Billions on Showtime, 3.07: Not You, Mr. Dake

Billions, Season 3 Episode 7, “Not You, Mr. Dake”, starts where the last episode ended. We find Bobby, Wendy and Chuck where we left them, holed up in Bobby’s digs, mapping their next move. We see that dinner came and went while they were getting their stories straight.  What’s a strategy session without a nicely prepared steak as accompaniment? And once you share a meal, you’re friends, right? Thus, we witness the shift in tone, the “nuanced shifts in loyalty” as our central three, who I borrowed Swift-ian lyrics to define as the A-team, the endgame, the first string, in that Last Supper promo, have transformed into a beautiful “trifecta of chicanery.”

Leave it to the boys to want to keep Wendy out of the loop on the muddier parts of their plans. When her mind goes in exactly the same direction as there’s did, ie the need to throw someone into the deep fryer in their place, they’re amused. There’s a sense of “Oh, that wise wacky Wendy making fools out of us dumb boys yet again. Is there anything she can’t do? Is there anything she doesn’t know?” This start hints at the situation comedy to come later.

This episode also does some nifty things with time. It truncates the idea of a flashback to something that happened not years or episodes ago, but something that happened like 10 minutes ago, episode-time. Flash back is used not for back story but for the story itself.

There’s strategery all over the place and righteous indignation against fresh new targets.

Get a load of Chuck taking umbrage over Dr. Gilbert taking Axe’s money while still betraying him. Could it be that the most offensive to Chuck is not breaking the law but disloyalty? Yet another thing he has in common with Bobby: loyalty above all else. How Chuck’s righteousness has flipped! He may actually admire Bobby’s ability to never sink into hypocrisy, his ability to always “tell it like it is”. Traits not shared by the good doctor, who does indeed play both sides of the fence. That the doctor’s play was for the sake of his family and research funding falls completely away. Chuck paints him as a henchman for the mob (aka Axe Cap), the man who withheld treatment from dying Donnie, the man who took money from Axe while slipping evidence to his enemy. A quisling, if you will. Clever twist of fate for the good Doctor Gilbert. Before we know it, funds are transferred, investment accounts are created and revealed and the doctor ends in tears. He’s got five years in jail and a tidy sum waiting for him when he gets out. In some circles of tit for tat, that’s plenty.

Dake is similarly screwed. First, he gets screwed from his guy who he installed in his old job at Southern to keep an eye on Chuck. That guy gladly takes the scotch offered him while telling Dake “Well Chuck probably knows you put me there to keep an eye on him, so me telling you what I’ve seen by keeping an eye on him will be us doing exactly what Chuck expects.” Heh.

The second screw comes from Chuck, who, you will recall, got Dake to take the Ice Juice case to Eastern, far away from any danger of conflict of interest had it been tried in Southern. Chuck got Dake to follow thru on what he started with the take-down of Axe, and then proceeded to take Dake down instead. That sounds like a chess move that probably has a name. Or maybe an ice hockey move, where your hockey stick is aiming for one guy, but then hits the guy who’s protecting you from that other guy. Chuck is like “Oops, sorry, don’t worry, you’ll be back” just as we see Dake’s back returning down south. Yep, NYC will eat you alive, son.

Puppet masters Chuck and Bobby walk free. Puppets, Dr. Gilbert and Dake, in addition to suffering the indignity of a hand up their ass, do not. They’re gaslit into thinking they asked for it and sent to pasture with the empty promise that they’ll live to fight another day.

The masters land winners, though not necessarily any better for the ride. Chuck sums it up nicely:

Beat up, older, like the wins cost much more.

Which makes this episode even darker than that dark one. Simply because the dark hides under some darn silly shenanigans.

Only two players in this game end up relatively unscathed, not winners by any stretch, but still whole and clean: Taylor and Connerty. Taylor kept careful watch as the entire thing played out. They saw that Mafee was in extremis and identified Wendy as both a culprit of the stress and as someone who could help. Taylor came thru for the guy who hired them: that’s loyalty.

Similarly, Connerty now has Chuck’s number, is coming back to Southern, and will put forth every effort to nab his one-time boss who is now so readily given to corruption. Connerty is loyal to nothing but the truth the whole truth, so help him God. He’s a bit too clean to land on top of the heap at the end and may even die trying. I mean die in the woo-woo spiritual sense. Regardless, the triumvirate still have these two hurdles, Taylor and Connerty, to clear before they’re really home free, if ever.

So, yeah, the puppet masters win by screwing the puppets. What they do with Mafee is more of a poke in comparison, but poke they do, via the third member of the puppetry troupe, Wendy.

