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Better Call Saul S4E3: “Something Beautiful”

In “Something Beautiful” (written by Gordon Smith and directed by Daniel Sackheim—the duo that brought us the masterpiece that was “Chicanery”), there’s a lot of ugliness to be had. We see the bloody aftermath of Nacho being discovered, Jimmy getting his hands dirty, and cracks starting to form in Jimmy and Kim’s relationship. I knew things were going to get dark this season, but this episode—especially the ending—was a lot to take in.

The New Mexico desert provides something beautiful to look at while we watch Victor and Tyrus put Gus’s cover-up plan into action. They blow out the tires and shoot up a car, which has Arturo on ice in the trunk, then put him in the driver’s seat and shoot him in the head. Nacho gets in and takes one in the shoulder, and as he crawls away, Tyrus gives him a gut shot for good measure. As Tyrus tells him, he’s “gotta make it look real.” He leaves him on the verge of passing out, with a cell phone to call for help from the Salamancas.

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Jimmy meets Mike at his favorite diner where he’s being served by Fran, his favorite waitress. Jimmy’s plan is to have Mike break in to Neff Copiers office, which is relatively unsecured, and replace “Bavarian Boy” with a cheap and easy-to-find figurine, “The Merry Wanderer.” Then, he tells him to send “Pryce or some other schlub” to a collectibles expo and boom—free money. I have to say, the idea of Pryce at a Hummel expo is hilarious and I wish Mike would’ve agreed just so I could watch that scene on my television.

But he doesn’t, of course. Mike is completely uninterested and just humoring Jimmy at this point. He asks him, “And how did you come across this valuable wunderkind,” which is the best and most on-brand Mike Ehrmantraut line I’ve heard in quite sometime. Thank you, Gordon Smith, for writing this gem for Jonathan Banks to deliver in the way only he could.

Mike asks Jimmy if the guys in the office crossed him and this gives him pause. Jimmy has rationalized it using his traditional “no harm no foul” logic leap: Neff was going to trash it anyway, so why not make a boatload of cash off that little wunderkind? But at the end of the day Neff did nothing but offer him an opportunity – he saw something in him, believed in him — which in Jimmy’s current shame-spiral translates to one thing: Neff is a sucker and deserves to be punished.

In the grand scheme of things, the $4K or so that Jimmy would get off the Hummel sale is a drop in the bucket. He’s not doing this for the money. He’s doing it because he wants to do it. It’s not something beautiful; it’s something bad, but it will make him feel better because he’s convinced now that he’s a bad guy. He is the guy Chuck told him he was. He’s no longer doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. He’s doing it because it’s fun, and if it makes him a couple grand, that’s just an added bonus. He’s reached the point in his journey where he’d rather steal from Neff for a few grand than take a legitimate, salaried job from him.

On his way to Saul Goodman, he’s taking a brief detour to Slippin’ Jimmy territory. This is his old nonsense all over again—petty criminal activity, easy money over hard work—and why? Because despite his best efforts, Chuck always saw him as Slippin’ Jimmy, the chimp with a machine gun, and now he actually believes it.

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Mike wants no part of it, but not just because it’s a petty crime that is frankly, beneath him. He tells Jimmy, “It’s not for me, and I don’t think it should be for you, either,” and then he says, “I’m sorry about your brother.” Mike isn’t exactly the sentimental type, but he knows exactly the type of road one can end up on after the loss of a family member. His words of sympathy—placed here and not at the beginning of their conversation where one might normally express such a thing—show us that he can read Jimmy like a book. He sees this plan for what it is: a reaction to Chuck’s death, Jimmy McGill-style. Jimmy, predictably, gives a perfunctory thanks and goes back to trying to get Mike in on the job. He’s still got his Chuck-related-emotion switch flipped to “off,” and the longer he waits, the more explosive it’s going to be when that switch gets flipped.

The Cousins arrive at the scene of the “crime” and find the shot-up car containing Arturo’s body. They examine the scene carefully, picking up casings and conferring with one another (silently, as usual) about the validity of what they are seeing. They know that Hector’s condition has made the Salamancas vulnerable, and here is proof that someone is moving against them. It’s their job to find out who and why. They spot the trail of blood from the car and find Nacho near death, bleeding out and scorching in the desert sun. Nacho is conscious and tells them that he doesn’t know who did it, just that they drove a silver car, maybe a Firebird—details he was surely fed by Gus ahead of time and which will likely play a role in events to come. Nacho’s wounds require a medical professional and the Cousins torch the car before leaving to get Nacho seen to.

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Kim arrives at the Mesa Verde offices with her new paralegal, Viola Goto. After her accident put her out of commission for a while, Kim is now back in action working on the time-sensitive Mesa Verde expansion. Even though she desperately needs the help—and is paying for it—she (initially) can’t accept it when Viola offers to write a draft for her. She meets with Paige and seems like she’s 100% on her game. Kevin comes in to say hello to Kim, who he calls “a baby bird with a broken wing”—which was cringeworthy to me so I can only imagine Kim wasn’t thrilled to be referred to as a wounded infant animal. Is there anything so vulnerable as that? When Kevin extends his sympathies regarding Chuck to Kim and asks how Jimmy is handling things, he hits another vulnerable spot for Kim. Jimmy isn’t handling it at all and Kim is carrying the load of both his guilt and her own.

