Better Call Saul Splits The Difference
A time jump sees Kim maaaybe preparing to cast off more than her injury when Huell gets in trouble, and work hits snags on two fronts for Gus, in our EPIC OLD-SCHOOL RECAP of S04.E07, 'Something Stupid.'
Fade up on the lefthand side of a split screen, Kim and Jimmy companionably brushing their teeth. Kim spousily holds out her brush for paste and Jimmy just as spousily pastes it. The righthand side of the screen fades up on the same tableau, but on a different day, with Kim in a different tank top, and although it certainly is not a Bring It On homage, as it is not blocked the same way and contains none of the same elements save a blonde actor, I will enjoy the referent memory regardless.
A song begins whose opening arpeggio is reminiscent of the one in Better Call Saul's own credit sequence, but this is Frank and Nancy Sinatra's "Something Stupid" (drink!), and as the Sinatrae croon about standing in line until "you have the time to spend an evening with me," Kim oversees the paralegals carting out all her Mesa Verde files on the lefthand side of the split screen, and on the righthand side, Jimmy is chucking a spaldeen at the once-again-deserted CC Mobile.
At Schweikart & Cokely, a fancy formal nameplate is affixed to Kim's office door on the lefthand side; on the right, Jimmy turns the CC Mobile door sign to "Back In A Jiff!" while scanning the parking lot. We see his new business cards, which have a real number on them (anyone tried to call it? report back in the comments!) but his Saul "dba" name.
The Sinatrae worry that they've spoiled it all "by saying something stupid like 'I love you'" as Kim unpacks in her new office on the lefthand side, and on the righthand side, Jimmy and Huell also unpack the stacks of burner phones from the storage room at the nail salon.
On the left, Kim time-lapses through some dictation, then opens a carefully wrapped box from Mesa Verde -- an acrylic minor-awardsy-looking iteration of Mesa Verde's looming lobby-art logo that commemorates her work on the Flagstaff branch. On the right, a drawer marked "PPD CASES - CURRENT" opens as Jimmy endures another meeting with his p.o. A dot matrix printer on that side locates us in time at June of 2003.
Next, the screen is both of them, eating dinner in companionable silence at the breakfast bar; Jimmy crosses the line (hee) to refill Kim's wineglass as she struggles to twirl spaghetti with her left hand.
The divider follows them to bed, where Kim slings a leg over it and Jimmy's leg.
Then we've got more brushing of teeth, but in this set of split screens, they don't both appear in both halves of the screen as before, and the brushing is out of phase.
On the left, a close-up of a plaster saw as Kim is cut out of her cast at last; on the right, Jimmy is juicing.
On the left, Kim reviews Mesa Verde infrastructure with Rick Schweikart, and the camera pans down to her newly freed hand doing strength exercises with a stress ball under the table; on the right, a sweatsuited Jimmy and Huell sell phones out of a van.
Left, Kim walks the courthouse halls with a time-lapse series of pro-bono clients; her hair is almost back to its previous academically smooth rolled ponytail. Right, Jimmy and Huell eat lunch in a rainstorm in the nearly empty van. Left, Kim and Oakley negotiate; right, a time-lapse parade of loud Jimmy sweatsuits as he does business. Left, Kim adds the Cheyenne branch to her MV tchotchke shelf; right, Jimmy's probation check-in, and by now, it's October.
Left, they eat Thai food together (complete with Jimmy's favorite tea), but not really together, as they're both reading and they're sitting farther apart than before.
Left, Kim is passed out under file folders in bed, while on the right, Jimmy snacks in front of the TV.
Left and right, they both brush their teeth, but this time they're shot with their backs to each other, and Kim rushes out while Jimmy is still brushing.
Left, the North Platte tchotchke is unpacked as, at right, a print-out informs us that it's now January of 2004. Kim's pony is back to full Kim.
Jimmy's case file goes into the "COMPLETED" drawer.
Left, Kim at her desk in her gorgeously appointed office, working alone with salad. Right, Jimmy eating cereal alone with his fish, whom he also feeds.
