Chicanery (Better Call Saul)

"Chicanery" is the fifth episode of the third season of the AMC television series Better Call Saul, the spinoff series of Breaking Bad. The episode aired on May 8, 2017 on AMC in the United States. Outside of the United States, the episode premiered on streaming service Netflix in several countries.

Better Call Saul episode
Episode no.Season 3
Episode 5
Directed byDaniel Sackheim
Written byGordon Smith
Original air dateMay 8, 2017 (2017-05-08)
Running time49 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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In a flashback, Chuck enlists Jimmy in an attempt to reconcile with Rebecca by inviting her to dinner at Chuck's house. Because of his EHS, he previously had all the electronics removed from his house. Rebecca doesn't know that Chuck believes he suffers from EHS, so he hides his illness by telling Rebecca that the power company accidentally turned off his electricity. Although Rebecca seems to accept Chuck's explanation, she answers a call on her cellular phone which causes Chuck to panic and knock the phone out of her hands. When Jimmy attempts to tell Rebecca about Chuck's EHS, Chuck forbids it and says Jimmy shouldn't be the one to break the news.

Main storyEdit

Jimmy asks Dr. Caldera if he knows "someone with a light touch" who would be willing to do a job. After a successful hearing before the New Mexico Banking Board, Kim informs Paige and Kevin of Chuck's allegations that Jimmy tampered with the Mesa Verde files. Neither Kevin nor Paige believe the allegations, which they attribute to Chuck not wanting to admit that he made a mistake. Kim assures Paige that Mesa Verde will not suffer any long-term negative effects from having to re-file one new branch application.

Kim knows that because the bar association's attorney intends to use Jimmy's taped confession, Chuck will have to testify to its authenticity, giving Jimmy and Kim the opportunity to cross-examine him and bring up the details of his EHS. Before the hearing begins, Howard and Chuck arrange for the room to be as free of electricity as possible when Chuck testifies. Howard tells Chuck he doesn't need to testify because they have a solid case against Jimmy based on Howard's and David's testimony. He reminds Chuck that if he testifies, he's putting HHM's reputation at risk, but Chuck is determined to see Jimmy punished and dismisses Howard's concerns.

As the hearing begins, Kim and the bar's attorney make their opening statements, with Kim asserting that the real story is the feud between Jimmy and Chuck. Howard testifies first, explaining Jimmy's history at HHM and the fact that Chuck did not want to hire Jimmy, supposedly to avoid the appearance of nepotism. Kim counters this claim by pointing out that Howard was hired at HHM even though he was the son of HHM's founding partner. Jimmy's confession tape is played for the panel hearing the case.

After Howard's testimony, he drives Chuck to the courthouse and Chuck bumps into Huell Babineaux as he's walking up the stairs to the hearing room. The hearing room is prepared for Chuck, including those present removing key fobs, watches and cell phones. To Chuck's surprise, Jimmy leads Rebecca into the room. Chuck obtains a recess and talks with Rebecca, who explains that Jimmy contacted her out of concern for Chuck's well being. She expresses sympathy, but Chuck tells her that Jimmy had her attend the hearing only as a psychological tactic to disrupt Chuck's testimony by making him discuss his illness in front of her.

During cross-examination, Jimmy stands near Chuck, raises the issue of his EHS, and asks how close Chuck has to be to an electrical object for his symptoms to be present. He asks Chuck to identify the closest source of electricity and Chuck guesses that Jimmy's trying to trick him, so he asks if Jimmy has something electrical in his pocket. Jimmy reveals that he has his cell phone in his pocket and Chuck calls Jimmy's bluff by correctly guessing that Jimmy has removed the battery. Jimmy then asks Chuck to reach into his own pocket and when Chuck does he pulls out the fully charged battery from Jimmy's phone. Jimmy reveals he had Huell plant it on Chuck when they bumped into each other on the stairs and though Chuck has been carrying it for an hour and 43 minutes, he has not been affected by his supposed EHS. When the bar association's attorney argues that Chuck's apparent mental illness is an irrelevant detail in the context of the charges against Jimmy, Chuck finally loses control and goes on an angry rant about Jimmy's unethical and dishonest behavior. He desperately exhorts the panel to disbar Jimmy but stops in mid-sentence, realizing he has shocked everyone present into stunned silence. Jimmy somberly ends his cross-examination.


The episode is directed by Daniel Sackheim, a first time director on the show, and written by Gordon Smith, who previously wrote the season 2 episode "Inflatable".

This episode is the first time Jonathan Banks, who has appeared in every episode in the series so far, has not made an appearance as Mike. Lavell Crawford reprises his role as Huell Babineaux from Breaking Bad after last appearing in the season 5 episode "To'hajiilee".



Upon airing, the episode received 1.76 million American viewers, and an 18–49 rating of 0.7.[1] With Live+7 viewing factored in, the episode had an overall audience of 4.16 million viewers, and a 1.6 18–49 rating.[2]

Critical receptionEdit

Michael McKean was singled out for his performance in the final scene

The episode received universal acclaim from critics, with some considering it to be a series best. Terri Schwartz of IGN awarded the episode 10 out of 10, describing it as "the best episode of Better Call Saul to date".[3] It currently holds a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average of 9.5/10 based on 12 reviews. The site consensus reads: "The war between Jimmy and Chuck comes to an unprecedented climax in the heartbreaking, sober, and defining 'Chicanery', an episode that clearly cements Better Call Saul as essential television."[4]

TVLine named Michael McKean the "Performer of the Week" for his performance in this episode, writing it was the "finest showcase yet for his fascinatingly layered performance as Jimmy's brother Chuck McGill."[5] Donna Bowman of The A.V. Club, who gave the episode an "A" rating, praised the courtroom scene, saying "it isn’t just to give us the satisfaction of a courtroom drama, the neat ending where the truth comes out. The brilliance of this structure is to give us a slow-motion view of the heavens falling, an outcome methodically pursued by Kim and Jimmy, which nevertheless seems to give them no satisfaction." [6]

At the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, Gordon Smith was nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for this episode, his second for the series. Smith was awarded the Writers Guild of America Award for Episodic Drama. Many critics were disappointed when McKean, who was said to have given "one of the best performances by anyone in TV all year", failed to secure an Emmy nomination while his co-star Jonathan Banks did.[7][8]


The episode's final scene is an homage to the climactic courtroom scene in The Caine Mutiny, in which a suspicious, authoritarian, by-the-book Navy captain cracks under cross-examination. Uproxx noted that even the facial expressions of "Chicanery's" three committee members mirror those of three judges in Caine.[9] (The film—which Vince Gilligan counts among his favorites—is also referenced in the Breaking Bad episode "Madrigal", in which Mike can be seen watching it.)[9]


  1. ^ Welch, Alex (May 9, 2017). "Monday cable ratings: 'Love & Hip Hop' ticks up, 'WWE Raw' dips". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  2. ^ Porter, Rick (May 27, 2017). "'Brockmire' makes a big jump in cable Live +7 ratings for May 8-14". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  3. ^ Schwartz, Terri (May 8, 2017). "Better Call Saul: "Chicanery" Review". IGN. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  4. ^ "Chicanery". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  5. ^ "Performer of the Week: Michael McKean". TVLine. May 13, 2017. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  6. ^ "Chicanery · Better Call Saul · TV Review". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  7. ^ "The 2017 Emmy nominations' 13 most disappointing omissions". Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  8. ^ "'Its exclusion is an almighty slap in the face' – all the Emmy snubs and shocks". The Guardian. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  9. ^ a b Rowles, Dustin (2017-05-11). "The Movie That Inspired The 'Best Episode Ever' Of 'Better Call Saul'". Uproxx. Retrieved 2017-05-17.

External linksEdit