Better Call Saul: Fifi
April 4, 2016 8:15 PM - Season 2, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Kim decides what her next move will be. Chuck steps out. Jimmy takes care of some paperwork. Mike does some gardening.

X-acto knives, garden hoses, nails, oh my!
posted by mandolin conspiracy (110 comments total)
 
AUUGHHHHHH
posted by stoneandstar at 8:24 PM on April 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Ill portents for Kim aside - holy shit. The camera work and editing in this episode were fantastic.

Cold open, indeed. I see what they did there.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:46 PM on April 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


I saw FIFI last summer, she was part of the 70th anniversary of VE Day flyover in DC.
posted by peeedro at 9:24 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Jimmy, thanks for staying with me."

Argh, my heart broke a bit.

What exactly is the plan with manipulating all of the Mesa Verde documents? Is it going to invalidate something legally?

And what the heck was Mike doing at the end??

This show, man. This show.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:01 PM on April 4, 2016


I'm pretty sure what Mike was making was home made road spikes, and he's going to mess with the delivery truck.
posted by onya at 11:17 PM on April 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


Sepinwall:
According to "Fifi" writer Thomas Schnauz, he and the rest of the creative team had Touch of Evil in mind as they set up their own border crossing, and the percussion is extremely reminiscent of the Touch of Evil score. But the idea to actually film it in one take — covering so much ground and moving around so many tight spaces — was all from director Larysa Kondracki. It did a neat job of not only paying homage to Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh making a similar crossing (with an explosion, to boot), but also establishing how thoroughly the border police seemed to do their job in searching the ice cream truck, even though they fail to find the contraband that's being brought to Hector Salamanca. In that way, it felt like a magician rolling up his sleeves or sliding a hula hoop across the levitating woman as a way to prove there's no trickery going on, even though we in the audience understand that there's much more going on than we can see from where we're looking.
and also:
I also am happy that the film students appeared in an episode with that opening shot. They'd appreciate the hell out of it, and probably have many questions about what kind of equipment was necessary to achieve both the early crane effect and then move so quickly and smoothly around the tight spaces of that border garage.
I assumed it was filmed with a drone, no? Unless they were doing a lot of clever Raging Bull tricks with a handheld operator stepping on and off of lifts.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:22 PM on April 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Donna Bowman at The A.V. Club talks about the show's signature montage scenes (an organic outgrowth from Breaking Bad from which Better Call Saul sprung):
"Of course Jimmy didn’t stay with him. He saw his chance at revenge, sitting in those boxes full of Mesa Verde documents, and he took it, methodically copying, cutting, and pasting so that every mention of a Scottsdale location now points to the wrong address. The tediousness and meticulousness of the work is underlined in (what else) a signature BCS montage. It’s become clearer in the second season that these montages aren’t just some of the most stylish visuals on television; they do thematic heavy lifting, cementing, deepening, and advancing important aspects of character and story. Here it’s a laconic counterpart to Chuck’s verbose conference room performance. Jimmy can work just as hard and endure just as much to sabotage his brother."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:26 PM on April 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'm now convinced that Howard and Kim are siblings.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:28 PM on April 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


What exactly is the plan with manipulating all of the Mesa Verde documents? Is it going to invalidate something legally?
My guess was that Jimmy was just gas lighting Chuck (based on the very audible sound of gas as Jimmy replaced the doctored docs). I don't know if it will serve to invalidate any future filings Chuck will produce with the incorrect street address of the new branch, but he'll lose all sorts of face with Mesa Verde, especially after he positioned his firm as the detail oriented option. Presumably then provoking them into jumping ship from HHM to Kim.
posted by books for weapons at 12:57 AM on April 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


Jimmy can work just as hard and endure just as much to sabotage his brother.

Chuck could be as good at running a con as Jimmy, too: it's all about framing things so the marks come to the conclusion you want them to.
posted by cardboard at 5:24 AM on April 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


As someone who's reading 2666 right now, I appreciated the Santa Teresa border station.
posted by bigendian at 5:56 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Of COURSE, when Howard needs to do something slightly underhanded but totally legal, he abandons the Hamlindigo blue and goes for purple: a nice mixture of blue (lawful) and red (criminal).

Also, I saw you, Kim, looking as blue as you possibly could in the client meeting, you almost got'em!

And you, Mike, sitting in your car, outlined by your car's red interior being all creepy and watchy.

I'm loving the color code - this show is fun.
posted by Bibliogeek at 6:18 AM on April 5, 2016 [13 favorites]


The title sequence with the tie and tarantula is ominous.

This was so good. I find myself a bit at a loss with praise for this show because three's so much that's so good, every week. I know I'm kind of a broken record with this, but I feel that Better Call Saul, Fargo, and Rectify are on a higher quality plane of television and are comparable in many respects. They are meticulous and tell their stories by letting us see into characters through the cracks in their surfaces, in quiet moments where the light shines in (or through, or out). I feel a joy when I watch these shows, like watching the very best films or reading the very best novels. And I also often feel some anger at most of the rest of the best of television, which feels mediocre in comparison, and how the vast tracts of ordinary television feels even more forgettable and lazy.

You could pick almost any scene from this episode to illustrate this point. Any given scene could have been outlined as part of another show telling this kind of story, and the result would have been on-the-nose exposition in the script and blocking and photography and editing that places the important bits on the screen in the most efficient and familiar way possible. On Better Call Saul, we get so much more.

At the end of the cold open, I immediately stopped it and watched again. I was aware that it was a long take the first time, but mostly just enjoyed the storytelling of it. On the second watch, I paid more attention to the technical aspects. But I also found myself thinking about how it's the case that even though it seems self-evidently the kind of opening shot that you'd expect from a more interesting and ambitious show, the truth of the matter is that any crime show could have a border crossing, drug-smuggling scene like this. Think about how this would have been filmed by-the-numbers -- an establishing shot, a shot of a border agent at the truck window, a shot of of an agent directing the truck to an inspection bay, a quick shot of the inspection, cut to the driver getting the gun. We'd get the information that the script wanted us to know, assuming that a conventional show would give the audience enough credit to know this was related to Salamanca. (The truck would have had "Salamanca Freight" painted on it, or something.)

Lately I've seen some backlash against the oner -- that's it's flashy and self-indulgent and usually needless. But I feel very strongly that this was a perfectly appropriate use. Long takes usually give you a much stronger sense of place and space than an edited sequence does and, in this case, it was thematically appropriate. It's not that the search was that truly that thorough -- really, such searches can't be that thorough and it's unusual, probably, for a truck to be searched even as much as that one was. I'm sure they rely on spot searches and, more importantly, documentation and database flags and agent intuition to direct the more intensive searches where they will be most likely productive. The point, really, was just to establish that routine -- which was the pay-off of the scene with the numerous planted popsicle sticks -- and part of communicating the feel of that routine was in making the audience feel that they were in that space, seeing all the activity happen around them. It was an homage to Touch of Evil, but it wasn't gratuitous at all.

Likewise, what Bowman says in that A.V. Club bit about the montage. Another show might have had a montage there -- after all, that's how you compress a bunch of repetitious, boring activity into something the audience will tolerate. But another show would have filmed and edited that montage in a very humdrum way -- just as a familiar way to compress time and provide us with a bit of necessary information. But BCS gave us a montage that was designed to tell us something specific about Jimmy -- as Bowman says, that he's meticulous as Chuck, in his own way. The previous montage of Kim making her phone calls was similar -- it didn't just compress time and showed us Kim's persistence, it was full of shots that showed us Kim's desperate tenacity.

Or any of Mike's scenes. Again, these are things another show would have scripted and another show would have filmed. Mike on a stake-out, watching Salamanca's shop and men. But BCS takes the time and effort to give us these things in ways that are thoughtful and layered, not merely utilitarian.

The Dog House is literally two-and-a-half blocks from where my ex-wife and I lived when we first got married. I'm not sure it was there twenty-five years ago, although it's very familiar to me and I never spent much time in that neighborhood in later years. But I've never eaten there -- which is weird because I love hot dog stands.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:19 AM on April 5, 2016 [19 favorites]


As I was putting my inexpensive watch on this morning, it hit me - the speech Chuck gave to Mesa Verde seemed to be variation on the technique Jimmy uses in the Rolex scam.

From "Hero":

JIMMY: I got dibs on that watch, man.

Jimmy starts to remove the watch off Marco's wrist.

STEVIE: Let me see that. What kind is it?

JIMMY: I don't know. It's just a watch.

JIMMY: We got to get out of here, man.

STEVIE: Whoa, whoa, whoa. What kind of watch is it?

