Better Call Saul: Expenses
May 23, 2017 4:32 PM - Season 3, Episode 7 - Subscribe

Jimmy tries to settle his debts. Nacho reunites with an old acquaintance. Mike helps Stacey with a project and makes a meaningful connection.
posted by mediareport (68 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Loved this episode. The moments when Jimmy transitions to Saul are much more believable than the sudden, silly appearance of the Saul Goodman name in the TV ad last week. That scene where Jimmy is planning his hustle of the asshole in the restaurant, and Kim just watches as he goes deeper and deeper - after she'd already been chuckling at his endearingly feeble attempts to hide his money problems - were wonderful. Seeing Kim realizing, and at some level accepting, that Jimmy is not going to be the person she wants him to be, is simultaneously fascinating and horrifying. God, I hope she gets out ok.

The origins of Mike's "Mr. Fixer" persona are great to watch unfold, too. I swear, this show is at its best when it completely ignores That Other Show (ooooh, here's Gus's first look at the laundromat! and here's a minor character from Breaking Bad you didn't give a shit about seeing again! - gag) and just lets these characters breathe on their own. At first I thought they were actually going to give Mike a love interest, but this - his realization that he could help this woman find out what happened to her missing husband - is much richer, given what we know about his evolution.

Anyway, this was such a better episode than the last one, and rekindles my hope for the arc of this series.
posted by mediareport at 4:40 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


Oh, and I was completely fooled when Jimmy started to cry in the insurance office. Completely, utterly fooled. For 30 seconds, anyway.
posted by mediareport at 4:44 PM on May 23 [8 favorites]


It seemed to me that Jimmy's initial reaction was authentic -- he was blindsided & dismayed at the thought of the 150% increase. So I don't think you were fooled, mediareport. The first 30 seconds were real.

But then he saw the opportunity to screw Chuck, and Saul Goodman took over.
posted by Frayed Knot at 6:11 PM on May 23 [16 favorites]


Not the Nacho that Daniel was expecting to find in the couch cushions, eh?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:39 PM on May 23 [5 favorites]


I wondered if there was a bit of a "now there's a hustle" glint in Jimmy's eyes as he said "my clients love me and they would never bring a suit against me."
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:48 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


here's a minor character from Breaking Bad you didn't give a shit about seeing again!

I hope you don't mean Lydia, because nobody works a stevia packet like--don't look at me like that. It's not like I'm talking about squat cobbler.

Speaking of stuff the show made up, the bit with the insurance person reminded me of the Chicago Sunroof story, that willingness of Jimmy to go for revenge and damn the consequences. Watching Jimmy plan a hustle in the restaurant, not because he wants to have some fun with Kim at the expense of some asshole who desperately deserves it but because he could really use the money, and Kim realizing that that's where he's going, is really sad, but Jimmy turning his grief at realizing that he may lose in the long run even after he's won into revenge on Chuck is a little scary. It's not like Chuck hasn't been screwing him over all along, but he's been doing so within the law, and if he thinks that the monkey has been brandishing a machine gun before now... I wonder if Chuck knows what Obi-Wan Kenobi's last words were.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:25 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


Not the Nacho that Daniel was expecting to find in the couch cushions, eh?

I'd never stoop so low, but I predict a 90% chance of a "Nacho pills" line showing up in a recap of one of the next few episodes.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:14 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


Astounding. I had the darn thing stuttering on me and crashing so I couldn't watch it till now (and then with a migraine hangover).

Kim was into it until she saw how into it he was. She broke him back to reality but that bummed him out even more so she tried to "keep playing". You'd think by now she'd have his tells down. "Spreading the points around. I got a system." My ass.

Every time he gets hit or pissed and there's an opportunity to fuck Chuck, he's going to take it. Chuck's just another asshole who deserves it now.

Those guys in the music store. I had a feeling like if I were hip I'd know who they were.

As someone who's stringing together this and that as a freelancer, I really feel like I can identify with Jimmy/Saul ....
posted by tilde at 8:38 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Walter White killed a man who made a playground for kids!

I wonder, more often now during this series, what it must have been like for Mike to be involved in the tragedy with the boy who was shot by whats-his-name after the great train robbery in the last season of BB. Backstories in BCS have brilliantly heightened certain tragedies in parts of BB. Mike was undoubtedly thinking not only about his granddaughter while putting a boy in acid, but also his own son. The son whom he loved and failed. That scene was one of the most sobering and harrowing of the series, and BB is not that far off into the future that Mike would have been hardened to the idea of killing children. In BB, you knew he loved his granddaughter, but sometimes bad people love certain people. We find out here that Mike loved certain people because he was much, much better than we thought —although caught in a downward spiral of questionable decisions — and BB took him and all of his genuine affections straight to the grave.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:44 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


I love how "one move ahead" Jimmy/Saul's mindset is when he is in survival mode. If this survives long enough to overlap with Breaking Bad, I'd love to see that all Saul's hustle with Walter was just to cover some prior debt(s).

I mean, having a "vanisher" on-call is still a hell of a long way from where Jimmy/Saul is right now, much less feeling forced to call on the services of the same.

This episode - even more than anything we've seen before - shows us why Howard called him "Charlie Hustle." He's working harder to preserve the dream of a law license by running tv-ad-scams-on-a-timer more fiercely than he did his "living the dream" Mercedes-and-never-see-court cocobolo-desk job. Or even working to lose that job. Taking handi-wipe baths while speeding between retail-wasteland-islands is just heartbreaking. He can always sell the one, but the brass ring that gets him free and clear is beyond his reach at his level. Just like when he broke into law, in his new media empire he's dealing with people on the margins.

Also: I like that he's carried that "second best lawyer" coffee cup through multiple seasons, and yet when we see him on community service he's back to a generic coffee shop cup. Nice.

-=-

I did not listen to the BB podcasts - or even the earlier seasons - but were all of them so lovingly dedicated to the craft and nuance of filmmaking as this one seems to be? It seems like every episode, they're talking about the work-a-day life of the people deep in the credits: second ADs, script supervisors, union compliance folks, and etc.

I only ask because, from the very first scene of the series opened with Saul/Jimmy/Gene thinking back on his law days not like Chuck would - as a brilliant legal mind - but by watching his *commercials*. Like, from his harmless grift to raise his profile in season one, through his media vision battles with DnM in season 2, to his commercial-centered hustles in season three, the way that TV/Media and law interact seem to be a running theme I haven't seen much considered. I mean, the first shot of the series is a looooooooong wheel out of an old school TV set.

Maybe I'm just being starry-eyed, but seeing the show develop as a deconstruction or tutorial on film making - on top of everything else - would just be the master stroke for a showrunner who so obviously loves television and a character so defined by an endless stream of unique TV ads and his own love of TV and movies.

(Ice Station Zebra)
posted by absalom at 9:15 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


> reminded me of the Chicago Sunroof story, that willingness of Jimmy to go for revenge and damn the consequences

Yes, but I think there's a bit more nuance to it - it's not mere revenge - Jimmy seems to actually have a very strong sense of right and wrong*, but it's slightly miscalibrated because doing the proper ("right") thing doesn't right wrongs (as often as it should, as fully as it should), in Jimmy's experience. Repeatedly.

The character isn't vindictive, but "chaotic good" might be the best least bad way of describing the character. He definitely wants justice and just deserts so so. SO. badly (especially for those who he feels have been done hard by) that he doesn't consider second- and third- order effects of his actions/intended results.

The Chicago Sunroof story; less sophisticated/more juvenile Jimmy. Seeing, and taking advantage of, a way to screw Chuck is slightly more sophisticated/less juvenile Jimmy. Becoming a criminal justice defense attorney for indefensible clients and getting their charges dropped/reduced is the straight line projection from this kind of experience. It's not fair, so fuck fairness and fight against (perceived, peripheral) injustice.

*eg. his being credited for 30 minutes instead of 4 hours; I really got the sense that Jimmy gets (at the end of the encounter, at least - definitely not at first ["I picked up more trash than anyone else"/had 2 full bags when everyone had only 1, if even full]) that the other community service peeps are super hard done by and abused by those in charge (which is more motivation for him to shut up and take it, much more so than the bearded community service-ee, -er, " -volunteer(?)" ... growling at him). That, I think, is his seed motivation to make the most of the criminal justice system in order to protect people - wrongly or (likely more often) rightly - punted into the legal system
posted by porpoise at 9:17 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


The meatmarket bar shenanigans - it's all about making things right and punishing exacting a price from people who cause harm to/cause pain to/exploit others.

