Who's The Real Pigf...ornicator On Better Call Saul?
And more not-quite-burning questions sparked by 'Rebecca.'
What happened to Rebecca?!
We might as well start, as both the episode itself and its title do, with the biggest question: Rebecca?
Our cold open flashback -- in which Chuck, without any anxiety, doesn't just use electric lights but gets close enough to a fixture to replace a bulb -- introduces an elegant classical musician comfortable enough in Chuck's kitchen to be cooking a dish impressive enough to rival one they had together in Florence. When their guest, Jimmy, arrives, the initially stiff small talk informs us that her name is Rebecca; that she and Chuck are married; and that while Jimmy didn't get to the wedding, Yo-Yo Ma held shit down in his place. Even on this point, I have questions -- not about Ma, who I'm sure was a welcome addition to the party and in no way took advantage of the open bar -- but about this nonverbal exchange between the married McGills when Jimmy makes his apologies for not having attended.
To me, Rebecca looks like she never entertained the possibility that Jimmy might have shown up, whereas Chuck is shaking off the notion that Jimmy ever would have tainted the proceedings with his presence. Or is the issue alarm from Rebecca that Jimmy -- whose invitation for a fairly low-key dinner Chuck was already extravagantly thanking Rebecca for deigning to extend to Jimmy before his arrival -- was invited to the wedding at all, even out of pity or with the relative certainty that he would be too embarrassed to come? Did Chuck refuse to invite Jimmy, so that Jimmy, knowing it, is covering for Chuck's caution, or pettiness?
Whatever it is, as the dinner goes on, Rebecca's cool reserve starts to warm up: Jimmy's just finished his first week at HHM, during which time he's learned a lot of lawyer jokes, and he seems prepared to rhyme them all off for her the more positive feedback she gives. Chuck, unsurprisingly, has no sense of humour about himself or his profession and gets visibly uncomfortable the longer this levity goes on.
Rebecca ends up not just ignoring Chuck's predetermined signal for when the evening should end -- she joins Jimmy in offering a lawyer joke of her own. (Not a terribly original one -- lawyers differ from sperm in that one in three million sperm have a chance of becoming a human being -- but it's not bad for a classical violinist!) Later, when Chuck and Rebecca are winding down in bed, he tries to connect with her the way Jimmy was by telling a lawyer joke on himself, but her reaction is perfunctory, nowhere near the rapt delight she was showing Jimmy. We see later, in this episode that bears her name, how effortlessly Chuck can undermine a woman's fondness for Jimmy: was Rebecca's pleasure in Jimmy's earthy humour the moment Chuck started to turn on her?
Did Cliff assign Erin to mind Jimmy?
Totally by chance, both Jimmy and Erin happen to be at the Davis & Main office after-hours, which is so fortunate because she has just a couple of notes on his latest brief!
After an expository exchange that establishes that Jimmy, as a fourth-year associate, outranks Erin, making it slightly unorthodox for her to be giving him notes, Jimmy voices his suspicion: "Does Cliff have you babysitting me?" Erin denies it, but also kind of insists that they go through her five million notes immediately, in what very well could be the middle of the night, and when Jimmy's like, totally!, and then waits for her to go around a corner to sneak out of the building, I kind of don't blame him. But has Erin actually been tasked to keep eyes on Jimmy? The fact that she accompanies him to the courthouse and prevents him from "bribing" a clerk with a Beanie Baby suggests that she has. But an earlier episode this season showed us that Erin showed up for a Sandpiper meeting at HHM with multiple extra copies of a particular deposition Jimmy needed (read: pretended to need as a pretext to talk to Kim in private). I am not certain that this Odd Couple pairing didn't start out with Erin sincerely wanting to teach Jimmy the house style because his sloppy formatting offended her personally, and then when he ditched her, she decided to make him her personal obsession.
Can Kim and Jimmy come back from her banishment?
