Billions on Showtime, Season 2, Episode 2: Dead Cat Bounce

That is what you get when you try to poach Axe’s most valuable employee, Todd.

Axe starts picking on Todd’s obviously scripted speech at Spartan-Ives “Global Thought Leaders” panel moderated by Lawrence Boyd. While Krakow’s choice of poet is Pindar, Axe’s seems to be Walt Whitman (who can forget the “barbaric yawp” scene from Dead Poets Society?). Is it just me or does Wags’ smile turn to concern as Axe leaves the room saying Krakow’s “party cocktail tutor” owes him a refund?

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Axe apologizes to Boyd for being a bad boy but Boyd cannot be happier about what just happened. It seems he picked the panel for its entertainment value. The street will talk about this for weeks and whoever was not in the room will make Spartan-Ives their prime broker to be able to attend next year. Axe is not happy about playing “the bull” to Boyd’s “red sash” every time.

Mafee tells Axe he does not need to leave it there with Krakow but then needs to confess it was his analyst who did the work.

“Get him in here.”

Why does Axe assume it is a “he”? I think this has to do with statistics than sexism. But I believe in power of the pronouns and LOVE the way Taylor makes their entrance:

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“Hello. I’m Taylor. My pronouns are they, theirs and them.”

The way Billions brings in a gender non-confirming character into Axe Capital and makes their story about their intellect is no less than extraordinary. Moreover, exposure is everything, and the use of gender non-confirming pronouns on TV will certainly make a difference in many lives.

Taylor has only two minutes to shine in Axe’s office.

Having examined speeches Krakow made in the last two years, Taylor observes a change in his tone about China in January 2016. They pin down the company Krakow uses for satellite images. Assuming he is their biggest user, they focus on the most viewed images, which take them to a microchip factory in the Pearl River Delta. They notice the factory has gone from “dormant to bustling with trucking activity” in January 2016.

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Taylor’s eyes speak for the appreciation they have for Axe’s quickness when he asks about what REALLY happened in January 2016. Yes, he is as GOOD as everyone has been talking about. And I appreciate Billions for being ahead of the news!

What REALLY happened in January 2016? It turns out the activity level at the factory changes drastically AFTER The Financial Journal publishes an article about satellite-detected discrepancies between reported production numbers and the actual yield in China: Ha! They are staging a show for the satellites!

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Axe quotes Jim Chanos:

“China’s a pig on LSD. You don’t know which way it’s going to run.”

Taylor is tasked with figuring out whom this fake factory is supplying for and comes back with the answer shortly: Krakow is invested in Anata-Tek, a company in wearable computers. Their stock is soaring before their product “The Ring” is released; however, from the story satellite images are telling, people will not be able to wear “The Ring” in the near future 😀

“Booyakasha!”

Mafee absolutely knows his Ali G and I respect Axe for being extra patient with him today. But he is not showing any courtesy to Krakow. They short two million and Axe’s tweet is harsh.

“Who’s supplying Anata-Tek? Next Lumber Liquidators?”

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The tweet does the trick. Axe takes Stephanie’s advise and holds further short until Dollar Bill is not uncertain about the warehouse and the trucks being EMPTY. Once Bill gives the green light, it is inevitable Anata-Tek will lose half of its value. Krakow calls to say he will get back to Axe.

I believe Axe sees his younger self in Taylor. Knowing they have already turned down a job offer to head to University of Chicago for their MBA, Axe is now offering $1M a year plus himself as a better mentor than Eugene Fama. Not so fast, Mr Axelrod. You may be sort of a God in your world, and Fama has your stature in mine! 😀

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Taylor wants a week-to-week deal. $1M divided by 52 weeks and by 80 hours a week comes to an hourly rate of $240.38. But there are 168 hours in a week and Axe should be paying all of it. Kudos to Taylor who has just increased their annual salary to $240.38 * 168 * 52 = $2,099,959.68! I am dying to see how their brilliance will play out for Axe Capital boys and what kind of dilemmas Taylor will find themselves in when faced with tough choices… Well, you know what I mean.

