Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill. (Ursula Coyote/AMC)

More than ever before, “Better Call Saul” has hit its stride. During season one’s penultimate episode, titled “Pimento,” Jimmy, Chuck and Mike finally get equal billing and boy, do they make the most of it.

Let’s talk about our leading man Jimmy first. At last, he has had enough. It’s become apparent, especially over these last few installments, that his own quest to become a not-terrible lawyer is also a quest to prove himself to practically every person around him. Last week, it seemed like things were going well. He had just stumbled upon a hugely profitable class action lawsuit in the making. His brother was standing firmly behind him, even pushing for more and more settlement money because he knew they had a chance in court.

But unfortunately for Mr. J. McGill, this week had all of his carefully placed dominoes taking a tumble. That inkling of an imminent collapse is sparked by Chuck beginning to doubt their new legal partnership over this case. He seems to think that the two of them just aren’t equipped with what it takes to take down such a huge corporation. To make matters worse, Chuck’s bringing HHM into the middle of it. “Referring this case to HHM is for the good of the clients,” he insists.

Patrick Fabian as Howard Hamlin. (Ursula Coyote/AMC)

What he really means here, of course, is that he simply does not believe that Jimmy can handle a case of this magnitude. When he’s giving Jimmy this spiel, you begin to sense that Chuck’s got a plan of his very own. He’s thinking way, way outside of his tinfoil hat here. He wants to get back to work, and specifically back to work at HHM. This is his chance to return to the firm, and he’s taking Jimmy down with him.

The next day, the brothers enter the HHM headquarters to a round of applause. Everyone has disposed of his or her cell phones in anticipation of Chuck’s arrival. Howard has prepped them for this as a way to welcome Chuck (and only Chuck) back to the company.

In their meeting together, we find out that although Jimmy found the case and brought it to Chuck, HHM is still gonna swallow it whole without giving Jimmy any sort of partnership, office space or time of day. Howard makes it clear to him yet again that he wants nothing to do with him. There will be no partnership or even respect. In the end, Howard offers him $20,000 and 20 percent of the final settlement, whenever that may come to fruition.

Jimmy’s rightly upset. Furious even. He found the case, it’s his case, but now he’s being pushed aside by his sworn enemy. A man who he’ll call an unwashed a—hole just a few minutes later. This is his worst nightmare because his belief that no one respects him and no one ever will appears to have come true. Soon after the meeting with HHM, he’s further convinced when Kim meets him at the nail salon and begs him to take the deal Howard offered. Now, in her defense, we did see her try to talk to Howard about Jimmy and his status after the meeting, but I guess that didn’t go as well as she had hoped.

Kim tells him that she just wants him to be happy. He doesn’t have the resources of HHM. He doesn’t have the staff. He doesn’t have the funds. He’ll be rewarded but when the case settles, he won’t get any of the pride, fame or attention, which is exactly what he wants. More than anything, he wants to be recognized.

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill. (Ursula Coyote/AMC)

Episode 9 opened with Jimmy sitting outside in the open air with his brother for the first time in 18 months or so. Chuck even takes his shoes off and sticks his feet in the grass while electrical lines and wires swing overhead. Jimmy looks over at him with genuine pride but now, whatever extreme dedication and sincere love for Chuck he once had is gone with the realization that Chuck is the man behind Jimmy’s inability to move up in HHM. He secretly placed a call to Howard before their meeting to let him know that Jimmy won’t be getting any type of partnership, despite the money this case could bring in.

The following words, spurted from Chuck’s mouth in the last few seconds of “Pimento” sealed the deal: “You’re not a real lawyer. I worked my a– off to get where I am. I committed my life to this. You haven’t.”

He continues: “You’re Slippin’ Jimmy! Slippin’ Jimmy with a law degree is like a gorilla with a machine gun.”

With that, Jimmy knows that everything he’s done for his brother – lured him outside, lined his suit jacket with a space blanket, etc. – has been for nothing. After it all, he can’t get his brother to believe in him. No matter how dedicated he is and devoted, he can’t get his brother to trust his legal mind. Chuck is officially and possibly permanently in the no-trust zone.

Surely, this must impact what’s next for our leading man. He could take this offer from HHM but then devote the series finale next week(!) to destroying the company. He could ultimately not accept the offer and go rogue. He could bring in Mike who can definitely get some dirt on these dudes. He’s got a lot of options. There’s a good chance that next week will get a little crazy. Perhaps like the crazy Mike got himself into this week.

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut. (Ursula Coyote/AMC)

I am happy to announce that the Mike we all know and love as the highly capable and quietly terrifying criminal is back, and I’ve gotta say I love it.

He shows up for his latest job in an unassuming parking garage and is soon met by a man roughly three times his size and a Billy Bob Thornton look-a-like with a particularly tremendous handlebar mustache.

They’re all here for the same gig: to protect a man they’ve never met. The newbie criminal needs to complete a transaction and basically needs a few intimidating men to stand behind him as backup. While they’re standing there waiting for their guy, Billy Bob asks them what sort of gun they brought with them. Never one to waste a bullet, Mike announces that all he’s got with him is a pimento sandwich and Billy Bob goes wild. “How can you really show up to one of these things without a weapon?” he shouts. He clearly doesn’t understand what kind of criminal Mike is.

Soon, a wood-paneled minivan pulls up by them. A man with the enthusiasm of a Boy Scout leader leaps out and quickly assures them that he’s got plenty of water bottles in the van and there’s a diner down the street if they need food. This guy’s getting ready to swap pills for cash, but he’s acting like he’s taking his three daughters to soccer practice. This is the sort of criminal that is delightful to see because all you can think about is how in the world this guy got the contacts to pull this off. Who did he know? How did he get here? And why? Personally, I’d love to see more of this guy who calls himself “Price” (ick!) more often. He’s completely bizarre and something this show could certainly have fun with.

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut. (Ursula Coyote/AMC)

While Mike eyes up this Price character, Billy Bob is still totally flipping out at the fact that Mike has come without a gun. He’s so freaked out that he takes it upon himself to announce to Price that Mike has come unprepared and that he should fire him so he and the giant can take home more cash. Little does Billy Bob know, he’s just made a grave mistake.

When he asks Mike what he was going to do without a weapon, Mike responds that he was just planning on using one of his. “One of my guns?” Billy Bob asks.

With a swift kick and a hit, Mike takes Billy Bob down and sends the giant sprinting away like a gazelle.

Yeah, Mike’s definitely the only guy Price needs.

Another bright moment of Episode 9 was when we got to see our friend Nacho again, since he was the guy making the transaction with Price for the box of 80 milligram pills. There’s a slight hiccup with the deal when Price announces that Nacho and his team are $20 short, but that’s mediated pretty quickly by the terror that is Mike’s dead stare. It’s like he’s the Yoda of Albuquerque.

So, what should we make of Mike’s latest venture? What I suppose we can think about is how good it feels to have this Mike back in our lives. And Nacho! Since he’s pretty Mike-like in his approach, I think he’ll have a decent future on the show and I hope he makes an appearance in the finale. Speaking of the finale specifically, I think this neat balance between the story lines worked fantastically this week and I can only hope that it continues to flow into next. I do think we’re in for a ride because it seems like Jimmy is closer to becoming desperate and we all know that desperate times call for one thing and one thing only: Mike.

Best Jimmyisms this week

“The most common phrase in this place? I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

“You have to let me rant about what an unwashed a—hole your boss is.”

“Hamlindigo blue. How about hamlindigo blow me!”

“That phone must have felt like a blowtorch in your ear.”