Jimmy's probably sub-/super-consciously (can't tell which) knows that many of his plans are beyond the pale; the combination of emotional stress and being (far) too drunk to drive leads to him spilling his un-filtered thoughts/plans to Kim. She's a grafted conscience/downstream-consequences* reality check.

Kim now gets Jimmy's unthinking desire for justice can (and has probably had) get out of hand/go beyond the pale.

Combined with her reaction to his doing television ads - which is a bit of a perversion permutation of trial law, the manipulation of perception - might be the break where she severs her relationship with Goodman over what ethics means.

*second- and third- and...- order effects
posted by porpoise at 9:39 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


I was really hoping for a scene where Jimmy tries to sell a commercial to the nail salon. No luck, though.
posted by Quonab at 10:10 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


I think the insurance scam was a setup from the start. He only gives his surname knowing his brothers name will come up on the computer, and feeds the employee all the information she'll need to put 2 and 2 together.

And the lady's husband, at first i thought Mike was going to go into detective mode and find out what happened. But now i'm thinking it was the emotional kick he needed to stop Daniel and/or Nacho meeting the same fate.

With the money problems Saul's has been having maybe that Ice Station Zebra cheque will be broken out soon.
posted by onya at 12:51 AM on May 24 [6 favorites]


I think the insurance scam was a setup from the start. He only gives his surname knowing his brothers name will come up on the computer

Yep, that part stuck out to me on rewatch. It's a great scene, so there's room for interpretation, but it seems pretty clear to me Jimmy planned a vengeful setup from the start. That smile at the end? Pure cunning.
posted by mediareport at 3:17 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


The problem with Jimmy's desire for justice is the same as the problem with Chuck's: for both of them, it's really about proving you're the good guy by costing the bad guys something significant, by disempowering, humiliating, and punishing "bad people." True, they both make stabs at claiming some higher purpose: preserving the honor of the law, for Chuck, and restoring (some) money to the elderly victims of Sandpiper, in Jimmy's case.

But as the show has gone on, we see that both brothers find far more satisfaction in tearing down the bad guy than they do in making victims whole, or even considering collateral damage, whether it's Ernesto or Captain Bauer of the USAF or Howard or Kim. In part, this is because both, in the face of injustice, see themselves as the victims. Even when it's someone else being conned or mistreated, Jimmy and Chuck both see the real problem as the offense against *their* moral codes, their senses of self. They think the world owes them a particular moral order, and when they don't see their desired order of things reflected in the world, they act out to correct it...by any means necessary, so long as it fits within their visions of themselves.

With Mike, we get a more concrete -- ahem! -- version of the same issue. That he is more painstaking and thoughtful in his work of putting the world into (his notion of) order makes the enterprise no less egocentric, and to those outside his head, like Daniel Wormald or Anita, he can seem capricious or unreadable. And to a certain extent, he likes it that way, much as Jimmy and Chuck enjoy deception, the concealment of themselves. They wish to impose their notions of order on the world, punish those who deviate from it, and yet somehow be beyond consequences (at least any consequences they don't decide to accept) themselves.

All of them are also damaged people, of course, and what they really do is reenact a narrative of that damage -- how it came to be, why it happened, what it means -- that they have each constructed. What they fail to do is to empathize meaningfully with others. Mike never speaks in his group therapy session, and while he listens and sympathizes, he won't reciprocate with truths of his own (and can't, for practical reasons). Jimmy retreats into dark fantasies of vengeance, oblivious to Kim until she reels him back in. And most obviously, Chuck retreats into a delusion, literal darkness of his own making.

And where the characters have failed their own visions, where they make lapses or suffer consequences that exceed the limited moral economies they function within, they resort to plain old economy: money as the repayment of a moral debt. Mike uses his blood money to buy supplies for the playground; Jimmy drains his bank accounts in a transparent effort to "keep up his end" with Kim and the college kids; and even Nacho, now on what he sees as a moral mission, can only offer cold cash to the likes of Daniel Wormald, who he ripped off in their earlier encounters.

The episode isn;t subtle about this, not least in the scene where Paige balks at the higher cost of doing business in Utah, and this leads straight into Kim rather directly noting that she can't bear the high moral cost of defeating Chuck. More subtly, it's the way Jimmy rejects the consequences of his break-in and suspension by hustling for money, to the point that he unthinkingly trades community service hours -- literal restorative work, however thankless, unglamorous, and endless -- for an attempt to raise money so he can keep looking good in front of Kim and his prospective advertising clients.

Kim and Anita are the counterpoints here: people who suck it up, take the pain and the guilt, and try to make real amends and soldier on as best they can. Kim's increasing horror at what Jimmy is becoming, or maybe just revealing himself to be, is obvious, as is her growing unease with her own complicity. And Anita responds to an unjust loss -- albeit one in which she, unlike Mike, is not culpable -- by giving of herself and looking for places she can lend a hand. She's not driven by Mike's guilt or Jimmy's pride, but by something else, a sense of real connection to others, a feeling of deep mutuality.

And this is the flaw of Jimmy, Chuck, and Mike: they don't look for ways out of their damage; they look for ways to define the world in terms of that damage, to make everything else the story they tell about it, and in so doing, they rack up even more of it. In particular, Jimmy seems to imagine that if he can create an image that's good enough, reality will follow along: this is the heart and soul of a con game, of course, but it's more broadly how Jimmy lives his life. If his ads show up on TV, success will follow for everyone; if his office still has his name on it, then is legal career will be back undamaged one day; and if he can keep up the front of being Kim's not-quite partner, then their relationship will be just perfect. However much cash he needs to burn through to make that happen, he will. It's how the world is supposed to be, according to one Jimmy McGill. Why, if anyone should be burning through cash, it's the *real* bad guy here, Chuck McGill!

Like Mike and Chuck, Jimmy wants to do what's "right," but only if he gets to set the terms of right and wrong, to write the story. But in this universe, that's a task reserved to fate or God or whatever else the characters would call Vince Gilligan if he entered their awareness. Probably they wouldn't even know him if they met him.
posted by kewb at 3:36 AM on May 24 [12 favorites]


The guitar twins are podcasting superstars the Sklar brothers. Worth at least a squee-ette from me.
posted by whuppy at 4:27 AM on May 24 [5 favorites]


I think the insurance scam was a setup from the start. He only gives his surname knowing his brothers name will come up on the computer

At first, I thought it was more opportunistic vengence after he realized he was more screwed than he thought. But, not having his account number at the start seems to counter this notion. He would want this meeting to go smoothly, so you would think he would bring the account number at least. Or after so many calls to try and get his refund where he would have to give his account number each time, he would probably have it memorized.
posted by mikepop at 5:58 AM on May 24 [5 favorites]


I had completely forgotten about Ice Station Zebra Associates. (Thanks for the reminder!)

Nacho seemed so surprised by Mike's suggestion about putting the pills back. I wasn't sure if that was because he hadn't thought of that himself (it doesn't seem like a detail he'd really miss, but maybe he was too focused on the opportunity) or because he didn't know what to do with Mike being helpful.

I was really angry at Jimmy* by the end of the episode. I didn't expect any better, but I'd hoped it would take him a little longer to get the "destroy Chuck" bit back between his teeth. His descent into Saul is going to pick up a lot of speed from here on, I think. I really hope the show doesn't start to just move pieces and people in place for the beginning of BB. (I think the show is better than that, but Lydia's appearance last episode didn't help. And as much as I like Gus, I want his appearances to be surprising - like his motivational speech to his employees after Hector's nonsense - rather than just steps on the path to later Gus.)

*I shouldn't be! His manipulation in the insurance office really got to me, even though I understand how wrecked he's feeling.
posted by minsies at 6:23 AM on May 24


I did not listen to the BB podcasts - or even the earlier seasons - but were all of them so lovingly dedicated to the craft and nuance of filmmaking as this one seems to be? It seems like every episode, they're talking about the work-a-day life of the people deep in the credits: second ADs, script supervisors, union compliance folks, and etc.

