Monday, September 24, 2018

REVIEW: 'Better Call Saul' - Jimmy and Kim Put on an Epic Performance to Help Huell in 'Coushatta'

AMC's Better Call Saul - Episode 4.08 "Coushatta"

Jimmy goes to great lengths to right a wrong, as Kim pulls out all the stops for a case. Mike lets his team blow off steam. Nacho receives a visitor.

Kim was hit with a moment of inspiration for how to help Huell avoid going to jail at the end of the previous episode. She was upset with Jimmy for hiding this completely separate part of his life from her. And now, she finds herself having to defend someone in court who isn't her typical client. She may not be able to help Huell in the same way she has helped her criminal defendants in the past. It may be up to Jimmy to figure out some kind of shady maneuvering in order to defame the arresting officer in order to help Huell avoid jail time. That was the fate that Kim knew she was setting up for Jimmy when she came out of her first meeting with the prosecutor. She knew that the opposition was over-reaching with the sentence they wanted for Huell. But she was really struggling to find a lesser sentence that actually worked for her client. She was telling that to Jimmy when he inferred that he was about to do something less than savory. That's what forced that moment of inspiration. She had to act quickly in order to keep Jimmy from doing something he would soon regret. His suspension from the law was over. He is just days away from being able to get his law license back. He can restart his career again. Now is not the time for him to backslide. So instead, Kim picked up a bunch of craft supplies. It wasn't clear in the moment what she was planning on doing. It just presented itself as a better way to conduct business. Here, the show is still cryptic about the plan. The show enjoys the moment of just seeing Jimmy put these crafts to good use. It's slow to reveal that extent of the plan. Once it's clear though, it's so ingenious and proves that both of them are crafty and capable individuals. It keeps Jimmy from going down the dark path of becoming Saul Goodman. And yet, the conclusion of this story also presents a damning case against Kim and highlights her own dark trajectory in the story.

The action starts off this week with Jimmy getting on a bus to an unknown destination. That's what his office becomes. He is spread out over two seats just writing on post cards and letters. He is assembling mail. It's a tiring effort. He spends all day and night doing it. He ensures that no one can sit down next to him. Sure, he seems considerate in the moment. But he's also manipulative in saying that he ate food that caused an extreme amount of gas. It's also fascinating to watch him actually assemble a small work force on this bus. He is able to incentivize this project. He asks other people for help. He gives them letters to right out as well. The sheer magnitude of the project is impressive. Each letter has to be different. It's all in an effort to make it seem like there is an outpouring of support or concern. The context of the letters isn't revealed in this moment though. It's all being shrouded in secrecy even though the audience is aware that it has to connect back to Huell's case somehow. Right now, it's simply more important to see all of this effort being done by Jimmy to help his friend. Moreover, he creates a system where he can pay people for the work that they are doing. It helps differentiate the handwriting to make it seem like more than one person is writing all of these notes. He is careful in telling them that they need to be different. The same pen can't be used more than a couple of times. And then, Jimmy reaches his destination. It's not something notable or noble. It is just Coushatta, Louisiana. It doesn't seem like anything. But this is the spot where he stops and mails off all of these letters. It's then that he heads back home to see the fallout of his actions.

Throughout all of this, Kim is continuing her work to make it seem like Huell's case is the most important one she is working on. She deceives the prosecutor into believing that she has a full team of associates who will also be assisting her. It's not just some case that she is doing pro bono. It's one that she will drag out for as long as possible in order to uncover every single aspect of what happened that day between Huell and the police officer. She wants to file requests for the officer's complete file and the delay to review all of the information. To the prosecutor, it just seems like a traditional tactic in order to bully her into submission. It's something that she has seen before. She's not going to back down because she is willing to call Kim out on her bluff. She doesn't see the likelihood of Huell being able to afford this kind of law firm to represent him with this case. She is probably right to believe so. But this isn't the way that she's being deceived. It's just the performance Kim is putting on to ensure that more suspicion doesn't befall her as soon as the true scope of her plan comes to submission. All of these letters have been mailed to the judge presiding over the case. He has been bombarded with requests to toss the case from Huell's hometown community where he has strong roots. He sees it as nothing more than a nuisance. He wants the two sides to reach an agreement with this case so that his office isn't full with all of the mail telling him to do the right thing. He can't take it after just one delivery day. That's probably the scope of all that there was going to be because Jimmy mailed all of the letters at once. But it's also a damning pile of evidence that proves that there is so much more going on with this case.

