Better Call Saul, Season 1 Episode 8: “RICO”

This is going to be a fairly short review (although now I think about it, I still haven’t edited my review of last week’s episode that I wrote on the train), because I just got Netflix and I want to watch some more Kimmy Schmidt. There’s also the fact that I didn’t take notes. “RICO” was a good episode of Better Call Saul, but it was very much designed to put the chess pieces in play for the last two episodes of the season (hey AMC, why are there only 10 episodes?). The great thing about Vince Gilligan and Co is that even their chess piece episodes are written well, so they’re always delightful to watch.

We began this week with Jimmy telling Chuck that he’s passed the Bar in New Mexico. Chuck had no idea that Jimmy even went to law school. All Jimmy wants is for his brother to be proud of him. I’m now wondering what the age difference between Jimmy and Chuck is, because Jimmy idolises his brother the way most children idolise their fathers. We know Jimmy and Chuck have a mother, but we haven’t heard about a father at all. When Jimmy gets the letter telling him he’s passed the Bar, he’s working in the mailroom at Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill. When he goes to see Chuck, he asks his brother if he could hire him. “As what? Oh right, as a lawyer.” That says all we need to know – we don’t need to see the conversation Chuck had with Hamlin, that sentence says it all. Chuck took the situation to his partners as a courtesy; he was proud of his brother for getting a law degree and passing the Bar, but he also knew his brother’s history and didn’t think he would make a good lawyer. Jimmy’s despise for Howard Hamlin makes more sense now, he’ll end up disappointed when he realises Chuck was opposed to hiring him as well. He just doesn’t believe that his brother would do something like that.

The main storyline this week brings Jimmy and Chuck working together on a case just like Jimmy wanted. Chuck took Jimmy’s bait and wrote the wills for him, but was kind of pissed about it. Jimmy goes to meet one of his clients at the Sandpiper ‘Assisted Living’ facility, and she can’t pay him the $140 fee he charges for her will. She doesn’t get her allowance for another week. Jimmy takes a $20 downpayment from her and as he’s leaving he pauses and turns back. She gets an allowance? From her family? What about her savings and her pension? It turns out that Sandpiper take care of their bank accounts and pass on what’s left of their money after they take out their monthly fees. So then Jimmy has a look at the invoice and realises that these poor elderly people are being defrauded for their money, and they’ll just trust what the invoice says. He then gets a few of the other residents to have a look at their invoices and finds a pattern. He’s then overheard by the manager (I don’t know why a manager of a nursing home would be working at the front desk, but anyway), who then bars him from the facility the next day because she doesn’t want him “taking advantage of the residents”, which is cruelly ironic given what they’re doing.

Jimmy also hears the paper shredder going, so he goes back in the evening for a dumpster dive after his letter is dismissed by Sandpiper’s lawyer. That scene is a fantastic piece of phsyical comedy by Bob Odenkirk, especially given the punchline of the recycling bins being right next to the dumpster. While I was watching him in the dumpster, I was thinking things like “I would put shredded paper in the recycling,” and “maybe they didn’t recycle in New Mexico in 2004”. Seeing the recycling bin there was still great, and the writing on this show trusts its viewers enough that it doesn’t need to explain the visual. It’s all there.

When Chuck wakes up the next morning to see his brother assembling shredded documents, he ends up helping. Consequently, Jimmy gets what he wanted however many years ago – being able to work on a case with his brother. The legal specifics of the case are just beyond my understanding – state borders appear to be more significant in the US than they are in Australia, and I’ve looked up RICO before when they tried to use it to indict Will on The Good Wife, but that was three years ago. What’s interesting is the psychology of the situation. Chuck is nervous to meet with the other lawyers, but after he gets comfortable, his brain starts working and we see just how brilliant he is. After hearing his opponent talk about how outstanding Sandpiper is as a provider of aged care, he rejects the offer of one hundred thousand and asks for 20 million. That’s pretty smooth. So Jimmy gets on getting the documents they need while Chuck stays inside. Until Jimmy gets home and forgets to bring in some kind of form or another and Chuck goes to collect it from Jimmy’s car himself. He walks out the front door, unlocks Jimmy’s car with the remote control key and gets the box out. It’s only when Jimmy calls his name that he realises what he’s done.

Other thoughts:

  • Mike is also in this episode, but only for a few scenes. He babysits his granddaughter while his daughter-in-law is at work, but that’s not the important part. She’s still carrying around the envelope of cash that her husband accepted as a bribe, and she wants to know if it’s okay to spend it, because they’re running low. Mike breaks bad for the same reason Walt did a few years later – for his family. Except in Mike’s case it’s an actual reason. I guess it was a proper reason for Walt at first, but then his ego got in the way.
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