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Better Call Saul: Season 2, Episode 8 – Fifi Review

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★★★★

It goes without saying that there are spoilers in this review, so don't end up looking like one of Slippin' Jimmy's marks.

It's one step forward and two steps back for Kim this week, yet we start nowhere near New Mexico, and instead track an ice cream truck as it's pulled over while crossing the Mexican border into the US. After some checks by border control, the vehicle is allowed on its way, but after driving for some distance, the driver stops, hops out and retrieves a gun from a hiding place under a rock in the desert. He leaves a lollipop stick behind in the dirt, which joins several others showing this is a regular operation. Sneaky, but not the sneakiest thing we'll see this episode.

After the credits, we find Jimmy and Kim celebrating their plan to go solo at a low-rent hot dog stand called Dog House. Jimmy promises that once they're up and running, the meals will improve and implores Kim to put her resignation letter into Howard Hamlin's office that night so she can call Mesa Verde early and hold on to their business. But, as she reminds him, that's not how she intends to practice law.

Next morning, Kim meets with Howard in his office and while he's not surprised she's resigning, he is a little speechless when she tells him she's setting up her own firm instead of going with the offer at Schweikart. He figures Jimmy had something to do with, especially after McGill quit Davis & Main. And while Kim offers to pay off her student debts, Howard demurs, calling it their gift to her for all her hard work. She thanks him and leaves, hearing him call Mesa Verde the minute she's the other side of his office door. Sprinting through the HHM building, Kim makes it to her own office, where she calls Paige at Mesa and tells her the news about her new position, while also checking they're still on for a lunch meeting.

Mike is spending another night staking out the ice cream cafe where he met Tio. All seems quiet and calm, but then Tio pulls up in a car after the cafe closes and goes into the back. Mike makes a note.

At her lunch meeting with Kevin and Paige from Mesa Verde the next day, Kim is on top form, soothing their concerns about her one-woman law firm's ability to handle the bank's merger with a metaphor about tailored suits that wins Kevin over. When she's done. Kim excitedly heads to see Jimmy at the office they're considering renting. It' used to be a dentists' offices, but aside from the implication of pain and suffering, would appear to be perfect for their needs. Kim tells Jimmy the news that Mesa looks to be a sure thing and he's delighted for her. They share a kiss and Kim agrees to rent the office space. Can they keep the dentist's chairs? Seems right for a law office, after all...

Chuck is at home when Howard comes to deliver the news that Mesa Verde's business, which only just walked in to HHM's offices is now about to walk out again with Kim. Howard asks for advice, but Chuck seems willing to go one better – he suits up and says he'll be there for the meeting. He shrugs off Howard's concern by saying all the lights should be on and everyone can keep their phones: this will be as normal as possible.

Yet when we find Chuck at the office, he's swathed in his space blanket, fending off the waves of electromagnetism. When Ernesto tells him that Kevin and Paige have arrived, he ditches it and goes to the meeting where in a display of just how cunning and charming he can be, he uses the idea that he and Howard are old and out of date to somehow spin the Mesa duo on their reliability. Quoting facts, figures and necessary information, Chuck's working all the angles, and he's incredibly convincing. This might be the sneakiest thing we've seen all episode.

Once the meeting is over, it's a different matter: exposure to his electromagnetic kryptonite has taken a toll on Chuck and he nearly collapses in the lobby. Ernesto is summoned to take him home.

Jimmy, meanwhile, is back up to his old tricks on, we can only assume, the Sandpiper case. He's wheeling an old geezer in a chair towards a World War II bomber on an airfield with an air force escort. He's brought the still-unnamed camera and sound guys who helped him shoot his commercial (Josh Fadem and Julian Bonfiglio), along, and they're posing as the old war veteran's grandsons. While they're seemingly there to let the "veteran" visit a plane of the type he once flew, when the military guide goes to fetch them some water, the elderly veteran hops out of the chair and the four begin to shoot a video. So much for the sickly Theodore "Fudge" Talbot... In the middle of shooting, Jimmy gets a phone call from Ernesto to tell him about Chuck collapsing at work. He tells him to deal with it and is then concerned to see the airman and several other uniformed types approaching. Have they been rumbled? False alarm! They just want a picture with the "war hero" and Fifi the plane, which gives the episode its title.

When Jimmy arrives at his potential future office, he finds a disconsolate Kim. Turns out Chuck's big pitch won the Mesa Verde business back to HHM. She's not sure she can afford to co-sign the lease on the office, but Jimmy assures her they'll get through it together.

Mike is still on Tio's case and follows the gang leader to an out-of-the-way junkyard and chop shop for more observation. Soon, the ice cream truck we saw earlier pulls up and backs into one of the garages. Mike scoffs from his car in a way that suggests he's figured out what they're up to.

Jimmy heads to Chucks, where he relieves Ernesto of duty watching over his brother. And he spots the Mesa Verde documents that Chuck had been intending to work on. As a montage kicks in, we follow Jimmy rifling through the files, making notes and then heading to a copy shop where he demands supplies. Soon, we see what he's up to: he's carefully crafting copies of the documents with doctored addresses so it'll look like HHM (and by extension Mesa Verde) have made mistakes and get into trouble. We take it all back – this is the sneakiest act of the episode. We'd note that a full version of the show's theme plays over Jimmy's actions, including vocals. It's the closest he's come to Saul Goodman yet.

After slipping the doctored documents into Chuck's files, Jimmy falls asleep in a chair in the living room. When Chuck wakes up the next afternoon, Jimmy is there to offer him some food and water. They discuss Chuck swiping Mesa Verde's business back, but Chuck doesn't want to fight. He just appreciates Jimmy being there to care for him. If only he knew...

Mike is looking after Kaylee for the afternoon until Stacey comes to collect here. Kaylee and her grandfather had – according to him, at least - been drilling holes in a hose to create a soaker for the plants in his garden. But later that evening, we see Mike had a different plan in mind for the hose, and is pushing nails into the holes as he watches His Girl Friday. We fade to black before we see what he does with the altered hose, but that looks awfully like it could be used to ruin the tyres on a truck...

Mike's homemade stinger seems fitting in an episode where it's all about undermining people. We get Howard and Chuck undercutting Kim's attempt to take their new client and then Jimmy's masterful scheme to damage HHM in return. It is something of a connective episode – you know we'll have to wait for the payoff – yet that's what Better Call Saul is able to do so well. It's amazing that scenes with the pace of an indie movie that could be frustrating on the big screen are somehow inherently watchable in the hands of this team. Evidence this week? The truck going through the motions at customs. What. A. Shot. Breaking Bad was always known for its visual ingenuity, but that Touch Of Evil-inspired opening (kudos to writer Tom Schnauz, cinematographer Arthur Albert and director Larysa Kondracki) proved the Saul team still knows their stuff visually, creating a magical moment from the semmingly mundane.

Acting-wise, the episode really belongs to Bob Odenkirk, Michael McKean and Rhea Seehorn as they jockey for position on their various cases. Odenkirk and Seehorn are always good together and it's nice to see McKean let off the leash to show Chuck's devastating professional side. The Mike plot is a little less substantial this week, but Jonathan Banks is watchable even when he's just on a stakeout. Things are really coming to a head and with just two more episodes to go, expect some big events in the coming weeks.

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