Billions on Showtime, Episode 8: Boasts and Rails

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

If Bookworm had not given me the heads up, I would have been totally clueless: The title of this episode refers to two fundamental shots in Squash, a fast-paced racket sport that is also known as turbo-charged chess: the more skilled a player is, the more strategic the game becomes.

boast shot is any shot that hits a sidewall or back wall before hitting the front wall. There are two types: The best time to use the attacking boast is when you are in front of your opponent. A good attacking boast forces your opponent to run the full diagonal to be able to return it. The best time to use the defensive boast is when you are behind your opponent. A good defensive boast gives you time to recover and sometimes can win you the point, too.

rail shot is when you hit the ball, parallel to the side wall, to the front wall and back into the corner. It is useful when your opponent plays you into a corner.

So… Who is boasting? Who is railing? You decide!

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Bryan is obviously not happy with the drive he received from Donnie at the end of last episode. The FBI breaks into Donnie’s house in the wee hours and takes him to the US attorney’s office. Why does Donnie frantically hide his prescription drugs as the FBI gets into his bedroom? I bet he is seriously sick. Is that why Axe gave him 200K shares of Rubinex? I remember Donnie saying “game changer for the family.”

Donnie makes a case for himself. The drive has their internal audit on Kemlot, a biochem company that is not doing great. So, when Axe longs Kemlot, the audit, which Axe has personally sent Donnie, will be key evidence about Axe having insider information because he is going against the numbers. Bryan wants proof that Axe is “trading material nonpublic info” within a week.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Chuck and Wendy are VIP guests at the Big Apple Circus with their kids. Kevin is a big fan of Mark Teixeria of the Yankees who is currently having a conversation with Bobby who scores by having Teixeria make time for Kevin: “Never woman and children.” While Wendy is happy that all the shit has not got in the way, Chuck feels like an idiot as he looks on Bobby “being Santa Claus and Bob Costas all rolling up into one.” Chuck confesses to Wendy he cannot stand her working at Axe Capital and she finally tells him about Chase the headhunter… well, only the relevant parts — no mention of the lucrative job opportunity at the blue chip consulting firm. Chuck makes $185K a year and Wendy taking a new job means she will make a quarter of what he is making now and there is no way they can send their kids to that 70K a year private school that Chuck Sr. and Chuck Jr attended. Brooklyn Heights Elementary seems to be a viable option but Chuck seems so sensitive about school. He talks about continuity that bridges generations. Ha! So Chuck works for the public good, preaches to Bryan about how their work protects the good citizens of America from the likes of Axe, but he does not want his kids to go to school with the kids of those good citizens. And this should be the reason why Wendy raises the school issue. And, hey, maybe Chuck should be looking for a job. Wendy tells Chuck she will quit Axe Capital the day he gets that BIG JOB he always talks about. Is she talking about the governor’s mansion or what? 🙂

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

As I was thinking June herself might bring Chapter 10 to Chuck it is Kate who once again catches the big fish: She meets a “Tiger Inn” friend at a Goose Quill (June’s publisher) book event and Chapter 10 lands on her lap!

We know 9/11 lingers in Bobby Axelrod’s mind. He survives because he is out of the office on 9/11. Chapter 10 now gives us his whereabouts that morning: Axe is in his attorney’s office going over his severance package. WTF? Yes. It turns out his trades are over the line and may be illegal that the company is about to kick him out. What follows is bad. It may not be illegal but it feels wrong. Very wrong. Axe, when the first plane hits the North Tower, goes ahead and shorts aviation stocks followed by hotels and shipping. WHOA. And, worse yet, after the second plane hits the South Tower, everyone he works with is dead. And their deaths save his career. Axe takes the money he has made from those shorts and the rest of what his dead partners had and, as the only surviving partner of Wachtel, Raichlein and Rice, renames the company as Axe Capital. So, is it THAT money paying for all those scholarships for his dead friends’ kids?

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Chuck seemingly does not even want to hear about Chapter 10 due to his recusal; but he, in fact, has a hard time containing himself. He tells Bryan he will personally give the story to Dimonda. Chuck meets Dimonda at Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich Deli and makes him his guy!

