In Better Call Saul S03E03, Jimmy sits next to his old friend Bill Oakley (played by Peter Diseth) who is a Deputy District Attorney. Jimmy pulls out a burger and fries for lunch, while Oakley's lunch is simply two bags of potato chips. These details were clearly intentional to highlight how poor Oakley is (not working for a private law firm).

Up to this point, I had been extremely impressed with how accurate Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul had been with everything, and the exquisite effort put into making things realistic, but it was a shock to see this particular choice for highlighting Oakley's lack of affluence.

According to this source, the average Deputy District Attorney in New Mexico makes $60,000/year which I would think is enough to buy a decent lunch in Mexico, but without the help of user feedback, it's unlikely we can find what the spread of that average is (for example if Oakley is not the most diligent attorney, his salary could be significantly lower).

  • I don't see what is unrealistic about it. If $60k is the average then we have to consider that its possible that he might make at least $10k less than that. I think its perfectly reasonable to assume that he might be scrimping on lunch money to be able to cover other expenses.
    – sanpaco
    May 27, 2017 at 1:40
  • Anything is "possible". I wonder why the director went through such great effort to demonstrate how poor the Deputy District Attorney is. Are DDAs seriously so poor? May 27, 2017 at 20:33
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    Add a mortgage and a couple of kids and that $60k won't sound so big anymore... May 28, 2017 at 15:19
  • @JonathanReez: True, but that's also true for all sorts of people. The director seemed to go out of their way to show that lawyers that are not working for a big firm, live very poor lifestyles. It was similar when Jimmy (Saul) was was a public defender and then later a private practitioner working out of a room upstairs from a nail salon. May 28, 2017 at 19:02
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    The stingiest are not the poorest :) May 29, 2017 at 7:18

5 Answers 5


$60K may seem like a decent wage, but when you add the additional debt carried for 3 years of law school, plus county government isn't going to buy the suits you need to wear to court (business casual that the average $60K office stiff can wear is not an option).... that's not a great return on that particular investment.

Average debt for college grads with loans is about $30K, as of a couple year ago.

USA Today: Average college debt, state by state

Average debt for law school grads who have loans is $148K.

US News and World Report: Graduate Debt

  • I accepted your answer, but perhaps you can remove the part that implies that a suit from a thrift store costs thousands of dollars :) Jun 29, 2023 at 9:31
  • @user1271772 - nowhere do I imply that a suit from a thrift store costs thousands. But (A) if you have to buy your suits from a thrift store, you're not making a ton of money, and (B) a suit from a thrift store is still going to cost a lot more than a collared sports shirt ($15 to $20 brand new) that you can wear with jeans in a business casual office. Jul 19, 2023 at 18:33
  • you're wrong about everything there, you implied that a suit from a thrift store would cost a significant portion of $60,000, then you said that you didn't imply that, then you said that a suit from a thrift store would cost more than $15 which is false, and it is also not true that business casual suits that the average staff (not stiff, as the original version of your answer says) can wear is not acceptable for a lawyer. Jul 20, 2023 at 3:25
  • @user1271772 - I'm wrong about what I intended and had in mind when I was typing, because you know better? Get outta here. A suit, acceptable to wear into court for a legal professional (no DA's boss will accept that) will not be procured at $15, and you can't wear the same one every day. And, no, I never said that it would cost a significant portion of the $60K. Pre-tax $60K, a soda is a significant proportion. I juxtaposed it to what someone working in a regular business casual environment would cost, pointing out of pocket professional expenses are more. Nothing more. Nothing less. Jul 20, 2023 at 16:26
  • Remember, your question was about realism. Judges send attorneys home for skirts too short. Threaten contempt for wearing an ascot instead of a tie. From the DAs office, they definitely would expect a certain standard. If your biggest beef is that I point out dressing for court costs a bit more than the business casual office environment, you need to take a step back and re-evaluate things. Jul 20, 2023 at 16:37

I had a slightly different interpretation of that scene. I don't think the details of the scene were meant to highlight how poor DDA Oakley is. I think they're meant to show that he's still stuck in the same grind (although on the opposite side) that Jimmy used to be stuck in when he was a public defender. It's not so much that he can't afford a cafeteria burger, just that he's kept so busy that he doesn't have time for more than a vending machine lunch between cases.

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    He did not seem to be in a rush at all , and when Jimmy left, he was very excited to accept Jimmy's offer to finish his burger. Jimmy left, and Bill stayed there to enjoy the burger. He also had time to go all the way to the police station to see Jimmy when he was being detained. May 28, 2017 at 19:05
  • @user1271772 Why would he seem to be in a rush? Weren't they sitting outside the court room? May 28, 2017 at 21:28
  • I just remember them sitting on a bench, perhaps in court. However, he did not seem like he was "so busy that he doesn't have time for more than a vending machine lunch between cases". If he has so many cases to prosecute, he might have at least a folder in his hand with some notes that he could review for the next case, or some work he could do in advance for another upcoming case. He doesn't strike me as the type of guy that was "so busy he couldn't buy lunch". May 28, 2017 at 23:04
  • @user1271772: Your proposed option of what it would look like if he has a busy job is only one of many options. He may have made time to talk to Jimmy, an old friend. Maybe he had a slower day. Maybe he had an hour until the next trial started. Your singular example is not the only possible explanation for him being "in the daily grind of being a public defender". The point Bill the Lizard makes is not that Bill is excessively busy; but rather than Bill is still doing "bulk processing" as a public defender; as opposed to Jimmy's work which has fewer clients and less need for court trials.
    – Flater
    May 29, 2017 at 8:15

...is it realistic that Jimmy's friend from the district attorney's office is so poor?

