Better Call Saul: Something Beautiful
August 21, 2018 7:17 AM - Season 4, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Jimmy puts a risky plan into motion; as alliances shift, Nacho finds himself in the crosshairs; Kim contemplates her future.
posted by AFABulous (57 comments total)
FIRST AND FOREMOST: What the hell happened to Francesca?!?!?!

Secondly, this was not a great episode to watch while eating breakfast. Has there been another BCS episode this gory?

After all the crying Jimmy did in the first 3 seasons, it's weird to see him so unemotional here. I've been with a guy who didn't want to be comforted during rough times and it was hard for me to watch because he reacted so differently than I would have. At least Jimmy is sensitive to Kim's feelings. I wish they'd talk more; clearly she's starting to feel overwhelmed by Mesa Verde, but I guess she doesn't want to put that on him too.

Gale's appearance was not a surprise if you follow AMC's social media, but I'm going to stop following their social media because I prefer to be surprised. I also knew Nacho wasn't going to die in this episode based on a trailer I'd seen.

Lastly, I thought the burglar was Lawson (the gun salesman) but they just look alike.
posted by AFABulous at 7:59 AM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

The bank expansion scene with the don't do it Mesa Verde. There is this thing that's going to happen and it's called 2007. NooooOOOOoooooOOOOoooo.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 8:01 AM on August 21, 2018 [20 favorites]

Francesca should still be around; she’s a secretary/administrative assistant, not a paralegal if I remember correctly.
posted by Ranucci at 8:09 AM on August 21, 2018

Lastly, I thought the burglar was Lawson

Same here, but I eventually figured out it wasn't him. It didn't make sense anyway, since Lawson didn't seem like a petty criminal. He had his shit together.

Nice to see Gale. I always liked the character, though introducing him singing The Elements was a bit much. Yes, we know he's quirky and he's a genius chemist you don't have to shove it in our faces like that. I will enjoy seeing the lab get built though. It was always unclear to me in BB how long the lab had been in operation before Walter took over.

One of the things I love about this show is I almost never know in which direction it is going. I really don't know what Jimmy's plan is here. Maybe he's just going through the motions but I don't know where he's going to end up at the end of the season.
posted by bondcliff at 8:11 AM on August 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Gale is delightful
posted by fluttering hellfire at 8:14 AM on August 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

Wondering if the "contaminant" in the best-of-a-bad-lot meth sample might be chili pepper.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:22 AM on August 21, 2018 [13 favorites]

The bank expansion scene with the don't do it Mesa Verde. There is this thing that's going to happen and it's called 2007. NooooOOOOoooooOOOOoooo.

I hadn't thought of that, I was just transfixed on the colors (red and blue, all mixed together) - does it imply a mix of lawful and unlawful? Or is it a warning that this is a bat idea? Or display a visual chaos and tension that Kim clearly feels with the idea of being the only lawyer representing what is looking to grow from a regional bank to a national system.

Nice to see Gale. I always liked the character, though introducing him singing The Elements was a bit much. Yes, we know he's quirky and he's a genius chemist you don't have to shove it in our faces like that.

For all the subtlety that goes into this show, it seems like Peter and Vince are pretty blunt with their selection of re-appearing characters, so that feels in keeping with that aspect of the show.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:31 AM on August 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Do we know how Gus and Gale originally met?
posted by AFABulous at 8:32 AM on August 21, 2018

My feeling is that, like (my feeling about) the bilingual Dr. Maureen Bruckner from Johns Hopkins, who just happened to be available to work on "some of the more severe cases" thanks to a generous grant, was that Gus has sought out and cultivated a range of connections that may benefit him in the future.

Dr. Bruckner might be more like donations to the police force, an act that appears like basic generosity to all parties involved, and that donation to Johns Hopkins might have been more sudden rather than part of an advanced plan, but Gale is clearly a connection he's cultivated for other purposes. And Gus has done his homework, because we know (from Breaking Bad) that his thoughts, regarding drugs, is that "consenting adults want what they want. At least with me they’re getting exactly what they pay for." (BB Wikia)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:41 AM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I should have kept reading the Wikia, because I would have seen that:
In 1994, after moving to the United States, Gustavo Fring established a college scholarship, known as the Max Arciniega Chemistry Scholarship, at the University of New Mexico Chemistry department. This scholarship honored Gustavo's dear friend, Maximino Arciniega. Gale was a recipient of the scholarship (perhaps one of three dozen), and this paid for his education ("Hermanos"). While at UNM, Gale received his Bachelor's degree, and graduated in 1999 ("Hermanos").
So we know they have a connection, and Gus made sure his connections to chemists was broad, so he could easily pick out one or two to be possible "work associates" in the future without looking like he only gave out the grant to future hires.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:44 AM on August 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

filthy light thief: Or is it a warning that this is a bat idea?

bat = bad
coffee = good
more sleep = best
posted by filthy light thief at 9:03 AM on August 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm ok with the BB fanservicing. Yes I want it sliced.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 9:13 AM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I didn't love this episode. For me, I think it felt like a lot of setup without any meaningful payoffs -- Jimmy completes the heist, but hasn't sold the piece and we don't have payoff there; Kim is feeling the heat of Mesa Verde's plans; Gus works himself into the start of his own manufacturing; Nacho... survives, I guess?

I'm interested and excited to see some of this payoff, and I think it did some good character work, but as a self-contained episode it felt really unsatisfying to me.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:26 AM on August 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I agree, uncloezzy. I think this episode was mostly about getting into Kim and Gus Fring's heads, and much as I love both those characters, their beauty is in how straightforward and logical and thorough they are. And while that is very likeable and interesting as an element of the show, things become a bit dry when we're stuck in such linear thinking for so long.

Jimmy was also really irritating me. He's so low-rent. Chuck always forced him to think bigger, expected more from him. And now without Chuck he's back to two-bit bullshit and glorying in it. This stupid scheme is obviously not about the money, given that the payoff for the inheritance is bigger than for the Hummel and he could care less about that. He just wants to be Slipping Jimmy right now because that makes him feel competent and in control and totally distant from Chuck's influence and so he's wearing that persona. He's wearing that persona and intent on recruiting another Marco. Which isn't a big deal, I guess, except I don't like Slipping Jimmy -- he's a cold, arrogant, loser. And more importantly, I can't see Kim liking Slipping Jimmy, either. He's not really her type. She can maybe deal with the loser part of it, but not the cold and arrogant, I don't think.

Nacho's storyline was hard to watch because it was so scary and painful -- but it didn't have much of a payoff, either, since he didn't really have any agency or make any character choices in it.

That said, I think some of the point of this episode was in the lack of payoff. Kim and Gus are both about the process, the work, and the payoff for them is just the gravy. It's not where their heart is. And so in this episode that was so much about where their heads are at and who they are, it's all about the process and the work and the payoff is off somewhere in the distant future (or not even desired at all).
posted by rue72 at 10:49 AM on August 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

Yeah, this was a bit of a The Empire Strikes Back, setting up the next phase (and without spoiling anything, the "next episode" teaser looked tense).

But there was a lot of set-up. Even Jimmy's heist with Unnamed Lockpick was an incomplete event - they made it out with the piece in question (right?) but they still aren't shitting gold.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:49 AM on August 21, 2018

Also that dude pouting at his office overnight over a Kirby or whatnot is just so...ugh men.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 11:07 AM on August 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

I wonder when Chuck wrote the letter and his will. Surely not contemporaneously..... it sounds as if Jimmy was still in the mail room. Yet his inheritance was a "fuck you," so the will was likely revised after the bar hearing. But surely it was before the falling out with Howard, since he's still the executor. Does my logic make sense? Is it normal to write letters to family members well in advance of your expected demise?
posted by AFABulous at 12:29 PM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I like to think that Kim wasn't crying about the letter, she was crying about Jimmy and his lack of any shred of compassion.