Kevin is a huge distraction for Kim and for Paige, who tries to get him out of the way so they can prepare for their noon meeting, but Kevin insists that Kim come take a look at something. The room full of models is certainly something beautiful. Kevin takes Kim on a tour through a laundry list of planned branches—many more than Kim was aware that they were planning. She learns, as she walks dazedly around the room, that Mesa Verde is planning on filing for a federal charter. It is interesting to note that it is after he shows her a model of the North Platte, Nebraska branch, that she stops paying full attention and retreats into her own head. The score is especially excellent in setting Kim’s mood here. At one point, she looks down into one of the models and it looks like she is behind bars. But if Kim feels trapped, as we are led to believe from the visuals here, it’s nobody’s fault but her own.

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Kim is starting to realize that her life is getting completely out of her control. She can’t represent Mesa Verde without help, and with a rapid federal expansion in the works, one paralegal isn’t going to be enough. She wanted to do it all on her own and prove to everyone else that she could, but that was an unrealistic, ego-driven plan. She doesn’t have the money to hire a full staff but failure is not an option after all the things that she and Jimmy did to get her here.

Jimmy is the only person that Kim will allow to help her, but Jimmy’s “help” always comes with a price. One way or another, she always suffers for his mistakes, but Kim Wexler is no victim. She knows exactly who Jimmy McGill is and she has made the choice, time and again, to stick with him. The Kim we met in Season 1 had lines in the sand that Season 4 Kim has crossed and then some. It’s easy to blame this on Jimmy, and he’s the catalyst for the majority of it, but Kim is nothing if not a strong, independent woman (much as I loathe that phrase) and she owns her mistakes. In this episode, we see her starting to see the forest for the trees and come to the realization that the prison she’s in is of her own design.

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After the meeting, Kim accepts help for once, telling Viola to do the draft. Kim knows she has to change her approach if she’s going to succeed, and that includes accepting help from the right people, but it might be too little and far too late.

With Mike giving him a hard no, Jimmy goes to the sketchy vet, Dr. Caldera, for help finding someone who will take the job. Caldera has trouble convincing the guy on the phone but Jimmy takes it and gets it done in no time, showing us yet again that he really is a gifted salesman. As Jimmy leaves, the Cousins arrive to enlist Dr. Caldera’s help in fixing up Nacho. We see the events from Nacho’s perspective, in and out of consciousness as Caldera works on him in the back of a vehicle on the way to a more secure location. Caldera is able to stabilize him, with the help of Marco who is giving blood directly from his vein to Nacho’s. While Caldera had to leave the bullet in and isn’t positive that Nacho doesn’t have more serious internal injuries, he seems to be okay for now. On his way out, Caldera whispers to Nacho that he never wants to see him again because he (understandably) wants nothing to do with the cartel.

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Jimmy’s man arrives at Neff Copiers and easily makes his way inside. We catch a glimpse of his face and, though it is dark, I recognized him but couldn’t place him. After a trip to IMDB, I discovered that the burglar is Ira, the guy who will run Vamonos Pest during the Breaking Bad timeline. Ira grabs the Bavarian Boy and makes the switch only to discover that Mr. Neff is in the office bathroom. He’s sleeping at the office after having pissed off his wife by giving her a vacuum cleaner as a gift—a Hoover Max Extract 60 Pressure Pro perhaps? Regardless of the type, men, take note: a vacuum cleaner is only an acceptable gift for your wife if you plan to be the one using it. Otherwise, stick with can’t-miss stuff like flowers, chocolate, and (if you know her taste) jewelry.

Ira is trapped under Neff’s desk, listening to him argue with his wife and order dipping sticks and a pizza (sliced, please) from that old Breaking Bad standard Venezia’s. When Neff leaves the room to get the pizza, Ira places a mayday call to Jimmy, who leaves Kim’s and goes down to Neff’s. Jimmy gets Neff’s attention by setting off his car alarm but he uses his key fob to switch it off from the door, not giving Ira the time or opportunity to escape. Jimmy has no choice but to push things a little further, breaking into the car and sending it on a little ghost ride through the parking lot while Ira slips out.

Gus receives a call from Juan Bolsa telling him about the Salamanca hit and Gus plays along, asking him what to do about the next shipment. Bolsa tells him to run dummy loads to test the waters before any actual product crosses the border. Gus tells Bolsa that they are going to run out of product in a week or so and Bolsa gives him the go ahead to find a local supplier while they sort out the situation. Gus knows that this is expressly against Don Eladio’s orders but Bolsa tells him to do it anyway. Gus hangs up and walks away with a sly smile on his face. Everything is falling into place.

