Rapid Reaction: Episode 302 – “Witness”

Quick-Cap

Witness’s cold open focuses on Chuck’s new routine. Before going to bed, he checks the locks on both his doors and windows, he also peers out of the occasional window. Additionally, Chuck has a house guest, someone we haven’t seen before and won’t learn more about until episode’s end. The two make idle chit chat about retired casino playing cards before Chuck officially turns in.

When the episode returns from its first commercial, we are treated to the sneak peak scene that was released earlier in the week. After which, Mike continues his pursuit of the man who placed a tracker on his car. This trip makes three stops, one at an overpass on a vacant highway, the second at some sort of abandoned factory, and finally one at a large water run off pipe. The money being collected at each spot implies that these are dead drop locations. Mike follows this man through the early morning hours, when he stops at a crowded store front and enters. As Mike drives away the camera pulls out revealing the exact location, Los Pollos Hermanos.

Jimmy works on the new mural for his and Kim’s office when a young women enters to interview for their paralegal/receptionist position. Fans of Breaking Bad will recognize her as Saul Goodman’s receptionist, Francesca. During her interview it is revealed she worked for the DMV (which was referenced in Breaking Bad) and has no prior legal experience. Kim is hesitant about bringing her on, but Jimmy recognizes her people skills and forces the issue. Next, Jimmy trains her to work the phones, he tells her to sound cheery, make it personal, and to always call him Jimmy. Within a few minutes Francesca has it down to a science; a science which includes constantly referencing the weather and Cracker Barrel. She then takes a call from someone who doesn’t have time for her peppy nonsensical small talk, Mike. Jimmy takes a call and the two arrange a meeting.

Francesca (Tina Parker), Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) and Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) in Episode 2 Photo by Michele K. Short/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

Mike needs Jimmy to pose as a customer and find out what’s going on in Los Pollos Hermanos, a plan which Jimmy goes along with. After ordering a meal (which only costs $3.19, ahhh the early-2000s) Jimmy glances nervously around the restaurant, waiting for the man to enter. After he does, and orders a meal of his own, Jimmy follows him to get a closer look. At this point, those with a keen eye can see an out-of-focus Gus Fring sweeping the floor. As Gus passes by, the man stands up and walks out, seemingly haven’t done anything but eat.

I have two theories here. The first being that Gus swept up whatever was being dropped off as he walked by, and the second being that Gus noticed Jimmy spying and called off the exchange. Let me know what you guys thought. Jimmy thinks that the drop was left in the garbage for future collection and begins to root around the trash, before being interrupted by Gus. Jimmy claims that his reasoning for looking in the trash was to retrieve a watch, Gus plays along and digs it out for him and the two exchange pleasantries. It was during this scene that I realized, I don’t think Gus and Saul were ever in a Breaking Bad scene together. Correct me if i’m wrong on that though.

Gustavo “Gus” Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) in Episode 2 Photo by Michele K. Short/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

Jimmy then reports his findings to Mike without mentioning his talk with Gus, he likely saw it as an unrelated exchange. After Mike dismisses Jimmy, we see Gus sweeping the parking lot and eventually look up with his classic emotionless stare. Nothing gets by Gus, especially not a nervous Jimmy McGill who was clearly spying on his man. Mike continues to watch the Los Pollos Hermanos and take notes. Eventually, someone peels into the rear of the restaurant and leaves in a matter of seconds. That someone is Breaking Bad alum Victor, of Box Cutter infamy, who was likely picking up the dead drop money.

Back at Wexler-McGill, Kim takes a call from Ernie who reveals to her that Chuck has a recording of Jimmy’s admission. Kim returns to the office flustered and pulls Jimmy away from a client to break the news. However, before doing so, Kim makes Jimmy give her a dollar so that she is officially on retainer as his lawyer. This was yet another reference to Breaking Bad in an episode that was chock full of them. In season two of Breaking Bad, Saul pulls this same maneuver with Walt and Jesse, I’m glad to know that he was thinking of her all those years later.

Once on retainer, Kim alerts Jimmy to the existence of the tape, she notes that it likely won’t hold up, that it can be discredited, and that Mesa Verde won’t care. All of that falls on deaf ears as Jimmy is visibly distraught about his brother’s latest betrayal. Later, Kim lets Jimmy know that she’s been asking former professors of hers who have confirmed her beliefs about the tape. However, what’s more important in this scene is that Jimmy is rolling painters tape off the wall in the same manner that Chuck taught him. After Kim has left, and he realizes what he’s doing, Jimmy rips the rest of the tape away.

Mike continues his tracking mission, this time to a new location: the middle of nowhere. As the camera pans down, it’s revealed that this was a setup, the gas cap is in the middle of the road with a cellphone on top. The phone rings, and a beaten Mike answers, “yep.”

Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) in Episode 2 Photo by Michele K. Short/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

In the next scene we finally learn why Howard was hoping fencers in the trailer. The answer, for Chuck, who doesn’t want Jimmy to see that anyone is there. In their conversation, it’s revealed that HHM has been putting resources into Chuck’s plan, which Howard wants to tone down.

Before they can reach an agreement, Jimmy begins knocking at the door. Chuck refuses to let him in so Jimmy opts to kick the door in. Once inside Jimmy confronts Chuck about the tape, eventually breaking into the desk where the tape recorder is hidden and destroying it. Jimmy even delivers the gut punch “no wonder Rebecca left you.” However the gut punch doesn’t land, Jimmy has played right into Chuck’s hands. In short the plan was to have Ernie hear the recording, knowing that he’ll tell Jimmy and then wait for him to break in and destroy the tape. All that he needed were witnesses, explaining the man he hired to stay at his home. Both this man and Howard claim to have witnessed what happened here when prompted by Chuck.

The irony isn’t lost on us. Chuck doesn’t respect Jimmy’s scheming when in fact, he’s just as much of a schemer. Regardless, Chuck sees himself in the moral right, and that’s all the justification he needs.

Favorite Moment

As much as we loved all the Breaking Bad callbacks, our favorite moment was without a doubt the episode’s final scene. By the time we realized what Chuck’s plan was, Jimmy had fallen into it. Speaking of Jimmy, Bob Odenkirk absolutely crushes the scene; the raw emotion and tension had us on the edge of our seats. While we knew Jimmy loves his brother and craves his approval, Odenkirk is able to sell the pain and betrayal that Jimmy feels so perfectly. Finally, to add insult to injury, Chuck was counting on his brother’s emotions getting the better of him. It’s at this point that I felt comfortable in declaring Chuck the villain of Better Call Saul.

Meaning Behind the Title

We may have correctly called a few Breaking Bad cameos, but we were dead wrong in this respect. Earlier in the week we theorized that Ernie would be the episode’s titular witness. Instead, that honorific went to Howard Hamlin and the unnamed card player. At the end of the episode’s final scene, both declare that they will act as witnesses to what Jimmy has done.

Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) and Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) in Episode 2 Photo by Michele K. Short/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

Next Week

Better Call Saul returns next Monday at 10/9c on AMC with “Sunk Costs”. Make sure to check in with Call Saul Now throughout the week for news and rumors about the episode! After tonight’s episode, it’s gonna be a loooong week.