Better Call Saul Gives Season 4's Closing Argument
Jimmy performs sincerity in support of his bar reinstatement appeal while Mike runs a Mann hunt in our EPIC OLD-SCHOOL RECAP of Better Call Saul's Season 4 finale, 'Winner.'
We open in a nondescript meeting room, where attorneys we don't know are standing up in turn, introducing themselves, and presenting candidates for admission to the bar. Both the reasons for this and the historical situation soon become clear as the third candidate to stand is Jimmy, with Chuck at his side to vouch for him; Jimmy turns back, as we see Kim and Ernesto (Ernesto! a truer friend to Jimmy than we knew!) seated behind them, adorably proud.
Cut to Ernie going HAM on his karaoke cover of "Total Eclipse Of The Heart," HHM Blue balloons arrayed behind him. The key he's aiming for is, I'm going to say, at least one city council district over from where he is, but what he lacks in musicianship, he makes up for in passion. The camera glides through the party to a table where Kim and Jimmy are poring over the song binder. Jimmy points to one and declares that they're doing it. She vetoes it, ordering him to pick something else, and when he presses the point, she insists that she's not doing "Bohemian Rhapsody," and any decent person has to take her side if only on the grounds of karaoke etiquette. I know it's Jimmy's party, but that shit is like forty minutes long! Kim briskly says that Jimmy's doing his own number after Ernie: "I'm going to do one by myself." "No!" yelps Jimmy. REMIND YOU OF ANY DISPUTES THESE TWO HAVE BEEN HAVING ALL SEASON??? "This is my night. I'm a lawyer now, all right? I've been barred for a whole [checks watch] three hours now! You don't sing that with me, I sue you." Kim states that she'll sue him right back. Jimmy will double-sue her. Kim tells him that's not a thing. ("That's not a thing" is not a thing we were saying in the early '00s, but fine.) Jimmy says it could be a thing once his "full powers are unleashed." Then Ernie screeches into the key change and Kim and Jimmy take a break from their fond bickering to admire him...which is when Jimmy glances across the bar and sees that Chuck, sitting alone, is settling his cheque. Jimmy sighs that he's "about to bail." Kim notes that it's not really Chuck's kind of place, but Jimmy's dismayed that Chuck never has any fun: "I was hoping tonight he might, you know, mingle with the lady folk." Based on everything we know about Chuck, I doubt very much that he'd step into a dating pool made up of his firm's most junior employees. Kim says Chuck will get out there when he's ready, but when he sees Chuck trying to make a French exit...
...Jimmy heads him off. Chuck claims he has early meetings, but Jimmy implores him to stay for just ten more minutes: "You cannot leave. I'm-- I'm up next!...If you leave now, tomorrow you're going to go to work, those people are going to tell you how great my performance was, you're never going to forgive yourself for missing it." Stiffly, Chuck relents just as we hear the strains of ABBA's "The Winner Takes It All" coming out of the speakers. Jimmy races to take the stage.
Now, Jimmy had told Kim to choose a track for him that was "not from this decade" -- smart! Going with ABBA, a band with lots of #1 hits that Jimmy probably knows well -- great! Saddling Jimmy with an Agnetha and Anni-Frid joint instead of one the dudes sing is not the play; it's in a weird key for a tenor, and Jimmy's rendition is VERY bad. It's so bad, in fact, that I thought for sure Bob Odenkirk must be trying to suck, to add this note (as it were) to the character of Jimmy, and I was sure I'd heard him sing competently on Mr. Show. Buuuuuut I guess I was remembering wrong.
My dude is just tone-deaf for real, and that's okay. Anyway: it might be easier for Jimmy to sing this song about winning from the loser's perspective on such a triumphant day -- or he's just having fun and goofing around without paying much attention to the lyrics in the moment because he's more focused on getting Chuck to join him and make it a duet. Chuck refuses until Jimmy thrusts the mic in his face for "The loser standing small," whereupon Chuck relents and takes his place next to Jimmy. Of course we all know that the once and probably future David St. Hubbins has an excellent singing voice, and Chuck is a good sport, singing lines as Jimmy points the mic at him, until they get to "The gods may roll the dice" and Chuck just grabs the mic and takes over, to Jimmy's evident delight.
If they get around to "Sex Farm" we (tragically) don't see it, and much later we're with the McGills as Chuck helps a shitfaced Jimmy into his apartment -- a studio, in a basement. "McGill and McGill, the brothers McGill," says Jimmy happily. "I'm a lawyer, and you're a lawyer. Two lawyers. How 'bout that." As Jimmy plops down on his bed and takes his jacket off, he suggests, "You gotta tell Howard to add another M to the firm, 'cause it'll make it more symmetrical, and people love symmetricality." Chuck distractedly agrees that they do, helping Jimmy to put his head on the pillow and removing his shoes. "That's why God gave us two eyes," Jimmy rambles on. "More pleasant to look at. Hands. Two feet. Thumbs. And nipples! We could get by with one nipple. Am I right?" "You may be more right about this than anything you've ever spoken about before," says Chuck, abandoning his usual remote coldness and amiably giving himself up to the situation, filling a glass of water at the sink. "Thank you, Chuck," says Jimmy sincerely, before going on to muse about whether four or six nipples would work: "I submit to the court it's overkill." Chuck turns off the kitchen light and brings the glass over. "HHMM," says Jimmy thoughtfully. "Hmmmmmmm. That's better. HHM is just 'hhm!' You know? You writing this down?" Chuck grips Jimmy's hand in a parting gesture, telling him he put a trash can next to the bed in case Jimmy gets sick. Jimmy sweetly mumbles his thanks, some more. Chuck snaps off the lamp on Jimmy's nightstand, but before he departs, he checks his watch and goes around to the other side of the bed instead, asking whether Jimmy will want eggs or pancakes for breakfast. "PANCAKES!" Jimmy answers immediately. "Make those pancakes you make." Jimmy may be intoxicated, but his judgment could not be more sound. Chuck takes his shoes off and lies down next to Jimmy, telling him to get some rest before his big day. No sooner have the two exchanged "goodnight"s before Jimmy blurt-sings, "THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL!" After a moment, Chuck responds: "The loser has to fall." Realizing sleep will not be coming soon, if ever, Chuck rolls over and joins Jimmy: "Beside the victory, that's her destiny." Picking through to the best of their memories, they start the second verse: "I was in your arms / Thinking I belonged there / I figured it made sense / Building me a fence / Building me a home / Thinking I'd be strong there / But I was a fool / Playing by the rules...." Isolate those last two lines and you're well on your way to a Saul Goodman client testimonial!
