BETTER CALL SAUL Review: “Chicanery”


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Tonight’s episode of is basically a classic courtroom drama in the vein of Perry Mason. Will Jimmy be disbarred from practicing law in New Mexico, or can he and Kim find a way to save himself and his ?

The opening scene threw me for a minute. We’re taken back in time, to a period when Jimmy was trying to help Chuck impress Rebecca sometime after their divorce. She has no idea about Chuck’s malady since she’s travelling the world playing music, and is rarely in the United States for any given amount of time. Chuck clearly misses her a lot, and so he and Jimmy cover up Chuck’s electronic aversion to keep it from her. They go so far as to hire people to install electrical appliances in order to make it appear the only thing wrong with Chuck’s house is the electricity was mistakenly shut off. He claims a number transposed wrongly has led to his current difficulty, much like a number transposition will lose him the Mesa Verde account.

Chuck was married to this woman, why can’t he tell her the truth? It’s clear he’s afraid he’ll be rejected, or appear weak in her eyes, and Chuck is too proud for that. Appearing weak and helpless is not something he can stomach in front of the woman he loves. The scenario he conjures up does have a hint of the romantic to it, as his house is completely lit by candlelight. With Jimmy’s help, Chuck attempts to woo his wife back. Everything is perfect. The wine, the food, the conversation, it’s all going extremely well until Rebecca gets a call on her cell phone. Chuck tries to hold it together, but as she paces to and fro, nearer and farther, the audio static in the scene rises and falls with her proximity to Chuck until he can’t take it any more and grabs the phone out of her hand and throws it, ruining the night he spend so much time and effort on. With a word he could explain everything to her, but he can’t bear to have her pity him or to appear helpless or ill to her.

The point of this scene was lost on me until the very end of the episode, where it ties in perfectly to the courtroom drama unfolding as Jimmy and Kim fight desperately to save Jimmy’s law license. The writing in this episode is superb, and we are given glimpses into each side’s preparatory activities before the actual hearing. It appears Kim and Jimmy are living together, as they brush their teeth in front of a mirror. We hear Chuck practice in the dark of his house all of the ways he can say how he doesn’t hate Jimmy so he can sell the audience, and we see the courtroom being made so Chuck can actually testify during the proceedings. Howard even tries to convince Chuck he doesn’t need to testify, perhaps sensing things may not go as planned if he does.  Jimmy’s entire rides on successfully defending himself in front of the bar association, and it will be the fight of his life.

Jimmy has plans up his sleeve. He’s not about to loose the law license he spent so much time and effort on. He’s going to go down swinging and if he falls from grace, he’s taking Chuck with him. The first step takes him to see the veterinarian Mike’s been doing business with. It’s a hilarious scene, as Jimmy sits in the waiting room with a bagged goldfish, next to a cat, and a lizard owner. He wants the veterinarian to hook him up with someone who can do a for him, and this is how Huell pops into the world of Better Call Saul. In Breaking Bad Huell works for Saul, and has the deft hands that plant the ricin cigarette on Jesse. Here, Huell plants a cell phone battery on Chuck as he bumps him in the hallway of the courthouse. Chuck has no idea.

The actual courtroom portion of the episode shows how good Kim is at her . When she cross-examines Howard, she ends up making him look like an idiot. He explains the reason Jimmy wasn’t hired by HHM was because the partners were afraid of the appearance of nepotism, but then she asks what the two H’s in the name of the firm stand for, and he sheepishly admits his father is the other H, tanking his own version of why Jimmy wasn’t hired. She tells the court the disturbance between Jimmy and Chuck was a long simmering strain of a brotherly relationship that eventually broke. If they can prove Chuck has been deliberately being terrible to Jimmy, it may justify or at least explain what happened that day.

Jimmy takes a much harder tactic when it’s his turn to cross-examine Chuck. Besides planting a battery on Chuck, Jimmy goes so far as to have Rebecca show up to the hearing. Chuck thinks her appearance is meant to rattle his cage, since now he’s been outed to his former wife as having this debilitating mental issue. Jimmy takes it even further though, and describes the inside of Chuck’s house, covered in aluminum foil, stripped of all electrical devices, and presents it as proof that Chuck is not well, or of a sound mind. The damning taped admission is explained as Jimmy willing to say anything to calm down his brother’s agitated mind. The admission of the ruse Chuck played on his wife at the beginning of the episode begins to wear down Chuck’s credibility, and the revelation he’s had a battery in his pocket the entire time and hasn’t felt any pain from it shows the electrical allergy is nothing but a construct of Chuck’s troubled mind. When Chuck feels the case slipping out of his hands, he doubles down and starts rattling off all of the offenses he (probably justly) believes Jimmy to have perpetrated. It makes Chuck look like a raving lunatic, and he knows Jimmy has gotten the better of him.

It’s a harsh ending to the episode, as Chuck looks small, petty, and confused. What happens next? It’s clear he’s unhinged and the ailment is all in his head. Does Chuck end up in a mental hospital now that Rebecca is aware of the issues he’s been dealing with? Is this why we never see Chuck in Breaking Bad? Clearly their familial bond is over and can never be repaired. Where does Jimmy go from here?


Season 3, Episode 5 (S03E05)
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10PM on AMC

Read all of our reviews of Better Call Saul here.
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For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.
Follow Jeff on Twitter: @OfSoundnVision
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