Short term gain or long term consequences? Last week, the two main protagonists of “Better Call Saul” were faced with major decisions that boiled down to one central premise. Do we act now on a great idea and worry about (or Jimmy’s case last week, completely miss) the long-term damage that action could cause? Or do we show restraint, lessening our reward now for better long-term results?
Jimmy made clear last week he leans on the “do it now and deal with the fall-out later” side of things. He may try to be patient at first in hopes that his superiors will get on board with his idea. But Jimmy’s going to go through with his plan anyway and hope he’s slick enough to talk or act his way out of the pickle he’s created for him and those close to him.
But Mike takes the opposite approach this week (and with most all of his decisions). He could’ve earned more money now and taken less pain by taking out Tuco. But the long-term affects of that decision were too risky for Mike to go through with it.
Expect this contrast between Mike and Jimmy to continue through the rest of the show’s run as Jimmy and his “Slippin Jimmy” persona lends itself to getting into and out of hairy situations. While Mike’s pragmatism lends itself well to his situation where he needs to continue earning money for his granddaughter.
And in a change from my previous reviews, I will be starting this week with Mike, who seems to bring some of the best work to the series with the episodes that center on him.
Who out there loves a little foreshadowing??? Of course, this entire show is one giant foreshadow of a little TV series you might be familiar with called “Breaking Bad” hanging over it. But the start of “Gloves Off” sets the tone for the beating Mike has coming as he enters his house with significant bruising to half his face as he sits down and applies a pack of frozen vegetables to the large wound. But there’s also $25,000 (as we would find out later) laying on the kitchen table. Who gave Mike the beating that earned him that $25000? This opening sequence injected a constantly changing tension into Mike’s scenes for the rest of the night.
Tuco is the target?
I convinced myself last week that there was no way Tuco could be the man Mike was being hired to kill mainly because we all know he wouldn’t succeed in that mission. And how could Mike build a successful career of “next level work” if he starts with a failure? But here he was, meeting with Nacho discussing the need to kill the walking temper tantrum named Tuco. Of course, it makes since why Nacho would want him out. Nacho’s side business will likely be found out by his partner and we all now how king crazy will take that news.
The plan Nacho has for Mike involves taking Tuco out following a normal Tuesday afternoon lunch meeting. But Mike sees all kinds of issues with the plan, including it taking place during daylight hours and the many unknowing customers who might get in the way when he tries to execute the plan. So Mike recommends a sniper mission.
But Mike spends most of the day and evening mulling over Nacho’s proposed mission. He even gets the rifle in his hand and is looking through the scope when he decides the plan is a bad idea. Contrast Mike’s use of logic here to the way Jimmy does business. If “Slippin Jimmy” has a great idea in his head, he runs with it and worries about the fallout later. I imagine that when Mike looked through the scope of those rifles, he saw everything that would happen after he took out Tuco and didn’t like what he saw.
So when Mike meets with Nacho the next day, he tells him he will not kill Tuco, lays out the reasons why he won’t, and presents his new plan: instead of having Tuco killed and bringing unwanted attention to Nacho from the drug cartel: get Tuco thrown in jail.
Getting Rid of Crazy Eyes
Tuco is back folks, and his expression is unchanged since breaking the legs of the genius grandma insulting skateboarders last season. It makes me wonder why someone with the calm demeanor of Nacho ever got into business with the skull cracker sitting beside him (And did anybody out there recognize the nervous drug distributor meeting the Tuco and Nacho? More on him in “Observations”). As they are meeting, Mike makes a phone call at a payphone across the street informing the police of a fight happening at the restaurant.
Now, this season’s front runner for the Better Call Saul Brass Balls award is Mike Ehrmantraut. Let’s look at everything he does to raise the level of the “piss off” meter in the veins of Tuco:
-He purposely bumps his car into Tuco’s car before walking into the restaurant Tuco is in.
-He opens his wallet and makes sure to flash a couple of 100 dollar bills.
-He lies about the money in that wallet and refuses to give him any of it once he’s called out for lying.
-He puts his hands behind him and let’s Tuco just bludgeon his face before getting knocked out by the crazy drug lord.
But Mike’s plan of receiving obscenely harsh punishment from Tuco pays off (kind of odd saying that considering how badly Mike was beaten up). And this isn’t like where Pryce gets himself into trouble because he’s a moron. Mike does his research. He knows what Tuco’s going to do and he embraces himself for it anyway. The police show up to witness Tuco hitting a defenseless Mike after having taken $400 from him and revealing an illegal firearm. Mike later tells Nacho that’s at least 5-10 years for Crazy Eyes in prison. But Nacho wonders why Mike, who received $25,000 instead of $50,000 because he didn’t kill Tuco, would go through all that punishment instead of just making the world a better place by riding it of temperamental drug dealer. Mike turns around and walks back to his car, refusing to answer Nacho’s question as he drives home, where a bag of frozen peas awaits his bruised face.
