Well, night is young and magical for some and not so much for others in Billions Episode 11 Magical Thinking.
Mafee sends in Wags to ask for permission to talk to Axe about BioLance that will make a special announcement in nine minutes about whether the FDA is giving approval for their diabetes type II drug. All the research points to the approval being a coin flip and Mafee, who usually sleeps like a bear, is losing sleep on it. He can pare their position right now just before the announcement and they can still make 10%. But they will lose 400 million should the FDA deny approval. Axe is not having any of it. 10% could be good for a benchmark fund which Axe Capital is NOT. They are already in BioLance where the win is. He fires Mafee on the spot.
Axe’s face says it all about the special announcement.
Remember the man, the one that I call Greek God of Hubris, that arrives at Axe Capital with that signature swagger of his after the Mundia Tel scandal in Episode 5 The Good Life? This Axe is not THAT Axe.
BioLance CEO is deeply sorry that FDA has just denied them approval. They need five years to complete the fixes but they only have cash to keep their operations going for three years. It seems their drug will not see the light of day. The stock is halted until the following morning, but the damage is already huge and could turn into twice the amount.
Bottomline: Axe has screwed up. Very badly. He now knows the auto pilot switch is broken. Better call Dr. Mojo. But he first goes and corrects the “other” mistake of the morning: Mafee stays!
Wendy is taking a tour at Zenobia Capital, the hedge fund that Saldana leaves Axe Capital for after a session with Wendy in Episode 3 Yum Time. One of the senior partners, Roma, goes on and on about how having 60% of their PMs being women “makes it easier to practice for socially responsible investing.” Now, as much as I have huge respect for women that survive and thrive in such a “cocks and balls” world, I still think this “socially responsible investing” — I know the concept being about sustainable, “green” or ethical investing — may be a PR term (and I love Wendy’s smile when she hears about it), since, after all, Roma, like Axe, sees profit as the mission, and wants Wendy to train assassins at Zenobia. I am looking forward to our Lady Trader’s take on it!
I wonder if Wendy visits Zenobia after imagining herself there and thinking about how happy her days could be. Or not. She leaves the tour as soon as she receives Axe’s text:
As Wendy is on her way to “fix” Axe (she may be the only person Axe lets “fix” him!), Chuck is in his “brownstone off the promenade” with his new best friend Adam De Giulio. And you feel dirty listening to these two men working for, supposedly, the “public good.” Chuck gives Adam the good news: He is the one to replace Judge Wilcox given he receives Senate Approval. Chuck advises though judgeships can be held hostage for months, even years nowadays in the very polarized Congress. But, hey, he knows how to get it done. “Guarantee is a word amateurs use in politics” but Chuck can make sure Senator Vandeveer will take Adam’s hand and take him to the bench. Chuck is more than willing to help should De Giulio make sure Chuck’s pick replaces him in Washington. De Giulio knows this is about Axe. He plays General Bradley to Chuck’s Patton and advises restraint only to get this: “One of them died a well-respected and admired general and the other one died a legend.” All for justice? “Of course!” I say, exactly in the way that Lara uses it!
I was pleasantly surprised with Chuck finally saying “No, Dad!” to Chuck Sr in Episode 10 but here he is again with his “Please, Dad!” Dad knows Senator Vanderveer, who, in fact, owes him a favor. This means, as Chuck Sr rightly points out, he must still know THIS game. He gets his “Thank you, Dad” and “I am sorry” from his little boy who now needs to go see his squash partner Ira to talk about his “roof” or the person that protects him: his dad.
Ira is divorced and seems to “tinder” with 20 year olds who likes his Porsche photo on his account. Chuck asks a question whose answer I have always wondered: “What do you talk about to 23 year olds?” Not that I am against May – September relationships, but seriously, what do you talk to a 23 year old when you are 45? Ira says: “They are all wild, free, lick your dirty places and smile but what they are not is my Elizabeth. Or Wendy.” Chuck knows it already. And he is not sure where Wendy is tonight. They are in the middle of a “continental drift.” And he is scared as shit that he may be losing her.
“No clerical” for Terri and Dale. They leave the room as Bryan and Kate start breaking the Axe case down and putting them into boxes. Bryan, knowing that Chuck is BACK in the game, does not believe it is over. He is, in fact, so proud of Chuck that he has Axe’s torn check framed for Chuck.
