Billions ep 9 : Where the **** is Donnie?

Familia Axelrod is taking a stroll through downtown quizzing each other on Yankees trivia. Axe quickly diverts the kids into an ice cream shop, while Lara reasonably asks “On a school night?” She follows his eyes to the graffiti sprayed on their car. “It’s getting bad,” she says. Axe says, “it’s just started.”


Back at home, Axe is shooting flawless pool and Lara suggests they skip town for a while. She’s scared. “There’s hatred, I can feel it.” Axe will have none of that.


Protestors are bussed in over night to the doors of Axe Capital with signs announcing themselves as the 99% and chanting “Towers down, Profits up. Axe walks into his office to find the fundraiser and “custodian of the arts” who gave Axe naming rights for Axelrod Hall. “You were expecting me?” the arts guy asks. Bobby sneers back:

The vultures and the hyenas always share their carcass meal.

Axelrod Hall guy brings up the spirit of yuletide and St Nicholas of Myra who was known for his anonymous donations. Axe asks, “If he was anonymous, how do you know he did it?” Arts guy wants to rename the building. Axe says, fine, I’ll need my money back with interest. The guy says they’re in no position to give any money back, how about a name change to Freedom Hall or Enterprise Hall. Axe’s final offer:

It’s either Axelrod Hall or Go Fuck Yourself Hall, you choose.

Chuck and Adam from the Attorney General’s office are having coffee, or, rather Chuck is having coffee and Adam is choosing to not hydrate himself that day. (I’ll tell you what: Rob Morrow fits this cast like a glove!) Adam knows Chuck has someone on the inside at Axe Capital. He’s encouraging Chuck to bag the big one for the team, the entire league of justice, so to speak. Since they bagged absolutely nothing in the shadow of the crash of ’08, except maybe kneecapping some small-time mortgage brokers, Axelrod provides a chance to “cement shoe a big one.” The use of mafioso metaphor is no accident here folks. Great scene.

Back at Axe Capital: Just The Tip (sorry I should know his name, but, I do love calling him Just the Tip, so bear with me, m’okay?) throws some gas on the fire outside the offices. Donnie stands next to him advising him to stop and then gets called away to Axe’s office. The wire Donnie is wearing has signaled an alert to battle stations at the FBI. In his office, Axe tells Donnie to go long 200 million on Kemlot Biochem.

Donnie: “Are you sure?”

Bobby: “I’m not uncertain.”

Donnie: “Mind if I ask why you’re certain?”

Axe ushers Donnie to the meditation/panic room that, as it turns out, is a room that also scrambles bugs. The FBI lose audio. It kicks back in for them to hear Donnie and Axe as they leave the room: “Don’t know how you do it”, Donnie says. Now, why would Axe alert the FBI to the fact that he may know that Donnie is bugged? Not for me to guess, but, I’m guessing it’ll come up later. Donnie is a pawn, but pawns all have their roles, now don’t they. Axe knows and we will too eventually.

Donnie sits down to buy 1.8 million shares of Kemlot. He hesitates and goes to the kitchen where he meets up with Wendy.

Wendy: “You’re bearing the burden of his actions.”

Donnie: “It’s so much money.”

Wendy: “It’s just capital. Ammo. Bullets in the clip, to discharge when the target presents.”

Wendy proceeds to interpret Donnie’s vision of being tied to train tracks in a kind of obvious way. Now, is Donnie feeling trapped by the FBI or is he trapped by Axe? My wager is that he has more anxiety about whatever Axe is doing with him than whatever the FBI could do if they even knew half the story, which, obviously, they do not (and may never).

This business makes liars out of all of us eventually.

When Wendy tells him to talk to her if he needs, he say, “Thanks, but we both know who you answer to.” Wendy thinks he’s referring to Chuck. Of course, he’s not referring to Chuck.

Donnie goes back to his desk and hits “Buy” on Kemlot. It’s the gravity of making such monumental changes in the flow of real “capital” that has Donnie flummoxed. It’s not just disposable ammo to him. And now it’s done. He lets the FBI know what he’s done by telling Just The Tip what he’s done and asking him to find him more shares to make up the order for 2 million.

