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Every Scheme From Better Call Saul, Ranked By Level Of Chicanery

For those who choose to wade through the murky depths of Albuquerque's criminal underworld, it's never a bad idea to have a lawyer on speed dial. Those in-the-know will tell you there's only one call you need make when Johnny Law comes a-knocking. 

While there are many reasons to turn to Albuquerque's preeminent, morally flexible bus bench lawyer (he's a hard worker, a fast talker, and a snappy dresser), there's a lot more to Saul Goodman. Namely, some well-honed powers of deception. After all, you don't become the world's second-best lawyer without a willingness to cut a few corners.

Over six memorable seasons, AMC's wildly popular "Breaking Bad" prequel series "Better Call Saul" was critically acclaimed for its darkly comic tone, well-rounded characters, and intricate plotting. Like Walter White (Bryan Cranston) before him, Saul (Bob Odenkirk) is cunning, resourceful, and meticulous. But where Heisenberg would learn from his chemistry acumen, violence, and intimidation to achieve his ends, Saul Goodman's methods tend towards trickery. From his days ripping off unwitting bar patrons in Cicero with fake Rolexes, to his creative contortions of the law as a defense attorney, Jimmy McGill's well-orchestrated cons provided some of the show's most engaging and nail-biting sequences, which came together, often, without any overt action or violence to keep the viewer hooked.

Below is a compilation of Saul Goodman's most crooked cons. Keep your hand on your wallet, read on, and be ready shake your head in disgust.

12. The Kettleman Cozen (Season 1)

When starting out in any profession, especially one as saturated as the legal field, you're bound to have trouble establishing your reputation. With a law degree from the University of American Samoa and a tiny office in the back of a nail salon, freshly-minted solicitor Jimmy McGill had himself in such a situation when audiences first met him at the beginning of the series. What better way to get your name out there than by representing the headline-grabbing treasurer of Bernalillo County, Craig Kettleman (Jeremy Shamos), and his wife, Betsy (Julie Ann Emery) who stand accused of embezzling $1.6 million from the county coffers?

Unfortunately for Jimmy, his cheap suits, lack of a suitable office, and the Kettleman's belief that he's "the sort of lawyer guilty people hire," the desired defendants slip through his fingers easier than $1.6 million slips through the door of the county treasury. Not content to let the prestigious law firm Hamlin, Hamlin, McGill, poach his clients, Jimmy hatches a plot to win them back.

Enlisting the help of a pair of local skateboarding twins, Jimmy makes a plan to put the squeeze on Betsy by staging the same skateboard-related car accident the twins once ran on him. Once Betsy has "hit" the skateboarder, Jimmy will just happen by and offer to help her out of the sticky situation in return for a healthy retainer on the embezzlement case. It's a pretty savvy plan, and one which might have worked, had the twins not accidentally run the game on the grandmother of local drug kingpin Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz). Points for style, but the execution leaves a little to be desired.

11. The Hero Hoax (Season 1)

Another Season 1 stab at attaining a little legal notoriety in the Albuquerque attorney scene, this scheme puts Jimmy's innate knowledge of how to grab people's attention on full display. Securing a hefty bribe — erm, retainer — from the Kettlemans after finding them camping in the Sandias, when they were supposedly kidnapped, with a big duffel bag of embezzled Benjamins, Jimmy has enough money to begin an aggressive advertising campaign for his fledgling law firm.

Jimmy creates a billboard in a similar style to that of Howard Hamlin's (Patrick Fabian) law firm, HHM. The hope, as espoused by Hamlin, is that the billboard will trick potential clients into thinking that Jimmy is affiliated with the prestigious firm, landing potential HMM clients at the law offices of James M. McGill, Esq. It's not a bad idea, but according to a judge, it's also copyright infringement and the billboard must be taken down.

McGill is not one to let a chance for free publicity pass him by, however. On the day the billboard is scheduled to be removed, Jimmy hires a crew of UNM film students to shoot the sad event. As the camera rolls, the worker taking down the billboard slips and falls, leaving him dangling off the edge. Jimmy leaps into "hero" mode, scaling the billboard and hauling the worker back onto solid ground; the action snags him a glowing article in the Albuquerque Journal and an interview on the local news. 

"Saul" viewers are tipped off by a quick high-five between Jimmy and the worker — revealing it was all staged. It's a simple plan, it works, and it's only a shadow of some of schemes yet to come.

10. The Blueprint Bilk (Season 4)

Usually, when a boss asks you for something that is physically impossible, your only option is to politely explain exactly why they cannot have what they want. But when you're well-acquainted with a highly skilled conman like Jimmy McGill, the impossible becomes possible. As long as you're up for a bit of trickery.

In Season 4, Kim Wexler's (Rhea Seehorn) largest client — expanding regional bank Mesa Verde — is building new branches all over the American southwest. Mesa Verde's chairman Kevin Wachtell (Rex Linn) wants the bank's Lubbock, Texas branch to be larger than the plans they'd already submitted to the Lubbock local government. Kim politely informs him that in order to get approval for the larger building, they'll have to begin the blueprint submission process from scratch, setting back their timeline for opening by several weeks. 

Enlisting Jimmy's help, Kim instead travels to Lubbock on crutches, playing the role of a hardworking single mother desperate to ensure that the plans submitted to the Lubbock Building Safety Department are accurate. As she's talking with the civil servant in charge of rubber-stamping business plans, enter Jimmy, a deadbeat brother with a Jeep who has left Kim's fictional baby along in his Wrangler, much to the displeasure of Kim, who storms out, leaving an intentionally leaky bag of breastmilk atop the old blueprints. When she returns to sodden blueprints and begins to panic, the civil servant suggests they swap the ruined blueprints with the set Kim brought along to compare. Concealed within the duplicate plans, of course, are blueprints for the larger Lubbock branch. The stamp of approval comes crashing down, and Kim and Jimmy slip out the front doors of City Hall with nobody any the wiser.

9. The Squat Cobbler Swizz (Season 2)

When Daniel Wormald (Mark Proksch) gets his prized baseball card collection stolen by Nacho Varga (Michael Mando), the inept wannabe pill peddler unwisely involves the authorities. When they arrive to look at his ransacked house, they immediately suspect that the unassuming IT technician is involved in something less than legal.

Fearing for his safety, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) needs to take the heat off Wormald in order to keep the heat off himself. But with Wormald actively talking to the cops, Mike must pursue the problem through slightly more legal channels than those in which he's used to operating. So, he gives his erstwhile attorney Jimmy McGill a call.

In order to craft an explanation for the suspicious hidey hole cut into the baseboard of Wormald's home, as well as the sudden windfall of cash he seems to have recently stumbled into, Jimmy spins a yarn about Wormald's vaguely sexual side hustle, insisting that the hidey hole and cash are not indicators of a criminal dalliance, but of artistic expression. According to Jimmy, Wormald sells photographs to a wealthy patron involving a practice he dubs "Squat Cobbler": sitting in a large number of pies, often whilst crying, for the titillation of the viewer. The cops are skeptical at first, but after Jimmy has Wormald create several images of the practice, they are convinced of his innocence and set him free without charging him. It's a very out-of-left-field plot, but a successful one nonetheless, despite the practice of falsifying evidence to exonerate a client being one of dubious legality.

8. The Rolex Runaround (Season 1)

The next scheme takes viewers from the sun-bleached streets of Central New Mexico to the cold, snow-covered alleyways of Cicero, Illinois. Before Jimmy was a lawyer, he was Slippin' Jimmy, a legendary conman who made his beer money tricking the populous of the Chicago suburb into parting ways with their hard-earned cash. In Season 1, there are several looks at some of the rackets that Jimmy runs with his close friend Marco (Mel Rodriguez) in the dive bars of Cook County, but the best one of these by far is the fake Rolex scam.

All that is needed to pull off this scam is a well-dressed accomplice, a couple hundred in cash, a fake Rolex, and a charming con man to run the game. Jimmy approaches the mark in a bar, and when the bar closes, tells the unwitting fellow about a cool after-hours spot nearby that's open all night. On the way to this imaginary spot, they happen across a wallet on the ground, with a couple hundred in cash, fallen from the pocket of the inebriated businessman passed out nearby.

But there's more money to be made than just the wallet. Glinting on Marco's wrist is an expensive watch, which Jimmy tries to keep for himself, disguising the watch's true value. When the mark insists on keeping the watch, Jimmy protests, leading the poor unfortunate man to offer Jimmy all the cash in his wallet for a worthless replica. The mark runs off into the night, unaware he's just been taken for a ride, leaving Jimmy and Marco to split the cash.

7. The Mesa Verde Mislead (Season 5)

Kim finds herself in a difficult position with the proposed Mesa Verde call center in Tucumcari, as the land on which they plan to build is the longtime home of Everett Acker (Barry Corbin), a curmudgeonly octogenarian who has no plans to leave the home he built for himself years ago. Unfortunately for Acker, Mesa Verde has the law on their side, and he will be forcibly evicted if he doesn't abandon his house. This doesn't sit well with Kim, who asks Jimmy to use a little bit of his magic to keep Acker in his home and force the bank to build their call center elsewhere.

After convincing Acker to accept his legal services, Jimmy gets to work on several innocuous, but irritating, delays to keep construction from getting underway. Beginning with changing the numbers on the mailbox to an address different from the one on the eviction notice, they only get more and more elaborate.

Jimmy scatters fake Native American pottery around the property to invoke the New Mexico Cultural Properties Act, peppers the area with radioactive material to impel an OSHA investigation, and even paints the side of Acker's house with a likeness of Jesus, leading to an influx of parishioners hoping to glimpse a miracle. This scheme gets points for creativity, but Jimmy and Kim underestimate Kevin's stubbornness, which eventually forces them to take a different approach.

6. The Reinstatement Rook (Season 4)

When Jimmy has his law license suspended for a year after the events of Season 3, he is desperate to get it back and resume his career as an attorney. But the biggest barrier between him and his return to the law is the hearing. Jimmy's first attempt at reinstatement doesn't work out because the chairman of the panel believes that Jimmy's answers during the hearing were insincere. So, with Kim's help, Jimmy begins plotting to boost his sincerity in the eyes of the reinstatement board.

Jimmy spends several hours standing by Chuck's grave, sobbing, on days when he knows influential members of Albuquerque's legal community will be at the cemetery. He donates a new law library to the University of New Mexico in Chuck McGill's name while refusing to eat at the grand opening and appearing morose while staying away from the crowd. But the pièce de résistance comes at the appeal hearing, when he begins speaking about how much Chuck meant to him, and how his brother was his inspiration for him becoming a lawyer. The members of the board, (and Kim) are convinced by the sincerity of his emotion, but after he is reinstated, he reveals to Kim that he didn't mean a word that came out of his mouth and was playing on the board's affection for Chuck to bend them to his will.

It's a con that works purely on Jimmy's ability to read and manipulate people. While the con is successful, it also reveals a crucial turn in Jimmy's character. He is becoming a man who is willing to say anything — or hurt anybody — to get what he wants.

5. The Tequila Trick (Season 2)

The beginning of Season 2 presents a Jimmy who has quit the law, lounging in a resort pool, and ordering cocktails on somebody else's room tab. When Kim arrives to try to convince him to take a job at the law firm of Davis & Maine, a familiar face from "Breaking Bad" walks into the bar: Ken (Kyle Bornheimer), the annoying stockbroker who swiped a parking spot from Walt, only to have his BMW destroyed by the vengeful chemistry teacher as payback. As Ken sits, jawing away on his Bluetooth headset, Jimmy decides to show Kim a taste of his old life.

They approach the stockbroker as Viktor and Giselle St. Claire, siblings who just inherited a hefty sum of money from a deceased uncle and are looking to get into investing. With Ken's interest piqued, he invites them to talk about their options with him, and once Jimmy has him on the line, tricks him into purchasing them a bottle of Zafiro Añejo — a tequila priced at $50 a shot — before signing a contract they have no intentions of upholding and leaving him holding an extremely expensive bar bill.

4. The Chuck Cheat (Season 3)

By Season 3, bad blood was flowing between Jimmy McGill and his brother Chuck (Michael McKean). Chuck had already finagled the Sandpiper case away from his brother, and, after Jimmy tried to steal Mesa Verde away from HHM in Season 2, baited him into breaking into his house, leading to his arrest.

So, when Chuck recommends that Jimmy be disbarred rather than prosecuted, Kim and Jimmy see an opening to reinstate Jimmy's law license by bringing Chuck's mental fitness — vis a vis his sensitivity to electricity — into the harsh light of day at the bar hearing. Enlisting the help of pickpocket Huell Babineaux (Lavell Crawford) and calling Chuck's ex-wife Rebecca Bois (Ann Cusack) to attend the hearing on the day Chuck testifies, the plan is to rattle Chuck enough to provoke some kind of outburst in front of the committee.

Before Chuck's testimony, Jimmy has Huell plant a fully-charged phone battery in Chuck's pocket; during Jimmy's cross-examination, he begins to question him about the specificities of his electromagnetic hypersensitivity. When he asks Chuck if he can feel any electrical current coming from anywhere in the courtroom, Chuck senses a ruse and makes Jimmy reveal he has his cell phone in his pocket. But this time, Jimmy is one step ahead of his elder brother and shows the court that the phone Chuck claimed he could sense had no battery. The battery itself was in Chuck's pocket the whole time, unbeknownst to him, provoking the outburst Jimmy was hoping for. It's a great example of Jimmy using people's perceptions of him to his advantage, and while the con is successful, it would lead to tragic results by the end of the season.

3. The Rosella Drive Runaround (Season 2)

After Kim manages to score a very lucrative client for HHM in Mesa Verde, she decides to leave HHM and take Mesa Verde with her to start her own law practice. Chuck, unwilling to let such a high-caliber client walk out the door, persuades Kevin Wachtell to stick with HHM.

Jimmy, who's already at odds with his brother regarding Sandpiper, hatches a plot to get back at him and send Mesa Verde right into Kim's open arms. While Chuck is indisposed following an emergency trip into the electricity-filled office, Jimmy takes his Mesa Verde files to a coffee shop and meticulously changes the address of the bank's Scottsdale, Arizona branch from 1261 Rosella Dr. to 1216 Rosella Dr. This one-number substitution results in Chuck copying down the erroneous address onto all of the paperwork for the New Mexico Banking Board, leading to Chuck's public humiliation and the loss of Mesa Verde to Kim's fledgling law practice. But when Chuck double-checks the files and sees that all of his forms say 1261, not 1216, he knows Jimmy is behind it.

The scheme is an excellent example of how meticulous and cunning Jimmy can be in pursuit of his goals. It's a well-reasoned and almost flawlessly executed scheme; had Jimmy been a little faster in bribing the copy shop worker to claim Jimmy had never patronized the business, he would have gotten away scot-free. But all it takes is a single uncrossed "t" to get Chuck on the trail, which eventually leads to Jimmy landing himself in jail.

2. The Howard Hamlin Hornswoggle (Season 6)

Jimmy's relationship with Howard Hamlin is every bit as rocky as his relationship with Chuck. By Season 6, Hamlin has found himself a part of one of Jimmy's elaborate revenge schemes, following Hamlin's attempts to recruit Jimmy for HHM the previous season.

Jimmy and Kim begin concocting a scheme to ruin Hamlin's career, and win their Sandpiper settlement in one fell swoop, at the end of Season 5. What begins as a harmless thought experiment eventually evolves into a multi-episode arch with tragic consequences.

The exact details of the plot are extensive, but the gist is that with HHM on the verge of a settlement with the Sandpiper legal team, Hamlin is on the lookout for Jimmy's duplicity. Jimmy ticks him into hiring a fake private investigator to follow Jimmy around day and night. Jimmy and Kim begin to lay a trail of breadcrumbs causing Hamlin's colleagues to suspect that he has a drug problem. On the day of the settlement, Hamlin's fake private eye hands him staged photographs of Jimmy bribing the neutral arbiter in the settlement that is coated with a mystery stimulant they procured from Dr. Caldera (Joe DeRosa) giving him an unhinged drug-addled demeanor when he accuses the arbiter of taking a bribe. The result: A much lower settlement, and a massive professional embarrassment for Hamlin.

It's a plot that takes dozens of post-it notes to chart, as well as an illustration of the depths to which Jimmy will sink to spite someone. Were it not for the unintended fatal consequences for Hamlin, this scheme would have come off without a hitch.

1. The Babineaux Bamboozle (Season 4)

Part of the terms of Jimmy's Pre-Prosecution Diversion from Season 3 is that he can only associate with law-abiding citizens during his one-year suspension. But, desperately in need of money, Jimmy turns to his shadier side for dough in Season 4: Selling drop phones on the streets of Albuquerque. As his business begins to pick up, he hires Huell to serve as a bodyguard, following a run-in with some street hoodlums. Things are going smoothly until Huell accidentally hits a cop in the head with a bag of sandwiches.

This lands Jimmy in a difficult spot. If Huell is convicted, Jimmy's PPD will kick in and he'll lose any chance of regaining his law license. Desperate to keep himself out of trouble, Jimmy turns to Kim, who helps him pull off the most flawlessly executed scheme in the entire series.

Jimmy takes a bus trip to Coushatta, Louisiana, and mails hundreds of fabricated letters from the residents of the town to the judge presiding over Huell's case. With Judge Munsinger (Ethan Phillips) enraged at the circus a simple case has caused, ADA Ericsen (Julie Pearl) begins investigating. She calls the phone numbers listed on some of the mail and ends up on the phone with Jimmy and his UNM film crew pretending to be various residents of Huell's hometown, proclaiming his innocence, as well as their plans to take charter buses out to Albuquerque for the trial.

The con works to perfection. ADA Ericsen chooses to drop the case, and Huell gets off without so much as a slap on the wrist. This scheme is one of the best examples of what can be accomplished when the minds of Wexler and McGill team up.