Better Call Saul: Jimmy’s 10 Worst Schemes
The great trick of You better call Saul turned one of the least human characters of breaking Bad, Saul Goodman, into one of the most relatable characters on either show, Jimmy McGill. The show does this by never watering down Jimmy’s most immoral acts, but also showing how they end up hurting him and those he loves, even when his schemes succeed.
Jimmy’s worst schemes are therefore often among his best, from another point of view. Jimmy is a character who very often gets exactly what he wants, but what he wants is to be self-destructive and avoid his problems. The series finale shows how much all of these decisions weigh on him, and audiences feel the pain of their mistakes with him.
Sell cell phones on the street
After Chuck gets Jimmy’s legal license suspended for a year, he takes a temp job at a phone shop, but it’s mainly so Jimmy won’t think about Chuck’s death. Predictably, the job is far too boring for Jimmy, and he feels the irresistible urge to bend the rules.
Jimmy decides to buy a bunch of prepaid phones from the store and sell them on the street to people looking to make untraceable calls. Not only does this get him mugged on his first night out, but his added obsession with selling phones on the street leads him to develop contacts as his alter ego, Saul Goodman. It’s a stepping stone in creating Jimmy’s most destructive character.
Trying to scam Betsy Kettleman
In the first episode of the series, the audience is introduced to both Jimmy McGill, the troubled lawyer, and Slippin’ Jimmy, a trickster extraordinaire. Slippin’ Jimmy’s ultimately self-destructive first plan comes in the form of a staged hit-and-run that Jimmy wants to use as leverage to secure the brand, Betsy Kettleman, and her husband as clients.
Of course, nothing goes as planned and Jimmy’s young accomplices choose the wrong car, driving them and Jimmy to the house of Tuco Salamanca’s beloved abuelita, where Tuco is waiting to tie them up and drive them into the desert. Although Jimmy manages to get out of this situation, even saving the lives of his two accomplices, it introduces him to both the Salamancas and Nacho Varga, who suck him deep into the criminal underworld of Albuquerque.
Advertise for Davis & Main without permission
Attempting to play things straight as a lawyer and get a steady job at a well-respected law firm, Davis & Main, Jimmy works the Sandpiper Crossing case through the firm but finds Chuck staring at him from a air hawk at every turn. After previously breaking the rules on soliciting the elderly, Jimmy seeks to circumvent Chuck’s attempts to limit his tactics by doing a TV commercial for Davis & Main and the class action lawsuit.
All in all, it’s a good idea, but Jimmy, fearing interference from corporate partners or just impatient, advertises it and then airs it on live television without telling any of the partners. Worse still, he strongly implies to Kim that he agreed to the ad with partners Davis & Main, blaming her for its effective but tacky publicity and the furor it causes. Not only is this the beginning of the end of Jimmy’s life at Davis & Main, but it introduces him to the world of advertising, another key aspect of Saul Goodman.
Resell advertising time
Long after his publicity incident at David & Main, Jimmy returns to television advertising, this time selling him and his solo practice. But after his feud with Chuck causes Jimmy to lose the ability to practice law for a year, Jimmy finds himself with a bunch of useless publicity time that can’t be resold. Squeezing his pennies in an attempt to keep his shared office space with Kim afloat, Jimmy decides to become an advertising executive, charging small businesses to shoot new commercials for them and giving them airtime for free.
It’s a desperate decision to begin with and reeks of all the untrustworthy qualities that made up Jimmy’s working life before becoming Saul Goodman full-time. Not only does this have Jimmy running all over town, earning him next to nothing in the end, but it solidifies his relationship with a small team of students who become some of his most important accomplices in his later crimes.
Convince Irène Landry’s friends to excite her
After discovering the huge amount of money he could make from the Sandpiper Crossing case when it’s over, Jimmy tries to manipulate the gentle representative of the senior class, Irene Landry, into moving in.
Jimmy pulls off his subtle ploy to slowly poison Irene’s image within his tight-knit retirement community, nearly forcing her to settle down in an attempt to win back favor. However, this is just too inhumane even for Jimmy’s tastes, and he engineers a situation where he gives a staged public confession. This exonerates Irene but destroys Jimmy’s chances of working in elder law again, which he was actually quite good at.
