Better Call Saul S3 E2: "Witness" (AMC) - "The Cocobolo Times" Recap

"The Cocobolo Times" Recap: Better Call Saul (AMC)

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Sorry about the delay. I am on vacation visiting my parents for the first time in several years and I also had to rewatch a certain part of the episode three times to make sure that I was correct about one of my theories. 

I recap lots of television shows (GOT, Mr. Robot, OITNB, HACF, Black Mirror etc.) This is my second post in my attempt at an official recap of a season of "Better Call Saul" (I have written a few pieces about the show before). 

Enjoy! And if you have not seen Better Call Saul S3 E2: "Witness" *Spoiler Alert*

"The Cocobolo Times" S3 E2 "Witness" 

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Better Call Saul S3 E2 "Witness" is about:

* Mike's continuing attempts to follow up on the gas cap tracker

* Jimmy and Kim's attempts to hire someone to work the front desk at the Law Offices of Wexler-McGill

* Chuck's revenge on Jimmy (the witness reference is Chuck's plan for catching Jimmy implicated himself in the fraud that resulted in HHM losing the Mesa Verde account..or to what Mike or Jimmy see at Los Pollos Hermanos).

Chuck's Revenge

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So, the short form of Chuck's successful plan to implicate Jimmy after finding out how Jimmy sabotaged him with Mesa Verde, was this:

* Knowing how much Ernesto (Brandon K. Hampton) likes Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk), Chuck (Michael McKean) intentionally played the tape (whoops) for Ernie with the expectation that Ernie would run and tell Jimmy.

* Chuck believed that if Chuck knew of the tape he would break-in to Chuck's house and attempt to steal it. As Chuck says to Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), "I know my brother."

* After setting Ernie in motion, Chuck had HHM hire around the clock private investigators to stake out Chuck's house 24/7 so that they would  "witness" when Jimmy showed up to steal the tape from Chuck.

Of course, in the end, Chuck didn't try to steal the tape. Instead, he chose to break down the door to Chuck's house, confront him with the information, and right in front of his face grab the tape and destroy it (followed by Chuck asking the emerging Howard and the rent-a-detective if they were "witness" to what transpired.

It is a very scene because basically everything Jimmy says to Chuck is 100% true.

* It is true that Jimmy only told Chuck because he was so worried Chuck was losing his mind that he couldn't keep the secret at the expense of his brother's sanity.

* It is true that Jimmy only scammed Chuck because of what Chuck did to steal the Mesa Verde account back from Kim.

* It is true that Chuck is destroying the one person who has always been there for him and truly cared for him only because Chuck can't get past the simple fact that people like Jimmy better than they like him. 

* It probably is true that something like this kind of petty jealousy is exactly wy Chuck's wife ultimately left him (this is the first time we have heard what happened to Chuck's wife since we first found out that he used to have a wife during a flashback in S2).

Jimmy is certainly a flawed person with real problems, but there is no doubt at all that he loves and admires Chuck. Maybe the only person in the world who truly loves Chuck is Jimmy which is what makes this such a brutal scene. Chuck is so small that he can't see his own greater interest in appreciating instead of going to war with Jimmy.

So, Jimmy is probably in some serious trouble, but Chuck is going to die alone.

"Call Me Jimmy, Always Jimmy"

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So, most of "Witness" was an exercise in long-silent scenes of characters waiting for things to happen or reacting to things as they happened. I think Vince Gilligan knew with so much "hurry up and wait" tension between Mike tracking the trackers, Mike and Jimmy trying to figure out what was going on at Los Pollos Hermanos, or Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) trying to figure out what was going on inside and around Los Pollos Hermanos that the viewers would most probably need a break.

That break turned out to be Francesca Liddy (Tina Parker).

Basically, Jimmy and Kim (Rhea Seahorn) need someone to work the front desk. The first applicant was Francesca Liddy a former employee at the New Mexico version of the DMV (which it turns out, is not a DMV). 

* We got to see Francesca answer the very different types of questions from Jimmy and from Kim

* We got to see Jimmy train her in correctly answering the phones for his particular type of elder law practice.