The short answer is yes. However the earliest batches from Breaking Bad were pretty much just Kelly Dixon the editor, Vince Gilligan and guest spots featuring writers, executive producers and occasionally the actors. Over time they have added more actors and more below the line people but I don't recall them going as deep as Second AD before. I suppose they've had some writer's assistants in the past. With that said, even without the specific tradespeople, the discussion does lovingly get into the craft of making the show.

One thing to keep in mind is that at least for the early days (and maybe it is still true*) no one is getting paid to be on the podcast and the podcast is produced well after filming of the show so it can be hard to get everyone in a room to record these items especially when you consider that most everyone has moved on to other jobs.


*AMC could spread some marketing money around to help facilitate this.
posted by mmascolino at 6:42 AM on May 24


and here's a minor character from Breaking Bad you didn't give a shit about seeing again! - gag

Do you mean Huell? I give all the shits about Huell.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:57 AM on May 24 [9 favorites]


A coworker who's also following the series has an interesting theory: Kim will go back to HH&M. This dovetails with my general impression of the Howard/Chuck whiskey-drinking scene in last week's episode as mapping very well to a genteel job termination scene, with Howard talking about seeing it as an opportunity, although as a partner, I don't think that he could simply kick Chuck to the curb... but I'm not sure if there's anything (or at least anything that we know of) that could keep Howard from leaving. IANAL, like most people watching this, probably, but would there really be anything on the legal side to keep Howard from noping out?
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:56 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


Do you mean Huell?

No, I meant Lydia, in the context of the long shot of Gus patrolling - ta da! - The Superlab. Someone noted last week that the podcast reported Lydia was a last-minute add to fill time when a location fell through, which helps explain it, but that the show's go-to in emergencies is "let's toss in another pointless Breaking Bad easter egg" doesn't bode well if you're one of the folks, like me, who prefer the show when it's not gnawing the BB bone so obviously.

Huell's appearance was handled well and made sense. Lydia's was clumsy and unnecessary.
posted by mediareport at 8:39 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


This thread has me convinced Jimmy did plan the insurance revenge in advance. I thought it was strange he was pushing for a insurance "refund" so aggressively, it just seemed obvious that it wouldn't work. But him using that as an excuse to get in front of an insurance representative make sense, and he clearly did say McGill at first so the rep would look up Chuck's name too.
Here's my prediction for Kim: I think she'll slowly get wrapped into Jimmy's scams and eventually do something very criminal and she'll get caught. And she and Jimmy will then use the "Hoover" vanisher guy to help her escape prison. OR I think it's possible that Kim has already "hoovered" herself and her Kim identity is an alias for a criminal background she had back in Nebraska. And in that scenario, Kim is the one who eventually introduces Jimmy to the "Hoover" guy when a situation arises where he or someone else (maybe Howard?) needs a new identity.

I'm hoping for more Nacho scenes! I love that actor.
posted by areaperson at 11:44 AM on May 24 [5 favorites]


First time I have really seen the fault line between Jimmy and Kim, like, for real. Breaking my heart, but things finally feel inevitable.

I just want them to be like, the Jim and Pam of the seedy underbelly of the ABQ meth trade.

OK, not really. I think it's interesting how the beginning of the series led us to kind of fear that Jimmy would be the downfall of Kim (which, in some ways, he has been-- not the downfall but he has forced her to make choices she would not have otherwise made), but now it seems a lot more likely that she'll exit the relationship relatively unscathed, of her own free will. Which is ultimately more tragic, I think, since Kim is so resilient that it seems more likely she'd cut off contact for moral reasons than out of resentment or hurt. Getting angry at Jimmy as temporary, losing respect for Jimmy as more permanent. It's very adult, and I like that.

It's also clear that she's ambitious but not prone to self-pity or depression. She adjusted pretty quickly after things fell apart at HHM.

I'm still theorizing they will be reunited in the Cinnabon days, but it will probably be bittersweet. It is really interesting how they show post-Saul as having more of a moral conscience than we really ever expected Saul to have; as much as Saul was a hustler who condoned jailhouse murder, apparently he still feels a pang of conscience at reporting some shoplifter kid to the police. (As others have pointed out, he's always been pretty averse to violence up close.) I like the idea that the contradictions of his personality survive Saulhood intact; he's definitely not all Jimmy anymore, but he's also not 100% Saul. He's, uh, Gene.

I really thought Mike was going to hook up with that woman. Hahaha. Also unfortunately Tamara Tunie will always be that scary weirdo with strong interior decorating opinions from The Devil's Advocate to me.

It would be amazing if Kim had a criminal background that she escaped, oh man! I don't see that being the case, at least not now, but I would like it. I really want the series to delve more into Kim's backstory; it doesn't have to reveal everything, but I'd like more hints about why she's relatively morally flexible. I want to see questionable choices she makes that aren't directly precipitated by Slippin' Jimmy. I mean, she has much stronger boundaries than Jimmy (obviously) but she also stared down the barrel when it came to Chuck and accepted the fact that she and Jimmy were going to hell in a handbasket together for reasons 100% due to his questionable chivalry. She wouldn't have done it herself, and she was covering her own ass, but she also wasn't exactly... mad about it. So mysterious. I need to know more either about Kim's backstory or the Kim/Jimmy mailroom times. If this is the season where the other shoe drops with their relationship I think they might give us a flashback or two. I still laugh at Chuck calling Jimmy a Svengali.

I hope they go down the road of complicating Kim more instead of just suddenly deciding she has a rock solid moral conscience and feels sorry for Chuck, who she previously dismissed as a jerk. I don't know. They did ruin him, but it was also a wakeup call. It's not like Chuck was doing great until they sabotaged his career. I kind of feel like Jimmy's sense of vengeance is very chaotic good, and kind of stays that way even as Saul. Saul is terrible, but he's also clearly in survival mode like 99% of the time no matter what name he's going by. It's not an excuse, but it's the morality of someone who continually gets the short end of the stick and can't accept the idea that he deserves it. He is kind of a Don Quixote.

It's interesting to think that Chunk, who was obviously born with a brilliant legal mind and flair for detail, loves the law as a great human achievement because it is intended to do right by people like him. For people who are less generously endowed (not less clever, but less precise, less potential for material success), it often feels significantly more Kafkaesque. That's where Jimmy's at now. I mean, it's true that the further down the ladder you fall, the more easily you're punished for almost unavoidable infractions. Menial jobs, prison, mandated community service, etc. curtail your freedom and your ability to act in your own self-interest; the less charmed your life, the more the law bites you in the ass. Being poor is expensive, poverty begets criminality, the punishment for criminality begets more criminality. This is not to excuse Jimmy who clearly has the hustling impulse either way, but it's certainly not fair.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:13 PM on May 24 [8 favorites]


er *Chuck, not Chunk
posted by stoneandstar at 2:04 PM on May 24


I did not listen to the BB podcasts - or even the earlier seasons - but were all of them so lovingly dedicated to the craft and nuance of filmmaking as this one seems to be? It seems like every episode, they're talking about the work-a-day life of the people deep in the credits: second ADs, script supervisors, union compliance folks, and etc.

I can't speak about the BB podcasts, but from what I've heard in the BCS podcasts, there are two key elements to inviting film "tradecraft" folks in is to 1) celebrate the numerous people who make the show what it is, from the initial script to its final edited product and all points between, and 2) give people who are interested in becoming (more) involved in film a look at what goes on with the various professions, and how you can go from being a general gopher to a more serious assistant, to Second Second Assistant and on up, or any other ladder of succession. I get the feeling that Kelley, Vince and Peter love film that much, that they recognize that it's a serious group effort, and want to learn and share more about how it all works.

