Episode 2×09: In which everyone’s actions have consequences and Kim Wexler continues to be the best thing on my television every week.
Episode 2×09: “Nailed” (written and directed by Peter Gould)
I had high expectations for “Nailed,” the penultimate episode of season 2, because of last season’s “Pimento.” In 1×09, we learned the truth about Chuck’s betrayal of Jimmy—the biggest WTF moment of season 1. If season 2 followed the same formula, episode 2×09 was sure to bring a holy shit moment of its own, and it certainly delivered that at the very end. But even before Chuck takes that nasty header, “Nailed” brought a lot of chickens home to roost for both Mike and Jimmy, whose stories have been on parallel tracks over the course of this season. In “Nailed,” we learn that ultimately, both of their efforts have failed.
In the teaser, we see exactly what Mike’s spiky hose of death was meant for: the Regalo Helado truck on its way from Hector Salamanca’s crew in ABQ back to the cartel in Mexico. All signs pointed to this outcome, but it was still fun to watch. The figure is covered head to toe but any viewer familiar with Mike Ehrmantraut knows that it’s him setting up the pulley contraption and yanking those spikes across the road. Mike is successful in bringing down the truck and the driver, who he hog-ties while he cuts open the truck’s tires and, JACKPOT, finds hundreds of thousands of dollars stashed inside. Mike leaves the driver tied up in the road and takes off thinking that everything went off without a hitch.
Peter Gould, as writer and director, manages to do something extraordinary in “Nailed”: he makes a hearing about a bank expansion interesting. Howard is concerned that there will be a repeat of Chuck’s collapse after the Mesa Verde meeting in the last episode so he tells him he doesn’t have to be there but Chuck is insistent. It isn’t about what’s best for HHM or for Mesa Verde, though. Chuck tells Howard that he finds “victory laps very comforting,” which tells me that the only reason he is about to subject himself to an incapacitating level of electromagnetism is because he won Mesa Verde back from Kim (which, to him, is the same as defeating Jimmy). Chuck is always so damn petty and I’d be really annoyed by it, but it’s fine because after Jimmy’s creative editing of Chuck’s documents, we know it’s not going to go well for ol’ Chuckie. This is just the first of many instances in “Nailed” where pride comes before a fall.
At the hearing the transpositional error comes out and Chuck handles it worse than I imagined he would, which is saying something. It doesn’t surprise me that Chuck can’t accept the fact that he’s made a mistake (even though it was sabotage), but it does surprise me that he treats his clients (especially Paige) atrociously. Paige is sitting there with documentation of the correct address and Chuck has the audacity to turn to her and say, “you are mistaken,” and tell her she’s just “muddying the waters.” Chuck is just such an asshole that it delights me to watch him get absolutely wrecked in this scene. I could potentially have felt bad for him in this situation, but the way he treats Paige makes me revel in every glorious second of his discomfort. For me, this kind of embarrassment was a long time coming for Chuck, given the way he treats people. Chuck’s always gotta be the smartest guy in the room, and while I know that Jimmy literally committed forgery among other things in order to put him in this position, it sure is fun to watch.
Of course, we all know that Chuck didn’t actually make a mistake, and Chuck is such a perfectionist that he absolutely cannot accept that he made an error in his filings. In his mind, it is simply not possible because the great Charles McGill does not make mistakes. But there’s no evidence to prove him right because while Chuck was at court, Jimmy snuck in and replaced his forged documents with the originals. Once he sees the documents with the correct address, Chuck knows basically right away that this was all Jimmy. He has not one shred of proof but he knows it in his marrow, and it doesn’t take him long to work out exactly how Jimmy did it. Chuck is a lot of things and I think we all know I am not a fan, but he’s got a brilliant logistical mind.
Mike is engaging in his own version of hubris, which is much quieter but no less significant. He’s across the street from the ice cream shop, watching through his binoculars as Hector flips his shit over the lost cash. Poor Nacho and Arturo are getting an earful, and Nacho even gets something thrown in his face. At one point, Hector takes a pill of some sort (Blood pressure meds maybe? Xanax?) and for a second it looks like he’s going to collapse, maybe have a stroke, and end up in the wheelchair dinging out the rest of his days, but he stays upright. Mike keeps a mostly straight face because he’s Mike, but he is loving it. And then he goes to a bar and buys a round for the house, which is the most un-Mike thing I’ve ever seen.