JIMMY: It's I don't know. It's...

STEVIE: Well, then, let me look at it. It's a damn Rolex.


Chuck, (paraphrasing here) says to Mesa Verde: "Well of course you could have little old me with decades of experience in this area of law, plus personal connections with some of your regulators and the size and scale of the firm to do the work, but Kim Wexler is a fantastic lawyer, and you're lucky to have her. Don't worry about us. We're just another watch."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:51 AM on April 5, 2016 [17 favorites]


Chuck could be as good at running a con as Jimmy, too: it's all about framing things so the marks come to the conclusion you want them to.

I'm thinking both brothers have the gift of the grift. It's just that Chuck deploys his within the boundaries of the law.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:25 AM on April 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


I had to watch it twice to make sure that the scene at the border with the truck search was one continuous take. Astonishing.
posted by essexjan at 8:27 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


"As I was putting my inexpensive watch on this morning, it hit me - the speech Chuck gave to Mesa Verde seemed to be variation on the technique Jimmy uses in the Rolex scam."

Well, note that one of the first things Chuck says when he walks into the conference is to joke about Howard's hard sell. There's a relationship between sales and cons, even if you're an ethical salesperson. It's like akido, you turn their strength against them -- which is to say, in sales and cons, you find the customer/mark's desire, you use that as your lever, and you let them believe that their approach to you is from a position of strength. A strength you will use to your advantage. In a very real sense -- sometimes viscerally real -- you figure out what they want and you give it to them.

You still have to close. In sales, you have to close. In a con, there's a moment that's a point of no return. In a martial art, there's a moment where their momentum becomes your throw and then their submission. But those moments won't happen, or aren't reliable, if you don't first create an opportunity for your opponent to choose to move in the direction you want them to -- it's their choice, their motivation that provides the energy that you turn to your advantage. A hard sell is all closing and nothing but closing -- it's brute force and it will sometimes work, but not reliably and will often spectacularly fail. That's the difference between a robbery and a con.

So you're quite right. The best cons almost always create a space for the mark to believe that the foolish choice they make is entirely their own idea. Jimmy makes himself appealing to Ken Wins and then walks away, forcing Ken to initiate the sales conversation. Jimmy says, hey, here's all this money in the wallet, go ahead and take it, I'll just take that watch, that's enough for me. Chuck says, yeah, Kim's great, she's smart, and she's young, which is a good thing because young people have a lot of energy and new perspective. I read SEC briefs for fun, I'm so boring.

Kim's pitch was more of a hard sell -- she flattered him and appealed to his sense of being important and catered to, and that was the most effective part. But mostly she explained to him why she was the best choice and encouraged him to agree. Hard sells as opposed to soft sells tend much more strongly to eventual buyer's remorse. Initial enthusiasm turns to doubt. Kim was successful because she was aggressive and self-confident but all the energy originated from her. She was actually at a disadvantage in having the first meeting, though she didn't recognize this.

In Chuck's soft sell, he had the advantage of being right. He knew that the Mesa Verde CEO a) wanted the best legal services he could find (locally and affordably, one presumes) for this particular work, b) liked Kim, and c) HHM was nevertheless the better choice because resources and experience are crucial. So he created a space where the client wouldn't feel that he was forced to think badly of Kim, was encouraged to think about the full scope of what he wanted from a law firm, and to think well of himself for thinking this through carefully and prudently and, also, think well of himself for recognizing what Chuck was doing. Chuck let the Mesa Verde CEO mentally build his own case for keeping HHM, making his prior favoring of Kim to seem precipitous and sentimental. Chuck complimented and flattered everyone but himself, creating a space that the client wouldn't fail to fill recognizing Chuck's virtues in a way that emphasized his own.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:09 AM on April 5, 2016 [25 favorites]


Kim seemed genuinely surprised (not just making a show of it) that Howard knew Schweikert and Coakley had been courting her, which struck me as an interesting blind spot.

Howard wound Chuck up like a toy to win Mesa Verde back. He knew all he had to do was tell Chuck that Jimmy was somehow involved, and watch him go to work. I also noticed that although Howard describes the arrangement accurately (I think the phrase he uses is that Kim is "sharing expenses" with Jimmy,) when Chuck shakes his head in disbelief and says "Partners at law, huh?" Howard doesn't correct him. And yet, I still can't decide whether Howard is only mostly a bastard or a complete bastard; on the surface, forgiving Kim's law school debt seems like a genuine, generous show of professional courtesy, but Howard's probably working some future bastard angle there too.

More than anything Jimmy has done in the series so far, his falsified document shenanigans feel like the setup for the enormous, transformative catastrophe we've been uncomfortably waiting for. It's well beyond any boundary pushing/gray area stuff he did at Davis and Main... this is actively criminal. Not the first criminal thing he's done as a lawyer (squat cobbler), but now he's shitting where he eats.

But for all of that, when Chuck pulled his "Jimmy, thanks for staying with me" schtick I so wished Jimmy would tell him to go to hell. Of course Chuck is all defenseless/loving big brother after stealing Mesa Verde back. (Sure, from an HHM perspective they were a client worth fighting for, but the only thing that got Chuck into that fight was the possibility of hurting Jimmy by hurting Kim.)
posted by usonian at 9:45 AM on April 5, 2016 [15 favorites]


Howard wound Chuck up like a toy to win Mesa Verde back. He knew all he had to do was tell Chuck that Jimmy was somehow involved, and watch him go to work. I also noticed that although Howard describes the arrangement accurately (I think the phrase he uses is that Kim is "sharing expenses" with Jimmy,) when Chuck shakes his head in disbelief and says "Partners at law, huh?" Howard doesn't correct him.

Oh yeah!

And yet, I still can't decide whether Howard is only mostly a bastard or a complete bastard; on the surface, forgiving Kim's law school debt seems like a genuine, generous show of professional courtesy, but Howard's probably working some future bastard angle there too.

So, tangentially (very much so, actually), and only because I tend to closely associate Michael McKean and Christopher Guest, even though the former is not in Waiting for Guffman:

"You're bastard people."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:17 AM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is this exposing us to a side of Mike that may be his biggest weakness? A desire to not be crossed, so strong, that it will draw him into a nasty illegal business, all started to stick it to Salamanca? It looks like he can't leave well enough alone, and he's not satisfied to simply observe the operation from afar. I'm wondering if he has that Walter White quality, a feeling of having to prove himself, and not be made a fool of, even if it means self destruction? Is this the beginning of how Salamanca ends up disabled?
posted by 2N2222 at 11:02 AM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


That's a good question. I've kind of just accepted this on the basis of how beyond the pale threatening his family is. But everything is apparently settled at this point and so he's risking putting his family back in danger. However, while I don't see Hector caring anymore, I do see the possibility of future problems with Tuco because Tuco is nuts. But if that's the case, then Tuco should be Mike's target, not Hector and his business.

I'm not sure we really know what Mike's intentions are. I'm persuaded that the scene of Mike and Jimmy in the courthouse at the elevator seemed to have the subtext that Mike was angry at the implications of what Jimmy was saying. But everything we know about Mike is that he's both careful and that he cares about his family's welfare above everything else. So maybe we just don't really know enough yet to judge.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:30 AM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think Mike is the reason that he ends up disabled, and it is through those actions that he meets Gus.

Of course I am probably wrong because the writers are so good they'll come up with something so much better.
posted by LizBoBiz at 11:56 AM on April 5, 2016


I'm wondering if maybe Gus also has someone keeping an eye on Hector, and that person will discover Mike and hire him.

Also, yes, I'm expecting at some point during the run of this show we'll see Hector have his stroke.
posted by bondcliff at 12:01 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


...or paralyzing car accident caused by a spike strip.
posted by rhizome at 12:12 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


...or paralyzing car accident caused by a spike strip.

We're ruling out the possibility of a nail-studded hose beating so soon?

Awww.

But yeah, given that watched Mike hear the sound of a pneumatic torque wrench from the garage with the ice cream truck in it, this is totally Chekov's makeshift spike strip.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:05 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I assumed it was filmed with a drone, no? Unless they were doing a lot of clever Raging Bull tricks with a handheld operator stepping on and off of lifts.

I assumed wrong! Thomas Schnauz: Talented Steadicam operator Paul Donachie moved off Chapman crane & onto vehicle during #BetterCallSaul "Fifi" oner.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:23 PM on April 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


According to "Fifi" writer Thomas Schnauz, he and the rest of the creative team had Touch of Evil in mind as they set up their own border crossing, and the percussion is extremely reminiscent of the Touch of Evil score.

Loved it. Loved the choreography of the smuggling, too; doesn't rely on easy beats like the lazy border cop not doing his job, or whatever.

