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Recap / Better Call Saul S 3 E 5 Chicanery

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Shortly after the onset of his EHS, Chuck attempts to reconcile with Rebecca with an "impromptu" gas-cooked candlelit dinner, with Jimmy on hand to add to the alibi (and caution him about the possible harm that keeping his secret may bring). Everything goes smoothly until Rebecca takes a call from her conductor, driving Chuck to slap the phone out of her hand. She angrily calls a cab as Jimmy and Chuck argue over whether or not to reveal his condition.
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Presently, Jimmy brings a goldfish to Dr. Caldera to get in contact with someone with a "light touch." Caldera asks if they will need to fit into a tight space.

Kim uses the genial mood after a successful New Mexico Banking Board hearing to tell Kevin and Paige about Chuck's allegations. Kevin is particularly insulted: nothing worse than a man who won't owe up to his mistakes, he sneers. Kim assures a more skeptical Paige that Mesa Verde will not suffer any backlash.

Chuck and Howard visit the courtroom where Jimmy's trial will be set to see how Chuck's EHS will respond; they'll be able to turn off everything but the exit signs, so Chuck decides to testify in person. Howard protests: his and the private investigator's testimonies should be enough. When Chuck insists, Howard admits that he's concerned about HHM's reputation, as their blind eye towards keeping documents at Chuck's house has raised security concerns. Chuck chides him for putting the firm above the proper process of the law: "Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall," he smugly concludes.

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Kim's opening statement claims that the real story behind the trial is of the feud between the McGill brothers. Howard gives his testimony of Jimmy's break-in. Under cross-examination, Howard tries to claim that Chuck shut Jimmy out of HHM to avoid the appearance of nepotism, but Kim forces him to admit that the other Hamlin in HHM is his father. Jimmy can't dwell on this victory: he asks to review his notes in order to stall for time when he's told "Flight's delayed."

While Chuck tries out different testimonies ("Did Ted Kaczynski's brother love him, too?"), the confession tape is played at the trial. The committee orders everyone present to place their watches and cell phones in a bin to be taken out of the courtroom; Jimmy claims that he left his cell in the car. Howard drives Chuck to his reserved parking space, bumping into someone on his way to the courtroom. The man is revealed to be Huell, who gives Chuck a smug glance behind his back.

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Chuck is sworn in and gives his account of Jimmy's breaking and entering. The prosecution questions him about his intentions: although some exaggeration of his condition was necessary, he claims that he had his full faculties and does not hate his brother. The law is just too important for Jimmy to use as he pleases.

He is stunned to see Rebecca enter the courtroom and warmly greet Jimmy, prompting him to ask for a recess. Rebecca asks Chuck why he never came forward with his condition, and clarifies that Jimmy asked her to come in support for him. In response, Chuck bluntly tells her that Jimmy flew her in to unsettle him, and asks her to stay so that she can see "what's what."

Elsewhere, Kim tells Jimmy that Rebecca will hate him for what he's going to do to Chuck. Jimmy agrees.

Jimmy cross-examines Chuck, using the photos Mike took of his house's interior to put his supposed mental stability in question at the time the tape was made. Chuck claims that his hysterical state was all "play-acting", and that the situation the photos present is necessary under his EHS. Jimmy pounces, having Chuck testify about the specifics of his condition: in particular, how close an electrical object needs to be to affect him. Chuck slyly asks him if Jimmy has something in his pocket. Jimmy pulls out his cell phone, taking Chuck to task over his inability to detect it.

However, Chuck asks if he can take the phone: sure enough, the battery has been removed. He berates a mortified Jimmy for thinking his condition is some psychosis as the committee makes it clear that they won't be indulging Jimmy anymore. "What do I have to do to prove it to you," Chuck magnanimously asks.

"Could you reach into your breast pocket and tell me what's there?"

Nonplussed, Chuck reaches into his suit jacket...and quickly drops the object inside onto the floor. It's the phone's battery, fully charged. Jimmy demands that Chuck put it on the record and brings Huell to the court's attention, who will testify (he is on the witness list) that he planted the battery on Chuck an hour and 43 minutes ago, throwing Chuck's entire testimony into question. His humiliation in front of his peers and ex-wife switches to anger when the prosecution compares his condition to schizophrenia:

"I AM NOT CRAZY!"

Chuck goes on a bitter and unhinged rant in front of a stunned courtroom, begging the court to punish Jimmy over past misdeeds: engineering a rescue with an infringing billboard to draw business, doctoring the Mesa Verde files and then bribing a clerk to lie about his involvement, doing a "Chicago Sunroof", and most of all, swiping from the till of his parents' store. "Stealing them blind! AND HE GETS TO BE A LAWYER!? What a sick joke! I should have stopped him when I had the chance..." He trails off when he sees he has revealed his true colors to the courtroom. Jimmy ends his cross-examination as Chuck notices the exit sign, buzzing with harmful electricity.

