Everyone's Relationships Are 'Fall'ing Apart On Better Call Saul
Even relationships you wouldn't think could get any worse.
While the penultimate episodes of Better Call Saul's first two seasons featured blockbuster cliffhangers to take us into the finale, Season 3's is a quieter affair...right up until the last minute, that is. Mostly, the hour is taken up by scenes in which characters define their relationships -- in almost all cases, for the worse. Let's run them down in order of appearance.
Lydia & Mike
After the fateful handshake of the last episode, it's time for Mike to find out the details of the money-laundering scheme Gus has worked out for him.
Welcome back, Lydia! From behind her desk in her chilly Madrigal office, Lydia outlines the plan for a wary Mike: he'll be hired for a fake job -- he proposes Security Consultant rather than Logistics Consultant, since he used to be a cop; she agrees -- for $10,000 a week, at which rate his illicit nest egg will be fully paid out to him in twenty weeks, with Gus covering all relevant taxes. Mike remains dubious about all of it until he finds out that this isn't a standard arrangement between Gus and Lydia: Mike is the first person for whom Lydia's ever done this. "You seem to be risking a lot for a drug dealer," rumbles Mike. Lydia snickers: "If that's all you think he is, then you don't know Gustavo Fring." DAMN STRAIGHT, LYDIA, YOU STAND UP FOR OUR CRIMINAL GENIUS MASTERMIND. Anyway: both retain a healthy suspicion of one another but seem to part on good-enough terms, as frenemies bonded by a shared friend in the great Gus Fring.
Kim & Gatwood
Kim dons no-nonsense jeans and boots to go with her professional buttondown and blazer to meet with Gatwood Oil's own Mr. Gatwood and be apprised of the situation: basically, his drilling claim has crossed the Texas/New Mexico state line, and while he's fine paying what's owed the land owners on the other side, he's getting taxed in both states.
Kim, being Kim, is well prepared for the meeting and knowledgeable about the underlying issues and has a solution: instead of working out a lease arrangement with the land owners, he offers to pay them damages; it's a one-time payment, and that will solve his tax problem. All she'd have to do is get all the affected parties together in one meeting and get them to agree -- which she has to do inside of two weeks to beat his tax bill. He can't believe she'll be able to pull it off, but she's eminently confident about it! And probably just wants this off her desk as soon as possible so that she can return to burning the candle at both ends for Mesa Verde.
Speaking of that candle: the relations of Kim to her bed (or rather, as it seems to be these days, the couch in her office) is delayed when, after Gatwood's left, she tries to drive off his land and finds her tires sunk into the sand. Fortunately, there are a few pieces of scrap wood nearby that she jams under her front wheels and uses to rock the car free...
...only to use too much force and narrowly escape a collision with a derrick barrier. Kim manages to get herself out of an embarrassing predicament without having to lose face with the new client who thinks she's a miracle worker by calling him back to the property to help her out -- and that jolt of adrenaline will probably carry her through what might otherwise have been a sleepy drive back to Albuquerque.
Gus & Hector
Gus, Hector, and their assorted underlings assemble to take a call from Don Eladio's #2.
Surprising no one, the Don loves Gus's new transportation solution -- everyone's going to be using it from now on! Also surprising no one, Hector is pissed, but just as he's starting to rage, a spell comes on.
Evidently the placebo effect can't be overstated, because Nacho's fake pills are just as effective -- at least at this point -- in quelling Hector's attack. Regardless, this latest evidence of Gus's strategic and logistical superiority over Hector -- even when Gus (falsely) protests, "I never asked for this. I do not want it" -- does nothing to improve their relationship.
Nacho & Manuel
In light of Hector's failure to die or at least suffer a debilitating effect from his fake pill at his meeting with Gus, Nacho has to deliver some bad news to his father.
Explaining that a bad man is going to come to the shop and want to run it for a couple of weeks means Nacho had to admit what he'd been hiding from Manuel: that he's working for Hector again. Nacho begs Manuel to promise him he won't do anything stupid -- which Manuel ignores, ordering Nacho, "Get out of my house." Let's hope this isn't the last conversation they have.
Howard & Chuck
The seeds Jimmy planted a couple of episodes ago have now borne fruit: Santa Rosa, HHM's malpractice insurer, has arranged a meeting to tell Howard and Chuck that because of Chuck's breakdown at the Bar Association hearing, Chuck's malpractice insurance premium is going to double -- and so is that of every other attorney at the firm. They do suggest that maybe this could be mitigated if HHM assigns a partner to oversee any of Chuck's cases, but Howard notes that this would mean a second lawyer would get tied up in anything Chuck works on without HHM's being able to bill for his or her hours (and if you've ever had to pay a lawyer's bill with increments down to a tenth of an hour, you know that's never going to fly). A pugnacious Chuck announces that HHM will compel Santa Rosa to do well by them or else.