My boyfriend's theory about Jimmy's meticulous work ("best copier," lol) was that they were launching a new branch at that address. Chuck pointed out that you need to dot every i when launching a de novo branch... thus, making it look like they mismanaged an important detail, or creating a mistake which will somehow hobble them legally down the line.

I lolled quite a bit at the Svengali line.

My feelings were that despite the work the show has done to establish the moral ambiguity of Jimmy, and despite the fact that it's probably going to lead to everyone's ruination, it's hard not to root for Jimmy. Of course Chuck and Howard try to win Mesa Verde back, that's their right; but the episode does some ground work to show us that people like Howard don't just luck into their positions. They have connections. They use their fancy contacts at the Fed. Chuck worked hard to pull himself up by his bootstraps, but even he isn't the one with "the connections." He's a partner but at this stage he's a worker bee. Kim won the account, and got pushed off it by daddy's boy Howard Hamlin, due to a grudge (however well founded). She was not being treated well at HHM, even if that's the way the legal world works.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:48 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I especially loved the "Svengali" line because

1) the legal overtone, i.e. the Svengali defense,
2) the sexual undertone, after we saw Jimmy "seduce" Chuck's wife with his earthy sense of humor,
3) the obvious exasperation in Chuck's voice when he says it, because you know he's seen this happen before, turned it over in his mind a thousand times, and it has that tinge of desperation that makes it so personal, because how dare he seduce such fine women with his gross charms? The history is so clear. It's like in that moment every free-floating association he has even passingly entertained of Jimmy's flagrant misbehavior with his own sexual frustration solidifies into both conviction and disbelief.

*kisses fingers*
posted by stoneandstar at 3:04 PM on April 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


This ep was the least "I have to root for Jimmy" one for me. The way he's pushing for offices that are way too big and not really acknowledging the implications of Mesa Verde going to HHM. Like hey, financial problems are just things that you can fix with a fake Rolex.

But at the end of the day, Jimmy is a results-oriented guy who picks an outcome and wiggles his way through the details to make that happen, while Kim seems detail-oriented, and if you do things right from the beginning you'll get the right result. Like, they see a pizza on the roof of a house and Jimmy starts jumping, then looking around to see if a door is open or something for easier access, while Kim starts building a ladder. The ladder may take longer to make and not get you your pizza RIGHT NOW, but it's a sure solution.
posted by rhizome at 3:10 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Was the office really too big? It seemed pretty reasonable to me. Bout the size of my dentist's office. :P
posted by Drinky Die at 5:33 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Was the office really too big? It seemed pretty reasonable to me. Bout the size of my dentist's office. :P

Because you never know how its going to go with the show, might I propose a scenario: Kim backs out and Jimmy doesn't renovate the office. To meet overhead costs, he rents dentist chair time to "cash only" dentists who have lost their licences, or who might not have had one to begin with. All the while, he runs his practice out of the office.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:09 PM on April 5, 2016


on the surface, forgiving Kim's law school debt seems like a genuine, generous show of professional courtesy, but Howard's probably working some future bastard angle there too.

I interpret this as Howard making a preemptive apology for what will happen with Mesa Verde: he knows Kim will have a hard time establishing herself without that revenue stream, so he allows her to "repay" her law school debt with Mesa Verde's business.

Is this exposing us to a side of Mike that may be his biggest weakness?

I don't think Mike will cripple Tio - the Salamanca's "family is all" philosophy would presumably rule out any business with Gus, if Mike was a key man in his operations and known or suspected to be responsible for injuring a member of their family.

Mike's primary motivation is to atone for his son's death, achieved by providing for his son's family. Prior to his run-in with Tuco, Mike was growing increasingly desperate to acquire money; the Vet's admonishment that "if you want next level pay, you need to do next level work". Despite his skills, Mike does not have any connections - and the Vet cannot provide what he wants. However, due to an unforeseen sequence of events, Mike has impressed a major criminal figure and cut a respectable deal with him; Tio. Mike isn't going to attack the Salamanca operation - he's going to apply for a job, presumably through a demonstration about how bad their security currently is and how he can help fix it.
posted by kithrater at 6:11 PM on April 5, 2016 [16 favorites]


But everything we know about Mike is that he's both careful and that he cares about his family's welfare above everything else.

It seemed striking to me then that he included his granddaughter in the involvement of whatever his scheme was at the end of the show. It might seem an innocuous role, but before now he really would have avoided mixing any sort of business with family, and he's been overly careful to the point of seeming excessive. Even symbolically, he would have kept her out of his dirty work. The scene seemed intentional though at setting up her participation and seemed intentional at showing his caution in wiping down the hose. I'm wondering if he feels as if she has some skin in the game, due to the Salamancas targeting her, and gets some satisfaction in having her as part of the solution.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:25 PM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


I wonder if Howard's going to default on Kim's student loans so she gets her license suspended.
posted by asockpuppet at 6:30 PM on April 5, 2016


I think HHM paid for her schooling directly, and now Kim is paying them back. That's why she was going to cut a check to accounting for the balance.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:43 PM on April 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


I took the Howard / Kim scene at face value, that he knew everything about her and was trying to do the decent thing about her, while also protecting his firm in keeping Mesa Verde.

Except.. if Howard respects Kim so much, why screw her so badly and demean her? I've gotten a bit lost in the plot machinations, did Chuck insist on Kim being punished?

Shout out to the show setup, with Chuck's electrosensitivity. What an insane plot device that's payed off time and time again.
posted by Nelson at 8:00 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


In regards to the very interesting discussion of sales techniques above...It's funny how at times this show feels like a spiritual sequel to Mad Men as much as a literal prequel to Breaking Bad.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:00 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


As someone who's reading 2666 right now, I appreciated the Santa Teresa border station.

Pretty sure that's not intended as an homage. The Santa Teresa, NM border station is a real place, and one of the likeliest crossings to choose if you want to come up through Juarez to Albuquerque without going through downtown El Paso. I've crossed the border at Santa Teresa several times.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:10 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Tiny nitpick. The photocopy-ing montage. They repeat cutting out individual 1's and 6's for successive pages. There's no need, he could have cut the entire address out in a much simpler/easier/faster/better process.

Heh, remember when driver's licenses were still laminated cardboard? Good times.
posted by porpoise at 8:15 PM on April 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


There's no need, he could have cut the entire address out in a much simpler/easier/faster/better process.

Having edited a small newspaper in that weird twilight stage between using X-Actos/pasteup/light tables/waxers/boards for certain things, and yet being able to send colour separations to the printer's on a zip disk, I can say you are correct.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:27 PM on April 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


Actually he definitely needed several different 1's and 6's because the pages sometimes had different fonts, text sizes, or levels of clarity. They showed several different ones.

For docs with the same font, he could have altered a single address and then made a single "address rectangle" to alter subsequent documents with, but that assumes all of them are the same generation. (You're adding a generation every time you copy, and clarity goes down while the background color gets darker each time. So if you stick a 3rd-generation address over a 10th-generation document, the address will have a white square around it.)

I know whereof I speak, I spent a ton of time doing this sort of thing with Xerox machines when I was in high school. I won't say why, but let's just say getting caught cut my Slippin' Jimmy-like career very short.
posted by mmoncur at 8:32 PM on April 5, 2016 [22 favorites]


Also, the documents were definitely related to them opening a new branch, they mentioned that in the conversations with Kim, Howard, and Chuck. I assume Jimmy expects the wrong address to create some legal issues - probably ending in a delay opening the new branch - that will appear to be Chuck's fault.


It is odd that Jimmy made the same "mistake" on every document, though. If he's trying to gaslight Chuck you would think a few careless errors on different things would make more sense.
posted by mmoncur at 8:36 PM on April 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think Jimmy was changing the new branches address on all the source documents, such that every new document that Chuck produces will also have the wrong address.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:07 PM on April 5, 2016 [12 favorites]


My guess was that Jimmy was just gas lighting Chuck (based on the very audible sound of gas as Jimmy replaced the doctored docs). I don't know if it will serve to invalidate any future filings Chuck will produce with the incorrect street address of the new branch, but he'll lose all sorts of face with Mesa Verde, especially after he positioned his firm as the detail oriented option. Presumably then provoking them into jumping ship from HHM to Kim.