It's then when Jimmy puts on his performance once more. He understands that the letters wouldn't be enough in order to convince the prosecutor to go easy on Huell. So, he decides to put his own spin on the deception as well. Kim came up with the letters. It was a form of attack that highlighted her organizational and crafting skills. Meanwhile, Jimmy's help comes from his recent success with selling phones that can't be traced. He sets up all of these numbers under the belief that the prosecutor's office will call and try to speak with many people about why they believe so fiercely in Huell's innocence. At first, it seems like she will get nothing but answering machines. But that too would be very suspicious. So instead, Jimmy creates a system in which he has an assembly line of phones waiting to go off and be answered. He only put phone numbers in a handful of the letters. He has created a system in which he can continue to deceive the prosecutor simply by making a more personal connection. It's one thing to see this evidence of love. It's another thing entirely when she is on the phone with someone talking about the many good deeds Huell has done in his life. He's not the thug that she and the police have painted him to be. But it's all just a trick. Jimmy is able to expertly play her. He has built this system of phones. He has created a fake webpage for the church that seems to have gotten all this attention onto Huell's case. And then, he poses as the preacher who is able to tell the prosecutor everything she needs to know. Sure, he lays it on pretty thick as well with the idea that Huell is a hero in the local community because he rescued a group of elderly ladies from a fire in the church rectory. But it's still a manipulation that works. He builds sympathy for Huell to the point where Kim is able to negotiate just four months on probation for him. That's a massive win considering what they were up against.

But it's just as powerful to see the fallout of all of this deception. Jimmy believes it's the thing that has done irreparable damage to his relationship with Kim. He may never be able to win her back again. He fooled her and forced her to compromise her ethics after building a successful career for herself. He is even comforted by Mrs. Nguyen about how to win back the best thing that has ever happened to him. Kim is that important. That's what makes it so surprising when Kim is immediately willing to fall back into a loving and sexual routine with Jimmy. She kisses Jimmy after all of this pays off. It's a rush of adrenaline. It's a high that is so intoxicating. It's so much more exciting than the work that she is doing with Mesa Verde. Kevin and Paige come in for a meeting. The most exciting aspect of that is Kevin's suggestion of making a building redesign for the upcoming expansion into Wyoming. It's something he believes can still happen because of the success of a particular design in one of the new banks. But it's not feasible because it would lead to at least a two month delay. Of course, all of this is speculation about a project that is still at least a year and a half into the future. It's the team just being very optimistic about their growing success with this rollout plan. They are doing everything to ensure it keeps moving according to schedule. This is the work that pays for so much of Kim's life and her career. These are her most valuable clients. And now, she has a team that is willing to help her succeed. She has that benefit now. But she's not as excited about it anymore. Instead, she is full of so much excitement and energy after pulling off this trick with Jimmy. She wants to do it again which is such a stark moment. Usually, Jimmy is the bad influence because he is always pulling Kim into some kind of shady situation. And now, he's the one apologizing for potentially jeopardizing her career. He knows he shouldn't have asked it of her. He will try to make up for it. And yet, Kim wants to do it again. That's surprising. She got a taste of this lifestyle from Jimmy. Her encouraging it even more may make the relationship stronger in the short term. But it's also bound to end in tragedy because of the extent of the many ways it could destroy their respective careers.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Coushatta" was written by Gordon Smith and directed by Jim McKay.
  • Nacho makes his debut following the time jump. Right now, things have largely returned to normal for him. He's the one continuing to run the Salamanca operation. He's the person sitting in the power position as the cash is brought in for the week. He's the one responsible for intimidating people into submission. He is still completely willing to tear out a gauge from a guy's ear because he is short on the money. That shows he's still dangerous.
  • Of course, Nacho is still plotting his escape from this life as well. It has afforded him a new lifestyle as well. He has this luxurious mansion where he's living now. He has two women just staying with him willing to do whatever he wants. They seem strung out on drugs though. Meanwhile, he has his own pile of cash he's storing away. He has also made fake passports for himself and his father in order to run when the time is right. That time just hasn't come yet.
  • Moreover, Nacho is dealing with a new threat from the Salamanca family. The episode ends with him coming to the base of operations and seeing someone new in the kitchen. He doesn't know who this guy is or what he wants. He believes he's in danger. Instead, the guy introduces himself as Lalo, a Salamanca representative who is good with numbers and has come to check up on the operation in the area.
  • There was the full expectation that Kai would be the construction worker who would cause a problem for Mike and Gus with this secret operation. And yes, he does cause trouble by getting too handsy with one of the strippers at the club Mike sends the guys to. But it's actually Werner, the foreman, who talks too much once he gets drunk. As such, he could be the way that this operation is now compromised.
  • Sure, Mike confronts Werner as well to ensure that he doesn't make a mistake like this again. He makes sure the magnitude of the error is properly felt. Even though they have become good friends over the last few months, Mike is very clear about this being a problem. Of course, he still vouches for Werner when talking Gus through everything that is causing delays at the job site right now. Him doing so could ensure a tragic ending to this story though.