It seems as though there is a limit to Howard's indulgence of Chuck, and it's...double the firm's insurance expenses. Once the Santa Rosa representatives have left, Howard smoothly suggests that it's time for Chuck to go ahead and write that book on the Commerce Clause that he's always talked about. Chuck is appalled by the suggestion that he needs to retire and insists that his illness is cured -- he even picks up a lamp off the table and holds it in his hands to prove he's fine! "This is not what 'fine' looks like," Howard intones. Chuck storms off, and yet for some reason when Howard's assistant later delivers him a letter from Chuck, Howard is sure it's going to be his letter of resignation. It is not!
Howard may not be that worried about the machinations of a lawyer whose last case involved him defending himself against charges of incompetence.
Still: tough way for things to end for Chuck and one of his staunchest supporters. Or, perhaps, enablers.
Irene & All Her Friends
Now that he's dispensed with selling all his commercial ad time, Jimmy needs to find another source of income, and decides to check in on the case that set him on the path to respectability back in Season 1: Sandpiper Crossing. He goes to visit Mrs. Landry, the class representative, to ask whether she's received a settlement offer; she's not sure and hands him over a box of papers regarding the case. Right away, Jimmy finds the offer letter and finds its contents alarming.
Jimmy asks why Mrs. Landry hasn't accepted it, and she says that Erin -- Jimmy's old Davis & Main colleague, who's taken over the case -- said she should wait. Gently, Jimmy tries to explain the situation without saying in so many words that she should take a good offer rather than hold out for one that's slightly better since she is old and might die before it happens, but she doesn't really understand, and then has to hustle him out so she can go to chair yoga. As we watch him head to his car doing quick math in his head, it's clear why else he might want Mrs. Landry to take the offer: his share would come to $1.16 million.
So Jimmy then embarks upon one of his most diabolical scams yet: manipulating Mrs. Landry into taking the offer by turning all her friends (and fellow lawsuit participants) against her. He tricks her into taking a pair of fancy sneakers off his hands and then points to them in his many conversations with her fellow mall walkers to make them think she's stalling on taking the settlement because she doesn't need the money.
Before long, Mrs. Landry's been ostracized from the group. By the time Jimmy gets to the climax of his plot -- fixing a Bingo game he's calling so that Mrs. Landry wins on the first five balls -- her ex-friends don't even have the decency to fake being happy for her.
Outside, Mrs. Landry tearfully tells Jimmy she doesn't know why all her friends have turned on her, but Jimmy thinks he might: "Could it be the settlement?" Mrs. Landry says that she didn't know any of them needed the money since they didn't say anything to her, but Jimmy suggests that they might be hurt by her failure to consider their needs. Hurting them is the last thing Mrs. Landry wants, and now she wishes she'd never even filed the lawsuit! What would Jimmy do? Jimmy carefully reminds her that he's not a lawyer right now, but she still wants his advice: "Please. Should I settle?" "Irene?" says Jimmy. "You should listen to your heart." It's a very cruel way for Jimmy to try to achieve his ends (not to mention horrible proof for those of us female persons who survived childhood and adolescence that mean girl muscles don't atrophy with age), but is the destruction of several old-lady friendships worth it?
Jimmy & Kim
Yes. Yes, it is. Jimmy's instincts for exploiting the worst of human nature prove sound once more: Mrs. Landry settles.
Jimmy rushes to the office to tell Kim the good news and celebrate with a bottle of their beloved Zafiro Añejo, not knowing she's late for her big meeting at Gatwood, because he doesn't know about Gatwood at all -- and doesn't really care, since his settlement solves all their problems! A harried Kim -- who can't tell him that in order for it to have solved all their problems he'd have to go back in time about a month to start working all the old ladies into an anti-Landry lather so that the settlement was signed before she ever heard about Gatwood in the first place, because the only reason she took Gatwood on as a client was for Jimmy's sake -- asks Jimmy to wait a few hours for her to come back and tell him all about it. Off she goes to drive out to the meeting, rehearsing her spiel behind the wheel...
...until she suddenly wakes up to the shock of her airbag going off in her face, because she fell asleep and ran into a rock on the side of the road, leaving her a bloody mess and all her Gatwood papers blowing away. This self-sacrificing act of love on Kim's part aside, she and Jimmy haven't been doing great for a while; let's hope the damage her reputation suffers as a result of her biting off more than she can chew doesn't end up spelling the end of their relationship. Then again: for Kim's sake, maybe I should hope exactly the opposite.