Written by Gordon Smith; Directed by Minkie Spiro.
This week’s episode showed us the “Fall” of Jimmy McGill, and it was really hard to watch at times. We are to the point where not even I—who is generally willing to excuse and/or rationalize a lot of Jimmy’s bullshit—could forgive him for his latest stunt. And in that moment I knew that our time with Jimmy McGill is over, and our time with Saul Goodman has begun. To be honest, I thought I would be happier about it when it finally happened but it’s actually just horribly sad.
“Fall” opens with Jimmy in his car, putting some store-bought cookies (shaped and decorated like cats) onto a plate and wrapping them so they look homemade. He’s at the Sandpiper Crossing facility (the same one he was once physically booted from, so I guess that restraining order has been lifted) and he’s visiting one of his former clients: Irene Landry. Irene is the woman whose will Jimmy was doing when he discovered the first evidence of Sandpiper’s fraud. She’s as sweet as ever and she loves the kitty-cat cookies. But the cookies (more specifically, who made them) are just the first in a series of lies Jimmy will tell Irene.
The purpose of Jimmy’s visit isn’t to catch up with sweet old Mrs. Landry. It’s to get information on the Sandpiper settlement. Irene is the class representative for the suit and, since Jimmy is entitled to a portion of the settlement and pretty hard up for cash at the moment, he’d really like the whole thing to wrap up as quickly as possible. He learns from Irene that his least favorite coworker at Davis and Main, Erin Brill, has taken over client outreach and has been in communication with Irene, telling her that it will be years before they settle and that she should hold out even though there’s been an offer. When Jimmy takes a look at the offer, he tries to convince Irene that she should take it but Irene seems happy to just let the lawyers handle it. She believes they know what’s best, even if it means waiting longer for a settlement.
Jimmy has other ideas but they are interrupted when Irene’s friends—Rose, Myrtle, and Helen—come by to pick her up for chair yoga. Jimmy knows all these gals as well, as they are also part of the class action. On his way out to the parking lot, Jimmy does a little mental math and figures out that, according to the numbers on the offer letter, he stands to make $1,160,000 if they settle. Jimmy’s got dollar signs in his eyes now, and there’s no turning back.
Gus has sent Mike to Madrigal to meet with Lydia about cleaning up his money. Mike isn’t comfortable with the idea of being an on-the-books employee, using his real name on paperwork and such. Lydia explains how it’s going to work: he will be hired as a “logistics consultant” at a salary of $10,000 dollars per week, which will tidy up his dirty money in 20 weeks time. Gus is covering taxes and all that so Mike isn’t losing any money being employed by Madrigal. Mike suggests that “security consultant” would be a better job than “logistics consultant” (which sounds like absolute bullshit and means nothing) and Lydia makes the change.
Mike is still very skeptical but Lydia assures him that his money is basically table scraps compared to what Madrigal brings in per week. Plus, the company has so many employees that, even if they did get audited, Mike’s brief employment as a consultant and comparatively small salary would go completely unnoticed. Mike also learns from Lydia that this is the first time Gus has sent any employees to her for this sort of thing. Mike questions why she would go out of her way and risk so much for “a drug dealer,” and Lydia tells Mike that Gustavo Fring is so much more than that. Finally, Mike agrees to go on the books for the job. He’s starting to realize that Gus is a much bigger deal than he thought.
In the HHM conference room, Chuck and Howard are doing battle with Santa Rosa insurance company, which thanks to Jimmy’s little performance, has decided to double HHM’s premiums company-wide. This is way worse for the company than just Chuck losing his coverage. Without consulting Howard, Chuck decides to go all Chuck McGill on the insurance agents and threatens them with a lawsuit. Howard is not pleased, to say the least, and the meeting is over almost as soon as it began. The moment the agents leave the room, Chuck is already strategizing and planning to have a demand letter out to Santa Rosa by close of business.
Howard has other plans. He pours them some scotch and tries to delicately suggest to Chuck that he retire and take a position as a law professor at UNM. To absolutely no one’s surprise, Chuck doesn’t take this news well. He feels as if he’s finally better and can start throwing himself back into his work, but Howard sees him as he is—he’s not fine, he’s not back to normal, and he’s a liability. It’s about money, too, of course, but it’s also about the fact that Howard feels it’s better for Chuck to retire with the dignity and respect he still has than to drag this out until he makes his next terrible decision. Howard straight up tells Chuck that he no longer trusts his judgment and cannot work with him anymore. It’s not something that Howard takes any pleasure in doing—in fact, it’s obvious that it pains him to have to do Chuck like this—but for Howard, HHM always comes first, even if it means shoving his mentor and partner out the door.