Man, this is a letter from your dead brother, show some emotion. At least stop eating.
posted by Sphinx at 12:31 PM on August 21, 2018 [10 favorites]

Is Kim an only child? Do we know?
posted by fluttering hellfire at 12:38 PM on August 21, 2018

I don't think we know. When she had the interview with Schweikart's firm, she just mentioned her hometown and the fact that if she hadn't left, she anticipated being married and working at the "Hinky Dinky," which I assume is the local grocery store.

(Why can I remember this stuff, but don't know why I walked into the kitchen?)
posted by AFABulous at 12:46 PM on August 21, 2018 [8 favorites]

There are a whole bunch of people online who are insisting that it's obvious Kim wrote the letter herself and gave it to Jimmy in place of the real Chuck letter which was much harsher. I don't see any evidence for this, though I suppose it's possible. In that case she would be crying because even the letter she wrote to try to reconnect Jimmy with Chuck's memory didn't reach him.

But I am skeptical since there really wasn't any onscreen indication for this. The only thing is that she held on to the letter for a little while.
posted by litlnemo at 12:49 PM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Man, this is a letter from your dead brother, show some emotion. At least stop eating.

Eh, she knows what a smarmy, condescending prick Chuck was, and she knows that he wasn't on Jimmy's side, ever.

I don't know how to read that scene, to be honest, but Jimmy's response seems reasonable, given the circumstances. I'd be fucking incensed to get that shitty, insincere letter in his position.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:54 PM on August 21, 2018 [9 favorites]

It was either handwritten or typewritten (is that a word?). Jimmy would know both Chuck's and Kim's handwriting, and it's doubtful Kim got access to a typewriter in the previous 24-48 hours. There's no way Kim wrote that.
posted by AFABulous at 12:58 PM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Jimmy reading the letter was chilling. I think Kim was crying because of his total lack of human emotion.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:15 PM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm going waaaay out on a limb here but my guess is that Kim was crying because she's done something terrible. Or she knows that Jimmy did.

When she saw those models, she just snapped. She changed her plans, went to the courthouse to do something mysterious, and the next day presents Jimmy with the letter that she had tucked away. I don't think Jimmy's reaction was unexpected, I think what was written in the letter was.

That said, no way Chuck wrote that. Maybe Hamlin. And she knows it.

Or Jimmy wrote it. And now she knows she's lost him.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:44 PM on August 21, 2018 [10 favorites]

it's doubtful Kim got access to a typewriter in the previous 24-48 hours

Not usre what to think of this theory in general, but there might be typewriters at the courthouse.
posted by snofoam at 2:50 PM on August 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

So many scene-opening shots in this episode are low to the ground, focusing on feet, on tires, on roads and surfaces people traverse; as an episode of slow plot development rather than dramatic advancement, perhaps it makes sense to focus so much on actual passages. But it's also an episode in which purposes and motives are realigned, subtly at times: the crime-plot has the spectacular aftermath of Nacho, now working against the Salamancas from within, even as the Gus portion of the plot plays with Gus's secret purpose coming to fruition. Yet even there, one has the inkling of Gus's production plans shifting: Gale is meant for better things, but wants, really, to be Gus's chemist; Gus, for his part, will be changing plans to get the purer stuff he knows. And in the legal-plot, we have Kim starting to turn away from the future Mesa Verde offers, starting -- as she suggested at the start of Relax-a-Thon, to shift her focus from the professional to the personal.

Jimmy, ever the plot-reverser, of course, is not so much changing his purpose as reverting to form, going back to grifts and cons, but with the difference that he no longer lets the marks fool themselves, but actively takes a hand and networks with criminals. What starts as a redux of Mike's raid on the Kettlemans turns into not one, but two break-ins, one by Jimmy's hand. His function as the character who violates borders and undoes the plot is visually signified most clearly by his violating the privacy and the boundary of the veterinarian's office, an action he mirrors later with the car. More subtly, it's in Jimmy's subtly bringing his criminality - and his callousness - into the cozy space he shares with Kim. She may b using their home as an office, but he is, too, and in a much darker way.

Appropriately, though, this is a sort of blind from the other theme of the episode, a very Saul Goodman sort of theme: realities for fakeries, and vice versa. There is some smart speculation above about the idea that the Chuck letter is Kim's forgery, as her courthouse visit is otherwise unexplained: a fake letter expressing what should have been, and maybe once were, Chuck's real sentiments about his brother. (They'd be shallow sentiments, but that's what sentiments are for someone like Chuck). It's also in the crime-plot, where Nacho has to be shot for real to fake the raid, and where his fake wounding for the Salamancas is mixed with a real, and literal sort of blood loyalty from the cousins. It's there in Gus disrupting his current supply lines fraudulently in order to bring in his real, future supply line, too. Dummy loads in the official trucks, as if it's necessary to pretend to smuggle int he real stuff in order to make it on the northern side of the border anyway.

And it is evident in all those models of a future Kim wants no part of, fake little banks that become the very real and overwhelming expansion Kim is deciding not to work towards. (If the Chuck letter is a Kim-produced fake, it's signaled further by Kim's treatment of Mesa Verde: dissimulating about her true feelings, then signing a legal document she didn't write, so unlike her old meticulousness.) So this is an episode in which all our major characters except Mike, seen only briefly, go fake to give themselves the opportunity to go real. Even Mike's usual distinction between a "good" criminal and a bad one - and he's clearly filing Jimmy into the "bad" criminal category - can be read as his cover for rejecting Jimmy' job because he just doesn't need it.

It's why some of those shots of feet walking and tires spinning are countered with shots of a blinding sun or a blinding flashlight, a light eclipsed when a face comes into view. Something real comes in and blocks the razzle-dazzle, the lens flare, that most famous of overused camera effects to...what is it Tyrus says? Gotta make it look real."

Except Jimmy. Our would-be lawyer is breaking the law, and our would-be con artist isn't bothering to fake anything. The Hummel switch isn't a forgery for a real thing; it's a less valuable real statue for a more valuable one. The car break-in isn't a cheat, it's for real. And when he reads that strange, suspect letter, he doesn't bother to fake emotions he's not feeling, to simulate care that isn't his. The only lie he tells int his episode is about his sleep habits; otherwise, his transformation is about how casually, sometimes bluntly direct he is. Whether it's skipping the middleman to seize the vet's phone and make the deal himself or munching his way apathetically through the reading of that letter, Jimmy just can't be bothered to put on a show or fake anything much at all. The rolling car's a distraction, sure, but not really a narrative: the car alarm goes off twice, and the second time the car's rolling for not especially clear reason from the owner's perspective.