As much as this episode did not overly describe what was going on in Jimmy's mind when he's doing this, I'm convinced that you are right about the motivation. Very subtle and in character, and near impossible to blame on anyone but HHM employees doing a slipshod job. Also, it would feel like appropriate justice for Jimmy in terms of how the whole thing went down.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:18 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]




But aren't all the documents produced in Word (or maybe even WordPerfect)? Someone is going to pull up the original files and will see that the info is correct on the screen. This would still be embarrassing for HHM (would they really be ready to tell Mesa Verde "Um, someone took our printouts and messed with them") but Chuck would figure out pretty quickly that Jimmy was the culprit.
posted by maudlin at 10:28 PM on April 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


"There's no need, he could have cut the entire address out in a much simpler/easier/faster/better process."

He has an original, he makes the best copy of the original he can, cuts out and transposes the two digits, and makes a high-quality copy of that, placing the copy back into the Mesa Verde files. He has to repeat this with each document because the spacing and kerning is probably slightly different for each one. So I don't really see what you have in mind. It's not like he used a word processor to produce a new address or something.

"But aren't all the documents produced in Word (or maybe even WordPerfect)? Someone is going to pull up the original files and will see that the info is correct on the screen. This would still be embarrassing for HHM (would they really be ready to tell Mesa Verde 'Um, someone took our printouts and messed with them') but Chuck would figure out pretty quickly that Jimmy was the culprit."

Chuck's going to possibly figure this out, because he knows Jimmy and that he had access. I don't see how in this scenario anyone else would guess what happened -- the possibility that someone altered the actual documents while in Chuck's possession would be way down on the list. If they go check the digital originals, they can't be sure that whoever was responsible didn't alter those to cover-up the error. I mean, a sufficiently skilled IT person could check this, but I think a casual office investigation would just assume that either somewhere along the chain a typo entered in and that maybe it was innocently later corrected in the source (and no one remembers or is willing to admit to the error) or that someone covered it up. It just seems to me like the sort of thing that people would throw their hands up in the air and say that someone screwed up and it snowballed and concentrate of minimizing the fallout and it would take a more serious and skilled investigation to pin it down to when and where it likely was done (and who did it). That would come later, if ever.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:18 AM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Of COURSE, when Howard needs to do something slightly underhanded but totally legal, he abandons the Hamlindigo blue and goes for purple: a nice mixture of blue (lawful) and red (criminal)."

Astute of you. Sepinwall points out both that Howard didn't make it clear to Chuck that Kim and Jimmy weren't actually partners and that maybe this wouldn't have really mattered to Chuck, anyway. But I think that it's correct that Howard knew exactly what he was doing by ostensibly asking for Chuck's help on this while actually giving Chuck an incentive to rise to the occasion by implicating Jimmy in this potential loss of a client.

Because we care about Kim and Jimmy -- especially Kim -- we can't help but see both Howard and Chuck as villains in all this. Really, though, they are doing their jobs. Howard has a responsibility to his firm -- his partners and associates and everyone who depends on them -- to keep Mesa Verde, and of course this is just as much true for Chuck. Was Howard leveraging Chuck's feelings about Jimmy? Sure. But notice that the result was that he got Chuck to do his job, which was to be the utterly brilliant partner that he is. And Howard graciously forgave Kim's law school loans.

Meanwhile, Jimmy is fighting for Kim to get Mesa Verde by altering documents and abusing both the trust of his brother and of Kim.

We like Jimmy. I like Jimmy. I really like Kim. But Chuck is right about Jimmy and what he's most likely going to do to Kim's career will prove that Chuck is right.

Sepinwall in that recap makes a lot of the two BCS ads that ran during TWD -- how one of them featured Mike and the more action-oriented drug-dealing storyline related to BB, the different audience expectations between BCS and BB, and the lower stakes of this show. Speaking for myself, while I love Breaking Bad, for me Better Call Saul is just as or even more gripping and heartbreaking because this is on a scale that is much more relatable, more like what most of us have experience with. Jimmy is more like a virtuous and/or good-hearted addict -- you like him, you want things to work out, he doesn't mean to hurt the people around him, but he does hurt the people around him. Some of those people we have mixed feelings about, but some of those people, like Kim, are really only guilty of being loving and generous with Jimmy in ways that are insufficiently protective of themselves. At what point does Jimmy start thinking of Kim's failure to insulate herself from Jimmy's shenanigans (or refusal to participate in them) in the same terms as the grifter taught him to see his father? One thing I worry about is that eventually Jimmy will blame Kim for the things that Jimmy has done to her, because she should have known that this stuff would happen, it's who he is, that she's being a sucker. And that's an old, sad, ugly story.

I've always been attracted to spy stories and con-artist stories. There's a common denominator of the better examples of these, and it involves how the necessary cynicism of the enterprise ends up being corrosive to one's soul and destructive to all of one's personal relationships. I'm reminded of the denouement of House of Games, where all the masks come off and what's left is ugly. The fact that Kim can enjoy the transgressive, dishonest, exploitative (even if the marks are greedy and repugnant, you're still exploiting their vulnerabilities and their trust) aspects of a con signals to Jimmy that to some degree she shares his cynicism -- that you're either a winner or a loser, if you're not the player then you're the sucker. In that scheme, there's ultimately no room for Kim's scruples, even if or especially if she takes collateral damage from Jimmy's decisions -- this worldview always insists that those who are harmed brought it on themselves.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:35 AM on April 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


But aren't all the documents produced in Word (or maybe even WordPerfect)?

Not the ones in Chuck's house. Because he doesn't use electricity. He's the one employee who might do tons of work on the project without checking against a computer document.

I'm guessing that what Chuck has is a huge pile of documents that Ernesto printed out for him, so he can work without a computer.

So Jimmy's hoping that Chuck will create one or more new documents, using those printouts as a reference, and Chuck (and HHM) will look bad for making mistakes.

He has an original, he makes the best copy of the original he can, cuts out and transposes the two digits, and makes a high-quality copy of that, placing the copy back into the Mesa Verde files.

Exactly. Specifically you make two of the best copies you can, one to cut the numbers from and one to paste them onto. You don't paste them onto the original because you'd have two different generations and there might be shading differences*. Thus every document Jimmy returns to Chuck's house is a copy of a copy, he's added two generations, which is why he needed their best copier.

Really the best way to do this (even in 2006) would be to scan the document in and do the switching in Photoshop, because you're only adding one generation instead of two. But Jimmy probably doesn't have the skill and the all-night printers in ABQ might not have the equipment.

Note that in 30 years this is the first time my expertise in Xerox-machine shenanigans has come in handy.

* If Jimmy's really smart he saved the originals, and in a couple of weeks, after Chuck has made some documents with mistakes, he can swap them back and complete the gaslighting...
posted by mmoncur at 12:59 AM on April 6, 2016 [14 favorites]


Just want to point out that this is not the first time Chuck has fucked Jimmy over and then conveniently gotten too sick to argue about it.
posted by mediareport at 3:52 AM on April 6, 2016 [12 favorites]


It has me wondering about how awfully Chuck must have fucked Jimmy over in the past, right before the first, terrible onset of his "illness."
posted by mediareport at 3:56 AM on April 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


Speaking for myself, while I love Breaking Bad, for me Better Call Saul is just as or even more gripping and heartbreaking because this is on a scale that is much more relatable, more like what most of us have experience with

Agreed. I loved Breaking Bad, but I actually nearly bailed during the second season when the violence really started to escalate and Walt proved to be an irredeemable shitheel. BCS is something different entirely. Because we know how it "ends," in a sense, we know that Jimmy holds onto at least some of his humanity. We know that the shitty things he does come from a place of caring rather than from Walt's bottomless pit of pride and greed. And the shitty things he does, the bad decisions he makes, all make sense. They're decisions that we might make in those situations (well, some of them, anyway).

For me, anyway, BCS is better TV than BB was.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:21 AM on April 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


The Santa Teresa, NM border station is a real place, and one of the likeliest crossings to choose if you want to come up through Juarez to Albuquerque without going through downtown El Paso.

I did not know that! Thanks for clearing that up for me, Pater Aletheias.
posted by bigendian at 5:21 AM on April 6, 2016


Even if Chuck figures out what happened, he would have to admit that the circumstance is that he is sick with a nonexistent illness that probably indicates some sort of emotional breakdown, and while he was hiding under a space blanket his brother came in, stole a handful of documents, and switched out two digits on every single one.

I mean, it sounds like a lie, and it isn't any better, professionally speaking, if it's true.
posted by maxsparber at 8:20 AM on April 6, 2016 [14 favorites]


This thread is really fun to read.
Ivan Fyodorovich: Because we care about Kim and Jimmy -- especially Kim -- we can't help but see both Howard and Chuck as villains in all this. Really, though, they are doing their jobs. Howard has a responsibility to his firm -- his partners and associates and everyone who depends on them -- to keep Mesa Verde, and of course this is just as much true for Chuck. Was Howard leveraging Chuck's feelings about Jimmy? Sure. But notice that the result was that he got Chuck to do his job, which was to be the utterly brilliant partner that he is. And Howard graciously forgave Kim's law school loans.

