Better Call Saul Makes Kim Choose A Side
We get a new perspective on what kind of lawyer she wants to be, but then, apparently so does she.
When I think back on the first season of Better Call Saul, the episode I remember as the toughest, most searing, and most important was the ninth, "Pimento." That's the one in which Jimmy figured out that it wasn't Howard who'd destroyed his hopes of joining HHM as a lawyer; it was Chuck, and Jimmy had to tell him he knew it, in what I still think was one of the show's best scenes, period. I don't know yet whether the same season arc will turn out to be true after next week, and this season's ninth episode ("Nailed") will turn out to have been the most pivotal; Kim's story this week makes me think it could be.
It's time for a compliance hearing regarding a new Mesa Verde bank branch, and even though Howard points out to Chuck that it should be pretty routine and nothing Howard can't handle, Chuck insists on appearing in person -- as he should; it's the firm's first opportunity to show Mesa Verde, after last week's wrangling, that it made the right choice going with HHM instead of Kim. And as far as anyone can tell, the first thing Chuck does is shit the bed, as the discrepancy between the address Mesa Verde wants to build on and the one in all the filings is raised by an aide. Maybe not even Jimmy could have hoped things would go as well/badly as they do: not only does Chuck look incompetent for transposing digits in his work, but when Paige and Kevin give him the correct information, he tells them they are wrong, which makes him look hostile on top of it. Jimmy does an excellent job looking surprised when Paige calls Kim to give her the business after all, and then both he and Kim are actually surprised when, immediately afterward, Chuck has Ernesto call Kim and tell her he's ready to give her the files.
Before long, we're back in Chuck's dim living room, just as we were in the ninth episode last season, for a very emotional conversation -- which, since lawyers are having it, is also impeccably argued on all sides. Chuck lays out precisely what Jimmy did to sabotage him, right down to his sneaking back into Chuck's house the morning of the hearing to cover his tracks by putting the right documents back in their proper places. Jimmy -- who's joined Kim ostensibly to help shift the boxes, but secondarily because it's his turn to "bear witness" -- denies everything: "I did all this, what -- for some business?"
It seems clear Kim knows Chuck isn't wrong. Chuck has a charge for Kim he's pretty sure someone as ethical as she will not be able to ignore.
When Jimmy protests -- possibly because he thinks Chuck's calculated Kim's reaction correctly -- Chuck turns on him for, among other things, having "deceived and ruined this fine young woman."
Kim can, of course, speak for herself, and does, calmly telling Chuck that he's making serious allegations that, were she to repeat them, could put Jimmy at risk of being charged with "forgery, fraud, falsifying evidence -- even breaking and entering." Chuck claims to be sick about it, "but facts are facts."
Chuck cites having known Jimmy all his life, but Kim thinks there's a simpler explanation: "You made a mistake....You're working by lantern light, squinting over 10-point type for hour after hour. Mistakenly changing 1261 to 1216 would be the most natural thing in the world; it could certainly happen to me." Chuck yells back that he didn't make a mistake, to which Kim replies that she thinks he did: "I know he's not perfect, and I know he cuts corners. But you're the one who made him this way."
The editing treats that speech as the mic drop it is, and we cut outside to see Kim and Jimmy alone.
I guess the punch (and the...several more that follow -- which, judging by Jimmy's reaction, are all legit) was deemed necessary to make sure we all knew that, despite Kim's defense of Jimmy inside, she knew the truth. In my opinion, Rhea Seehorn's eyes, glittering with disappointment and rage in the middle of her otherwise placid face, got that across just fine.
While I was watching the episode, I thought that scene was That Moment -- Kim, confronted by a pretty credible story about Jimmy's perfidy, has to make a near-immediate decision about which is more important to her: being the kind of lawyer she keeps telling Jimmy she wants to be and following up on Chuck's claims; or ignoring the fairly obvious truth because it means she gets to keep a big client. (Wanting to keep Jimmy out of prison because she loves him is, I think, in the mix, but it's not top of mind.) Kim's need to safeguard her professional integrity, occasional grifting "slips" notwithstanding, has been driving her throughout the season, so for her to find the loophole in Chuck's accusation -- the lack of evidence in his circumstantial case against his brother -- is certainly the Jimmier response.
But then Kim's offscreen for a while and we don't see her again until Jimmy joins her in bed, where she's working on some Mesa Verde business and updates him on her plans for the immediate future. Jimmy asks whether she wants to talk about what happened at Chuck's -- bravely, since she is polite but extremely cold -- but she doesn't: "Not now, not ever." Jimmy tells her she and Mesa Verde were destined for one another, and when Kim doesn't respond, he says goodnight and rolls over. But Kim has more to say.
In a flash, Jimmy's out of bed and off to tie up the one loose end he left, but it looks like it might be too late: when he gets to the copy shop, he sees that Ernesto's already in there, talking to Lance, the same clerk who was working the graveyard shift when Jimmy came in to complete his art project, but when Ernesto leaves to retrieve Chuck for a follow-up interview, Jimmy makes his move, buying both Lance's silence and a pledge that he'll erase the security footage showing Jimmy was there on this particular night. Jimmy's actions to secure the gift he gave one of the most important people in his life, however, lead indirectly to harm of another.
Just like Mike over in his Salamanca revenge plot, Jimmy's now going to have to grapple with the physical consequences of what had seemed like a tidy and bloodless plan. And both he and Kim are going to have to think about what it means for each and for both of them that, this time, Kim out-Jimmied Jimmy.