BETTER CALL SAUL Review: “Sunk Costs”

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Chuck’s true motives for manipulating Jimmy come to light in this episode of . Can Jimmy find away out of the corner Chuck’s painted him into with Kim’s help? Mike and Gus meet face to face. Mike may be able to get revenge on Hector without killing him, while at the same time helping Gus.

Chuck and Jimmy have had their ups and downs ever since we met Chuck, but this time may really be the end of their relationship. These two brothers are cut from the same cloth, and the art of manipulation runs in their blood. Chuck really isn’t that much different than Jimmy, he’s just more cold and calculating. He’s constantly screwed Jimmy’s chances at practicing law, and from the very beginning has attempted to thwart any opportunity Jimmy may have been offered to advance his . Chuck clearly believes the true nature of an individual is unable to change, while at the same time hoping Jimmy alters his life in some way before he ends up permanently damaging himself and others. If Jimmy had chosen any other than practicing law, something Chuck holds sacred, their relationship may be different. In his mind, Chuck holds his with a sanctity, almost as if it was the priesthood, and Jimmy’s entrance into the holy practice only demeans it for him. To him, Jimmy is a blemish or blight on this profession and Chuck wants to remove it at all costs, including if it results in the loss of their familial bond.

For all of Jimmy’s ability to see the angles and work a grift, he walked right into the trap Chuck laid for him. Is it because he didn’t expect anything like this from his brother? That can’t be the issue, because he’s found out other manipulations Chuck has orchestrated behind his back. Does Jimmy have a blind spot when it comes to Chuck? Of course he does. For all of the ways Chuck has screwed him over and treated him like he’s worthless, Jimmy can’t seem to stop looking to Chuck, wanting his encouragement and recognition. This may really be the end of their relationship though, and Chuck’s actions, instead of helping Jimmy become a better person afterward, has likely pushed Jimmy even closer to becoming Saul Goodman.

Though Chuck is physically feeble due to his ailment, his mental capacities are finely tuned. He just doesn’t have an outlet to use them because of the restrictions his aversion to electricity place on him. For awhile it seemed like the case they were building together would be the thing to bring these brothers closer, garner the recognition Jimmy longs for, and help pull Chuck out of the doldrums of his self imposed isolation, but that all backfired in the end. Jimmy’s revenge on Chuck screwing him over, was to make Chuck look stupid and steer Mesa Verde into becoming Kim’s client. It worked, but aroused Chuck’s suspicions until he manipulated Jimmy into confessing what he did.

The taped confession is just the lure Chuck uses to draw Jimmy in. Chuck puts himself on a pedestal, and is always worried Jimmy is going to hurt himself or others, but Chuck uses Ernie to pull off his plan, and then fires him after Jimmy is arrested. It’s probably even more cold hearted than anything Jimmy has ever done. Chuck is even willing to go so far as to use all of his connections within the legal system to make sure Jimmy is unable to get off with just a slap on the wrist. When he meets the prosecutor, Chuck tells her to offer Jimmy PPD (pre-prosecution diversion) if Jimmy signs a confession admitting guilt to all charges. It will let Jimmy get off without jail time as long as he keeps his nose clean for a year, but the kicker is the signed confession of a felony would go to the bar association and Jimmy would lose his license to practice law. If Jimmy refuses and the case goes to trial, he could face jail and still be disbarred if he loses. Chuck knows everyone in the bar association, and likely will put his thumb on the scale in an attempt to get Jimmy barred from practicing law. Kim is there to help Jimmy though. She’s seen everything Chuck has done to him in the past, and together maybe they can find a way out this mess, though it doesn’t look good right now.

The highlight of the entire episode is the face to face meeting between Mike and Gus. Finally Mike can get an explanation for why Gus left the note “Don’t” on Mike’s windshield when he was about to assassinate Hector. Gus doesn’t want Hector killed, because as his business rival it would look bad for Gus, and would likely spiral into an all out war between the rival factions. Gus does appreciate what Mike did when he robbed Hector’s truck, and understands how Hector’s killing of an innocent passerby angers Mike. He suggests Mike rob another one of Hector’s trucks because the last robbery was a blow to Hector’s business and his pride. Mike isn’t interested in robbing another truck, so instead he and Gus come up with a different plan.

The very first images in the episode are of a pair of sneakers hanging on a power line as a Los Pollos Hermanos truck drives under it. This comes back into play with an ingenious plan they devise to get back at Hector. Gus sets up Mike’s visit to a Hispanic free clinic to get drugs. In a hilarious scene, Mike puts the drugs into a set of sneakers and tries to throw them up onto the power line, but it takes numerous attempts for him to get them up there. Once they’re hanging above the road, Mike stakes out the intersection with his sniper rifle, waiting until one of Hector’s trucks show up. At first it seems Mike is going to kill the two men when they stop and get out of the truck to hide their guns, but Mike shoots into the air several times until the men think the gunfire is just from hunters. Once they get back into their truck and drive under the sneakers, Mike shoots the shoe with the drugs in it, and the drugs spill out all over Hector’s truck. When the men get to customs at the border, a drug sniffing dog hits on the truck and the men are arrested with what is presumably a huge shipment of narcotics inside the ice cream truck.

More thoughts:

  • It’s funny to see Francesca’s reaction after Jimmy is arrested. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, and a far cry from how nonchalant she is in Breaking Bad when Jimmy gets into all sorts of mischief.
  • The interaction between Jimmy and the prosecutor he used to work with at the courthouse is interesting. The man gives Jimmy some ribbing, but it’s friendly, which is why Jimmy is so disappointed to find he won’t be handling the case. Instead a more strict prosecutor from out of town is coming.
  • The way Mike problem solves is wonderful to watch. He always comes up with the most ingenious ways to take care of things. With Hector’s men arrested, is this the start of Mike and Gus’s professional relationship?
  • How harsh was it when Chuck was pleading with Jimmy to see the arrest as an opportunity to better himself, and Jimmy let Chuck know the next time he got sick, Jimmy wouldn’t be there to help him, and he’d die alone in a hospital. Ouch!

TB-TV-Grade-B+

Season 3, Episode 3 (S03E03)
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
Keep up with all of Jeff’s reviews here.

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