I agree, although it's really hard to remember while I'm watching the episode and rooting for Jimmy. And I even think Chuck and Howard are probably right, and that Mesa Verde made the right choice in sticking with HHM. I like Kim too, but one attorney for a large bank chain just seems highly unusual. I don't think Mesa Verde would have signed with Kim in the first place if she was working alone without any support.

Overall, how much of a big deal is a client like Mesa Verde to HHM? I was surprised how much they seemed to scramble to keep the account. Is $250,000 annually a really large client for them?
posted by areaperson at 12:14 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


One thing that I have to admit bugged me about this episode is that the central premise -- the fight over Mesa Verde is a client -- is just so far from reality that I had trouble watching without rolling my eyes. There is no way that a banking client, even a regional one, would go with a solo practitioner only four years out of law school, and, even more important, no way that it would even be something in anyone's contemplation -- neither Mesa Verde's nor Kim's herself. Just wouldn't happen.

The reasons are embedded in the episode; a bank would need a firm that could handle litigation, transactional, and regulatory work. That client's matters couldn't even be handled by a single attorney at a large firm. The whole reason you hire a large firm is that it has has a zillion lawyers with varying competencies and areas of expertise; when your litigator can't take care of your meeting with the FDIC or the SEC, they just hand it off to someone in the Governmental Regulations department. If Kim had gone with Schweikert, she very possibly could have taken Mesa Verde with her, but as a solo? Nuh uh, no way.

I get that within the universe of the show, they're doing what they have to do to advance the story. But there was internal contradiction within the episode; the Mesa Verde people recognized that they needed people with broad experience, but that would be the very reason they'd never go with a pretty junior solo. And of course we don't know what's going to be the result of Jimmy's paperwork, but discovery of the "error" certainly wouldn't induce Mesa Verde to decide that it would have been right after all to go with an inexperienced solo practitioner rather than a big firm. Quite the opposite.

So, just a suspension of disbelief issue, but it did kind of bug me that something impossible has become a central plot point.
posted by holborne at 12:34 PM on April 6, 2016 [12 favorites]


(Or: what areaperson said.)
posted by holborne at 12:34 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is it possible they never had any intention of going with Kim, but just took advantage of the situation to negotiate a better rate?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:37 PM on April 6, 2016


Possible, I suppose, although HHM was the one to call the meeting after Howard and Chuck found out that Mesa Verde was moving to another firm. The Mesa Verde people weren't showing a lot of interest themselves in meeting with HHM.
posted by holborne at 12:47 PM on April 6, 2016


There were a lot of reaction-type shots of Paige during the HHM meeting that I haven't been able to decipher.

I think Howard was legitimately shitting bricks when Kim quit, but Chuck pulled him out of that hole, perhaps ultimately to the firm's disadvantage. I also think Chuck is going to be even more incapable of doing necessary MV work and client service as time goes on, and the typo sabotage may put a nail in his career.
posted by rhizome at 12:55 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


And perhaps Howard's fear was not necessarily that Kim would get the client, but that HHM would lose them without Kim on board. That is, MV would really prefer both, but professional capacity to handle the client won out.

This is the only account that we know HHM is primary counsel, right?
posted by rhizome at 12:57 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, we find out in this episode who the other "H" in HHM is: Howard's father.
Back in the day, right out of law school, I thought long and hard about hanging up my own shingle.
Oh, I was ready to take on the world, make a difference.
Dad talked me out of it.
Wanted me to join the ranks here, throw another "H" in the firm's logo.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:12 PM on April 6, 2016


There were a lot of reaction-type shots of Paige during the HHM meeting that I haven't been able to decipher.

This whole mess -- every part of it -- is pretty much her doing. (Getting into it, I mean.) Chuck was being a huge condescending dickwad, but it quickly became apparent he was also being right. I read her reactions first as "Ugh, thanks for mansplaining, douchebag" before morphing into "No! Please don't tell my boss I was smoking in the boys' locker room, Vice Principal McGill!" Annoyance followed by utter dread, all behind a professional keep-it-together veneer.

I don't imagine things will be going her way anytime soon. A lot of those documents Jimmy screwed with had her name on them.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:14 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I also think Chuck is going to be even more incapable of doing necessary MV work and client service as time goes on, and the typo sabotage may put a nail in his career.

That's an interesting point: Jimmy may have messed with the documents not because he was contemplating getting Mesa Verde as a client, but because he was specifically trying to sabotage Chuck after Chuck sabotaged Kim.
posted by holborne at 1:33 PM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Given that Jimmy's ethical framework breaks down just about where a 10 year old's does, I think it may just be "to hurt HHM."

"I didn't know it was gonna turn out like this!" I can imagine Jimmy exclaiming.
posted by rhizome at 1:53 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


a nail-studded hose beating

Meh, they're really a waste of time. You spend more time pulling the nails out of the victim than you do actually beating.

...or so I'm told.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:35 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have a bad feeling that Jimmy's tinkering with the Mesa Verde documents is going to backfire all over Kim, just like his clever Sandpiper commercial did.
posted by Corvid at 2:45 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I also find it hard to believe Mesa Verde would consider a one-woman firm at all. I was expecting Kim to talk about "hiring a great staff" and "finding other great lawyers to work with" rather than claiming she could do everything.

I'll believe she convinced one guy -- after all, nothing was in writing yet, there must be a board of directors or something he had to talk to -- but I'd find it very hard to believe if, after typo-gate happens, they come crawling back to Kim.

Then again, how big is Mesa Verde? They'd have to be bigger than just one (soon to be two) locations for Howard to be excited about landing them.
posted by mmoncur at 2:46 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have a bad feeling that Jimmy's tinkering with the Mesa Verde documents is going to backfire all over Kim, just like his clever Sandpiper commercial did.

Me too. If Jimmy doesn't replace the documents, after the error is discovered, Chuck is going to wonder where the typo came from. And Kim -- as the primary lawyer for the project before she quit -- would be the prime suspect. If she's in the process of giving up on solo practice and crawling back to HHM at the time, it will definitely ruin her chances. (And I can see Chuck putting the blame on her even if he thinks it's his own mistake.)

Only two episodes left this season, right? We have to be headed toward a climax of some sort. My guess is that the Kim/Jimmy split happens at the end of this season. On Mike's side, whatever move he's making on the Salamancas (whether he's trying to destroy them or get a job with them) should happen by the end of the season too.
posted by mmoncur at 2:53 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Someone on Reddit pointed out that she worked on MV when she was in the basement doing doc review, so I imagine the story pointing to that eventuality. Also, Jimmy did this on his own, but it affects Kim, so she's probably not going to be too happy no matter how it plays out.
posted by rhizome at 3:03 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Mike seems like he's being Nice Guy Ghost Dog. I don't think he wants to team up with anybody or really create any relationships, but he does want drama to go away, so how does he neutralize this whole Tuco thing with the least amount of repercussions. Good question.
posted by rhizome at 3:05 PM on April 6, 2016


In this episode (s02 e08), the older gentleman that Jimmy gets to play the war hero has a history with Jimmy because he was his defense lawyer when he was charged with ... a specific kind of public indecency. In s02 e08 of Breaking Bad, this is the exact charge that Saul/Jimmy mistakenly thinks he's defending Badger against when he's arrested for selling drugs.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:59 PM on April 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


areaperson: Overall, how much of a big deal is a client like Mesa Verde to HHM? I was surprised how much they seemed to scramble to keep the account. Is $250,000 annually a really large client for them?

I think Mesa Verde represents a lot of steady pay for HHM, compare to Sandpiper with its huge payout at the end ... of years of hard work. HHM can carry that kind of work, in part thanks to clients like Mesa Verde.

Not being a lawyer, but just listening to what Chuck said, it sounds like a lot of the legal work for Mesa Verde is to prevent legal troubles, with an ounce of prevention saving a pound of cure or whatnot. If you do everything right, you can avoid multi-year legal disputes and significant expenses.

Kim is detail-oriented, and is capable of grinding through law, as we saw in doc review, so she could probably carry Mesa Verde as a sole client, as long as she was doing the prevention, and not being a lone attorney administering a pound of cure. And she is young, lacking that font of knowledge that comes with practicing for years and reading FEC and ISO reports for entertainment.


Fun bit - the twin dentist offices were probably for pediatric and general dentistry - note that the first one has the cosy floral print paper and a bright rainbow in some room (and more of a red-toned area), while the other is cooler, more professional, with more prominent green an beige.


