Bone-chilling or most bone-chilling character?
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). Let's get to it.
The third episode was called "YumTime" and more than any other one so far, it contained the most about of f*cking, of both the literal and figurative sense. As far as the f*cking surrounding a Hostess-type company called YumTime, Axe Capital has amassed a 4.9% stake in the purveyor of "Scrumpets, Dingdoodles, and Kookoonutties." Bobby Axelrod, apparently known for Dan Loeb-esque letters, has gone activist on the place, demanding changes to the recipes and seats on the board. His motivation for doing so is two-fold. The first is that the products really have noticeably declined since the company started using cut-rate ingredients, thereby sullying Axelrod's fond memories of what it used to taste line to bite into a Scrumpette after finishing his paper route. The second is that he or one of his enterprising researchers has discovered that Chuck Rhoades's father, Chuck Sr., has a mistress and she's on the YumTime board (which Chuck Sr. figures out while lying in a robe in a midtown hotel just prior to knocking boots with his younger lady friend). Messing with her-- she ultimately loses her board seat and salary to, wait for it, Axelrod-- sends a message to Chuck Rhoades Jr. that as long as his pursuit of Axe Capital goes on, Axelrod can and will f*ck with the people in Rhoades's life. For now it's the mistress, but who knows who is next? (Rhoades's wife and Axe Capital employee Wendy Rhoades?)1
A literal f*cking that occurs early in the hour is that of Rhoades's number two, Bryan Connerty, and a federal agent. This serves to get us to a nice little post-coital scene in which we find out that the SEC, which also wants the glory of nailing Axe Capital, arrested and is going to try and flip a guy named Pete Decker. Rhoades is of course pissed about this, and makes a "horse trade": one of his staffer's cases, an attempted bombing of the Statue of Liberty, for the SEC to keep its mitts of off Axe Capital. Team Rhoades is initially unsuccessful at getting Decker to cooperate, until Kate Sacher figures out that Decker has been making illegal trades in his elderly parents' account. Not good! Rhoades and Co approach Decker at his kid's Little League game, where he is serving as third base coach and his parents-- retired school teachers who have no idea what their son has been up to-- are cheering their grandson on. After Rhoades makes it clear he won't hesitate to arrest his parents and make them spend a Saturday night in prison, Decker says he'll report to cooperate on Monday. Was the public ambush uncalled for ("This isn't right," Decker tells Rhoades)? I don't know, I feel like I have little sympathy for a guy/low-life/whathaveyou conducting insider trading in his parents' name. In any event, Rhoades is one step closer to getting his hands on Bobby Axelrod.
"You know what ATM stands for, right?" Axe Capital COO Mike Wagner asks in-house therapist/motivational speaker Wendy Rhoades. Yes, Wendy does, and the two proceed to psychologically unpack why Wags has been so into "the act" lately. It's not just because it makes him feel "accepted," but also because it allows him to exert the power he feels he's losing with one of Axe Capital's portfolio managers (Maria Saldana), who leveraged another offer to get more money from the firm. Supposedly this is totally out of bounds 2 and Wags considered firing the PM, but then decided to keep her and just f*ck her over by shrinking her book. Wendy likes this woman but feels as though her hands are tied since both she and Wags are her "patients." After discussing it with a med school classmate, she decides to protect Saldana by using her therapy powers of suggestion to convince Saldana to take the offer at the other hedge fund, where her colleagues and superiors are less likely to screw her over professionally on a daily basis. Wendy also pledges $250k to Saldana at her new fund, against the rules of departure from Axe, and mulls over the idea calling a headhunter. This is probably a good idea considering her marriage situation (and also that her job in its current form is a quasi to semi to totally messed up use of her psychiatric training) but obviously it's not gonna be as straight-forward as that.
The most intriguing and terrifying figurative f*cking of the episode, though, is carried out by Lara Axelrod, AKA Bobby's wife. Remember the 9/11 widow from the first episode? Who speaks out during Bobby's presentation of checks for college to the children of his former colleagues who died during the attacks? And is subsequently threatened by Mrs. Axe? She's written a memoir and at least one chapter mentions Bobby and various things from his past. Lara's lawyer gives her a few options-- one of which is, sure, to just buy the publishing company-- but she decides to go in another direction. Barre class? Mrs. Widow is suddenly not on the sign-up list and no, she can't be squeezed in. The golf club where she takes her friends? Ooo, sorry, her tee-time was given away and oh, hey, they don't have a record of her paying her most recent dues. But all of this is child's play compared to the pièce de résistance: Lara Axelrod has leveraged a sizable donation she and Bobby made to Stanford to, and this is chilling even to type: get Mrs. Widow's son, a double legacy, rejected from Stanford. Lara Axelrod's work here is done, and that night she has a revised version of the book-- sans Bobby Axelrod references-- and a signed non-disclosure agreements from the widow saying she'll never speak of the portions of the book that were cut, ever again. All of this should make anyone in Mrs. Axelrod's universe sleep with one eye open (or join the Witness Protection Program) but for what reason did she go to such lengths to bury the passages about her husband? Apparently they contain "details about a certain time at the beginning of the century that very few people know about." WHAT DID BOBBY AXELROD DO AT THE BEGINNING OF THE CENTURY?!
Thoughts/Feelings/Super Duper Weenie Trucks:
- Was Chuck actually going to have that guy arrested for not curbing his dog? Because I feel like that bluffed should've been called.
- Besides his personality ("They see me as a rapacious scumbag"), what is it about Wags that makes him one of the creepiest people on the show? I think it's the choice of facial hair (goatee + the mustache that curls out on the ends).
- Can Axelrod tell us one more time that unlike the rest of the guys he's surrounded with, he came from nothing and look at him now? Because I'm not sure we've heard that story enough times.
- Is Axelrod setting up one of his PMs, unwittingly, with inside information, when he tells him to take a large position in Rubinex, the analysis behind which he and Wags are "not uncertain"?
- Favorite dialogue of the episode:
Rhoades: I'll do all of the talking. We have someone else that made the same pharmaceutical trade, first one in gets a lollypop.
Spiro: But to be clear, we don't really have anyone?
Rhoades: To be clear, I am making a play.
Spiro: That's what I like to call "The Prisoner's Dilemma."
Rhoades: No you don't like to "call it that," that's what it's called. Started as a thought experiment, game theory, in the '50s. Does no one ever check you on this bull shit?
1. Chuck Rhoades Sr. is pissed about the situation, but not because his mistress lost her cushy gig-- "It's going to cost me $200,000 in upkeep is what it's going to cost me"-- but because his son hasn't yet "buried the son of a b*tch" and is taking his sweet time becoming governor. ↩
2. But wait, is it actually? Is it not something people do every single day?↩