All around Jimmy, we see reminders of his past frauds: the maybe-forged, definitely concealed letter, the guy living out of his office much as Jimmy did back when he pretended to be his own receptionist, and so forth. But realities intrude: the letter offers no solace if Jimmy already doesn't care anyway, the real life of the burglary victim gets in the way of the switcheroo plan, and gunshot wounds have a physical and psychological cost even if they're in the service of an illusion. Others care about the impact of their actions on themselves and others, and so they weep, they suffer pangs of guilt, they have fears and regrets. Even Mike and Gus can muster a touch of paternal kindness here and there. Only Jimmy seems to get by without any emotional burdens, and that may be because he's just decided to stop caring about being Jimmy McGill.
posted by kewb at 3:39 PM on August 21, 2018 [11 favorites]

You can spin up all the elaborate letter theories you want, but it seems pretty obvious to me that Kim was suddenly hit by the realization of all that had been lost between Jimmy and Chuck. Up until that point, mourning the recent Chuck had been easy; mourning Chuck-that-was was more of a body blow. And I'm sure Jimmy's blasé reaction didn't help.
posted by whuppy at 5:10 PM on August 21, 2018 [14 favorites]

I think Kim also felt really bad because she'd expected the letter to be all harsh recriminations, and it wasn't that at all. It was actually kind and sweet and loving. She'd taken up Jimmy's side so thoroughly in the McGill war that she'd started assuming the worst of Chuck and villianizing him, not just to Jimmy but to hereself. But that letter was Chuck as he actually was, which was condescending and cold sometimes but loving and paternal sometimes, too. I think when she heard the letter, she felt bad about how harshly she had judged him, and it also really hit her that Chuck, a man (not a villain) was dead. And Chuck had burnt himself to death because he was so alone, ill, and unhappy -- his death is so tragic, and I think she was really hit with the tragedy of it.

I don't think she wrote the letter, although I don't know what she went to the courthouse for. Maybe to get a marriage license (ha!).

Jimmy's coldness was chilling but expected, I think. He puts on these personae like they're exoskeletons, and I think he's wearing the Slipping Jimmy exoskeleton now. You could see him put it on when Howard told him that he thought Chuck had set himself on fire because the of the insurance shinanigans. Now, nothing's getting through that hard shell. I think it's self protection more than anything else, but it's also obnoxious to watch.

I don't think he's wearing the Saul exoskeleton yet because Saul is not just a criminal (like Slipping Jimmy), he's a criminal LAWYER. And Jimmy isn't a lawyer right now, in any of his present incarnations.
posted by rue72 at 5:44 PM on August 21, 2018 [10 favorites]

Maybe to get a marriage license (ha!).

This was actually my first thought, which I assume and hope is wrong.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:57 PM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

When Kim gives Jimmy the letter, they are literally surrounded by stacks of papers related to Mesa Verde's rapid expansion; how could she not feel guilty at that moment, both personally and on Jimmy's behalf, when it was Jimmy's address switch caper on no doubt very similar documents that allowed her to get Mesa Verde's business back, and ultimately led to Chuck testifying at the Bar hearing, having his condition exposed, losing his insurance, losing his partnership at HHM, and probably committing suicide over it?
posted by mubba at 6:32 PM on August 21, 2018 [18 favorites]

I like mubba's theory best. Kim isn't crying because Jimmy isn't, she's crying because the McGill brothers tore each other apart over Mesa Verde, and she's making out like a bandit while one brother rots in the ground and another scuffs around looking for any kind of work and, maybe, trying to pull some scams; even without knowing about the Hummel job (probably), she might suspect him of getting into something--IIRC, he wanted to run one more Viktor and Giselle job, and she vetoed it--and that mystery run to the courthouse may have been to see if Jimmy had had any new charges filed against him. If she sticks with Mesa Verde--she's hired a very competent paralegal, and the expansion may be a rainmaker for her, not just for her career but a possible firm of her own--she may already be thinking twice about staying with the disgraced brother of a late legal legend. If that's what she's considering, she may shed a few tears over that.

As for the letter itself, well, fuck Chuck, man. Not dating it means that Jimmy will never know if Chuck wrote it before they went to war, or if Chuck had second thoughts about his fight with Jimmy. (There was all the shit that Chuck said the day that he died, but I'm pretty sure that Jimmy knew that it wasn't true. Much of the first three seasons of the show was driven by Jimmy mattering very much to Chuck, even if not in a good way.) If any one at the firm was interested enough in what Chuck had to say with his black sheep lil' bro, and, say, took it upon themselves to steam the envelope open, they would come away with a much better picture of Chuck than Chuck's own actions would paint. Jimmy knows that it's bullshit, and Kim, whom Chuck once told that Jimmy had stolen from his father and maybe even contributed to their father's premature death, shouldn't buy it either. Thus, my theory above.

The rest of the episode is tight. I figure that the only real purpose for the Mike and Jimmy scene is that we haven't seen the two in the same scene for a while. Nacho's ordeal is gruesome (I was eating a buffalo chicken sandwich while watching the setup out in the desert--unfortunate choice!), and made sense given that the Cousins were investigating. I, too, thought that the burglar was the gun guy from BB. (By the way, DAE recognize Neff as one of the network executives from GLOW?) And, boy, Gale. If it weren't too early for the JoCo cruise to be a thing, he'd be a perennial cruiser.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:39 PM on August 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

When she saw those models, she just snapped. She changed her plans, went to the courthouse to do something mysterious, and the next day presents Jimmy with the letter that she had tucked away. I don't think Jimmy's reaction was unexpected, I think what was written in the letter was.

My guess: Kim's been having a near-breakdown lately already. She was putting off showing Jimmy the letter. Now that she's confronted with just how much work Mesa Verde is going to be -- and work that she doesn't deserve, as mubba said -- she's decided she wants out. So she files some final paperwork at the courthouse that she's obligated to file, shows Jimmy the letter, and then gets in a car and drives off to small-town Nebraska or wherever.

That would mean she'd be leaving Jimmy too, but he hasn't exactly impressed her with his compassion lately so I wouldn't be surprised. I hope I'm wrong because Kim's my favorite thing about this show.

Random thoughts:

- The Nacho scenes were intense.

- I called it that Mike would say no to the Hummel job.

- I though for sure Burglar Guy was going to get caught and then kill the Neff employee to get away, escalating Jimmy's situation like crazy. I was so relieved when he got out.

- When the vet recommended a burglar I thought it would be Huell... I guess we didn't need another BB callback though.

- Gale was great.

- I don't think Kim would forge a letter. She was acting as Jimmy's lawyer and had a legal responsibility to present the letter to him, and she considers that important. Also a shitty (but well meaning) thing to do to a friend / boyfriend.

- Long-shot prediction: Kim really freaked out because she has a past that she's afraid may come back to threaten her -- this has been strongly implied before -- and one of the cities in the Model Room was related to this. (I.e. she knows if she tries to do legal work in Salt Lake City it will catch the attention of her ex-husband, or the gang she stole money from, or whatever.)

- The models were cool, but what bank or credit union designs different buildings for every location? Seems like America's First or Wells Fargo just copy the same building over and over.
posted by mmoncur at 10:39 PM on August 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

I thought it would be Huell

I feel like before the reveal, they deliberately framed him looking bulky in the shadows so that he might have been Huell.
posted by umber vowel at 11:07 PM on August 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Sometimes in grade school, teachers would have kids read passages from textbooks aloud. Some kids thought it was bullshit so they wouldn't try to do it well at all, and were sort of mocking about it. That's how Jimmy read that letter. Good bit of acting there. I liked how he kept pausing to eat more cereal.
posted by heatvision at 4:02 AM on August 22, 2018 [5 favorites]

Kim really freaked out because she has a past that she's afraid may come back to threaten her -- this has been strongly implied before -- and one of the cities in the Model Room was related to this.