After the credits -- in which a porcelain "WORLD'S GREATEST LAWYER" mug spills coffee as it spirals down to the floor and smashes to pieces -- we get a brief flash of Mike scanning Ziegler's schematics and letter from "Wiedersehen" and then move outside, where he's giving his best Samuel Gerard speech to the guys on the crew: "He's got a three-and-a-half-hour jump on us, but he started out on foot, which gives us a fighting chance. He doesn't have his passport, so he's probably not headed to the airport. Doesn't know his way around town, but if he gets to a bus or a taxi, that's not going to matter much. Most likely ran off towards the highway." He directs two of the guys to head north and south to see if they can find Ziegler hitchhiking; as they immediately move out, Mike directs two others to "use the cover story" at train and bus stations. The last two guys are to remain on site to keep Ziegler's crew "on lockdown." Woohoo, snow day! Time to enjoy as much volleyball and TV as you can while trying not to wonder whether your boss will evade getting murdered! Once he's alone, Mike flips open his phone and calls 411 to get the number for "TravelWire," which seems to be a greeked version of Western Union; when they put him through, he claims he arranged for his wife to wire him money from Frankfurt, Germany, but darn the luck, he didn't get the name of the location where he's supposed to go get it! He mispronounces Margarethe (like "mar-ga-WREATHE"), but the operator still gets it and sends him to 4th Street. At this point, I'm wondering whether Ziegler would have had cash enough to get him to 4th Street -- or, indeed, any cash at all? It's not like he'd need it during this job, since he can't go anywhere without Mike as a chaperone. The episode doesn't address this matter, though, so let's move on...
...to a cemetery, where Jimmy is standing over Chuck's headstone clutching a bouquet of flowers. From a distance, we can faintly hear him mumbling, but it's not until the camera moves right next to him that we hear his choice of placeholder dialogue isn't "rhubarb rhubarb" but "watermelon pickles," which he delivers with convincing mournfulness before laying his flowers on Chuck's grave and counting under his breath as a man and a woman, the former also carrying flowers, approach. Jimmy looks up, pretending to be surprised, and greets them, thanking them for coming. The guy guesses Jimmy's Chuck's brother and steps forward to introduce himself as Ken Greenfield and his companion as Emily Reed. She says they knew Chuck from "The Native People's Education Council." (I assume I need not tell you that, like Chuck, they're both white, so: eyeroll emoji.) Jimmy morosely claims that Chuck spoke fondly of them. Emily regrets that they lost touch with Chuck, but Jimmy says the important thing is that they're here now. Ken says they saw the notice about the upcoming law library dedication, further expositing that today is the anniversary of Chuck's death. "It still doesn't make any sense," Jimmy chokes. Ken offers a kind of perfunctory-sounding sigh before setting his flowers on the grave and heading out with Emily. As they move off, Jimmy sets one palm on top of the stone and brings the other to his eyes, and I know the adjective "cartoonish" gets tossed around liberally these days, but there's truly no better word for the "boo hoo hoo" noise he makes to accompany his dry-crying.
Sometime later, Jimmy trots up to a car parked on the cemetery grounds, where Kim (dressed for work, or maybe just trying to look like she could be on her way to a funeral) is waiting with a thermos of water and a box of pastries. As Jimmy digs into a bear claw, she advises him to pace himself, since it's going to be a long day. He's relieved that they've already gotten "customers," since he'd feared no one would show up. "How'd it look?" he asks. "How'd it feel?" she parries, pragmatically. "Felt like I looked sad," Jimmy assesses. Kim gives this a Kimface before asking how the headstone looks. "Oh, Howard picked the big one," Jimmy reports. "But it's tasteful." In that it isn't HHM Blue, I guess that's true.
From a hill behind a Los Pollos Hermanos distribution center, Lalo sings to himself as, through binoculars, he watches activity in the parking lot; he also notes plate numbers next to a rough sketch of the property's layout (and, since he's only human, eats jerky). When he spots Gus himself come out -- in a knot of henchmen that also includes Tyrus and Victor -- and climb into the back seat of an SUV, Lalo packs up his tripod and his wee cooler and prepares to see where they're all going.
