For the first time in this season of Better Call Saul, we’re not seeing Chuck but his presence is still very much within and around every scene involving Kim or Jimmy.
‘Expenses’ is a fitting name for this episode, for both the literal meaning and how spent our characters seem with their own internal conflicts. Not too long ago, we were examining the title of this season’s third episode, ‘Sunk Costs‘, an economics term relating to costs that cannot be recouped—or in the case of Better Call Saul, choices that cannot be taken back. But episode seven is all about “expenses” with no certainty of their value. Another economics term is “prospective cost”, a cost that can still be changed depending on future actions. We’re past the halfway point in season three but we’re just now entering that gray territory where the costs of these characters’ actions aren’t yet clear.
Kim expresses that she can’t figure out what they did in court against Chuck except for “take down a sick man”, and her guilt is slowly eating her alive inside, whereas Jimmy expresses no guilt. Jimmy is consumed by an anger hardened by a plethora of emotions he’s harbored for decades—imagine if Chuck had approved hiring Jimmy with HHM. Is conning and playing the system Jimmy’s only way of living? Or is it his only means of surviving in an unforgiving world?
Let’s rewind back to when Jimmy worked for Davis & Main in season two. He had a nice salary, a nice office, a nice car. All he had to do was not screw it up – which he did by making a commercial and airing it behind his boss’ back. Soon as Davis & Main disagreed with Jimmy’s methodology, he burned his opportunity to the ground and got himself fired. He celebrated his new unemployment by returning to the boiler room office where he could actually get some rest. Jimmy found true content when he took control of his life, even if it meant starting over.
So what’s different about Jimmy starting over again in season three? It’s not a circumstance born of his vision but, rather, his brother’s. Chuck is that unrelenting force in Jimmy’s life proclaiming: if you can’t do things the right away, as the law sees fit, then you can’t do them at all. But Jimmy isn’t changing. Well, he sort of is.
He’s still willing to pay his student film crew for a job despite making nothing himself, a scene which allows us to root for the Jimmy we’ve come to know and fall in love with over twenty-seven episodes. He’s at the mercy of his exceedingly untamable expenses, and his anger is slowly transforming him at the expense of a relationship he’s held dear for even longer: Kim. That relationship is the truth of this episode’s title, as we’re not yet seeing if it’s more closely termed as a sunk cost or a prospective cost. And Jimmy is almost too nearsighted to see this, so much so that he’s determined to not relinquish their Wexler & McGill offices—also to the point that he’s now made a move to sabotage his brother’s law license.
Nacho, on the other hand, is making a move to kill Hector Salamanca. He sees no other way out. In the same way that Jimmy feels cornered, Nacho is struggling to sustain his current lifestyle. It’s not necessarily the one and only decision, but it is the decision that allows him to be who he’s chosen to be. It’s the trade-off for committing criminal acts. Whereas Jimmy forged documents, Nacho peddles drugs. Jimmy could have faced the consequences so many times but instead he always scrambled his way out of doing so, falling right into an even deeper hole. We’re watching Nacho follow a similar progression.
Mike has freed himself of these traps. He walked away from the criminal underbelly of Albuquerque to enjoy a life of peace and quiet as Kaylee’s Pop-Pop. Mike has seen and lost too much, and all he wants is a break. And he almost allows himself to step away from the world of Salamanca until an encounter at his daughter-in-law’s support group. This scene holds a key to the series in the most subtle, understated way, because if Mike is the hardened wise man then why does he choose to help Pryce? Our clue is in the episode’s title, ‘Expenses’. In watching the support group scene, it’s best to keep in mind the following: has Mike settled all of his costs? Or, in Breaking Bad terms: has Mike taken only half measures or full measures? It’s an almost unnoticeable detail in Jonathan Banks’ performance, but Mike doesn’t seem as comfortable in that support group as everyone else does.
He doesn’t seem as though he’s enjoying his life of peace and quiet. He’s reluctant to pour concrete for a new sidewalk until his daughter-in-law pleads; to delineate work when asked by volunteers how they could help; and he’s still searching strangers for some peace of mind. Mike is told a story by a woman named Anita about how she keeps her husband’s Navy uniform. Anita is troubled by not knowing about specifically what happened to her husband. Perhaps, it is the unknown that also troubles Mike. Soon after his conversation with Anita, he calls Pryce saying he’ll take the job. Mike took the job simply because he needed to make sure that whatever Nacho was planning wouldn’t upset things. Mike isn’t a man with many expenses. Soon as he incurs costs, he evens them out.
– Three episodes remaining. They’re titled ‘Slip’, ‘Fall’, and ‘Lantern’.
– I’m so happy we’re getting to see Jimmy’s film crew again this season. They’re some of my favorite supporting characters.
– Randy and Jason Sklar were great as the music shop owners. Let’s hope that a free commercial pays off for Jimmy soon.
– I’m not sold on any characters dying this season, but if I were to bet on any getting close it would be either Nacho or Chuck. Most likely Nacho.
– Imagine if Chuck lost his law license. No way would Kim be able to handle that kind of guilt. And I don’t know if I can even handle watching Chuck move through that kind of loss. Maybe I’m biased due to my adoration for Michael McKean, but that would hurt.
– “All he had to do was disconnect your phone lines.” “Really, that’s it?” Was one of my favorite exchanges this episode, when Mike explains how Nacho broke into Pryce’s house and bypassed the security system.
– Thomas Schnauz both wrote and directed this episode, not a common thing for this show. He’s done it twice before, and so have Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan a couple times, but it’s definitely not how they normally operate.