Better Call Saul “Slip” (S3E08)

Eight episodes in, I feel that “Slip” did such a great job at bringing a lot of character/story points to a head, some of which I’ve been anticipating for a while. It’s weird because “Chicanery” is essentially this season’s big climax, (almost reminding me of “One Minute” from Breaking Bad’s third season), and while it’s absolutely paramount to explore the fallout from that episode (as we have), I’m still impressed with how successfully the story continues to push forward. It’s like the writers could easily rest their backs and take the time to plan their next move, as Kim suggested to Jimmy, or they could take Jimmy’s lead and hustle full-tilt to meet certain ends. I find this exciting because we already know the long-term direction for the show, but in terms of how the journey unfolds, I feel a current sense of charging into the dark. Obviously the writers have had an end game to this season for a while, but you can tell they’re locked on something good.

So right off the bat, Marco returns in a flashback being the first time since “Marco”, the season 1 finale. I wasn’t quite sure when this was taking place, but it felt like it was during the time of that very episode, considering Marco speaks of Jimmy’s mom as if in tribute after learning of her passing, as well as Jimmy’s hair being its usual current style. Something came to me when I was watching this cold open. It’s not so much that Jimmy feels a divide between him and his father because of their opposing morals, but there’s also a matter of neglect. Chuck is the smart brother which is a quality I feel Jimmy may have always admired, so when Jimmy exercises small bouts of obscure knowledge in front of his father (like knowing specific coins, rarity, and worth), only to be immediately ignored and interrupted in exchange for his dad being more concerned with returning the coin, it’s no wonder that Jimmy harbors such a resentment towards him.

The same thing happened in the cold open of “Inflatable” when young Jimmy tries to warn his father of the con-artist (another instance where Jimmy is very smart) only for his father to not give an inch of credit to Jimmy over this suspicion. Jimmy sincerely tried to get close with his father many times but they were just never quite on the same page. Perhaps when Jimmy says, “he never did what he had to do”, it doesn’t just pertain to not being sucker, but to also being a proper father and acknowledging Jimmy when instances of true individual expression called for it. It was great to see Marco nostalgic over Jimmy’s folks. It reminded us that Jimmy’s dismissive attitude towards them is an issue that’s exclusive to Jimmy and that just because Marco can tend to be the devil on Jimmy’s shoulder, doesn’t mean he needs to see eye to eye over conditions of the heart. I really liked that. Before the camera cuts, the final act of Jimmy swiping those coins felt coated in a layer of spite and expressed a sense of reveling in what he was able to take during the time his parents were still kicking around.

As much as I’ve been rattling on since “Nailed” about what the good samaritan’s death meant to Mike, it was a complete surprise to me when it turned out the favor Mike needed from Nacho was the murder victim’s whereabouts. As soon as I saw Mike drive passed the Oasis sign from the truck heist, it all hit me at once. The entire sequence was done so thoughtfully and with such care. If this was a scene where Mike is undergoing preparation for a heist, the image of him in a forward cap* with a metal detector would be played ironically or punched up since this is a get-up we’re unfamiliar with. There’s no such sense of that in this scene. There’s one cool shot of the metal detector’s control panel but it’s tasteful and beyond that there’s nothing flashy going on even when director Adam Bernstein is shooting it in a very unique way. The overhead shot with multiple Mikes fading in and out to express the passage of time is done appropriately. Everything regarding Mike’s conflict with the good samaritan’s death has lived on through subtext up until now so to get this moment where Mike recovers the physical body, it’s very moving. Just seeing a hand with a ring on it was enough to illustrate that there are indeed loved ones out there wondering what happened.

*The forward cap is a key aesthetic in this moment for me. You could really feel that he’s a father here, or even a grandfather and it makes the recovery of the body all the more cathartic. Jonathan Banks brought a lot of weight to this. The look on his face when he finds the body is profoundly sad and harrowing.

One of the aspects I’ve been looking forward to is further exploration of Chuck’s condition. After an episode where Chuck was completely absent, immediately diving head-on into an appointment with Dr. Cruz made for a fresh and compelling change of pace from what we’re used to seeing. The display of his newfound self-awareness and aim to improve shows us a more hopeful Chuck. Whether you sympathize with his character or not, it’s hard not to root for the guy when he’s finally in the best position to getting better. At the end of the day, he has a sickness. I remember back in the season 2 finale, after Chuck hit his head at the print shop and went through the horrific ordeal of being brought to the hospital, his persistence afterwards to derail Jimmy felt too unhealthy and toxic.

