Here comes the birthday boy! Like every other middle-aged mortal, Axe reflects on what he wants from life on his birthday in Sic Transit Imperium which I would prefer to title Dollar Bill’s Words of Wisdom 😀
While Wags’ birthday gift for Axe is a $360K downpayment for a spot in a “luxury survival bunker” called The Ark for the end times — believe it or not these luxury bunkers exist — Dollar Bill prefers to give him a business deal 😀 No, his gift is not Aparicio Rodriguez, a young baseball player, the next Sal Bando, whom Bill has been sponsoring since age 13 in return for a big chunk of his signing bonus: a 2000% return on his investment (ROI)! Instead, Bill gives Axe a Belgian Car Company: Klaxon. The company will have a recall, and even though timing is not certain, Bill is not uncertain they have to lay in their position now. In a flashback, we find out paper shredding is not as safe as we think it is and that it is Victor who let Bill know about Klaxon. When questioned about the risk of the deal, Bill provides food for thought:
“If we can’t live how we want, terrorists have already won.”
While Axe is having second thoughts about Klaxon, the government is already working on insider information he acted on earlier: Sandicot.
The whiteboard says the office has done their homework. The muni-bond deal makes Axe the bad guy in Springsteen’s Johnny 99, yet it is legal. The timing of it, on the other hand, is suspect. Axe obviously jumped into the deal because he knew something and there is no way he could know something without paying someone.
Moreover, Chuck shows up at Sandicot City Hall (White Plains City Hall is a stand-in) with his team to meet the Town Council: The city has already lost half of its police force and the library is now open only for 12 hours a day. Chuck quotes RFK “every society gets the criminal it deserves” and adds Sandicot did certainly not deserve Bobby Axelrod. I feel sick when Chuck tells people they matter. I was pissed off with Lara for running a charter school show but I admit what Chuck does now is even worse. I agree with Oliver Dake in Dead Cat Bounce:
“Hedge-funds will do what they do, but Chuck Rhoades reports to a higher authority: Justice.”
It is unacceptable Chuck is finding his way into an elected office using the people of Sandicot — who applaud their “defender” and want him to “lock him up!”
Chuck does not talk to journalists as he leaves City Hall but would not mind if the people of Sandicot “trumpeted” it for him! He does not have time for an interview anyway, because a man approaches to kindly ask to follow him to Sparky’s Diner where Foley is waiting for him. Oh, his granddaughter is settling well into her clerkship in DC, thank you very much! Foley needs Chuck to meet George Minchak who has vetted all his candidates so far and the only candidate that did not cooperate with Minchak was Spitzer. Well, given we all know what happened there, I would highly recommend Chuck to share with Minchak that someone once took a picture of him in a BDSM club! The funniest thing in this scene though is Garbage Plate! 😀 Small world: I went to school in Rochester, New York.
Axe gives Deb a script to play to Wendy about her aspirations to get into investor relations at Axe Capital but that she is feeling conflicted about Sandicot. When Deb reports back Wendy told her “overgrown conscience” would not help her to get the job, Axe knows Wendy made Deb. And once he finds out about Chuck’s visit to Sandicot, he decides to say no to Klaxon deal. He is tired.
Chuck feels he is close to getting Axe, and knowing that getting him may give him the governor’s mansion, he does not stop at Sandicot but also signs the subpoena for Steph.
Kate learns from Steph that the self-declared “terminator” is unreadable. He writes a check for earthquake victims at 3pm and then corners the market for Churchill first editions to stick it to an enemy at 3:45pm. The only possible illegal activity Steph can think of from her time at the company is Dollar Bill dropping by about a deal and referring to some “Victor” as the source. Axe should be back to his old ways since he has not filled her position. Steph recommends Kate to chase Taylor! Kate knows Dollar Bill will never give them Axe. They may look into Taylor. Now that Steph proves to be a miss, Kate looks further into Sandicot and finds out about the Dodge Charger Axe gave to Thayer.
A trip to the casino site in Kingsford is enough for Chuck to understand Thayer is extremely confident about his “umbrella” 😀
“See you on Pearl Street at my arraignment if you had the brass.”
Foley makes Chuck do what we call “backward induction” in game theory and reach the conclusion he should get Axe for something else.
“Sandicot is a circle. Wherever you start on that path, it leads right back to you. To us.”
If Thayer gets a hit, the casino will go away and upstate will lose more jobs. And if his dad’s connection to the casino location is leaked, Chuck’s campaign will be doomed.
Chuck also gets a visit from Ira who has a favor to ask. Ira has owned a chunk of Ice Juice, and now that the founder wants out, he may take over, an opportunity he has been waiting to get himself out of that law office paying him $1400 an hour! Ira knows Chuck’s money is in a blind trust, but could Chuck Sr pitch in? Chuck seems hesitant even though he knows he owes Ira.
Sean Ayles is in Axe’s office with his own birthday gift: Why wouldn’t Axe have a permanent foundation in his name like Carnegie or Vanderbilt? Ayles may not be the first to visit Axe to double his salary but he is lucky today because Axe is ready to do “what all great philanthropists did.” Mr. Robert Axelrod will now write his name on the ages and launder his reputation along the way. And I declare the interval between Axe making an offer and Ayles accepting it as the shortest unit of time ever measured in human history 😀 But, no, even though a lavish birthday party might look bad while drinking Sandicot’s milkshake, Axe will not cancel his party. It would make him look weak.
