BETTER CALL SAUL: “Coushatta”

“Let’s do it again.”

Sorry for missing last week, again. My work schedule changed and I didn’t actually see “Something Stupid” until early Wednesday morning. Didn’t see the point in recapping it then.

Anyway, this season has had an odd structure, with the primary narrative arc being the slow dissolution of the Wexler/McGill partnership. Previous seasons of Breaking Bad have toyed with this kind of discursive structure, most notably the second season, which seemed to be about Walt and Jesse being pulled apart until suddenly it wasn’t.

After last week’s Huell-based confrontation, everyone’s favorite pickpocket’s presence is felt mostly in his absence, as the crux of “Coushatta” is Jimmy and Kim’s plan to get him out of jail for free. Of course, this being a McGill operation, things are as joyously creative as they are dubiously legal, and so we begin the festivities with Jimmy taking a bus all the way to the titular bayou town — Huell’s home. On the way, he has a series of random busgoers writing postcards and letters for an unspecified purpose; we later learn all this correspondence is meant to be from the residents of Coushatta, who all love local hero Huell Babineaux and want to know why he’s being held for a crime he obviously could not have committed.

This, although incredibly clever, is only the first stage of Jimmy’s plan. Later, after making use of an army of pre-paid phones all pre-programmed to the numbers left in the deluge of letters, Jimmy and his intrepid commercial crew from Season 3 set about waiting for the Assistant DA to start fact-checking some of the mysterious letters. What follows is a masterful performance, both from Jimmy McGill the conman and Bob Odenkirk the sketch comedian. Channeling his best goofy Mr. Show accent, he launches himself full-bore into his role as the kindly pastor of a small Louisiana parish. It’s at about this point that Jimmy’s reason for doing this at all (for a man he barely knows) is crystallized: He just loves being a crook.

What makes this Miracle on 34th Street-ass plan work isn’t that Jimmy does just enough to make it stand up to not-too-intense scrutiny (though the ever increasing donations page for Huell’s fake church, complete with pictures of a smiling Huell doing yard work, was a nice touch).

No, what makes it tick is that time is on their side. Sure enough, Judge Munsinger doesn’t feel like dragging this case out, and all but forces the DA’s office to take Kim’s time served deal. Just a few phone calls are all that’s needed to verify Huell’s story, because what kind of deranged maniac would fake something this elaborately? The final cherry on top is Jimmy’s pitch-perfect passive-aggressive egging of DA Ericsen: he wants to know when that dang ol’ trial is so he and all his parishoners can scoot on down to the ABQ and support their friend Huell. The attention to detail and flair for improvisation is pure Jimmy, despite what he says to Kim later. The man is a wondrously talented con artist. So you can see why he loves it so much. Which is, of course, the problem.

Later, Jimmy sheepishly approaches Kim after she meets him at another of his prospective new offices. Jimmy apologizes. He knows about the rift growing between them these last few months; he knows that she doesn’t approve of him doing Slippin’ Jimmy routines with the law. He knows she doesn’t love him anymore. And then she says she wants to do it again. The specter of Chuck McGill is finally washed away for good. No more grim-faced arbiters of the law. Now the Wexler/McGill partnership can really start to flourish. On Jimmy’s head be it.

Elsewhere, the Mike plotline is finally starting to coalesce. Having been put in charge of overseeing the Superlab’s construction, Mike is dealing with setback after setback. In a nice bit of misdirection, this week’s problem comes not from the hothead Kai, but from kindly old Werner, the head engineer, with whom Mike shares at least some rudimentary form of kinship. After last week’s near-disaster underground, Mike decides to allow some R&R for Werner and the boys at a local gentleman’s establishment.

Sure enough, Kai gets shitfaced and nearly has the cops called on him for getting too handsy with a girl, a situation which Mike casually smoothes over with security. No, the real problem this evening is Werner, who after striking up a friendship with a construction worker who can’t pronounce German beers, gives a vague outline of the problems the lab team is facing, asking for advice. Mike makes up a story about Werner’s wife being on the phone and gets him out of there before too much is said, but the damage may already be done: he has to tell Gus about it, and though he easily convinces Werner of the gravity of his error, the cold, distant look on Gus’s face as he accepts Mike’s assurances that this will no longer be a problem are quite upsetting indeed.

Our third and final plotline has also seen progress after last week’s eight-month time skip. Nacho is now essentially running the entire Salamanca operation. Sitting in Don Hector’s old seat at that restaurant, he doles out Cartel justice to a dealer late on his payments by ripping out a stray earring. Krazy-8, promoted to Nacho’s old position, grimly takes note. After a brief visit to Nacho’s depressing new place, he’s back at the restaurant, only this time there’s someone else there: Eduardo Salamanca, previously unknown and practically tap dancing around the kitchen with sinister glee (and a slick mustache). Nacho’s dad asked him when he would be out. It’s looking less and less likely every week.

  • More of Jimmy’s attention to detail: having his letter writers switch pens every time, as well as he himself trying to write left handed a couple times. The fact that he takes forensic handwriting analysis into account really just proves that DA Ericsen was outmatched from the go.
  • Werner seems like such a sensitive guy, and Mike was geniunely impressed to hear about his father being the man who designed the Sydney Opera House. I’m almost giddy with trepidation for the terrible fate that surely lies down the road for him.
  • “I’ve got crawdads in my pants!”
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