And with all that, it's time for this week's podcast summary, with Kelley and Chris hosting, and this weeks guests are episode writer-director Tom Schnauz, Peter Gould & Vince Gilligan, Michael Mando (Nacho!), and head of casting, Sharon Bialy (who was also in charge of casting The Handmaid's Tale); plus Bearmantraut.
  • Early diversion into The Handmaid's Tale
  • On bringing back BB cast members, agents' assistants are asked to get off the line (assistants always listen in, to learn the trade)
  • The Sklar Brothers were suggested by Melissa Bernstein, after Peter kept saying he wanted the Smothers Brothers; the Sklars had to drop their pod/vidcast bits for their roles
  • Michael Mando speaks highly of Sharon Bialy, and others chime in about the difficulty of capturing someone's abilities in casting
  • Kelley directs the conversation into the modern casting, with phones and videocasting; Sharon talks about the pluses and minuses of casting without the main directors or writers (opportunities for re-takes and more time, less stress from the actors)
  • Frank Deal (the Parks supervisor, "I could give you zero") is a New York actor; he tried out for another role in an earlier episode, but wasn't a match, then Sharon suggested him for this role; they had 1,200 submissions for that role, given the popularity of BCS, which takes splitting up the pile of applications between the few casting directors
  • How do you get found? Get into theater, especially in New York -- not as common as Los Angeles (and you can't get free tickets as a casting person, AND people now recognize casting people
  • Michael suggests coordinating with a few people to shoot a short demo to send to casting agents, while Sharon also highlights the benefits of making short web videos
  • Headshots are still good to have: make sure it's current, and separate head shots could be good if you're going out for drastically different roles, but you don't need the lab coat shot and tennis racket shot to be included on one image
  • Directors only meet with actors before episodes for BCS for the local (New Mexico/Albuquerque) casting
  • The opening shot in this episode was pitched by Tom, as a way to grab the audience; Vince said "we learned that from Chris Carter on The X-Files
  • "the bearded community service-ee, -er, " -volunteer(?)"" named Jake Sellers (not Ben Sacco, as listed in this photo credit) is Derek Blackeney, a night PA or someone else from the BCS crew
  • Michael on auditioning in 2009-10: he took a 12 hour over-night bus ride from Montreal to Toronto to audition, with a stop at the YMCA to shower off before the audition, then back to the YMCA after the audition to shower off again, and get back on the bus for another 12 hour ride the other way
  • Michael: I think every actor who has been serious about it has gone through something like this, one way or another, and I'm sure writers and directors have to do something like that -- Peter and Tom: no, not really. Chris: there's no shower. Tom: there's something called a Whore's Bath that we have to do [I'm not googling that one ATM]
  • Vince: serious advice to the aspiring actors -- make sure your cell phone video is horizontal, and take care of your sound. Michael: Always think sound first.
  • Kelley: how did you decide Boxers vs Briefs? Tom: it goes back to BCS season 1. Peter: and to differentiate from Walter White's lame-looking briefs. Michael: it was to accentuate Brian's butt. [And then there's a tangent]
  • Podcast award tangent: BCS Insider podcast was nominated, lost to You Must Remember This, by Karina Longworth, about the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century; Peter requests an episode on Edward Dmytryk, a Canadian-born American film director who was known for his 1940s films noir
  • Peter: I wonder where you get a CableACE Award. Chris: In the late 1990s.
  • The fun with making Saul Goodman, director: inspired by Marty DiBergi from This Is Spinal Tap and Steven Spielberg directing ET, but with more pockets
  • Shooting down above Interstate 25: it was a drone shot of live TV, picking up "fresh" trash, except for the underwear, which Tom credits to Jonathan Banks
  • Chris nods to Nacho getting into the house, and Tom notes the phone line detail is period-accurate, but not any more
  • Mike's check of the gas cap was a late add, but made sense as he was so intent on that in the past
  • Quick praise for Tamara Tunie
  • Peter: I love seeing Jimmy broken but unbowed. Tom: which makes his break all the harder, when he finds that his premium will go up 150%
  • Jimmy taking Kim back to the restaurant is their Annie Hall lobster scene (possible reference) moment, trying to rekindle something that is now lost
  • Kelley: sound is another color you can paint with. Tom: push the limit of sound, with the alarm in the car, and the truck driving over the trash pick-up. Kelley: cover your ears in a horror movie and it's not scary. Michael: you use sound so well, and so sparsely, that foley fills the space. Peter: when I used to teach, I told the students that sound is the back door to your audience's emotions, because they're not as aware of what's coming in through the ears. Tom: that's so dirty. Peter: that's why I got fired. Chris: I was just watching Tom's face as he tried to work in a "back door" joke. Peter: pro-tip - don't use "back door" around Tom.
  • The trick of being writer-director: Tom likes to be able to think of shots while writing, but Vince likes the separation, because he finds himself writing slower as he's thinking of how to direct the scenes. Kelley asks about self-editing when writing, taking out things that might be too hard to shoot without being on scene. The bar scene was scripted to be shot by the pool, but when the filming took place in December, which makes for cold night shots in Albuquerque.
  • Kelley notes what I thought: Kim is compromised because she's so tired; they're both spinning out. Peter: I read the scene as being Jimmy trying to rekindle the romance, but Bob plays it with rage. Kim gets a glimpse of what Jimmy could become, and it's scary. (Maybe Bob moved Jimmy farther forward sooner than he might have previously?
  • Michael: Would Jimmy become Saul without Chuck? Tom: I have ideas, but I don't want to say, because I want people to come to their own conclusions. Peter: We all have ideas about it, but if we knew what would happen in detail, we wouldn't need to do the rest of the show. Part of the show is working out these questions. Who knows? We might have a different answer come episode 40 [Ed- that would be the end of Season 4, assuming another 10 episode season, which as of yet has not been confirmed or denied].
  • Michael: when a director is hired to do BCS, how much are they responsible to report their shot list to you guys (Vince and Peter) before they shoot it? Vince: there's a very long tone meeting involved. A tone meeting is a meeting where the director has a meeting a day or two before shooting with the producers and the writer. Peter: there's the concept meeting, with the full staff to ensure the shots can be pulled off, then there's the smaller meeting with the producers and writer(s) to talk about the style of the show, but there's a lot of artistic flexibility that provides "a richness of discovery" that comes from different directors. The tone meetings can be very long, but help provide stability once the footage is getting edited. Kelley also notes that the producers can then stress important beats to capture and emphasize in an episode. But nothing ever happens as planned when shooting. Tom: every single time I've directed, we always end up with footage that we don't use, and something we didn't capture.
  • Peter gives a quick shout-out to Jane Long and Martin Andrews, who were in a scene that was cut from the episode, where they played Beth and Stewart (Stuart?). They were great, but time was a constraint.
  • Toning the actors: Tom said he talks to the actors about their motivations on the scenes. Actors have their ideas, and Tom has his ideas, and often they're right and he's wrong. Except Jonathan Banks, who is always wrong.
  • Tom's parting comment: now that all the episode titles are formally released, if you put all the first letters of the titles, you get Wes McFloss, the classic character from BB, who will be in Season 4. If you crack it, he will come. [But he just cracked it for us.]
The episode titles are Mabel, Witness, Sunk Costs, Sabrosito, Chicanery, Off Brand, Expenses, Slip, Fall, Lantern
posted by filthy light thief at 2:22 PM on May 24 [6 favorites]


My kids are entering a high school with an emphasis on film production in the next few years -- how young do you feel is too young for BB and BCS and their accompanying podcasts?
posted by tilde at 2:39 PM on May 24


Someone noted last week that the podcast reported Lydia was a last-minute add to fill time when a location fell through

I don't think that's what the podcast said; as I remember it, the "last-minute" thing was that they lost the original "outside the laundry" location and had to scramble to find a replacement location by the time Laura Fraser arrived.

However: they have mentioned several times that they have a writer's room hit-list of "would like to use it if it fits the story" Breaking Bad characters and locations. So yes, they are deliberately trying to salt in references wherever they can. I too would prefer if they eased off on that just a bit.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:05 PM on May 24


I really want the series to delve more into Kim's backstory; it doesn't have to reveal everything, but I'd like more hints about why she's relatively morally flexible.

Suddenly, I'm thinking about David Mamet's House of Games. (For people who may have been turned off of Mamet because of recent, er, opinions of his, this is thirty-year-old work and, although I haven't seen it in a while, would probably hold up well.)

Also, I'm not trying to project too much onto the remaining episodes' titles, but I find the last one particularly suggestive. Would that refer to the gas lantern on the pile of papers?
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:18 PM on May 24


My kids are entering a high school with an emphasis on film production in the next few years -- how young do you feel is too young for BB and BCS and their accompanying podcasts?