And yes - Santa Teresa is a real Port of Entry from Mexico into New Mexico. In fact, I wasn't sure what time period that was supposed to be, as I think that was a modern portion of the Port facilities, but Google Maps Street View doesn't even get near the facilities, so I can't verify. (I've visited the truck inspection portion, and they recently renovated it, expanding it for increased inspection capacity.)


ApathyGirl: I'm now convinced that Howard and Kim are siblings.

Howard (talking to Kim): Oh, I was ready to take on the world, make a difference. Dad talked me out of it. Wanted me to join the ranks here, throw another "H" in the firm's logo. Things work out the way they're supposed to, I guess.

Dad? As in their dad? And Howard let the law school tuition slide? "Our gift to you." -- From HHM, or Howard and their dad? (I know, the chronology is backwards - Howard offers "our gift" and then talks about being envious about Kim striking it on her own, but Dad talking him out of it). And either he was being condescending, talking about "taking on the world, making a difference" when he was fresh out of law school, as if that optimism is something you have when you're young, then you realize how the world really works, or he was just talking down to his kid sister (still condescending, just more fitting as siblings might talk to each other).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:39 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I really don't think they're related, though I suppose it's possible. It just seems like it would be such a weird thing to hide from the audience, for relatively little payoff.

I feel like the show doesn't go out of its way to defend Jimmy or even Kim, but it does make you wonder. Sure, Kim advocated for Jimmy, and that's why Howard might have pushed him toward Cliff, but ultimately they made the same mistake-- misjudging Jimmy-- and yet Kim gets stuck in doc review while Howard is upstairs fuming because he's angry and ashamed. And again, the show is rife with obvious power imbalances, though it doesn't harp on them or make Kim into a victim, necessarily. Kim is playing with fire. But it's hard to blame her for being in love.

I think the show might want us to think less about who is "in the right" and more about how complicated the concept of loyalty is. On multiple vectors: Jimmy to Chuck, Kim to Jimmy, Jimmy to Kim, Kim to HHM, Jimmy to his Pops, Howard to Jimmy and Kim and vice versa.

Same with the border crossing scene. There's no one lazy cop, no one corrupt cop taking bribes. Same with basically the entire series of Breaking Bad. It's an interesting kind of moral ambiguity because it's feels less in your face than TV as usual. It's more about complicated human webs, the irrational choice (that we don't get to make) of what will animate us, and the loss of perspective.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:54 PM on April 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


I also really love the office Jimmy chose. Great find/decision by the show creators.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:56 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am surprised by how upsetting the war hero ruse was to me, when basically every terrible thing Jimmy has done in the previous seventeen episodes made me laugh or feel sorry for him (or both). That officer was just being so nice and considerate, and then all those dudes wanted to take a picture with the guy, and...oh, man, it's so awful I can't even deal with it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:01 PM on April 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah, Mesa Verde is supposed to be a large bank in the state that's making a move to open in neighboring states. I don't think there is such a thing like that anymore -- all the large regional banks were gobbled up by the huge banks (BoA, Citibank, etc) in the 90s. But this is why the Mesa Verde CEO makes no sense to me. My grandfather was CEO of New Mexico's largest bank, which was eventually bought by Bank of America. Chuck mentions that Howard has contacts at the Federal Reserve which was just silly. My grandfather was also a director of the Denver Fed, that's how this works. The CEO himself would have these contacts, not HHM. And the character of the CEO is more like a small-town/mid-sized-city banker, he's got that good ole' boy vibe which even a large metropolitan banker wouldn't have and certainly the CEO of a big regional bank wouldn't have. This is an example where the writers and production staff of the show can't really get outside of their coastal prejudices and also don't seem to know much about banking.

Another long-running annoyance for me, since I'm bitching, is the absence of hispanic characters, generally. In Albuquerque, hispanic folk are everywhere, at every level of society. In an accurate depiction of the community, hispanics are going to be working at these law firms, they're going to be bankers and retail workers, prosecutors, small business owners, large business owners, they're going to be integrated into the entire community. But both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul seems to think that mostly the only times you'll see hispanic folk in Albuquerque is if they're poor or involved in drugs. And, also, they're mostly immigrants, even though the majority of hispanics in central and northern New Mexico have lived there for longer than the US has been a country. I'm extremely annoyed about this and it's really egregious given that the production has been based in Albuquerque for so long.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:44 PM on April 6, 2016 [27 favorites]


I seem to recall a lot of Hispanic characters in Breaking Bad, and if many of them were poor or involved in drugs, well, that's kind of what the entire show was about. There was also Steve Gomez and the principal of Walt's school, though. But I agree BCS could be doing better with this. Have we seen any lawyer who wasn't white?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:57 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think Mike was questioned by a Hispanic cop in "Inflatable," off the top of my head. But they could certainly do better.

As for banks, there are still a few local ones around here -- the bank I use is based in Utah and has about 100 locations, all of them in Utah and Idaho. Credit unions are way more likely to be small and local, though.
posted by mmoncur at 12:21 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


"There was also Steve Gomez and the principal of Walt's school, though."

Yeah, those are good examples of what we should be seeing all the time. I agree that Breaking Bad was better with this, but it still didn't look like the ABQ that I know. BCS is worse.

Conversely, although I've not really noticed this myself, there's probably far more black characters in these two shows than you'd see in real-life. The black population of ABQ is tiny, just 2.5%, and notably historically segregated to a neighborhood near downtown.

Even though Albuquerque's rapid growth the last thirty years has meant an influx of white people and thus skewing the ABQ population much more white than the surrounding region, hispanics today still make up 41% of the population and, as I wrote, most of that portion have been there for hundreds of years and are found in every social and economic class and live in every part of the city (though less on the west mesa, which is where the more recent growth has occurred).

Basically, my impression of what I'm seeing is casting that reflects television casting in general. And the casting for these shows is done in LA, like most others. Not ABQ. So the racial/ethnic distribution baseline is the US TV/film casting baseline, and then they modify that thematically to fit with preconceptions about the socioeconomics and, well, just bigoted tropes.

But the lack of hispanic casting is really weird to me because, although there's this general industry bias, they are casing out of Los Angeles, after all -- and so, if they wanted, surely they could easily cast the show in a way that's more representative. But then, maybe I don't really understand LA and the industry.

I've always been moderately frustrated with the show because on the one hand, the setting of Albuquerque is very important and they go way beyond what other productions do to get local detail correct. They use actual street names and landmarks and such. But, on the other hand, to someone like me who is a native, it's always still clearly a kind of deliberate layering of a few realistic touches over the top of not really knowing much about Albuquerque at all. Which was pretty much inevitable when BB began production. All these years later, with both shows being filmed there and some of the actors and a staff living there part-time, it seems less understandable to me.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:45 AM on April 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


Regarding the lack of Hispanic characters and casting, they mentioned in one of the podcasts that the city lawyer who faced off against Jimmy's public defense cases is an Albuquerque native, and Bob Odenkirk was the one who pushed to get him back in season 2. But I digress -- they're also pulling local talent, and if you want to get local, give even a small nod to the difference between Hispanics of central and northern New Mexico versus the Mexicans in southern New Mexico. As Ivan pointed out, they've been in New Mexico before it was a state, and can be quick to point to their Spanish heritage, to differentiate themselves from those who have roots in Mexico (New Mexicans have a long memory for family grudges and identities issues that would not be apparent to folks from outside the state).


On another note - I was thinking on how Howard presented Kim's departure and claiming of Mesa Verde to Chuck:

Howard: She's going into private practice.
Chuck: [Chuckling] What? Well, that's completely... H-how is she going out on her own? Why is she going out on her own?
Howard: Well, the why is the why. The how is that she's pooling her resources... with Jimmy.
Chuck: [Clock ticking] Kim and my brother... partners at law? He's Svengali.

Note that Howard doesn't correct Chuck, even though he know's that's not the whole truth in a very important way. Chuck sees the skills and potential of Kim, and he's still baffled as to why Kim is willing to pair up (in various ways) with Jimmy. Howard knows that Kim is going to have her own practice and they'll pool their funds for admin and rent, which makes a difference in how Kim will operate, but he doesn't tell that to Chuck. And then Chuck comes back into the office with Howard, and we know how the rest goes.