Over to Mike, entering the TravelWire location on 4th Street. When Fred the clerk calls him up to the window, we get to hear Mike -- in a slightly quavery, supplicating voice -- deliver the cover story to which he'd referred before all his guys moved out: Werner Ziegler, his brother-in-law, has early-stage dementia, and he's a diabetic. Mike's wife is beside herself! It's against company policy for Fred to disclose whether Ziegler's been there but, obviously, Mike's story of a potential medical emergency alarms him. When Mike goes on to add that they spoke to his sister-in-law "mar-ga-WREATHE" back in Germany and learned that Ziegler had convinced her to wire him some money -- and also say that he has Ziegler's insulin out in the car and had hoped he'd get to this location before Ziegler -- Fred admits that Ziegler's already been there, but that he left about an hour ago. Mike groans: "Just took the money and left." Fred volunteers that he made a couple of calls on the pay phone first, then got into a car; he doesn't remember if it was a regular cab or a car service or what. Mike hesitantly asks whether he might "have a peek" at the CC camera footage. Fred doesn't answer right away, and Mike sadly says he gets that it's "not company policy": "Then could you tell me where the nearest hospital is."
Mike fixes Fred with the sad-sack civilian version of his usual patient but expectant glare, to which Fred briefly gawps...
...and then we're behind the counter, where Fred has pulled up the footage of Ziegler's time in the office. First, Ziegler sits around for a WHILE waiting for the money to come through. Mike has totally dropped his concerned brother-in-law routine by this point and basically shoves Fred aside so he can help himself to the keyboard, scanning forward to watch Ziegler on the phone, pacing around peering at the rack of tourist brochures next to it, and then getting into the cab when it pulls up outside. "Oh, that's bad luck, you can't see the car," says Fred. Mike straightens back up with a groan and heads to Victor, waiting out front. "I hope you find him," calls Fred, not knowing the many orders of magnitude by which Mike's hope dwarfs his own.
Outside, Mike climbs into the back seat of an SUV, next to Gus, who is almost visibly steaming with rage as he stares straight ahead and says, "Can I see it." Mike pulls Ziegler's notes out of his inner breast pocket and hands them off. As Gus reads, Mike reluctantly says, "For what it's worth, I believe him. He said he'd be gone four days, he's not going to any cops. This is about him wanting to see his wife, plain and simple." Gus folds the papers and replies, "She's on a Lufthansa flight, landing in Denver nine hours from now." Mike nods, correctly surmising that Gus's men are going to be there, and will follow her to wherever Ziegler's waiting: "And then?" Gus continues staring ahead, in silence. So probably not a pizza party. "There's another way to play this," Mike offers. "If I can find him before the wife gets here, let me bring him in and finish what he started. His crew can't do it without him. If Ziegler disappears, you are left with the most expensive hole in the ground this side of the Mississippi." After a beat, Gus asks, "You can find him?" "This is on me, I'll fix it," Mike rumbles. Gus remains immobile.
Then Gus's SUV is squealing out of the parking lot as Mike gets back on the phone, tasking his team to start trying to track Ziegler via cab companies and hotels in the tri-state area. As he's saying it, he has an idea, and goes back into the TravelWire office, still on the phone as he requests a review of the transcript of Ziegler's last call with his wife. I know we're not doing webisodes anymore, as a culture, but I'd kind of love one in which Fred IMs a friend about the day's excitement and tries to create a Grand Unified Theory that encompasses all the data he's observed. I mean, transcript? Anyway, speaking of: remember how Margarethe's back was bothering her and she wanted to go to Baden-Baden for the hot springs when Ziegler returned? WELL, there are a bunch of hot springs in the American southwest, too, four of which are promoting themselves with brochures at this TravelWire location! Mike pulls one of each and takes off. "Hey, d'you find your brother-in-law, is he okay?" calls Fred. Alas, Fred will never know. Mike has to start calling these hot spring resorts...
...while Lalo watches him, through binoculars, from his car.
Then it's time for the law library dedication! Jimmy's camera crew is there to cover the event, and to lead Howard into an admission that, despite the rumours, it was not he who put up the money for this reading room to be named in Chuck's memory. As we hear other party guests conferring about their assumption that the "anonymous donor" named in the invitation referred to HHM, Make-Up Girl -- today serving as Cater Waiter -- rolls up and confidentially informs them that the donor was, in fact, Chuck's brother Jimmy: "I saw him write the cheque." Also in attendance is Rich, who greets Kim, comments on the size of the crowd ("They all came for Chuck," Kim smiles sadly), and asks about the scuttlebutt he just heard about Jimmy's generosity. Kim glances around a little and lowers her voice to fake-admit that Jimmy wants to remain anonymous. Rich nods admiringly and asks where he is, so he may say hello; Kim says he's around somewhere, and Rich soon spots him, hanging his head outside.
I'm not saying it's over the top, but he kind of looks like he's modeling for a stock photo series on anguish. "I guess even a year out, an event like this can be tough," Rich comments. Kim dips her chin and excuses herself to go check on Jimmy, deliberately clapping a hand on his back as she tells him it's almost time for him to come back in. Jimmy exposits that this scheme cost him $23,000, and sounds like he's not sure it was worth it: "I don't even see anyone from the Bar Association in there." Kim says they still have almost a week: "Someone on the board will hear about this -- and they'll believe it, because they heard it from a colleague." Jimmy gets it, but has had another thought, and sits Kim down to run it by her: what if a judge is in her chambers when she realizes her clerk's chamber is on fire, and she's saved from immolation by Jimmy McGill?! He grants, before she can be bothered to take seriously his plot to commit ARSON, that it's "too big," and is also not useful for him if his main object is to "come back from 'insincere.'" Kim is quietly relieved that he figured this out on his own. Then it's time for them to go back in, and Jimmy expresses eagerness to get in on some of "those little hamburgers." Kim very briefly shakes her head, and Jimmy corrects himself: "I'm allowed to pay for the food, but I'm too sad to eat." Can't relate.