Back to the bed, where the screen is still split; Jimmy's asleep, facing to the right. Kim climbs in and settles on her side, facing to the left. Jimmy stirs, glancing over as if hoping she'll touch or acknowledge him in some way. She does not. As Jimmy stares into the middle distance on his side, her side fades to black.
…Oooooof. So effective, this sequence, in both executing the time jump and portraying a matter-of-fact pessimism about this relationship. Credits.
When we return, Jimmy is greeting the camera at the door of a house for rent, and begins giving a breathless tour of a prospective office suite for Wexler & McGill. It's four blocks from the courthouse! The partner bedro-- er, "office" has a view of cherry blossoms, and lots of natural light! He paces off the size of the room, saying with a "not really, but what can you do" shrug that it's "…pretty big." Jimmy mentions putting "one of those snazzy Keurigs" in the kitchenette, and we're meant to think he's pitching Kim, but when we switch over to Jimmy POV, we see he's actually testing the tour on Huell. Asked what he thinks, Huell's like, so no more phones, then. Jimmy sighs that this is the whole point of selling the phones -- "so if you were a lawyer, this would be a great place, right?" Huell's FOH face is worth a thousand words…
…but the extra word he throws in for good measure, "Nope!", is pretty good too. "Big glass high-rise, fortieth floor" is what Huell understands. "When I'm not on my boat," he adds.
Hector Salamanca is sitting up, struggling through neuro therapy in Spanish with Dr. Bruckner. He's doing a lot better than the last time we saw him, as he's able to indicate affirmatives by firmly tapping his right index finger (the bell finger, in other words). And he's doing a lot better than Dr. Bruckner probably realizes, because when a nurse comes through with his lunch, he takes the opportunity to "muscle-spasm" his cup of water onto the floor, the better to ogle the nurse and literally be a heavy breather while she's bent over mopping it up. …Cerdo.
In the car, Jimmy asks Kim if there's anyone in particular she wants him to talk to -- "or not talk to." She chuckles that he can talk to anyone: "Just have fun." She adds that he shouldn't worry, "they're gonna love you," and I had already started bracing for a work-cocktails meltdown horror at this point in the episode. Jimmy seems to agree, but once there, he's a convincing schmoozer, chatting up Kim's colleagues about their neckties and passing hors d'oeuvres. As work-party jazz tootles infernally outside, Jimmy heads into Kim's office and surveys it. He counts off the size of this room, and it's quite a bit larger; then he looks at Kim's battalion of Mesa Verde statuettes, and a framed thank-you note from a client who says "Ms. Wexler" believed in her when nobody else did.
The next shot is of a healthy amount of brown liquor covering the cubes in Jimmy's glass. He looks at Kim chit-chatting with Rick Schweikart, and then around at the swankosity of the S&C offices, before meeting her eye. She makes a tiny "come on over" head gesture, which we will all wish she hadn't, as Jimmy joins a convo about firm retreats. "Where we goin'?", he bellow-jokes just a little bit too loudly, but Rick's going with it, stage-whispering that it's employees only and explaining that he's thinking of "splashing out" on theirs this year, lest word get around he's a cheapskate. Kim and her associates mention Ten Thousand Waves and Carlsbad Caverns, but Rick thinks he's settled on Taos. Jimmy pointedly shrugs that Taos is…nice, and Rick tells him to feel free to jump in, so Jimmy "reluctantly" shares that the real "great" skiing is in Telluride. Rick is put off by the long drive, but Jimmy's like, that's part of the bonding adventure -- get a party bus, put Sound Of Music on the TVs, it's fun.
Whatever Jimmy's trying to do here -- impress Rick, or really Kim, with his knowledge of the posh waterfront; dick-swing Rick into overspending on a retreat nobody really wants to go on anyway -- he might have gotten by with it if he'd stopped there. But the DP didn't go close in on that highball glass for no reason, so we know he's not going to, and he doesn't, upping the ante by saying they need parkas. Everyone's like, well, yeah: Colorado, but Jimmy means custom parkas.