Wasn't one of the cities North Platte, Nebraska? The wiki says that she "grew up in a small town on the Kansas-Nebraska border." North Platte isn't super-close to the state line, but nothing in that part of Nebraska is super-close to anything else, and US 83 runs right down into Kansas from North Platte.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:53 AM on August 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

- The models were cool, but what bank or credit union designs different buildings for every location? Seems like America's First or Wells Fargo just copy the same building over and over.

The models scene was pretty amazing. Although this is all news to Kim, Kevin has purloined a room just to show them off - we see 8 buildings all with different bespoke designs - and we can see that it precisely the indulgence of making each architectural detail different - that seems to animate him. He then goes on to mention that these are "just the tip of the iceberg" and to name a total of 19 planned locations (reminding me of this song) . It is a lovely depiction of an empire expansion plan built on hubris and CEO narcissism. Not uncommon prior to 2007 - but a real contrast with Gus' caution and ruthless efficiency.
posted by rongorongo at 5:08 AM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Do we know how Gus and Gale originally met?

It was mentioned in BB that Gus had established some sort of endowment at the school (I think for promising chemistry students/teachers/something) and Gale was a recipient. Not sure if he was the first one or the most promising.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:43 AM on August 22, 2018

I really liked the one bank that looked like a sinking ship. That can't have been an accident.
posted by whuppy at 5:51 AM on August 22, 2018 [6 favorites]

Damn! Gus is nothing if not thorough. I love that he thinks of everything. If ever I wonder, "why are they doing that?" the answer is always because Gus is thorough.

I think the hummel guy has actually been collecting them himself and is using the grandma as a cover story to save face with other guys. I think that's why his wife kicked him out, because he spent $8k on something whether his wife knows it was a hummel or not.
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:25 AM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

A couple of other thoughts. I've already hated on Chuck for the letter, but I'd like to point out that Chuck praised Jimmy for precisely two things: being born, because it made their mother happy, and running the HHM mailroom, which, thanks to Chuck, would be Jimmy's highest position at that firm.

Also, the thing about the vacuum cleaner reminded me of Vacuum Cleaner Repair Guy, but I'm not sure if or how that could mean any connection, unless Neff is embezzling from his own firm.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:36 AM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

mubba, I feel that's the best take on this, because do you remember all the terrible things Chuck said to Jimmy? And worse, with only Jimmy present, so no one could confirm that's what he said? If I recall correctly ... maybe I forgot some instances, but that's another way Kim differs from Chuck (of course, he has a TON of years of experience on her, and he Lives By The Law, not emotions), but Kim (in a charged place) exploded at Howard as Chuck's messenger from beyond the grave, where Chuck was rarely flustered in public, and when he was, he was pissed at Jimmy for putting him in that situation. But that's family, while Kim and Howard are work relations, and as such, Chuck would never have acted out so brashly (again, vastly different people, but that's something that came to mind when I saw Kim explode at Chuck/Howard - so very unlawyerly, but appropriately so).

Anyway, enough rambling thoughts, here's a transcript of Jimmy reading Chuck's letter:
Kim: Jimmy, there's just a couple of things, from talking to Howard, that maybe we ought to go through.
Jimmy: Oh, yeah. Okay. Yeah, let's get it over with, you know? Rip the Band-Aid off, right?
Kim: Yeah. Uh, this is a release. It says basically that you won't contest the will.
Jimmy: If I sign it, I get my share?
Kim: That's about the size of it.
Jimmy: So, uh how much do I get?
Kim: $5,000.
Jimmy: Five K. Yeah. I can pay off my Mastercard. What else you got?
Kim: Um this is It's from Chuck. Nobody knows for sure what's in it. You don't have to open it right now
Jimmy: Let's see what the old boy has to say.
Kim: Okay, I'll I'll give you a minute alone.
Jimmy: No, no. Stay. I mean, uh, you want to hear this, right?
Kim: Yeah. If it's okay.
Jimmy: It's undated. Okay, here it goes.

"Dear Jimmy, I have left many things unsaid in our relationship through the years. Rather than all- allow- allow these unspoken thoughts to die with me, I've chosen to record them here for you. I hope you will take my words in the spirit in which they are intended."

New paragraph.

"I remember quite clearly the day you came home from the hospital. You can't imagine the joy on Mom's face. I can honestly say I never saw her happier than she was on that day. You brought a shine to her life that nothing else ever did, and I'm glad of that."

New paragraph.

"We have not always seen eye to eye. I expect that will continue to be so in the future. However, nothing will ever change the fact that we are brothers, flesh and blood. And though we are very different people, I want you to know how much I respect what you have made of yourself in these last few years. You have taken the opportunity I gave you in the mailroom, and you have run with it, becoming a valued member of the HHM family. For all the problems in your past, I'm proud we share the name McGill."

"I sincerely admire your energy and resilience. I used to worry about you finding a place in the world, but I'm not worried about that anymore. I'm certain now that, no matter what the future may bring, you'll land on your feet, and I hope when you read this, you remember me not only as your brother, but as a person you knew was always in your corner."

He signed it just "Chuck."

Well, say what you want, the man could write a letter.
I think that the majority of the "Chimp with a machine gun" scene from S01E09 "Pimento" (original FF thread) stands out as Chuck very passionately saying things that are counter to just about everything what is said in this letter, but with only Jimmy present, so he can control how the narrative is replayed (Chuck could tell others, if Jimmy ever told anyone, that "Jimmy is blowing it out of proportion" or something like that -- but maybe because this is so real, so raw, Jimmy feels like he can't tell anyone -- and worse, people might agree with Chuck's take). So if this letter is old, it has to predate that exchange.

Here's the transcript, for ease of review:
Jimmy: It was always you, right? Right back to when I passed the bar and tried to join the firm. You didn't want me. Speak up. Tell me why. It's the least you can do for me now. I'm your brother. We're supposed to look out for each other. Why were you working against me, Chuck?
Chuck: You're not a real lawyer.
Jimmy: I'm what?
Chuck: You're not a real lawyer. University of American Samoa, for Christ's sake. An online course? What a joke. I worked my ass off to get where I am. And you take these shortcuts and you think suddenly you're my peer? You do what I do because you're funny and you can make people laugh? I committed my life to this. You don't slide into it like a cheap pair of slippers and reap all the rewards.
Jimmy: I thought you were proud of me.
Chuck: I was! When you straightened out and got a job in the mailroom, I was very proud.
Jimmy: So that's it then, right? Keep old Jimmy down in the mailroom. He's not good enough to be a lawyer.
Chuck: I know you. I know what you were, what you are. People don't change. You're Slippin' Jimmy. And Slippin' Jimmy I can handle just fine. Slippin' Jimmy with a law degree is like a chimp with a machine gun. The law is sacred. If you abuse that power, people get hurt. This is not a game. You have to know On some level, I know you know I'm right. You know I'm right.
Jimmy: I- I got you a 20 pound bag of ice. And some bacon, and some eggs, and a couple of those steaks that you like. Some fuel canisters. It's enough for three or four days. After that, you're on your own. I am done.
Chuck: Jimmy. Jimmy. Jimmy- Jimmy, come back inside. Jimmy! Jimmy.
Then in the beginning of S02E10 "Klick" (FF thread; Wikipedia episode summary; rough transcript), we see the mother of Jimmy and Chuck die, with her last words asking for Jimmy, even though it's Chuck who is there and Jimmy's off getting food (after reminiscing with Chuck about inviting two women to their mother's surprise party, which Chuck recalls as a disaster). And when Jimmy asks "Did she wake up? Did she say anything?" Chuck replies "No." So even Chuck's opening recollection is a jab at Jimmy, without Jimmy knowing.