Mike's driving when he gets a hit on the phone -- but his victory is short-lived, as he notices the car behind him. Mike quickly shoots down a side street to confirm, though he doesn't know who Lalo is, that its driver is definitely following him. Immediately, Mike pulls out a pack of gum, chewing a piece, pulls into a paid parking lot with a ticket machine, parks, watches Lalo pull in as well, and chews up a second piece of gum. We see at this point that he's laid the first wrapper on the seat next to him, and presently he spits out his gum and presses it flat between the two wrappers. Mike watches over his shoulder as some bald guy behind him gets into his car; Mike backs out before Baldy can so that (a) Mike beats him to the exit, and (b) Baldy gets between his car and Lalo's. Mike then takes his gum wrapper ticket and slides it into the machine at the exit gate, and we get a classic object's-eye view as Mike's Doublemint literally gums up the works. Mike then goes along on his merry way, leaving poor Baldy to struggle with the machine. Naturally, Lalo is not about waiting his turn and pushes Baldy through the gate, but Mike is already long gone. Lalo thought he had a good grip on Mike, but it turns out he's [sunglasses] very Wrigley. YEAAAAAAAAAH!
Then we're in the HHM conference room, where Howard (at the head of the table), Jimmy, and a bunch of jerks we don't know are quietly flipping through papers. Soon it becomes clear that they've gathered to interview candidates for the scholarship Chuck endowed in his will, as Howard brings in a succession of high school nerds -- a class president, a Model UN delegate, a debate team captain, etc. -- wearing their best teen versions of business casual attire, though the camera cuts each one off just as they get out their first few syllables of cheery self-promotion.
When it's over, Howard tabulates votes written on slips of yellow legal pad paper -- apparently not for the first time, as he says "Things are becoming much clearer now." Julie, his assistant, pokes her head in to ask if she may send the applicants home, which is when we learn that, if nothing else, the unsuccessful candidates at least got lunch on HHM (or Chuck's estate) out of it. "Did they all get the--?" Howard asks, miming holding something by a handle; Julie says they did.
Howard is PSYCHED. He goes on to read out the vote counts; a Christy Esposito has earned just one vote. Jimmy sets his jaw. Howard recaps (leave it to the professionals) that they have three scholarships and three frontrunners, so he's set to make a final determination, unless there's any more discussion to be had. Jimmy looks so disgruntled that Howard can't help noticing and asking him what's up, so Jimmy says that he was the one vote for Christy, and that he thinks they should reconsider her. "Esposito -- that's the shoplifter," says the woman seated next to Jimmy. "The shoplifter," Jimmy repeats, already defeated. "That's right." He points out that her grades are good -- not the best of the applicants they considered, but still good -- she has solid recommendations, and though he can't discount her shoplifting incident, "she was new in town, she made some bad choices, and that was sophomore year; she's had two really strong years since then." He also draws the group's attention to Christy's eloquent personal essay, in which she wrote about her experience getting caught shoplifting and how it led her to get interested in the law. He goes into his summation: "My point is that maybe someone who's been in trouble, someone who doesn't have a perfect record -- you know, who's made mistakes and faced the consequences -- maybe she brings something that the others don't. I think that deserves real consideration." HMMM WHY ON EARTH WOULD SUCH AN APPLICANT RESONATE WITH JIMMY IN PARTICULAR is something no one present cares to ask, sincerely or sarcastically. Howard tells Jimmy, "You make a hell of an argument," and actually seems sincere in saying it -- or maybe he's just skilled at acting sincere, which we all now know is very important for an attorney. "How about we take another vote?" Orrrrrrr maybe he just figures he'll let the baby have his bottle because he knows Jimmy hasn't convinced anyone, nor will he.
Cut to an HHM tote bag on the arm of a girl trudging away from the building, and man, Howard's dorky thrill at being able to bestow this gift on all the Little McGill Urban Achievers humanizes him more than almost anything we've seen him do in four seasons. Even before Jimmy runs up to catch her, we may guess this is Christy based on her outfit: she's in dark pants (possibly jeans) and a t-shirt printed with cartoon garden gnomes -- nothing like the Men's Wearhouse and Ann Taylor Loft lewks all the other candidates showed up in. Anyway: when he gets her to stop, Jimmy introduces himself and says they met inside. She smiles, obviously thinking he's come out to give her good news, so he does the decent thing by not prolonging her misapprehension: "You didn't get it." Her face falls. "You were never gonna get it," he continues. "They-- They dangle these things in front of you, they tell you you've got a chance, but, I'm sorry, it's a lie, because they had already made up their mind, and they knew what they were gonna do before you walked in the door."