But, at the same time, I think, thanks to knowing Chuck’s ways, Bryan starts questioning their motivations for doing all this. Kate talks about how incentive structures are screwing up the society: Her brilliant classmate Jim Gagne, a double major in chemical engineering and pre-med, who Kate thought would cure cancer, now works the medical sector for Spartan-Ives and made 20 million last year. True. But remember we have also seen Dr. Gilbert in Episode 10 who has just kept mum to have his research funded by Axe. And we have just seen Chuck and Adam doing their back room deals. The problem is, Kate, incentive structures are fucked up across the board. And I am seriously curious if Team Axe will recruit Bryan. Well, Axe and Chuck are not that different in their ways, and hey, defense pays much better!
Well, so much for trying to save the system. Bryan and Kate start with the stash in Chuck’s office but give up on sex on his desk since it’s “so cliche” and the idea that Chuck might have had sex there makes them leave. Ok, guys, one thing I can tell you about Chuck’s sex life: It is everything but cliche. And he is playing far more dangerous games than the two of you playing with firecrackers at the Luna Park on Coney Island.
Michelin chef Lu tours the fancy kitchens of Axe Capital (La Cornue at workplace? Seriously?) with Lara and Sheryl who is trying to recruit her. She has an obvious disgust for everything Axe Capital represents and does not want to cook for a “bunch of animals that eat anything, shit on anything, fuck anything.” Well, a 24 hour joy ride with big sis may change it after all. They will start shooting pool in the old ‘hood and let the night take shape. But, first, Lara needs a sec with Bobby who cannot make it to Lilly’s tonight (Wow, is Lara still seeing her?)
The only person that can give Bobby what he needs right now is Wendy and Lara is concerned she will ask Bobby about Donnie: “It is not 3 years ago, you know…” We know this show never uses a word for no reason! We see Wendy telling Axe at Donnie’s memorial service that they have not had a “real session” for the last 3 and a half years. Now Lara is repeating this. What happened 3 years ago that ended the sessions? Well, we had this conversation among ourselves and I buy into Bookworm’s idea that Chuck may have become the US attorney 3 years ago and Axe may have put an end to sessions for obvious reasons.
Axe sends everyone home and is ready for a session with Wendy. I love it that Wendy lets Axe know who the boss is by choosing where they sit in her office. So, what’s his problem? Axe confesses the urge her had to stick it out about BioLance as he heard more and more about why they needed to get out of it. Wendy knows what Axe wants is to have her fix the part of him that makes money. But that part is attached to the rest of it and this session will take a while.
The question Axe asks Wendy about how she is handling everything gives her a chance to talk about Donnie. The fact that she missed her own patient being ill and dying hits her hard. Still, she is slowly coming to terms with the fact that she cannot really have all her patients be truly open with her but she still hopes… probably with the man sitting across from her. And she keeps going back to Donnie because Axe misses something first time in forever just after Donnie dies. And Axe seemingly allows her to connect the dots. But she should know by now how much he cares about everyone at Axe Capital: He makes sure Donnie gets the best medical care. He bribes the police to make Danzig’s arrest with the machine gun disappear.
“Let’s throw stuff into the bin” game, and oh, no, they are not on a break, gives Wendy an opportunity to diagnose the condition: Axe’s self-image or his “unwavering belief in his capabilities” creates a blind spot that, in fact, has worked for him for a long time, since otherwise, how could he take all that risk; however, it is not working right now. So what is the cure?
“Find out what about your self-image is false, then either live up to it or lose it.”
Axe’s interpretation of the cure is priceless!
“Like… when someone knows they have to tell a lover good-bye but they cannot quite do it so instead they sleep with them one last time and they have their own unspoken goodbye not letting on that everything’s changed until the night is over.”
Am I the only one that feels Wendy is sort of blushing? And why do I feel like this very thing may have happened between these two? The chemistry between them is such a killer that I am really scared they will kiss but no they don’t. I know. I know. I am in that tiny little minority that wants to have this relationship between Axe and Wendy limited to platonic. I just find THIS delightful to watch. And, besides I am a believer in real conversation as the most intimate human relationship anyway. So, even though I need to limit this recap to 2500 words or so, I know this “session” definitely deserves its own separate post with its very own and very micro analysis.
I don’t know if it is getting hot in the building but Axe wants to go out 🙂
I just LOVE it the way they talk about crying. Bookworm and I, every time Axe let us just a little bit into his mind, have felt that Axe grew up with a single parent. What has prompted me to feel that is my own life experience which I shared in a comment to one of Bookworm’s Previously blogs earlier:
“I have that same feeling that Axe grew up with, at least, a single mom and no siblings. I just can’t put my finger on it, but I just feel it, it may be the auto pilot thing that he mentions. I grew up with my mom only since my dad passed away when I was 8 and yeah, sometimes you just put yourself on autopilot even at a pretty young age, because you don’t know how to deal with grief, but you know you would make your mom upset when you get that grief out of your chest, and you don’t want to do that since you know she has so much responsibility on her shoulders so, in a sense, you raise yourself at some level, and autopilot may be your best friend.”
