Written by Heather Marion; Directed by Adam Bernstein.
In this week’s episode, Slippin’ Jimmy comes back in more ways than one.
The cold open is a flashback to Cicero, Illinois. Going by Jimmy’s hair and clothes, I believe this is taking place during Jimmy’s last visit. Jimmy and Marco (RIP) are breaking into the old McGill family store so that Jimmy can retrieve something he’d hidden there years earlier: a BandAid box filled with valuable(ish) coins. [Note: this is the same BandAid box visible in the shoebox Gene keeps hidden in Omaha.] He retrieves an Indian Head Penny for a scam, which he thinks will bring in $300 easy.
We learn a bit more about Jimmy’s father, who could do no wrong in Chuck’s eyes but who Jimmy saw a bit differently. When Jimmy was 12 and working the register, a customer paid with a coin that was worth more than its face value. When Jimmy told his father, Mr. McGill went out of his way to try to return the coin, and when he couldn’t track down the customer, he wanted to give it to the poor box at their church. Jimmy took it instead, and after that he would always go through the till looking for valuable coins and stashing them in his hidden box.
This is just one instance of many in which Mr. McGill was too honest a man to successfully run a business. Despite all the hard work he and Mrs. McGill put in over the years, everyone in the neighborhood knew that Mr. McGill was an easy mark. He allowed people to run up debts in good faith and wasn’t willing to do things that violated his moral code in order to save the business (i.e. selling beer and cigarettes to the local high school kids). Chuck has always and continues to blame Jimmy for their parents’ financial problems and believes he stole so much from them that it put them out of business. But all he really did was take a coin here and there. It was their father who ran the business into the ground all on his own. The foundation of Chuck’s hatred for Jimmy is a complete fallacy, which makes everything that’s happened between them even more tragic.
We finally learn what piece of information Mike wanted from Nacho in the last episode: the approximate location of the unmarked grave of the good Samaritan. Anita’s story about not knowing how her husband died definitely triggered Mike’s guilt about the man who the Salamanca’s disappeared in the desert, and he wants to right the wrong as best he can. He spends hours with a metal detector until he finally finds the body. He calls the tribal police anonymously to tell them he found a body on some land while he was trespassing, looking for arrowheads.
Chuck meets with Dr. Cruz at his house and updates her on his progress, which he has meticulously documented in a journal. He is taking medication for his condition and there’s been a significant improvement, which he is very proud of—and has a right to be. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a Chuck-hater for a lot of reasons, but I have nothing but respect for his journey to accept and learn to manage his mental illness. That said, Chuck’s expectations are far too high. In true Chuck McGill fashion, he accepts the fact that the average person may take years to make a full recovery, but he believes that he is different and on some fast track to normalcy. Always an overachiever, Chuck assumes that conquering his illness is a matter of putting the work in and reaping the reward. Sadly, that’s just not how mental illness works. Would that it were, but it ain’t.
Chuck believes that it won’t be long before he’s back at work full time and arguing cases in court again, but it’s his desire to have a celebration at his house and fill it with people that’s the most touching part of this scene (as well as the saddest). Chuck is not even close to ready for that and if he rushes it, the failure will set him back. (We all know how well Chuck handles failure.) And the sad truth is that Chuck doesn’t have enough friends to fill that house even if he wanted to, and he’s got no family left that would come. He’s burned his bridge with Jimmy, and sure, he’s got work colleagues who would feel obligated to attend, but as far as people who truly care about him with no ulterior motives, I can’t think of anyone except maybe Rebecca. Howard does care about Chuck, but only to a point; HHM is and will always be Howard’s priority.
At ABQ In Tune, Jimmy’s gratis commercial has brought in a ton of new business. He’s there with his film crew, ready to shoot the rest of the commercials that the owners agreed to purchase, but they have other ideas. They are refusing to honor their verbal commitment to Jimmy and it’s the last straw. Jimmy isn’t about to lose another dime on these douchebags so he goes with what he knows best: the trusty Slip-and-Fall scam. After strategically placing a drumstick, he lets it rip and makes some cash money the Slippin’ Jimmy way (and they even throw in a Ritchie-Blackmore-signed guitar for good measure).
Kim is at a lunch meeting with Paige and Kevin, and over some Moscow Mules Kevin tries to refer another client to Kim. She’s flattered by his confidence in her, but she has so much on her plate with Mesa Verde that she’s hesitant to take on any new business. Just then, Howard enters the restaurant with some clients and soon comes over to their table to “say hello,” but really what he’s doing is trying to make a power play and belittle Kim in front of her clients. Paige notices it immediately, and Kim is barely able to contain her anger when he commands her to sit and references her months in doc review—his way of putting her in her place. He says he’s happy to see his protege leave the nest, but we all know that’s not true. Howard is bitter as hell that Kim has gone off on her own and been successful, and his little interruption proves that. Kim can’t let it go and she excuses herself, writes a check for $14,815—the amount she owed him for her school loans—and pulls her own power play at Howard’s table in front of his clients.