Man, that's tough. In terms of (explicit) sex and (explicit) violence, BCS in particular is pretty low on the scale. But it's very "adult" in its themes, in a way that some teenagers can probably appreciate but others might not. BB definitely has a lot more explicit violence, so it's a more clearcut case of not being appropriate for young teens. (Arguably, it's not appropriate for older teens either, but I grew up with R-rated movies and violent video games, so it'd be pretty hypocritical of me to say that outright. ;))

As for the podcast, I don't listen, but from flt's recaps it seems like the content itself is very focused on craft, which would be fine, but there also seem to be more than a few off-colour jokes. So, YMMV.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:54 PM on May 24


I watched St. Elsewhere pretty religiously as a Freshman, but I think it really depends on the kids whether they can sit through and get attached to it.

Kim looks like she drives a Mitsubishi Eclipse with leather, and I want that to be significant. Furthermore, I think this episode nailed down Kim's Achilles' Heel: she can't forget. Even after she meditates for 5min immediately beforehand. Maybe even haunted.
posted by rhizome at 9:43 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


Speaking of gratuitous Breaking Bad character appearances, I was really hoping to see Skinny Pete walk in during the music store scenes...
posted by mmoncur at 12:33 AM on May 25 [4 favorites]


I think the straightest line for the characters to go from here would be: Charles' insurance rockets so high he can't practise any more; Howard makes an appeal to Kim (whose ability to stand up to him in court shows that she's in the same league as him) and brings her back on board in an enhanced capacity with HHM's resources on hand to actually be able to handle Mesa Verde.

Charles has that oil lamp / paper stack incident we've been waiting for since we first saw his house.

The feeling that he's failed Charles and what he sees as Kim's betrayal push Jimmy over the edge into the arms of Saul Goodman. He takes Francesca with him because he feels responsible to her (despite the fact that being Saul's receptionist is obviously not good for her).

That said, they've never gone in a straight line before, there's no reason to suppose they'll do it now.
posted by Grangousier at 1:44 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]


For people who are less generously endowed (not less clever, but less precise, less potential for material success), it often feels significantly more Kafkaesque. That's where Jimmy's at now. I mean, it's true that the further down the ladder you fall, the more easily you're punished for almost unavoidable infractions. Menial jobs, prison, mandated community service, etc. curtail your freedom and your ability to act in your own self-interest; the less charmed your life, the more the law bites you in the ass.

In The Trial, the main character never finds out what crime he's been accused of or even how to defend himself. That's not Jimmy's situation: he's doing community service largely because he lied his way out of the much bigger consequences of the crimes he knowingly committed, which is underlined by his using the document forgery he committed to find yet another way to try to strike at his brother.

I think it's significant that none of the other community service folks want any part of Jimmy's effort to take a stand. They want to keep their heads down, put in the minimum effort to clear their hours, and go home. It's Jimmy, the guy who wants to be an upper-middle-class professional, the guy who bought (or stole?) the Cocobolo desk and scammed his way into keeping his signing bonus, who decides this is unfair treatment and that the "no phones" rule shouldn't apply to him.

He's not fighting for anyone but himself there, because no one besides him decided those rules didn't apply to them. And everyone in line behind him knows it; they knew it when he made a scene at the beginning about getting to sign the waiver form. The show is pointing to issues of class, but not because Jimmy's poor. Rather, it' because Jimmy sees himself as a temporarily embarrassed member of the upper middle class, and is so in denial that he;'s paying for an empty legal office just to try to maintain membership in that class.

Throughout this episode, Jimmy shows that he does not give a shit about people who are struggling in their own ays unless it serves his emotional needs. The guy who's so desperately offended to see a waiter mistreated is the same guy who throws the "we can make it zero" line into the face of a delivery boy rather than admit he's broke. Really sticking it to the Man there, Jimmy!

Jimmy's schemes at the restaurant seem less like economic justice when we recall that he was doing the same damn thing back when he had a cushy job offer from a major law firm that he'd rejected in favor of ripping off folks. As we saw way back at the end of season 1, in "Marco," Jimmy will scam anyone he can find if they have some cash on them, or if they're a woman he wants to trick into bed with him.

The show does have a lot to say about class issues: the way Kim is mistreated continually (including, less and less subtly, by Jimmy), the dire economic straits Stacy Ehrmentraut finds herself in, even the way Gus's employees react to the likes of Hector. But Jimmy isn't the show's avatar of the downtrodden; if anything, it;'s made clear that Jimmy tells himself that's who he is because it justifies him indulging in his worst impulses.

Would that refer to the gas lantern on the pile of papers?

Either that, or Jimmy burning down the law offices for the insurance money.
posted by kewb at 2:47 AM on May 25 [12 favorites]


So my question at this stage is "Would you advice somebody who had never seen BB or BCS to watch them in chronological order or not?" - normally the answer would be "yes" -but here there is a great deal to be said for watching act 2 first - before travelling back in time to see how act 1 (and maybe act 2`) got us there. Which is more rewarding? Many prequels are put together on the basis of "Let's tell a separate story - either more of the same or some other random variation we have thought up - then tie it to the sequel with a few arbitrary links" - but BCS is much more "Lets go back and flesh out the backstory of some key BB characters - then how the new stories we get knit with the world we know is to come".

I am also thinking, this week, about Gus' remark to Mike about Hector - how death from a rifle bullet would be too good for him. Does Mike, at this stage, see a way of fixing matters according to Gus' will - by arranging, via Daniel, for the effects of Nacho's pill swap to be shifted from "lethal" to "brutally debilitating"? We shall see!
posted by rongorongo at 5:47 AM on May 25


filthy light thief, I really appreciate your podcast recaps. I'd been listening to them (and the BB one before it) religiously but lately I haven't had much time, so getting a summary of all the little trivial they talk about has been really helpful.

One question I've often had about Chuck: would he actually be able to live like that? The police have been to his house at least once, doctors have evaluated him, yet he lives in a house with no electricity, where there are open flames everywhere, and where there are most likely no working fire alarms. Does he even have hot water? I suppose, being a lawyer, maybe he'd be able to fight it, but it seems like he's living in a very unsafe, not-to-code, dwelling.
posted by bondcliff at 6:14 AM on May 25


However: they have mentioned several times that they have a writer's room hit-list of "would like to use it if it fits the story" Breaking Bad characters and locations. So yes, they are deliberately trying to salt in references wherever they can. I too would prefer if they eased off on that just a bit.

I'd argue that the small steps that they are doing (save for the big step of introducing Gus) is quite refreshing. From the podcast's content they relate how they got the actress who plays Lydia from the Canary Islands to ABQ on a very short timetable. All that effort was to give her 1 to 2 lines of dialog that didn't amount to much except that it tells us how long and methodical Gus's planning for the meth business was. A lesser show wouldn't have gone through all that expense just for 1 or 2 lines and would have done something bigger to justify it which would have likely taken away from all the other plot balls and character studies that are in the air.
posted by mmascolino at 6:20 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]


"Would you advice somebody who had never seen BB or BCS to watch them in chronological order or not?"

I'd say watch them in the order they were produced. One of the things that I enjoy about BCS is that you know where it has to end up and so watching how that unfolds and how certain things became the way they become is a big part of the pleasure of it.

Its a great and well made show so I imagine it is good to watch first but I think you'd miss out on that if you watched them in chronological order.
posted by toamouse at 6:23 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]


"Kim's Achilles' Heel: she can't forget. Even after she meditates for 5min immediately beforehand."

Sorry to nit-pick but that wasn't meditating. That was deep exhaustion, the kind that leads to instantaneous sleep the very second that your eyes close. I laughed out loud at the smash cut to the 5-minute alarm going off, because I've felt that "WAIT ALREADY WHAT? BUT I JUST" sensation so many times.
posted by komara at 7:55 AM on May 25 [8 favorites]


My kids are entering a high school with an emphasis on film production in the next few years -- how young do you feel is too young for BB and BCS and their accompanying podcasts?

What movies have they watched and enjoyed, particularly rated R? BB and BCS are not as graphic as many current-ish movies, especially if you include horror films. Heck, some action films have more discomforting (versus super fake movie violence) than BB as SpacemanStix highlighted upthread.

You could probably review the plot summaries on Wikipedia (which are typically quite detailed), sufficient for parental warnings or filtering, as you see fit, because it's not that the entirety of these shows would be unsuitable, but rather a few moments in a few episodes.