Christy's not really sure how to react as Jimmy goes on with his monologue, saying "they" can't see there's more to her than her mistake and so forth, because she doesn't watch the show and therefore doesn't get that Jimmy's mostly talking about himself right now: "And I'm not just talking about the scholarship here, I'm talking about everything. I mean, they'll smile at you, they'll pat you on the head, but they are never, ever letting you in. But listen. Listen! It doesn't matter. It doesn't. Because you don't need them! They're not going to give it to you? So what. You're going to take it. You're going to do whatever it takes, do you hear me? You are not gonna play by the rules. You're gonna go your own way, you're gonna do what they won't do! You're gonna be smart, you are gonna cut corners, and you are gonna win. They're on the thirty-fifth floor? You're gonna be on the fiftieth floor. You're gonna be looking down on them. And the higher you rise, the more they're gonna hate you. Good. GOOD, you rub their noses in it! You make them suffer. 'Cause you don't matter all that much to them. So what? So what. Screw them. Remember: the winner takes it all." Based on Christy's horrified expression, Jimmy should apologize if he made her feel bad seeing him so tense. After a moment, she tells him she has to go get her bus. Jimmy scoffs in shock and, before he releases her, asks if she understands what he's telling her. "Yes," she says firmly, either because she does or because she wants to get away from this extremely intense fortysomething male stranger. "I think I do." Whichever it is, it works, Jimmy telling her, "Go get 'em." The camera gives us a brief shot of her walking -- not running -- away from Jimmy, pausing to look back and give him a brief nod. I wish it followed her to a CVS so we could watch her fill her pockets with Post-Its and nail polish because this is the first day of the rest of her life of crime.
Jimmy heads from this meeting with his mentee to the parking lot. But some of the impact of his big Knute Rockne moment dissipates when his car won't start. He pounds the wheel, screaming, "DAMMIT! DAMMIT!," before breaking down in tears, whimpering, "No, no, no." Jimmy's Esteem may have survived far longer than it probably should have, but it feels grimly appropriate that a dark cavern under HHM should be where it finally expires for good.
Cut to the good old 4th Street TravelWire office, where the Elite Meet To Find A German Skilled At Deceit. Lalo gets out of his car and heads in, tucking his gun into the back of his jeans. Lalo may not have all the facts regarding Mike's investigation, but he does have a lot of Big Dick Energy...
...which could be more than enough to get Fred to fill in the gaps in his story. Lalo starts by describing his bald friend who came in earlier, and of course Fred remembers, asking whether they found Lalo's friend's brother-in-law. Lalo was so unprepared to hear that cover story that he keeps his grin on just a tiny bit too long before switching to an expression more fitting for the situation, saying they haven't found him yet: "We're really worried." Fred's sorry to hear it. Lalo was wondering if there was something his friend missed. Fred seems like he's starting to get a bit nervous about all this as he says he showed Mike everything he had. Lalo smiles winningly: "Show me what you showed him." Fred hesitates before suggesting that maybe Lalo should call Mike. Lalo claims he did, and that Mike told him to come back and take another look. Warily, Fred says he can't show him: "You'd better just call the police." Lalo smiles and nods, and Fred is probably very relieved to get a phone call just then. He turns away to tell the caller where the location is and what their hours are, and when he turns back around, Lalo has vanished...but the sign on the door has been turned around to tell customers they're closed, and one of the panels in the drop ceiling is askew. Fred looks up to follow the noises of someone crawling around above him, but it doesn't take long for Lalo to drop in -- landing on his feet like a motherfucking cat, by the way -- and point his gun at a terrified Fred.
Then Lalo's watching Mike's interaction, a printout of Ziegler's transaction on the desk next to the keyboard so we can see that, aw, the test question they set was "What type of pet do you have?" (answer: dog), and that, in the message field, Margarethe wrote "Schatz!" -- not because she's a big fan of the episode's timeline's current state house rep for Hawaii's 25th district, but because it's the German word for "Treasure." NO, YOU'RE CRYING. Beyond the printout, we see Fred's legs on the floor, toes down, so I guess Fred is driving Jimmy's Esteem with the angels now. With panel crumbs still in his hair, Lalo impatiently waves off a would-be customer while intently watching the footage of Mike coming back in and plucking out brochures. Lalo looks at the actual rack of brochures. He smirks. He's hot. Sorry.
Cut to a drink with a big hunk of lime in it, sweating on a poolside table. Blindly, a hand reaches out for it, and soon we see the hand belongs to Ziegler, who's folded a cloth napkin over his eyes and opened his aloha shirt to the sky. As a fellow pasty, I'm going to estimate his time of exposure to the southwest sun to be less than three minutes, since he's still alive. Presently, a uniformed server comes out to say there's a call for him, and when the shot changes to show her in the background, we see that Ziegler's vacation look also includes navy mid-calf socks in teal Crocs. Schatz! Excitedly, Ziegler hops up to get his call from Margarethe -- who else? -- and starts right in with the German when he picks up the receiver, asking if she's landed. "Is this Werner?" asks Lalo in English. Ziegler's face falls and, puzzled by the unfamiliar voice, he says it is, asking who's calling. Lalo claims he's contacting Ziegler on behalf of Gus. Ziegler sucks his cheeks in resignation before asking if Gus is "very upset." "What do you think?" Lalo hedges. Ziegler asks Lalo to tell Gus that the work will continue, adding that the letter he left for "Michael" explained everything. Lalo says that "Michael" hasn't shared it with Gus. Anxiously, Ziegler insists that his workers will be able to continue the work if they just follow the specific instructions he left: "Ask Michael!" "Michael," Lalo thoughtfully repeats. "Michael's very busy. He asked me to speak with you. Do you remember what your instructions were?" "Certainly," says Ziegler. Jimmy should be taking sincerity lessons from Ziegler, whose trusting spirit is breaking my heart. "They are to finish clearing the debris, then begin the south wall!" he says. "That's the south wall?" Lalo checks. "The south wall, yes," Ziegler repeats, starting to twig that something is amiss. "The concrete is standing by. They can start pouring. It's very straightforward. Kai will kn--" But before he can even get the entire phoneme out, Mike is smacking one hand on Ziegler's arm and grabbing the receiver away with the other, just in time to hear Lalo say, "The concrete -- sorry, I didn't get that last part. Could you repeat that?" Mike holds the phone and waits. Lalo says Ziegler's name a few times, and when he gets no answer, he smiles and guesses, "Michael. Is that you?" Mike sneers at the phone and hangs up before turning toward Ziegler. Somehow thinking they might still have the same relationship they did before, Ziegler casually starts apologizing, but Mike cuts him off: "Get dressed." "Michael--" Ziegler attempts, but Mike interrupts him again: "I don't want to hear another damn word out of you. Go." Ziegler shifts his weight back and forth a bit like he's considering a third attempt, but ultimately decides against it and wanders off to gather his Crocs and cabana wear.