Sure, he was subject to a major injustice brought on by Jimmy, but after Ernie protected Jimmy by saying he called him earlier, everything was clearly at a loss and might have been better off for Chuck to just walk away at that point. Even if it just simply means he has to shut Jimmy out from his life, because as Howard stated in “Off Brand”, Jimmy is just not worth it. Anyway, I’m glad that Chuck for the first time is focusing on himself with no ulterior motive. His sentiments of “If it isn’t real…then what I have done?” elicited a very powerful feeling of wasted time and opportunity. That’s a rough realization to come to and it’s going to be even more depressing now that Jimmy may have possibly squashed any further hopes and dreams in the event that he does get better. I think Chuck’s premiums going up are just the start of his problems. What if it leads to not being able to practice law at all?

Last episode’s “Expenses” showed Jimmy in a constant, unforgiving rut so as the twins of ‘ABQ In Tune’ decide to renege on their deal, it looks like this unfortunate trend will continue. “Slip” was an episode though that had Jimmy quickly recalibrating to his situation. Slippin’ Jimmy lives and we’re finally shown his legendary pratfall after only hearing about it through stories, coincidentally told to the skater twins in the pilot. I love how the special effect of Jimmy falling was absolutely believable, visually, yet there was a hint of it that made it look quite surreal in the process. It was perfect and felt reminiscent of when something weird, strange, or outlandish occurs on Mad Men.

Also I forgot to mention this in the last review (thankfully it becomes more prominent here) but Jimmy pining over a Ritchie Blackmore signed guitar and then playing “Smoke on the Water” (season 1’s ending song) after obtaining it from his fall, it almost feels too on the nose, yet with intention. I mean what are the chances that he would get that guitar? I did a rewatch of season 1 earlier this year and I considered the choice of “Smoke on the Water” being used. Other than what relates from the content of the song, I doubt anyone who has ever had a guitar, whether you followed through with it or not, has not played the tune to “Smoke on the Water”. It’s the easiest series of notes to learn which is fitting for Jimmy, being the guy who takes pride in the simplest route.

Another long anticipated moment for me was when Howard confronted Kim, holding nothing back in the process. The tension between them has been bubbling for a while so to see them sniping at each other outside in front of the valet was just so good. It’s far off from how they used to interact with each other in the first season. Howard gracefully demonstrates to Kevin and Paige that just because he lost their business doesn’t mean he’s doesn’t wish them the best after Kim’s handling of their case. Obviously this is politics to maintain the reputation of his business, as he does with all his clients, but I believe Howard is able to do this because his good manners are genuinely of his own nature. It’s a message to Kim that just because she’s now off on our own, doesn’t mean that ties should be cut, especially after Howard was her mentor and helped her grow as a lawyer to begin with. It’s a sense of community within their field that shouldn’t be sneezed at and Kim understands this, but things are obviously more complicated. She writes a check to cover her loan which is more of a conditional reply than a kind gesture. She wants to be free of him and while I don’t think he’s trying to control her, he definitely disagrees that she’s earned the right to come off innocent in all of this. I think I’ll always lean a tad more on Howard’s side regarding all of this, but Kim did have a point in how Howard pretty much turned a blind eye to Chuck’s obvious mental illness in order to benefit and save face. Plus, man was he brutal with keeping her in doc review.

I’d like to take back what I initially said earlier in the season being that Hector Salamanca’s fall from grace should play as a backseat ‘aha!’ moment to a grander, unique story that only Better Call Saul could tell. I’d be lying if I said I’m not absolutely entertained and fraught with anxiety over how Hector’s situation is going to play out and what possible collateral damage can occur from all of this. This show is indeed a Breaking Bad prequel for a reason and Better Call Saul still manages to be unique and unpredictable in how it orchestrates events to which we already know the outcome. What we don’t know is what happens to Nacho. I actually really care about him despite the fact that we’re essentially rooting for a criminal to murder another criminal. The scene of him at his father’s upholstery business, practicing and failing to get the pills to fall into the coat pocket was the perfect set-up for this hair-puller:

Every beat of this scene is brilliantly uncomfortable from Nacho reaching into the wrong pocket to him dropping one of the pills on the chair while having to be quiet about it. The miracle toss he makes was one of the most intense things I’ve ever experienced from something so mundane and seemingly simple. It was like doing a cartwheel on the edge of a skyscraper. David Porter’s score in the moment of that toss emitted a feeling as if fate itself or the gods were screaming/cheering over the wildness of the outcome. I was also reminded of Breaking Bad as Nacho approaches the expresso machine, seeing as this is where Jesse Pinkman plays with the idea of a delivery system in poisoning Gus (“Problem Dog”) only to never go through with it. Nacho’s approaching the expresso machine after committing the crime has kind of a mirror effect. My only question now though is whether Nacho is out of the woods. A famous quote from Omar Little (The Wire) states “You come at the king, you best not miss” and we all know Hector will live from this. We also know that Nacho is to blame for something very big when Saul gets kidnapped from Walt and Jesse. If there’s any tell that points to Nacho being responsible, it most likely will derive from when he eventually switches the pills back.

Speaking of committing, Jimmy’s fall earlier in the episode wasn’t fake. He had no issue in actually hurting his back in order to get what he wanted which is probably how his young, leaner version of himself always did it. In turn, he’s able to use his real injury as part of his narrative against the parks and rec guy as he threatens to sue the man personally. Again, Jimmy is back and in complete opposite form than how we saw in last episode. Lounging in the dirt surrounded by garbage when he’s supposed to be doing his community service is such an appropriate image too.

The episode ends with Mike also committing to something big as we’re given a handshake that finally solidifies the union between him and Gus even though the future of that handshake will lead to so much death and chaos. We still don’t even know, pre-Walter White, how Mike becomes so accustomed to killing people simply because it’s part of the job. Luckily Gus is a reasonable man and the people that will meet their deaths are ‘in the game’ but there’s a gap that still needs to be filled in order to get him there. Other than that, Gus doesn’t want his money, but just Mike and the work he can provide. It was pretty bold for Mike to just agree on that without really knowing what Gus could truly want out of him.

More thoughts:

– In the spirit of going over the multiple meanings of the episode’s title, ‘slip’ obviously refers to Jimmy’s fall, but also of Mike giving the police the slip on the good samaritan’s whereabouts. Kim slips Howard a check for her loan and one slip from Nacho in swapping those pills and he would be a dead man!

-There’s something about this show with twins huh? First the skater twins break their legs and now the owners of ‘ABQ In Tune’ fall prey to Jimmy. Even in Breaking Bad Saul’s actions will end up severely crippling Ted Beneke, a father of twin daughters. No twins are safe from the misfortune Jimmy brings. At this point, Tuco’s cousins better watch out.

-I missed it on my first watch but Francesca hiding her Hawaii magazine as Kim walks from Jimmy’s office to hers was funny. Already looking for an escape, it’s a change from the interviewee who was hoping to get employed here in the beginning of the season.

– Like I said, I loved everything with Nacho. I especially liked the idea of obstructing the air conditioning unit in order to sweat Hector into removing his jacket. The leap that Nacho makes from the dumpster to the roof was a cool stunt. I’m not sure if he did it himself or not, but a cool action moment nonetheless. I don’t what it is, but I always find it entertaining when characters on tv or in the movies are trespassing and sneaking around some place they shouldn’t at night. There’s always a calmness to it despite how potentially dangerous it could be. Also, this is unrelated but those ceiling fans in the taco restaurant were awfully depressing haha.

– Something about Bob Odenkirk having to pick up a dirty diaper during his community service makes me think of Vince Gilligan laughing his ass off.

Overall, this was one of my favorite episodes of the season. There’s just a lot happening in it, all being very interesting. I know I shouldn’t measure episodes based off the order it shares, but in terms of the 8th episode, it’s right up there with season 1’s “Rico” and season 2’s “Fifi”. And something to keep in mind as we approach this season’s penultimate episode, “Pimento” and “Nailed” managed to be series highlights for me. They’re both very important episodes so I wonder what next week’s “Fall” will manage to do. I can’t help my excitement as we await these final 2 episodes. What’s everyone else’s thoughts?

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