Hall has a new mole — a janitor — in the US attorney’s office and word travels to Axe that they pulled up an informant from Axe Capital last night. Wags cannot believe Axe sat on this for half a day and still has not fired anyone.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Axe will find that rat. He tells everyone to put their phones down and attacks the only person who is still on the phone: Mafee. There is a fishy Antigua number on the phone (how come Axe knows about Antigua’s country code?) that he calls only to hear Mafee’s high school girl friend saying “you should not call me.” Axe declares “everyone is on notice” at Axe Capital and it will be so until he finds out who the quisling is.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

If Axe Capital was, in Wags’ words, Lord of the Flies when Axe was AWOL in The Good Life, it is now becoming 1984 in his imposing presence in Boasts and Rails. Axe is now with a tech guy reading his employees’ emails about him: “He knows I’m typing this. He’s having this email read aloud to him right now.” Axe has a smile until the tech guy flags three employees for deleting their hard drives and overwriting them with new data so that deleted files are not recoverable: Butch Probert (Pouch). Channing Feldt. Donnie Caan.

Kate’s big catch brings her yet another: A dinner date with Bryan 🙂 Since she has a dinner date with her parents, Bryan tags along and meets the parents! It turns out it was Mr Sacker, who tells Bryan to call him Frank, who told Kate to share June’s book with her superiors… even though something unethical could happen with it later. Mr. Sacker knows a thing or two about “doing bad to do good” and Bryan is listening.

As Lara is celebrating their recent Michelin star with her restaurant “family” she notices Tito does not have a real smile. Some guys have been watching the farm for the last couple of days. Tito cannot lie to Lara about everyone’s papers being in order. Lara has a tiny little “illegal immigrant worker” problem in her hands.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

As Bobby opens a Veuve Clicquot to celebrate Lara’s Michelin star, he notices she does not have a real smile. Oh, it’s the FBI. Oh, they are watching the house, too, but Bobby did not see the need to share it with Lara. Bobby is in denial about their new reality that he just wants Lara to “fuck them” and not change a thing in her life. Planning a vacation and then canceling it for no reason. Picking up kids from the camp without mom’s approval. Seeing no need to tell his wife FBI’s been watching their house. Well, Lara has SOME patience. But these may accumulate and come back to haunt Axe later.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Chuck is sitting on his exercise ball to deal with his lower back pain and is “looking into the abyss beyond conventional morality” to deal with Axe. He now suggests Bryan that Axe knows there is a mole and he will not stop until he has him so Bryan needs to give him one asap to protect Donnie. It seems Bryan has learnt a thing or two from Frank that he now describes framing an innocent man as “erosion of principle” just to get a cold shrug from Chuck: “There is no innocent man. Not on Wall Street.” Chuck is the master of justifying dirty means for noble ends, isn’t he? And he starts to think Bryan may not be up to this mission: He cannot just eat his salad and remake the world! Read: It’s hard to pull his strings.

Maybe Chuck should really go for the big bucks. Chuck plays squash with his friend Ira who has worked on his boasts and rails with a $300 an hour pro. Chuck does not want that pro’s number “You already gave it to me. And it’s too much.” but he wants Ira to check the number Horvath, the BEST Supreme Court litigation firm, would offer to Chuck. In a few days, he lands the job with an “if you want to be a rainmaker, you can make rain” guarantee.

The inquisition starts at Axe Capital with Donnie feeling sick so they will pick it up tomorrow. Donnie comes home to find Bryan sitting there. He cannot keep calm as Bryan tells him to “get the trade, make the trade, testify and we’re done.” Donnie is scared of Axe and his “Laura Mars” eyes. He cannot even imagine testifying against him. Bryan seems a bit softer on Donnie as he tells him he will get through this. Is he still under Frank’s spell?

Chuck butters up Adam Degiulio a little about his almost certain future as Justice Degiulio and then tries to sell him his new brilliant idea about assignment shift in the Axe Capital case. Bryan has a very heavy case load and Tonelle Burton has better skills to take on the case. Adam is not buying it. This is a high profile case with Washington watching and an assignment shift from Bryan to Tonelle may imply some serious string pulling. So, if there is an assignment shift, the shift will be all the way to Eastern District. Chuck now knows he is stuck with Bryan. How will he have Bryan protect Donnie?

