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 "Boasts and Rails" and it contained a couple of big reveals. The first was about what exactly Bobby Axelrod was doing on 9/11. We know from episode one that he was the only partner in his firm who didn't die, because he was conveniently absent from their offices in the towers. We also know that a widow of one of the partners, June, has a very low opinion of Bobby, which she included in a yet-to-be published memoir. Remember how Lara Axelrod, upon finding out exactly what June had to say in print, gave her a taste of what her life would be like if those passages ever saw the light of day, including getting June blacklisted at barre class, i.e. the worst thing you can do to a lady of leisure living in Fairfield County? Turns out it's because said passages make Bobby Axelrod look really, really bad!
Thanks to June's editor being a libidinous old man who not only bangs his writers but also gives out redacted chapters of books containing details his authors signed NDAs saying they'd never discuss, Chuck Rhoades underling Kate is able to show her superiors what the Axelrods have tried quite hard to keep secret:
1. The reason Axelrod wasn't in the towers on 9/11 was because he was at his lawyer's office going over a severance package: he was supposed to be fired that day-- his bosses thought his trades were over the line, and possibly illegal.
2. Thanks to his bosses and all the other partners, y'know, dying, he got to act like the whole firing never happened.
3. Rather than assisting the first responders-- as he has claimed he did/built his reputation on said claim-- Axelrod was busy shorting aviation, hotel, and shipping stocks, making himself a nice profit.
Naturally, Rhoades's office leaks the chapter to reporter Mike Dimonda, who confronts Axelrod about it outside his house. Rather than going two for two on knocking people out, though, Axelrod is surprisingly Zen about the whole thing. He basically tells Dimonda nice work on nailing the story, and then informs his lawyer, consigliere/COO Wags, and head of media relations that there will be no rebuttal or spinning of the facts. Were his trades illegal? No, just a trifle morally repugnant, particularly for a guy branding himself as a 9/11 hero.
The other big reveal is that the Feds, having run some sort of bizarre drill in which they busted into informant Donnie Caan's house in the middle of the night, to show him "what it'll be like" when they really arrest him if he doesn't start giving them dirt they can actually use on Axelrod, have exposed the fact that they have a mole. That's because Axelrod's fixer Hall has eyes and ears everywhere, and one of them is a janitor at at the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where Caan was given his dressing down. Then, because Caan is wearing a wire at work the next day when Bobby flips out on his staff in attempt to uncover the mole, the Feds find out he's been informed of the "quisling" situation, and realize they have a limited about of time before Axelrod figures out it's Caan. Chuck sees a simple solution to the problem: just set up another employee to take the fall for being a rat and get fired, preserving Donnie's place within Axe Capital and as an asset to the investigation. Bryan Connerty is not totally on board with the idea of screwing over an innocent man as a means to an end, but he comes around, making Chuck proud.
Unfortunately, Chuck and Bryan failed to realize one thing-- that you don't get to where Bobby Axelrod is today without generally being at least two steps ahead of people. He knows the guy he fired-- Butch 'The Pouch' Probert-- wasn't the real informant. How exactly he's going to use his double informant against Rhoades, though, is unclear for now.
* We've found the one thing Axelrod apparently refuses to profit off of-- successful pizzerias run by guys from the old neighborhood
* Apparently the job Wendy's headhunter told her about last week- that had both the pay and meaningful work she was looking for-- either didn't pan out or she just can't quit Axe. This leads to a discussion of their finances-- Chuck makes $185,000/year, most other jobs available to her would be 1/4 of that, and how they wouldn't be able to afford to send their kids to private school, which is a must for Chuck. Aren't Chuck parents hugely wealthy? Wouldn't they be happy to pay for their grandchildren's tuition without Chuck and Wendy trying to figure out the math on how to cover it?
* We know from a prior episode that Wendy has been with Axelrod since 9/11, when she "put him back together." And apparently putting him back together involved helping him justify the terrible things he did? "You did what you know how to do," she reminds him. "You traded." Was there any sort of discussion of him acknowledging the ethical implications of what he did/reminding him that outside of the trades, he fully fabricated the story of aiding the first responders? If Osama bin Laden were one of her patients, would she have told him "Telling people to fly planes into buildings is what you do, you can't feel bad about it"?
* Drunk Chuck tells Drunk Bryan that "there are no innocent men on Wall Street," and that Bryan shouldn't feel bad setting up "The Pouch" to take the fall because "The Pouch" worked for a corrupt organization so he was corrupt by association anyway, like a haberdasher who makes suits for Nazis. In his stumbling and mumbling with Wendy later, when he says "I'm the haberdasher," Drunk Chuck makes an important point-- if he thinks Axelrod is so guilty, how does he feel about the fact that Axelrod's dirty money has been, among other things, paying for his kids' private school tuition? By his logica, is Chuck just as guilty as "The Pouch"?
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