Billions on Showtime, Season 2 Episode 9: Sic Transit Imperium

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 😀

source: Showtime

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.”

source: Showtime

While Axe is having second thoughts about Klaxon, the government is already working on insider information he acted on earlier: Sandicot.

source: Showtime

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.

source: Showtime

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.

source: Showtime

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.

source: Showtime

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.

source: Showtime

“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.”

source: Showtime

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.

source: Showtime

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.

source: Showtime

 

35 thoughts on “Billions on Showtime, Season 2 Episode 9: Sic Transit Imperium”

  1. Spoilers? Haha! This just makes me want to see the episode even more… 🙂

    Having not seen the episode yet, is this ‘Ice Juice’ thing anything to do with Texiera’s juice thing from season 1?

    1. No, “Ice Juice” is what Ira’s girlfriend was talking about at dinner —the one Ira found a “friend” for Chuck, too. Teixeria’s is Juice Express – it’s a real company.

  2. I could not be more in love with Paul Giamatti right now and the scene where is discovers the fate of his beloved Winston Churchill editions. Chuck was feeling all kinds of “out of season oyster” feelings and his facial expressions, body posture, voice octave, all nailed it. As the Billions Writers tweeted out last night, “You can fuck with his life & his wife but don’t fuck with Chuck’s books.”

    1. Agreed! Paul Giamatti is a giant. The way Chuck gets out of control when he finds out about the fate of his books is priceless! And he makes his move, on an impulse, exactly like Axe does, on Ice Juice 😀 I wonder if Axe Capital will take a look at the IPO as well and if it may come back and bite Chuck in the ass.

      1. I’m thinking Axe Cap does look at Ice Juice IPO and that Chuck/Senior will do something that will come back and bite Axe in the ass instead! Because Chuck realizes you can’t compete with a powerful shark swimming in the water waiting for the faintest smell of blood so he can attack without warning. Instead, like the shark, Chuck must somehow anticipate where the shark will strike and match it’s strength. Ergo, bait. Ergo Ice Juice. Chuck is playing the long game.

        1. Interesting perspective on Ice Juice, love it! Chuck is definitely playing the long game!
          I just want something to pop up and bite his campaign hard: that $5M “bribe” is still there for Axe to use as a last resort…

          1. Chuck let his perspective on Ice Juice slip a little when he said to Senior: “I am most certainly taking the longer view at the moment” and “Well, if this is what it takes….uh to help you and Ira.” He’s been so steadfast about that blind trust and flipped that on a dime, risking his potential political career to bait his shark. Not saying it will work, but Ice Juice is Chuck’s chess and Axe’s chess is those 5 sticks you mention! #OperationDake

          2. YES! Chuck is certainly taking a risk but as he tells his apprentices, you sometimes need to take a calculated risk (IDK how calculated this is though given he has done it on an impulse!) to get what you want. The whole thing will be so delicious to watch! Haha I love it: #OperationDake

      1. ALL OF THE FEELINGS. AT ONCE.

        I’ve watched the episode 3 times now. I may watch it a 4th, tonight. The scene at the end, with Lara, was ripping my heart out. I’ve had that moment. I’ve sat next to the obliviously happy spouse while I died inside(first marriage-not Mr Dazzle!).

        Like, damn near everyone was a scumbag in this episode. Like….argh.

        1. They have people that really know a thing or two about marriage in the writing room!
          As much as Lara has been rubbing me the wrong way for some time now, I could not help feel bad for her in that scene. Ok it was Axe’s birthday, it was his day, but it seems every day is his day. He is clueless about the woman next to him, his life partner, being in pain. He has no idea. Unacceptable.
          I am so sorry you had a similar experience but I know that Mr. Dazzle has compensated for all of it <3

  3. Did I miss something or was there no follow up on Lara’s visit to Sandicot? She did a great job of projecting without words in the last few scenes, but it amused me to see she believed Wendy’s version of the “office agreement” immediately. Does she not trust her husband to tell the truth? Of course not, she knows him too well!
    Connie

    1. There was no follow up to Lara’s visit, maybe we’ll see a follow up later. You never know when a former event will come and take center stage in Billions. There is always the element of surprise! I think Lara believed Axe when he told her the lie because she had to believe something to go ahead and be at peace in her marriage. You are absolutely right, Lara knew Wendy was telling the truth — honestly I did not think about it, that is a great observation, Connie, and yes she did not even think about confronting Axe regarding this. She knows him too well to do that. Sad.