Kim is out in the desert oil fields at the Texas/New Mexico border for a meeting with her newest client, Billy Gatwood of Gatwood Oil. Gatwood has a tax issue now that he’s discovered that one of his oil pools extends about a hundred yards over the New Mexico border and he’s enlisted Kim to help him avoid paying double taxes. Kim’s solution is for him to pay damages to the New Mexico rights-holders—a sort of payoff that will allow him to avoid paying taxes in New Mexico. The problem is that she’s only got two weeks to make it work before the end of the quarter. Even though she’s already barely sleeping and overextended with the Mesa Verde work, Kim tells Gatwood that she’ll do it.
When Gatwood leaves the site, Kim discovers that her car is stuck in the desert sand. As always, Kim “Do-It-Yourself” Wexler manages to get her car unstuck only to come within inches of smashing into one of Gatwood’s oil rigs. She’s managed to barely avoid disaster this time, but it’s not looking good for Kim. She’s definitely bit off a hell of a lot more than she can chew with this.
Jimmy waits for Hamlin to arrive at the HHM parking garage so he can try to talk him into settling the Sandpiper case. I honestly don’t know what Jimmy was thinking with this move. As if Howard, who is going through hell because of Jimmy’s recent actions, is going to give a shit whether or not Jimmy gets his payday. Jimmy does make a decent point—that it’s in HHM’s interest to hold out for more money because they will make millions more, where the clients will only see a little bit more—but while that may be true, Jimmy’s “concern” for the clients isn’t really sincere. He’s motivated by the money more than doing right by the elderly clients who may not live to see the settlement money, and Howard sees right through him. He accuses Jimmy of begging and actually takes out a bunch of cash from his wallet and waves it in Jimmy’s face. Howard is really venting his frustrations here and I honestly can’t blame him. He also happens to be right about the fact that Jimmy only cares about his share of the money.
Gus and Hector (along with their respective muscle) are at a meet waiting for a call from cartel boss Juan Bolsa. He tells them that Don Eladio has decided that the current system (where Hector and Gus work together to transport the product) is going to be a permanent thing. Neither Gus nor Hector are happy about this decision. Hector gets so upset that he smashes the cell phone Bolsa called them on, and then he has one of his heart episodes. Just when Nacho thinks that this is it—the moment he’s risked everything for—the fake pills seem to have a placebo effect on Hector and he recovers enough to basically tell Eladio, Bolsa, and Gus to go fuck themselves.
Now here’s where things start to get ugly. Jimmy has decided to make poor sweet Irene Landry his mark. He pretends to be a mall walker—complete with tracksuit and walking shoes—so he has an excuse to run into Irene and her group. He chats it up with Irene and, eventually, he offers to give her a pair of the fancy shoes he’s got on, which he claims he bought for his girlfriend and can’t return. In reality, he’s got every damn size shoe they make in the trunk of his car so that it will match whatever Irene’s shoe size is. He won’t take any money from her for the shoes, he just requests that she promise not to tell any of her friends he gave them to her so it doesn’t look like he’s playing favorites—super sketchy, and it only gets worse from here.
Jimmy goes on an all out smear campaign at Sandpiper, trying to turn all Irene’s friends against her. He tells them all that she won’t settle because she doesn’t need the money (as evidenced by those fancy new shoes). Jimmy convinces the ladies that Irene is being selfish and that only the lawyers really benefit from delaying the settlement. The whole thing culminates with Irene’s friends snubbing her during their mall walk. Jimmy has gotten into their heads and they’ve dropped poor Irene, and it’s SO SAD IT MAKES ME WANT TO DIE.
Speaking of things that are really sad, with Hector still alive and kicking and determined to use the upholstery shop to traffic drugs, Nacho is forced to tell his father the truth. Nacho admits he’s been working for Salamanca and that Hector is going to come to the shop soon demanding to run it. Nacho knows that it will cost him his relationship with his father but he also knows that, if he doesn’t tell him the truth and make him promise to do what Salamanca says, Hector will kill him. Nacho’s dad is devastated to learn that his son is involved with Salamanca and he kicks him out. Regardless of how disappointed he is, I really hope that Mr. Varga puts his morals aside in favor of pragmatism and listens to Nacho’s advice not to fuck with Salamanca because he’s really sweet and I’d like for him to not die.
