"Pimento" is the ninth episode of the first season of Better Call Saul and the ninth episode of the series altogether. Chuck wants Jimmy to accept a harsh truth; Mike's ability to complete a job is questioned.
A short while after Chuck McGill surprised both Jimmy McGill and himself by leaving his house without wearing a space blanket, the brothers sit quietly together on a park bench. It's a momentous day for Chuck. He tries to relax and enjoy the sunshine, but keeps glancing nervously at the power lines overhead. Jimmy redirects his brother's attention to the soft grass, successfully encouraging Chuck to take off his shoes. Finally reaching his limit, Chuck tells Jimmy that he's ready to go inside and get back to work building a case against Sandpiper Crossing. He rises and walks gingerly back toward his house, buoyant Jimmy at his side.
In Stacey's backyard, Mike Ehrmantraut and his daughter-in-law watch Kaylee Ehrmantraut play with a dog that Mike has adopted and wishes to give to Kaylee. Stacey struggles with the idea of taking on a pet, but Mike assures her that the dog is healthy and worthwhile. This is Mike's thinly-veiled attempt to see his family more frequently, and it works. Stacey relents, and agrees to let Kaylee keep the dog. Their conversation is interrupted when Mike receives a phone call. He steps away to answer it, and quietly accepts a job opportunity. Stacey doesn't ask any questions.
Mid-argument before a judge, Richard Schweikart seeks a restraining order against Jimmy on the grounds that his "loud and flamboyant" nature disturbs the routine of the Sandpiper Crossing residents. The judge doesn't buy it, and rules in Jimmy's favor. Jimmy rides high on his victory all the way to Chuck's house, but deflates when he sees that Chuck isn't echoing his elation. In fact, Chuck's a bit overwhelmed: Schweikart and Cokely have sent over box after box of documents, trying to drown them in paperwork. Chuck tells Jimmy that the case is quickly becoming too big for them to handle alone, and insists they partner with HHM. Jimmy argues vehemently against it, but Chuck eventually convinces him that it's the only way to win the case.
Jimmy crashes on Chuck's couch that night, exhausted from burning the midnight oil. Chuck, however, is wide awake, and on a mission. He steals past his sleeping brother and retrieves a pencil and an oven mitt. Wrapped in his trusty space blanket, Chuck tiptoes outside and collects Jimmy's cell phone from the mailbox. Grimacing, he turns it on and uses the eraser end of the pencil to dial a mysterious party. "Hello. It's me," Chuck says into the phone.
Mike waits in a parking garage with two thugs: a paramilitary-looking man named Sobchak and a giant man-mountain. The three intimidating men have each been hired by the vet to provide protection for a new client. According to Sobchak, their guy has come into a plentiful supply of pharmaceuticals and has hired them to provide a little extra security during his first-ever drug deal. As they wait for their employer, Sobchak gives Mike a once-over. He asks the phlegmatic fixer-to-be what type of gun he's "packing," and Mike casually nods to a small, brown sac sitting on the nearby curb: He packed a pimento sandwich. Sobchak thinks Mike's kidding and presses him, but Mike stands firm. He didn't bring a gun.
Before Sobchak can needle him further, their employer drives up in a wood-paneled minivan. An unassuming man steps out and introduces himself as Pryce, though he explains that it's not his real name. Sobchak warns Pryce that Mike is dead weight because he didn't bring a weapon, but Mike calmly responds that if he needs one, he'll take one of Sobchak's. The thug scoffs and dares Mike to take it from him. He holds out a gun, tauntingly: He'll even make it easy for him. "You can make it not so easy," Mike replies, prompting Sobchak to point the pistol at Mike's head. Mike swiftly and effortlessly disarms him. Enraged, Sobchak lunges forward, but Mike puts him down with a single punch to the throat. He then proceeds to find and dispose of all of Sobchak's weapons. He holds up a particularly ostentatious one and offers it to the man-mountain. Terrified, the giant turns on the spot and heads for the hills. Mike dumps Sobchak's guns into a nearby trashcan, picks up his pimento sandwich, and heads for Pryce's minivan. An awestruck Pryce agrees to pay him the full fee for three men, and the two drive off to the meet.
