‘Better Call Saul’ Season 3 Debut Recap ‘Mabel’: Watching the Watchmen

In the ‘Better Call Saul’ recap for the season 3 debut, Chuck holds onto evidence against Jimmy while Mike searches for the person responsible for stopping him from killing Hector Salamanca…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

Whether the name is Jimmy McGill or Saul Goodman — it’s clear after five seasons of ‘Breaking Bad’ and two seasons of ‘Better Call Saul’ that this guy is not built for staying quiet in the background.

Certainly as Walter White’s attorney and consigliere, Saul Goodman was more than happy to be the guy behind the guy but he also influenced so many decisions that there was little doubt where he stood in the hierarchy of that criminal empire.

The same could be said for Jimmy McGill, who has battled for his own piece of the pie for two straight seasons, while now plastering his face all over New Mexico as the “lawyer you can trust” while secretly filming the scenes at grade schools and military bases where he definitely was not allowed.

But as season three of ‘Better Call Saul’ picks up, we return to Nebraska where Jimmy/Saul has been transformed once again into a third personality — Gene, the faithful Cinnabon manager.

In his daily doldrums, Gene wakes up every morning to open up the store, preparing the coffee and getting those sugary cinnamon rolls ready for consumption. Every day is pretty much the same for Gene, even when he unpacks his lunch from a Kansas City Royals lunchbox while reading a book in the middle of the mall.

Even more evidence of how Gene has been beaten into submission is when he’s confronted with a shoplifter running through the mall, trying to evade security before hiding in a photo booth just a few feet away from him. When the mall cops come chasing, they find Gene hunkered down on a bench, munching away at his sandwich while trying very hard to stay out of their peripheral while looking for the thief.

When the cops finally confront Gene, without saying a word, he just points to the booth and they find the thief hiding inside. Ratting out the shoplifter seemingly goes against everything that Jimmy McGill and Saul Goodman stood for (or didn’t stand for as the case may be) but Gene, the Cinnabon manager, is just trying to stay off the radar so no one will ever find him.

Instincts are hard to kill, however, so as the thief is being pulled away by the cops, Gene bursts out of his seat and tells the kid to lawyer up while everybody involved is looking at him with confusion because he just gave the kid up three seconds before offering him legal advice.

Gene returns to the Cinnabon where he begins slathering on frosting on a fresh batch of cinnamon buns, when the situation finally overwhelms him. Gene passes out on the floor with a butter knife full of frosting dabbed on his face. Perhaps this was Gene finally overheating from bottling in his true nature for all these months or even years since he was forced to go on the run. Then again, maybe Gene realizes that he let Saul Goodman out to play even if only for a second, but that momentary lapse of judgment could end in prison.

Whatever the reasons, Gene lays motionless on the ground as we are left wondering if life on the run finally got the better of him.

With that said, let’s recap the season 3 debut of ‘Better Call Saul’ titled ‘Mabel’…

The Adventures of Mabel

At the end of ‘Better Call Saul’ season 2, Chuck McGill taped a confession from his brother regarding the fraud he committed when Jimmy broke into his house and switched out forms that eventually lost HHM the account with Mesa Verde banks. As season 3 picks up, the episode begins just seconds later from a different point of view so clearly Chuck hasn’t had any time to exact revenge on his brother, but we all know it’s coming one day soon.

When Jimmy returns from telling Howard Hamlin that his partner wasn’t retiring or leaving the law behind, he’s oblivious to what his brother has just done to him. At this point, Jimmy is still trying to repair the fractured relationship with Chuck so he proceeds to help him take down all the mylar sheets from the walls where his brother was trying to encapsulate himself from any further exposure to electricity.

In the midst of tearing down the foil-like sheets from the wall, Jimmy discovers a book hidden in his brother’s library. “The Adventures of Mabel” was a favorite story for bedtime for little Jimmy McGill and he enjoys reminiscing about those good old days with his brother, if only for a second. Of course, Chuck has to remind Jimmy that he was the one who read him those stories when they were young before telling him in no uncertain terms that he’s eventually going to pay for what he did by committing forgery and all sort of other felonious activities.

The shared moment between brothers comes to an abrupt end.

Later, Chuck invites Howard over to his house where he plays for him the tape of Jimmy’s confession. As much as it appalls Howard that Jimmy would do this to his own brother, he still can’t quite understand what Chuck plans to do with it.

Legally, the recording was made without permission so that’s already going to create a problem for Chuck and even if the court allowed him to present it as evidence, Jimmy could just present a dozen witnesses claiming that the voice on the tape wasn’t his. Add to that, Howard knows that even if he played this tape for the folks at Mesa Verde that there’s no way the bank will ever do business with HHM again.

So Howard just doesn’t know what Chuck has in store for this tape?

In the end, Chuck invites his assistant Ernesto over to the house after he does some grocery shopping, including some new batteries for the voice recorder. Chuck has Ernesto put the batteries back into the recorder, which automatically starts playing Jimmy’s confession. Ernesto only hears it for a moment before Chuck erupts and tells him to turn it off before laying out a dozen different reasons why he needs to forget what was on that tape.