It is just a wild guess on my part that I feel there may be someone in Billions Writers room that grew up with a single parent. S/he knows it so well. Exactly like I know it… It turns out Axe cries at You Tube videos in which soldiers come back home and surprise their kids. And I know how I cry at weddings and graduations. It turns out Axe’s dad never came back. Is it like Vietnam or that his dad just left home and never came back? And I cry at weddings and graduations because my dad has not been able to see me graduate or get married (it’s amazing that even writing this brings the tears). The difference between Axe and me is my husband knows it about me. Lara does not know it about Bobby. He’s always wearing his mask. And that is why I am thinking Bobby Axelrod could be the loneliest man in the world. I am not feeling deep pity for him. It is what it is. But is there anyone he is totally transparent with? Well, Wags can live with that, so can Wendy, but being Mrs. Axelrod is not easy.
And that is exactly, in my opinion, what Lara means when she tells Lou, on their joyride in the wee hours for a shopping spree, that she needs something. No, she is not jealous of Wendy in the way that Chuck is jealous of Axe. Lara is not insecure. But, I completely understand, as a wife, she wants her husband to be able to share with her. A life together should be about sharing it. And, as a side note, since I really love that Billions is having wonderful stage actors in the cast, I want to applaud the show for having Louisa Krause, whom I was extremely lucky to see in Pulitzer-winning play Flick, as Lou!
Well, Wendy sees all dots converging to one single dot: Donnie. She has already put most of the story together and Axe spills the beans about how he steals Donnie’s Christmas and, on top of that, feels relief when Donnie is dead. Does this make him a sociopath? It just seems he just does not care about Donnie as much as he thinks he does. And this may be what scares him. And today’s mistake is a manifestation of his guilt. He is not a sociopath but he is on his way to be one if he keeps trying to stay on auto pilot. This “do what is rational and move on” attitude makes him distance himself from emotion and turns him into a machine. He should just accept he is not a god and pancreatic would take Donnie anyway. Wendy is right: “It’s like the market. It does whatever it wants.” Axe should just allow himself to be a human being. And, no, Wendy is not disgusted by him: “For whatever reason, when it comes to you, it’s just not on the table.” Axe wants to talk about why she is looking at other shops. But it needs to be for a different session. They share an electronic cigarette, a few laughs and call it a night. The way they have been playing each other as much as been honest and open with each other is mind-blowing. Kudos to Damian Lewis and Maggie Siff for the wonderful “session”! UPDATE: Now we know that Axe knows about Wendy’s job search, his words about sleeping with a lover one last time from earlier could be about Wendy saying goodbye to Axe Capital and “sleeping” with him one last time without telling him. I believe this is a very spot-on observation that I want to share, with proper thanks to GiggirlNY, a great reader!
Axe comes home to find the two sisters sleeping in party dresses. Lara smiles at him and Axe tells her he cries sometimes. It may be the first time he is opening up to her ever and even though it may start and end there, it may still mean the world to Lara. She is glad “tonight” helped him. And I am glad Axelrods will be just fine…
…which I am not able to say about Rhoadeses. The kind of things Chuck does tonight makes Axe seem to be righteous!
Chuck first has his driver take him to Axe Capital to spy on his wife. This guy really needs to see someone about his insecurity issues.
Then he finds the appeal that he has not found earlier at the night club with Ira at a BDSM club where a 23 year old greets him as “Mr. Martinez.” He starts a “session” only to stop in the middle of it confessing he did not ask for permission from Mrs. Martinez (It turns out Wendy rocked the role-playing workshop!) and he is in for a huge surprise as he is sharing with her dominatrix about how distant he and Wendy have been… Well, some guy has been following him all night taking his pictures. How long has this been going on?
Wendy is in the shower when Chuck arrives home. Her computer is on the bed. Chuck now does the UNFORGIVABLE. Bookworm, the queen of the tiniest details, pointed out way earlier knowing each other’s passwords would haunt either Chuck or Wendy: Chuck logs into Wendy’s computer, reads her session notes, and his eyes widen as he reads about Axe bribing the police to get Danzig out of automatic gun charges. He shamelessly emails the file to himself as if Wendy is voluntarily sharing it with him. And he does delete the email from sent folder, too. Really? Can you get lower than that? Perfect closing with Dylan: Gotta serve somebody. Chuck serves himself and himself only. Shame on him! I wonder if disgust is, when it comes to Chuck, on or off the table for Wendy ! You know what I really hope Wendy kicks him out of the house soon enough. He so deserves it…