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They’re accredited. Go Land Crabs. The bar exam’s a mother; I mean for me it was. I failed it the first two times, but I guess it’s like losing your virginity; third time’s a charm.
It is going to suck out loud in two weeks when we have no more Better Call Saul for a year, because boy has it been special stuff. “RICO,” last night’s episode, was so smooth from start to finish, packed with just the right mix of drama and comedy, and acted in such a fantastic manner, it’s hard to say anything negative about it at all. So, even as a critic, I won’t be doing that today. I’ll just be talking about what a fun and well-structured hour of television that was.
For those uninitiated, “RICO” stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, and refers to the congressionally enacted law of the same name. You’ve heard the term before, possibly on television in The Sopranos, Sons of Anarchy, or currently in reference to Boyd Crowder or the Dixie Mafia on Justified. You may have seen it as a plot device in hundreds of crime films or mentioned in actual numerous news reports, and usually it’s tied to unfair or unlawful business practices of the mob. However, as Jimmy McGill points out in his sit down with the attorneys for Sandpiper Crossing, it’s usually used for legitimate businesses doing illegitimate things and ticking their competitors off in the process. In this case, RICO applies due to a process of systematic overcharging of elderly retirement home residents. If it sounds like fraud, that’s because it’s fraud.
Due to interstate commerce issues related to the purchase of syringes from Nebraska for use in New Mexico, RICO comes into play. Mail fraud has brought down many a criminal, even if Doctor Doom would have escaped the charge. It’s also the easiest possible case to immediately put the audience firmly on Jimmy’s side. This is a white knight in a light grey suit, but the one point to remember is this: It’s also a potentially career-making, big money case for our “altruistic” protagonist.
“RICO” is all about the case that likely will take us through the remaining two episodes of the season and may well not find resolution until 2016. That’s completely fine, because the case is easy to digest, gives the audience a true villain, and last night, turned Charles McGill into an entirely new character, with nuance and depth we haven’t seen before. It all began in the cold open, where Saul flashes even further back to tell the quick story of how Jimmy became a lawyer. He passed the bar exam after community college, which is “not just for draft dodgers and yoga classes,” and was accepted into the University of American Samoa, a correspondence school with a law program. On his third try, he passed the bar, which he finds out at the same time as the audience through a letter he has Kim Wexler open for him. It’s another humanizing moment; something we might do ourselves. She kisses him after she silently skims it, so there’s the bonus of the smooch from the beautiful blonde. Next, he tells his brother, whose respect he desperately wants, and a stunned Chuck says he’s proud of Jimmy. However, when he asks Chuck if it would be possible to work for HHM, his brother says he’d need to discuss it with the other partners. That’s the nice way to let someone down easily.
One of the most effective scenes of the entire series thus far follows as Hamlin comes in to a mailroom celebration for Jimmy, including cake and Kim (more cake). All we hear is the copier working overtime as we see Hamlin break the news to Jimmy that there’s no position for him as a lawyer at the present time. We don’t hear a word, which makes it so much better, because we know what’s happening and could write our own scripts as to how exactly it went down. Hamlin does say, audibly, as he leaves, that they’ll reassess things in six months. The bastard also takes a slice of cake. What kind of dickhead takes a slice of cake after crashing a celebration for a mail-clerk who just passed the bar exam? This is the kind of Massengill we’re dealing with; not that we didn’t know that already. Seriously. What an asshole. It was chocolate cake, too. Fuck that guy.
Back to Better Call Saul’s present day, Jimmy is working on a will with one of his clients, who doesn’t have the money to pay him. She mentions she’ll have it next week when the assisted living facility, Sandpiper Crossing, gives his client her usual “allowance.” It’s at this point McGill begins to question what’s going on, and a quick look at her documents reveals massive financial abuse. The woman says Jimmy doesn’t understand that the home tries to make things very easy on the residents, and that it’s how they do business with everyone. Cha-Ching.
Jimmy works with the woman, not taking all of the little cash she has left, treating her with respect and showing compassion. Once again, just like last week with the Kettlemans, McGill is a good guy, even though we know he’s also a schemer. But, he’s likable. There’s no denying it. He’s funny, he’s clever, and he’s done some good things. He also takes care of his brother. Once Sandpiper figures out McGill is snooping and might find some dangerous things, their security thugs block him from coming back to talk to his clients and later physically throw him outside, but not before he hands them a demand letter.
