business. Eventually the store went under and their father died six months later.
There is no way to know how much of this story is true. I think that Chuck believes it all to be true (and Michael McKean confirmed this much at the Paleyfest panel). Whether or not Jimmy stole piecemeal from his father’s business isn’t really the point here. We all know that Slippin’ Jimmy was a conman and Saul Goodman was a criminal; it’s plausible that Jimmy could have stolen this money in dribs and drabs and not realized the severity of the situation until it was too late. This would come as a shock to absolutely no one who knows the real Jimmy McGill. The point, I think, is that Chuck blames Jimmy for their father’s death, and he’s been holding on to that for a long time. This is a patently unfair and medically inaccurate assessment of the situation, and while I think Chuck really believes it, people don’t actually die from broken hearts in the real world. I’m certain there is another side to this story. Actually, there’s probably three sides: Chuck’s, Jimmy’s, and the truth.
The Jimmy-apologist in me has a theory that no one asked for but which I will now give to you, the masochists who read my recaps: Mr. Perfect Charles McGill, Sr. who was, by Chuck’s own admission, not a great businessman, got involved with some wiseguys in Cicero (likely just the cost of doing business in a town that connected) and the kickbacks added up over the years to the point where he was forced to sell the store to the mob. Then Jimmy took the blame for it with Chuck (and maybe their mom, too) so that Charles, Sr. could save face and still be a hero in Chuck’s eyes. And if I keep thinking about this theory for too long I’m going to start crying, so let’s move on to Kim’s reaction, which was nothing at all.
Kim gives Chuck nothing in this scene, which I think is great for two reasons. One: she’s pissed that she came to him to talk about her career and she’s being forced to listen to this really personal and inappropriate story. Two: she isn’t giving Chuck the satisfaction of knowing whether or not the story is affecting her perception of Jimmy. She keeps a straight face and doesn’t show much, either in the way of shock or sympathy. I think that Kim knows a lot more about Charles, Sr. then she is letting on. She may even already know Jimmy’s version of this story (whatever it may be). Regardless, she’s not going to allow Chuck to affect her relationship with Jimmy. At the end of the day, Kim is going to decide for herself whether or not she wants to be with Jimmy, and Chuck isn’t going to have a thing to do with it. If this episode has shown us one thing, it’s that Kim Wexler is the architect of her own destiny, and the McGill men can f**k right off with their meddlesome nonsense.
Chuck tries to redeem himself at the end and tells Kim that he’ll put in a good word for her with Howard, and that she’s being wasted in doc review, so at least Kim got something out of the experience. All she had to do was make the coffee and listen to the senior partner at her firm tell an insanely personal story about his brother, who also happens to be her best friend and lover, with the intent of trying to break them up. And all before daybreak! What a treat.
The first time I watched this episode, I thought it was over after the scene with Kim and Chuck in his office because I was watching it in an auditorium and there was no clock to tell me how many minutes were left. I would have been happy with it ending there, but there was one more scene to come, and it was a doozy. Mike is sitting in Loyola’s, having his breakfast, when in walks Tuco’s uncle, Hector Salamanca. Breaking Bad nerds like me may have recognized him before he was brought into focus (it was something about the way he walked, I think). During the week leading up to this episode there were rumblings in the fandom that it would be Gus Fring, but I was happy it wasn’t—not that I don’t love me some Gustavo, but it just wouldn’t have been right. Tío makes sense considering that Tuco is about to get locked up and the Salamancas believe that family is everything. No way Tuco is going down for this without Hector trying to minimize the damage.
Hector (who is still walking and talking at this point) comes after Mike to try and talk him into telling the cops that the gun they found wasn’t Tuco’s. Tuco is facing 8 to 10 years on the gun charge alone, and Hector isn’t about to let him go away for that long. He isn’t openly menacing to Mike, but he knows exactly who Mike is (including his background as an ex-cop) and he knew exactly where to find him. There’s an undercurrent to their conversation that says that Mike had best do what the Salamancas want him to do, and Mike is not happy about it. Hector offers him $5K to make the gun charge disappear and then he walks out. I don’t know exactly where this is going from here, but with Hector Salamanca in the mix, things can only get more dangerous.
I love this episode so much. I have been waiting patiently for a Kim-centric episode and this totally delivered in many of the ways I wanted it to. I didn’t get the backstory I so desperately want but I did get reinforcement of something that I already knew and that I think the audience needed to see: Kim Wexler is so much more than just “Jimmy’s girlfriend.” Kim Wexler is the protagonist of her own story and she’s not here to just blindly accept all of Jimmy’s crap. As Jimmy moves towards becoming Saul, Kim has become to me what Jimmy was to me in season 1. She’s the scrapper, the hustler, the nose-to-the-grindstone underdog that I can’t help but root for. Even more than that, she’s something that Jimmy could never be: she’s the realistic moral center of this story. She falls somewhere in between Chuck (who believes everything is black-and-white) and Jimmy (who sees everything in shades of gray). Basically, Kim Wexler is everything to me and if she doesn’t get out of doc review soon I am going to burn HHM to the ground.
But Kim Wexler doesn’t need me to save her. Kim Wexler saves herself.