This episode contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Absentee Actor: For the first time in the series, Mike is completely absent.
  • Ad Hominem: Jimmy's defense relies on showing that Chuck antagonized him for years and that his condition is a mental illness, thereby destroying Chuck's credibility and the prosecution's case along with it.
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • Kim delivers a demolishing one on Howard when he testifies Chuck blocked Jimmy from being hired by HHM (Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill) to avoid accusations of nepotism: "Who's the other Hamlin?"
    • Howard also tries to use one afterward by saying he'll be happy to talk about Jimmy's job at Davis and Main which makes Kim change the subject.
  • Batman Gambit: Plays out over almost the entirety of the episode. First, Kim leads Chuck into thinking he has the upper hand when she moves to contest the confession tape and is shot down. Then, Jimmy hires Huell to secretly plant a cell phone battery in Chuck's pocket. He then secretly has Chuck dig his own grave when he has him describe his electromagnetic sensitivity in detail — claiming that his body will physically detect any electronic device — before revealing Chuck is carrying the battery, proving that all of Chuck's claims about his condition were either pathological lying or signs of mental illness. Chuck then goes into an enraged tirade against Jimmy in public, basically destroying any credibility as a witness.
  • Blatant Lies: When Kim cross-examines Howard, Howard says Jimmy wasn't hired so that the firm could avoid any appearance of nepotism.
    Kim: "Nepotism?" Your firm is called Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill, right? Who's the other Hamlin?
    Howard: ...My father.
  • Berserk Button: Though he had been flustered already by Jimmy bringing Rebecca to court, it's the prosecutor's implication that he might be schizophrenic which triggers Chuck's final and most damaging tantrum during Jimmy's cross-examination.
    Chuck: (very loudly) I AM NOT CRAZY!
  • Bottle Episode: The first one in this universe since "Fly" aired way back in 2010. Save for the flashback opening, the animal clinic scene, and a brief scene of Chuck in his house before he testifies, the entire episode takes place in the confines of the Albuquerque courthouse, and almost all inside the courtroom where Jimmy's hearing is being held. The only difference from "Fly" is that this one has both main characters and guest stars.
  • The Bus Came Back: Huell Babineaux is provided by the shady vet to Jimmy when he needs a skilled pickpocket (or in this case, putpocket).
  • Call-Back: Jimmy knows Chuck had already been unknowingly exposed to an electrical device and shown no reaction to it in Season 1 by a doctor who activated Chuck's hospital bed.
  • Call-Forward:
    • In the flashback, during Chuck's lie to Rebecca about why his power is out, he claims that it was due to the numbers of his address being transposed, the 1216 <> 1261 transposition that Jimmy pulled on the Mesa Verde documents.
    • When Jimmy is cross-examining Chuck by questioning his decision to not tell Rebecca about his illness, he asks, "if you had — I dunno — lung cancer, would you have told Rebecca then?"
    • Huell does a bump-and-snatch to plant the battery in Chuck's pocket, just like he'll employ on Jesse as part of Walt's plan to poison Brock.
    • Chuck's rant about what kind of danger Jimmy would be. While Chuck's completely oblivious to his part in it, the audience knows he's right.
  • Cassandra Truth: All of Chuck's assertions during his rant against Jimmy are true. The court may even believe some of them, but he still looks unhinged and his claims, taken together with his phony EHS and his hatred of Jimmy, come across as delusional paranoia.
  • Cliffhanger: The outcome of Jimmy's hearing isn't in this episode, it ending right after Chuck's harangue.
  • Damage Control:
    • Howard has already shown his eagerness to protect HHM, having taken Jimmy to court previously over the billboard in the first season. By the end of the hearing, he also has an apparently delusional partner to deal with, one who has already cost them one client and has just gone on record ranting about his own brother. He also has the confidence of his other clients to deal with, now that document security concerns may come into the open over the Mesa Verde incident — and he actually tries to talk Chuck out of testifying out of concern for all of this.
    • And the prosecution at the bar hearing: when Alley realizes Chuck is either delusional or lying, he tries to object on the grounds that while Chuck very well may have a mental illness, it is a non-issue. Unfortunately, one of Chuck's berserk buttons is the implication that his disease is all in his head — and then the prosecutor pushes that button even harder by mentioning schizophrenia, and the damage control goes very badly wrong.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Jimmy is skeptical of Chuck's plan to deceive Rebecca with the lie of the electricity being out, and says that bigger lies are harder to get out of.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Chuck's rant goes on for a while before eventually realizing what he had just said.