Chuck Sr, is BACK as a self-appointed couple therapist! 😀 His concern about the future of his name gives me a headache and brings me back to a question I have had for a while: Why did Wendy take Chuck’s name when they married? Most women that built their careers before marriage like Wendy do not take their husbands’ last names. Could it be that Chuck Sr pushed for that? Chuck Sr believes the opportunity to be the First Lady of New York is good enough for Wendy to stay with Chuck and that a “six-figure ring” will seal the deal: “It is who they all are.” I seriously need a drink. Thankfully, Chuck knows who his wife is.

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At their real couple therapist’s, Wendy asks to have a second with Chuck. Dake will talk to her about the $5M she received from Axe. What would be the best way to spin the story?

Strategic or not, Chuck’s answer may be the most beautiful love words I have heard on TV.

“I don’t want you to lie for me.”

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I believe Chuck is genuine. But I should add this is absolutely the best response to Wendy’s question given the circumstances. Telling someone, who is feeling a bit guilty about getting you in trouble, that you do not want them to lie for you, may make that person more protective of you.

Chuck tries to save face telling Wendy the lawsuits are just a “minor distraction” but he is worried. He turns to his friend Ira whose legal services come at $1400K an hour — more expensive than Bach — but Ira is a good friend and he will not bill Chuck.

But do you know what makes Ira a VERY good friend?

THIS!

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If you have been to Katz, you know what I am talking about. If not, go and you will thank me later. FYI: They are shipping nationwide!

Chuck has three days to save his ass and is now tasking his apprentices to find a case screaming for justice.

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The competition in the US attorney’s office is yummy. Kate trying to get a feel of what Lonnie’s been up to reminds me of my college days where we had this girl going from room to room in the dorm to check on how much everyone worked for tomorrow’s exam! Chuck is right. The cultural perfectionism some of us grow up in makes us play safe. However, given we want to get ahead and grab the prize, we may want to incorporate some calculated risk into our game plan. I applaud Kate for having the balls to mention Spartan Ives to go after. Yes, she did not know Boyd and the AG attended Horace Mann together, but would Lonnie push for Spartan Ives under any circumstance?

The dinner with Ira at Craft brings good food (Chef Tom Colicchio, anyone?) and bad news for Chuck. Some former Assistant Attorneys are badmouthing his methods. Chuck may want consider a settlement or he could go bankrupt by the end of this. He may also think about moving his trust offshore. It turns out Chuck publicly vowed not to touch his blind trust while he is in public office. It is hilarious Ira suggests this could be one good thing about getting fired 😀

Axe’s voice echoes in my head as Chuck says the exact same words Axe said in Season 1:

“I won’t settle.”

As Chuck is desperately trying to save his ass, Dake is looking to bury him.

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Wendy tells Dake the money she received from Axe was compensation for a complicated session for Axe, and she, as a medical doctor, cannot share any privileged information about it. Yet, she cannot be sure if Chuck really recused himself from the Axe case when he said he did. Dake will now build on this, playing carrots with Axe and sticks with Bryan.

He offers Axe immunity from prosecution should he testify the money he gave to Wendy was a bribe. Accepting this offer guarantees THE END of Chuck. BUT Wendy will be indicted, too. I am directly talking to TV at this point: I am disappointed Axe does not say no the second he hears this. I want to believe he will not do this to Wendy. Commitment problems abound in this show, and not just between characters but also between Axe and me.

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Lonnie finds the case Chuck wants: Executive emails leaked from GoodStop, a retail giant, are revealing the company has been abusing its employees with the CEO Kurt Williams knowing all about it. Williams funding a Super PAC that tries to hurt the administration makes the case even more appealing. Lonnie gives it to Kate: He wants to play it safe but he does not want Bryan to bring it in and score points with Chuck, either.

