Better Call Saul: Alpine Shepherd Boy

 Posted by on March 3, 2015 at 12:49 pm  Better Call Saul
Mar 032015

Better Call Saul: Alpine Shepherd Boy--Saul meets with the Hummel lady

Moxie is in such short supply these days.

Better Call Saul episode 1.05, Alpine Shepherd Boy, proves one thing. The conspiracy-seeking fans were wrong when they said all episode titles would end in “O”.

This was an exceptionally satisfying episode in terms of the ongoing story. It might not have been action-packed in terms of Story of the Week material, being almost entirely comedy, but in terms of deepening our understanding of Jimmy and Chuck, it was fantastic. Plus, without giving anything away to the spoiler-sensitive, previews for next week promise both more action and more back story on main characters. So far, so juicy!

So, we open exactly where last week left off, a Vince Gilligan trick that means Better Call Saul can run for ten seasons without ever catching up with Breaking Bad (which ran for five seasons, but lasted exactly two years in show-time). Suspicious Neighbor Lady sees Crazy Space Blanket Chuck steal her paper and leave five bucks. Naturally she calls the cops. That’s what Suspicious Neighbor Ladies do—fun neighborhood! And naturally the cops are assholes.

I want to secede from the United States.

Meanwhile, Jimmy McGill embarks on his adventures in lawyerhood. The first client, “Ricky,” was a pile of clichés and taxidermy. That whole routine was predictable, and not quite as funny as the writers imagined it. What was delightful, though, was the aplomb with which Jimmy managed the whole thing.

But the comedy really gets going with Roland J. Cox of the Talking Toilet. That was just hilarious. That was every bit as funny as it should have been. Ooh, that’s a big one. Give it all to me. HAHAHAHA! I loved it. Did you notice the shot from below, of Roland and Jimmy looking into the toilet as seen from inside the toilet, was a classic Breaking Bad shot, from inside the meth-cooking tank? HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Hey, you know what? I hope you do make a fortune. Chandlers going to need it to pay for his therapy!

And then we meet the Hummel Figurine Lady, from whom the episode gets its title. And here’s where there’s really so much insight. Take this scene, and then consider, too, the late-episode scene at the nursing home. Saul exactly tracked what Mrs. Hummel wanted in her will; he was better than she was at remembering who got what figurine under what insane set of circumstances. He was a good listener, and he was attentive. Not only that, but while giving Kim a pedicure, we heard him mock Toilet Roland, but not the old lady. We’re used to “Saul Goodman,” all bluster and blarney, but as we get to know Jimmy, we get to know that he has a part of himself that is genuine. He likes these elderly people. He likes Hummel Lady. He’s good at connecting with them. Sure, imitating the Matlock suit was pure showmanship, and hysterical, but it was also about making a connection with his chosen audience, and by God it worked.

Speaking of the genuine Jimmy, the more we learned about Chuck, the more we learned about how Jimmy feels about his big brother. Chuck, we learn, is “allergic” to electricity. Jimmy is sincerely protective of him. He may or may not understand Chuck’s illness as entirely psychosomatic, but he is solicitous of his feelings, and takes care of him because he cares about him. It’s also obvious that he feels guilty; he thinks he’s causing Chuck’s illness. Chuck certainly reinforces that by getting up to make the coffee as soon as Jimmy swears he’s on the up-and-up. The relationship is complex. But it’s good, at last, to see that there’s a real relationship there.

The hospital scene featured veteran character actor Clea Duvall, whom I adore. You know her as the invisible girl from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as a regular on Carnivale, and from a host of other shows. Has she had work done? Her face looks less unusual, more generically pretty, which is a shame. As the doctor, she had little to do; she was a generic exposition machine.

Finally, there’s Mike Ehrmantraut. I think we’re going to enjoy seeing Mike’s shift from cop to ticket-booth worker to working for Saul. This episode teased us, and next week, we get more, and I can’t wait. This show is definitely getting better or better.

By the way, have you noticed how very particular cars are on this show? This was true on Breaking Bad as well. Everyone’s car speaks volumes about them. Saul’s yellow piece of shit. Mike’s black classic sedan. Even the nurse(?) he spies on drives the ever-practical Subaru two-tone in a way that communicates just a bit about her.