He goes into a fantasia about the sight of all of them cutting powder in their logo parkas and how great it is for "client development," and as Kim smiles tightly and claps a steadying "…k, wrap it up" hand on Jimmy's arm, Rick chuckles that Jimmy certainly doesn't think small. Kim thought they were safely clear, but after a short pause, Jimmy -- slightly slurrier now -- burbles, "You know what, shit -- Aspen." He's running down the many ways Aspen "is like Telluride on steroids" as other S&C-ers come up to the conversation to listen, winding up with the note that it's a "billionaires' playground," i.e. full of big-ticket clients. Rick isn't about it, noting that it's a nine-hour bus ride, but Jimmy makes airplane noises, goofing in a near shout that "I'm a private charter jehhhhht." Kim (who, not for nothing, is wearing a lot of makeup relative to what we've seen previously) shoots Rick an "eep" look to see how he's taking this; Rick is sourly eyeing Jimmy all "shut up, now they'll expect me to lay out for this." As Jimmy hollers, "Aspen, here we come!" and other associates murmur approvingly, Kim looks at Rick like, "Yeeeeahhhh sorry."
In the car home, there's a long silence before Kim grits, "Well, that was somethin'." "Yep," Jimmy grunts, looking queasy and sad. It looks like he's about to reach over to pat her knee, but instead he turns the radio on to a nice loud Breeders joint, "No Aloha"…which, if I'm taking the lyrics right, is about the singer taking off with a rock promoter and not saying goodbye. In other words, a woman choosing a guy who can help her career.
From that relatively subtle music cue to one centered squarely, but hilariously, on the nose, we cut to the superlab site, accompanied by Burl Ives crooning "Big Rock Candy Mountain." This presents as another time-burning excuse to give Jonathan Banks something to do, but the ensuing montage of the superlab excavation team loading into a laundry truck, de-trucking at the actual laundry, and heading through a maze of plastic sheeting and down into the underground site via a scaffolding system does give a useful sense of the layout of the project.
We also get a useful sense of Gus Fring's cooking, to wit: delicious and I want to get invited to his house, as a shot of whatever delightful clams en brudo concoction is voiced over by Dr. Bruckner reporting on Hector's progress. Gus says it all sounds quite positive, though his tone belies that, and he adds that she knows what he's going to ask. She does -- is it the Hector he knew? "That's almost a philosophical question" at this point, she says, returning to the fact that he's improving incrementally "almost every day." Gus absently fondles the point of the big knife he's using to chop herbs as Bruckner invites him to look at the evidence himself, producing a camcorder with the "especially productive session" on it that we saw earlier. Gus watches, and his face creases slightly when Hector pulls the water trick. Bruckner is burbling about focusing on hand mobility and faster response times, but when Hector knocks the water over on the tape, Gus asks if he's done that before. "That was likely involuntary movement," Bruckner says, looking back down at her chart, but Gus rewinds to watch it again. His face settles into a "well, something moved involuntarily, but it wasn't Hector's hand, amirite" expression. Bruckner frowns, "Do you think that was purposeful?"
Gus regards Hector's lech brow pop for a moment longer before turning to Bruckner to non-answer that she's done magnificent work. He goes on to note that he hears her clinic is almost finished, and hopes the work is to her specifications. She's very grateful, of course, for "the new wing" and all the patients it will allow her to help, and Gus takes that fork in the conversational road gladly to say he's kept her from those patients long enough; it's time to "delegate" Hector's care. She's nonplussed, asking if Gus is sure; Hector's progress "is very promising!" He could talk again, maybe even walk. Gus slides his eyes over to the TV screen -- but really, to us
-- all "yeah, that's exactly what I'd like to avoid, so: hard pass," and smooths that perhaps they should temper their expectations. Bruckner continues making "henh?" faces as Gus says the food is ready, and clicks off the TV.