For critical viewers with an eye for detail and comparison, these shows alone will be enjoyable and informative, but I definitely think that the podcasts increase the educational value, but they do use salty language (for example, "fuck" is said rather casually, and frequently at times). It's not as structured as a formal education would be, but could be useful to absorb information by osmosis.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:59 AM on May 25


Sorry to nit-pick but that wasn't meditating. That was deep exhaustion, the kind that leads to instantaneous sleep the very second that your eyes close.

Yes, definitely that. Not that it undercuts the interpretation above.

It seems to me that both Kim and Jimmy are draining their reserves -- accruing expenses, if you will -- in this episode. In Jimmy's story, it's literal money he's being drained of. Kim, on the other hand, is running heavy sleep deficits because she can't quite keep up with the sheer amount of work Mesa Verde requires of her.

It also seems clear that Jimmy's Bar hearing was a moral expense from both of them. Kim's feeling that and struggling to process what that says about her. Jimmy's trying to push it down with his endless hustling, while also doubling down on it by taking revenge on Chuck for (as Jimmy sees it) putting him into this desperate situation.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:28 AM on May 25 [4 favorites]


Er, I'm not sure the show is trying to establish Jimmy as strictly temporarily embarrassed upper middle class. He has a law degree (from an implied semi-illegitimate source) but he mostly bootstrapped himself up from a life of working in his father's country store etc. and then lived in the back of a nail salon as a public defender getting paid peanuts until fairly recently. I think that's the main thing the show has to say about class: people like Jimmy and Kim who don't have the fast track to success (i.e. dont have the brilliance of Chuck or the family of Howard) are sometimes more morally labile than people who were born there or otherwise adopted into it automatically. And I think that's the case because they witness the unfairness of the system as it currently stands. And whether you decide being a stickler for the rules is the only acceptable response (Chuck) or not is not inherently a question of moral goodness.

Not to say Jimmy is the victim of the world, but the people on the bus didn't rally behind him because, you know, they didn't have anything to do with it. If their hours were unfairly docked they would not just float onto the bus like angels; they are also criminals and probably tired of getting screwed as well. Jimmy obviously has privileges, but he's kind of always constantly barely holding on to them. But Kim was in the same boat when things went sour at HHM. Were they suddenly going to become working class? No, but they're also performing without a net. This season has to me highlighted moreso the precarity of being a self-made woman or man. Which is maybe not the class sob story anyone generally wants to hear, but it rings true to me as someone who was class mobile but not as much as Chuck.

And yes, Jimmy's trial was not literally Kafkaesque. But the show obviously has things to say about how the law is used inappropriately or to serve justice in ways it's not meant to, and while I don't exactly pity Jimmy (get a nice steady job and love your gal, son) he is basically broke and tangled up in the kind of legal and ethical messes that a lot of people near the bottom of the ladder find themselves in. Paying for things they can't use, watched like a hawk, etc. So to some degree it's about Jimmy the temporarily embarrassed but it's fairy good at demonstrating how once you're down, a lot of forces begin to collude to keep you down. And if you have a familiar, easy place to go, i.e. back to crime, that's where a lot of people end up.

I find it interesting that BB and BCS both have fairly little to say about being poor or working class, but they have a lot to say about middle class precarity. After all, that's one of the things that drives Walter White to indulge his asshole side. The Wire was lauded for showing the "reality" of the streets by showing the range of moral character of its cast-- there were sociopaths, and relatively good people gone bad, and good people who tried to keep their head down, etc. I think BB and moreso BCS do that for the middle class. It's fairly germane at a time currently where the middle class is falling apart but in general we think of class as something that only negatively affects the working class and poor, and it's pretty clear in this show that that is not the case.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:57 AM on May 25 [11 favorites]


Sorry to nit-pick but that wasn't meditating.

I can see that.
posted by rhizome at 10:27 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]


I think it was interesting that both Kim and Jimmy are exhausted in this episode, and both break in different ways, which highlights their differences. While Kim is working her ass off for Mesa Verde, while being haunted by what she did with Jimmy to Chuck, Jimmy is hustling to make ends meet in a very basic way. Both are at a point that if they fail, they'll fall, and hard.

This is Kim's only client, which could be great for her pay, but it's so big that it's really more than she can manage alone. Jimmy is now living paycheck to paycheck payment to payment, trying to find ways to make money, while trying to look like he's fine. Kim snaps at Paige about the FDIC Section 109 loan-to-deposit ratios (PDF, 2016 numbers, but referenced for general context), but then quickly apologizes for her unprofessional behavior. Alternatively, Jimmy gets petty with a kid earning minimum wage delivering Chinese food, as kewb pointed out upthread.

I think that if things were going better for either of them, they would have interacted differently in these situations, but stress is bringing out the worst in them both. Still, Kim can recognize that in herself, and apologizes immediately. Jimmy double-downs on being a dick, and later gets really dark when he's "just talking" about selling Mr. "I know your boss. I'm an investor here" a worthless credit card for $5,000. It's extra dark when you listen to his story:
Jimmy: He needs to go down. Hard. Here's what we're gonna do. We're gonna sell him a worthless credit card for 5,000 bucks. [Chuckling] Here's what you do. Make eye contact with him. That's all it'll take for him to think you're interested. I'll act good and drunk, and he'll think I'm a loser and try to steal you away. He will persist.
Kim: Mm.
Jimmy: Tell him you can't leave me. Not not yet. Let him know you're trying to roll me. He'll want in. He'll help you ply me with booze. Then you take my wallet. You lift the card. Following this?
Kim: We're not actually doing this, right? We're just talking?
Jimmy: Yeah. [Chuckling] Just talkin'.
You could see this as Jimmy saying what's actually on his mind, and you see he's in a dark place regarding his relationship with Kim. He's clearly not good enough for her, and it's only a matter of time before she leaves. In another world, she might even help someone roll him, he's that low right now. But Kim tries to lift his spirits, first going along with his lie about spreading out the points on his cards, then tries to lift Jimmy's spirits with another hypothetical con job, after she brings up the way it went with Chuck and Jimmy says "Everything that happened was [Chuck's] own fault. Everything."
posted by filthy light thief at 1:36 PM on May 25 [7 favorites]


I want to know what name was on that "worthless" credit card. I would be paranoid about getting picked up by the cops to have credit cards not my name on them in my wallet.

I'm we watching season one with the Kettlemens, and I'm on the episode where they come back to Jimmy. At the beginning of the episode he was sitting in front of a wanted poster of a guy with a beard who later end up on his work release program, and brushed by him in the diner bathroom later in the episode as well. Pretty sure I'm bad with faces.
posted by tilde at 6:11 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]


I think they were going to sell him one of Jimmy's own credit cards, which are worthless because they're maxed out. I don't think Jimmy's running around with fake credit cards in his wallet.

Maybe he has one for Viktor, though, who knows?
posted by tobascodagama at 8:27 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I assume it was one of Jimmy's maxed-out cards that he could claim to have lost at the restaurant.

And the insurance-office thing was clearly a scam from the start. I didn't realize it, of course, but in hindsight, there's no reason not to have his account number or give his full name other than to make the connection obvious. It's a great scam and Jimmy pulls it out of frustration. Nothing is in his control anymore -- everything that went right at the end of the previous episode is going wrong in this one, in spades -- and if Kim won't let him run a scam to earn some money and feel like himself, he's going to run a scam to hurt Chuck, since it's the only way he can feel some kind of power right now.

It's a dick move, but it's pure Jimmy.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:35 AM on May 26 [3 favorites]


I suppose his own card makes sense. "Lost it in the bar" etc. Especially with the pointing out of the insurance scam. I'm such a gullible gus I didn't even figure out it was a setup from the start in the insurance office; I assumed he was simply still out of sorts from having to take the bus (I don't know the transit system in ABQ but yeah I've had to navigate it in So Fla.).

Going through the Sandpiper episodes - syringes that tip the scam / class into RICO territory are sourced from Lincoln Nebraska which is where Jimmy/Saul/Gene ends up running a Cinnabon ...