Howard approaches Kim at the valet outside the restaurant and unleashes all his pent up frustrations on her. He blames her and Jimmy for the fact that he has to put in extra kiss-ass time to try to repair HHM’s reputation after what happened with Chuck after the hearing. But there seems to be more to it as well. Howard and Kim have a complicated relationship. He took her out of the mailroom, put her through school, and mentored her and he feels like she has betrayed him by leaving HHM. At the same time, Howard was an absolute asshole to while she worked at HHM, blaming her for things that were out of her control and keeping her in the basement in doc review out of spite. There’s a lot of unresolved anger and bitterness that comes out in this scene that I found fascinating, especially since Howard is usually Mr. Cool Calm and Collected.
Howard refuses to accept Kim’s repayment, perhaps because part of him wants her to always feel indebted to him (which is what she would like to free herself from). Kim won’t allow him to place all the blame on her and Jimmy for what happened, either. She reminds him that he knew damn well that Chuck was mentally ill and kept it a secret from his clients, and that she was only doing her job when she defended Jimmy. Of course, we know that Kim is carrying guilt for what happened, but for the sake of winning the argument with Howard, she chooses to ignore that part of things.
Nacho is preparing for the pill switcheroo, grinding up Ibuprofen and filling the capsules he got from Daniel to make the fake pills. When he’s done, he starts to practice how he’s actually going to get the pills into Hector’s coat pocket. He drapes a coat over a chair, as Hector’s would be, and walks by with the pill bottle concealed in his hand. He misses over and over and he continues this all night until his father comes in to the shop in the morning. Nacho knows he’s only going to get one shot at this, so he’d better be prepared.
Chuck takes a trip to the grocery store in an attempt to provide for himself instead of relying on others (especially now that poor Ernie is out of the picture). He is using a technique learned from Dr. Cruz in which he recites the color of objects that he sees around him as a distraction. It’s not easy to get through, and Chuck is in obvious discomfort, but he manages to get it done, even running the gauntlet of the freezer aisle to procure his soy milk. He may have conquered the grocery store, but when he gets home Howard is waiting for him to discuss his malpractice insurance.
Back at the office, Kim is working on the Gatwood Oil referral while Jimmy lays on the floor of his office, strumming away on his new guitar while he rests his back. He lies to Kim and tells her that he sold the rest of the commercials and hurt his back accidentally. He gives her his share of the expenses to cover the next six weeks and he snaps at her to just take it so they are square. Kim wants Jimmy t just take a time out, let his back heal, finish up his community service and figure out what his next steps are. She offers to carry the both of them for a little while so he can get it together but he is very much against it. Jimmy doesn’t want to be indebted to Kim anymore than Kim wants to be indebted to Howard.
Even though Jimmy swears he will be able to keep up his end of the bargain, Kim decides that she is going to take on the Gatwood Oil client instead of referring them. She’s already overworked with just Mesa Verde, and I don’t think taking on another client is the smartest move. She’s only one person, after all, and even though she’s a great lawyer, she’s overextending herself. This is asking for trouble and I think it’s going to bite her in the ass sooner rather than later.
Finally we get to Nacho’s elaborate scheme to switch out Hector’s pills. After sabotaging the taco joint’s AC the night before, ensuring Hector will take off his coat, it’s business as usual with the count. Domingo, still bruised from his beat down, isn’t short or chatty this week. In his stack there is a 50 dollar bill which Nacho claims looks shady. Hector asks to take a look at it, and that’s when Nacho drops the stack of money as an excuse to get into Hector’s pocket and snag the real pills.
What follows is seriously some of the most stressful anxiety-inducing stuff I’ve seen on TV, rivaling even some of the most iconic moments in Breaking Bad. Nacho manages to switch out the real pills for the fake ones while sitting directly in front of Hector, pretending to count money. He asks if Hector wants a refill on his espresso, and as he walks by him, he throws the fake pills into his pocket. All that practice certainly paid off.
Jimmy is working his community service hours, back still hurting from his “accident,” when he overhears one of the other guys trying to weasel out of his service but still get his hours. Game recognizes game, and Jimmy has a proposal for this young man, who he rightly pegs as a drug dealer: Jimmy will get him out of his service for $700 cash. Jimmy starts lawyering at the supervisor, threatening to sue him personally for any number of things, and it actually works. This is our first taste of the “criminal lawyer” we will come to know (and it wouldn’t surprise me if the dealer Jimmy gets the $700 off of becomes one of Saul’s regular clients down the line).
The episode ends with Mike collecting a bunch of money from his hidey-hole and going to meet Gus at Pollos. He needs to make sure these ill-gotten gains will go to his family if something happens to him and he’s hoping that Gus can help him out with that in some capacity. Of course, it wouldn’t do to have the two of them publicly associated considering that the Salamancas are familiar with Mike. While Gus can’t agree to a public association, he says that there is a way that he can make it work and they shake on it.
I’m not sure what exactly they are shaking on here since Mike will eventually become Gus’s muscle, for all the Salamancas to see, but I know that this marks the official beginning of their business relationship.