[For Better Call Saul> “Switch” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Switch. Jimmy and Kim’s relationship takes a new turn. Mike feels it’s best to sever his affiliation with an unrestrained associate.
Here’s a brief refresher on Season one:
We love Jimmy McGill, a former scam artist who works hard to better himself and live a life of integrity. He wants to be like his brother, Chuck (Michael McKean), senior partner at a fancy law firm. Jimmy takes law classes online while working a day job as a mail clerk in his brother’s law firm. On his third attempt, he passes the bar exam. But Chuck, a “real lawyer” stricken with the not-real disease Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity, continues to look down on Jimmy and treats him like a manservant. Chuck even prevents Jimmy from joining his law firm. Thus Jimmy goes out on his own and creates a big case serving the Sandpiper Elderly Home residents and eventually building a case that proves the home is embezzling from them. He offers the case to his brother’s firm and they take it on but still won’t hire Jimmy because of Chuck’s blockage. We know eventually Jimmy becomes a big time successful lawyer named Saul Goodman because of his character in the TV show Breaking Bad. We also know that eventually he becomes “Gene” the broken and balding manager of a mall Cinnabon.Better Call Saul serves as prequel to when Jimmy McGill became Saul, sort of the origin story, and yet also so much more than that.
The episode “Switch” is about two kinds of switches; changes we make in life and also a simple light switch which stands for something much bigger. Jimmy engages both kinds in this episode and he explains that he’s in a phase right now of “breaking the rules” because he thinks he’s followed rules for too long, ever since he came to Albuquerque for Chuck and lived basically as his manservant, anyway. We know before that Jimmy was a small time conman. So, it really serves as no surprise that this is behavior Jimmy may slip back into at times. Well, the time is now.
This first episode of season two opens on Gene (future Saul/Jimmy) closing the Cinnabon at the mall for the night. He carries the trash bags out to the dumpsters at 9:20PM and accidentally lets the door slip shut behind him, thus locking him in with only the dumpsters and emergency exit door to keep him company. The door’s sign declares that any attempt to open it will trigger an alarm that alerts the police. So, Gene plants himself on the lone milk crate and waits. At 11:45PM the janitor opens the door to bring in the rest of the mall trash and Jimmy finally exits. Then we see that he used a loose screw to carve, “SG was here,” into the wall. He leaves his mark but as Saul, the lawyer; not as Gene, manager of the mall Cinnabon.
In the next scene we pick up where last season left off with Jimmy coming to the courthouse to see the Davis & Main team for the Sandpiper trial. He pulls Kim aside and asks her if something happening between them is contingent on if he takes the job with Davis & Main. She says one thing has nothing to do with the other and he’s happy, says “great,” turns down the job offer, and then leaves them in the courthouse. So, we see what happened in that space of time before he talked to Mike about the $1.6 million in the toll booth at the ned of last season’s finale. Jimmy then drives to the nail salon and gleefully drinks the forbidden cucumber water – pouring it straight into his mouth – before heading to his office at the back to close it down for good.
Meanwhile Mike meets his client, Pryce, in a parking lot. Pryce shows up in a bright yellow Hummer with red flames painted all around and license plate that read “PLAYUH”. Mike says he won’t go to the meetup with Pryce in that vehicle because this business requires restraint and the Hummer is basically screaming. Pryce says he’s taking it anyway whether Mike comes or not. Maybe he doesn’t really need Mike for protection anyway. He says “that Nacho guy” comes alone, so why can’t he? Mike says he highly recommends Pryce take some sort of backup but then he goes without Mike anyway. At the meetup Nacho asks to look at the Hummer and Pryce tells him all about the amenities then leaves him in the Hummer while he counts the money. Once alone in the Hummer Nacho looks in the glove compartment at the registration and takes note of Pryce’s home address.
Next we see Jimmy floating in a pool next to some nachos and a phone in a ziploc (waterproof). Kim comes by and says, “So, this is what a mid-life crisis looks like,” and he tells her it’s “mid-life clarity,” and to get in the pool so he can explain why he turned down Davis & Main. She says if he really wants to talk she’ll be in the bar. So, he comes joins her to say he’s quitting law. Kim asks if something happened in Cicero and he says Cicero has nothing to do with it. It’s just his whole life since he came to Albuquerque for Chuck and then doing everything for Chuck. Chuck. Chuck. Chuck. She’s frustrated for his sake and says he’s a great lawyer, though. Jimmy says the things that make him a great lawyer can make him great at something else. So she asks what the plan is and he has no plan. Kim keeps trying to convince him to try the Davis & Main job. He says he’s sick of doing the “right thing” for all these years and it’s gotten him nowhere.
In order to illustrate what he means Jimmy approaches a braggadocio wall street douche at the bar and asks him if there’s a limit to how much a person is allowed to invest. The guy says no. Then Jimmy pretends to tell K that they can invest ALL the money they just inherited and make more money off it. The stock guy then interjects that sure they can invest all their $1.4 million inheritance but they should diversify. He offers to help them and be their advisor, claiming that he’s practically “a money printing machine” so they should talk to him a bit. They sit down with Mr. Douche, giving him the fake names Viktor and Giselle Saint Claire. To the tune of the song Golddigger they drink an entire bottle of tequila at $50 a shot and “sign on” with him as their “advisor” using the fake names then leaving him with the gargantuan bill. They giggle and run out of the bar then smooch by the side of the hotel pool and end up sleeping together at Kim’s house.
Next we see a police car drive up to Pryce’s house and enter. He was robbed, and Pryce’s really really upset about his baseball card collection being stolen. They were very special and rare. The police ask if anything else was stolen and Pryce mentions cash but won’t tell them how much. In fact, he’s downright evasive about the cash. The police are clearly suspicious about how messed up the robbers made his house, all his fancy stuff, and his weird vagueness about the cash, “clearly they were looking for something in particular,” one of the cops says and notes that the robbers left the TV and computer. Raised eyebrow alert. While Pryce prints out his inventory list of baseball cards in another room the police find a secret hiding spot behind his couch but there’s nothing back there. They put the couch back before he returns.
Then we see Jimmy back on his float at the hotel pool calling Kim on the phone in a ziploc and suggesting their next mark at the hotel. He leaves her a message and then gets thoughtful before calling Davis & Main. Next thing we know, Jimmy has flipped an internal switch of sorts. He’s starting the job at Davis & Main; suited up and shaking hands. His office is beautiful, his assistant, Omar, is helpful, and they’re even giving him a company car. Sitting in his new office chair Jimmy sees a sign on the light switch that says “Always leave ON!!! Never switch OFF!!!” so he tears the scotch tape aside and pulls the sign off. Then Jimmy turns the switch off and stands aside a moment before flipping it back to the “on” position and replacing the sign.
The switch could be seen as symbolic in various ways but the simple interpretation is that Jimmy has found a small way to break the rules and still have a luxe life for himself. Yes, the pool was relaxing and the con was fun but Jimmy knows all too well how the life of a con man can turn down a dark alley and bleed to death. He’s been in that alley. One thing Jimmy’s never done is take an opportunity like this Dean & Main job. It was smart for him to find out first that Kim would be with him regardless. Now he knows that AND he can have the cushy lifestyle too. The switch is just his little way of saying that even though he’s taken the “good guy” route after all, he can still break some rules and keep that mischievous part of himself alive. Sadly, it seems that the later incarnation of his character, Gene, had to resort to actual vandalism to do so. Why not just try that emergency door, Gene? Jimmy McGill would have. Saul would have. Perhaps we’ll have to wait for Gene’s spinoff show to find out.