* And, we got a backdrop for Ernesto coming to tell Kim about Chuck and for Kim to tell Jimmy and take Jimmy's money so that she could represent him in the advent of any legal actions by Chuck.

* We also got the 411 on the importance of mentioning Cracker Barrel during conversations with elderly legal clients.

Oh, this also formed the backdrop for Mike's call to Jimmy to ask him for assistance in his stake out of Los Pollos Hermanos.

"Frings Back," But How Did Gustavo Solve "The Mike Mystery?"

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Our first encounter with Gustavo Fring happens in a wide-lens shot with Jimmy in the foreground and a fuzzy Fring sweeping the floors behind him inside Los Pollos Hermanos. It is a nice bookended shot with the earlier scene where Mike discovers that the bagman who has been tracking his car is dropping off at Los Pollos Hermanos (LPH).

In the original scene, the DOP takes the camera every single place visually possible of Mike (Jonathan Banks) searching in the parking lot of LPH before finally settling on the sign (signaling, after two long seasons that we have arrived, officially, at the Breaking Bad plot line and Jimmy's ultimate transformation into Saul and finally Gene). 

In the scene inside LPH, the DOP does everything he can to not show us Gustavo Fring in all his glory until Jimmy, having missed the hand-off between the bag man and Fring, tries to find the drop in one of LPH's many trash receptacles.

Both scenes are beautifully conceived and blocked exercises in building frustration in scenes despite that in each scene everyone knows what is going to happen.

To recap:

* Mike, after a long night, traced what turns out to be Gustavo's bagman to LPH 

* Mike gets Jimmy to help him try to see who the bagman hands off the drugs or money to at LPH.

* Mike spends so much time watching the bagman that he misses Gustavo sweeping right in front of the place where the bagman has the bag in question (most likely where the switch happened).

* Gustavo meets Jimmy during his attempt to retrieve the drop from the LPH trashcan. Jimmy purposefully drops his watch inside the receptacle and sells Gus on needing help to get his watch out of the trash, but you can tell that Gus is suspicious.

* Jimmy leaves and tells Mike that he didn't see the exchange (and fails to mention Gus at all).

* Gus figures out that Jimmy was helping Mike and leads Mike to find the gas cap (from the tracker) and a cell phone in the middle of a highway. 

So, how did Gustavo figure out that Jimmy was there helping Mike? 

I watched the LPH scene between Jimmy, the Bagman, and Gus three times (as well as the scene between Jimmy and Mike, and the scene where Gus...with his back to the parking lot..figures it out).

In fact, in both cases, when Jimmy pulls out of the LPH parking lot and the scene where Jimmy pulls away from the meeting with Mike and drives back past LPH, Gustavo's back is to the parking lot. 

So how did Gus know?

I am virtually certain, and this is one of those little beautiful details that Vince Gilligan is so justifiably famous for, Gus heard the unique sound of Jimmy's car both times.

How crazy is that, since episode one we have been introduced to the unique look and sound of Jimmy's car (that is incredible foresight). You really have to tip your cap to the meticulous plotting and patience of the entire BCS writing room because that was a two year set up.

When Jimmy pulls out of the LPH parking lot, Gus is straightening the trashcan from his encounter with Jimmy. He can't see Jimmy's car, but if you listen closely to the scene, you will notice that you can hear the car.

When Jimmy leaves the meeting with mike and passes by LPH, Gus is in the parking lot with his back to the road, but if you listen carefully, you can hear the unique engine noise that could only be Jimmy's car again.

Gus knew the drop happened (he picked up the goods) and he knows someone with an odd story both was in the restaurant and left in a car with a crazy engine sound. Gus also knows that that same car, with that same unique engine noise, didn't leave immediately but drove back by the store ten or fifteen minutes later.

Who else but Mike would be looking for Gustavo?

2 + 2 = 4

Genius writing.

Kudos.

Should Have Made a Left Turn At Albuquerque

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Okay, two down and eight to go.

This week's question (leave a comment):

What Was Your Favorite Long-Game Setup So Far by Vince Gilligan on Better Call Saul or Breaking Bad?

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