On the other end of the wire, Bryan celebrates, but, now knows they need a source. Donnie takes off his shirt and hangs it on the back of his chair. (the shirt has the wire, btw) FBI IT have figured out that the recording never dropped, the room just blocked tracking. IT is ordered to clean up the audio. Donnie leaves the building. Terri reads it all as suspect. She thinks Donnie’s got the Yips. (Oy, the things this show makes me look up.)

Back at the DA’s office, Chuck finds out Bryan told Adam about the informant.  Bryan explains that the AG’s office was about to pull the case so he found it prudent to let slip their upper hand. Chuck approves of the kikashi play.

Kate comes in with news of the judge on Dollar Bill’s trial: Whit Wilcox “self appointed defender of capitalism.”  Terri comes in to tell them that Donnie has gone off grid.

Over at Axe Hills Farms and Restaurant, Lara sibs from the hood have appeared to show her the error of her ways. They want to make sure Lara doesn’t crap on the memory of their dear fallen brother just for the sake of standing by her man. One of Lara’s brother is a fire fighter. The other is in a suit. Older sister wants Lara to think of what their brother would want. Lu, the chef sis says the mess is Bobby’s and he needs to clean it up. Lara says, “We will.” Suited up brother approaches and pulls no punches:

Him, not you. You married a criminal. Divorce his ass. There’s no prenup so you’ll be rich. Do it for the boys.

Well, alrighty then. Let’s see how long suited-up brother stays on the Axelrod Christmas list.

Back at Axe Capital, Wendy is looking for Donnie. She picks up some Ruggie Wrap with Cones from Just The Tip. (Gotta love a show that knows and loves its food.) Wendy calls Donnie’s phone. Ben Kim answers, standing right behind her. Donnie left his phone on his desk.

In Bobby’s office, Raul from the policemen’s pension fund is on the phone. He’s giving Axe 90 days till their fund will have to pull out their money. Bobby says, no worries, “I don’t hold hostages.”


Wendy checks in on Bobby. Busy? she asks. Uh, no, Bobby answers. “No one likes a greedy asshole, not even you.” Gotta say I don’t know what to make of Wendy’s smiles. Is this really a time for smiles? Bobby calls to send donuts and coffee to the crowd outside. Wendy tells Bobby that Donnie is missing. She tells him of the odd conversation they had earlier. Within the bounds of doctor patient confidentiality, of course.


Bobby calls Hall, aka Iceland, to ask for the first of many times in this episode: Where the fuck is Donnie?


The fire inspector pays a visit to Lara’s restaurant and acts like he doesn’t know her. Lu talks smack to the inspectors and they bust open the sprinklers over her stove, ruining whatever she had cooking there. They clear the restaurant for violations of fire safety code.

Not much better back in the office, when Axe’s security guy comes in and says the crowd refused Bobby’s coffee and donuts as “poison.” Wags wants him to call in strike breakers. Bobby says no. Let them do their thing.

Terri calls attention to Chuck’s strange body language. She knows, like everyone else in town, that Chuck announcing his recusal was a big fat lie. And she makes note of Bryan’s body language too. “Who you lean into when she walks by.” She means Kate, of course. This is Terri’s cue to the break-up long coming. “It was a hell of a lot of fun, but it’s run its course, dontya think?” Bryan agrees.

A few of Axe’s people gather papers in the cover of dark, packing up everything they need to jump ship.

Next we see, Axe is taking his morning constitutional being cryopreserved. “180 seconds and it restores energy at a cellular level,” Axe explains. Wags is nonplussed, “Never seen a 65 year old look so fresh!” Okay this is where your hatred for Axe has to go up a bit, right? What a frivolous expense, no? Not to mention ridiculous. No one but the 1% can possibly have access, or deserve access, to cellular rejuvenation, right? Let the losers waving signs outside eat fucking cake.

