AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 3: “Amarillo”
Directed by Scott Winant
Written by Jonathan Glatzer; Story by Gordon Smith
* For a review of the previous episode, “Cobbler” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Gloves Off” – click here
The third episode of AMC’s Better Call Saul Season 3 kicks off as Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) stands against a wall painted like the Texas state flag. He’s dressed like a true blue-and-red cowboy, with a bag at his feet. A bus stops then Jimmy heads inside looking for an Alma Mae, who he couldn’t get to see at Sand Piper. He talks with Alma a little about the money he’s going to get back for her. Jimmy does his best talking, as usual, to try and get everyone on the same page. The showman in Jimmy comes out and impresses all the seniors on the bus. Another move in the sly poker hand of lawyer James McGill. In fact, he’s so impressive all the people on the bus are right in the palm of his hand.
At the table of Davis & Main, Chuck (Michael McKean) sits across from Jimmy now, as well as Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), then there’s bossmen Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr) and Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian). Of course Jimmy gets to boast about signing all those Sand Piper clients on the bus (though I’m sure how he did so was a secretive venture). Cliff is happy. Although, Chuck does his best to punch his brother in the gut, bringing up the possibility of his “solicitation” and making things awkward for everybody. Yet Jimmy’s slippery, as we know. He retorts with the claim of Sand Piper as a “close–knit community“, which seems to assuage the board’s curiousity. Chuck lets it go. For now; he’s just hellbent on torpedoing his brother.
Jimmy’s still after Kim, playing footsie beneath the table. Only she seems reluctant to engage. Then Jimmy pipes up saying he’ll hold back on big meetings with the seniors, possibly hoping to impress Kim. Because she’s still not happy about the events of “Cobbler” where Jimmy falsified evidence, or more so fabricated it. She is further unhappy with Jimmy likely soliciting all those clients. “You said in there you‘d find another way,” Kim starts: “Did you mean it?” He tells her yes, but she isn’t exactly convinced. Their relationship is fragmented. She put herself out there with everyone to get Jimmy in that position, now his conman ways that won’t wash off are threatening her reputation. Not immediately. But if Hamlin and Main, as well as Chuck, figure out what he’s up to all the time, there’s no telling what might happen.
Cut to Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). He’s playing with his granddaughter. Meanwhile, his own daughter-in-law Stacey (Kerry Condon) is cooking in the kitchen. He also has money to drop off. Stacey’s got worries, though. Gunshots have been blasting a little too nearby for her liking. Mike offers to stay over, to keep them safe, but Stacey is obviously as independent as possible, a proud, strong woman in her own right. We know that Mike isn’t going to let the gunshot business sit. What’s he going to do from here?
At the office, Jimmy is trying to figure out how to do things without soliciting clients. He brings problems with the mailers to Cliff. Jimmy believes very specific television advertising is the answer, to mash in a Davis & Main between Murder, She Wrote and other similar programs the seniors watch.
Here, we finally see the first television advert involving Jimmy; one of many, as us Breaking Bad fans remember. Originally they get a terribly generic, uninspired advertisement just giving the basic facts, a phone number, et cetera.
Jimmy: “What ever happened to showmanship?”
On his own, Jimmy gets two young film students to help him record an advertisement segment. He’s got his own ideas on how to boost their clients. Hilarious banter to start between Jimmy and the young dudes. We’re now seeing the Saul creep out of Jimmy, more and more. “I‘m ready for my close–up, Mr. McGill,” says an old woman coming down the stairs on an electric lift. One of the best lines I’ve heard on anything in ages. Especially with Jimmy holding his fingers up like a frame, watching her descend.
Back to Mike. He’s taken it upon himself to do a stakeout at his daughter-in-law’s place – radio via earpiece, sandwich and all. Sitting quietly outside, Mike sees a car pull up slowly. He readies his piece, checking that it’s loaded. But it’s just a car dropping newspapers off. When the morning comes and nothing is wrong, Mike heads in to work, obviously tired, back likely hurting from sitting in the car all night. Then he gets a call on his cell from Stacey – he rushes back to her place. She shows him a bullet mark by the garage door, saying she heard shots in the night. But Mike was there all night, he knows it didn’t happen then. Still, he tells her: “I believe you.”
Hanging out together once more, Jimmy and Kim are always hovering around becoming a serious couple. For now, Jimmy shows off the ad he put together. Shot in black-and-white, circling around to find an old woman rocking in a chair by herself, along with a tragic voiceover narration. The old lady cries, due to “Visine“, and then Jimmy comes in with the phone number, the information, all that over top. Kim is actually impressed with the directorial efforts by Jimmy, saying it’ll definitely get to the Sand Piper seniors. However, little comments from Kim make it clear to Jimmy he’s still the underdog, still being considered as someone who can’t get things done right or in the ‘honest’ way. The look on his face says it all. Over in the office, Jimmy hops on the phone to try and get hold of a television channel in Colorado. Is he about to sell the advertisement?
Jimmy: “Don‘t be jealous of my big bowl of balls. It‘s unbecoming.”
Mike’s looking for a job. The vet he knows has a couple jobs, bodyguard positions mostly. Except everything Mike hears, he doesn’t exactly enjoy. The shady vet explains the need for “next level work” and that’s all there is to it. Quickly, though, Mike accepts a cheap job. Not that he wants to, but such are the times. It’s obvious, seeing him in Breaking Bad and seeing him now, Mike will do anything to help his family; anything.
Switch over to Jimmy. He seems a little nervous and sketchy. Obviously he’s waiting for the phone calls to come in from seniors. There’s a whole team of people setup to start receiving calls. All the while, Jimmy waits as the ad runs on television. This is a big moment for him – if the ad fails to draw in a significant number, perhaps Jimmy loses his pull with Cliff, and everyone else, and then Chuck wins. So Jimmy sits next to the phone, waiting impatiently.
When the calls do start coming, it finally lifts Jimmy’s spirits, and he sees the progress right in front of him; the ad worked perfectly.
While Stacey and her daughter sleep, Mike takes the couch. Though he doesn’t sleep, really. His phone rings about some “next level pay” – a serious, hush-hush job. Mike was specifically asked for to take care of the job.
Cut to Jimmy lounging with Kim. He gets a call, too. It’s Cliff, and he is not happy with the commercial. The boss lets loose over Jimmy for not passing the commercial through his approval. Cliff calls him “a god damn arsonist” while Jimmy tries to spin things for him, then gets hung up on. He has a date with the board to show them all the commercial. He then spins things for Kim, as well. Always spinning, that Jimmy.
Mike is heading out to latest job, shrouded in mystery. In a deserted location, he pulls up in his car, leaving the lights on. Nacho (Michael Mando) is waiting. He has a problem – “A who or a what?” asks Mike. Nacho needs a guy to “go away” and we end on a look from Mike that spells exasperation, as if he knows what’s coming.
Next episode is “Gloves Off” – who knows where the McGill story will head next.