Jimmy has made it home, without Esteem, sighing heavily before tossing his keys in a dish next to Kim's. She's at the kitchen counter with a legal pad and eight or ten index cards on which she's written big concepts in Sharpie, and when Jimmy arrives at her side, she explains how she's arranged them: "The problem might've been starting with remorse, so I'm trying to work into it more gradually -- The Law, Plans, then Remorse, then Brother, then Legacy. What do you think?" Jimmy has no response, and when Kim asks if he's okay, he doesn't tell her about the demise of his Esteem. She asks about his meeting, and he shorthands that they gave scholarships to "three very bright young people." Only barely interested, Kim chirps, "Good," and returns to Jimmy's appeal prep, indicating what she's written on the legal pad: "I know it's a lot, but this is one time you do not want to wing it." It's not as if she doesn't know he's good at thinking on his feet, but the stakes here are very high, and she's so pragmatic. "Yeah," Jimmy breathes. Kim studies his face, trying to keep him from despondency: "Jimmy, the hard part's done. Reading room? Scholarship? Cemetery? By now they've got to have heard about some of it. We set up the dominoes, now you just knock 'em down." Jimmy shakes his dead and mumbles, "I can say whatever I want. To the board, I'm still 'that guy.'" "Well, you've got to say something," Kim tells him. Jimmy then has an epiphany, musing, "What if--" and then strides quickly into the bedroom, where he opens a fat book and extracts a folded piece of paper, which he unfolds for Kim, who's followed him in. "What if Chuck does the talking for me?" Kim doesn't look thrilled that he's passing on work she probably spent hours doing...or possibly that he's returning to work she already did???
After dark, Mike's old man sedan parks on a lonely piece of land, the lights of a city behind him. Leaving his headlights on, he orders Ziegler, "Stay here," and walks a few yards away to call Gus and say, "I got 'im." To Gus's question, he says they're "out by an old raceway off 55, about eight miles north of San Ysidro." We cut to an overhead shot of Gus, illuminated by a single lamp on his desk, as he asks where Ziegler was; Mike tells him it was a motel called Dulce Vega Hot Springs, which has to be where Margarethe's headed. Gus is silent, so Mike adds, "Something else....When I found him, he was on the phone with an interested party pretending to be one of your guys." Gus blinks slowly and asks what Ziegler told him. "Nothing useful," Mike replies. Gus asks if he's "certain," and Mike firmly says, "Yes. You have any idea who it was?" "I do," says Gus. Without bothering to wait for Gus to volunteer a name -- if Mike doesn't understand what is and is not within his pay grade, literally no one does or ever has -- Mike says, "I'll bring him in now." "No," says Gus. "Keep him there. Wait." Which is when we think back to their conversation in the SUV outside the TravelWire, where Mike offered to retrieve Ziegler rather than have Gus's guys track and kill him, and realize that we only saw Gus ask if Mike thought he could find Ziegler, not say that if he did he'd agree to let Ziegler live. Whoops. After a long beat, Mike quietly offers, "I'd go another way." "That I know," says Gus. Mike shakes his head just a little before pushing his luck: "That'd be a mistake." "This discussion serves no purpose," says Gus. Mike stops talking. "Wait where you are," Gus orders. Mike turns around to the car; all we can make out is the arm of Ziegler's glasses glinting in the moonlight. Mike turns back and tells Gus, "I'll take care of it." "Are you sure," says Gus, knowing the answer. "Yes," says Mike quietly. Without signing off, Gus crisply snaps his phone shut. On the other end, Mike realizes he's alone and closes his phone too, breathing, "Aw, dammit."
This is...so rough. Like, I'm not sure how I'm going to get through it a second time. But here we go. Mike walks over to the car and slaps the hood a couple of times, ordering Ziegler, "Get out." The two stand half a dozen feet apart in front of the headlights, Mike so angry at Ziegler for putting him in this position that he barks at him to say what he thought was going to happen after this stunt. "I thought I would come back and my friend Michael would be very, very angry, but in time, he would understand and forgive!" The biggest heartbreak comes from the fact that HE'S NOT ACTUALLY WRONG: his friend Michael was very, very angry, but he immediately understood and was prepared to forgive! But since Ziegler never met his real boss, he had no way to think through what the ultimate consequences would be, which is what Mike must wistfully remind him: "It was never up to me." Ziegler, still confident, starts apologizing, promising to repair what he broke "with [his] own hands," but imploring that Margarethe will be at the motel soon: "Please, take me back there. Let us be together for a little, ah? Let her see me and know everything is okay." Mike can't take it and turns around to avoid looking at Ziegler's cajoling face, which Ziegler mistakes for a sign that Mike is about to relent. "I go back now, I go back in the morning, what difference can it make?" "It's not going to happen," says Mike. This poor bastard has so little idea of what he's actually dealing with that he asks to explain the situation to Gus himself -- "I will make him understand" -- but Mike curtly tells him he may not. Ziegler tries to argue, but Mike emphatically tells him, "Nothing you could say or do will make anyone trust you again."