Changing numbers on Chuck’s documents
Even though Jimmy breaks the law in many elaborate ways throughout the series, his worst decisions are the ones he makes early in the series regarding his brother, Chuck. The things he does to Chuck often don’t seem illegal in any way, but they are somehow morally indefensible. The first of them starts small, but snowballs into much worse events.
After Kim tries to take the client she got for her old business with her when she leaves and seems to be successful, Chuck goes out of her way to get them back. Jimmy, believing this is really an act designed to hurt him through Kim, enters Chuck’s house while he’s passed out and tends to some of his business paperwork. Jimmy succeeds in embarrassing Chuck who brings the client back with Kim, but this begins a new phase of his rivalry with Chuck which eventually breaks up their relationship and suspends Jimmy from practicing law for a year.
Meddling with Chuck’s malpractice insurance
Chuck’s death was one of the most shocking moments in You better call Saul but, as is always the case with breaking Bad and You better call Saul, it’s clear in hindsight that it was a moment that had been built on for a long time. In the war between Chuck and Jimmy, Jimmy’s final blow to his brother is to meddle with his malpractice insurance.
At the time, it looks like a small act of pettiness that will only further hamper Chuck’s life. However, whether by accident or design, it also has the consequence of driving a wedge between Chuck and Howard Hamlin. The stalemate forces Chuck to retire along with the rapid psychological deterioration he experiences before his death. It’s clear that Jimmy knows he played a bigger role in his brother’s death than Howard, but blames it all on Howard anyway. Jimmy’s final confession in the series finale makes it clear that the aftermath of that act broke him more than any other.
Be Lalo’s bagman
One of Jimmy’s worst choices on the show has to be his decision to escort Lalo’s bail money from the Mexican border to the courthouse. It’s possible that Jimmy was terrified that he wouldn’t do what Lalo asked of him and doesn’t think Lalo is really okay when he refuses. If so, however, it makes his ploy to walk away to get an extra pay day from Lalo all the worse.
Jimmy is almost immediately ambushed upon returning from collecting the money, which leads to a bloody shootout between his robbers and Mike, a traumatic drive through the desert, and Lalo introducing himself to Kim. If Jimmy had listened to Kim and walked away from the deal, a lot of tragedy might have been avoided.
Stealing single men from bars with Jeff
After the events of breaking Bad, Jimmy leads a quiet life in Nebraska as Gene Takovic before being recognized by Jeff, a taxi driver who once lived in Albuquerque. Instead of running again, Jimmy makes the decision to buy Jeff’s silence by helping him plan and execute a crime. Then, after being exasperated by a call to Kim, Jimmy slips back into his scam ways and uses Jeff and his friend in a number of criminal schemes. They affix a brand of alcohol before drugging them and photographing their personal and financial documents, presumably for identity theft.
The idea, when it works exactly as it should, comes across as pretty sloppy to begin with, as there are plenty of opportunities to get caught. But, after losing one of his accomplices, Jimmy steps in and breaks into a belated Mark’s house. Jimmy is practically begging to be caught at this point, and it’s kind of sad to watch him tempt fate at every turn. Naturally, it’s the scheme that ultimately gets him caught by the police.
In a certain way, You better call Saul is a show about Jimmy McGill remembering all his past mistakes, all the points where he should have gone left but right instead. His relationships with Chuck and Kim are an integral part of Saul Goodman’s personality, but one of Jimmy’s major life regrets is his relationship with Howard Hamlin.
Howard is Chuck’s closest ally, so naturally he and Jimmy start at odds. After Chuck’s death, Jimmy is given the option to bury the hatchet with Howard for good, but chooses to antagonize him instead, much like Chuck did with Jimmy. After embarrassing and harassing Howard, he then plots with Kim to discredit him as a lawyer in order to finally settle Sandpiper. This results in Howard being in Kim’s apartment when Lalo arrives there, with Howard then being murdered. In many ways, Howard was Jimmy’s only real friend other than Kim and a better candidate to be his brother than Chuck. Jimmy didn’t just ruin Howard, he ruined himself and his own chances of being happy.
NEXT: Every Season of Better Call Saul & Breaking Bad, Ranked (According to IMDb)