Four Letter Nerd

Better Call Saul Season 3, Episode 1: Mabel

BCS S3 E1 Jimmy and Chuck

Pressure. Not in your face or intense by any means. But that was the word that kept coming into my mind as I was watching “Better Call Saul’s” Season 3 premiere Monday Night.

For Kim, it’s the pressure of serving Mesa Verde and dealing with the means with which she got them as a client. For Mike, it’s the pressure of knowing someone who’s likely very dangerous is tracking him. For Jimmy, it’s the pressure of all the people he lied to last season coming back seeking retribution.

The pressure is especially intense around Jimmy (I know, the most intense situations surrounding the main character of the show, shocking!!!), even though he’s not completely aware of all of it yet. We’re the ones who feel the pressure Chuck’s applying as he begins revealing Jimmy’s confession to the world. But the air force captain he hoodwinked last season sure made himself known to Jimmy this week.

And while it’s a slow burn (the premiere barely advanced the story ahead but maybe a few days), season 3 appears poised to press the characters to a point where they make those critical decisions that put them where we see them (or don’t see them) in the “Breaking Bad” universe.

Speaking of where things are heading, let’s start this recap with the opening scene from last night’s premiere involving “Gene,” the manager at the Cinnabon in Omaha.

“Get a Lawyer!!!

Season 3 started the same way season 1 and 2 did: in the present day with Saul/Jimmy in witness protection as “Gene.”

Gene is taking a lunch break on a bench in the mall when a young man in a trench coat holding stolen DVDs attempts to hide in a photo booth. “Gene” pretends not to notice until police walk over and ask him if he’s seen a young man in a trench coat.

BCS S3 Gene 2

“Gene” eating lunch as he watches a shoplifter hiding from authorities.

The Jimmy on Gene’s shoulder (or maybe it was just Saul/Jimmy trying to maintain his cover) tells him to show the cops where the suspect is, which he hesitantly does, quietly pointing to the photo booth. But as the cops take the culprit away, the Saul in “Gene” stands up, screaming “Get a lawyer!!!”

Gene returns to work and is clearly affected by what just happened over lunch. Just before he’s about to slap some more icing on some Cinnabons with frosting, he faints.

“The Wheel is Going to Turn. It Always Does.”

I’m disappointed in myself for not predicting this last season. Of course, lying to an Air Force captain to gain special access on an Air Force base would get Jimmy in trouble. I’m surprised it’s not being looked into as a threat to national security (at least, not yet).

The argument with the captain in Jimmy’s office was a harsh wake-up call for a guy who always seems to talk his way out of trouble or get someone to cover for him. In fact, we see Kim covering for him at the start of the episode, taking on clients there to see Jimmy, adding responsibilities to her plate that are pulling her away from her work with Mesa Verde.

BCS S3 Kim and Jimmy

Jimmy thanks Kim for covering for him after he went to take care of Chuck.

And I believe the captain’s words to Jimmy are the tone setter for him the rest of the season. And we can expect “the wheel to turn” on Jimmy many more times this season.

“Don’t Think I’ll Forget What Happened Here Today.”

And the biggest wheel likely to turn on Jimmy is the one being turned by his brother, Chuck.

Chuck makes a promise to Jimmy early in the episode, assuring Jimmy that he “will pay” for sabotaging Chuck’s case with Mesa Verde.

The first stop on Chuck’s revenge tour is playing the tape for Howard. And Howard wastes no time dismissing all of us who assumed Jimmy’s pending legal trouble would come from forging documents. Not only is the tape unlikely to be admitted to court, but there’s no chance it can bring Mesa Verde back as a client to HHM. Chuck knows all of this, meaning his only reason for making the recording was to ruin Jimmy personally.

 

BCS S3 Howard and Chuck

Chuck plays the tape for Howard and reveals his plan for Jimmy.

And how do you ruin your brother who everybody else loves and adores? You turn his friends against him. Howard is kinda sorta one of those people. But Ernesto, a really friendly guy and hard worker, is an example of someone who’d be perfect to turn against Chuck’s brother.

Chuck gets the recording of Jimmy admitting to forgery to play “accidentally” while Ernesto is changing the batteries in the tape recorder. Chuck gets Ernesto to promise to tell no one what he’s heard. We’ll see if Ernesto can keep that promise, and who, if anybody, will be exposed to that recording next.

“Sorry, I Just Got to Check One Thing. Two Minutes. Tops”

Jimmy will likely have legal trouble all season and Mike will be further immersing himself in the Albuquerque drug scene.

But there troubles may pale in comparison to the pressure Kim Wexler will be under this season.

First, there’s the Mesa Verde account. Knowing that forged documents are the reason she has the account is enough to keep her nervous about holding it. But having to do all that paper work on her own without the resources of a large firm will create even more headaches. That pressure she’s under to do right by Mesa Verde showed itself while Kim obsessed over proper end of sentence punctuation late at night at the office. We’ve saw her put together at least three different versions of Mesa Verde’s paper work in the premiere alone.

BCS S3 Kim Mesa Verde

Kim meets with her friend Paige and shows her the work Kim’s done on the Mesa Verde case so far.

 

Then, there’s sharing an office with Jimmy. We’ve already mentioned the extra work covering Jimmy added to Kim’s plate. I wonder when (and I do think it’s a when, not an if) constantly having to work with clients there to see Jimmy will be too much to handle.

The Gas Cap

Let’s end this recap with Mike, who we’ve never seen spooked like he was when that note appeared on his car.

He races to a self-service auto repair yard and proceeds to tear his old car apart looking for the tracking device he knows has been installed somewhere.

BCS S3 E1 Mike

Mike looking to find where the tracking device someone’s been using to follow him is on his car.

But just as Mike has given up, he’s inspired by the gas caps in the lounge of the repair yard. He finds the tracker inside his gas cap and takes it home, leaving the rest of the car behind.

Now I had to go back and re-watch all the steps that took place from here. Mike took the tracker home and wrote down the serial number on the device. Then, Mike meets up with Dr. Caldera, the veterinarian who serves as Mike’s connection for work, and purchases a tracking device identical to the one Mike found in his car along with the console that allows him to follow it.

Mike knows the battery to the device found on his car has to be replaced. So he installs the battery to his handheld radio and plays the device until the battery is dead.

Once it dies, Mike sits by his window and waits until someone comes by in the middle of the night and takes the cap so a new battery can be put in the tracker.

But the tracker in Mike’s gas cap is no longer the one originally put there. With a fresh battery, it’s the tracker Mike bought that he can now use to follow whoever just took it to the people who are tracking him.

Observations

-I think Jimmy and Chuck may have experienced their last tender moment together as they recalled reading the book “The Adventures of Mabel” during their childhoods.

-It was a nice touch to have Jimmy reopen the yellow paint can when Kim informs him she just wants to look at “One more thing” about the Mesa Verde paper work.

-Did anybody notice the Royals backpack “Gene” takes into work? It may just be Gene playing a character from the Midwest. But could it be Jimmy remembering his time with Kim, who is herself a Royals fan?

-Speaking of Gene, I do hope Gene fainting is not the last we see of modern day Saul this season. Surely, we’ve hit a point in the series where the modern day story can start to move a little faster.

I know the premiere moved a little slow (which has been a common  complaint among many about “Saul”). But with the way it set the table for season 3, I really think we will look back at “Mabel” as a real turning point in the series.

See you next week.

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Jeff Merrick

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