At the superlab, Ziegler tells a hard-hatted Mike that finally it's almost time to pour the walls; they just have to set off one more blast. Mike is sub-thrilled with this information, as he thought they "were done with" that part of it, but Ziegler says not quite -- they have to clear a rock mass to make way for the elevator shaft. Sighing, Mike asks "how big a pop" Ziegler is talking about, but just then, shouts of "nein nein nein" rise from the workfloor below, and a worker in a loader boinks into a support beam, which crashes down through a workbench. Everyone freezes, horrified, as Ziegler facepalms and the driver of the loader creeps out of the cab, muttering what sounds like "farkakte." Once it's clear everyone's unharmed, it's okay to get pissy about the delay this will cause, and that shithead Kai is the first to get in Loader Guy's face, asking in German if he knows how long it'll take to fix that and snarling that maybe he likes it in this "hole," but the rest of them would like to go home. A scuffle ensues, broken up finally by Mike whistling and yelling, also in German, "Boys! Cool it!" Everyone stalks in different directions. Mike groans.
At the Saulby Van, Jimmy is preoccupied. A guy rolls up and orders three phones, blasting "Tracey Jane" (I don't think there's any significance here, aside from one rhyme about Al Capone that isn't actually terribly unusual in the hip-hop genre, but chime in if I missed a connection). After the transaction, Jimmy spots his reflection in the van's window, and is fussing with his hairline -- and pulling free another small handful of stress-loss hairs -- when another customer appears over his shoulder. Well, "customer" -- the guy produces one of Jimmy's Saul cards and asks if that's him. "That's right, uh, officer," Jimmy says. Unconcerned by Jimmy's making him, the cop says he got it off a drug dealer who got sprung that day, because he was using a drop phone Jimmy/Saul sold him. Jimmy is of course horrified that his side hustle contributed to any criminal activity.
jk, he could give a shit, to a possibly self-destructive degree; when asked if the pursuits of his customer base -- abetted by Jimmy's product -- bother him, he smarms that what his customers do with the phones after they buy them is their own business. The cop "asks" Jimmy a favor: move the van somewhere else, like in front of a supermarket in a fancy suburb. Jimmy might have considered moving, but the cop snarking that he's sure "soccer moms" could use some phones raises Jimmy's hackles, and he shrugs that he's got a permit and he's collecting sales tax, so the cop can kick rocks. The cop's like, so we do it the hard way?, and Jimmy's like, oh, so now's where you give me a bogue ticket for littering or plant something in the glove box, right? As this "debate" is escalating, Huell comes up the fence line, wearing headphones. He's got the zydeco up so loud, he doesn't hear the exchange; he only sees that a guy in civvies is getting in Jimmy's face. As he's approaching, Jimmy is gesturing around his ears for Huell to take the headphones off, hollering, "He's a cop!" but Huell doesn't hear him and goes ahead and clocks the cop with a bag of sammies. After he finally removes the phones and hears who he just hoagie-bombed, Huell's like, "Huh." Hee.
After the ad break, Jimmy is trying to negotiate Huell out of the cruiser he's currently chilling in the back seat of, arguing that Huell was only doing his job and couldn't know Cop was a cop. Cop isn't buying, especially since he arrested Huell three years ago, for pickpocketing. Of course he did. Jimmy's utterly disingenuous "reeeee-leeeee?" doesn't fly, nor the suggestion that Cop can't be sure it's the same guy, so Jimmy scrambles to say he was wrong, Cop was right, and he'll just move -- just let Huell go and skip the paperwork, right? Heh heh…heh? That also gets noped, and off Huell goes to central booking.
