How often do you see those two words paired together to describe Jimmy McGill? It’s a combination more along the lines of oil and water than chocolate and peanut butter. But if only for one week, Better Call Saul allowed Jimmy to have his celebratory cake and eat it too.
Some undetermined amount of time ago, while he’s nothing more than a mailroom employee at Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill, Jimmy reveals the stunning news to his brother Chuck that he’s passed the Bar Exam, after years of secretly taking night and weekend courses. “Distance learning,” as they call it. Chuck’s initial skepticism quickly gives way to pride in his brother’s accomplishments — but nothing Chuck can do can get in the way of the horrible Howard Hamlin, who takes a slice of Jimmy’s congratulatory cake seconds before taking the wind out of his sails: Jimmy’s plan to get hired as an HHM attorney is simply not going to work out, Howard says.
But who needs HHM when you have a thriving career in elder law? In the show’s early 2000s present, Jimmy continues moving forward on his new path, crafting wills for the kindly old folks at the Sandpiper Crossing assisted living facility for $140 a pop — unless his clients only happen to have $40 and change on their person, that is. Initially annoyed about being shortchanged, Jimmy pieces together something unusual about the reason his client is coming up short; apparently, she only earns $500 a month in allowance money from Sandpiper, with the rest of her pension and social security money going straight to Sandpiper for their costs. “It’s all very above board,” explains sweet Mrs. Landry, and you just know she believes it.
Jimmy doesn’t believe it. A con man knows a con when he sees it. Closer inspection of monthly invoices from Sandpiper employees to Sandpiper residents reveals a clear pattern that the facility is overcharging for items like toilet paper and tissue boxes — “nothing huge, but it adds up to real money,” Jimmy tells brother Chuck. Chuck, even in his electricity-averse condition, concurs with his brother’s assessment. Something smells about this whole situation.
Indeed, he has no idea just how smelly the situation’s about to get. Jimmy tries to confront Sandpiper directly on what they’re doing, resulting in the employees shredding pivotal documents, and Jimmy getting banned from visiting the facility. Later that night, Jimmy literally dumpster-dives for the information, braving foul stenches and bathing in geriatric diaper juice in order to find the shredded proof he needs. As it happens, the info he needs is housed in a clean-as-a-whistle recycling bin just around the corner; even the words “Congratulations, Jimmy!” can’t come without some measure of garbage and grime.
After pulling an all-nighter to put the shreds together, Jimmy finally succumbs to sleep in the morning. While he rests, Chuck works overtime, revealing his own lawyerly super-powers as he not only restores the documents, but also manages to find “the smoking gun.” More on that in a minute, but for now, the even bigger headline is that Chuck is back in action, and eager to partner up with his little brother on the case.
Not everyone is excited about Chuck’s resurgence, however. Jimmy calls up his friend-with-legal-benefits-if-not-other-benefits Kim at HHM and has her print thousands of relevant case files, using Chuck’s still active code. Kim is happy to return the favor to Jimmy, since he helped her keep her job after the Kettleman catastrophe. But she’s not so happy to hear that Chuck is working, and potentially violating terms of his partnership at HHM. Her displeasure goes unnoticed by Jimmy, but is it something that ought to be on his, and our, radar?
But those are fears for another day. For now, it’s all about the win. Jimmy and Chuck manage to set up a meeting with Sandpiper attorney Rick Schweikart, and all but laugh in the face of his initial offer of a $100k settlement. They have the smoking gun: proof that Sandpiper’s been purchasing surgical needles from Nebraska, indicating that they have an immense RICO case on their hands. The bombshell puts enough fear into Schweikart that you can imagine he has something substantial to contribute to the Sandypiper dumpster’s diaper pile, but not enough that he bites when Chuck comes out with an outrageous demand: “Twenty. Million. Dollars. Or we’ll see you in court!”
For now, it looks like there’s going to be a trip to court, or at least another attempt at a settlement, in Jimmy and Chuck’s future. For now, at least, Chuck is up to the task. For once, things are not only looking up for Jimmy, but also legit. For weeks, Jimmy has promised his brother that his Slipping Jimmy days are behind him, and if only for today, we believe him. For though he has only looked like Matlock in the recent past, he’s now acting the part as well.
But for how long? One of these days, the name “Jimmy McGill” will be a thing of the past. This is a man who is not only on a collision course with Saul Goodman, but also Cinnabon Manager Gene. The noble cause of today will be a distant memory by the time a mustachioed “Gene” will be watching his own hype videos, half-cocked on booze and full-cocked on nostalgic depression. How soon until Jimmy’s path toward that outcome changes from leisurely strut to full-tilt sprint? The fact that Chuck himself so boldly strides outside without any regard for his ailment, and eventually seems to freeze in panic upon realizing his surroundings, should be more than enough indication that the “Congratulations, Jimmy” days of today will soon give way to the “Condolences, Gene” days of tomorrow.