Warning: The recap for the “Inflatable" episode of Better Call Saul contains storyline and character spoilers.
In which Mike tries to take control of his Tio troubles, while Jimmy and Kim make decent proposals to each other.
Are You Gonna Be a Wolf or a Sheep?
Flashback, 1973: Young Jimmy is working in his dad’s neighborhood grocery store, sneaking a peek at a Playboy mag while he’s supposed to be sweeping the floors. But Jimmy’s dad is easily fooled, and we’ll learn just how easily when a man comes in peddling a sob story about a broken down car and an urgent need to get medicine home to a sick kid. Jimmy knows a grifter when he sees one, and he takes his father aside to let him know he’s being hustled. In fact, Jimmy says, Papa McGill is known throughout their town as an easy mark. But Mr. McGill doesn’t believe it, and when the scam artist asks for $5 to get home to his sick boy, Mr. McGill takes a $10 bill out of the cash register and hands it over. When he goes to the back of the store to look for yet another way to help Grifty McGrifterson, Jimmy goes the register, and the scammer knows Jimmy’s onto him. He wants two boxes of KOOL cigarettes — $8 — and Jimmy tells him he wants the cash first.
“There are wolves and sheep in this world, kid,” Grifty says. “Figure out which one you’re gonna be.”
Jimmy puts the $8 in the till as Grifty leaves, but when Mr. McGill comes out of the back with a box of spark plugs and rushes out the door to try to help the stranger even further, Jimmy takes the $8 out of the register and puts it in his pocket.
So Chuck was right when he told Kim that story about Jimmy pilfering money from their dad’s store. But wonder if Chuck factored in how much money his dad must have allowed to be scammed away from his bottom line throughout his years of store ownership?
Mike Breaks Badder
Jimmy — who’s doodling a bunch of Ws and Ms on a legal pad — meets Mike at the DA’s office. Jimmy speaks on Mike’s behalf and says his client wants to amend his statement to the police: The gun he claimed was Tuco Salamanca’s when Tuco attacked him was not Tuco’s. It’s not Mike’s either, Jimmy says, but it isn’t Tuco’s. Maybe a bird dropped it from its beak, Jimmy says, which only disgusts the DA and ADA more, as they want to put Tuco away for a long time. The want to know why Mike is changing up his story at this point: Is he being bribed or bullied? Mike’s not saying, and he looks as unhappy that he’s helping Tuco hit the streets again sooner than he’d originally planned.
And the pressure on Mike only multiplies. Stacy has found the perfect house for her and Kaylee, and it’s a big house, with a big backyard, in a nice neighborhood. Mike’s happy about all that, but he’s also going to make the financing happen, “whatever the cost,” he promises, and that isn’t going to come courtesy of his parking attendant gig.
Which is why, that night, he drives off to a secluded spot across from El Griego Guinador, the ice cream joint where Tio and his crew conduct business, and scopes out the place. Again, doesn’t this seem like a good time for a certain fried chicken entrepreneur to make Mike’s acquaintance?
Jimmy Breaks Saul-er
Jimmy calls Kim and finds out she isn’t going to official quit HHM until she has an offer letter from Schweikart and Cokely. She’s excited about the potential, though, as she thinks they’re going to make a fairly generous offer, plus pay off the $15,000 she still owes HMM for law school. And with that, Jimmy’s off to Davis & Main, where he asks Omar to draft his resignation letter. Omar’s surprised Jimmy wants to quit, especially when it means giving up the perks. Yeah, the car and apartment are nice, Jimmy says. But Omar points out he’ll have to give the bonus back, too. No, Jimmy says, they already gave him the check. But Omar points out something Jimmy must have skipped in his contract: If he quits, he has to pay back the bonus. Unsurprisingly, Jimmy changes his mind and asks Omar to keep his lip zipped about any talk of resignation.
But Jimmy gets an idea when he’s driving and spots one of those giant inflatable, very colorful tube men. He goes on a shopping spree, and fills his closet with loads of new threads: bright pink, blue, yellow, and emerald green shirts, multi-colored patterned ties, and suits in colors like salmon. He mixes and matches the pieces and surprises everyone at D & M with his new look, as well as his new (and loud) juicer in the office kitchen.