Jimmy and Kim are in the process of renovating their new office space when Kim gets the call from Paige: she’s back on Mesa Verde. She doesn’t have all the details about what happened yet and Jimmy plays dumb and acts like it’s some sort of cosmic realignment wherein the good guys win and the bad guys get their just desserts and absolutely no one has illegally sabotaged anyone.
It only takes a few seconds for Kim to realize that she is actually completely unprepared to take on Mesa Verde. She knows she’s going to need to hire paralegals and she needs a Westlaw terminal installed—basically, there’s no way for her to hit the ground running with Mesa Verde, which is what they need her to do since HHM dropped the ball and they are already behind schedule. I said before that I thought it was wishful thinking on Kim’s part that she could take on Mesa Verde as a solo practitioner, especially without functioning office space. She seems to have realized this a little late. Of course, Jimmy being Jimmy, he tells her that it’s all good and everything will just magically work out and she should just savor the moment. And she, albeit briefly. Ernie interrupts the moment when he calls and tells her that Chuck is ready to turn over the Mesa Verde files to her. Jimmy offers to accompany her so he can carry boxes/gloat. I guess Jimmy finds victory laps comforting as well.
In keeping with the Better Call Saul’s penultimate episode tradition of epic scenes at Chuck’s house, the one between Kim, Jimmy, and Chuck in “Nailed” is one of my favorites of the entire series. Chuck is not going to take Jimmy’s sabotage lying down. He has changed the locks and, after dismissing Ernie, he tells Kim everything that he thinks he knows about what Jimmy did. All of Chuck’s assumptions are 100% correct, and while it might sound ridiculous and over-the-top to an outsider, anyone that knows Jimmy knows that not only is it possible that he committed this forgery, it’s probable.
Kim knows that Chuck is telling her the truth, and that while he’s salty about losing Mesa Verde, a part of him actually does care about her future as a lawyer if she gets into bed (professionally speaking) with Jimmy. But Chuck’s problem, as always, is that he doesn’t know how to talk to people. He keeps telling her that she has no choice but to disclose to Mesa Verde and that she has no recourse, but that isn’t strictly true. Chuck has no evidence to substantiate his claims. As of right now, if they were in a court of law, Chuck could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jimmy committed the crimes of which he is being accused, and Kim knows it. She also knows that she is risking her career siding with Jimmy, but she does it anyway.
I can’t help but smile every time I watch this scene because Kim just drags Chuck—really lays into him about everything that he has done to Jimmy to hurt him and make him the person he is. Kim wrecks him, but in the best possible way because she’s cool and calm and matter-of-fact in the way that she rips him for being the world’s shittiest brother/mentor. The McGill boys love to hear themselves talk and they have no problem raising their voices, but Kim owns the room when she tells both McGills that she feels sorry for them. It is, in a word, perfection and I literally cheered when she was done.
It’s only when Kim is alone with Jimmy in the Esteem outside Chuck’s house that she lets some emotion show. She’s devastated and she’s angry because once again Jimmy has put her in an impossible situation, and all she can do is punch the shit out of his arm. She doesn’t want to talk about it, because that involves acknowledging that she knows that he’s just committed numerous crimes and made her an accessory after the fact. She just wants Jimmy to drive.
Jimmy and his film crew, now including a makeup artist, are trying to steal a shot from a local schoolyard but two school administrators bust them. Jimmy works that McGill Magic on the ladies, convincing them that there’s been some miscommunication and that they have permission to shoot part of their Rupert Holmes documentary at the school. Yes, Rupert Holmes of Pina Colada Song fame. Jimmy even sings the tune to them to really sell it. He gets them to go back inside long enough for him and the squad to get a shot of Jimmy with the American flag waving behind him.
I literally cannot wait to see this commercial.
We find Mike having breakfast at Loyola’s. He’s still high off of sticking it to Hector Salamanca and he’s actually flirting with Fran the waitress. Yes, you read that correctly—Mike Ehrmantraut engaged in some light-hearted flirting. Fran started it, of course, but he was game to play along. And then once she walked away he smiled and even chuckled. Mike looks legitimately happy and hopeful for a second.
And that’s when I knew it was all about to go to shit. As a Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fan, I know that anytime a character looks happy and things are seemingly all good, they are totally and utterly screwed.