And I'm trying to find a counter-example of Chuck being "proud to that we share the name McGill," but currently failing. I'll leave that to folks with better memories for past episodes.

A couple of other thoughts. I've already hated on Chuck for the letter, but I'd like to point out that Chuck praised Jimmy for precisely two things: being born, because it made their mother happy, and running the HHM mailroom, which, thanks to Chuck, would be Jimmy's highest position at that firm.

On re-read, both lines are way more nasty: "I can honestly say I never saw her happier than she was on that day" -- re-written, he's that their mom was less happy the days after he was born, and "You have taken the opportunity I gave you in the mailroom, and you have run with it, becoming a valued member of the HHM family" -- re-written, Jimmy only had the opportunity for mediocre greatness (and his progress into the HHM family was blocked by Chuck) because Chuck was benevolent enough to bestow that gift (which is what you said ;))

Also, the thing about the vacuum cleaner reminded me of Vacuum Cleaner Repair Guy, but I'm not sure if or how that could mean any connection, unless Neff is embezzling from his own firm.

No, I think it's simpler than that. Here's what he said:
I-I just wanted to say I'm sorry if you feel upset.
It was not my intention f-for you to feel upset.
Well, m-my intention was for Honey, it is top-of-the-line.
Then what is the point? You're saying I'm a I'm a thoughtless that I don't care, but it is a very, very expensive vacuum.
It It never loses suction! So, what you're saying is I've got I got to sleep in my office because I got you a gift?! Lynette? Lynette? Damn it.
He's not getting that unless she asked for an expensive vacuum (which given that she apparently says he's thoughtless and doesn't care, isn't at all the kind of gift she wanted), his present is simply praising her for her housework. "I appreciate that you clean the house, so here's an even better vacuum!"
posted by filthy light thief at 6:54 AM on August 22, 2018 [12 favorites]

Chuck certainly pushed against Jimmy using the McGill name *as a lawyer* back in the Season 1 episode with the billboard.

One of the neat things about The Letter is that it's a fake whether Chuck wrote it or not: it's either Chuck's insincere and hollow sentiments, long belied by his actions and statements, or it's a reflection of everyone else's understanding of how hollow and shallow Chuck's rare and qualified praise of Jimmy really was.

It's worth noting that after "Pimento," Chuck 's line on Jimmy to other people is keep noting that "my brother has a good heart, but he can't help himself." It was what he said when he told Kim, in private, about Jimmy stealing from the till, and what he says to the ADA from Belem ahead of the pre-prosecutiorial diversion meeting.

But Chuck has also been unguarded regarding Jimmy at other times: he openly questions whether Jimmy is engaging in illegal solicitation during one of the big Sandpiper meetings with Davis and Main (and he's right, as Jimmy is indeed illegally pitching to captive audiences by bribing bus drivers). And he also responds to Howard's mention that Davis and Main have hired Jimmy with a snappish "As what?" before a somewhat surprised Howard notes that it is, of course, a job as a lawyer. And way back int he days when he was married, he cautions Rebecca ahead of a dinner and is quite visibly cold and upset with Rebecca when she clearly finds Jimmy more affable than her own husband.

In scenes like these, we see that Chuck is capable of cool, calm sentiment when he's in charge of things and everyone else agrees that Jimmy belongs "in his place," but not when Jimmy isn't quite under his thumb. Then he's snappish, openly willing to question his brother's character, and barely bothers with the fig leaf of brotherly concern for an errant sibling. This gets worse and worse until Chuck's career-ruining outburst at the disbarment hearing.

The letter reflects that, but it wouldn't be a secret to anyone on the show anyway. And everything from its sentiments to the false familiarity of signing it "Chuck" makes it a fraud even if it came from the man himself. If Saul Goodman is a character into whom Jimmy McGill willingly transforms himself to achieve his ends, then "Chuck" was always a character that Charles McGill, Esq. played when it suited him.

On the other side of things, part of what's happening is that Jimmy no longer has to care what Chuck thinks of him. That was in another lifetime, and besides, the asshole's dead and wrote Jimmy off in person in their last conversation. But to some extent, he's acting as if he no longer cares what anyone thinks of him. He's not dealing with grief, but with an unaccustomed sense of freedom and self-assertion, a feeling that other people's concerns and judgements and guilts are their problem, not his.
posted by kewb at 7:42 AM on August 22, 2018 [15 favorites]

I really like Better Call Saul, but these Fanfare threads make me appreciate it even more. Thanks everybody for these great observations!
posted by Pendragon at 12:05 PM on August 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

Wasn't one of the cities North Platte, Nebraska? The wiki says that she "grew up in a small town on the Kansas-Nebraska border." North Platte isn't super-close to the state line, but nothing in that part of Nebraska is super-close to anything else, and US 83 runs right down into Kansas from North Platte.

Nice catch! I just rewatched and Kim does seem to detach and go into her reverie at pretty much the exact moment he says "North Platte, Nebraska", although she does look at many buildings.

My read of her face is that she's bothered at the sheer size of the enterprise (too much work? Too much success she doesn't deserve?) but I definitely see a possibility that it's a specific place that bothered her. If it is, it's either Cheyenne or North Platte. She wasn't listening to the cities he rattled off after that.

Longshot prediction #2: Kim isn't her real name, she changed her name to Kim Wexler and moved to Albuquerque so that she could become a lawyer after committing some sort of crime in Nebraska. And her moment of total breakdown will come when Jimmy announces that he's changing his name to "Saul Goodman" in order to become a lawyer again.
posted by mmoncur at 10:26 PM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

So far I'm not liking this new Jimmy very much, which makes me wonder how we'll feel after the show ends. Walter White was a villain, but at least he got his Scarface blaze of glory. Saul's just gonna, what? Ruin some lives and become a "*criminal* lawyer"?

It makes me think the writers will feel obliged to end with something big, which can only mean that Kim is really and truly big D Doomed.

Somebody please tell me I'm wrong.
posted by whuppy at 9:03 AM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think it's amazing how all the men in Kim's life unreflectively exercise such reckless power and entitlement.

I was practically yelling at my screen when the bank boss barged into the meeting, recognised that she was under time constraints and dismissively waved it off as he mock-walked out, then turned around and said "wait…" Then dragged them both out of the room to implicitly request that she praise his big models. I couldn't wrap my head around what a 'you must tell me you like the cheese' demand of emotional labour that was.

No wonder she cracked when later — after she'd gone to great lengths of empathy to cushion the emotional blow of the will meeting with Hamlin* — Jimmy acts like a surly child eating a bowl of cereal in his pajamas while dispassionately reading the letter. Kim's watching him and rotating between shock and sadness and confusion. Jimmy's response to this was classic, 'mommy, don't cry', saying "Heeeeyyy, it's ok, it's ok, it's a nice letter". He's not treating her as an equal who has valid emotional reactions in her own right, but as a caregiver who he wants to reassure that he is ok. He even prefaced it with, "gotta rip the bandaid off, right?"

I've been in a similar situation of multi-directional powerlessness not too many years ago and so these scenes hit me hard. I didn't handle them with nearly as much poise and restraint, so I commend my fellow Kim on this one. Not to mention that she's navigating this nightmare with a nearly exact physical manifestation of 'doing it all with one arm tied behind her back'. Jesus.