Before we proceed, we have to talk about how Jimmy wrote the letter. He convinces the receptionist of his IBS, which of course isn’t true, and she lets him use the restroom. He writes the letter on the cardboard backing of his legal pad and finishes it on single ply toilet tissue. Nothing wrong with the tactic, but this was the one problem I had with “RICO.” No way would Sandpiper, after throwing him out once and having him immediately walk back in, no way would anyone there let him use the restroom, irritable bowels or not. That simply would not happen. So, I didn’t buy that idea, though it worked out for the story.
The rest of the hour showcases Jimmy and his new partner on this case, Chuck, yes Chuck, as the two work together to prepare for a legal battle with Sandpiper’s attorney. Dennis Boutsikaris, who plays a white collar prick about as well as anybody and has done it many times, is excellent as Rick Schweikart, who worked with Chuck in the past and remembers his prowess. He should, because Chuck discovers the syringe shipment address. Chuck, scared to death, doesn’t say a word during the meeting until the end, when he blurts out “20 million” as an appropriate settlement. Jimmy had planned to ask for two million and had rejected the 100K his adversary offered. Chuck realized the company represented multiple states through Rick’s “12 facilities, all five stars” line.
Before any of this took place, Jimmy went dumpster diving for the shredded documents he saw Sandpiper management destroying when he was restricted from entry in the facility’s lobby. Chuck helped put the puzzle back together, impressed with his brother’s willingness to go the extra mile, and then joined the fight. Jimmy was thrilled to have him on board, both because his brother is extremely talented and highly brilliant, but also because it’s probably always been a dream. It’s fun to watch. I like the Wacky Adventures of the Fabulous McGill Boys.
A sideline story shows Mike Ehrmantraut falling back into his old habits. As much as he wanted to change his life, once he discovers his daughter-in-law and his granddaughter struggling financially, he knows it might be time to do the kind of work the shady veterinarian (Joe DeRosa) mentioned a few weeks ago. To help them, he’s willing to forgo his attempts at legitimacy. It’s the first moment where we see the Mike Ehrmantraut that might end up working with Gustavo Fring and Saul Goodman. He’s smart, but, following the murder of his son, his family matters more than a clean life. His entire existence becomes a vehicle to help Stacey and his granddaughter. It’s honorable. It’s also sad, because that family has already gone through plenty and we know they’re going to go through so much more over the next decade.
Jimmy McGill is working a lucrative case and he’s doing it with his brother. That’s the main story, along with Mike falling back into a life in back alleys, and it’s going to take us through the season finale. The next shoe to drop will be Hamlin’s reaction when he learns that a named partner, even one on an extended leave of absence, is collaborating on a potentially huge class action lawsuit, without the involvement of HHM. Kim Wexler knows it’s coming, even telling Jimmy as much when he gives her Chuck’s code to print hundreds of dollars worth of case law and case transcripts through her firm. Jimmy is going to have to convince Hamlin to let him have the case, and based on the assumption he was never filthy rich at any point, my guess is that it’s going to end poorly for McGill. Again, the show’s underlying theme is Jimmy getting close to “something” and ultimately ending up with virtually nothing. As I said last week, it’s a show about failure, trial and error, and self-realization. He’s never going to get there, and we know it. He denies it, continues to try, but ultimately will end up in a Cinnabon in Omaha, lucky to be alive. Hopefully, he’ll have some triumphs throughout that bumpy ride, even if they’re short lived.
The episode ends with Chuck heading out to grab some important paperwork out of Jimmy’s car, doing it without even realizing he’s walked outdoors and touched electronic devices. Jimmy, who fell asleep on the sofa, walks to the doorway and sees his brother grabbing a box. He calls out for Chuck, who suddenly grasps where he is and goes motionless and his mouth falls open. He drops the box, standing like a statue, and the episode ends.
It was a slickly written and directed hour, as all of Saul has been, and the show just keeps on rolling. It’s a joy to watch every week, and the story continues to get better and. Chuck’s development is excellent, even if it’s going to be inconsistent and unstable. McKean is doing great work, and lately, it’s requiring more from him as an actor. Odenkirk, what can I say? He’s owned every scene he’s been in, and every chord he’s struck has been the right one. “RICO” was awfully entertaining. Its focus pulled back the curtain as to the show’s direction for the remainder of the year, and it set the future up quite well. The next two weeks are going to be a hell of a lot of fun.
I’m on the tweets @GuyNamedJason. Hey, we’re ordering a pizza, okay? I’ll save you a slice.