RECAP: Better Call Saul Season 1 Episode 3, “Nacho”
How about last night’s visit to the Points Between Here and There (that is, the many stages of metamorphosis undergone by the creature who ends up as Gene, the Cinnabon-managing, Rusty-Nail-drinking everyman of Omaha, Nebraska)? We learned so much, didn’t we, about how one starts in one state, in one place, and ends up somewhere very different—and in this episode we didn’t even leave the ABQ.
At one stage of development, Jimmy McGill has a mullet. He has a mullet and he’s sporting shackles and prison orange. “I’m in a bit of a pickle,” he confesses to his brother, who’s come to visit him in jail and might possibly help get him out of whatever insane mess he’s in this time (there’s talk of assault, and possible sex offender status.) Obviously Jimmy is as full of shit as he ever was or will be, but Charles says he will not help unless Jimmy makes a sincere change: “Everything you’re involved in, that’s OVER,” he says, and Jimmy promises that yes it is, and so it will be.
In the next scene we have James McGill, lawyer, drinking clear booze with some illicit cucumber water at 2 am. He’s looking at the number Nacho left him but he’s James now, not Slippin’ Jimmy, and he made a promise, right? (“I’m a lawyer, not a criminal,” he declared last week.) He paces. He thumbs out the ol’ flip phone, dials a familiar number. It’s Kim, the pretty blonde from his brother’s law offices, thinking he has news about brother Chuck, or maybe he just wants some quick phone sex before passing out. No, he wants to bullshit about her new clients, the Kettlemans. Jimmy, unable at this point to ever keep his mouth shut, mentions to Kim that the Kettlemans might be in danger, you know, just theorizing here, just thinking out loud. Kim is of course on to him at once, but he begs off the phone, and settles into his squeaky sofa bed to get those elusive four hours of shut-eye before court in the morning.
He lies there. Then. His eyes open, close, open again. He bounds out of bed, assembles a quick DIY voice disguiser, and drives to a payphone where he dials the Kettlemans, excuse me, TEAM KETTLEMAN!! After several abortive attempts to get the message across through the voice disguiser (and several renditions of the Kettlemans’ grating outgoing message), he’s forced to just be (who?) himself:
“You’reindangerthey’recomingforyourmoneyBYE!” he blurts. Betsy and Craig Kettleman look out the window, where outside, of course, of course there is a van, and of course the van has a shadowy figure at the wheel.
The next morning in the courthouse bathroom (have we yet remarked on how many scenes take place in bathrooms?) Jimmy McGill is arguing with the same DA; the same argument he had about seven times in last week’s courthouse montage. He’s finally getting somewhere—elicits some real shame out of the superior DA when the DA can’t discern one defendant from another—but that triumph is short lived. The flip phone is going off and it’s Kim on the line with some bad news about the Kettlemans. Panicked, Jimmy runs for the yellow Suzuki, and hauls it over to Casa Team Kettleman without even pretending to satisfy the sticker-hungry parking lot attendant we’ll come to know as Mike Ehrmantraut. As usual, he’s missing validations and not willing/ able to part with the cash to pay for the missing validations. The usual argument ensues: is Mike really going to make him go back and get more validations? “I’m not MAKING you do anything, “ Mike says, “Those are the RULES.”
“Screw you, geezer!” Jimmy shouts as he presses the release button and speeds away. Mike makes the face we all love to see him make. There’s going to be trouble.
There’s crime scene tape up at Team Kettleman’s. The house is ransacked, and everyone’s missing. Kim intercepts Jimmy at the scene, and knows now that he absolutely must be on the inside of this in some way. “Everything is going to be fine,” he says, to her, to himself.
At another pay phone, he dials Nacho. Nacho’s outgoing message is so much better than Team Kettleman’s; it’s even better than Jesse Pinkman’s message.
“NACHO. LEAVE IT.”
Jimmy leaves it, at least four times, increasingly anxious, sounding less and less confident in his ability to deliver the promises he’s making: “I sincerely want to help you de-escalate the situation!” “I can put out this fire, uh, if there is a fire!”
He notices a couple of men headed his way and tries to casually stroll away, breaks into a run, gets tackled—cops. He’s hauled down to the police station, where Nacho has requested him as a lawyer. A neighbor of the Kettleman family noted his van, jotted down the license plate number; the cops have already found blood in the back. Here we are.
“They were fine when I left,” Nacho growls. He’s only told one person about what he planned for the Kettlemans—Jimmy. If Jimmy doesn’t sort this out, Nacho will figure out how to grind Jimmy into powder and feed him to Tuco. “Take care of this or you’re a dead man,” Nacho says. So beginneth another transformation.
Somewhere between the Jimmy McGill who sweats and stammers at pay phones and the one who’s beginning to resemble Saul Goodman, we come across the idea that maybe the Kettlemans have kidnapped themselves. A visit to the crime scene confirms that Jojo Kettleman’s doll is missing, how would that have happened if Nacho had just busted in and kidnapped everyone? Police shut Jimmy down, but I am an immediate believer. After all, the Kettlemans are criminals just as Nacho is (but of course any reference to these people as criminals is met with “Hey! Innocent until proven guilty!”)
Back at the courthouse it’s Jimmy vs. Mike again; the bickering over stickers and validations and rules and geezers has reached its conclusion in physical violence and Jimmy once again in handcuffs. The cops try to get Mike to abet them in shutting Jimmy up about the Kettlemans. However, when Mike hears Jimmy’s defense of Nacho and his theory that the Kettlemans disappeared all on their own, he backs down, won’t press charges—because he can discern the truth. He offers Jimmy an anecdote from his own cop days in Philly, when a bookie disappeared and everyone figured he was on a beach in Mexico but really he’s hiding out in a foreclosed house in his own neighborhood:
“Nobody wants to leave home,” Mike says. Once again we can see the pin on the map that’s Gene in Omaha.
Jimmy revisits the home of Team Kettleman, looks around, notes the tent on their cliché Everyfamily car decal. He sets off past the gates of their property and into the NM wild. Sure enough, some time later as the sky darkens, he hears some annoyingly cheerful singing: and Bingo was his name-o! These people are every bit as terrifying as Nacho, if not more so. It’s absolutely perfect how fed up their oldest son is with their relentless cheer. Jimmy busts in, explaining to the kids that they’ll all be going home now; it’s that, he says, or the cops will be coming to discover them here. He hefts a bag as if to assist them in carrying it back to the house and Betsy tries to snatch it back. They struggle and it splits wide open, and there’s the $1.6 million we all KNEW they had.
“Yeah,” says Jimmy.
Til next week!