  • Friend to All Living Things: While the vet is tied in to Albuquerque's criminal underworld, he takes the welfare of animals very seriously. Jimmy buys a goldfish solely as a cover to visit him, and gets berated for not taking care of it.
    "That's a living creature, not a piece of furniture!"
  • Foregone Conclusion: Chuck's rant ruins any chances at Jimmy getting disbarred, with him instead getting the one-year suspension that Chuck didn't want Jimmy to get. Plus, there was no coming back from how insane that rant made Chuck out to be.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Jimmy, in the flashback to the disastrous candlelit dinner with Rebecca, advises Chuck not to lie to conceal his EHS, as the bigger the lie the harder it is to sort out. Oh, but how that comes back to bite Chuck where it hurts most.
    • When Jimmy asks the shady vet to hook him up with a skilled pickpocket, the vet asks if said pickpocket would need to fit into a small space, hinting that Huell will be making a comeback.
  • For Want of a Nail: Chuck could have gotten what he wanted and gotten Jimmy disbarred... had it not been for the prosecutor implying he was being schizophrenic.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Chuck's intent all along with the confession tape was to boot Jimmy from the legal profession. He thinks he's about to succeed by forcing Jimmy to take a deal where he avoids jail time in exchange for letting himself be disbarred. But during the hearing, Jimmy manages to turn the tables on Chuck through an elaborate Batman Gambit which eventually sends Chuck into an enraged Motive Rant that inadvertently lends credence to Jimmy's side of the story and ruins his reputation with his ex-wife, his law partner, and his colleagues.
    • Even more so with his decision to testify. If Chuck took Howard's advice and didn't testify, Jimmy would not have been able to pull off the ploy with the battery, which would not have lead to Chuck's rant, which would have led to the committee ruling in Chuck's favor. But Chuck was too eager to personally put an end to Jimmy's career, allowing Jimmy to play him until he self-destructed.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Kim cross-examines Howard by asking him why HHM didn't make Jimmy an associate in spite of his grit and determination.
    Howard Hamlin: The partners decided it would be best to avoid the appearance of nepotism. We felt hiring Jimmy might damage morale.
    Kim Wexler: Nepotism. Your firm is Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, right? Who's the other Hamlin?
    Howard Hamlin: ...My father.
  • Jerkass: How do we describe Chuck's behavior? Well, let's take a look:
    • The flashback at the beginning is just after the EHS psychosis started when Chuck invites his ex-wife over for dinner — making up a lie about how the electricity has been cut off (bonus points for it being put down to an address number transposition a la Mesa Verde). Rebecca then has to take a call and Chuck tries to hide his anxiety at this. When he can't get away from her (he runs to the kitchen and she follows to get some paper to note something down), he snatches the phone out of her hand and throws it away from him. She calls him out on this, and what does he do? He berates her for being rude enough to take a cell phone call while in other people's company. He doesn't want her to know about the EHS. And he has totally rejected Jimmy's suggestion that he just tell her the truth.
    • Also, while practicing for his bout on the stand, he compared Jimmy to Ted Kaczynski, the fucking Unabomber. Even Chuck himself scoffs at the idea after saying it out loud, realizing how hyperbolically sanctimonious it sounds.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Both sides of the case are right. Jimmy is guilty of everything Chuck accuses him of and should probably be disbarred for it. On the other hand, Chuck is in serious denial about his mental problems, and is willing to lie and manipulate to keep Jimmy from practicing law. Without Jimmy or Howard looking after him, Chuck could pose a real danger to himself and others.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Jimmy and Kim's strategy is based on allowing Chuck to guess at what their strategy is and try to defuse it. When Rebecca enters the room, Chuck refuses to let it get to him, snarking that he won't be intimidated by Perry Mason tactics. When Jimmy hands his phone to Chuck, Chuck immediately checks to see if the battery is missing; his smug attitude on finding that it is shows that he thinks he's beaten Jimmy's dirty trick. Jimmy reveals the real dirty trick mere seconds later.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: While getting Rebecca into the hearing may have had a place in rattling Chuck, Jimmy could easily have sealed that deal just with the planted cellphone battery. Inviting Rebecca seems just to be icing on the cake of tearing Chuck down, and Kim even Lamp Shades this by saying Rebecca will hate Jimmy for doing this.
  • Loophole Abuse: Jimmy takes advantage of every bit of leeway the Bar agrees to, and he even manages to bring in Huell's planted battery by putting him on the witness list on advance.
  • Meaningful Echo: "You got me, Chuck. Dead to rights."
  • Motive Rant: Jimmy's plays before the bar hearing cause Chuck to make a series of these, eventually leading to a total meltdown after Jimmy reveals the battery gambit.
