Well, we all knew they would get out of this, didn’t we? Yet, Billions has once again kept us at the edge of our seats while finding out HOW. And this is what I love the most about this show. The true thrill is not in what happens but in how it happens and I bow in front of the brilliant writers and actors for giving us yet another thrilling hour of TV where the holy triangle proves there is nothing that can stop them when they are out there to get what they want.
And, in this particular case, they want to make Wendy’s short disappear.
The episode opens to confuse the viewer, Billions style. We find Chuck talking to Dr. Gilbert about his obsession with the paratroopers in WWII and especially the point of no return where they need to make the jump, or where Chuck and Dr. Gilbert are exactly at the moment. I hope you are not implying you are a Dick Winters, Chuck. They are planting the slide, probably under a ketchup bottle, in Axe’s refrigerator at the moment and the FBI will be coming in while Axe is having dinner with his boys tonight. Dr. Gilbert almost feels bad for Axe, yet he sees the situation like an emergency room triage after a mass casualty event.
“You save who you can and force the fate of the rest out of your mind.”
Well, that is exactly how the holy triangle sees it. We find them in Axe’s living room discussing how to make Wendy’s short go away in a way that the case does not go to trial. Axe can have the new Halls to “massage” the phone records to make sure the phone call Wendy made to short the stock was not made from Chuck’s office. It is fascinating how Axe and Chuck use the time Wendy leaves the table to plot their game together: They will find someone to dump this on and then divide the work: Axe will ensure it will look like he has made profits in Ice Juice and Chuck will ensure he will take the plea and go to prison without a trial. While both men know Wendy has got steel in her, they are surprised when she asks them the question.
Wendy is the boss lady.
Their patsy is at home wearing his Johns Hopkins t-shirt, watching TV with his family. As Dr. Gilbert is looking down on Fulbright and praising Marshall, Kate leads the FBI raid to his house. We find out Chuck talking to Gilbert in front of his house is part of the mission while the rest is accomplished by Mr. Adubo who has definitely earned some greens and US visas for his family in Congo. And it is mind-blowing how Chuck has given Gilbert the rope to hang himself:
“Not the ketchup!”
Dr. Gilbert finds himself in an interview room at the SDNY sitting with Chuck, who is now offering him the chance to say he is the one who planned the Ice Juice sabotage all along. He can take the plea and avoid the embarrassment of a public trial. While Dr. Gilbert is not willing to talk before his lawyer appears and he wants a trial where he can talk about whatever he wants to talk about Ice Juice, Chuck tells him the FBI will also be in the room when his lawyer shows up, and they will only be interested in the the slide as well as the profits he made out of Ice Juice. While Dr. Gilbert is confident he has not made any profits, we could only say YIKES!
It turns out Wendy has Chuck well-trained in psychological manipulation as well. Guilt is a state of mind and Chuck wants to put the doctor there. He starts with a question:
“What is the cost — the grinding, wearing, price — of carrying internal culpabilities even while escaping external blame?”
As Dr. Gilbert asserts he is innocent, Chuck kindly disagrees. Facts are only a place to start and they may well find a “great man that has transgressed” as they dig deeper than facts. Dr. Gilbert obviously provided his skills to help Axe in Ice Juice and benefited from doing that Yet, he is now more than ready to torpedo Axe’s life. What does this say about him?
When the new Halls are not able to hack Sky One Wireless to take care of Wendy’s phone call, Axe travels to Nova Scotia to find a certain “bluenoser” who can tell him not only where the closest Tim Ho-Ho’s is and more: Hall’s solution is simple. If you cannot hack a system, you hack a person. Given Hall does not trust the new Halls can pull this off as seamlessly as he could, he takes over. The hack turns out to be an employee at Sky One who sold access to the accounts of sixteen celebrities and politicians. He will either “massage” the phone records or go to prison.