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Axe invites Wendy to his one-on-ones and starts with Donnie: “Tell me about Fedex.” “Uh, that’s not my sector.” “No, somebody saw you in there. Mailing a package. Who was it to?” No. Wendy will not act as Axe’s human lie detector. Axe moves on to Channing whom we hear say: “I don’t know what my wife has to do with this.” I wonder what Axe just asked him! Bryan is frustrated with Donnie’s abysmal performance in his one-on-one with Axe. Can this justify doing bad to do good? It seems so. Bryan will fuck the Pouch.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Axe drives his vintage Dodge Charger to a private meeting with Dimonda. He is running his 9/11 piece titled Blood Money and the only comment he could get from Axe is “Congratulations.” Pat Kiernan, oh, what a NY moment to see him, breaks the news on NY1. Wags is frozen in the gym. Chuck has a smile on his face. Lara is pulling kids out of school so they do not find out about dad from somebody else. Axe is adding security and he tells her he loves her. She does not say anything back. Lu could just ask: “You knew?” Lara says: “Of course I knew.” And her justification is Bobby did not know her or their brother back then. Lu is not buying it. Who would for God’s sake? I have a feeling Lara may be losing her world class chef.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Team Axe regroups at Axe Capital: Wags says they have his back. Sheryl has all his denials written and will share the real story with Forbes. Orrin Bach is going for a defamation suit and will find a ghostwriter to write a best-seller about the real Bobby Axelrod. Axe simply says no. The guy who burns the world over The Punch video now keeps calm as the world finds out about what he did on 9/11. He says he never lies about this. He justifies his means for the ends. He did those trades before he knew it was a terror attack. He saw an opportunity in making 750 millions dollars that day. He knew the firm and the surviving families would need that money. He’s not proud of himself. But it is what it is. What will Raul Gomez of NYC police pension fund say to all this?

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Axe just moves on with his work day. He calls Pouch and fires him for selling him out to the SEC. He will make sure Pouch will not have a job in this country.

Chuck turns down the job offer from Horvath the second he finds out about Bryan throwing Pouch under the bus. He will now teach his protege about how to cope with his feelings: #1: He’s probably dirty. #2 Fuck the Pouch. #3: He’s working at a dirty shop. He’s like the haberdasher making uniforms for the Nazis. Bryan’s favorite? #2. WOW. It’s either Bryan is now on the same page with Chuck or alcohol is doing its job. But, at least for now, Chuck and Bryan vow to make the world a better place together.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

We see Axe receiving a check and putting it into his pocket earlier in the day. It turns out the check is from Bruno for his share of the profits from the Pizzeria. Axe tears up a check for the second time this season. But with a smile. Even though he says he did not have the time, Bruno seems to have seen the news. And his nod means the world to Bobby.

Chuck comes home to tell Wendy he just turned down the big offer. He knows that she knew he would turn it down. But then why did Wendy push him for it? She just wanted him to FEEL it. So he could understand her. Chuck tries to understand. He just cannot take the “special” relationship between Wendy and Axe which we have witnessed in the scene Wendy comes to tell Axe “You have nothing to be ashamed of, in a relativistic sense.” There is intimacy. No, it is not necessarily sexual. Yet it is DEEP as Chuck rightly observes. And am I the only one that sees Chuck grimaces when Axe plants one on Wendy’s cheek at Big Apple Circus? Anyhow… We find out a bit about why Chuck hates Bobby this much in his conversation with Ira and it could be the best line delivered in this episode: “Bobby Axelrod could run through the Serengeti and not break a sweat. I go down in the subway and gotta change my shirt.” And, besides, he cannot stand that Axe’s “looted gold” is paying for his kids’ private school. Chuck feels like he is THAT haberdasher.