At Labworkerhaus, a worker snoozes in a recliner, his black Birks and various beer containers littered around him on the floor. Another guy smokes and plays solitaire. Kai is at the pinball machine, making bratty faces at it. Mike comes in and is greeted happily by Ziegler for his "happy hour." Mike looks around and says it doesn't look "so happy" to him, but Ziegler says -- after a brief translation struggle involving kindergarten -- that they'll feel better after naptime. Ziegler instructs Mike on the German pronunciation of the concept, and gets up to pour Mike a lager. Kai is behind the bar fixing himself another scotch, so he could have just pulled the pint, but Ziegler knows better than to ask that wad to do it, and sure enough, Kai grumbles auf Deutsch that naptime is "for old farts like you," adding under his breath that Mike's German sucks. Kai shuffles off. Ziegler chirps that he said Mike sounds "like a real Kraut." "How do you say 'bullshit'?" Mike asks. "Mmm: 'bullshit,'" Ziegler says without missing a beat. Hee. "Yeah -- that," Mike says, sipping his beer. Ziegler insists that Mike is one of them, and adds that, in German, his name comes from two words that mean "world-class strength." The "bullshit" bit is, I believe, true -- the closest analog auf Deutsch is, like, Pferdescheisse ("horse shit"), but I don't think German speakers say that and it kind of just means the literal thing, shit that came from a horse? But I don't think "Ehrmantraut" means what Ziegler says it does. Traut is "familiar." You could maybe get to "her man" from "ihr Mann"…? While the name might have A meaning, I can't quite get to Ziegler's translation from there. Then again, my German is...you know. Basically Pferdescheisse. I can tell you that Ziegler is close to "winner," for whatever that's worth.
None of it's worth much to Mike, who's like, whatever, where are we with the timeline. Ziegler stammers that, before they can continue, they'll have to rebuild the concrete form that got smithereened, and straighten the rebar. He's really sorry. He'll explain it to Gus. Mike tells him not to worry about that and asks if maybe they should send Kai back to Germany. Ziegler peeks over his shoulder at Kai before murmuring that that won't work; he's the best demolition man on the team. And he runs his mouth, but he's a good boy, "they all are." Mike grumps that maybe that's the problem, that they're boys, but Ziegler shrugs that you need young dudes for this work, and adds that they thought they'd be there for eight months -- but after six (I think?), the team can see the job isn't even half completed. Mike's done a great job providing for them in the Warehaus Hotel, but "you can't keep men locked away forever." They need fresh air, a change of scenery (some scenery period, really). Mike understands: "R&R." He has to explain the concept, but Ziegler agrees that that's what they need. They toast, presumably not to the upcoming Superlab Warehaus "company retreat" that is pretty much guaranteed to go pear-shaped despite Mike's best-laid plans.
In a courtroom hallway, Huell is lamenting that they're going to try to give him two and a half years. Jimmy tries to jolly him, saying they always go for the max, the cop's "just a burnout," et cetera, but Huell's not having it and announces, "I'm-a bounce." Bad call, Jimmy says, he'll have a warrant then, and it's no way to live, always looking over his shoulder. He'll get caught eventually for some dumb thing like a busted taillight. Huell isn't convinced by this Gene pre-jà-vu moment: "They didn't get DB Cooper!" Aw, thanks, show. I love you too. Jimmy sits beside him and asks for a "shot at this" -- what if he could get Huell no time? Huell confirms that "never" going to prison is what it's going to take to keep him in town, and Jimmy slightly less confidently says sure, fine, "never -- just don't skip!" Huell reminds him he's not even an attorney currently, and Jimmy snorts that he doesn't need to be a lawyer: "I'm a magic man."
But behind every magic man is his pragmatic woman, as we next see Jimmy in the S&C reception area, nervously drumming his fingers. Cut to Jimmy explaining that he'd help Huell himself, but he doesn't think Huell will wait a month for Jimmy to get reinstated. Kim's back on another part of the story: "Wait -- you've been selling drop phones? On the street?" At her dubious squint, Jimmy starts to tell her to focus on the part where he's not 1) a shadeball and 2) basically why Huell's in this fix at all, and he sits beside her to launch into his plan. As he starts talking about the "recon" he did on the cop, Kim drops her gaze and looks a million miles away.