Wags shows Bobby video on the deserters and he takes names: Channing, Carly, and Lassa, along with a couple analysts. Bobby tells Wags to keep listening to the chatter and watch what the rest of the peons are up to. He says he’ll let them do what they they need to do, then he’ll fucking hobble them. “Like in Misery” Wags helpfully adds.

I started all of this 15 years ago…I might as well have spoken a fucking incantation.


Chuck goes to visit Whit Wilcox played by familiar face Anthony Edwards. The judge asserts his goal to deal with Dollar Bill as he’s dealt with all: “Tough but fair.” Chuck makes a bone-headed move to ask the fine judge for a bug on Axe’s residence. He gets an earful on the constitutionality of such action, not to mention the fact that all employees on both sides would need to be bugged, including Chuck, himself. This gives Chuck pause, of course, as he is reminded that the audio of one’s home contains the most intimate of conversations and deeds.

It’s a question of decency.

Kate has learned that Kemlot is being acquired, which will lead to a tidy sum going to Axe Capital for their dirty trade. And she gets to repeat the refrain: “Where the fuck in Donnie?” Bryan and Kate high five over the win and they have a bit of a moment. Bryan says they should celebrate. Kate proposes “Dinner, a real one or should I bring by dad again?” Terri interrupts them with a call confirming: Donnie’s still missing.

Lara is in the old neighborhood. It’s the house of her old boyfriend. He seems a bit bitter. “You got the ups, now you got the downs.” Mikey is a fire fighter, in the same department as Lara’s late brother. Lara’s making sure her ex isn’t helping the guys in the department be pissed off. “You and me were all but done when I met him. Making sure the lines are blurred.” Lara seems to have a type, because her ex ain’t one to budge an inch. He says the guys in the fire house don’t need his help being pissed. Even after all the money, Lara wonders. True blue Mikey asserts that money is cheap and dirty and he’s not going to be carrying her message anywhere.

Lara comes to Axe’s office. He says he’ll clear up the fire inspection business. “It’s bigger than that,” she says. “What’s you family saying?” Axe asks. “They’re behind you 100%,” Lara lies. Bobby knows she’s lying and loves that she’s lying to save his feelings. She says, “it’s the fire houses, the ones who lost their people in 9/11, they’re the one calling the shots.”


Headhunter Chase makes a surprise appearance at Wendy’s office, asks why she turned down her dream job. She says she can’t bail on these guys now that there’s Occupy Westport out in the parking lot. He asks her out to a speakeasy for some bathtub gin.

Lara interrupts them. She’s seething coldness and anger and we’re reminded of the “fucking right I am” scene with June from the pilot. She asks Wendy what she would do in this situation. “Collateral damage. Your friends your employees targeted?” She wants Wendy to pressure Chuck to back off. Wendy feels the threat but maintains her guard.

This is my job, my husband has his. I’ve drawn a line.

Lara responds:

Well then you’re really really lucky, I sure as fuck can’t.

Unfair that. And true. So interesting to note the differences between these two women here. One has taken her power by the horns and held tight to it, she owns herself completely, but she’s also the one being lied to continuously. The one standing by her man, has her man, stubborn but lovable thug that he is, but very little else to show for it.

Wags has discovered he can’t get signal in the meditation room anymore. “When do you come in here?” Axe asks. “It’s a great place to jerk off when you’re not around.” HA! Wags knows something is afoot with Donnie. He knows he was “disinformed” about Pouch and he knows that Donnie is at play on the chess board now. But, no one, not even omniscient Hall, can answer the perennial question: Where the fuck is Donnie?

Bryan calls while Wendy and Chuck are having dinner. He tells of a hit on Donnie’s EZ Pass on the Mass Turnpike. They’ve got troopers on the scene. Turns out to be Donnie’s EZ Pass but not him or his car. He swapped it out in Jersey. Chuck is impressed by the trickery.

Oh, they are, to a person, clever motherfuckers. Scheming. You gotta salute them in a way.

Chuck wants to mirror their skills. He wants to be able to play long and short at the same time.