*Don't even get me started on this guy.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:38 AM on August 23, 2018 [10 favorites]

My initial impression on the Chuck letter was that Jimmy was just making shit up on the fly, rather than reading out loud the actual letter. I'm open to being completely way off base, though. If Kim had surreptitiously read the letter beforehand, she'd know that Jimmy sped-read it, was devastated, and then pretend-read something he made up on the fly - it'd be a mix of 'holy shit' and guilt (for prying into a private correspondence).

At first I was disappointed that Jimmy went low rent with the Hummel switcheroo (Eight grand!), but I get that he's in survival mode and just hustling. A few grand buys him a couple of months of living expenses (or more! back in the 00's in Albuquerque?).

But the burglary scene really shows that Jimmy has a baseline level of integrity. Sure, he isn't doing the burglary himself, but he sticks around on-site and when he notices something amiss, doesn't just take off but tries to fix the situation. Twice!

*edit: if I was to do criminal stuff, I'd prefer to do criminal stuff with Jimmy

I loved the Gale scene, personally. It speaks to me - a lab rat with a ton of funds to basically do whatever the heck he wants in a lab that he doesn't have to share with anyone else. His sincerity of offering to cook meth for Gus feels *real*.
posted by porpoise at 7:58 PM on August 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

(IANAChemist, but almost completed a vanity OrgChem (quadruple) major in college a couple of decades ago) The "contaminants" thing is (typically) just shoddy chemistry. Chemical syntheses typically have a bunch of steps. Each step has a conversion efficiency %. Even if each additional step takes a hit, sometimes it's worth it to take additional "roundabout" steps where those "roundabout" steps altogether have a higher efficiency than taking a single very inefficient step. The contaminants are just those inefficient conversions - sometimes they're harmless (and just contributes to inefficiency), sometimes they can be toxic/ harmful. Yes, you can do purifications after certain steps, but purification steps are also lossy leading to more inefficiency.

That's how (good) chemists think. Gale is good, but Walter White is better. He saw a different synthesis route that was much more efficient overall (and used different reagent(s)), but some of the non-conversion/ side products would tint the final product with a blue contaminant - which wasn't toxic - but the "good stuff" was 95+% pure in the final product (which is exceptional).

These guys are making illicit drugs. Making each unit of drug cheaper/ faster to produce has strong incentives, even if the final product's quality suffers. Gale is scandalized that the final product sucks so bad, Walter sees a much more efficient way of getting to the final product.

"Hands" (bench jargon for technique) also factors into a multi-step synthesis' efficiency. With sloppy measurements and/or poor reagent quality, the total efficiency can be drastically lower than what theory/ mathematics predicts. Poor reagent quality can (sometimes) be (partially) compensated for, but accuracy of measurement can really and truly screw up certain types of reactions. Good hands can also make lossy purification steps less lossy.

Most bench chemists I know take a lot of pride synthesizing product to an efficiency as close to theoretical as possible.

Jesse's "chili powder" contaminant is just a tweaker thing, not a chemistry thing.
posted by porpoise at 7:58 PM on August 24, 2018 [9 favorites]