Howard gets a messengered letter from Chuck, which he assumes is a letter of resignation before he opens it. But this is Chuck McGill we’re talking about here, and with Chuck nothing is ever easy. Howard, who is already mentally planning a classy retirement party for Chuck, opens the letter to find out that not only is Chuck not retiring, he’s suing HHM for breach of contract.
Howard goes to Chuck’s house, where he finds him happily cooking away with the electricity back on, pretending everything is completely back to normal. He tells Howard that he built HHM and if he wants him out, he’s got to pay him his share—a prohibitively expensive $8 million—or he’ll see HHM in court. Chuck manages to play it super cool the whole time, even busting out an immersion blender for whatever dish he’s cooking up. But the second Howard leaves he winces in pain and begins to use the color-object coping strategy the Dr. Cruz taught him.
Of all the things that I’ve seen on this show—and there have been a lot of really sad moments—the worst one by far is Jimmy McGill’ s nursing home Bingo sabotage. Ever the resourceful one, Jimmy injects a few balls with a magnetic substance to make sure they get picked. He then reprises his role as Bingo caller, dressed in his Matlock suit, and waits for Irene to arrive. When she does, the poor thing has nowhere to sit because she’s being shunned by her friends. When she finally finds a spot, Jimmy hands her a special card he’s reserved just for her, and then he puts the final stage of his plan into action. He makes sure that Irene gets a straight Bingo in front of everyone, and when she wins nobody claps for her. I’m not ashamed to admit that this makes me cry every time I watch it and I honestly don’t like to think about it because it makes me really sad. Leave it to Better Call Saul to completely devastate me with a friggin’ Bingo game.
Poor Irene runs out of the room crying and Jimmy follows after her to “comfort her” but he’s really just there to get her to settle the lawsuit. She’s got no idea why her friends have turned on her and Jimmy tells her it’s probably because she’s holding out on the settlement and they need the money. He tells her he can’t tell her what to do and to “follow her heart” but all Irene wants is for things to go back to normal so she can have her friends back. What choice does she really have but to settle after all of Jimmy’s meddling?
So settle she will, and Jimmy wants to celebrate with Kim over a bottle of Zafiro Añejo. Kim isn’t interested, though, because she’s already running late for her Gatwood meeting and scrambling trying to get all the paperwork together (with Francesca’s help). Jimmy tells her that Sandpiper is settling but Kim is stressed out and super late and she can’t really take the time out for celebratory tequila shots with him in the middle of the day. Jimmy completely disregards the fact that she’s got a very important meeting and seems almost offended that she won’t take five minutes for him. But she’s got no choice but to blow him off and leave so he has a drink with Francesca instead.
Kim is speeding to her meeting, practicing what she’s going to say, but she’s sleep deprived and frazzled and she can barely keep her eyes open. She ends up falling asleep at the wheel and running off the road. Her car is totaled and her Gatwood paperwork is flying everywhere, and she’s definitely injured with airbag burns on her face and what looks like a broken arm. She’s OK enough to get herself out of the car but she’s certainly not making it to the Gatwood meeting. Even though she has a legit reason for not being there, the time crunch on Gatwood’s tax problem isn’t going to allow her to get it done in time. She’ll lose Gatwood as a client and the situation will likely mess with her Mesa Verde work as well. She took on too much and now she’s paying the price for it.
This episode was, to me, one of the best of the series. We’ve finally reached the breaking point for many of the characters we’ve come to know and love. Jimmy has gone (almost) full Saul by ruining the life of a sweet, trusting old lady for his own monetary gain. Kim’s candle has been burning at both ends for too long and now it’s finally gone out. Nacho has ruined his relationship with his father and put him in mortal danger. Chuck and Howard’s relationship has been irreparably damaged and things are only going to get more contentious from here. Mike has hitched his wagon to Gus on paper, and while it’s all good for now, we know this will ultimately lead the DEA right to him (and his money). Everyone’s future is looking a lot less rosy than it did even a few weeks ago. The tension that has been building over the course of several seasons all came to a head in “Fall,” and the only person who doesn’t seem to know it is Jimmy McGill.