Chuck goes to Lonnie’s house, his friend in the Eastern district. He remember that once upon a time Lonnie has it out for Wilcox over putting some kids in jail on trumped up charges. Chuck has come to give Lonnie the go ahead to find dirt on Federal Judge Wilcox.

Axe meets with Hall and Wags, again with the “Where the fuck is Donnie?” They’re afraid he may have gone to the other side. “This one wasn’t hedged, it was a straight risk,” Axe says. Clever direction to have Axe and Wags mirroring each other motions as they both turn to grab some food at the aptly named American Dream Diner. Seems Hall’s tastes, however, don’t go to diner food.

Axe and Lara are staring the gauntlet in the face at her brother’s fire house. Axe empathizes. “You hate me, I don’t blame you.”

I met Lara in an aid tent…she was just out of nursing school.

When I found out she lost her brother in the Towers, I realized what I’d done. It brought it home. When I started donating to the firefighters’ org it wasn’t calculated, it was out of real admiration.

Everyone calls bullshit. They tell him he sounds like a politician.

You know I made the trade after the first plane hit, before we knew it was terrorism, before I knew I was going to lose my office.

What the papers didn’t say is that I kept trading after the South Tower was hit too. In fact that’s when I put on the gas.

Here’s where I had to take a minute and switch off. Sheesh, right? There was ominous music playing in the back, but, otherwise, Axe showed nothing. He goes on:

Am I a politician now? I’m not running and hiding. I didn’t do it for me…I had plenty of time to make myself some money. I knew that even though my colleagues would be gone, my friends gone, their families would still be here and they’d be my responsibility. Was it coldhearted? Yes. I thought I had to be, maybe I was wrong.



Okay, so, yes, I am going to sit in judgement over here. This cannot be the end of Axe’s “confession”, the one that turns around the court of public opinion.  Are we to believe that since Axe has been so forthcoming now, so honest, so willing to own his deeds, that he is somehow absolved of them? Doesn’t such posturing read the same as pride? Is he proud of what he’s done? Hard to tell what the fire fighters are left feeling. Is this enough to let Axe off the hook?

Donnie’s back! He’s standing in line to see a seer. Bryan calls Chuck at home to tell him they’ve traced Donnie’s credit card to a hotel in Cleveland. Chuck googles the hotel and finds info about the seer. He says, within earshot of Wendy, he went to see a saint!

Wendy overhears and wonders who Chuck is talking about. Chuck brushes her off, saying they’ve caught an escaped fugitive. Wendy suspects more, of course. She asks point blank:

Are you on or off?

Lara’s farm at Axe Hills has been destroyed. Whoever ran over her crops left 30 silver dollars. Fire men in the distance watch Lara. Yep, you guessed it: there’s a Wikipedia article explaining the 30 silver coins.

As Wendy enters the office the next day, she gets a call from Donnie. “Where the fuck are you?” she asks. He says he’s driving home. He’s somewhere flat with lots of fat people. And he tells her he went to see a saint. She puts two and two together and now knows whom Chuck was so gleeful about capturing.

Back at home, Chuck gets a call from Bryan. They found Donnie. As he’s leaving he runs into Wendy coming home. She asks him where he’s going. He answers: Where do you think?

Quite a different dynamic at Chez Axelrod. Lara has decided to close the restaurant and sell the farm. Bobby says they could have fought back harder.

I come from a long line of scrappers, we get rid of our weaknesses so we can learn to fight better.

Bobby soothes her and confesses his fault in the whole thing.

When things get really bad I shut down, I know. I go on autopilot, I did it on 9/11, I did it here, it’s the only way I know.

Lara reasonably suggests, “You gotta find another way.”


Donnie, much the worse for wear, has come into the FBI. He tells them he had a crisis. They tell him they want the source of the inside info on Kemlot., the info they think Axe gave him in the blocked room. He tells them he can give them everything he said. The source is a guy at the FDA, Glenn Glinmartin. Googling confirms there is indeed someone with that name at the FDA. Donnie wants to go home. Bryan wants more. Donnie spits up blood all over Bryan and collapses.