Jimmy and Chuck prepare for their initial meeting at HHM. Chuck is apprehensive, but Jimmy does his best to reassure him. As Jimmy rubs Chuck's shoulders, his suit makes a crinkling sound: Jimmy has added a space-blanket lining to the jacket to further protect Chuck. He helps his brother to the car and retrieves his electronics from the mailbox -- confused to find that his phone is dead, since he usually turns it off before leaving it overnight.
Over at HHM, Howard Hamlin arranges for everything electric to be deactivated in preparation for Chuck's arrival. He shuts his cell phone off and tosses it into a bin as Kim Wexler powers down the last of the lights. The HHM employees gather in the firm's cavernous lobby, and shower Chuck with applause when he enters with Jimmy. A cheerful Hamlin embraces Chuck and guides him upstairs, leaving Jimmy behind to balance a tall stack of files.
In a conference room, Jimmy and Chuck bring Hamlin and his associates up to speed on the Sandpiper Crossing case. Hamlin guarantees Jimmy a portion of the final settlement as well as an immediate "of counsel" fee for the referral. Everything is going well until Jimmy implies that he'll be joining HHM as an attorney. Clearing the room, Hamlin tries to break the news gently to Jimmy: The firm wants the case, but, with all due respect to Chuck, the partners aren't interested in hiring Jimmy. Shocked and hurt, Jimmy lashes out at Hamlin. "I will burn the whole thing to the ground before I give it to you," he seethes, quashing the deal.
Later, Kim summons as much courage as she can muster and visits Hamlin in his office, demanding to know why he refused to hire Jimmy. Hamlin coldly reminds her that she's talking out of turn, and that this was a decision made by the partners. Shaken, Kim turns and begins to head out. Hamlin reconsiders, and stops her. Not wanting the rest of the firm to hear what he's about to tell her, he instructs her to close the door.
At a desolate abandoned power plant, a nervous Pryce debates the best way to conduct the deal. As Mike offers some advice, the buyer arrives. It's Tuco Salamanca's associate, Ignacio "Nacho" Varga, accompanied by two henchmen. With Mike keeping a wary eye on the situation, the deal goes down with just one hiccup: Nacho's envelope of cash is short $20. Mike demands that Pryce receive payment in full, or the deal's off. Nacho is offended by the idea that he might have stiffed Pryce on purpose, and can't believe that Mike would blow up the deal over such a small amount of money. But when Mike stands his ground, Nacho begrudgingly forks over a $20 bill.
Afterward, Mike tells Pryce that he wasn't worried about the deal, because he'd done a fair amount of research before showing up for the job. He knew exactly who Nacho was, and, most importantly, he knew that Nacho was doing this deal outside of his usual crew, so he was incentivized to make sure the deal went as smoothly as possible. "If you're gonna be a criminal, do your homework," Mike advises. Pryce laments that he's not a bad guy, and Mike clarifies: Being a criminal doesn't mean you're a bad guy. No matter which side of the law you're on, if you make a deal, you need to keep your word.
That night, Kim visits Jimmy at the nail salon. He's still on the warpath after what went down at HHM, but she urges him to take Hamlin's deal. Livid, Jimmy accuses her of being bought off by Hamlin. Near tears, she reiterates that taking the deal is the best thing for Jimmy, but leaves without going into more detail. Bothered by their exchange, Jimmy retreats to his office and finally plugs his dead cell phone into the wall. As it begins to recharge, Jimmy ruminates -- something about Kim's insistence has gotten under his skin.