Why not? Maybe he is not really poor, just stingy.
We have no real deep background infos about Oakley.

Maybe he has/is:

  • 6 kids
  • 3 ex-wifes
  • expensive wife or/and girlfriend
  • gambling-addicted
  • very stingy
  • high mortgage(s)
  • many insurances, PayTV, expensive hobbies, ...

It doesn't matter how much you earn if the expenses were higher than the income.

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    Absolutely true, but the director went way out of their way to emphasize this point that Jimmy can afford a burger but Bill needs to eat two bags of potato chips as if it were a lunch. I'm wondering what the reason for this was. May 28, 2017 at 23:06
  • @user1271772 "the director went way out of their way to emphasize this point that Jimmy can afford a burger" The scene does not pull into focus the financial aspect. You're reading that into the scene. There are many reasons for the two men to have a different lunch. The exact reason for that is never specified. You're right that the difference in lunch is stressed, but the reason for the difference in lunch is never explored.
    – Flater
    Aug 13, 2018 at 10:53

The difference in meal isn't intended to specifically prove a wealth gap between Jimmy and Bill. It helps paint the difference between Jimmy and Bill, especially in regards to quality of life.

Jimmy may complain about his life/career, but when you compared the freedoms he has as an independent lawyer to the life of a public prosecutor, you can't help but think that Jimmy's focusing on the bad (not being as rich or successful as Chuck/Howard) more than the good (having it better than Bill).

Bill is an ex-colleague of Jimmy. The main goal of the scene is to show you the difference between past Jimmy and present Jimmy. Bill is merely a representative of what Jimmy's past looked like.

The scene is short, so Bill's character is explained in broad strokes:

  • Incredibly busy job, daily grind.
  • Unrewarding clients.
  • He can't do better than a bag of chips for lunch. Notice that this isn't necessarily a financial obstable for Bill. There are other reasons for this:
    • Bill has so many cases that he doesn't have the time to go out for lunch and instead has to settle for the nearest vending machine.
    • Much like his career, Bill's food habits are unhealthy and mismanaged. He never aspires for something better. Maybe he complains about his life, but never truly takes action to fix it.
    • Money can also be an issue here, but it seems unlikely to be the sole deciding factor here.

To paint the picture more explicitly:

Effectively, Jimmy's holding a burger, begrudgingly looking over (in his mind) at Chuck and Howard who are having a nice steak for lunch. Why does Chuck/Howard get to have a fancy lunch and he only get a burger?

However, behind Jimmy is Bill, who is holding a vending machine pack of chips, begrudgingly looking over at Jimmy who's having a nice burger for lunch. Why does Jimmy get to have a fancy lunch and he only get a bag of chips?

Jimmy is a flawed man. We know this because we know where he ends up in Breaking Bad. Jimmy doesn't make the right choices, and Jimmy doesn't make it big in the end. Just like Walter White, Jimmy will make the wrong choices for (what he thinks are) the right reasons.

This scene is one of the red flags that shows you one of Jimmy's flaws. He's so fixated on others he competes with (Chuck/Howard), that he completely forgets that while he's not as successful as Chuck/Howard, he's still more successful than he was in the past.

This effectively mirrors Walter White's flaw. When he reached the initial goal (getting enough money for his family), he then started competing with other major players because he wanted the territory and fame that comes with being a kingpin. Jimmy is on a similar quest for greatness and forgets about the things he's already achieved.


Oakley's lunch is simply two bags of potato chips. These details were clearly intentional to highlight how poor Oakley is

Your above interpretation is wrong. Instead,

  1. Oakley is not poor.
  2. Those details were not to "highlight how poor Oakley is".
  3. Those details were merely to depict the human being that is Oakley.

Human beings are varied and complex (as the creators of both this show and Breaking Bad try to depict with their varied characters).

Eating two bags of potato chips for lunch does not mean you are poor. It could (but need not) simply mean for example:

  1. You don't care too much about your health.
  2. You like to have a rushed lunch so you can go back to do your work.
  3. You are unusually thrifty.
  4. You like potato chips.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Warren Buffett eats McDonald's for breakfast everyday (which in 2017, never cost more than $3.17):

I tell my wife, as I shave in the morning, I say, ‘Either $2.61, $2.95 or $3.17.’ And she puts that amount in the little cup by me here [in the car] (CNBC)

If you observed this guy having McDonald's every morning, you might incorrectly interpret that he is poor too.

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