As we agonize over what to make of Bobby, he throws his latest punch and knocks us all down: “Loyal soldier” Donnie Caan is, in fact, loyal, and he’s been playing the game with Axe. Believe it or not, Donnie seems to be Axe Capital’s Brian Doyle! But why do I still feel uneasy about this? Donnie is not giving Axe to them. Would Axe give him to them? Was this part of Axe’s game all along since he gave Donnie 200K shares of Rubinex? Or did Donnie come to him crying when he was flagged by the SEC? And in the light of all this, did Axe really fuck the Pouch or it was just a show (Feds are listening) and Pouch, in fact, knows about what’s going on? Who knows what? This show drives me crazy! 🙂

Axe still seems to be a couple steps ahead of Chuck & co. Some turbo-charged chess indeed.

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Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

7 thoughts on “Billions on Showtime, Episode 8: Boasts and Rails”

  1. Wow! How do you write like this so fast? I had no idea what the title meant. Fascinating.
    Excellent recap. It’s going to take awhile to digest it.
    I felt bad about Axe then I felt better after what Wendy said to him when she found him in the new safe room at work. He was doing what he knew how to do – trade – as the planes hit and he didn’t yet know it was terrorism.

    I was working at a big law firm then and I remember that day. First hearing a plane hit a tower as I got coffee at Starbucks. Looking out the windows at work down Sixth Ave. and seeing the smoke cloud over the towers. The panic and confusion as we tried to learn what was happening. Internet was different then. News sites not as good as now. Then the phone lines got jammed and no one could reach anyone. Then we had the whole scare about toxic powder in the mail and people discussed getting that antidote to take.
    Still, it’s strange Axe could even be working at that time instead of searching for his colleagues. Unless he wanted to strike before chaos set in.
    NYC was plastered then with signs searching for loved ones. Photos of loved ones everywhere. A surreal time.

    1. Thank you! You would probably call me crazy if I told you I went to bed at 6:00 am but it’s okay 😀 I just have so much fun with this show. And yes there is so much to digest in this episode that will keep us talk for the whole week and beyond! I just cannot have enough of Billions. But, after all, it is a show that brings some of my favorite things in the world together: Damian Lewis and New York. A dream coming true for me.

      We moved to NYC on August 15, 2001. I used to teach on Long Island back then but did not go to work that day because I did not have any class and we had a friend from Turkey staying with us that week. Our visitor said a plane hit the WTC. And I, me being me, said I knew that was coming — thinking that it was a small private plane. We saw all of it happening on TV. In half an hour, the world changed for all of us. I still remember how calm and resilient NYers were that day and beyond and I think 9/11 is the first day I felt American. And to this day, NYC is the only place I really feel at home.

      What Axe did that day is mind-blowing. Is it a crime? No. Bryan also says it’s not illegal, it’s not actionable. I think Wendy explains it well and I am not saying it in defense of Axe: It’s just that he did what he knew and he traded. It seems he has made peace with it, too; he does not want to lie about it. He is not proud of what he did, but it is what it is. I wonder what the NYC pension fund guy Raul Gomez will do about it. Who knows maybe Axe had shared his story with him? Maybe this story was not as hidden as everyone thought it was?

      PS. Thanks so much for your detailed feedback about Colditz. I will write back as soon as possible — I am so in my Billions mood today but I should be fine thinking about McGrade again tomorrow 🙂

  2. Great recap! So glad you picked up some of the references they made, saving me from having to look it up. (eg Laura Mars)

    So much to say about this episode! Now that the shock has dissipated, and I hear the “before we knew it was terror” bit said again here, I guess I’m willing to give Bobby more benefit of the doubt. But just the tiniest smidge. Damian is killing it though…again with the purposeful ambiguity.

    1. Thank you!!! Looking up for those references make my night (literally!!!) hahaha. I am on stereoids with this show. Smartest writing ever. Not a word or a scene wasted. You need to watch and listen and take note. All the time. One small moment and you go A-HA! Love it.

      I think Axe has just made peace with what he did on 9/11 — means justified for noble means. I reckon the money he made that day could be the money he uses only for 9/11 families. It is a bit of YIKES at first, but when you think about it, you can still give some benefit of the doubt to the guy. And, hey, he does not lie about it. He’s not proud of it, either. But it is what it is. I wonder what Raul Gomez will do with this new piece of information. But then I am thinking, hey, maybe he already knows about it. Maybe it’s not as hidden info as it seems first. I am dying to find out.