Another tangent - the Mesa Verde two only had to turn around for a moment, to say one last thank you or realize they forgot a nice pen, or anything and they would have seen Chuck crumple. They would have come back, asked "Is everything OK?" and probably get assurances that Chuck had some bug or something, not to worry. But still, their confidence would have been shaken a bit at that time. But they didn't -- will they see that aspect to Chuck, who was clearly the brains of that meeting, at some future point? Or just see less and less of Chuck? I'm guessing they'll see one of his melt-downs around the time they find the "typo" and it'll all crash for HHM (and Jimmy, and possibly Kim).
posted by filthy light thief at 4:44 AM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I agree that BCS isn't portraying the Hispanic culture of New Mexico very well. ABQ is one of the very few American cities where being Hispanic (and not Mexican) makes you an insider, sometimes moreso than being Anglo. The Mexicans and recent Latino immigrant thugs we see in BCS are the outsiders and in New Mexico would be considered a different group of people from local Hispanics. I wish they'd portray that a bit.

Do we ever hear someone called "Anglo" in the show?

Also while we're indulging tangents, I was freaked out by the bit where the truck driving guy stops 10 miles inside the border to retrieve the buried handgun. In New Mexico (and the rest of the US) the border doesn't stop at the border. There's likely another checkpoint 25, 50 miles up that highway from Mexico where Officer Friendly will stop him and interrogate him, fishing for a reason to look closely at the driver and the truck. Bury that gun a little further north next time!
posted by Nelson at 7:05 AM on April 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


But, on the other hand, to someone like me who is a native, it's always still clearly a kind of deliberate layering of a few realistic touches over the top of not really knowing much about Albuquerque at all.

I really appreciate this view of the show, and I'm really glad you come into the threads to post about it.
posted by gladly at 8:41 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have a New Mexican friend with a Mexican wife. The live near Bernalillo and the Pueblos up there. I agree that BCS doesn't do a great job reflecting the diversity of the state, but from the stories I hear, you could make a whole other show about the tensions and relations between Mexicans, Hispanic New Mexicans, and Native American New Mexicans without ever once mentioning an Anglo New Mexican (or worse, a Texan).
I'd watch that show.
posted by Seamus at 9:03 AM on April 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


As others have pointed out, it is ridiculous to believe that a regional bank would hire a lone attorney recently out of law school to handle all of its matters. It is also borderline malpractice for Kim to take on such a client with her knowledge base. If the documents we saw Jimmy doctor are representative of the type of work that would be expected from the bank's outside counsel, then it is impossible that Kim (or any lone attorney, including Chuck) would have the expertise or the time to handle those matters.

Also, no one seems to specialize at HHM - Kim litigates but also does bank compliance work and vendor agreements and who knows what else? Large law firms are not run that way - there are no generalists that are so general that they do deal work, litigation, and compliance, especially not at a law firm like HHM. It is not just Kim - we are meant to believe that Chuck is skilled at class action lawsuits but also is up-to-date on the Community Reinvestment Act? I get the impression he was also a litigator, although I don't know if that was ever actually stated. Strains credulity.

I love love love this show, but having experience as an attorney and as an administrator at large law firm makes it hard for me to believe a lot of what supposedly goes on at HHM. The firms I have worked at are global in scale, rather than regional like HHM, so maybe my experiences are no representative of what it is like at a regional firm. Regardless, the legal and administrative workings of HHM often ring false to me and take me out of the moment.
posted by Falconetti at 10:09 AM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


As others have pointed out, it is ridiculous to believe that a regional bank would hire a lone attorney recently out of law school to handle all of its matters. It is also borderline malpractice for Kim to take on such a client with her knowledge base. If the documents we saw Jimmy doctor are representative of the type of work that would be expected from the bank's outside counsel, then it is impossible that Kim (or any lone attorney, including Chuck) would have the expertise or the time to handle those matters.

This is totally true, but I'm wondering how much of this can be attributed to the idealism and naivete of the characters rather than bad writing. Kim was getting caught up in the moment, and perhaps would consider hiring on extra help if needed, but initially sold it on her knowledge of the files. Mesa Verde also perhaps didn't know exactly what they needed, but were impressed based on Kim's enthusiasm and bought in to it a little bit early. This isn't too much of a stretch, as the narrative is that they are looking to move into new states, which perhaps they hadn't done before, and had gotten by previously with smaller counsel. It was likely further endorsed by Kim's relationship with the other MV representative, who may not have been as knowledgeable, either. They put together what was actually needed during their time with Chuck and it was something of a whoops moment.

It feels like maybe they should have known, but I also think it was intentionally depicted that Chuck was the only person in this scenario, including Kim and MV, who knew exactly what it was going to take to do what needed to be done. The scene with MV, Howard, and Chuck included the viewing audience as participants, and everyone, including us, deferred to his expertise. I'm okay thinking that everyone else, realistically, didn't know nearly what they needed to, and as such, were trying to make some moves that were not prudent, but based on enthusiasm, naivete, and personal relationships. The end of the story seems to be that Chuck is right again when it comes to legal matters, although we always end up feeling as if he's something of a wet blanket when it comes to super-exciting things happening.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:48 AM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


That all may very well be, but are things like the Community Reinvestment Act and "contacts at the Fed" really important to MV here? I feel Chuck is kind of giving them a snow job.
posted by rhizome at 12:00 PM on April 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


In my house, we have a former lawyer and a former teacher. There is a hardly a show on television to watch that doesn't engender rolled eyes and critiques of the verisimilitude of the career representation. I think we might just need to bring in a cop in order to never be able to watch a TV show again. My wife rolled her a eyes a good bit at this last episode.
posted by Seamus at 12:45 PM on April 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


Hey, not everything can be "Anatomy of a Murder."
posted by rhizome at 1:59 AM on April 8, 2016


Yeah, I'm glad I'm not a lawyer. To me this show fits neatly into what I know about the legal profession from watching "The Good Wife."

I don't have any personal knowledge of the midwest drug trade, but I suspect their portrayals of ABQ drug dealers/distributors are full of issues too...

On another note, I watched the intro one-shot again and you can see where the camera guy gets off the crane and onto a moving vehicle of some sort, then off that to walk into the garage. Very impressive. I also tried to find and buy the music used in that scene, but apparently it was created specifically for the scene! Very good stuff.

P.S. Next episode is called "Nailed." So I guess we don't have to wait long for Checkov's nail hose.
posted by mmoncur at 4:25 AM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Dog House is literally two-and-a-half blocks from where my ex-wife and I lived when we first got married.

And it's street address is 1216, which is the address Jimmy was switching all of the Mesa Verde documents to. Jimmy was just trying to set you up with a new neighborhood branch!
posted by Uncle Ira at 8:08 AM on April 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


Also, in real life, what Mesa Verde would have done is use Kim for certain types of work and HHM for the more complex work. It could have easily been a win/win/win for all concerned parties. A bank, even just a regional bank, would have multiple outside counsel for different matters and could easily throw Kim a bone that could support her entire practice.
posted by Falconetti at 9:45 PM on April 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


Dog House is 1216 Central Ave NW according to Google Maps and in real life there is no Rosella Drive. But the coincidence almost makes me wonder if Jimmy intended to use The Dog House as a drop and pick up whatever Mesa Verde mail shows up there.
posted by mmoncur at 12:56 AM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


No one mentioned the most important line in the episode, from the interview: Kim said she was from a small town on the Kansas / Nebraska border. Perhaps near Omaha? Maybe Kim traveling home for the holidays stops in an airport Cinnabon?
posted by bluecore at 6:27 AM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Nelson: There's likely another checkpoint 25, 50 miles up that highway from Mexico where Officer Friendly will stop him and interrogate him

47 miles from the NM/Tx border, or around 67 miles from the NM/Mexico border (but there's some weird jogging of roads, so it's not a direct measurement). And even now, I don't think those border patrol people do nearly as much close inspection of trucks as the border patrol at the Port of Entry. Their facility isn't very big, and they don't have many staff.

From the podcast: they couldn't film at the actual Port of Entry at Santa Teresa, so they built a new one, enhanced with CG, at the Double Eagle Airport (all three links are to Google Maps), on the far west side of Albuquerque. The "oner" (single shot) intro was actually a "twoer," but they didn't say where it was stitched, and I couldn't tell on re-watching it.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:59 AM on April 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Anybody else writing BCS-The Americans fanfic?
posted by bleep at 11:59 PM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bleep, I think we're on the same Paige.

Obviously Mesa Verde was set up by the Rezidentura as the headquarters of their nuclear weapons program spy ring -- Paige, being a strident 'No Nukes' type, was an easy recruit -- and survived the savings & loan crisis in the eighties because most of its 'customers' were other Soviet fronts and/or drug cartels funneling money to the Sandinistas or whatever.