BCS Insider Podcast 403, hosted by Chris McCaleb (one of the editors for the show, but not this one) and Kelley Dixon (who joined the chat late), with Peter and Vince, Joey Rinish on the boards, episode writer Gordon Smith and first-timer Joe DeRosa (Dr. Caldera), who one of Chris' favorite comedians.
  • Joe met Tom Schauz the day after auditioning for BCS, when Tom came to see Joe at a late show "Flappers," where Joe was headlining. Tom said he had a great audition, and Joe then tried to not bomb the show, which he did not.
  • Tom is also one of Vince's oldest friends - the two of them went NYU Film School together, and were on X-Files together, where they both learned their craft
  • Another anecdote: Kelley edited 106 ("Five-O" FanFare thread), the first episode for both Gordon and Joe (Chris earns his BCS nerd credits); that episode is formally known as "The Mike Episode," which was nominated as such for the Emmys
  • Insider facts: as a member of the Writer's Guild, if a character you created is featured in later episodes, you get character money, as Vince calls it -- Gordon: "is there a place for the vet in this episode?" [Gordon told Joe after shooting 106 "I think we're going to see you again soon" after Joe had heard from his rep that he was on hold for another episode. Joe said "Yeah, that's awesome! Thank you!" Gordon replied "well, I get paid" -- in part because Gordon was also writing that episode]
  • Cross-podcast connection/ confession: We'll See You In Hell recently moved to Starburns Audio, and on the debut podcast for this new season, Patrick Walsh walked in on Joe watching Charles in Charge, which was embarrassing enough, but he said on the podcast "You've never seem Breaking Bad, but you're watching Charles in Charge again, what is wrong with you?" In Joe's defense, he said BB was into its 3rd season when he was really pushed to see it, and he felt like he had so much to catch up on at that point. Even when he auditioned for BCS, he hadn't seen BB. "Whenever I auditioned for a think that I'm already obsessed with, I've never, ever, ever gotten it. Anything cool I get to do, I go in and have great respect for the work for it, and sometimes it works out. I don't want it in my head." In response, Vince notes that Bob Odenkirk hadn't seen any BB, and hadn't really heard of it at that point, but some friends pushed him to accept the offer (Bob didn't audition, Peter and Vince knew they wanted him, which is a rare position for BB actors, one of the very few, Vince: "you could count [them] on less than one hand"). Joe feels safe enough that he could start watching now, but now it's a thing that his character doesn't know where this is going. And Joe notes that more so, every time he meets a new character he heads into deeper, darker territory. Peter: "We're not permitting you to watch Breaking Bad. We don't want to screw anything up." Joe: the only reason I feel comfortable telling you this stuff, but I saw Peter Dinklage on Letterman saying "I've never read Game of Thrones." Letterman asked "how does George feel about that?" Peter said "He's not crazy about that." Vince compares looking at The Wire without having watched it to standing at the bottom of a mountain and looking up at the top, "it's daunting," and Peter talks about the praise for The Wire also daunted him, didn't make him want to watch it because it would be work. But nobody was saying "this is entertaining as hell ... you can't wait to find out what happens next. I feel the same about Breaking Bad, too." Joe hasn't seen Mad Men for the same reason, he was 3.5 seasons behind. Joe said that when he wrote for Pete Holmes's talk show, they wrote a monologue with the theme that "I don't have any more room in my head for this stuff." Pete loved Mad Men, and said "I have the whole Mad Men cast in here," but didn't have room for Breaking Bad, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones.
  • Joe: on intimidation, how does any act in Star Wars? You have to hate the show. Chris says that if you look closely, you can see Laura Dern making "pew! pew!" sounds with her mouth. Joe: after watching Wolf of Wallstreet with a friend, his friend said that everybody sounded like they knew they were in a Scorsese film. Compared to Goodfellas, they purposefully cast people who seemed like they didn't fit those roles (mentioned in this 26 minute "making of" documentary)
  • Chris notes that there are a lot of comics who play dark roles in BCS, and asks Joe what is that makes Lavell Crawford (Huell Babineaux) or Bill Burr (Kuby) "What do you think it is that allows so many comedians to have this connection to this darkness?" (summary) Joe: "Comedians are dark. It's not fun. It's a real filth ... that's why I don't like a lot of fictional depictions of comedy - I don't think any of them get into what the real darkness of it is. They'll show people abusing drugs, or with drinking problems, or marriages that fall apart. That's all cookie-cutter stuff. They don't get into the real emotion of what it's like to put it all on your shoulders. You do a show and it goes well and you feel like a champion. You do a show and it feels band and you feel like Frankenstein's monster, like they're going to run you out of town with pitchforks or something. Both of those are unhealthy - one's going to give you a slight god complex, and the other's going to make you feel worthless. You take those emotions and there's no one to share that with, you go back to your hotel room and there's no one to share that with. ... Doing flat out comedy scares me --" Vince: "Like in a movie?" Joe: "yeah, you have to play it truthfully, but you have to play a funny version of the truth. I watch Kevin James and I can't even understand how he does that. He figures out how to make it palatable, but it's still really funny. I never got that. All I ever wanted to do was play shady people, the crooks and criminals. I love this." Gordon: "One of the things I think that does, it instantly adds a layer. When you're saying 'Comedy is a dark world,' you're not playing the darkness, there's a way of kind of separating that. I remember from your audition, you're treating Mike for his wound, and there's some small joke in there that the character makes. There were a lot of people who were playing the darkness, they were saying *batman voice* 'you know, you're going to get in trouble with this wound' You threw it away, like 'You're going to set off metal detectors, asshole.' By not playing at if this is the darkest moment, this gives the character layers, this is a person. You don't know this is the darkest thing that ever is going to happen." Vince: "I don't know, man, this seems pretty fuckin' dark." Gordon: "It does, but for the vet, it's sort of work-a-day for him. These assholes come, they pay him, and they leave." Joe credits Sherry Thomas for asking him to take it down from "a comedian, a smart-ass," who gave him five takes instead of just saying "that was great" and ending it there. And at the end, she said "you can take a note." Vince: the casting directors, Sharon, Sherry and Russel, love actors, and while they want the next person in the door to succeed, they also help actors out and champion for some actors.
  • Peter: biggest twist of characters was Gus - probably imagining a stereotypical narco character, but Giancarlo Esposito came in and auditioned, which flattered Peter and Vince, but also helped them really shape the character
  • Joe thanks Vince and Peter for casting both renowned actors, and some unknowns. He recalled Jonathan Banks, who he sees as a working actor wherever he landed, on this podcast saying "there were times when we said 'honey, we may have to sell the house,' but I didn't have to" and I realized I had to keep my head down, don't catastrophize. Joe recalls Andy Ackerman saying, about Joe's unlikable character not being likable, "then I guess we did our job." ... Burr says this all the time, "Everything I got was from Breaking Bad." Peter's big break was Breaking Bad. Joe decided to stop writing for other comedians because he doesn't like writing for othe comedians, instead has started making his own content, which has its own pitfalls.
  • Into a tangent on spending money foolishly in the good days, Joe talks about the arcade systems he has, including a mint condition Star Wars arcade cabinet, Galaga machine from '83, and lots games for old systems, which isn't too expensive. Kelley has Vince Gilligan's X-Files pinball machine, which he bought from Bally at cost, and he got signatures from Gillian Anderson, Chris Carter, David Duchovny (no, not his signature, corrected Kelley :)), but he got those signatures on the playing field, but in playing, the field gets dirty, and then you wax the field to clean it, which takes off the signatures. Now Kelley is working on getting those signatures back on the translate, the back panel.
  • Back to the episode: Daniel Sackheim directed this episode, and took over True Detective season 3 after Jeremy Saulnier directed the first two episodes [news that is not yet on IMDb ;)], and he directed some of Ozark (Kelley's description: "like Breaking Bad with no patience -- how are they going to have a second season?"). Dan also questions everything in the scripts in the tone meetings; he's on a question to understand the whole thing, which is his process.
  • Kelley watched the episode the night prior, and wanted to title this episode "It's Gail" (after texting Christ GAIL "and 35 exclamation points" -- Joe doesn't know Gail, not only as someone who hasn't seen Gail on the show, but also because the script doesn't list Gail to keep characters hidden, but also because he only gets his scenes.
  • The Tom Lehrer Elements song exists as an extra where Gail does it all the way through; it was one that Vince pitched to be used in BB 102 (Cat's in the Bag FF rewatch), when they're "cleaning up Emelio," but it didn't happen there. Vince and Peter talk about Lehrer memories, and Peter notes that Lehrer is still alive and well, and using email. He's aware of the show, and personally licensed the song to Thomas Golubic noting that it's been 60 years since he wrote the song. [Try to not cringe too hard when Joe asks "was he like the original Weird Al?" Vince says "He's ... the Harvard version of Weird Al," but Joe (I think it's Joe) gets Peter's Nichols and May reference, "very political, very current ... songs about nuclear proliferation and things like that."
  • The teaser! How many bullets went into that car?* Blanks + squib-hits - how did they time that? Gordon: Special Effects crew were watching, off to the side, with the nail/circuit board, plus spark hits (fired from a paintball gun, essentially), timed with the charges to get "that blow-back action"
  • Caldera fixing up Nacho, so impressionistic - is it in camera or post-effect? Gordon: a bit of both, with B-Camera footage from Dan _, which got tweaked by Skip McDonald, to keep things "in Nacho's head" until the vet talks. Sherry _ did great makeup effects, with prosthetics, that looked real in person to Joe, who was working on/with Michael Mando. The skill of making someone look so good, and so bad, even in super-hi def. Peter asks Joe: what's your medical background? "The super tight shots are 'the doctor guy,' a stand-in on-set." Joe had 40 minutes of training to learn enough to look good from afar. It's prosthetics on Michael, and Joe says "he was really getting into it," asking to get poked in the back when his wound is being cleaned by water. And by Union law, if Michael even got poked with a real needle, the set would have to be shut down and he'd be taken to a hospital. The doctor on-set said he could handle tetanus shots, but that's not sufficient.
  • How hi-def? Not just 4k, but shot in 7.5k Everything has to be spelled right, no gibberish text in newspapers. Kelley: that level of detail isn't present in all shows, because other people say "nobody will read these." Vince's suggestion: "Sweat the small stuff -- if you give up that commitment to little details, you're essentially implicity telling the audience that you don't care that much, which means they don't have to care that much, either." More shout-outs to the eagle-eyed fans, some who watch the show frame-by-frame. Peter: the problem with letting things slide is that you never know what you can let slide. The art department spent days on something in S04E10 that is only seen briefly in the background, similar to the little cards with Chuck's picture and a prayer, a common thing at Catholic funerals, in S04E01 - "We spent a lot of time designing them, and in the back of mind I always thought 'how are we going to see this thing,' but it's something we need for that world, and we need to spend the time on that. The director, Minkie Spiro, did a shot that is great, with Jimmy fumbling with these things in his hands, but if we didn't spend the time and make these things, she wouldn't have thought of getting that shot, because Bob wouldn't have those things in his hands." Vince notes that this is the only in-focus view of Chuck's face, because the big photos are out of focus, instead of focusing on the back of Jimmy's head. Joe talks about continuity between shots, raising a concern about who was behind who in which shot. If actors are trying to remember which hand they were using to hold a cup, it's reassuring to see the crew looking at continuity the same way.
  • Chris: when were you thinking of bringing Ira back for this episode? Gordon: pretty early, we were trying to figure out Jimmy's reaction to the revelation that Chuck committed suicide and he may have been the one that caused that, and what that would do to him. Would he go back to normal, would he get a job? No, he'd act out a little bit. But it's still not quite sitting right; actually when everything's good with Kim, he's having trouble accepting being this person who essentially caused his brother's death, and Kim could love him? That doesn't seem right, she shouldn't love him. He's awful, he's a terrible person. That's the thing that spurs him to act that way. So when we thought he's going to go after these Hummel's, they thought about Ira (who ran Vamonos Pest in BB), who Saul has been saving his bacon, legally speaking, for several years, and he met him doing break-ins. We considered Bob doing it himself, but that feels like neither Jimmy nor Saul, so he sees that as an opportunity. Peter: It's almost that he wanted to be at the center of a conspiracy. He's not really just striking back at Neff, he wants to feel his badness, he wants to be with the people he feels he should be with, the criminal folks, and Ira seemed like a natural person to include. Frank Ross made a big impression, the guy who let Walter and Jessie cook in tented houses, but he's also a second story man who uses the pest control as a front. Gordon: He's primarily a theater actor, he does a lot of Shakespeare and stuff like that. He's a super-sweet guy, and actually a good friend of our DP, Marshall Adams. They go back. Peter: they go back to Babylon 5, where they were on the crew. [Mike Bearmantraut cameo because ....?]
  • Gordon wrote the letter-reading scene and the letter itself. Gordon: "they both just killed it," initially imagined as focused on Jimmy, then cutting to Kim to see her crying, but they shot coverage of her also. In doing so, the final edit includes more reactions of Kim, and seeing how Jimmy isn't looking at hear at all, which really emphasized how separate their reactions are to the letter, and her reaction to Jimmy's lack of reaction. Gordon goes on to say "this is probably the nicest Chuck has been to Jimmy, and he's dead, and he can't really say it to his face, and Jimmy is dead to it." All praise the extended takes, for the emphasis on the individuals acting, and the editing itself. Peter: "It is such a wonderful moment, it's just magical. You can't take your eyes off her, because you know what she's going through. It's the horror of I love someone who is damaged. He is emotionally stunted. There is something wrong with him. Just a few days or weeks ago he had his issues, and we all do, but he was more or less OK, and now he is not the same person he used to be. Something has been irrevocably broken inside of him emotionally, and the reaction is just stellar. But Bob is just as good. It would be just as easy to show a little tinge cynicism on his part, and that would have killed it, because you would have been able to say 'there's plenty of emotion here, he hates his brother. And so he's going to act too cool for school.' He walks that tightrope so perfectly in that moment, because there's no cynicism, there's not a whiff of bitterness, he truly doesn't care. He is truly anesthetized. And it's amazing." Gordon: then both of them hold on their emotions and try to not push them on each-other. Peter: To be fair to Jimmy, he didn't know what would be in the letter, he could have been waiting for a "gotcha" stinger at the end.
  • Joe: Speaking of attention to detail, cereal is a perfect food, something kids eat, so you see him as this damaged little kid. Vince: that's a great take, did you think about that? Gordon: I think we talked about it, but not that level of detail. Joe: You did that even though you didn't do it. It could have been eggs, but you went "Cereal seems right." You did it.
  • Question: when will they have a chocolate fountain on the show? Note: chocolate fountain + kindergartners = bad idea
  • Joe on Banks: from the beginning, Banks was helping Joe run lines. He reassured Joe that he was meant to be there, and that he could ask for another take if he feels like he needs one. Every scene with him is acting school. Joe also connected with Bob - he had let in Joe and a friend in after the cold to hang out with them, after seeing him in Mr. Show. Vince was also welcoming, after directing Joe and others at the old locomotive works location (Google streetview) in Albuquerque. Vince: "You had that late night meeting with Mike." Joe: "Yeah, and I had to drive the car in, and they kept adding things for me to do, so I kept making my mark bigger because I was scared I'd miss it. I had a pile of rocks on the ground, and Banks goes, 'What do you need, a fucking traffic cone?' The nurturing element on the show and on the set is everybody, it's all of you. I'm not excluding anybody when I say talk about a place that makes people feel welcome and comfortable, and that they are supposed to be a part of that. Because as you all know, it's not always like that. Sometimes it's the 'You're lucky to be here' attitude, and that doesn't make you work harder." Vince: "What a sweet story. And I gotta say, why wouldn't you do it that way? You're not curing cancer, you're making a T.V. show. Why shouldn't you have fun and be nice to people? And from a completely selfish standpoint, why wouldn't you want to make people comfortable? It'll make your show better."
  • And then more talk of Joe's comedy work, the Breaking Bad finale party at Hollywood Forever cemetery, and other related tangents, with Joe getting the "Better Call Saul!" closer honor, despite not having seen Breaking Bad (it's the joke that never gets old)
* A rant I did not share earlier -- The Brothers Salamanca may be amazing hitmen, but crime scene investigators, they are not, or they'd notice that all the shell casings were right next to the car, despite the very clear and visible trail of shattered glass and plastic along the road.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:06 PM on August 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