Ziegler cocks his head, the absolutes in Mike's choice of words finally penetrating Ziegler's loquacious defenses. "I will go home," says Ziegler throatily. "I will never breathe a word of this, ever. The money? I'll give all of it back. I will tell no one, I swear. It will be as if none of this ever happened. Please, Michael. You know I will keep silent -- you know it. Please." Ignoring this offer, Mike asks, "Does your wife have a cell phone with her?" Ziegler says she does. "I need you to call her now," Mike tells him. "She landed an hour ago." "She knows nothing," Ziegler wheedles. "You need to keep it that way," Mike tells him urgently. "She's being followed." Ziegler is aghast. "She goes back to the airport, nothing'll happen to her," Mike promises. (It may be worth noting that we never saw Gus agree to these terms, either.) "Surely they could not -- they would not!" Ziegler sputters. Mike tells him to pull himself together. Ziegler reaches out for Mike to give him his phone, but Mike has to tell him to calm down first: "She can't suspect. It doesn't matter what you tell her, as long as she goes back where she belongs." With the dog!!!
Ziegler takes the phone and walks a few paces away, trying to slow his breath before Margarethe picks up, but he can't help sounding a little pressed as he tells her (in German, of course) that he has bad news: there's a problem at the site and he's been called back. She's worried that someone's been injured, but he assures her that's not it, and apparently she keeps babbling because he has to beg her to listen to him before saying, "I'm not at the motel. I'm not even in New Mexico. You're going to have to take the next flight home." When, we may reasonably assume, she protests, he gets increasingly anxious that the conversation is going on too long and barks, "Shut up, now! You must go back home....This is my work. I must do it. And I don't want to see you at all, Margarethe. I don't want to see you. So go back home! Immediately. Now!" This is some Margarethe And The Hendersons shit right here.
Ziegler hangs up and starts crying, anguished. Mike ambles over, asking, "Will she do it?" Ziegler says she was very angry, but that she will go home. Then he tries a new angle: "If she does not hear from me, she will ask questions. She will go to the police." "There'll be a story," Mike replies. "An accident. Lawyers will visit, German lawyers. Their questions will be answered." "This you swear?" Ziegler asks, sunk onto his haunches. "This I swear," Mike tells him. "And my men?" asks Ziegler. "They're going home," Mike rumbles. "They're okay. They're trusted." The first time I watched the scene, that last remark struck me as a little mean, but since it now seems like this is the point where Ziegler is accepting the situation, I can appreciate that Mike recognizes Ziegler's fatherly feeling for his men, and that Ziegler would be relieved to know his recklessness didn't put them in peril for their association with him. He straightens up. "Is there no other way, truly?" asks Ziegler despairingly, knowing the answer. Mike looks away, lacking the voice to answer. Ziegler comes closer, gazes into Mike's face for a moment, and then looks up: "There are so many stars visible in New Mexico. I will walk out there to get a better look." Schaaaaaaaaaaatz. We can't see Mike's face clearly, but based on the motion in his throat, I think he's crying as much as I am. Ziegler steps past Mike into the dark. Mike waits a moment, turns, and follows, several yards behind, the gun in his hand reflecting the moonlight. Ziegler chooses a spot and stops, looking up. Mike also stops, and shoots him in the back of the head. It's very sad. But also...
Sometime later, Gus brings Gale to see the Superlab, in progress. (Not that much later: it's still basically just a dusty hole in the ground.) Presumably Gale had visited at some earlier stage of excavation or possibly just been briefed about the plan, because he is extremely effusive about what a feat of architecture it is: "I can work with this! I mean, it's not exactly what we talked about, but it has possibilities -- even unfinished!" He notes that ventilation will be the biggest issue at its current state of development, but that he could do "a rudimentary cook" in there. "Not until it is ready," Gus intones. Gale is like, uh, of course: "We only want to do it if it's done right. I was just exploring the possibilities." Gus is, for reasons we know but Gale doesn't, in no mood to put on the pleasant brightness we usually see him employ with Gale, and the sensitive Gale can't help picking up on that, telling Gus's stony face that he's just...going to go.......up, and check the........... Gus continues giving him nothing, so Gale scuttles off up the stairs -- at the top of which he sees Mike. He chirps a greeting that lets us know these two haven't met before, but Mike isn't here to make friends either, so Gale continues on his path into daylight. But even when they're alone, Gus and Mike don't speak (nor need to, I suppose), just gazing at each other through the dusk.
Then it's Jimmy and Kim's big day, and we join them briskly walking into the bland government building where his appeal hearing is about to take place. (Kim doesn't have a purse, which is weird? Maybe Schweikart is right across the street.) They're silent walking through the building and up the stairs, and tensely wait their turn by some vending machines, which is when Kim is finally the first to speak: "Where do you have it?" Jimmy pats his breast pocket and says, "This ought to do it. Chuck wrote a good letter, huh?" "Chuck wrote a great letter," Kim agrees, without the slightest guilty hesitation or sidelong look for the Kim letter truthers among us (hi). After a beat, she haltingly adds, "It's not just the words, though, you know? It's how you read them?" Jimmy doesn't reply, though he looks slightly annoyed that she still seems to think he needs a sincerity coach. "Jimmy, whatever happens in there, I'm with you," Kim tells him.