  • Never My Fault: During Chuck's meltdown, he still maintains that the Mesa Verde address was the erroneous 1216 instead of 1261 (he's right that Jimmy switched the numbers, but it's also clear that he can't even consider the possibility that he made a mistake). He also tries to blame Rebecca for talking on the phone offending him instead of admitting his condition.
  • Oh, Crap!: The expression that appears on Chuck's face when he turns to the judges, sees the horrified and embarrassed looks they're giving him, and realizes what he's been saying.
  • Only Sane Man: Howard tries to convince Chuck that he'll be more of a liability toward his case and might ruin his health.
  • Parental Favoritism: Chuck's rant accidentally reveals that this is at the root of his hatred of Jimmy.
    Chuck: He'll never change! Ever since he was nine, always the same! Couldn't keep his hands out of the cash drawer! [sarcastically] But not our Jimmy! Couldn't be precious Jimmy! [almost weeping with rage] STEALING THEM BLIND! AND HE GETS TO BE A LAWYER?! What a sick joke! I should have stopped him when I had the chance!
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Jimmy has probably beaten disbarment, but at the cost of his brother's professional reputation and every last bit of family Jimmy has; he and Kim even note that Rebecca will hate him after this. Notably, no one in the main cast looks particularly happy after Chuck's breakdown.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Turns out a scam artist is better at foreplanning and underhanded tactics than a lawyer.
    • Being mentally unwell is a non issue when someone performed break and entering because you have proof of their forgery. But Chuck admitting he instigated it so he could get his brother disbarred because he hated him, that's mitigating circumstances.
  • The Reveal: We find out, indirectly, what Mike got from Chuck's address book in the previous episode — Rebecca's contact information.
  • Rule of Symbolism: At the very end, Chuck looks up at an red buzzing exit sign. The sign which couldn't be turned off due to the law he says he holds sacred. After the rant which ended some seconds earlier, this may refer to his legal career from this point on.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Chuck's breakdown on the stand is very similar to Captain Queeg's.
    • Jimmy and Kim's use of Rebecca to make Chuck break down on the stand is similar to The Godfather Part II. In that film, Michael Corleone had Frank Pentangeli's brother flown in from Italy to sit in on the Senate hearings Frank was testifying at. The very presence of Pentangeli's brother made Frank abruptly recant incriminating information he had on Michael out of fear of shaming his family's reputation. Similarly, Rebecca's very presence leads to Chuck's breakdown.
  • Swapped Roles:
    • Jimmy knows that Chuck doesn't want to seem unhinged because of his illness, so he goes along with the lie about having no electricity when Rebecca comes for dinner. In true slippin' Jimmy fashion, Jimmy makes light of the situation and purposefully suggests going to a restaurant to make it seem more believable, to which Chuck replies that it's simple enough to cook at home. Chuck has no doubt arranged this with Jimmy and is thankful for Jimmy's ability to deceive people.
    • Additionally, here it's Jimmy suggesting that they just tell the truth, and Chuck insisting on the deception.
      Jimmy: Chuck, are you sure this is the right play? I mean, in my experience, the bigger the lie, the harder it can be to dig out.
      Chuck: I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Before the hearing Howard offers Chuck the chance to leave the testimony to him and Dave Brightbill (the PI). Chuck refuses, and when Howard points out that the reputation of HHM (document security over the Mesa Verde case) is at stake, Chuck says some things are more important. Guess how that turns out?
      Chuck: "Let justice be done, though the heavens fall."
    • Not to mention Chuck telling Rebecca, after she turns up at the bar hearing, that he wanted her to see 'what's what'. She certainly does see what is what.
  • Title Drop: Courtesy of Chuck's tirade.
    Chuck: You think this is something — you think this is bad? This, this chicanery? He's done worse!
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailer where Kevin and Paige at Mesa Verde are being told by Kim that Chuck is raising allegations that Jimmy doctored Mesa Verde documents and Kevin looks very stern at the end? Is he going to dismiss Kim? No, if there's one thing he can't stand it's a man (Chuck) who won't own up to his mistakes — and he's perfectly happy to keep her as outside counsel.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Rebecca, who Jimmy lures to the hearing under false pretenses in order to rattle his brother.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Depending on how villainous you find Chuck. He responds poorly to having his EHS exposed as purely a product of his mind during Jimmy's cross-examination, resulting in losing his cool and ranting before the entire court about how his brother is irredeemable and how he should have stopped him when he had the chance.
  • Wham Episode: Although it has been revealed previously to a few characters (and the audience), the fact that Chuck suffers from mental illness is now fully revealed, not only publicly, but also to Chuck himself.
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