Gus goes to a chemistry lab where, to my absolute delight, we find Gale Boetticher, alive and well and singing along to Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements” as he works. I’ve always loved Gale and I am so happy to see him back already. We knew Gale was in Gus’s orbit for a long while before the events of Breaking Bad and I’m thrilled that we get to see more of their relationship in Better Call Saul. We learn that Gus has asked Gale to test some samples and he has found that they are terrible quality. He makes it clear to Gus that he is willing and able to make much better product for him but Gus declines his offer—for now. He tells him he is “meant for better things,” which is just so painful to hear knowing what the future holds for Gale.

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Kim reads over Viola’s draft and has very few changes she wants made. Viola seems to be a good fit for her and definitely up to the task, which takes at least some of the pressure off Kim. Jimmy rises late after his late-night shenanigans, and Kim halfheartedly questions him about sleeping late but she’s got more pressing things on her mind. She’s decided that it’s time for her to have Jimmy settle his part of the estate but more importantly, it’s time for her to give Jimmy Chuck’s letter. Along with Kim’s realization that she’s taken on too much, I think she’s realized that she can’t carry the weight of Jimmy’s grief anymore. She tried to shield him from it and has allowed him to continue to repress his emotions without forcing the issue, but she can’t do it anymore. It is time for the both of them to move on from it, and I think she believes that Jimmy reading Chuck’s letter will be the thing that finally breaks him down—the catharsis he needs to begin to heal and move on with his life.

But that’s not what happens. Jimmy reads his brother’s words from beyond the grave as nonchalant as can be, between loud bites of cereal. The letter is undated, but from its appearance—a bit yellowed—and it’s contents, I would place it around the time Jimmy passed the Bar exam but before he told Chuck about it. Chuck begins by telling Jimmy that he doesn’t want to leave his thoughts unspoken, and Kim visibly braces herself for what she’s sure will be a litany of harsh truths. To her surprise, Chuck tells Jimmy about the joy he brought to their mother—something Chuck was always bitter about—and says he is glad of their mother’s love for her. As it becomes increasingly clear to Kim that this letter was written before things went south between the brothers McGill, she gets incredibly emotional and starts to cry while listening to Chuck’s expression of pride in his brother’s accomplishments in the mailroom at HHM and his belief that he will succeed in the future. Chuck ends his letter telling Jimmy he wishes to be remembered not just as his brother but as someone who was always in his corner.

The fact that Chuck basically cut Jimmy out of the will leads me to believe that he changed his will after their relationship deteriorated but actively decided not to change the letter he wrote. Since this is Chuck we’re talking about, there’s no way he forgot about it or its contents. I think he specifically left it as it was, even knowing that their relationship was destroyed, perhaps as a reminder to Jimmy of the person he once was. Whether this was a “screw you” designed to remind him how far he’d fallen or a last-ditch attempt to get him to turn things around, I don’t know, but I don’t believe that Chuck leaving this letter for Jimmy was an oversight on his part. Everything Chuck McGill did, he did with purpose.

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The letter has no visible effect on Jimmy, as Kim hoped it would. Instead, it is she who is profoundly affected by it. The combination of Jimmy’s absolute lack of emotion reading something that should have broken him down and the fact that Chuck is describing the Jimmy that Kim fell in love with is overwhelming to her. She has always seen Jimmy for who he is and loved him despite his flaws but this reminder—via Chuck, of all people—of the man that Jimmy could be compared to the stark reality of the man he currently is, proves too much for Kim to take. She’s not mourning Chuck here; she’s mourning Jimmy. We can see her coming to the realization that the Jimmy McGill she once knew is gone and he’s probably not coming back.


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Written by Ali Sciarabba

In addition to her position as TV Editor and Writer for 25YL, Ali Sciarabba is a freelance editorial consultant and author of numerous nonfiction reference books for middle school and high school students. In her spare time she enjoys obsessing over various television shows, especially Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. When not overanalyzing TV shows, she is wrangling her Corgi, Cassidy, who is inarguably the cutest dog that has ever existed.

2 Comments

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  1. Hi Ali! Once again, I’m so happy to have you post your article to Vince Gilligan is Awesome! I’m wondering whether to start a conversation in the group or to converse with you through this portal 🙂
    Once thing that gave me pause was Kim’s reaction while Kevin was showing the models to her. I like your thoughts on this, but my reaction was that she might also be thinking that this expansion was too fast, and they might not be ready for such a large commitment. It’s the downfall of many businesses to invest too fast. Or maybe she has a little trepidation about her ability to grow this fast; or was she amazed at the size of this expansion, and the prospects of a great career? I couldn’t read her reaction that well.
    Thanks so much for your insights! It’s so much easier to read your article than to watch an episode over and over, looking for every nuance…. like it looks like you do!

    • Hi Debbie! I agree that Kim probably has concerns about how quickly Kevin wants to move with the expansion. She’s definitely unsure of her ability to keep up with that amount of work as a solo practitioner but I think you’re right that part of that concern is that Mesa Verde may be trying to do too much too soon. Also, and I just thought of this while reading your comment, I think part of it may be that Kevin sprung this on her when it’s something they obviously had in the works (they had all the models done already). Maybe it’s just because she was out of commission for a while with her injuries but it seems like something that they would have known about/been planning for before then and just not mentioned to her. All things considered, that must have been incredibly overwhelming especially considering all the personal stuff she’s got going on.

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