:-)
posted by tilde at 6:52 AM on May 26


The cinnabon is in omaha, not Lincoln
posted by absalom at 8:42 AM on May 26


I don't think Jimmy is a temporarily embarrassed member of the middle class, and I don't think he or any of the other characters in the show think of him like that. Well, maybe aside from Kim, she believes in him. But I think that Jimmy is afraid that he's a born loser, and that terrifies and saddens him.

And I think he isn't really that class-conscious at all. I think he takes it personally (rather than politically) when people say things like they don't want his work because he's "the kind of lawyer guilty people hire" or "a chimp with a machine gun" or when people praise him for his "hustle" and for being "clever," while studiously avoiding calling him hard-working or smart. I don't think it even registers with Jimmy how his people skills are always described as him being likeable rather than charismatic, a born conman but never a born politician. I think Jimmy hears that stuff as other people saying that he, personally, isn't good enough, and he can't understand why. He keeps outright asking them why, anyway. But I hear that as other people saying that he is the "wrong kind of person" for class reasons above all.

When Chuck said that Jimmy wasn't "a real lawyer," that his education was illegitimate, and he was only proud of him for working the mail room job (but not for going to law school, passing the bar, etc), and Jimmy finally realized that Chuck was saying that he should stay in his place and not have pretensions to more, I think part of the reason why Jimmy was so taken aback was because he genuinely hadn't been that cognisant of the class divide between himself and Chuck that Chuck saw (and wanted), so it shocked him to see Chuck playing gatekeeper in that way. Maybe Chuck isn't even that cognisant of what "club" he's trying to keep Jimmy out of -- Chuck keeps calling it "the law," but IMO what he really means is the bourgeoisie.

But even now, I think that Chuck needs Jimmy to be working class in order to shore up his own self-image as NOT working class, in the same way that Chuck is always trying to set himself up as EVERYTHING that Jimmy is not (and vice versa), and that's why he went so far as to try and get Jimmy disbarred. I think that in Chuck's head, Chuck is a real lawyer because Jimmy isn't, Chuck is a success because Jimmy isn't, etc, and they're always going to be negative images of each other in Chuck's mind IMO. And I think that Jimmy does see now that it's just that zero-sum for Chuck, but I don't think that he has specifically been thinking of it in terms of class per se, because those kinds of boundaries and rules and things just aren't meaningful to him in general (and definitely not the way they are to Chuck).

Also, I don't think there's anything temporary about his constant materially shitty living situation. He hasn't even had his own place to go home to for the whole course of the show so far -- he was bunking in the furnace room of a nail salon or crashing on his brother's couch sometimes, and now things are finally turning up for him and he's apparently staying with Kim. He was driving a $200 beater, arguing over parking validation every damn day, and now is on the bus.

It's funny, speaking of how he always seems totally broke in his private life -- he spent lots of (Kettleman) money on that copy of Howard's suit so that he could mock him professionally, and he spent lots of (firm bonus) money on that cocobolo desk. He was willing to invest thousands in the office and in his Gimme Jimmy ads. I assume that his law degree didn't come that cheap. So he's willing to spend anything he has on work. But he won't invest really a penny into his own private stuff or quality of life stuff, like to rent a room to live in or to buy a car that's not a complete POS. I'm sure he only eventually gets a nice car later on because he wants/needs it for business reasons or for his Saul Goodman persona or something, and who knows if he'll ever rent his own apartment. Thinking about that reminds me of how during Chuck's tirade in the bar hearing, Chuck said, "I took him into my own firm" rather than "into my own home." I mean, Chuck DIDN'T take Jimmy into his own home, Jimmy doesn't even have a home. I don't really have anywhere I'm going with this, I just think it's interesting.
posted by rue72 at 11:46 AM on May 27 [14 favorites]


Jimmy was so taken aback was because he genuinely hadn't been that cognisant of the class divide between himself and Chuck that Chuck saw (and wanted), so it shocked him to see Chuck playing gatekeeper in that way. Maybe Chuck isn't even that cognisant of what "club" he's trying to keep Jimmy out of -- Chuck keeps calling it "the law," but IMO what he really means is the bourgeoisie.

But even now, I think that Chuck needs Jimmy to be working class in order to shore up his own self-image as NOT working class,


I think you are exactly right, and that Chuck's anxiety reflects a fear that he might tumble from his hard-won spot in the bourgeoisie back to the bracket in which is parents struggled. Jimmy becoming a lawyer and gaining access to the income and prestige that accrue to that profession illustrates the permeability of the barrier Chuck has erected between his past and present economic status.

And sure, Chuck himself climbed out, but I suspect a law degree was only half the battle; the other half was altering his mannerisms to pass as a native to that professional class, which he did effectively enough to eventually be regarded as one of its elder statesmen. Jimmy's ascent alarms Chuck because he secured the degree and started to carve out a spot for himself in the professional class without making the (to Chuck's mind) necessary adjustments to his presentation. But if Jimmy can make the climb with just the credentials and none of the "right" mannerisms, then neither Chuck's credentials nor the persona he cultivated to match them can protect him from falling back down. If Slippin' Jimmy McGill can become a successful lawyer, what's to stop Charles McGill, Esq. from becoming the struggling proprietor of a convenience store?
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 1:12 PM on May 27 [9 favorites]


Oh God, Chuck is my dad.
posted by rhizome at 11:49 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


The exploration of class here by stoneandstar, rue72, and Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? is really brilliant stuff.

If we add Jimmy's and Chuck's dad to the mix, perhaps we see someone who looks at class more as something like solidarity: if someone's in dire straits, Pops McGill will help them out with a little cash without digging in, because he knows what it's like to struggle or to have the unexpected happen. Chuck, when he first brings up the family history, makes a big deal out of how their father made their community a better place. Well, this was part of how: Pops McGill saw himself as part of that community, and decided that if anyone there is struggling, then everyone there needs to work together to fix it.

But Jimmy and Chuck learned something very different from it. Seeing his father get conned for $10 over and over, and especially hearing the "wolves and sheep" speech from the Grifter taught Jimmy that hard work *doesn't* really work, that things are rigged against you and the world is basically predatory. His relatively small-scale grifts and bad acts -- like the Chicago Sunroof -- get punished because he's "not one of them," but the big scams like (what he thinks is) Howard withholding his brother's money or (later) his brother trying to keep him down and rejecting even their family membership. (How must Jimmy now look back on Chuck siding with Howard over his use of the McGill name?)

And so on the one hand he's willing to cut corners and play con games of his own to improve his situation, but on the other there's a big part of him that wants nothing to do with the wolves in sheep's clothing and their moralizing about hard work and sacrifice and diligence and, most of all, their rejection of the image he presents and the images he creates (like his ads). To Jimmy, all of *that* is the real, deep con, and people like the Kettlemans must be absolutely perfect evidence that his worldview is fundamentally correct.

To Jimmy, the only real exception was ever Chuck, who Jimmy probably thought had made it good "the right way" for years and years. Once he finds out what Chuck's been up to, that Chuck is just another one of "them" taking advantage of kindness and willing to keep the little guy down and out, the world is just wolves and sheep. The best you can do is be a lone wolf that bites the other wolves. But Jimmy also absorbs a lot of the individualist ethos of the system he otherwise sees as a con, because he thinks his father's idea of community and hanging together mostly makes you vulnerable. He'll stick with someone like Kim, but only if she breaks out of the big law firms and only to the extent that it's just the two of them.

More generally, though, Jimmy sentimentalizes this class situation instead of really analyzing it, which leads to his impulsivity and his tendency to see personal bonds of trust as the basis for ethics. Family and friendship matter a lot, but Jimmy's sense that all the little guys are in it together is more vague: he can't, for example, understand why Mike won't become his buddy, even though from Jimmy's perspective they're in this together And he doesn't get why all the other community service folks won't rise up with him when he feels he's been hard done by.

On Chuck's end, the lesson was that the little guy gets smashed unless he stops being the little guy and cultivates himself by doing everything the "right" way. Regardless of the truth, he probably does believe he pulled himself up by his bootstraps, despite all the odds being against him, and he sees joining that higher stratum of society as the reward and the proof of his own talent, efforts, and skills. As Fish, fish... points out, seeing Jimmy come within spitting distance of that class membership with his corner-cutting and crummy self-presentation is a threat...which means Jimmy *must* be pulling something, some scam or scheme, because there's just no other way someone could make it to where Chuck is unless they made *all* the right choices all along. Because the alternative is that Chuck didn't make Chuck happen, and his success is not only contingent, but not even something he can claim for his own.