If only Lonnie knew how torn Bryan is!

If Bryan does not serve Chuck’s head to Dake, Dake will serve Bryan’s head to Chuck. I am sort of convinced — as much as I think Axe and Bach may have planned the Yonkers meeting to turn Brian against Chuck — it was Bryan that called the OPR. Otherwise, he would have said a word to Bach when he met him, right? This Bryan is very different from the one in that priceless bathroom scene in The Deal. Remember that Bryan?

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Bryan: “We will follow him to the end of the fucking Earth until he’s walking in shackles.”

Bach: “You know you just work here, right?

Bryan can neither recognize his colleagues nor claim the higher moral ground anymore. He has nobody else to turn to but his original mentor for advice. Bach is straightforward: Given that Bryan happens to work there, what about staying on to see how it feels to be the one making decisions?

Too bad the US Attorney’s office does not have a performance coach for the likes of Bryan while Axe Capital now has Dr. Gus. The man is a serious rival to Wags with his words of wisdom: “Get it hard, keep it hard, use it!” Dr Gus cannot convince Wags for a session, but he steals his heart with an invitation for the Omakase at Sushi Nakazawa.

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Wags speaks Japanese! Who knew? And I SALUTE him for what he does at Sushi Nakazawa because I am the person who reminds people we are not in their living room when they text in the movie theater or eat chips during a play. Having said that, a session with Dr. Gus or a certain free lancer may be good for Wags.

Chuck gets word that the AG will not let him take the GoodStop case. It seems Chuck is going to DC for his own execution….

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…until things take a drastic 180-degree turn thanks to Wendy:

“180, Chuck.”

Chuck MUST go after Spartan-Ives especially because Boyd is a CLOSE FRIEND of the administration. There is no way the AG can fire Chuck while he is investigating Boyd because it would look like she is protecting her friend. And how to make the media know all about it before Chuck takes the train in the morning? Well, Spyros is providing elephant food this time around.

We hear Dead Cat Bounce from Axe in the episode. It means a temporary recovery in share prices after a substantial fall. But, hey, if what follows “180, Chuck” is not SOME Dead Cat Bounce, what is? 😀 I just LOVE his victory march to the Car Seat Headrest’s “Fill in the Blank” on Washington from the train station to the reflection pool with the Washington Monument in the background and on to the Department of Justice. He gets pretty arrogant in the AG’s office telling her if Boyd goes down, they will celebrate on the podium together… Well, given that Chuck is the guy standing in front of the firing squad… WHY NOT?

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As the “healing waters of Lourdes” turn into troubled waters with a phone call from The Journal, Boyd knocks on the door of the man who has been able to walk away from Chuck’s investigation unmarked.

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Now, are we expected to believe Axe will give Boyd his playbook to beat Chuck?

Axe wants to finish Chuck. But Axe never forgets and forgives. And he gets even. Think about Eads Family. Think Todd Krakow. And remember how Boyd pissed right at Axe’s face when he showed up at Barclays Center  in The Deal only to find out it was mailroom night!

Just saying!

I may be totally off the mark; however, I cannot help giggle as Axe tells Boyd “there are no fucking rules, not if you want to win.” I have a feeling Boyd may be the bull and Axe may be the red sash this time around.

18 thoughts on “Billions on Showtime, Season 2, Episode 2: Dead Cat Bounce”

  1. Thank you for this review! As you know, since I concentrate so much on the financial side of this show, I often miss, the other relationship issues and conflicts.

    I agree Bryan is conflicted. I think he will be one to watch!

    You and I also both thought the same thing: “I’ll never settle” Doesn’t THAT sound familiar? 🙂

    Chuck Sr. back for his comedy madness! At the screening, everyone laughed at the line “that’s who they all are!”

    Axe nailing Todd’s ass to the wall was great; however, I do think it’s going to come back and bite him. This is personal for both now, and in those cases, it never ends well.

