Better Call Saul, Season 1 Episode 5: “Alpine Shepherd Boy”

Jimmy’s stunt paid off, and he’s got some clients, and true to this world, there are some weird ones. There’s a true blue American who wants to secede from the United States because of taxes, a man who invented a talking toilet to help with toilet training with somewhat sexual phrases, and some wills. Jimmy is no longer strapped for cash, but that’s not the most interesting part of “Alpine Shepherd Boy”. This week we learn more about Chuck’s illness, and how and when it manifests.

I didn’t know anything about electromagnetic hypersensitivity until Chuck was telling the doctor at the hospital about his symptoms. After a brief scan of some online articles, it seems to be a psychosomatic condition that’s very similar to Wind Turbine Syndrome (which has been a barrier to building windfarms in Victoria). As strange as Chuck’s illness is, I never considered it to be a mental illness, just a self-misdiagnosis that has led to certain eccentricities (one of the problems of the internet is that people think they’re capable of diagnosing themselves without any medical training. It wasn’t until the doctor suggested to Jimmy that I even considered that it was a psychological issue. I should have realised that something was up when Chuck went outside at the end of last week’s episode. He suspected something was up with Jimmy, so he went outside to get a newspaper, and as we saw the outside world from Chuck’s eyes, it was very disorienting. Vince Gilligan hires great directors.

Chuck’s neighbour calls the police, who then decide that he needs to be at the hospital. This is when Jimmy comes in, and freaks out about the electricity running through Chuck’s hospital room. It isn’t until the doctor suggests a psychiatric facility that Chuck displays any sign of awareness of what’s going on; I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to be committed, but if Chuck was truly unconscious, he couldn’t have just woken up at that point. The doctor then ‘tests’ Chuck, by getting him to talk and turning a machine on in the hospital room. Chuck doesn’t notice. Jimmy seems to be firmly on Chuck’s side, he believes the illness is a physical condition rather than a mental one, until he takes Chuck home. Jimmy has noticed that his brother seems to get sick whenever he’s worried about Jimmy becoming Slippin’ Jimmy again; he was worried about what Jimmy was up to, and that’s when he decided to run across the road and steal a newspaper. He looks at the front page and his worst fears are confirmed. When Chuck gets home, he asks Jimmy to get his space blanket and make some coffee. Before Jimmy goes to make coffee, he wants to reassure Chuck that his antics are over (he doesn’t even pretend it wasn’t a stunt, Chuck knows him too well), and tells his brother that he’s going to specialise in elder law – wills and such. Then Chuck takes off his space blanket and goes to make the coffee. He’s clearly not that sick.

The other interesting part of this episode is whatever’s happening with Mike. I spent the first half hour of the episode wondering where he was, and then he appears. And strange men knock on the door at the end of the episode! Are we finally going to learn what happened back in Philly?

Other thoughts:

  • I’m really enjoying Rhea Seehorn as Kim, and she and Jimmy have a nice dynamic
  • I really don’t understand where Jimmy’s hatred of Howard comes from, and I’m getting a little tired of it.
  • Because I work outdoors, I’ve started identifying some of the plants in the show. Chuck has crepe myrtles in his yard.
  • My guess about the woman who Mike is ‘visiting’ is that it’s his daughter. If it is, there should be good material there, because Mike is spending time with his granddaughter (played by Jonathan Banks’ actual granddaughter) in Breaking Bad.
  • I was a little sad that the naming convention of the other episodes this season wasn’t followed here, but it’s back next week.

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