But the other side of Chuck is that his gnawing doubts about his own status can't really be suppressed, so not only does he rigorously police others like Jimmy and keep them "out" if they didn't do the right , approved way with the right, approved persona, he also has to endlessly test his own membership in that class to make sure it's secure and he's secure. His mental illness and all the barriers it throws between him and his continued identity as Charles McGill, Esq., functions as a way to test whether his new sense of belonging is ironclad: if, despite the illness, he retains his legal skills and his professional decorum -- all the markings of the new, better person he's become -- then he should maintain his class membership, too. It "proves" it was really about his innate worth and his understanding of who to be. Likewise, if he can fake his resignation and vindicate his professional judgment, then it proves not only that Jimmy is awful and unworthy, but also that everyone recognizes that Chuck *is* innately worthy and good. I mean, if Howard will put up with all that, doesn't it show just how secure Chuck's position is?

And when Chuck's sense of this order is threatened, his illness worsens, because at best the "test" will work out -- Jimmy will be kept down by having to care for him, the firm will continue to affirm Chuck's importance and achievement and value -- and at worst it's a graceful sort of exit, an illness -- indeed, a rare and unusual one, brought on by his cultivated and refined sensibilities! -- rather than some personal failing or some shadow of his former, lower-class self. He has to hide it from people who would see it as a mental illness or a cause for pity, of course, like Rebecca, and it *can't* be a mental illness, because that would be the kind of thing that would prove he doesn't belong, that he's defective. I mean, in Chuck's world, *homeless people* are mentally ill!

Notably, Howard walks Chuck back (seemingly) from his breakdown int he bar hearing by reaffirming their shared class belonging with that super-expensive booze, and by making it clear that a) embracing professionalism will keep Chuck in his position and b) that Jimmy *is* unworthy and *has* gone back to his deservedly low status. Howard might or might not understand that this is why his appeal (seemingly) works, but at the very least he knows Chuck well enough to make that appeal work. And it's also notable that Chuck doesn't ever say anything about the way Howard obtained his socioeconomic status as an inheritance.

Maybe Pops McGill was too naive and generous, but his sons have each taken that and created their own versions of the "just world" fallacy in order to assure themselves that they can hang in there or even "make it" if they just do what's "right."

There is a bigger problem in the BCS/BB world, though, and that is that the shows' own morality is often "bad things happen to good people, but suck it up or you'll make everything so much worse in the end." While the shows are sensitive to the precarity of middle-class lives, it's not clear that they can articulate an alternative or a workable response to the forces that makes those lives so precarious. They're still commercial products themselves.
posted by kewb at 3:25 AM on May 28 [8 favorites]


Just wanted to say, kewb, you're analysis here is frickin' amazing and you should charge by the hour if you don't already.

Fantastic stuff. Just wanted to say thanks.
posted by some loser at 7:05 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]


Omaha, Lincoln. Oops. All near "some nowhere little town on the Kansas Nebraska border you've never heard of" (isn't that also where the Actor/pharmacy sales lady from BBT is from?) maybe he's hoping Kim shows up some day.

Good discussion on class. Chucks idea that he bootstrapsped himself and Jimmy has it easy so he must be cheating. Typical first and second child dynamic as well. I think Jimmy must be a "change" baby - esp if Chuck is in college while Jimmy is a young tween at the Family store.

And working for yourself (the store) was a step up of freedom for the family it looked like.
posted by tilde at 12:44 PM on May 28


I also just finished watching Jimmy move his Cocobolo desk in the back of the nail salon, before he and Kym got together in the new office. He got a bonus even though he paid $7000 out of it to buy the Cocobolo desk. So maybe he doesn't have to hit ice station zebra just yet, maybe he's been burning through his bonus money.
posted by tilde at 2:32 PM on May 28


Strong agree that Jimmy sees the bourgeoisie as the real con artists, which is why he savors taking them down a peg. (And to a certain extent, he's not wrong! He just lacks the counterbalance of ethical self-awareness that someone like Kim has.) Jimmy strongly rejects the just world fallacy, Chuck embraces it like his life depends on it (his career and his marriage probably strongly did). I think it's done a lot better than a show like Dexter, where it's never exactly clear why a sociopath would adopt a code of honor and it comes off as a bit pat. It could have been too saccharine to have Jimmy only screw over bad people, but they do a good job of infusing his attitude with that strain of very specific anger toward the privileged douchebag that comes from a life of being the underdog.

I also think Jimmy just likes to be liked and likes to hustle people for the instrumental power of it, which explains his behavior around Mike and the other community service people. But I agree totally that his moral system is built on personal loyalty and I scratch your back, you scratch mine. Also, as someone from a working poor to professional middle class trajectory I completely understand the bitter, individualist posture he constantly strikes, and how it's both totally sympathetic and also very counterproductive. But regardless, it's why Jimmy is so sympathetic and so obviously wrong, why he does "the worst things for reasons that almost sound noble." These are complicated ethical issues! He's had a taste of power in his ability to run a con and through it he's to a certain extent trying to right the wrongs of the entire world. You'd otherwise have to be insane to do what he did to Chuck over Mesa Verde. BB and BCS both do a strong job interrogating what it means when people do bad things "for" other people (Walter White admits he became a drug kingpin because he liked it), but it's also not the only truth. Jimmy does care about Kim's career, Walter White does care about his family. They are just myopic and somewhat selfish and tired of finishing last. And they end up doing far more harm than good.

My boyfriend pointed out Paige's comment about Chuck in this episode-- "who talks like that?"-- as classic evidence of new money tryhard behavior. The people born into class don't need to self-consciously cultivate that kind of superciliousness. You can really see it in the Chuck/Howard relationship, too-- how Howard defers to him, not as one of the good ol' boys, but as the talent, the way a good manager might manage a brilliant but socially incompetent engineer. Always greasing wheels but never treating him like he's really normal folk. And Chuck doesn't even really see that; he's so thrilled to be admired by his colleagues that you can see him preening, not realizing that he's being condescended to. Inside he's still the working/lower middle class rural kid who probably lived for his teacher's praise as the only evidence that he was destined for something bigger than no-name Illinois.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:30 PM on May 28 [14 favorites]


me yesterday morning: Oh boy, another new BCS episode tonight!

me last night: wait, what...

me this morning: *still crying*
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:17 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Is that a spoiler in a previous episode's thread? It feels like a spoiler in a previous episode's thread.
posted by rhizome at 4:13 PM on May 30


I think SpacemanStix was referring to the fact that BCS was not on yesterday due to the holiday.
posted by mmoncur at 5:55 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Oh, that's very different...nevermind!
posted by rhizome at 7:28 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Yes, sorry for not being more clear in my grief! I had thought it was against the law now for any show that doesn't release for binge watching on Netflix to take any breaks during the 10-13 weeks while it's airing. I was overcome by the shock and realization.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:49 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't expect shows like this -- you know, real TV -- to be pre-empted on holidays. That went out with the Monday Night at the Movies of the Week!
posted by rhizome at 7:58 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I was under the impression that networks started a more predictable weekly format when 24 started advertising that they were doing "24 episodes in 24 weeks" (or something like that), which then establish something of a norm that broadcast TV starting using to compete (at least a little bit) against online stuff. The internet made people hate to wait, and apparently that includes me!

I'm actually more patient than I let on. Between new episodes of Bloodlines, House of Cards, Bosch, and a Handmaid's Tale, I'm pretty set.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:05 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't expect shows like this -- you know, real TV -- to be pre-empted on holidays.

Up here in Canada, totally forgot about it being Memorial Day weekend. Was assuming annoying midseason break or something. I'm slow on the uptake sometimes.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:10 AM on June 5


The scene with Kim getting angry about the loan/deposit ratios, then realizing how rude she had been, and then cracking, admitting how ashamed she was of what she and Jimmy did to Chuck was one of the highlights of all three seasons to me, just such a great, subtle scene for a fantastic character.
posted by skewed at 7:09 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Of course, regardless of what happens, we deserve a Kim spinoff in the style of "The Practice."
posted by rhizome at 4:56 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


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