‘Better Call Saul’ Recap: How Many Lawyers Does It Take to Make a Saul?


The fifth episode of Better Call Saul‘s second season is called “Rebecca,” named for the wife Jimmy’s brother Chuck once seems to have had. We’re introduced to Rebecca in this week’s opening scene, a flashback to a dinner at Chuck’s house. Jimmy attends — an event Chuck repeatedly warns his wife about — and, in his typically deviant manner, proceeds to win over Rebecca. She’s a classically trained violinist, admired even by Yo-Yo Ma, but Jimmy doesn’t know who that is. What he does know, though, are lawyer jokes, thanks to working in the mailroom of Chuck’s firm.

These jokes, such as, “How many lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb? One to climb a ladder, one to shake it, and one to sue the ladder company,” summarily piss off Chuck and win over Rebecca, who jumps in with her own sperm-related jab. Later, when the couple goes to bed, Chuck tries his hand at a predictably lame lawyer joke. It falls flat. Jimmy’s ability to tell a joke and charm a stranger is something Chuck will never have; Chuck, probably, thought that his status as a lawyer was something Jimmy would never have. Only he does have it, kind of, and Chuck isn’t happy about it.

But Chuck being unhappy about Jimmy’s law success isn’t why Kim is subjected to the pit of the law firm. No, that’s Hamlin’s doing, something Chuck and Kim both tell Jimmy, though of course he doesn’t believe them, because he’s just so sure of his own importance. Racked with such guilt/a cause of action, Jimmy goes so far as to draw up a lawsuit on Kim’s behalf, but Kim refuses, instead offering him a challenge. “Prove you can go one day without breaking a rule of the New Mexico Bar Association,” she says. “You don’t save me. I save me.”

The storyline of Kim’s that follows starts with a scene that underscores the difference between her and Jimmy’s standing in the profession: two underlings, probably interns, stick around the dimly lit office only because Kim is there. She tells them to leave, and they promptly do. Cue one of the all-time best covers of Sinatra’s “My Way.”

What follows are several montages that find Kim calling numbers written on multi-colored Post-it notes, because, you know, there were no iPhones when this takes place. It’s kind of irresponsible, the way she goes about making networking calls from the stairwell and the bathroom and the parking garage of her current employer, all places not best suited for conducting a job search. Kim strikes out dozens of times, but finally scores big with a woman named Paige. That, and the successful deal it leads to, are true moments of triumph for one of the series’ least celebrated characters, but Saul being Saul, that triumph is quickly undercut by Hamlin insisting Kim stay in the bullpen, regardless of how big this deal is.

Meanwhile, Jimmy, a fourth year associate, is trusted by nobody at his firm. He’s being shadowed by Erin, a second year associate who has been assigned to make sure he doesn’t make a screwup as big as the commercial fiasco. She accompanies him to the courthouse, where Jimmy tries to use a Beanie Baby to bribe (excuse me, give a gift to) the clerk who decides which cases get heard, and when. Erin, a classic Hermione type, isn’t having it, and she snatches the bear from his hand. And so their case won’t be decided upon until the following month. Jimmy’s not happy, and he isn’t good at playing by the rules. When he later runs into an old lawyer buddy in the bathroom, he doesn’t seem to agree with him when he says that his lot in law life has gotten so much better with the job the fancy new firm of Davis & Main.

After Kim returns to the menial work, she and Chuck have an early-morning talk. Chuck gives us some rare detail into Jimmy’s background with a story about their father. He was an all-around good guy, Chuck says, and he owned a corner store. But, he wasn’t good at business. Jimmy took a job there, and when Chuck came back to town — he was working as a law clerk at the time — he discovered that more than $10,000 had gone missing, most likely thanks to Jimmy. The store had to close, and six months later their dad had died. “Jimmy cried harder than anyone,” Chuck says, attempting to undercut Jimmy’s sadness by painting it as a ruse.

The episode closes on Mike, who is a barely-there presence in “Rebecca.” He’s sitting at his usual diner, and a stranger approaches, sits down next to him. It’s Breaking Bad‘s favorite explosive senior citizen, Hector Salamanca, Tuco’s uncle. Hector tells Mike — who is responsible for his nephew’s arrest — that he knows Tuco needs to go to jail, but not for eight or 10 years. He wants Mike, who he knows is an ex-cop, to tell the police that the gun in the struggle was his, that Tuco took it from him during the struggle. Hector offers him $5,000 to do this, and leaves. Mike, in a classically Ehermantroutian display of facial expressiveness, shows his distinct anger with the twitch of an eye. He’s getting mixed up in something he doesn’t want. The wrong people are starting to know his black-and-blue face.

By the end of the episode, which marks nearly the halfway point of the season, all three of our protagonists have made very little progress, thanks to outside influences. Kim is not making headway in her career because of Hamlin and, maybe, Jimmy. Mike is getting sucked into criminal territory because of Nacho and Tuco, not to mention his daughter-in-law, who is the biggest drain on his funds and the reason he has to do this stuff to make money in the first place. Lastly, we’ve got Jimmy.

Throughout Better Call Saul it’s been tough to tell if the show’s creators intend Jimmy’s story as a mirror of Walt’s in Breaking Bad, but Saul is no Heisenberg. It mostly seems that Jimmy has been cajoled by several lawyers into suppressing his own survival instincts, first by Chuck, then by his bosses at Davis & Main, and now by Kim and Erin. His interaction with the lawyer in the bathroom only drove home the fact that he’s in a position that, as good as it is, isn’t right for him. It’s an overdue realization, and one that hopefully results in some major shift in action soon, because as enjoyable as this show is to watch, the Breaking Bad pace just doesn’t cut it when you already know where you’re going to end up. How many lawyers does it take to turn Jimmy into Saul? So far, too many to count.