He also develops a habit in the office bathroom that pushes Cliff to have a public conversation he never “thought I would have in my professional career”: Jimmy, out of water conservation concern, has stopped flushing, even when he goes No. 2 (as Erin, of course, points out). Cliff tells him they have low-flow toilets, and encourages him to go ahead and flush that brown down, but when Jimmy then buys a set of bagpipes and begins playing them — loudly and badly — in the office, his long game finally pays off: Cliff fires him.
Cliff knows what Jimmy was up to, provoking Cliff to fire him to save the bonus — the “optical migraine you call a business suit” was also particularly irksome to Cliff — and Cliff’s giving in, but wants to know why Jimmy didn’t even give the job a chance, when they really tried to make it work for him.
“I tried to make it work. Really, I did,” Jimmy says. “I’m just… a square peg.” Then he tells Cliff he’ll write him a check for the $7,000 cocobolo desk the firm bought for his office. “Hey Cliff, for what it’s worth, I think you’re a good guy,” Jimmy adds on his way out the door.
Cliff: “For what it’s worth, I think you’re an a–hole.”
This is why Jimmy wanted to hang on to that bonus cash so badly: He’s got a counteroffer for Kim. Instead of quitting HMM to go work for Rich Schweikart — a lateral move, he points out — why not become partners with him, in a firm they’ll call Wexler McGill? He’ll pay off her law school loans (the bonus), and he’s even mocked up a very cool business card and logo (the legal pad doodles) for them. Kim appears to consider it, but has to ask Jimmy a question first: What kind of lawyer will he be? Will he play by bar association rules, or will he be… “colorful”? He starts to tell her he’s going to play it straight, “dot every i, cross every t,” but then he looks down at Marco’s ring on his hand and tells her he’s going to be colorful. Every time he tries to do things the way other people want him to, it blows up in his face, he says. He nearly derailed her career, he adds.
When Kim hears that, she tells him they’re already d… she almost says “dating”; why does he need her for this?
“I don’t need you,” he says. “I want you.”
Kim: “You’ve got me. Just not as a law partner.”
Jimmy rarely looks visibly shaken by things anyone says to him, but he’s clearly disappointed in Kim’s decision. She’s happily dating him, but won’t partner with him in business. Does she not trust him? Is it a judgment of him, something she, throughout their relationship, hasn’t done. Now she is, and it comes on the heels of her participating in two of his “colorful” adventures.
Now that he’s out at D & M, Jimmy’s back in his Suzuki Esteem (the kidney folks wouldn’t take it as a donation, he says), living in the nail salon back room with his cocobolo desk and new wardrobe of bright suits. That’s where Kim finds him, and, after wowing Schweikart and his partners in her job interview, tells Jimmy she’s going to turn the new position down and do what he suggested: start her own firm.
And she has a pitch for him: Instead of being Wexler McGill, how ‘bout they become Wexler and McGill, separate firms, but under one roof, sharing the costs of operating businesses. She’s excited about the idea, showing Jimmy how she tore his business card in half to make two “solo practitioners together.”
This isn’t what he had in mind, and he’s not as excited about her idea as she is. “I don’t know what to say,” he tells her.
“Say yes,” she tells him, as the end credits pop in.
* Blake Bertrand is the actor playing young Jimmy, and here’s hoping we see him again. In just a five-minute scene, he perfectly conveyed how quickly Jimmy took to the sheep-or-wolf philosophy.
* If Jimmy’s Davis & Main firing means we’re not going to see Ed Begley Jr. on the show anymore, we’ll be sad, but it was a sweet little inside joke/parting gift for famous water conservationist Begley to get to make that pro-flushing speech.
* When Jimmy records the answering machine message in his new (old) office at the salon, he uses his fake British accent and “James M. McGill, Esq.” the first time, but then re-records it in his own voice, using the name Jimmy McGill.
* Kim’s interview at Schweikart provides some key detail on her backstory: She’s from a tiny town in Kansas (hence her Kansas City Royals T-shirt), and she felt like she had to get out of her hometown, lest she end up being a cashier at the Hinky-Dinky, the local supermarket. She just wanted something else, she tells Schweikart, He asks what. Kim: “More.”
Let’s hear your feedback, Saul fans: What do you think Mike’s going to do next to earn money for Stacy’s house? Do you think Jimmy is going to accept Kim’s deal? Or do you think she may have irreparably damaged their relationship when she turned his pitch down? And if Jimmy won’t set up shop with her under her terms, do you think Kim will accept the Schweikart offer after all?
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on AMC.