The next morning, Jimmy visits Chuck and tells him he's going to give the case to HHM. Chuck agrees that's for the best. He offers to put a good word in with Hamlin -- maybe he can wear the other partners down, and convince them to change their minds about bringing Jimmy aboard. Jimmy appreciates this, then is struck by an idea: Chuck could threaten to leave HHM! With the way the staff applauded his arrival, there's no way the partners would risk Chuck's return. When Chuck hesitates, Jimmy strikes: He already knows that Chuck is not remotely interested in bringing Jimmy into the fold. Since Jimmy always turns off his phone when he puts it in Chuck's mailbox, he became suspicious when he found the battery dead, and a call to the phone company revealed a deleted call from his phone two nights prior: To Hamlin, in the middle of the night, while Jimmy was asleep on the couch. Only one person could have made that call: Chuck.
Furious, Jimmy accuses Chuck of telling Hamlin not to let Jimmy work on the case, just like he must have told Hamlin not to hire Jimmy after he passed the bar years ago. Jimmy demands to know why Chuck has been working against him. Chuck angrily replies that Jimmy is not a real lawyer, having taken shortcuts like online courses and applying to the University of American Samoa. "You're still Slippin' Jimmy!" Chuck shouts. And while he can handle Slippin' Jimmy just fine, Slippin' Jimmy with a law degree is "like a chimp with a machine gun".
A calm comes over Jimmy as he realises what his brother really thinks of him. "I am done" he says, explaining that he's brought over enough supplies to last Chuck a few days -- after that, Chuck will have to fend for himself. Heartbroken, Jimmy walks out of the house without turning back.
- In the Breaking Bad episode "Cornered", Mike Ehrmantraut offers Jesse Pinkman a pimento cheese sandwich while staking out Tucker and Scary Skell's house.
References to other media
- Sobchak refers to Mike Ehrmantraut as "Uncle Fester", a character from the television and film series The Addams Family.
- Sobchak is portrayed by Steven Ogg, the voice and motion actor for Trevor Philips in the tremendously popular video game Grand Theft Auto V.
- A Saul Goodman matchbook floats inside of a flushing urinal.
- "Confidence is good. Facts on your side, better. Know what you're walking into."
- ―Chuck to Jimmy.
- Howard: "It's easy money, Jimmy. No reason not to take it."
- Jimmy: "Go to hell, Howard! I'm not giving you my case. And I'm gonna tell every one of those clients what a lying miserable pig fucker you are. I will burn the whole thing to the ground before I give it to you!"
- —Howard and Jimmy arguing.
- "Well, duly noted. Want to know what I believe? I believe that you're way out of your depth in this matter. So the next time that you want to come in here and tell me what I'm doing wrong, you are welcome to keep it to yourself. Because I don't care."
- ―Howard to Kim about the decision not to hire Jimmy on the case.
- Mike: "The lesson is, if you're gonna be a criminal, do your homework."
- Price: "Wait. I'm not a bad guy."
- Mike: "I didn't say you were a bad guy. I said you're a criminal."
- Price: "What's the difference?"
- Mike: "I've known good criminals and bad cops. Bad priests. Honorable thieves. You can be on one side of the law or the other. But if you make a deal with somebody, you keep your word. You can go home today with your money and never do this again. But you took something that wasn't yours. And you sold it for a profit. You're now a criminal. Good one, bad one? That's up to you."
- —Mike and Price on the difference between criminals and villains.
- Jimmy: "I'm your brother. We're supposed to look out for each other. Why were you working against me, Chuck?"
- Chuck: "You're not a real lawyer."
- Jimmy: "I'm what?"
- Chuck: "You're not a real lawyer. University of American Samoa, for Christ's sake? An online course? What a joke. I worked my ass off to get where I am. And you take these shortcuts and you think suddenly you're my peer? You do what I do because you're funny and you can make people laugh? I committed my life to this! You don't slide into it like a cheap pair of slippers and reap all the rewards. [...] I know you. I know what you were, what you are. People don't change. You're Slippin' Jimmy. And Slippin' Jimmy I can handle just fine. But Slippin' Jimmy with a law degree is like a chimp with a machine gun. The law is sacred! If you abuse that power, people get hurt. This is not a game. You have to know on some level, I know you know I'm right. You know I'm right."
- — Jimmy brutally discovering what Chuck actually thinks of him as a lawyer.
- "Groton Farewell" by Cast