Cue Mike’s phone ringing: it’s Nacho and he needs to meet ASAP. Nacho knew immediately that it was Mike that hit the truck because whoever did it left the driver alive and totally unharmed. Anyone in the drug game would have killed the driver, but Mike has already shown Nacho that he’ll go out of his way not to pull the trigger. Nacho is pissed, but it’s more than just the fact that Mike causing trouble for Hector could potentially blow back on him. Nacho thinks that Mike had inside help to pull off the truck hit and Hector is making him go interrogate the driver. I think we can all imagine what kind of “interrogation” tactics Hector Salamanca favors, and as we know from season 1 in the desert with Jimmy, Nacho likes to avoid torture if at all possible. Mike tells him that he did it all on his own—the driver had nothing to do with it and didn’t see or hear him—so now Nacho has to torture the guy knowing that he’s got no information, which I think is probably worse.
Mike asks Nacho why the truck robbery wasn’t in the paper, and when Nacho realized that Mike’s end game wasn’t the money in the truck tires. Mike was trying to put the cops on Hector. Stealing cartel money is one thing, and Nacho doesn’t really care about that, but the fact that Mike is going after Hector because of a grudge is, as Nacho puts it, “insane.” He’s right, too. Even though we know that Mike is highly skilled, one man going after Hector Salamanca really is insane. In this episode, we see one thing that we never really saw in Breaking Bad: Mike’s hubris. When he tells Nacho that he figured it all out on his own without an inside man, we can hear it in his voice and see it on his face.
But Nacho has some news for Mike: his attempt to draw the cops’ attention to Hector failed because a good Samaritan found the driver and let him loose. The driver then called Hector who came to clean up the mess before the cops came. That “clean up” included Hector shooting the good Samaritan in the face so there were no witnesses. Mike’s plan wasn’t so perfect after all. He is responsible for the death of an innocent and it weighs on him. Mike is not yet the man we know from Breaking Bad—the man who told Walt and Jesse that there are two kinds of heists: the ones where guys get away with it, and the ones who leave witnesses. This is not yet the man who spoke against taking half measures, and it makes me wonder if this is the last half measure we will ever see Mike take.
Jimmy has a half measure of his own to deal with. He’s in bed with Kim, and even though she says she doesn’t want to talk about the elephant in the room, she knows that she needs him to finish what he started. He committed the crime but the cover-up isn’t complete yet, and without going so far as to say it outright, Kim basically tells him that he’d better make sure to get rid of any evidence that Chuck could use to connect him to the Mesa Verde forgery. Back in episode 2×02, Kim made it clear to Jimmy that she did not want to know about any of his illegal activities. Of course, those were the days when the worst thing she had to worry about was a fabricated squat cobbler video. Now that her entire career and reputation is on the line, she decides to step in and (with some level of plausible deniability) tell Jimmy to go clean up his mess so that he doesn’t get caught.
Jimmy goes back to the copy shop and finds that Ernie has beaten him to it. He’s inside talking to the guy that was there the night Jimmy doctored all the Mesa Verde paperwork. Jimmy waits until Ernie leaves and then goes in and bribes Lance the copy guy. After making sure that Jimmy didn’t murder anyone and the cops weren’t going to come after him, Lance agrees to forget Jimmy’s face and get rid of the security footage.
Jimmy leaves and watches from across the street as Ernie returns with Chuck, who leaves his space blanket in the car and enters the copy shop. Chuck’s got a picture of Jimmy—the picture of him from the newspaper after the billboard stunt—and even though Lance told Ernie he had been there, he denies it to Chuck. The electricity in there is hummin’ and Chuck is definitely feeling it but he is determined to get the truth. Lance stays in Jimmy’s pocket, though, and Chuck knows that Jimmy got to him.
Chuck has pretty much lost his mind at this point and he’s not doing so well physically either. He is furious at Lance and trying to intimidate him into telling the truth; he is snapping at poor Ernie, who is getting increasingly concerned about how agitated Chuck is. Lance has finally just had it with Chuck and walks away from him to go help a customer. He tells Ernie to get him out or he’ll call the cops, and when Chuck attempts to follow, he passes out and hits his head on the way down.
It’s a real nasty hit, too. Like, he could be very seriously injured or dead kind of hit. It’s the penultimate episode’s OMG moment and it’s made even worse by the fact that Jimmy is forced to watch it play out from the shadows across the street. Jimmy says out loud to no one, “Call 911,” and he just has to stand there and watch his brother in a heap on the ground, knowing it’s his fault. The episode leaves us hanging as to Chuck’s fate, but one thing is certain: the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been and no one is coming out of this clean.