9 thoughts on “Billions ep 9 : Where the **** is Donnie?”

  1. Great recap. Poor Donnie. He always looked like a deer in the headlights. I wondered when somebody was going to break from the pressure. I was sure he was going to kill himself so it was a real twist to see him numbly stumbling into the spiritual event with the saint. I hope the saint helped him on some level.

    I wonder if any real traders did what Axe did as 9/11 was unfolding? He says he shuts down when in crisis and does what he knows how to do. I can’t imagine working while that was going on. We were just glued to TV’s and trying to understand what was going on. We didn’t know if there were going to be more attacks or where. I only remember snapshots of that day. I can’t remember if we were told to go home early. I know everyone was supposed to stay north of Canal Street.

    That’s pretty extreme for the FD to tear up Lara’s farm. That’s breaking the law.

    Is that cryo thing real that Axe was in? The second I saw that scene I thought of Woody Allen’s “Sleeper”. (sorry)

    Once again, Fan Fun fills in the gaps. And there are many. Way too fast and detailed a show for me to catch everything. Thank you!

    1. I wondered the same thing, whether there were really people like Axe on 9/11. We know the New York markets were closed and stayed closed for a while. It’d be interesting to see if there was an uptick of trades in Europe coming from the US, people like Axe who couldn’t resist and had similarly shut off their moral compass. It’s not even about some grand morality though…it’s about common decency. Shutting down, to me, means withdrawing from the world. Not going into robot mode and plundering the world while it burns. What he did is sort of like looting during times of crisis or upheaval while everyone’s attention is focussed elsewhere. Yes, he was looting for the sake of the survivors, but that doesn’t make it any less a loot. It’s great to see Damian play it all with the absense of sentimentality it requires. But, I gotta, say, I don’t really like Bobby Axelrod much right now. Confessing his weakness to Lara was supposed to endear us to his plight and allow us to understand him a bit more. But it all sounded like weak excuses to me. And Lara will say her piece, and hold her own, but she won’t/can’t really DO anything to instigate the change Bobby requires if he wants to fit better into the world.
      The cryo tank was comical and I know exactly the scene you mean in Sleeper. The show runners probably thought of that too. It was ridiculous.
      Glad to know we fill in the gaps for our readers! 🙂

      1. That cryo therapy pod is a real thing! They’re expensive, but the major sports teams use them. I built the one that Damien uses in the show. It is slightly fictionalized to make it look a bit sleeker…to represent the next generation styling of the pod. Here is a link that shows the design and fabrication process of the actual prop. Cheers!

        1. Very cool! Kind of figured it was a real thing, just found the idea of anyone having it delivered to their office kind of over-the-top…but what are billionaires if not over-the-top? 😀

          I wonder if it’s an in-house appliance like the full gym and meditation room? I also wonder what became of it now that the offices have been trashed.

          So excited for next season!!!

  2. Great recap! I just love the way you describe the contrast in the two women. I feel bad when I read in several comments (not here on the blog) that some viewers just cannot bring themselves to like Wendy and Lara. I love that they are strong and independent women in their own different ways. And their encounters have always been awkward so far. They obviously do not have much love for each other. I don’t know what the issue is. Lara is not insecure like Chuck, so it should not be “the special relationship” for her. I am curious about in which order Axe met them post 9/11. If Wendy was already there when Lara came along or the other way around? Did Axe tell Wendy about his relationship about Lara? How much does she know? Is it what she knows that Lara does not like? Or Lara just does not like the fact that she is Chuck’s wife and still working with Bobby? I would probably not like that if I were Lara 🙂 And, Malin Akerman shines as an actor in this episode. She rocks all the scenes she is in.

    This show just gives us so much to think about! And I just LOVE it that they don’t shy away from giving us controversial stuff to think about — especially stuff building around 9/11. One thing I have not seen in Axe during his talk at the fire house is pride. I thought the way he speaks is just his facade — he does not want to come across as a vulnerable man — while there is a storm inside. There is a split second when he says “talk to me, Paul!” that I just see his facade almost crumbling but he could keep his composure. He’s not a criminal. Not in front of law. So what to make of Axe? His case is a hard sell. It is a hard sell even if it is the most honest account of what he did. I know his involvement in 9/11 trades will keep us talking for a long, long time.