Jimmy is visibly surprised by this affirmation, giving her an eyebrow pop suggesting that he may think the office is back in play, and a half-smile to let her know they're okay if it's not.
And then they're in the hearing room (the same one from "Chicanery," by the way). Jimmy stands at a podium before a panel of four judges. A curly-haired woman second from right -- and if this actor, Colleen Flynn, looks or sounds familiar, it's because she played the pregnant woman in that brutal Season 1 ER episode "Love's Labor Lost," with Bradley Whitford (you know the one) -- exposits that they've reviewed all the materials he'd presented to the review committee, as well as that committee's findings, so all that remains is for him to make his prepared statement. Jimmy says he doesn't have one, and instead pulls out Chuck's letter, explaining its provenance. He clears his throat maaaaaybe a bit stagily, and starts to read the letter, obviously much more soulfully than when he first did so back in "Something Beautiful." (Kim, sitting behind him, is misty-eyed straight out of the gate, which finally convinces me, at least, that she really didn't write it.) At "the spirit in which they are intended," Jimmy notices that Judge Colleen Flynn is bored and shuffling papers -- kind of like the scholarship reviewers in that HHM conference room, and kind of like they had already made up their mind, and they knew what they were gonna do before he walked in the door. Jimmy persists through Chuck's recollection of the day their mother brought Jimmy home from the hospital and that Chuck never saw her happier, and then stops. Kim, hopeful, watches the back of his head. After a full fifteen seconds, Jimmy hoarsely says, "I'm sorry, I can't do this."
The shot cuts to Kim, deflating, so that we know this wasn't part of the plan. Chuckling a little at himself, Jimmy holds up the letter and admits, "I was going to try to move you all with my brother's eloquent words -- you know, pull on your heartstrings -- but it's not right. This letter's between me and him, and it should stay that way." This gets him a big deep breath from Kim, looking more confident now. Jimmy chuckles a little again as he draws the judges in by saying they all knew Chuck: "He loved me in his own way. He loved me as a brother. He did not love me as a lawyer." Uh oh, he's losing Kim again; she gives this a long blink. Jimmy says Chuck was "a big reason" he became a lawyer: "He was the most brilliant man I ever knew. And an incredible lawyer, you know?...And all my life, I wanted to make him proud. And he was not an easy man to make proud." On the panel, the judges smile with fond recognition. Jimmy describes how rare and special it was to make Chuck proud while, behind him, Kim beams her pride at Jimmy. As he talks about Chuck's unwillingness to suffer fools and how judgmental he could be, Kim nods to herself, with faint surprise and much relief at Jimmy's change of approach. "Could be a real son of a bitch," Jimmy adds, of Chuck. Judge Colleen Flynn snickers. "Chuck was the one who was always right -- always," says Jimmy. "And usually, he was, you know? So for a guy like me -- I did lousy in school, I lacked ambition, I always cut corners -- I mean, for me to live up to the standards of Charles McGill?" He makes a noise halfway between a chuckle and a sob. "I mean, look at me. I'll never be as moral as him. I'll never be as smart, I'll never be as respected. I'll never be as good as Chuck." By now Jimmy's tearing up: "But I can try. I can try. If you decide that I get to be a lawyer? I'll do everything in my power to be worthy of the name McGill." Kim smiles through tears. "And if you decide I'm not a lawyer?" Jimmy continues. "Doesn't matter. I'll still try to be the best man that I can be. I'm lucky. I got this letter. I never had a chance to write him a letter, and to tell him all the things that I should've. I've gotta believe that somehow-- somehow, he knows." After a moment, Jimmy collects himself and says, "That'll have to do it for me." This self-deprecation is cute because it'll definitely "do it" for him: all the judges look like they're about to start bawling. Kim has to flick a tear away from the corner of her eye before Jimmy takes the seat next to hers.
And in the hall afterward, Kim drapes herself over Jimmy, squealing, "I knew you could do it! I knew you had it in you....They have to reinstate you!" "Uh, yeah, did you see those suckers?" cracks Jimmy. "That one asshole was crying, he had actual tears! Jesus, Kim!"
Jimmy is so psyched that he doesn't realize Kim has stopped dead and is no longer excited because, whoops, she thought what she was witnessing was the breakthrough she's been waiting for all season -- for Jimmy to acknowledge and deal with his true feelings about Chuck -- but instead, she's just witnessed the most remarkable performance of Slippin' Jimmy's career. He's so wired on the adrenaline of this victory that even as he walks Kim through the various calculations that went into the display she just saw, he doesn't notice that she looks like she's about to barf. "I just went off on this flow!" he gloats. "I had this energy going through me, it was like improv or jazz, and then BOOM, I sunk the hook in!" He gets back into character to relive a highlight: "'I'm so lucky. I have this letter.' GOD, I could see The Matrix, you know? I was invincible! I could dodge bullets, baby! And you were right. You were right. It was all about Chuck. The whole time!" Kim doesn't get a chance to disclaim credit for Jimmy's spectacular Slip, because an assistant appears behind her to give him some good news. "Believe me, I already know," says Jimmy, since there's obviously no reason for him to continue acting bereaved. The assistant asks him to come to the office with her to fill out some paperwork, and he's busting to do it: "Oh, and sweetheart, I'm going to need one more form -- a dba, because I'm not going to be practising under the name McGill." Is there any better proof that Jimmy should be a lawyer than that it took him less than ten minutes to slide through the loophole of his promise to live up to the name McGill? Jimmy's already on his way when Kim manages to sputter out a question about him abandoning Legacy. Jimmy turns, shit-eating grin firmly in place, and makes history: