I was wondering what the timeline was from when Jimmy told Chuck he passed the bar and Chuck getting "sick" in Better Call Saul. Was Chuck's illness based on a necessity to occupy Jimmy's time, and keep him from practicing law?

In season 1 after Chuck steals his neighbor's paper and goes to the hospital Kim tells the doctor it's been 18 months since Chuck's been in the office. Was that around the same time Jimmy passed the bar?

  • 1
    Great question! (Pretty strong excuse to re-watch S1;) Now that you bring it up, I'd be very surprised if there turned out not to be a link.
    – DukeZhou
    Apr 14, 2017 at 21:27

4 Answers 4


In 1992, Chuck visited Jimmy in jail, where he bailed him out, in exchange for Jimmy turning his life around. During the subsequent nine years, Jimmy turned his life around to a degree and passed the bar exam. In 2001, Chuck stopped coming to the office, due to his developed electromagnetic hypersensitivity. By this time, Chuck's marriage with Rebecca has fallen apart.

Currently, one episode into Season 3, the nature of Chuck's electromagnetic hypersensitivity development has yet to be revealed. However, judging by the elliptical flashback style of the characters' back stories, it can be speculated to be a poignant plot point that will further explain the brothers' complicated relationship.


Minor spoilers up to S3E5! (but I think OP's question implies he has seen this episode).

Was Chuck's illness based on a necessity to occupy Jimmy's time, and keep him from practicing law?

Chuck seems to believe in the existence of his own disease. He has taken measures that do not impact Jimmy's ability to practice law directly. And he has inconvenienced other people even if it was completely unrelated to Jimmy.

Chuck is a master manipulator, though. He exacerbated his condition in order to manipulate Jimmy and extract a confession. However, I believe that Chuck would've done the same if his illness was real to begin with (e.g. cancer).

While Chuck has used his illness as a means to the goal of getting Jimmy to stop practicing law; his illness did not originate as a means to that achieve that goal.

However, if I may rephrase your question:

Has Chuck exacerbated his illness and the amount of attention he requires (groceries, help around the house, ...) in order to hinder Jimmy's day job as a lawyer?

It's possible. But then again, Chuck seems just as needy when he relies on Ernie, when Jimmy is no longer affected by Chuck's neediness.

Jimmy seems to swing by Chuck's before or after work. He also doesn't particularly keep to a 9-to-5 schedule (nor any other lawyer in the show, for that matter), so it seems unlikely that Chuck expected Jimmy to work less hours as a lawyer because he did chores for Chuck.
More likely, Jimmy would simply work at night if he had been busy for Chuck during the day. We see many cases of lawyers (most notably Kim and Jimmy) work long hours because they are dedicated to their jobs.

So I think the following would be an accurate summary:

  • Chuck's disease is mental, not physical.
  • Chuck honestly believes the disease is real.
  • Chuck asks for help because of his limitations due to the disease. Chuck is a generally self-absorbed person, and does not acknowledge that he is asking too much of Jimmy/Ernie. Whether he knows that he's asking too much seems unclear at the moment, but I don't think he does, based on how he treats Ernie. He has no reason to spite Ernie, and he seems honest (though arrogant) in the help he requires from Ernie.
  • Chuck manipulates Jimmy, because he secretly hates that Jimmy is a lawyer. He uses anything at his disposal. That includes exacerbating the effect his disease has on him; because Jimmy cares about Chuck.
  • Jimmy wants to help Chuck regardless of whether the disease is real or not. Jimmy helps (and even forgives) Chuck because of brotherly love.

In the episode RICO (S01E08), Jimmy informs his brother that he passed the bar while we can see his brother not ill.

Chuck is the picture of health, sitting in his corner office amidst various forms of electricity. He's even using a Dictaphone to compose a letter. Jimmy timidly interrupts and reveals that he passed the New Mexico Bar Exam ( . . . ). He asks if he can come work at HHM once he is sworn in. Chuck tells him that he has to confer with the other partners, but signals optimism: "How can they say no?". Later that day, Jimmy celebrates with his fellow mailroom employees and Kim. Howard Hamlin stops by the party and -- after the others have left -- informs Jimmy that HHM will not be hiring him.

So Chuck developed his illness while Jimmy was already a lawyer.

In the episode Chicanery (S03E05), it is revealed that Chuck's condition is a mental illness he started to develop after his divorce.

Also, in Chuck's page, you can read that

Jimmy suggests that Chuck developed his condition in response to his divorce from his wife.

  • Chuck having developed the illness after Jimmy passed the bar does not prove Chuck did not fake the illness to stop Jimmy from being a lawyer. If Chuck's illness was faked, Chuck couldn't have developed the illness prior to Jimmy's passing of the bar, as Jimmy had kept it a secret. But I agree that Chuck isn't faking the illness to hinder Jimmy. Also, Chicanery has not proved that the divorce caused Chuck's illness. It only proves that Chuck hides the illness from his ex wife (we have not yet seen them as a married or freshly divorced couple, we don't know the reason for divorce)
    – Flater
    May 12, 2017 at 10:44
  • I know I'm being pedantic, but this seems to be the format of the show. We get shown half of a story (Chuck staying in contact with his somewhat estranged ex wife), but we have not explicitly been told the details of the divorce yet and cannot conclude anything. Maybe they divorced because Chuck secretly "had" the disease and didn't want his wife to have to stick by a sick person. Maybe the divorce messed Chuck up emotionally, leading to him inventing a disease. We simply can't prove causation yet; other than Jimmy's (unfounded but plausible) claim that the disease is a respone to the divorce.
    – Flater
    May 12, 2017 at 10:48
  • @Flater, what I said was only based on Jimmy's supposition indeed. He said it in front of a court and Charles doesn't deny so I think it's highly plausible. May 12, 2017 at 10:52
  • Chuck doesn't deny it because he doesn't want to hash it out then and there. If Chuck argues his position, then Jimmy (by court rules) is allowed to completely dissect and examine anything Chuck brings to the table. Divorces are always messy even when clear. If Chuck chooses to not respond (which he does), he can at least imply that Jimmy's allegations are unfounded and unbelievable. Furthermore, I also think Chuck is a brooding character (e.g. how he resents Jimmy, he was never open about it until provoked); he wouldn't openly argue, but rather refuse to acknowledge the discusson altogether.
    – Flater
    May 12, 2017 at 10:55

Chuck has a psychosomatic illness developed around the time Jimmy becomes a lawyer. The nature of this type of mental illness is that the person does not realize there are emotional reasons behind the illness. So its plausible Chuck got sick because he couldn't handle the fact that Jimmy changed. Chuck has no idea his symptoma are because of Jimmy and his marriage ending. He has no insight at all. Only near the end did he realize it was a psychological issue, but he never ever explores why. Sure he uses the illness to entrap Jimmy, but he is not faking it. Neither brother ever really deals with feelings effectively. And they destroy each othee. Chuck is a hateful guy. He is so mean. He fears he is unlovable and that Jimmy is actually everyone's favorite and also smart. He did change for 9 years. That should have been enough.

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