A really nice little attention to detail has been that Kim has been just pulling her hair back into a plain ponytail with a clip since breaking her arm. Up until that point she always had that little curled ponytail with a lock of hair wrapped around to cover the elastic band - a really nicely styled do that took time and precision. She can only use one hand now so has a simple pullback pony.
posted by the webmistress at 8:07 PM on August 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

The vacuum is a Dyson (slogan: "the first vacuum that doesn't lose suction"). It was rather new in the market back then and famously expensive. While most households spent $100 on a vacuum, the Dyson DC07 sold for $400.

Whether through technical superiority, marketing prowess, or both, Dyson's vacuum sold very well in its first few years (i.e. when the show is set). Their market share went from zero to a quarter of all vacuums sold.
posted by Monochrome at 12:18 AM on August 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

the webmistress, that was a real cast on her arm. I wonder if they had her try do to it herself to see what it would look like.

My ex bought me a dishwasher for Valentine's Day and I loved it, so the fight over the vacuum really confused me, unless their finances are so tight that they'd have to give up essentials in order to pay for it.
posted by AFABulous at 8:33 AM on September 1, 2018

The vacuum thing is an old trope. Guy think's he's doing his wife a favour by getting her a better tool, wife thinks guy is generally ungrateful that she does all the housework and that the vacuum is a thoughtless gift.

I kind of get it, but its baffling to me because I'm the type to share as much of the housework as possible (well, I'm single so I do all of my own housework, but growing up I shared a lot of housework as a kid).

I'd be thrilled if someone got me a fancy new lightweight/ more efficient/ less loud vacuum cleaner!
posted by porpoise at 10:45 AM on September 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thinking about some more, I think it's also shorthand for marital strife secondary to lack of successful communication.

She's feeling like he's treating her as a servant whom he sometimes gets sex from, whereas she wants more romance (and equality) in their marriage but is either unable to say so in uncertain terms and/ or he's unable to understand her position.

He thinks it's a practical gift, what's the problem? In fact, after being initially allowed to return, he doubles down on not understanding why a practical gift would set her off so and gets permission to return home revoked.
posted by porpoise at 3:40 PM on September 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

> By the way, DAE recognize Neff as one of the network executives from GLOW?

oh, you mean Jack Kelly?
posted by komara at 9:00 AM on September 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think Chuck wrote the letter and Jimmy didn't show any emotional reaction because he could tell right away it was total bullshit. Chuck treated him like shit the entire time he was on the show, contemptuously blocked his legal career, literally told him he didn't care about him the last time they saw each other in person, and left Jimmy $5000 out of his multi million dollar estate as a blatant postmortem fuck you. Jimmy just found out about the $5000 inheritance right before he read the bullshit letter. He reacted pretty much the way I expected.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:21 PM on September 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

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