    1. Thank you!

      Bryan is very conflicted. And I think I am now convinced that it was him that made the call. I first thought, when he called Bach, that he would meet Bach and yell at him for using his location to make that call to the OPR. But no. He was there just to ask for advice from his original mentor. He does not have anyone else to turn to. And the intra-office competition in the US Attorney’s office is beyond yummy.

      Chuck Sr is the perfect example of old, white, rich men with gender biases. His talk about “future of his name” was so annoying, oh my god! And who has a friend called Stuckey Brown? 😀 He told that story and I really needed a strong drink!!!

      You are right about Todd. Eads Family was too weak to come after Axe after Naming Rights. Todd seems to be a major player in the hedge-fund world. I agree that Axe may have just started a feud. And I hope Axe starts picking his battles more carefully. How many different fronts can one fight at?

  2. Still reading, but had to stop at the “barbaric yawp”. He may have quoted Whitman, but he didn’t really use the words in context of the way Whitman wrote them. He simply wanted to answer Krakow’s poetic allusion with his own, even though he got the context all wrong. Maybe he didn’t even read Whitman at Hofstra, or if he did, he didn’t really understand what he read. I think that most likely he didn’t read Ayn Rand either, even though he embodies the ethics of Randian economics. Anyway, just the nerdy literature marm in me coming out again. I’ll carry on reading now. 🙂

    1. Thank you! I love the way Billions uses metaphors — it’s so smart. A reader also pointed out that Dr. Gus’ picture with a dead wild cat is also a metaphor to dead cat bounce. I love how different people pay attention to different things. And what follows “180, Chuck” absolutely goes into my top-5 Billions moments. I LOVED IT so much.

      You are right, the context in “barbaric yawp” is completely different. Axe just said “barbaric yawp.” I think it’s humor and a tribute to a great poet in a fun way and maybe to Dead Poets Society, too – I loved that film. I think I watched it in my senior year in high school. Or maybe freshman year in college. I love these cultural references in Billions 🙂 Honestly, I don’t see Axe reading poetry.

  3. The music overtakes the talking at times. We have rewound several times trying to hear what the actors are saying over the loud music. Sometimes, we cant make out the words, music is so loud and voices too soft. The sound mixer needs to get this under control.

    1. Well, interesting comment, thank you. I really did not have this problem but it could be thanks to the fact that I watch with captions on so I am sure I am not missing anything — especially with respect to financial/legal language and cultural references.

  4. I just loved this episode. I salute your ability to get the review out so quickly. Fantastic!

    Bobby is testing everyone’s patience. Wags seemed a bit put out by Steph. Taylor’s attention to detail is brilliant. An intern not scared to test the boss!

    Conflicted Bryan is brilliant to watch. A lot of games being played at the Southern District.

    We all know Bobby’s penchant for playing games and not forgiving people but I can’t help but feel he is perhaps making a mistake getting involved in any way with Boyd. The AG mentions there is a reason no one has ever gone after Boyd and one reason I can think of that is Boyd being the AG’S office’s biggest informant.

    Chuck Senior -ugh.

    Wendy was great.

    1. This new potential twist that is going on in your head about Axe vs Boyd is delicious. What do we know about Boyd? Almost nothing other than he’s been the most respected and probably the most powerful person in the world of finance.I am pretty sure you are on to something. You know I have always admired your attention to detail and here is yet another one! I am all eyes and ears to see more of the story!

  5. One other thing. When Bryan says to Orrin “There was this female colleague who swimming what I was becoming”. I think he was talking about Teri rather than Kate. Very interesting he is showing emotion about her and not Kate. Also Kate calling him “Connerty”. Their personal interaction was at a minimum. Bryan is really isolated right now.

    1. Oh I never thought he was talking about Teri, because I did not think of Terri as a colleague. But Terri told him something about what he was becoming, didn’t she? Bryan is THE character to watch this season and I am more curious than ever which seat he will end up taking at the end of 12 weeks!

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