      Damian is just owning it. This guy is unbelievable. I still smile when I think of your comment about him looking at the wine glass in the half-time report. He is not playing Axe. He is Axe. And he will keep us guessing for the weeks (and years) to come. Am I falling for this Bobby guy or what?

  3. People get really emotional (naturally) about 9/11 so if they hear even a hint of anything improper regarding that day they have a strong reaction. (Watch the movie “The Woman That Wasn’t There” to blow your mind about a 9/11 survivor imposter).

    But Axe’s mind works differently from a lot of people. His mind goes very quickly and projects ahead and this trading is what he lives and breathes and he may have instantly made the decision that the office was likely decimated with no survivors. And what about the families. Their breadwinners are gone. Can he make money to put away for them? His firm is gone now. There is no one else to speak of working. No one has the ability to work with the office destroyed and most employees gone.

    What other chance does he have to make money except in this moment? I think he did the trades the next day, 9/12. Was he making money off of a tragedy? Kind of the same way people make money off of war. This was war. He took advantage with his expertise and the situation. He just thinks and acts faster than anybody else and it’s hard for others to understand someone like that. This is how he coped. He charged out and found profit wherever he could to keep the firm going. It’s both selfish and sort of heroic to help the families. Knowing he would probably be lambasted for it. He probably had his moment of falling apart at some point.

    We all were in shock when it was happening. Everyone acts differently in shock and not all fall apart. I didn’t lose anyone. A coworker lost her husband. But I didn’t experience losing someone I knew so it was different for me. Axe lost all his coworkers. That is a profound loss. He is likely traumatized even if he hides it. This is what happened to the Cantor Fitzgerald boss who wasn’t there and lost his whole office. He put it back together and tried to help the families of the employees. Imagine the survivor’s guilt. There was a reality show I think about beach rentals in the Hamptons and they profiled a sweet British Cantor Fitzgerald trader named Jeremy. Later they added an in memoriam at the end. I felt it like a punch to the gut when I realized he had been killed on 9/11. So I had a slight clue of what it feels like to have lost someone then. I had a coworker at a law firm who was in the WFC when the tower fell next to it. She had to walk all the way home covered in that dust. There were many walking wounded I met working in Manhattan. Traumatized people who were survivors.

    I moved to NYC in 1979 with about 6 years elsewhere along the way. I temped years ago in the World Trade Center. I had a period of working in the World Financial Center where the Winter Garden area is. I worked for Rudolph de Harak design in the early 80’s and he did the signage for the WFC working with the architect. I did a performance piece on the sandy area near the construction of the WFC around 1985 with Art on the Beach. I lived in Soho so I spent time in that area. Hanging out at the new Battery Park along the Hudson. It’s hard to believe those buildings are gone. How could this have happened with all our intelligence agencies. Actually the CIA analysts were warning the White House about an imminent attack and nothing was done. Watch “Manhunt” on HBO.

    (I still need to carefully read your recap. You may have said some of this already. Sorry if I ever repeat things you’ve said. 9/11 is NYC’s Pearl Harbor. And also DC and VA and PA. My sister lives in Arlington, VA and I remember she said the plane that hit the Pentagon flew low over one of her kid’s school or playground).

    1. I had done a separate post about how 9/11 is lingering in Axe’s mind here: https://www.fanfunwithdamianlewis.com/?p=7814

      Yes, people get emotional about 9/11 because as you say it’s like a second Pearl Harbor. It is a horrible experience. But I did not lose anyone, either. And, in that sense, it is a completely different experience, I know. I would say Axe was being rational with his actions on 9/11 and my hunch is that all that money he made from those shorts have been used for the families of his co-workers that perished that day. So even though it still looks opportunistic to an extent, maybe it’s pure opportunism, Axe has made peace with it, and he has his means justified for the noble ends — taking care of those families. We see him being open and honest about it. He’s not proud of it, but it is what it is, and he made his own good out of it. So even this bit of the show is not black and white — like everything else in this show.

  4. It is great you highlight the Bobby situation so centrally. It is a riddle in a sense. I do believe lots of people will have made lots of money the first hour after the first plane hit. What goes on in Bobby’s head is a wonderful question in relation to this. Thank you for asking it.

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