The only reason Dake has got a position for Allerd at the Southern Disctrict is for the latter to feed him information from across the river. But he is mum about Chuck. We understand Allerd is a man “who recognize nuanced shifts in loyalty” when we see him sharing the 14-year old Oban Whisky Dake has given him with Chuck. Given Rhoades airlines traditionally rewards their loyal customers, I wonder what Chuck has promised Allerd.
As the “true day of reckoning” starts at the court house, Bryan’s confidence makes him go overboard presenting his case. And when he and Bach demonstrate neither of them knows the meaning of “respectfully” DeGiulio needs to stop the Animal House Toga Party and do what Wendy did with Bill and Spyros: a couple therapy of sorts in his chambers! It turns out DeGiulio is my kind of guy when pasta is concerned: Slightly undercooked is okay but overcooked is a no-no. Same with cases. But Bryan believes his case is al dente: He does not only have Wendy’s trading records but also evidence that she called to short the stock from Chuck’s office which proves she traded with her husband’s help and guidance. Moreover, they will call the executing trader as a witness. Trial it is!
While it is about pasta at the courthouse, it is about Acai bowls at Axe Capital. As Axe is testing the waters with Mafee to understand if he can take one for him and the company, he figures he does not know his employees as he did in the past. So he goes to Taylor who he believes has a special bond with Mafee. Bingo! Axe now knows Mafee has an old fashioned sense of honor and he would not do anything that would bring him dishonor.
“Do you think he’s consider lying dishonorable by its nature?”
“It would depend on the situation. He might lie to protect a friend. Or someone he loved. But that’s it.”
We understand Taylor is a true friend to Mafee when they find him drowning his sorrows in hot chocolate. It turns out Maffee grew up in Aurora, Colorado (big thanks go to Harlan York, one of our readers, for letting me know Dan Soder himself is an Aurora native) where he used to shovel driveways for pocket money. He is now here while his besties either have a weed shop or still shovel the driveways and always need loans that Mafee gives them. And when his friends joked what he did was worse since the weed was legal in Colorado, he always laughed along knowing he would never be the one they would see on the news. Then he spills the beans: The FBI interviewed him about Wendy’s short. He has not said anything yet and is torn about whether he should take one for the team.
“It would depend on the reason and circumstances.”
And that is exactly what Axe’s team is working on 😀 While Wags wants to threaten Mafee that they could make him a “dead man walking” in the industry, Bach rightly points out this would only harden his stance. They had better leave it to the pro: Wendy remembers the session she had with Mafee in Episode 3 A Generation Too Late where the latter was scared the quants would replace them?
No word is spoken for nothing on this show… and Voila! Wendy will now take Mafee’s crush on her and run with it. But first she needs to go through a confrontation with Taylor who questions her motives and authority. My take away is that we may never want to hear another doctor referring to their doctor’s oath on this show 😀
The oldest trick in the book does the trick as Wendy proves she could be the most manipulative of all. And she pulls it seamlessly since, while seducing Mafee, look at his face when she drinks from his beer, she does not really tell a lie.
Wendy acted on what Mafee told her about Ice Juice and they will now paint it like a conspiracy at the court. And when Mafee asks how bad it could get for her, she tells him no one else at Axe Capital would ask her that. And THAT is what makes “Dudley” special.
“Really really bad.”
As DeGiulio is ready to set a date for trial, Bryan gets the news Mafee has told the FBI he had feelings for Wendy and when he saw a way to make money for her in Ice Juice, he did it on his own. Moreover, they now have the phone call records backing up Mafee’s story. While Bryan is right that it is all bullshit, he needs a recess to confer with his superiors.
The situation room is set with the AG Jeffcoat chairing the meeting, and I am telling you, he is a serious contender to Wags in his words of wisdom:
“Your case fell apart like a cheap bed at a La Grange whorehouse.”
Axe and Wendy walk away.
Mafee has perjured himself but since it is a civil case he is SEC’s problem. So Chuck has the green light to pursue Dr. Gilbert.
“Well, someone’s got to fry.”
Oh, and the law should make its own sacrifice, too:
“ Not you, Mr Dake.”
Bryan should now feel free to go back to the SDNY after going through the embarrassment of revealing he has nothing on Mr. Robert Axelrod at the court.
While Bryan says loudly he will continue to investigate until he puts the right man behind the bars, his conversation with Kate hints that he may not receive a warm welcome at the “barn” and the next few weeks could be a time of reflection for him. While he is constantly trying to do the right thing, Bryan is surrounded by people who push their own personal agenda to advance themselves at the cost of others. And now that Dake has vacated the seat, it is a curious matter who will be the new US Attorney for the Eastern District! I would laugh my ass off if it turned out to be Karl Allerd! Or could Chuck try to market another loyal soldier to Jeffcoat? But seriously where the fuck is Lonnie?
Chuck is leaving psychology for a second to talk game theory with Dr. Gilbert: Incomplete information. The doctor is in the exact same situation Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid were in minutes before their death: Had they known the entire Bolivian army was waiting for them, would they still have run out with blazing guns? And now that Chuck presents him with his trading records through Victor Mateo Capital, will Dr. Gilbert do it differently?
Once he has full information, Dr. Gilbert asks his lawyer to leave. And as he explains he is a cancer doctor so he knows all kinds of people go down and all kinds of people live and it never has anything to do with who deserves which, Chuck breaks the doctor: Is he sure he treats all his patients equally? How about Donnie Caan who was deprived of one last Christmas with his family? Was Gilbert’s payoff worth letting him die?
“I let Donnie die.”
As Dr. Gilbert is taking the plea for 5 years in jail and keeping the $11M in his account, Axe is settling the rest of the charges: He’s paying $390M in fines for a no-admit-no-deny settlement with the government, $181K for his “expenses” and $1M in strict crypto for stepping up for the company to Mafee.
Well, a stick can make Wags dance like a Cossack but not Mafee. I think the “strictly platonic” kiss Wendy plants on her “hero” may keep sweet Dudley in line, yet it is obvious Mafee does not believe he is the rock great companies are built upon 🙂
Chuck stops by his dad’s with the one-iron Ben Hogan used at “Miracle at Merion.” The gift is to recognize the impossible: They won. So it is time to put the troubles behind and move on like Hogan put the accident most thought would end his career behind him and continued to win. Yet, while his swing looked the same, Hogan should probably have felt beat up and older where wins became much more costly. Chuck is not talking about Hogan. He is talking about himself.
And when he arrives home, neither he nor Wendy, who was planning to have a special show for him, have it in them to celebrate their victory. They know what they have done. They are consumed, if not reflective, but still holding hands.
I remember Bach telling Axe about the case in Episode 1 Tie Goes to the Runner that “as is often the case, the longer you can hold off, the more likely you’ll be screaming in pleasure at the end.” And while Axe only bangs his hand on the table when the case is dismissed, Wags will make sure “The Dauphin” will scream in pleasure tonight.
Heartfelt confession: While I have been right about a lot of strategic stuff going on this season, I have been completely wrong about one thing and I know why. Exactly like a trader, I failed when I let my emotions speak for me. Since my strongest attachment to Axe has been about him being a family man (with him being self-made a close second) I did not want to believe he would find his way to the bodily pleasures with people other than Lara so quickly. Yes, I now admit neither the young woman who showed up at the apartment in the season premiere or any of the young women at the party are yoga instructors! 😀
That said, and while he may have a riot at the party, does Axe look happy to you? Honestly, he looks like his blood pressure is falling and that he will pass out. As Chuck points out early in the episode, guilt is a state of mind. And now that he gets his life back, does Axe feel beat up? Older? Could it be that he is overwhelmed by his internal culpabilities? How many lives had to go away for him to get his way? And how about ignoring his family for so long? I know it is again my emotions speaking, but what the heck, if I were him, I would start pursuing Lara tomorrow. There are things no amount of money can buy. Family is one of them.