Previously on Billions: Quality of Life

Previously on Billions…

We open with the US Attorney’s office. Bryan is looking like crap, still covered in Donnie’s blood. Everyone is gathered there. Chuck starts talking about becoming a chess master. He talks of his flaw about feeling his opponent is unworthy of him simply because of the way his opponent played the game. Rage would take over and he would think about total destruction. It is clear where Chuck is going with this. “While I was trying to destroy him, I’d forget to win”.

He would use tactics designed to intimidate, leave voids in his defence. He knew better, but could not do better.

“At the end of the game my opponent’s arm would be raised in victory while I sat humiliated and alone, bathed in anger and defeat. Here I am again…beaten”

There is a saying that an angry man is a blind man.

Chuck then tells everyone that Donnie is going to die soon and that they have to assume that everything Donnie gave them was false. He wishes the loss were his alone, but it isn’t. He expects that, within the hour, Adam DeGiulio from the AG’s office will walk in and take them off the Axelrod case.

Chuck calls Axe bloodless for using Donnie in the manner that he did. That he was not as bloodless as Axe. Bryan tries to shoulder some of the blame, but Chuck won’t let him.

“They’ll call me sloppy, driven, and unhinged and for once they will be correct.”

Kate asks what they can do.

Chuck answers “we can remember how the game is supposed to be played. We will retreat so we can attack when it is to our advantage.” His stirring speech is fittingly interrupted by the arrival of Adam DeGiulio, who seems to bring tension right into the office with him.

Source: Showtime

Lara and Bobby are sitting in the Hospital. Damian’s face here is just wonderful. There is clear emotion as we see a flashback to after the board meeting in episode 2 where Donnie could not see the matrix.

Donnie can be seen staring into space as everyone else leaves the meeting. He eventually collects himself and leaves, not having realised Axe observing him with Wags slightly less so.

Bobby asks Wags “do you have a handle on this?”

Wags replies “I do not.”

Bobby has realised something is very wrong and this is the difference between Wags and Bobby. It is, as much as I love Wags, the reason he is number 2 and not number 1.

Bobby goes after Donnie who he finds having a moment in the toilet. Bobby lets Donnie have his moment before asking him “how fucked are you?” Donnie says “could I say it is nothing? Would you let me away with that?” Bobby gives a wry smile and puts his hand on Donnie’s shoulder.

Source: Showtime

This scene says to me that there is genuine love and respect between these two. It hints to me that there is a lot deeper good to Bobby Axelrod that he is very careful to hide from public view. I am reminded of a scene from Harry Potter where Snape begs Dumbledore not to reveal the best of himself (Snape) to people.

Bobby guesses it is cancer. Donnie confirms it is pancreatic and advises that with this type of cancer it doesn’t matter how far along he is. He is far enough.

Ben Kim comes into the bathroom with Chumbamaba’s Tubthumping (I get knocked down) playing on his I-pod. Bobby tells him to “piss elsewhere”.

Bobby says that Donnie should have come to him right away and asks if the kids know. Donnie says they don’t.

We say it so often on this blog that you may be tired of hearing it, but watch Damian’s face here. Just revel in this masterclass because as he turns way from Donnie for a second, Bobby’s face screws up slightly to be replaced with a mask in the blink of an eye. Bobby cares about Donnie, but Bobby is also winning at a chess. Bobby is calculating already as he stands right next to his dying colleague. He offers “his guy (Ari Gilbert)” the top oncologist and forward thinking medical treatment for Donnie. I wonder if there is a personal reason Axe has been funding Gilbert’s research for years.

Donnie says he doesn’t have to do that, but Axe simply replies “it is what we do.” He tells Donnie to come and see him at the end of the day because “I have a thought.”

Source: Showtime

We are back in the Hospital where yet again Damian’s face says it all. You could give this man a 45 minute episode with no lines and you would still be able to work out what  is going on.

Walter approaches through a set of doors with two words that all of us knew were coming, but did not want to hear because we love Donnie and we loved David Cromer’s portrayal of Team Axe’s, Bryan Doyle…

“Donnie’s gone.”