It’s hard to believe Chuck allowed that tape to be played by accident but instead he may have just roped in another conspirator to get back at Jimmy down the road. Then again, if Chuck didn’t want Ernesto to hear the tape, perhaps his punishment for Jimmy is more self-contained and he wasn’t ready to share that information with anybody outside of the inner circle.

No matter the reason, Chuck is clearly gunning for revenge on Jimmy but how he’s going to get it remains to be seen.

Semicolon or Period

Jimmy returns to the office with the fallout with his brother still festering in his mind and he finds Kim hammering out the details on a will for an elderly customer. While Jimmy was away dealing with his brother, Kim took up a slew of the people who came into the office looking for him.

It’s just one more loss that Jimmy has been forced to suffer thanks to his brother.

If that wasn’t enough once Jimmy returns to work full time, he finishes up with a client before returning to the waiting room to get the next one when he runs into a familiar face. The face belonging to an Air Force captain he never imagined he’d see again.

When Jimmy lied his way onto an Air Force base last season to film a scene for his commercial with a fake veteran standing next to an iconic war plane, there was a captain who he duped before the cameras started rolling. Now the commercials are airing on television and that Air Force captain has come demanding that the footage be taken down or he’s going to report this incident to his superiors.

At first, Jimmy tries to slip his way out of the situation by using some fast talk on the captain while trying to make it all seem like this was no big deal. When the Air Force captain fires back at him by threatening to turn him over to the judge advocate for the military, that’s when Jimmy McGill truly begins his transformation into Saul Goodman.

Rather than glad handing the irate Air Force captain, Jimmy fires back at him by threatening to expose the fact that he allowed an unauthorized crew onto the base in the first place. To add to his misery, Jimmy also says that his crew will gladly lie for him in court and make this Air Force captain not only look like a fool but if anybody is going to get punished for his infraction of the law, it’s probably going to be him but it definitely won’t be the lawyer you can trust!

Jimmy has finally snapped when another authoritative figure tries to go for the moral high ground on him — just like his brother Chuck has done for years. While there’s clearly a lot of different factors that resulted in Jimmy McGill breaking bad and turning into Saul Goodman, his brother’s influence was undoubtedly the biggest.

The Air Force captain knows he has no chance to survive this without taking the brunt of the penalty so he storms out of the office in anger. As guilty as threatening the captain made him feel, Jimmy quickly transforms back into his mild-mannered elderly attorney before welcoming his next client into the office.

As for Kim, she’s still choosing to live in the dark about Jimmy’s ill gotten gains that allowed her to take back the Mesa Verde account. She finally meets with Paige — the Mesa Verde representative who always wanted to hire her in the first place — as she goes over the forms as they prepare to resubmit everything so the bank can open the new branch in Arizona as expected.

Paige is blown away by Kim’s work and the fact that she got the hearing date moved up three weeks earlier than what HHM was able to accomplish after blowing the initial meeting in the first place. Paige’s adoration feels good, but it also puts a seed of doubt in Kim’s mind about making any mistakes that could come back to haunt her the same way it did Chuck McGill in that hearing.

So Kim takes back the paperwork so she can double and triple check every single line written — right down the punctuation — because she’s not going to crash and burn the same way Chuck McGill did when he was handling the Mesa Verde account.

Watching the Watchmen

When Mike returned to his car to find the horn was honking, he found a note attached to the window that simply said ‘don’t’. The noise from the car undoubtedly spoiled his attempt to assassinate Hector Salamanca but the note didn’t get him any indication on who was behind it much less how they found him in such a remote area.

Mike figures there’s no way anybody followed him so whoever the culprit was behind the note must have put a tracker in his vehicle to know exactly where he was going when setting up the sniper rifle to take out Hector.

Mike ends up dismantling the car — from engine to tires and everywhere in between — but he doesn’t find any tracker. It’s not until he’s waiting for a cab to take him home when Mike realizes that whoever was tracking him must be savvy enough to know an ex-grizzled cop from Philadelphia would have found any of the traditional devices that would have been used in this situation.

The realization washes over him that the person behind this didn’t just hide the tracking device — they put it in the one place no one would ever think to look.

Inside the gas cap on his car.

Mike figures out that whoever is tracking him placed devices in both of his vehicles, which means these people are capable and smart. But now he’s got the advantage because he’s going to change things up by tracking the trackers.

Mike calls in a favor from his veterinarian friend, who gets him an identical tracking device, so he can switch it out on the gas cap and eventually find out who has been stalking him around town. Mike switches out the tracking devices, drains the battery in the one already in the car and replaces the cap. He then sits quietly in the dark while waiting for the people tracking him return to replace the device due to the battery being dead.

The plan works to perfection when Mike spots the culprit approach his car and switch out the tracker while no one is supposed to be looking. Now Mike has handed back over his own device to the people who were following him, except this time he’s the one who will be tracking them because they will eventually return to the person who ordered this surveillance in the first place.

It’s safe to assume when Mike’s search comes to a close, he might end up at a restaurant where something delicious is always cooking.

‘Better Call Saul’ returns next Monday night at 10pm ET on AMC

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