    1. I agree with damianista. There is a lot of backstory still to be revealed.
      I’m having a difficult time finding something ethical in Chuck. The father of the agent nailed that whole department when he spoke of the “erosion” of principles- doing bad for the good. Chuck lies constantly to all the important people in his life. His wife, his coworkers. And he doesn’t seem to suffer while doing so. I was disturbed with the scene where Wendy tells him she loves him. His response almost sounded to me like her love wasn’t really that important. He didn’t exactly say that but I felt the implication when he kind of stated that a lot of people love and it just isn’t always enough. It felt very creepy to me, that scene. Wendy has to go to such extremes to get Chuck to “be in the moment” and perhaps really feel anything other than anger or jealousy. That’s some deep issues that watching a little flame on his iPhone for a few minutes will not resolve.
      I’m not really sure if what Axe does in business should warrant him being tossed into the dungeons as Chuck probably would like, but I don’t feel the creeps when I watch him work. When Chuck is in action it is the dirtiest part of the show, right next to watching a scene of his father chortling with glee as he recounts ruining a child’s academic chances as a payback.

      1. Yes, there is backstory to be revealed and we’ve heard it told to us but not really shown or “felt”. We’ve heard the words that Bobby came from nothing, that his mother was a waitress, that he was a paper boy, etc. But nothing has been shown and I don’t really sense the truth behind the words in Bobby’s behavior now, at least in this episode. The only truth I “feel” is the history he has with his friend at the pizza place and the history he has with Wendy. That feels real because when the actors in those scenes say the words, they feel real. And the posturing and dick-wagging in that one scene with Chuck felt real too..”heard you’re looking for me…well I’m here” felt real. The scene at the fire house, to me, did not feel real. I guess I’m getting a bit impatient. And I want flashbacks.
        Of course, Chuck is loads of unethical. He kept quiet on a rape allegation re Spiros only to save the tidbit of info for when he could use it for personal gain. Pretty awful disgusting behavior. His insecurities reek. His cowtowing to his sick father reeks. And I don’t feel his love for Wendy at all. She seems to be an obstacle in the way of his ambition, unwilling to be his spy.
        But this show isn’t really about TeamChuck vs. TeamAxe to me. It’s a fun game to play, sure, but, really, I think it’s a no-brainer that viewers are meant to root for TeamAxe.
        I do not feel the creeps at all when I watch Axe work. But I want to see his authentic private self too. Or, maybe that’s the point? That he has no private self anymore. He subdued that years ago, and now all he is is a deep intelligence with a thick THICK layer of facade on top of it…the facade he needs to manage his company, to manage perception, to manage all that data, and all that money flowing in and out of his life. His moment of weakness shared with Lara “I shut down” could have been an authentic private moment, but, I just didn’t “feel” it as such. The 9/11 stuff was business, but it was private too. It HAS to be private. It has to have hurt him deeply, and I want to see that hurt. He admits he brought this on himself..he may as well have spoken an incantation. I felt that admission, those words, as real. But, the sheer pain of it…I want to see Bobby Axelrod exhibit some pain. Not as punishment, but as a catharsis…an opening up to his real self. I’d be okay with him sharing that real self only with Lara, as long as we get to see it too.

  3. Really like your assessment of Bobby.
    It is hard not to analyze the ethics of Chuck & crew because they are the protagonists to this tale.
    There has been that hint of Bobby’s depth of feeling. Wendy brushed it by us when she recounted how Bobby was a broken man after 9/11 and the intensive work they did together to get him operating again. I think her a good enough psychiatrist to know authentic suffering when she is working with it. She may have a harder time with random lies, but not a crushed man’s spirit. I beleive Axe has been there, felt that pain and has put in place coping methods that allow him to be a good husband, a good dad and a relatively decent human being.

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