    2. I’m trying terribly hard not to be negative but I don’t see Billions getting the wide attention that Homeland did. Of course it is a vastly different type of program, just as Bobby Axelrod is a far cry from Nick Brody. But what really annoys me is some of the dialog which would make immediate sense to anyone remotely connected with the world of high finance, can be a stumbling block to viewers who are not. For example, I had to look up IPO. Of course it only took a few strokes on my keyboard, but enough of that happening and I start to tune out the, shall we say “business” portions of each episode. Therefore my interest lies almost solely with the personal relationships and dynamics between the characters, not the financial trappings. Without Damian, I am sure I wouldn’t be watching. ( I swore I would give up on Homeland without Brody, but Rupert Friend’s performances have been too compelling to quit. If he doesn’t get an Emmy nod for “Quinn”, there is something terribly wrong.) Apologies to all, but there is no sense in candy coating how I feel. Happily, I have enough of Damian’s work on DVDs to keep me in ginger fixes for years and years! At least we can be sure Axe won’t end up like Brody did, so I will be watching till it runs its course.

      1. Hi Connie, I think it is obvious Homeland and Billions have a different set of viewers and Homeland may get more attention for the subject matter. But I know from statistics Billions was very successful in its first year in terms of ratings (you know it’s all about numbers when they decide to renew the show) and they are getting more viewers this year.

        I think I am extremely lucky. Billions is absolutely a dream show for me. It has Damian, it is filmed in NY which is probably the only place I feel at home, and it concerns game theory (strategic interactions) which I teach for a living 😀 Besides, I of course love the storyline and characters (and I think supporting characters are incredibly remarkable!) but also love the sense of humor, the music, movie and book references, etc. I watch every episode 4-5 times and I find something new every time. I feel very lucky.

        I believe the show needs to use the financial and legal language to stay as authentic as possible because after all this is a story of these two worlds and how they interact and intersect and collide. I think they try to balance out the language that, for example, in the last two episodes we did not have a lot of “technical” language. Maybe we can make your experience a bit easier with our Billions glossary and we constantly update for financial/legal vocabulary like IPO, etc. We have everything in here: http://www.fanfunwithdamianlewis.com/?page_id=8080

        I completely agree about Rupert Friend. I think he’s going for lead actor this year though — he could be Damian’s rival 🙂

      2. Hi Connie

        I’m so sorry to hear that! I know that we have tried to do our best with the glossary, and I personally have tried my best when doing “From the Trader’s Desk” to bring light to the “fin speak” that most people don’t understand.

        But what is interesting, is that I love those business parts because it is my world. So, Billions brings different things to different people, which is why I think it’s such a great show.

      3. Hey Connie, mir wahr nie klar, wie ich das in Worte fassen könnte, warum mir Billions nicht ans Herz wachsen würde. Du hast es hiermit getan. Dankeschön ! Genau das ist es. Würde Damian nicht mitspielen, würde ich dafür nicht extra Sky abonnieren. Mit gefällt an Billions die neu erschaffene Person von Damian, die persönlichen Beziehungen untereinander und die einzelnen Spannungen die dabei entstehen. Ich finde es wahnsinnig faszinierend, zuzusehen, wenn er vom eiskalten Fisch zum verwundeten Krieger wird und umgekehrt. Ich bin einfach jedesmal hin und weg von seinem schauspielerischem Talent und kann mich eigentlich nicht sattsehen. Auch ich hoffe, dass er uns noch sehr sehr lange mit seinem Können überrascht und unser Leben dadurch definitiv schöner macht.
        Herzlichste Grüße aus Deutschland !

      4. Connie,
        I find these people on Billions very tiresome. Damian is the only reason I watch. Not entirely true I’ve always enjoyed Paul Giamatti. Perhaps I’ll just read the recaps and tune in when it sounds like fun.

        1. Hello Notlinda,
          I really hope I didn’t turn anyone off with my most recent comments. Please don’t stop watching. Unhappily these Showtime programs don’t last long enough. I’m assuming Billions season 2 is 10 episodes….right? Of course someone like Damian, who must exhaust himself commuting back and forth to London at every chance is probably very glad the season isn’t longer. (I always give him points for getting home to Helen and the kids as much as possible. But to me family is more important than career.) I am totally dependent on the wonderful recaps to understand all the dialog and I usually watch each epi twice, read the recaps, then go back and view the 3rd. time.
          Queen of the Desert is not playing near me, but I see I can get it On Demand with pay per view. Usually I won’t do that, since COMCAST gets a fortune of my money every month, but for Damian I will make the exception. Hope to get time to do it within the next few days.

          1. I have a feeling this coming episode will be my favorite of the season. Not that I know anything you don’t but I just have a feeling… we’ll see!

            This season has 12 episodes so we still have three Sundays to go. I believe we will have the season finale on May 7. I can’t believe how we’ve already consumed 75% of it! At least we know there will be third season.

            Yes! Queen of the Desert has been available On Demand since April 14. I did a review when it opened at theatres and I am looking forward to your feedback, Connie!
            Damian is worth the exception <3

            BIG thank you to both of you for reading our recaps and finding them helpful. Cheers <3

          2. No, Connie, you didn’t turn me off. The show does. Admiration for Damian Lewis doesn’t seem to make up for the content; a snarky script about unlikable, cynical people. Who do I want to win……no one!
            I can find Damian in the many venues fanfun has revealed. Life’s short I want to spend it doing something I can enjoy!

