Published on March 27th, 2015 | by Michael


Better Call Saul – Rico – Review

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A lot of the success of Better Call Saul lies in the strength of the wig department, which is my way of saying that we’re once again in flashback country at the start of this week’s episode, Rico. Jimmy, sometime after his Slippin’ Jimmy days, is working as a mail courier in Hamlin, Hamlin & Mcgill. It must be said that all the HHM employees seem very polite, remembering to thank Jimmy for their mail as he goes about his business, clearly the boss man hasn’t killed all their decency yet. His final port of call is Kim’s office (a dark and dingy place piled high with case files, reminiscent of her exile to the cornfields last week). Jimmy can’t bring himself to open his own letter, from the Bar association. Turns out, Jimmy has been doing a correspondence course with the University of American Samoa – ‘Go Land Crabs!’.  Unsurprisingly, it turns out he’s passed and goes eagerly to share the news with Chuck. Chuck who had been completely unaware Jimmy was even attempting to become a lawyer, is shocked, proud and probably a little upset, a combination brilliantly portrayed by Michael McKean, another facet of this rich relationship between the brothers. Less ambiguous is toerag Howard’s reaction – breaking up Jimmy’s celebration party, disabusing Jimmy of the notion that he might be hired as a lawyer by HHM, and waltzing off, with some of Jimmy’s cake, no less. For the scene in which Howard tears down Jimmy’s dreams, the dialogue drops away, drowned out by the photocopier, making us peer in through a window, though it’s clear from Bob Odenkirk’s rapidly drooping shoulders what is going on.

Back in whatever passes for ‘now’, Jimmy hits upon his next big scheme, or ‘story arc’, if you will. Doing a Will for a client in a nursing home, he is perturbed that the client cannot afford his $140 fee. Having recently looked at all her paperwork, he’s convinced she should have enough. His first conclusion (and ours, for anyone who knows was ‘Rico’ refers to) is that the Nursing Home, Sandpiper Crossing, is scamming its residents. Jimmy’s new endeavour draws on everything we know about the man so far. The old Slippin’ Jimmy recognises a scheme like this with ease, Jimmy McGill is always on the lookout for a case. He’s got the legal knowledge and newfound sense of decency thanks, in part, to Chuck and he wants to help vulnerable seniors, courtesy of Kim. Rounding it all out in the ceaseless drive that Jimmy/Saul has had in every guise thus far, with the exception of the defeated looking man we saw working in a Cinnabun in the pilot. In the hands of such skilled scriptwriters as Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, it’s clearly that everything thus far has been moulding Jimmy McGill into a the kind of person that would not only spot this abuse of the elderly but who also has the desire and the skill to end it.

Better Call Saul Rico

He’ll have to work for it though. The next time Jimmy goes to visit his client, he finds the receptionist very hostile, the door guarded by two burly blokes and a woman shredding documents. Forced into action, Jimmy writes a legal letter on cardboard and some toilet paper demanding that they cease destroying evidence. ‘It’s called spoliation!’ he yells. He’s not done there though. After dark, Jimmy dives into a particularly rank dumpster to find the shredded paper.  Whilst in there he receives a phone call from Rick Schweikart (Dennis Boutsikaris), Sandpiper’s lawyer. Schweikart wants to know if Jimmy is the famous Chuck’s brother and exchanges some pleasantries about the Opera (Jimmy’s cover for his low voice is that he’s at a production of The Magic Flute). The final kick is that once Jimmy extricates himself from the dumpster he finds the blue bin right next to it.

Now with several hundred shredded documents in tow, Jimmy can build his case. But he can’t do it alone. Chuck is reluctant to help at first, having been suckered last week into looking at Jimmy’s paperwork. But he’s shamed into helping after realising Jimmy had spotted the scam when he hadn’t. Piecing one invoice together, Chuck fines the key piece of evidence that means the case will be even bigger than Jimmy imagined. A receipt for some hypodermic needles may seem innocuous, but they were bought from Nebraska (‘Go Cornhusker!)’, which means the scam is interstate and therefore a prime candidate for a RICO case (that’s the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organisations act to you and me). Having manipulated Sandpiper’s lawyers into a meeting, Chuck’s nerve seems to fail him. It takes all of Jimmy’s skill to coax Chuck to the table. In the meeting itself, Chuck lets Jimmy and Schweikart do all the talking before calmly dropping the bombshell – he wants the settlement to be $20M.

Clearly then, this won’t come to pass. Saul in Breaking Bad didn’t look like he had recently received his cut of a $20M settlement. We can only guess at this juncture as to what might go wrong but there are already a couple of possibilities. Firstly, there’s Chuck himself. His memory and ability to recall relevant case law remains as sharp as ever but his mental state is clearly fragile. He needs Jimmy to tie his shoelaces for him before the sit-down, and in the final scene this week he absentmindedly wanders outside to fetch something from Jimmy’s car. The moment he realises (from Jimmy’s look of horror) where he is is straight out of Wile E Coyote, as if he’s just noticed he’s wandered of the edge of a cliff. The final shot has the camera pulled way back with Chuck a small figure, dropping the files to the floor. It reminded me of Mike’s final slump in Breaking Bad.

Better Call Saul Rico 3

The other possible source of Jimmy’s downfall here is a combination of best friend Kim and worst enemy Howard. Jimmy called Kim to get her to print some old case work for her and has to give her Chuck’s print ID as it will run to thousands of pages. Jimmy wanted to charge it to Howard as he knew his ID – ‘1933, the year Hitler came to power’. Jimmy is forced to reveal that he is indeed working with Chuck, possibly breaking Chuck’s agreement with HHM. It’s not difficult to imagine that Howard and Kim will swoop in a cut Jimmy out of a case nobody else had spotted even needed to be made. After all, early in the episode Jimmy had watched a triumphant Howard brag about his deal for the Kettlemans, a deal that Jimmy had helped put in place at great personal cost. Jimmy is remaining chipper at the moment but I doubt things are going to go his way in the near future.

Meanwhile Mike is busy being manipulated by his daughter-in-law. So desperate is he to hear any word of Kayla that he waves through cars out of the carpark without so much as a cursory glance at their stickers! It’s just Jimmy’s luck that he wasn’t there to profit. Stacey wants Mike’s approval to spend Matty’s kickback money, which he happily gives. Stacey then very obvious ‘of course it’s just a drop in the ocean…’ has Mike running straight to his dodgy veterinarian friend so he can find some off the books work to do. We know from Breaking Bad how much Mike cares about Kayla but it is strange seeing such a canny man be manipulated so easily. I only assume he knows what Stacey is doing but is deciding to help her anyway. Two episodes to go and both our protagonists have found new purpose. Someone who doesn’t have a purpose though, once again whither Michael Mando? A member of the starring cast with still one two appearances to his name. Here’s to more Nacho next week.

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