And Paige (and the whole Mesa Verde organization) had Kim's back because... Dun Dun Duuuuuuuun!...Kim Wexler AKA Gisele St. Claire AKA Spy-y McSpiesalot really comes from a small town on the border between Czechoslovakia and East Germany. She was okay with spending so much time in the file room alone at nights because she could easily collect sensitive information about powerful clients that could be used to blackmail them.

And so on.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:18 PM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Where's The Whelk when you need him.
posted by rhizome at 12:34 PM on April 10, 2016


I think my favorite thing about this episode is the rolling little lie of omission that gets bigger and bigger at each iteration, passing from person to person as it gathers consequences. Kim leaves HHM, but doesn't tell Howard she's going to make a play for Mesa Verde (though he of course already knows she will). Howard doesn't correct Chuck's misperception, the better to motivate him. And Chuck decides to conceal his condition from the Mesa Verde CEO.

In contrast, we see Jimmy, who weaves whole new fictions throughout the episode. There's his con at the airbase, of course, and most obviously there's his manipulation of the documents. But there's also his telling Ernesto that he'll take care of Chuck, only to immediately ditch him for, what, at least a couple of hours to gaslight him by heading to that copy shop.

And every single one of these lies of omission is what enables or motivates each Jimmy's lies of commission. Kim's intention to take Mesa Verde with her inspires Jimmy to hustle at the airbase, the better to hold up his end of their business plan. Howard's decision to do whatever he can to keep his client motivates Jimmy's vengeful scheme with the documents. And Jimmy only gets his chance at this because Chuck's lie of omission has left him psychosomatically debilitated to the point of delirium.

More broadly, of course, the show is telling us that powerful people use omission, not fabrication; they control their realities already, so unlike Jimmy they needn't construct alternative ones. And Kim, in turn, is making the choice to inhabit one of Jimmy's alternative realities, which always collapse on the people inside them. She's not a fool, but she suffers from being both honest and an outsider to the big institutions.

And this is where Mike's plot thematically ties in. Mike's plot is all about false fronts, the veneer of order and ordinariness concealing a set of counterinstitutional realities of criminal violence: the ice cream shop that's the front for a drug ring, the rock in the desert that hides a gun, the doting grandfather who's actually a corrupt ex-cop and criminal for hire, the soaker hose that's actually a spike strip.

Earlier in the season, we had a conversation about light and dark, about power on and power off. There, it struck me as odd that dark signifies deceit or manipulation in the Jimmy plots -- as it does tonight with Jimmy's game of document alteration and Chuck's dark house and dark office, where lies of omission are constructed -- but seems to be the reverse in the Mike plots -- where dirty deals happen in broad daylight. And Jimmy, curiously,, gets to lie in the daylight all the time too.

But that's the theme: the symbolism is reversed when we switch from the legal world to the illegal one. In the criminal world, the dark is where people reveal themselves and events happen; the daylight is when they put up a false front. Even the cinematography plays this up: the oner allows no concealment, shows everything in one continuous action...but we know something remains hidden. Openness is actually obscurity. And Jimmy, the character who can dabble in both worlds, likewise gets to dabble in both kinds of symbolism. Unsurprisingly, then, he brings disorder to both worlds with his shortsighted actions as a lawyer and, perversely, his tendency towards sentimental morality when dealing with outright criminals.

And of course this is the episode with the mirrors made literal. Chucks' shiny suit lining was always there, but we also get Howard, lying by omission, and shot in a mirror; we get Mike surveilling the Salamanca drug operation in in a scene calling lots of attention his use of the car mirror; and we have Jim and Kimmy's mirror-image offices. And this is the episode in which Jimmy introduces outright criminality to the world of HHM, to the big institutions of legitimacy. And so we get the false documents, the warped reflections of the originals.
posted by kewb at 5:09 PM on April 10, 2016 [13 favorites]


After seeing it again in the current episodes' previously, the Air Force Major scam really went over the line/beyond the pale.

Faking having found a formerly-distinguished now-senile Air Force Major to exploit is even worse than having found a formerly-distinguished now-senile Air Force Major to exploit, which would have taken actual work which I could grudgingly respect.

I know Jimmy is all about the shortcuts, but this wasn't cool.

--

Good call, kithrater.
posted by porpoise at 7:31 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Everything else I wanted to say has already been covered, so I'll just say this:

THIS SHOW IS SO GOOD I CAN ONLY TALK ABOUT IT IN ALL-CAPS LIKE AN OLD-SCHOOL NWS WEATHER REPORT
posted by tobascodagama at 5:55 PM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


This is such a dumb complaint, but it's been haunting me, so I'll complain it. Why did Mike have his granddaughter involved in the hose business? The only way I can see that making sense was if he knew that he had to use his babysitting hours to get the thing done, and in that case, I think he'd show her how to make a pre-measurement on the jig he attached to the table and then drag the hose over that length every time and drill it. You know, if he wants it to look like he's teaching her something.

Giving a kid a white crayon and a ruler and waiting for the measurement every time seems like something not that educational for the kid and like it would take even longer than teaching her how to do it right. And did he get her to rotate the hose 90 degrees every time? How did he do that while he was drilling a hole a foot or so away? Why did he involve her in the first place? And since he did, why not actually teach her how to drill and let her do it? My dad did when I was that age, and everything was fine.

This is the most nitpicky of anything, I know, but I hoped for the weird way he went about this to be part of the storyline, and it wasn't. Is it going to be?
posted by lauranesson at 3:36 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, I would not have these complaints if this weren't my favorite show on television.
posted by lauranesson at 3:39 PM on April 18, 2016


lauranesson: but I hoped for the weird way he went about this to be part of the storyline, and it wasn't. Is it going to be?

It's just supposed to show his involvement in his granddaughter's life while doing his DIY heist stuff -- like the welcome mat with pressure paper to see if someone's inside or the balloons to block the security camera in Breaking Bad. It's interesting how different people interpret scene details differently-- you were annoyed Mike wasn't actually teaching his granddaughter anything, but I appreciated they showed him wipe her prints off the hose when he put the nails in. But I don't think the hose is going to come up again.
posted by bluecore at 4:34 PM on April 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


From a screenwriting efficiency standpoint, it accomplished two things at once -- as bluecore says, it shows his involvement with his granddaughter and it also show him making the road spike strip. They sort of need to do the latter, regardless, as it's better to avoid him procuring and deploying these things with no explanation and it is good characterization to show his ingenuity/knowledge in making the stuff himself from everyday objects. But showing it is kind of boring, and showing him with his granddaughter, which itself is a bit boring, kills two birds with one stone and both together are more interesting than either apart.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:49 PM on April 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Except that Mike now will have to explain to his grandaughter why the hose she helped him with isn't in his garden. I mean, the show probably won't go there but involving his family so directly in a criminal scheme did seem to be the kind of thing careful Mike wouldn't have done, and did pull me out of the scene.
posted by mediareport at 5:41 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Mike pulled the hose up after the crash, so he can still use it in the garden.
posted by rhizome at 6:14 PM on April 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


mediareport: I mean, the show probably won't go there but involving his family so directly in a criminal scheme did seem to be the kind of thing careful Mike wouldn't have done

But that's the whole premise of the show-- the mistakes we make trying to make the people we love happy. Jimmy trying to impress Chuck, then trying to be straight-laced for Kim. Mike getting involved with crime to make his granddaughter safer, but it actually makes her less safe-- e.g. the henchmen twins threatening them at the pool. The endpoint for Mike in Breaking Bad is him abandoning her in a park as the police close in, so I'd argue involving her in manufacturing his DIY heist equipment is a datapoint on that line, but at the very beginning of his slippery slope.
posted by bluecore at 6:31 PM on April 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Ech, these comments are so good and I love you people. I also think your point, Ivan, about it being convenient screenwriting is dead right. I just know Mike is smart and wanted to know why he was doing it the hard way. (This might be leftover feelings from watching people fix my apartment wrong.) I don't think I'm gonna get an answer on that.

In this household, we've been listening to the podcasts lately, and a thing that strikes me is that so few television producers understand just how good their production staff are. Gilligan was talking about how all the props are so amazing and it's because they know that fans are really paying attention, and my brain went, "YES, these are terribly capable people who also love getting to be creative at work, and when you let them in on the story and the reasons, they will do things you never could have thought of." I seriously think they oughtta just ask some of their people about stuff they wish they could get paid to do.
posted by lauranesson at 10:18 AM on April 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, I think there might be something in the idea that the important thing was no little-girl fingerprints versus the important thing is why he didn't teach a little girl how to do something right has something in it with patriarchy, blah blah blah.
posted by lauranesson at 10:49 AM on April 19, 2016


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