  32 Responses to “Better Call Saul: Alpine Shepherd Boy”

  1. I believe that Mike is waiting outside his estranged daughter’s home. Setting up the relationship with his granddaughter in future episodes.

    • My thought as well.

    • In the comments audio track for Breaking Bad, it is revealed that the woman is Mike’s daughter in law – the episode where he gives her balloons in the afternoon and turns into the ultimate bad ass hit man at night. No explanation is given as to what happened to Mike’s son but we will find out in the next episode.

      I interpreted his stake out of his grand daughter’s home as being motivated by Mike’s need to protect them. My sense is he followed them to ABQ when they were relocated as part of a witness protection precaution.

  2. The closing silent sequence at the end following Mike was my favorite. It tells you so much about what his life is now: Sitting all night in that booth reading a book, eating his solitary breakfast at some diner, staking out his daughter’s house (I think that must be her, too). The silent exchange of looks between them. You get the feeling he does this every day, wanting some acknowledgement beyond that look. Going home to watch old movies. It’s no wonder her gives Jimmy a patented Mike-stare (even funnier and scarier than the talking sex toilet) when the subject of making his will is broached.

    • I can’t imagine he stalks his daughter daily. I mean, I’m guessing she called the cops, which means of necessity it was a one-off event. Maybe the arrival of the cops was separate.

      • I agree Deborah. These two incidents are not related. They are intended to lead you to a logical conclusion only to swerve our character into another path. Its clear Mike knows the man who is at his door and he’s from somewhere far away. He’s accompanied by ABQ Police. Trouble is brewing for Mike. Does this trouble push him from his quiet life as a parking attendant, which is eerily like Saul/Jimmy’s post BB life managing a Cinnabon in Nebraska?
        The theme continues – events and actions have unexpected outcomes.
        We know from BB that Mike in the future has a strong sense of providing for his granddaughter hence all of the attempts to funnel his ill gotten money to her. I suspect these scenes are foreshadowing Mike’s motivation for the future support he wishes to offer.

      • Without getting “spoilerish,” I suspect we got a small hint in the preview, about what went down in Philadelphia and its negative impact on Mike’s family.

        If I had to guess about Mike’s motivation for sitting in his car outside his daughter’s house, I’d say that it’s an attempt to reach out to his daughter, in order to be able to resume seeing his granddaughter again. Of course, as with everything BB or BCS related, I don’t think that repairing a severe breach in the Ehrmantraut clan, is going to be anywhere near that simple.

      • I don’t think she called the cops. If she had, the Philly cop that Mike recognized couldn’t possibly have gotten there so fast. She didn’t seem shocked or surprised to see him there, just pained. That’s what made me think this was part of Mike’s daily routine: Work, eat, wait to see if my daughter (or, rather, daughter-in-law. Thanks for the info, Frank Bullitt.) will let me see my granddaughter, go home and watch TCM (good catch, tilden katz. The movie he was watching was “The Awful Truth.”).

        Is the presence of Mike’s family the reason he’s in Albequerque in the first place? Once he became a pariah in Philadelphia, maybe he figured he would move close to family, even if they want nothing to do with him either.

  3. I too thought it was his daughter and thought she might call the cops on him.

  4. I wonder if the classic Saul look comes from working with the color-blind.

  5. Clea Duvall was lookin kinda babed-up in Argo, as well.
    How that won Best Picture over Lincoln………ahhh, whatever.
    Does the ‘birth’ of S’all good man the famous attorney actually kill Chuck? If Jimmy suspects that his shenanigans are what really throw his brother into Rod Serving territory, then how does he pull that off? Without the fear of damaging Chuck further?
    Does Chuck have to die in order for Jimmy to go balls to the wall?
    Love that the brothers have a deep connection to each other.
    I felt as though I was watching my relationship with my older brother/best friend.
    Good, good stuff.

    Does Mike watch anything besides TCM?

    • I don’t think Jimmy has to kill off Chuck. If he does die, I’m betting it’ll probably be as a result of him falling victim to the worst possible nightmare scenario that could happen to someone with his condition/phobia/disease. Right now, I can’t say specifically what that might be, but given the creative minds behind BCS, I expect it to be nothing short of magnificent!

      If I’m correct, whatever it is, it will make for great television. I mean, these are the folks who brought us “Face Off,” so it things play out for Chuck the way I’m thinking, it should be simply electric.