I am not sure if he has been inspired by Dollar Bill saying he should live his life as he wants or by Sean Ayles recommending to cancel the party, or it is because Chuck is never not coming, Axe wants to get away from it all with Lara. But Lara insists he deserves to be celebrated, and besides, he owes it to people like Wags and Dollar Bill, and even Wendy. Ha! Why does Lara want to have Wendy at the party? Because she’s foundational to Axe Capital? Hmmm. For optics? Maybe. To verify she and Axe are not talking? That would be my bet 😀
Wendy tells Chuck she is not going to Axe’s party. Her readjustment has been bumpy. She does not know why she has returned to Axe Capital. We know from The Deal Wendy feels she has built Axe Capital as much as Axe has and that she has found meaning in it. And that meaning is more important for her than happiness. Having said that, it seems she has not been able to find THAT meaning this time around and has a question that neither she nor Chuck can answer.
“When do you give up?”
Does anyone in Billions ever give up?
Take Lara. She is determined to have Wendy at the party. She personally calls her only to find Chuck at the other end of the line. And Chuck delivers my favorite line of the episode when Lara says she would have liked to invite him as Wendy’s plus one but she cannot do it under the circumstances.
“There is such a thing as too weird, even for all of us.”
Chuck does not want Wendy to give up on the party for him even though he is happy about it in a way that he should not. And Wendy asks Axe if he really wants to see her at the party.
“You know me well enough to know the answer of your question.”
I cannot help ask if THIS MAN is part of the reason why Wendy wants to be at Axe Capital. I am not implying any romantic interest, and you know I am not interested in any romance between the two of them, but I am talking about a certain connection that no one can deny.
Taylor intervenes as the Yonkers boy is playing stickball. Everyone says they need to attend his party but they have a conflict: their sister has a rehearsal dinner on Mackinac Island, Michigan. There are not many commercial flights and Taylor seriously worries about the carbon footprint of a private plane. Axe does not want them to feel obligated to attend the party but they “get one life and should do it all.”
Taylor has not even thought about the life they are living now. We find out Axe did not think he would live this life, either. It was a gambler from the track who took him to 4 WTC one day where Axe saw that he could read the tape exactly like he read the boards. He ended up buying a seat for 64K to trade and never looked back. It seems Axe was still hanging out with gamblers in his twenties.
Talking about not giving up: Axe does not want to take an unworthy risk, but cannot give up on Klaxon, either. Hall does the research; well, he hacks into Dollar Bill’s air-gapped computer, and is sure nothing will come back to Axe UNLESS someone speaks. Now that they know Victor is THE source they need to find out if he is friend or foe. Even though he paid him off to keep the peace, Axe thinks Victor may still want to roast him like Birchie did. Dollar Bill provides the wisdom:
“Before Old West gunslingers were turned into dime store paperbacks and cartoons, the word “outlaw” meant something. It meant that the law didn’t apply to you.”
Bill’s words are good enough for Axe to go “read” Victor who is stuck at a boutique firm where he cannot be who he is. Victor wants his own shop in return for Klaxon. He will be generous and provide “prime meats” for Axe like Pete Decker and Danny Margolis did before him. I am not talking about a one-to-one correspondence but I feel Victor probably has things in common with the younger version of Axe: His cockiness. His ambition. His ways. Victor gets his shop.
Chuck is beyond himself when he finds out about Axe cornering the market for Churchill first editions. Kate’s eyes get bigger and bigger as Chuck compares Axe to a shark waiting for the faintest smell of blood to attack… If only she knew 😀 Chuck acts on an impulse, exactly like Axe in The Kingmaker when he rode his motorcycle to Yale Club, and goes to dad with Ice Juice. Chuck Sr is already in but his cash is tied at some real estate deals that he cannot sell right now: Kingsford! 😀
Chuck is worried they need to get into his blind trust as he is transitioning to an elected office but Chuck Sr assures him they can take care of it quietly. When he says “if this is what it gets…” Chuck is not talking about helping his dad or Ira. He is certainly talking about Axe. And I wonder, given that it is a blockbuster, whether Axe Capital will take a look at this IPO, too. This may come back and bite Chuck in the ass.
The moment she finds out Wendy came back to Axe Capital on the condition she would not have sessions with Axe — it is hilarious she likens their sessions to Silence of The Lambs — Lara is as furious as Chuck when he finds out about the fate of his books. Still, she keeps her composure and complies when Axe calls to say he is at the front gate waiting for her.
The windbreakers are taking Taylor’s pictures as they are boarding the private plane. As much as Taylor does not like lying, I do not see the FBI being able to score with them.
Dollar Bill cannot be happier about Axe not showing up for his own party. he knows this is not because Axe learnt he was an introvert in the Myers-Briggs test but it is because…
“He has remembered he’s an outlaw. A fucking desperado.”
The most extraordinary guy Wags came to know in life does not show up to hear his “Happy Birthday” speech and also returns the “Sic Transit Imperium” (“Thus passes the Empire”) coin securing a spot for him at The Ark. Axe will not live his life playing safe but instead will put some meaning back into the word “outlaw.” Going back to his old self takes him to the place where it all started: Yonkers Raceway. What is sad and selfish of him is he has no clue that Lara, sitting next to him, cannot be farther away from him at this moment. And knowing he has no clue may be hurting her more than finding out about his lie. Yeah, Lara, I have heard others saying marriage is hard, too. But I do not think Lara is giving up on her marriage and I am dying to see how she will handle it. Hats off to Malin Akerman for killing it in this last scene.