Meanwhile, at the offices of Davis and Main, the partners are viewing Jimmy’s ad and they are not impressed. Here’s another example of short term gain vs long term consequences. When Jimmy made that commercial, he was only thinking of Sandpiper, the case that, to this point, has made his young law career. But the partners of Davis and Main only view Sandpiper as a single case. They’ve spent years building up their brand and worry resorting themselves to ads like the one Jimmy made reduces their image in the eyes of their long-term clients.
But despite a 2-1 vote for firing him, Jimmy manages to keep his job. Though, according to “Cool Guy Cliff,” he will only get one more chance.
Jimmy was not the only one whose standing took a hit with the airing of that ad. Kim also must face the wrath of Howard Hamlin when he finds out she had knowledge of the ad and told no one. Now, I’m not sure which category to place Kim’s decision to withhold the fact that she had no idea Jimmy did not have permission to run the ad. The short-term affects of protecting Jimmy is a demotion to document review (and being removed from her desk for the second time this series). But this also could have long-term affects, with a loss of her law career within the realm of possibility. But her actions also help Jimmy long-term by not furthering his poor reputation with Chuck and now Howard.
But just because Kim protects Jimmy in the offices of HHM doe not mean she is in any mood to talk to him. Jimmy comes by to apologize one night only to find that Kim not only is mad and doesn’t want to speak with him, but she also pleads for him not to plead with the partners at HHM on her behalf. Of course, the first thing Jimmy does in response to this request from Kim is discuss plead with a partner at HHM on her behalf.
“Thinking the ends justify the means.”
Jimmy appears at Chuck’s house for the first time this season ready to have it out with his brother. But that sympathy we saw most of last season returns, when Jimmy sees his brother suffering on the couch has he apparently spent too much time out in public.
Jimmy stays the night, but his sympathy for Chuck disappears in the morning as he confronts him about the decision to demote Kim. Jimmy assumes Chuck is always the puppeteer behind Howard’s decisions. But I think I believe Chuck here. This was likely Howard’s decision and based on the information he had, it was the right one.
But Jimmy’s fierce loyalty to Kim drives him to argue with Chuck, who maintains the same stance he’s always had about Jimmy’s career as a lawyer. And he’s got some strong evidence to use this time, using the betrayal that both Howard and Kim feel after Jimmy running that commercial.
So Jimmy makes an offer: return Kim back to the position she was previously in and he will leave the law profession. But the “by the letter of the law” McGill brother calls that out for extortion. Chuck made a statement at the start of this scene, saying Jimmy will commit any act if he believes “the ends justify the means.” And to his credit, Chuck is not hypocritical with that statement. Jimmy presents Chuck with the opportunity to get exactly what Chuck wants: his brother quitting as a lawyer. But Chuck chooses the potential long-term ramifications (being charged with extortion) over a short-term goal (getting Jimmy to stop being a lawyer). Of course, maybe Chuck just didn’t believe Jimmy and thought he would not live up to his promise to stop practicing law. But Chuck refuses to accept Jimmy’s offer. So “Slippin Jimmy” will have to find another way to get Kim back into the good graces of HHM (and based on the previews, that is exactly what he will look to do next week).
-I was a little disappointed in the use of the comment “Get down here in the mud with me Chuck.” When I saw that in the season trailers, I really thought Jimmy would have some unethical project that the Brothers McGill could take on together. Instead, it was just a reference to an offer of extortion Jimmy made to Chuck that the elder brother was never going to accept.
-Howard Hamlin’s chosen method of punishment seems to be removing you from your office and relocating you to an office on a lower floor in the building. Compare that to Davis and Main, where all the offices are on the same level.
-I figured early on that Nacho’s dealings would be discovered by Tuco, leading to his disappearance. But now their inevitable future conflict takes on a new context with Nacho taking over the business while Tuco is behind bars. I expect Nacho to become a much larger player than he is right now and Tuco won’t be particularly happy about that when he gets out.
-Can anybody out there confirm that it is humanly possible to have a skull fly off of a person and into another man’s skin? Not saying it couldn’t happen, just curious if there are any real life documented occurrences.
Breaking Bad References
-The arms dealer Mike works with is named Lawson. He sold guns to Walt in both Season 4 and 5 of Breaking Bad.
-That associate delivering money to Tuco and Nacho was none other than Domingo “Krazy 8” Molina. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, here’s a photo to refresh your memory:
That’s Walt’s first kill right there who was also working for the Feds. He seems nervous in the scene, so I wonder if he’s working for the Feds this early on or just scared of Tuco (which is a justified response when sitting across from that lunatic).
-What will Jimmy do to get Kim back on solid footing at HHM?
-When will Jimmy pull his next stunt that could be his last at Davis and Main?
-How will the level-headed Nacho run his business and how far will he rise up in the drug underworld?
-What were Mike’s real reasons for not shooting Tuco? Was it really just a logical decision or did he have other motives?
-Will we get more Krazy 8 in the near future?
Next week’s episode is titled “Rebecca,” so let’s see if we find out what the name on the top of Chuck’s sheet music in Cobbler