Billions Recap: "Cortado...It's Like A Macchiato, But With More Foam"

Hot headhunters, and face punches, and middling omelettes, oh my!
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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 Punch," and we got a number of different storylines all involving people in pursuit of something they need. Wendy needs a new job. Lara needs her kids to toughen up. Bryan Connerty needs his informant inside Axe to help him nail Bobby. Bobby needs to not be charged with and convicted of assault. Chuck needs Bryan to understand that when he says he's "recusing" himself from the Axe Capital case, he's using a different definition of the word recusal than you, me, and Bryan are familiar with.

On the Wendy front, the Axe Capital in-house shrink/motivational speaker is finally taking steps towards getting a job that provides a little less conflict of interest given her husband's gig. She meets with a headhunter named Chris, who her med school friend told her in a previous episode is great in bed1 and says she thinks it's best for her family if she leaves the hedge fund world. But, she's gotten used to that sweet, sweet hedge fund pay, and doesn't want to sacrifice compensation for meaningful work. Chris gives it to her straight-- that job is gonna pretty, pretty, pretty hard to find. But surprise! He finds it and over a drink tells her he won't even take a commission. Could this possibly be because he wants to f*ck Wendy? The suggestion is extremely subtle, but yes, that seems to be it. It also seems like Wendy might not be totally repulsed by the idea; she lies to Chuck about seeing Chris that night and while we would really love to see these two hang out sans clothes, it almost feels too easy that the most genetically blessed people on the show will end up together, especially because looks are only part of the equation for Wendy. Also, if she's going have an affair, I see it being way more complicated.2 But we can all hold out hope.

Meanwhile, Lara "I'm grew up in Inwood, b*tch" Axelrod is worried that her sons are spoiled brats who wouldn't last a day in the real world. Which, y'know, they are. And even though it was hilarious that her first form of tough love/attempt to teach them what life is like outside the cushy confines of Westport/The Hamptons was to have them go clamming, it was nice to see Dean and Gordie being taken to task for being overindulged little sh*ts who complain about the cheese in the omelettes their private chef has been serving them. When she drops two sleeping bags in front of them I actually thought she was going to ship them off to one of those Outward Bound/prison-style camps parents send their wayward kids to, which would've been amazing, but I also appreciated Bobby picking them up in the middle of the night and sparing his precious babies one evening of not sleeping on 1,000 thread count.3 Thanks, Dad.

At what appears to be some sort of TGIFriday's, we learn that Chuck's number two, Bryan, who is supposed to be the new lead on the Axe case, has gotten Axe Capital trader Donnie Caan to flip, after figuring out that Caan based his Rubinex trade on inside information. Connerty and the FBI agents working with him have been having Caan wear a wire in an attempt to catch Bobby saying something like "DON'T FORGET TO USE MATERIAL NON-PUBLIC INFO ON THAT NEXT TRADE, OKAY?" but so far, no dice. As has been established, you don't get to where Axelrod-- and, the real life hedge fund managers his character may or may not be based on--is without taking precautionary measures like not uttering wildly incriminating statements, 'cause you never know who's listening.

Chuck tells Bryan to lean on Donnie and helpfully suggests a place to do it, where he happens to be waiting in the shadows. Weirdly, Chuck thought Bryan would be totally cool with this and pops out to debrief after Caan leaves. But no, Bryan is not cool with the situation, because last he checked, his boss had claimed to be recusing himself from the case. Back at the office, he leans into Chuck and rightfully tells him the set-up wherein Chuck actually hasn't recused himself at all is bullsh*t. I actually expected Bryan to, if not quit-- remember, the Skadden lawyer on Axe's payroll has said he's just waiting for his former mentee to come asking for a job in the private sector-- than not to be so quickly and easily manipulated by Chuck's speech about how he's not actually recusing himself for the good of the American people. Come on, Bryan!

As for Bobby, he spends the episode in damage control mode after knocking out a guy who drove his kids home drunk. Because the thing is, even if he got off with some sort of slap on the wrist by a judge, investors tend not to like it when the guy running their money is charged with assaulting someone. Unfortunately, there is footage of the punch, and even more unfortunate is the fact that the clip leaked to a member of the press is one in which the part where Mr. DUI admits he was drinking and driving is omitted. Luckily, the reporter in possession of the video is Mike Dimonda, who Bobby was previously able to manipulate when he got him to write a story about a rival hedge fund manager's insider trades in order to take the government's heat off Axe Capital. This time, the price of getting Dimonda to hold his story is dangling a meeting with "a certain network chairman" re: the possibility of taking over for Charlie Rose when he retires.4 With the time bought and Axelrod's Rain Man-esque ability to recall everyone who was standing there when he punched DUI guy in the face and their exact placement around the pool, his team obtains the full video, sparing him an assault conviction. Axelrod is in the clear for this, but Chuck Rhoades-- I mean Bryan Connerty-- just kidding I mean Chuck Rhoades-- isn't finished with him.

Thoughts/Feelings/Micro-foam:

- Early in the episode, we see Chuck showing Ari Spyro of the SEC what happens when you waltz into Chuck Rhoades's office and attempt to take over his case, i.e. he threatens to go public with that incident from your past wherein you raped a woman. While it was nice to see Chuck put Mr. Cortado in his place, shouldn't he have maybe done something earlier with the knowledge that Spyro had raped someone? Apparently you don't get to where Chuck is by not keeping incidents of sexual assault in your back pocket in the event you might need to use them against an adversary some day.

- I love that Axe Capital's head of media relations has a budget for paying people off.

- This is minor, but is anyone else enjoying the commitment on the writers' part to show that Gordie Axelrod is the brains of of the bros and that older brother Dean, well...he's probably going to be the one who needs Daddy to get him out of the water-boarding of a pledge and whatever other frat house shenanigans he'll surely get into at Dartmouth in 2024?

Earlier: Billions recaps

1. And who apparently works in the same building as Dealbreaker HQ, based on the establishing shot outside his office!
2. This would be a good time to mention that I feel like Axe harbors feelings for his Dr. He obviously is into Lara but Wendy "gets" him, etc.
3. Parenting, man! Tough gig.
4. As someone who regularly turns in for the dulcet tones of Charlie Rose's voice and line of questioning that is simultaneously probing and soothing, the notion that this smug little punk could even take a meeting about the idea of replacing Rose is OFFENSIVE.

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