The cop has a DUI, Jimmy says, and he's sure the guy has "anger issues," so the plan is to "get him smelling like a distillery" and "piss him off" in court. He's nattering on about "engineering" a stumble in court and getting the case dismissed, and when he wraps it up, Kim looks stricken. Speechless, she tries to force out a syllable, then tries again, turning away from him and -- I think -- trying not to burst into frustrated tears. But it's Kim, so she pulls it together almost bodily, gets up, and calls Viola to bring her some case material on "battery on a p.o." Jimmy asks what "our first move" is, and Kim makes eye contact again at last to snap that she's not going after a cop. "That's okay!" Jimmy says, too eagerly. Kim goes behind her desk and says with just a hint of rage quaver in her voice that "I will look into this," and maybe there's something she can do, if it's as bad as Jimmy says. "Maybe," she repeats, again not making eye contact and clearly not thinking "as Jimmy says" is reliable. "Thanks, Kim -- listen, I really appreciate it," Jimmy says, talking to her like a mark. Kim seems to know it, too, and meets his eye with an "Okay." that's clearly meant to dismiss him. Jimmy asks her to tell him if/how he can help, and she busies herself with papers and grunts, "Yep." He's wandering out when Viola comes in with the files, and Kim makes sure Viola shuts the door on Jimmy.
Kim comes upon DDA Suzanne Ericsen struggling with a vending machine at the courthouse, and after a bit of business involving a coin bribe, Kim launches into her argument for letting Huell off with a misdemeanor. Suzanne's like, yeah: no, he's a pickpocket with priors, but Kim is arguing with increasingly desperate fervor that it's a misunderstanding, that Huell didn't know it was a cop, and that, in five other cases like Huell's, the defendants didn't get close to that kind of jail time. (Her list of exemplars includes one Daniel Murphy, a homeless guy who headbutted a cop and concussed him but only got five months suspended. I SAID "I love you," show! Hee hee.) Suzanne has answers for all of Kim's citations and is growing impatient with the conversation, eye-rolling that there's no negotiation here, and she doesn't know why Kim wants "anything to do with" the case in the first place -- a "professional thief" shoved a "decorated police officer." On top of that, the only witness "is a scumbag disbarred lawyer who peddles drop phones to criminals!"
Kim looks caught in the headlights of that truth, but recovers and says, in a tone she hopes gives Suzanne pause, "You don't know the whole story," before slamming out of the room.
In the parking lot, Jimmy is waiting. Kim gets off a phone call setting up a meet with Huell, and reports to Jimmy that she's going to talk to Huell and she needs Jimmy to "back [her] play." Jimmy (correctly) interprets this as Huell having to do some time; Kim says Huell's going to call Jimmy after she and Huell talk, and she and Jimmy have to present a united front. He can't run, Kim adds; he'll have to "put on his big-boy pants" and go to jail. Jimmy sighs and asks if there's no way around it. Kim says at least he's not going to do the full sentence the DA's pushing for, but he's going to have to do some time. Jimmy wearily thanks her for trying. Kim repeats that Huell can't jump bail and confirms again that Jimmy's going to back her up. He nods, and as they head to their cars he shrugs that, if she says it's the "only legitimate way" that they can "do this," well, that's that. Screech goes the record in Kim's head, and she stops to ask again if Jimmy's going to tell Huell to stay put. She seems almost amused, though, and accepts Jimmy's obviously specious chirp of "Sure!" She's walking off again when he metas, "You do your thing, I'll do mine." She asks what that means. Don't worry, he tells her, and peels out.
Kim worries, though, and as she's driving along, she's sort of huffing to herself. She squints and, spotting something pertinent out the driver's-side window, flips a bitch and heads back the other way. At first I assumed she was going to tail Jimmy, or go back to tell Suzanne to throw the book at Huell -- something more scrutable, in any event, then what happens next, which is that she's wheeling a cart through an office-supply store. She's doggedly hurling all manner of school supplies into the cart -- sets of markers, sets of highlighters, brightly colored composition books, folders, Post-Its -- and while I am known to self-soothe with megapacks of PaperMate Flairs my own self, somehow I don't think that's what's going on here. She's about to head into the checkout line when she makes an "oh yeah" face and calls Jimmy. "Whatever you're doing, don't," she almost gasps, and shuts her eyes while he's talking, then interrupts, "Yeah, I know, but -- listen. I have a better way." Better for whom, lady?