Though Kim has become Jimmy's personal obsession ever since her career became collateral damage from his unsanctioned TV ad, she's keeping her head down, doing the work she's ordered, staying on top of her billable hours and suffering the humiliation of working in the basement with what look like actual teenagers. The solution Jimmy drives from Santa Fe to offer when she won't answer his calls -- that she should sue HHM -- is classic Jimmy: it will make a big impression and scorch the earth, but doesn't remotely take into account how Kim is supposed to go on with her life if she does it, as she tells him: "Even if I won, who would hire me? That would be career suicide." When Jimmy re-pitches his idea from last week's episode -- that he'll give up his job at Davis & Main so that Kim's good reputation is no longer tied to his sketchy one -- she scoffs that what he's presenting as a sacrifice isn't, particularly: "Quitting a job that you've been trying to tank since Day 1." Jimmy is desperate to undo the damage he caused by failing to understand that Kim's career was never a short con and that now his isn't either: "I dig myself out of this hole. You do your job, Jimmy. Prove you can go one week -- hell, one day without breaking the rules of the New Mexico Bar Association or pissing off your boss. And don't insult my intelligence by saying you are doing any of this for me! You don't save me. I save me." It's not that Kim's wrong to rely on herself; certainly she knows how to navigate office politics better than Jimmy does. The issue is whether there can be any future for these two if Kim no longer believes she can, or should, count on Jimmy for anything at all.
Who's the real pigfucker at HHM?
One of the most searing scenes of Season 1 revolved around Jimmy figuring out that it wasn't Howard who'd been the brake on his mobility at HHM even after he secretly earned a law degree and wanted to join the firm as an attorney: it was Chuck, his beloved and idolized brother. In this instance, Jimmy's been sure since Kim was sent down to doc review that Chuck was once again to blame, and that he's punishing Jimmy by proxy; Kim's attributed her sentencing to Howard, which may be why she's been fairly confident that she'd be able to win him back over. And much of her storyline in this episode shows us how she intends to do that: cold-calling everyone she ever did bourbon shots with at an ABA mixer to find an impressive client to bring to the firm. Finally, a certain Paige comes through with a large regional bank -- a big enough get that Howard comes down to the lobby with Kim for introductions...
...carefully arranging himself before the CEO crosses the threshold. The meeting goes well, which Kim assumes is her ticket out of the basement. Howard informs her that it isn't: "I'll put Francis on that. You've got enough on your plate in doc review."
But we still don't know whether Howard is pigfucking on orders or of his own free will until we see him stop by Chuck's with celebratory scotch to tell him about the firm's new whale. "She's out of the doghouse, I assume," comments Chuck.
Does Howard's program of debasement for Kim even have anything to do with Jimmy at all? Or have we yet to uncover some new depth of grossness to Howard that explains what is motivating him to make Kim's humiliation so long-lived and personal?
How much of Chuck's story about Chuck Sr. is true?
After Howard's visit, Chuck tries something new: coming to the office to work until 9 AM, when things get too hectic and electricity-intensive. He runs into Kim -- still there working in the middle of the night -- and offers the same kind of pleasantries that you, if you are a woman, have been hearing from the old white men in your office since you've had a job.
(Chuck pleads his whole electricity thing, but you know old white men, it's always fucking something.) Chuck essentially orders Kim (politely) to pour herself a cup -- because what might she want more when she's about to leave for the three hours' sleep before coming back to this purgatory? -- and come into his office, where her desperation leads her to ask him whether she has a future at the firm. Chuck tells her that Jimmy left her holding the bag, and that everyone who extends themselves for Jimmy ends up getting screwed: "Now Howard has. And he blames you."
Now that he has a perfect opening to denigrate Jimmy, Chuck takes it to tell her about their father, for whom Chuck was named. He was an eminently honest man, who ran a small corner store -- his life's pride, since he'd always dreamed of being able to run his own life without a boss. When Chuck was in college, Jimmy started working there, and since their father wasn't a good businessman, money problems arose.
But here's a question: do we believe this story just because Chuck tells it? Whether or not he's the prime mover in Kim's storyline, it's clear that merely "bear[ing] witness" isn't sufficient anymore. If impressing Kim -- proving to her what a good citizen he can be -- is the reason Jimmy's taken the job at Davis & Main, then if Chuck joins Howard in ruining Jimmy for her, he'll have kicked out one of the support beams keeping Jimmy anywhere near the respectable end of New Mexico's legal community. A story like this is so appalling that even if it isn't true, if Kim asks Jimmy about it and he denies it out of hand, it will only add colour to the picture Chuck's painted of Jimmy as an opportunist so grubby he'd steal from his own blood. Does Kim believe it? If she wants to climb her way out of her basement hole with Chuck's help, does she have to?
How much of your mind was even left after this scene?
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