It’s easy to forget there are villains more devious than Tio Salamanca on Better Call Saul. This week’s episode, “Fifi,” revealed that Jimmy’s brother Chuck (Michael McKean) was just as low-down and dirty, and we got an even more troublesome look at how far Chuck will go to keep Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) from succeeding. The high highs and low lows of the characters are heartbreaking because of the razor sharp writing and plotting that goes into each episode — which is why an hour like “Fifi” can speed by, despite the majority of its runtime devoted to characters in rooms, talking. Not much action, but a lot is happening elsewhere.
After last week’s big moves for Jimmy and Kim (Rhea Seehorn), who have banded together with Wexler-McGill, separate practices under one roof, something had to come crashing down. And crash it does. Kim is left in unenviable position of resigning to Howard, who can’t even initially offer her 15 minutes of his busy schedule to hear what she has to say. Howard does the “disappointed dad” thing with a touch of “insufferable asshole” during their meeting by killing her with the kind of passive aggressive behavior that legends are made of.
Kudos to actor Patrick Fabian who plays Howard with the right kind of panache that makes you realize why people simultaneously follow him and find him so off-putting.
Kim’s stately resignation prompts Howard to have his secretary to immediately call Mesa Verde for a meeting to retain their services. Thi is something Kim definitely didn’t want to happen after she rebuked Jimmy’s suggestion (made at The Dog House, the hot dog joint that Jesse Pinkman sells meth at in *Breaking Bad) that she slip her goodbye letter under Howard’s door and get on the phone with Mesa Verde’s big account pronto. “I need to find a way to do this that’s right for me,” she tells him.
She regrets those words all because of Chuck, a guy so scared of his brother desecrating his sacred legal career that he willfully submits to debilitating psychosomatic pain to prevent Jimmy (and by association, Kim) from one iota of initial success. She gives Mesa Verde her heartfelt pitch of a focused, small-scale client relationship.“Either you fit the jacket or the jacket fits you,” she tells the Mesa Verde representatives in a meeting. After that, Chuck’s faint praise for Kim masks his backhanded experience for “boring” regulatory law that ultimately helps him win in the end before he collapses on the floor after the Mesa Verde reps leave.
It makes Kim’s excitement over potentially landing the lucrative client that much more heartbreaking. She’s always been a savvy and guarded character, but the scene where she assures Jimmy she’s won them over by guaranteeing “personal service” and gleefully admitting they gave her “the double thumbs-up — boom boom — just like that!” will mean she’ll never be that vulnerable again.
The tragic part — the the reason why Better Call Saul is one of the slyest shows on TV — is that Jimmy mounts his own meticulous plan of attack to get back at Chuck after he confronts him at his house under the auspices of helping take care of him overnight. “If things were reversed, I hope you know I would do the same for you,” Chuck says to Jimmy. It makes you wonder why Jimmy even bothers to put his keys and phone into the mailbox before heading into Chuck’s house at all anymore. You’d imagine the next visit he won’t think twice about bringing them along with him. But while the audience was left shaking their heads at Chuck’s slimy double-cross, we all but giddily applaud Jimmy own act of late night sabotage by cutting, and pasting the wrong address on to Chuck’s Mesa Verde paperwork at a 24-hour copy store. Instead of getting suckers in bars to cut him phony checks, Jimmy is now putting all of his con artist know-how to good use against Chuck.
It represents one of the small miracles of Better Call Saul in general. Despite all the sabotage these are all terrible people, to some extent; it’s just up to us to figure out who we like (or hate) more.
Meanwhile Mike is busy with his own meticulousness, meddling in the background to take down the Salamancas. Unfortunately he’s in the same position as he was in the last shot of the last episode, staring at the exterior of El Griego Cuinador plotting his next movie. After he tails Tio to a warehouse and sees them unloading smuggled contraband from the popsicle truck seen in the episode’s astonishing single-take opening, it becomes clearer and clearer that Mike is most likely the one who cripples Tio and puts him in the wheelchair we find him sitting in in Breaking Bad.
“I’m a grownup, and grownups get to be stupid,” Mike (Jonathan Banks) says to his granddaughter Kaylee — who thinks she’s helping him drill holes into a hose for a soaker for his rhododendrons, but is actually helping him make a homemade spike strip. We hope that statement isn’t true, but in Better Call Saul it’s true for everyone.