  4. The whole blind trust thing sort of seems like a relic at this point. I mean, in real life the POTUS isn’t even required to have one. Why is it such a big deal for a DA to have one, then?

    1. I believe public servants are still held up to those standards.
      POTUS should not have business connections, either – conflict of interest.

  5. Sorry to have been MIA. April is 1st Q earnings, and I have been busy. Literally just watched the show now! And as always, I totally loved and needed your recap to get me to see things I missed!

    You and I have so many of the same reactions to this episode! I thought the same exact thing about Axe and Lara at Yonkers Raceway. He brought her to a place that mattered – to him! I guess because it was his birthday, I give him some slack, but not much. I’ll go into more detail on this episode on my post.

    I was thinking we should all take the Myers-Briggs personality test and see what the results are!

    1. I can imagine, take it easy, friend – I am buried under end of semester stuff myself.
      I am not surprised at all that we have similar reactions to the episode. I am so looking forward to reading your take on it!

      Well, I cut him some slack for taking Lara to Yonkers Raceway, it is fine, I would go anywhere that my husband wanted to go on his birthday, too.
      But he does not even have a clue that the woman sitting next to him is in pain. Unbelievable. Is he naive or is he selfish? Axe cannot be really naive, can he? 🙂

      I LOVE the idea of taking the Myers-Briggs personality test — maybe for our Best of Billions post at the end of the season!

  6. Ah ladies (and what gents are here), at this point all I can say is I’m glad I’m retired. Therefore I can watch as many episodes as often and at any time of day that I choose. But then you folks will get there yourselves someday. I’m just hoping the Ginger Gent doesn’t decide to retire in my lifetime, although I think that’s unlikely.

    1. It is a true luxury to be able to watch as many episodes as often and whenever you want – my mother is retired and she has her shows and she does not have the time to even Skype with me because of them 😀 But I love it that she has her priorities straight 🙂 Talking about mom, she thinks Brody does not look like anything. She is a Quinn gal!

      Do you think Damian will retire from acting? I hope not. But yeah he could switch to directing like many do. I still think his career will get even more interesting. We have this dream, well JaniaJania started it but I am all game, that he will play King Lear on stage before retirement. He can’t retire before THAT 😀

  7. Thia episode had a very different feel and pace to it from the last few, but I enjoyed it just as much.

    I am at the point where I cannot hide my dislike for Chuck Rhoades. His scenes about Sandicot screamed insincere to me because it was a political play. Yet again, a case against Axe is dropped because Chuck’s presence will compromise it.

    Good to see Kelly AuCoin flexing his acting muscles here as $Bill stands up to the boss men…home run!

    The Lara / Chuck scene was one of the highlights of the episode for me. From the way Lara introduced herself and Chuck’s ‘There is such a thing as too weird even for us.” What I like best about this scene though is that Chuck just answered a call from an Axelrod phone to his home phone before he drops his second case against Axe. Oh dear me.

    The other highlight was Chuck’s melt down about his books. This was such a fantastic scene. Kate didn’t know what was going on.

    Axe yet again spends an episode not caring a jot for anyone and is completely clueless to his wife’s feelings at the end.

    I am treating Bryan’s newfound neutral expression and control of himself as ‘A New Hope’ and not ‘Revenge of the Sith’.

    1. TBkWrm – Oh my! I didn’t even think of that but you’re right. Could the phone call that Chuck answered at home from an Axelrod come back to bite him/them with any timing issues that arise? Oh that is something Mr. Dake would find for sure if he was back sniffing around. And he may be back to sniff, who knows. #OperationDake

      1. Tbkwrm is amazing when it comes to detail and she is always right in not taking anything in Billions at its face value. I honestly did not think for a second that the phone call between Lara and Chuck could amount to something and it can definitely come back to bite him!

        Well, Dake told Chuck not to get too comfortable. I would highly recommend him not to! 😀

      2. It just immediately struck me as a similar sort of scenario to the season one finale when Axe pays Wendy’s bonus. Lara calls looking for Wendy but gets Chuck and it is still the ‘family home’.

        I am loving the #operationDake hash tag. I think Dake is smelling the breadcrumbs from DC.

  8. Hello Damianistra!

    I just want to thank you for your take on each and every episode. I’ve been a fan of Billions from the start! The show has that “X-factor” type thing going on for me and the interaction between Axe and Chuck is priceless! I’m an everyday type girl and some of the dialogue goes “over my head” at times and this is why I am so thankful for you. You make everything make sense to me and I appreciate it very much!

    1. Hi Risa, you have just made my day! THANK YOU! Thank you for your kind message and thank you for reading! Billions is certainly my dream show, and I cannot be happier if I am able to contribute a little bit to your enjoyment of the show. Cheers! 🙂

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