      • Worst possible nightmare scenario (for Chuck) = Having Percy (from the Green Mile) as his executioner

  6. Regarding some minutae:

    I’m surprised Jimmy hasn’t added a nice used car to his spruced up wool pinstripe suit and mother-of-pearl buttons. I told my son those figurines were Hummels (never having heard of Humboldts).

    Coming from the Electric Utility industry, I know of one poor lady who obsessed over the pole-mounted transformer (essentially a black can) within view from her apartment. It seems (and Gilligan believes) that Chuck’s “allergy” is entirely psycho-somatic – but real enough to the sufferer.

    • Thanks for the correction on the spelling of Hummel. I went from memory and had it wrong. I’ll fix it.

      • Both exist and are indistinguishable to my untutored eye. The scene is fun to watch again – when Jimmy snatched his fee from his eldery client – that was as good for a belly laugh just now. My son and I were chatting over the dialog – he’d asked whether the dead can place conditions over the living like that. When the lady mined her purse I (and Jimmy) half expected that he’d have to take payment in figurines.

  7. Don’t miss the David Segal review in the NYT:

    The comments identify some locations that were in Breaking Bad, (esp the nursing home). Someone has seen Jesse’s initials. So far they cannot identify the movie Mike was watching.

  8. Random thought.

    Is it me, or does the week seem to go faster with BCS, a Monday-to-Monday show, as opposed to MM or BB, Sunday-to-Sunday shows? It may just be my imagination, but the time really does seem to just fly by.

  9. Excellent recap, and enjoyed all the insightful comments, now my 2 cents.

    Loved this episode, liked the character development. We now know we were right about poor Chuck, yet his pain and panic are very real. We saw Jimmy’s strong devotion to his brother, frantically trying to keep electricity away from Chuck. He obviously feels guilt about Chuck’s condition, we’ll just have to wait for the reason why.

    At the hospital I like how he asked Kim what she would do about Chuck, and that she didn’t sugar-coat it.

    Then here came power-walking Howard down a hospital corridor because he doesn’t want Jimmy to have his brother committed, and cash him out of the firm …and though Jimmy will end up doing what’s best for Chuck, right now he just wants to take him home where he’ll be comfortable … ‘I want to go home’ …

    Sorry, but I’m developing a major crush on Jimmy … described somewhere as somewhat hokey, sleazy, sweet, and gruff. Yes that and lots more, I like how he treats people, especially women.

    This ep was so much fun. I’d barely got my breath back from laughing at looney Yosemite Sam with his face on all the money … then the hilarious talking potty – ‘Give it to me, Chandler. I want it all!’ – and I giggled again when here comes the Hummel lady, so slowly on the stair chair and then the interminable Tim Conway shuffle.

    Though he looked at his watch, I like how Jimmy was nice to her, how he play-flirted back with her – ‘you do a DNR and I’ll bring the pineapple and the blender – and he was patient with her, trying to make sure the Tow-Headed Twins or the Lute-Playing Angel went to the right family member.

    I like how he talks to Kim – ‘leave that place, you’re smart, find someone who’ll appreciate you, who cares for you” (hmm, wonder who?) … and I enjoyed the back-and-forth during the pedicure, him describing the talking toilet and doing schtick to make her laugh …had the makin’s of some good foreplay …alas, interrupted by a phone call.

    I like how she secretly smiles behind Howard’s back as he berates Jimmy.

    Loved watching Jimmy in his new Matlock suit, slip-slidin’ gracefully around those old folk … mouth going a mile a minute. Jimmy is a talker, a showman, a salesman, can spin a tale …that’s what he’s good at, that’s why he’s a lawyer.

    Yep, a major crush .. on the kind my mama always warned me about …

    We’ll have to wait until next week to find about Mike’s sad life …night shift at the parking lot, solo diner breakfast, sitting across the street hoping to get a glimpse of his dead son’s baby daughter (IIRC). Maybe Mom has a restraining order and called the cops … but then, those who came to his door were from far away …..

    BTW – the writer of Alpine Shepherd Boy is Bradley Paul – the first non-Breaking Bad writer to pen an episode of BCS. Good job Bradley, it still had all the right flavors, but with a personality all it’s own funny self. Everyone I know loves this show.

  10. […] me quickly apologize to any fan I insulted when I doubted, last week, that episode titles are all one word (or hyphenated phrase, I guess) ending in “o”. […]

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