Taylor instills the idea that Wendy can make a difference. And she does. But, I’m sure I’m not the only one a bit miffed the show had Wendy sell herself short all to cover for her ill-timed short.  (Forgive me, sometimes I cannot NOT throw puns at this show) Really, Dr. Rhoades? Man-child Mafee, in a fit of nerves, clumsily lets out the fact that his gaze often follows your ass when you walk around the office and that leads you to conclude he like “likes” you?

Just because a man’s eyes go to your butt (or your boobs) doesn’t mean he “likes” you. It just means he’s a cis-het man. Why be coy about it?

I’m not talking about leering or cat-calling, which, I think everyone can agree, are gross and abusive. No, this is something kinda okay, even in modern sexual climates. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that women within a certain age range and threshold for appearance will get the oh-so-subtle boob scans. Likewise, a cis-het man hunched over something really interesting at the cafe will reflexively look up a bit when a woman in spandex walks out the door. We’ve all seen it. Nothing to be ashamed of really. It’s like that hammer the doctor strikes to your knee making your leg go schwing before you even know what the heck he’s doing. Pure reflex. Doesn’t mean a darn thing more than that. It happens, that is, until a woman has crossed over to that glorious Age of Invisibility, the time in her life when no one ever sees her at all. (It is then, friends, that the tables are turned and the gawk-ee becomes the gawker *evil laugh*… oh, time, how nonsensical you are)

The fact we even have to imagine this cognitive disconnect in the knowledgeable and emotionally mature power player in a man’s world that is Wendy Rhoades is bizarre. Wendy really thinks Mafee likes her? Worse still, we’re supposed to believe Wendy thinks that Mafee likes her? To be fair, it was likely all a big joke that I just took too seriously.

The Halls’ and Orrin’s simultaneous nods of “Ah!” and Wags summarizing the play as “the oldest trick in the book” eased the blow somewhat. But the laugh came out bitter. Alas who the hell am I to be offended by the depths they had Wendy sink to? Also, did I really write last time that Bobby and Wendy were a relationship fit for the forensic pen of Henry James?Really? Who even reads Henry James outside English 307? I read him once, some thirty years ago, and just because it was an experience that made lovely creases in my brain where there were none before doesn’t mean the name means a hill of beans to anyone anymore. Particularly not the demographic for this show (or any show). Nor the lead characters of this night time soap bordering on sit com as it did in this episode. Nothing wrong with either of those genres mind you! As one of our faithful readers NotLinda noted, Billions is more iike a game or a puzzle than it is a story. And games are fun, yo.

I could go on about how they broke character continuity by having Wendy play the coquet. But, let me back it up and try to maintain a sense of humor. And it was funny, which was the main intention anyway. Her come hither sighs and laying her head on Mafee’s shoulder were meant to be funny. To his credit, Mafee remained adorably confused the entire time.

https://twitter.com/zarqa/status/993314372419178496

https://twitter.com/zarqa/status/993315376107671553

The realization of what Wendy had done, and what he now had to do didn’t hit Mafee till later. All he heard when she came over was that she was a damsel who would most certainly meet distress due to her poor innocent self being in the wrong place at the wrong time making the wrong call. Mafee, as he is wont to do, came to her rescue. He’s a prince, this Mafee kid.

He can’t sit by and let anyone suffer. We can only hope he retains those princely attributes when the reality of what he’s done sinks in. He defused a grenade for the shop, without having to fall on it. The shop paid him nicely for this trouble. Done and done.

Sure, he gave false testimony and will be fined by the SEC as will Axe Capital. But, paying SEC fines is like leaving tips for the caddies on golfing Sundays, par for the course. Maybe Mafee will process the thing via a series of impeccably timed one-liners in the episodes and seasons to come. Something to look forward to, certainly.

Anyway, Hall 1.0 uncovers the cell tower guy’s Achilles heel, ie stealing celebrity and politician data and selling it to the highest bidder. And bada-bing bada-boom, the cell records are keystroked away and rewritten to show that Mafee made the call to Wendy, not the other way around. She shorted due to Mafee’s spell-binding selling skills and not on her own volition. Thus Wendy, the nexus, the linch-pin, the center of the entire diorama, scurries away, tail between her legs, free and clear.

Hey, at least she was on screen. And she played a role in advancing the plot. Which begs the question: What is the role for a woman in a man’s game? And what is adventure for a woman? Traveling the world kicking terrorist ass is adventure. But we know that’s not a job for everyone. Carmela Soprano taking a girls trip to Paris with her friend, the mother of the teenager Tony had executed a few episodes earlier? That’s adventure of sorts, sure. The Drapers in Italy, Betty’s hair done two feet high, her expertly working the advances of passersby. That was a great adventure, and that was the 60’s.

Seems we’re missing seeing women on an adventure somewhere between tai kwondo practice and spa day. Not for this show to explore, surely, since ostensibly it is about men. But, boy, it’d be fun to see Wendy on such a new as yet undepicted adventure.

Back to the end. Here we are as the antics wrap up and even the walk to the elevator is sit-com’y, each character waving goodbye after all loose ends are neatly tied up, each heading their separate ways.

Bobby goes home to find his best friend, the truest legacy of Bacchus ever, has arranged a bacchanalia for his dear dauphin.

It’s a celebration of freedom and Bobby apparently wears trousers whose seams are held by Velcro. Pills kick in as all the skin around him becomes available and the final two seconds of the scene wipe away all the situation comedy of the preceding hour. Bobby is in stone cold panic at just how close he came to it all ending. He’s relieved, yes. But he’s also empty. Bobby Axelrod’s soul has left the building. For these two seconds anyway. Making the preceding hour well worth it.

18 thoughts on “Billions on Showtime, 3.07: Not You, Mr. Dake”

  1. Jania,
    Loose ends .. Can you help?
    Is Mafee fired and not eligible to find a job in trading business due to fraud?
    Why AG is suddenly extending hands to Axe ? Is there a backstory? We see Axe and Krakow meet up in trailer

    1. Hi there! I don’t think Mafee is fired, he just has to pay the 180K fine.
      The AG sees that there is now no evidence with which to convict. If they proceeded with the case against Axe, they would lose. So it’s better to dismiss the charges than to lose in open court. I don’t imagine Axe being in cahoots with the federal government, but who knows…coming so close this time to conviction may have scared him enough to want to make sure it never happens again. The AG is corrupt in his own way, but I don’t see a back channel connection to Axe…yet! 🙂

  2. Is Dake out of job or is he being reassigned ? Not clear as firing means a reason need to be provided and what would AG provide?

    1. Dake is fired from the position in NY. It’s not clear whether he’s been reassigned. I think the only cause the AG needed was that Dake just didn’t get the job done of getting a big conviction. Not sure if any more direct reason is needed. If it were then the resourceful AG probably found something. 🙂

  3. Jania, you know I really love your posts, since we see such different things when we watch. I don’t want to go into it too much here, since I’ll be posting on Friday. But where you saw comedy, I saw tragedy. I love how this show puts it out there, and let’s the viewer decide how to interpret it.

    I do have one question: what is “cis-het man”?

    1. Cis-het = “straight.” Male-identifying heterosexual.
      Cool, I look forward to your post! I sense you may have seen Wendy acting in tragic desperation? A valid interpretation! 😀

      1. OK thanks. I have never heard the term “cis” before. I was guessing the “het” was for heterosexual, but had no idea was the cis was.

        Wendy – not so much as tragic desperation, just I didn’t understand why go through the whole seductive game. If she knows Mafee “likes” her (it sounds so High School!!!), then why not just go to him, and say “look, you know I didn’t do anything, but it can be construed that way. Help a sister out!” A more direct way would have made more sense to me. Wendy is strong and direct. They coy “bimbo” just didn’t feel right.

        1. I also thought Wendy could have gone to Mafee without any seduction and ask him what she really needed him to do for her and since Mafee already knows she is a “straight shooter” he would still do it. But then I thought since the whole idea came out of her feeling that he LIKED her in a special way and so she did it the way she did probably because she did not want to leave anything to chance.

          1. But isn’t it riskier to come on to Mafee than just be Wendy herself? Mafee knows her, and would know this side of Wendy is out of character. A damsel in distress? Wendy is a lot of things, but “I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers” is not her. To me, it just came across as cheap and cringe worthy. I don’t have any issue with her going to Mafee to ask for help, or ask him to lie – it’s how she did it. I have a feeling she won’t be feeling too good about it in the coming episodes. We’ll see!

          2. It could be riskier for you and me but not for Wendy. She knew it would work. I know you don’t believe her powers, but I accept them as they are presented, and I think knowing Mafee’s psychology (who knows how many session she has had with him over the years, she knows him, and I don’t think that session where he talked about her butt was the first time Wendy thought he liked her but it was the first time we found out about it) she did what she thought was her optimal play and it worked. She did not do it because she felt good about it, but because it was the best play she could do from her perspective, not ours. She is a rational player. That said, I also think Wendy will have a problem with what they have collectively done to get themselves out of the Ice Juice shit. The Showtime blurb said way back at the beginning of the season that Wendy will be forced to make a decision that will change her life forever. Food for thought!

          3. I understand what you are saying, but of all the females on the show (and I know there’s not many!) she would be the last one I would think would use her “feminine wiles”. I also don’t see her as sexy, so maybe that is my issue.
            Taylor knows the deal, so I’m hoping Taylor calls her out on it.

        2. I absolutely agree, I was about to throw my remote at the screen with her behaving that way. And she was direct ultimately, under the guise of a damsel in distress, which I guess she thought would appeal to Mafee. The one direct thing she needed to say was “the only thing they have is that I made the call” and she said it. She openly implied that it’s up to you Prince Dudley to make like that call never happened.

          I’m still miffed by how it went down. Seems like the writers underestimated Mafee’s ability to see reason without all the silly gaming, and they underestimated Wendy’s ability to man a scene without devolving into childish damsel behavior. Thus my saying that it was played for humor, and nothing else. It didn’t sit right with me either beyond that.

          1. I’m glad I’m not the only one it didn’t sit right with! I may not understand the Wendy/Axe relationship, but I do recognize her as a strong woman, who is confident, and didn’t need to resort to the batting of the eyelids. A dominatrix wouldn’t need to be saved!

            But the more I think about it, perhaps that is the exact point the writers are making. This was not a normal Wendy play, so maybe this is something that will play out down the road.

            The scene played out a little to Mrs. Robinson for me, but then again, I totally hated the very last scene as well. A scenario that a “typical” person would do, but not the characters as we know them to date.

        3. Oh, and cis is the opposite of trans. Language that comes from Latin and something you get to learn well in organic chemistry. 🙂 The terms are just a way to further delineate the idea of “straight”, since there are many ways folks can be straight, and using bio-language is somewhat less defining than “normalizing” language like “straight”….like, does that mean gay guys are crooked? It shouldn’t.

          All this language is great, but I think the big overarching issue is to work towards the acceptance of sexuality as a fluid thing, always. Putting language on it is important but it does tend to alienate folks who don’t want to keep up with all the new terms. 🙂

          1. I try to keep up with it all, but sometimes it’s hard. I guess I’d just like to know someone’s name, called them that, and not worry about their gender, sexuality etc.
            Like Taylor is Taylor. It doesn’t matter to me what their gender is, or who they are attracted to: I just like the person (character) they are.
            Too simplistic?

  4. “Regardless, the triumvirate still have these two hurdles, Taylor and Connerty, to clear before they’re really home free, if ever.” Yes! Yes! Yes! I really love the way you look at Taylor and Bryan! And I agree with you these two are the ones to watch in terms of their relationships to the A-team as you call them in the rest of the season! Cannot wait for more!

    “Bobby Axelrod’s soul has left the building.” SO TRUE. That last scene was everything with Damian being the acting god that he is changing the entire narrative in the blink of an eye.

    What I was thinking about Wendy is she probably did not find out Mafee had a thing for her in that one session we have also seen.Instead, having had sessions with him over the years, she may have known that he liked her for much longer than we have… I agree there is a comedy element to it which I liked. In some other actors’ hands, that scene at Mafee’s house could have been a disaster but I think Maggie Siff and Dan Soder, balancing the drama and comedy, pulled it off pretty well.

    1. “changing the entire narrative in the blink of an eye”
      Exactly. So wonderful how he does that! THIS scene is exactly why I said that Don Draper in Damian’s hands would’ve been a much more sympathetic character in my eyes. I wanted to throw some more snark at the show and go on about how they’re trying to make Bobby into Don and it may not work as expected because Damian will put his own talent and spin into the role. Of course, Bobby’s look at the end was written into script. But only Damian can make us FEEL what the words and motions mean.

      You may notice that I didn’t even touch on the gratuitous kiss at the end. Totally uncalled for. I was too mad about it to even write. Wendy did not have to “award” Mafee with a stupid kiss. And what kind of reward is that anyway? Mafee’s never been kissed before? It diminished both of them. Of course, the show will make us rethink all of this eventually. The writing has had the ability to transform what we think we know and feel so strongly about, and hopefully will do just that for the bitter taste left by the Wendy Mafee dynamic in this episode.

      1. I have never felt they were trying to turn Bobby into Don but I agree with you that, if it is what they are trying to do, it will not work.

        Yes, I have noticed you have not talked about the kiss. I think I have taken the Wendy – Mafee sequence much lighter than everyone else and thought it was carefully balanced between drama and comedy which Billions loves to do. Let’s see when and how they will bring us back to this dynamic in the rest of the season or beyond.

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