Hello, and welcome back to our Billions recap, wherein we discuss last night's episode of Showtime's series about hedge fund billionaire Bobby Axelrod (AKA Shmeve Shmoen) and US Attorney General for the Southern District of New York Chuck Rhoades (AKA Breet Pharara).
Last night's episode was called "The Deal," the irony being that neither of the lead characters actually want to make a deal and in the end, they don't. But before we address that, the first scene brings us Wendy Rhoades, naked in a hot tub, with her equally naked boss, Bobby Axelrod. Why is this happening? Do you know anyone who goes skinny dipping with their boss?1 We have to wait a little while longer to find out, as the episode goes into flashback mode, to 72 hours prior.
Wendy comes out of her middle-of-the-day hooky matinee to find out that "Dollar" Bill Stearn has been arrested and she's not pleased. She storms her husband's office to ream him out for making the arrest when he knew she'd be out of the office/point out that it looks pretty bad for the wife of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York to be conveniently absent when the Feds handcuff one the firm's PMs. This a fair point. But also maybe it lends some credence to the argument that there's just a touch of a conflict of interest with regard to this whole setup she and Chuck have going on?
The following morning in Westport, Bobby is standing on a desk, addressing the troops, and I say troops because he truly believes that he's an army general at war. Specifically the second World War and yesterday was December 7, 1941, when the Japanese, led by the guy from Sideways-- no, not Thomas Hayden Church-- bombed his island. But what the history buffs among us will remember is that after Pearl Harbor, the United States was never attacked again on its own soil, and Bobby intends to make sure the same is true of Axe Capital. Unfortunately, while the speech inspires the staff, his psychiatrist/the wife of the man going after him sees right through it. Wendy advises Axelrod to "Set aside the piece of you that's raging and do something that's going to make you a little uncomfortable" in the short term, but will be the smart thing to do in the long run. Wendy clearly didn't get the memo that we're at war.
In lower Manhattan, Chuck and his number two, previously rebuffed by portfolio manager Bill Stearn, think they've finally found the way to get the Axe employee to flip: evidence of him having a secret second family. How did they figure it out? They asked themselves the age old question-- "Who the f*ck has two minivans?" Apparently a guy who has a wife and kids in Connecticut and a mistress and two kids in New Jersey. Sadly, Chuck and Bryan underestimated how big of a prick Stearn actually is/how deep his loyalty to Bobby goes; he has no issue with CT Wife finding out about NJ Mistress, and tells the poor woman as much in a pre-written email he sends without hesitation. For Stearn, it's Axe Capital Bros over TriState Area Hos.
Despite his earlier speech about war and armies and enemies and trenches, Axelrod is panicked and tells his number two Wags that what with the investors they're sure to lose, they're totally "f*cked" even without a conviction. But he won't so much as entertain the idea of a settlement that would keep him out of jail/make but a small dent in his bank account, even after appeals by both his highly-priced lawyer and wife.2 "You don't get to where I am without tolerating a lot of risk," Axelrod tells Lara before heading off to the Barclays Center to meet a prime broker whose public vote of confidence Axe Capital so desperately needs. In the sad trombone to end all sad trombones, though, the PB not only doesn't show, he makes sure Axelrod is greeted in the luxury box by a bunch of "20-something dipshits" who were given the space for the night.
At Casa de Rhoades, both Chuck Sr. and Wendy attempt to get Chuck to strike a plea deal. Chuck Sr's motive is that he wants his son to keep his eye on the prize-- higher office. Plus, he doesn't think the case against Axe Capital is actually winnable in court. Daddy Rhoades fails to convince Chuck and, initially, it looks like Wendy will similarly have no such luck getting her husband to see the light re: settling. Fortunately, she's able to use everything she's learned about Axelrod in their sessions together to make Chuck understand that Axe's psychological makeup3 will not allow him to come away from this battle without a win and if he can't get a win, he'll make sure "your loss is bigger than his loss." Chuck comes around.
But Wendy's work is only half done, which brings us to why she and her boss are naked together in a hot tub. Axelrod's creepy fixer, Hall, picks up Wendy outside the office in a typically creepy fashion and brings her to Axe without telling her anything about where they're going. It turns out they're going to some sort of warehouse/spa, and because "precautions" need to be taken, presumably re: people wearing wires, she needs to take all her clothes off and get in the water. You know, standard procedure. There, she tells Axe that the reason she hasn't quit-- despite very good reason to!-- is that she feels she helped build the firm as much as he did, because she "put [him] back together" after 9/11. Does Wendy understand that helping people get over trauma and not forging emotional ties with them such that you are compelled to keep working at their hedge fund despite your husband investigating said fund is, like, what being a psychiatrist is? Anyway, she convinces Bobby, too, that a plea deal is in his best interest.
At the US Attorney's office, Axe is, begrudgingly, prepared to sign a plea agreement that says he must return outside capital and convert to a family office, fork over $1.9 billion, and offer an admission of guilt on the firm's behalf. Chuck has gotten what he wants, yet in that moment just can't help himself and starts talking sh*t, which leads to an escalation of sh*t talking on both sides, which leads to Chuck changing the terms of the deal and demanding that Axe agree to never trade securities again, not just for other people but for himself as well. Since we've still got half a season (plus a whole other season) left, this naturally leads to Axelrod ripping up the check and throwing it in Chuck's face. We're back to where we started with no deal.
At home, Chuck lies to Wendy and tells her that Axelrod was the one who derailed the proceedings, then lies to her again by claiming he's recused himself of the case. Officially he has, but to his number two's surprise, Chuck expects to be kept fully in the loop re: going after Axe Capital.
- We still don't know what Axelrod did around the time of 9/11, that no one knows about, that Lara made sure was kept out of the Axe Capital widow's book. Will Chuck's team find out/be able to use it against him to build their case?
- Before Wendy goes to see Axelrod for a naked dip, his fixer Hall suggests an alternative way to get Chuck to back off: smearing Wendy, whether it's by implicating her in "fraud, embezzlement, an affair...maybe she's having an affair with Bill Stearn, maybe with you." Hall has been known to secretly record things before-- did he capture Wendy with Axelrod, just for insurance?
- No ball gags or cattle prods for Chuck this episode; apparently f*cking up a case at the office makes him want to be a dom at home.
Earlier: Billions Recap: Strip Club Sushi
1. If you do, we want to hear from you. ↩
2. Who is beside herself about their kids not being invited to a birthday party in the Hamptons, which is how you KNOW things are bad. ↩
3. Great therapist ethics! ↩