Lara and Bobby hug Walter. While in the hug Bobby’s face Lara’s face  is hardened in calculation. Mr auto pilot seemingly at it again. However, out of the hug there is clear emotion on his face.

Source: Showtime

Walter says he has to make some phone calls and Lara says she will help him. It is noticeable  that Walter looks down when he is looking towards Bobby and looks Lara directly in the eye as he speaks.

We see Lara and Bobby arriving at Donnie’s funeral and we see his kids and Walter.

Another flashback where Axe and Donnie are discussing Donnie’s finances.

Donnie gave everything to his ex-wife and he started from 0 again when he and Walter got together. He had planned over the next 10 years to take care of ensuring finances were in order. He says sharp evangelists could con him right now. Bobby says there is a way to ensure Donnie’s family get $40 million pre-tax and unlike the evangelist, he will give Donnie the downside. The downside being that his last few months won’t be his own. Donnie appears to be on board as long as he doesn’t spend one minute in jail.

Chuck is seen arriving at Donnie’s funeral and as he picks up a notice of service we see a flashback to him and Adam from earlier in the episode.

Adam is here to tell Chuck that the Eastern District will now handle the case against Axe Capital. Chuck wants to know if the AG’s fear of negative publicity is due to her wanting to run for senate or her making a return to the private sector.

“Put a blindfold on, spin yourself around and pin the tail on the fucking donkey.” Is Adam’s excellent response. He tells Chuck that if he defies the AG in anyway she will recommend to the President that Chuck is fired. Chuck accepts he is off Axelrod, but tells Adam that is not what they need to talk about today and suggest they go for a walk so he can explain to Adam why musical chairs is a much better party game.

We are then back to the funeral where Wendy offers condolences to Walter and  is not happy to see Chuck arrive. Wendy thinks it is inappropriate for him to be here and her .;response to Chuck’s “I knew the man” is “Better than you let on, I’m sure.” Claws out. Wendy is clearly feeling that his presence puts her in an awkward situation with her work family and that irritates Chuck who grasps on to that fact. He does not leave, but instead heads right over to Bobby.

Source: Showtime

Wendy does not know where to look.

Chuck holds out his hand for Bobby to shake. After staring Chuck down for several seconds Bobby takes his hand. I think Bobby will now need to up his game because he just realised that Chuck Rhoades has finally woken up.

Chuck: “It is a real loss.”

Bobby: “For both of us.”

The handshake is longer than it needs to be. Total insincerity. Wendy is not the only one who doesn’t know where to look. Tension and discomfort are in the air.

Carly, Channing and Hlasa arrive as Chuck leaves, throwing Wendy a nasty look in the process.

We are then in Axe’s office with Axe, Wags and Orrin. Axe is not happy that the ‘ungrateful fuckers’ (Carly, Channing and Hlasa) are making him focus on them just now.

Source: Showtime

Wags points out “they hope you are too distracted and sad to focus on it all.” Bobby says “Oh I can still focus.” Carly, Channing and Hlasa upped and left because of the 9/11 reveal and the fall out from it so they’d have to be pretty stupid to think Donnie’s death and a US Attorney case against him would stop Axe from zeroing in on them.

Carly, Channing and Hlasa have set up ‘Ionosphere Fund” and set up shop downtown. Axe seems to think Carly the most likely to be in charge (this show loves its strong women). Wags says either her or Channing, but definitely not Hlasa.

Note that “Ionosphere” is a region of the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

They have 200 million under management, 40 of it is their own. Bobby wants to know where the rest is coming from and Wags shows him a list. Bobby notes that some of the people on the list are Axe Capital clients and he is not happy.

Orrin advises they could block this as Carly, Channing and Hlasa all signed non-competes. However, he ultimately advises against it as the 3 of them could argue their contracts should be void and given the current sentiment Axe does not want this kind of attention. Axe agrees, but says that they cannot have the perception that the real talent at Axe Capital is flying under a new flag.

Axe then hilariously giving Wags and Orrin no indication the meeting is over, gets up to leave advising he is going for breakfast.

Axe then sets about putting doubts in the minds of people who have jumped ship to Ionosphere.

“I taught them all they know. Not all I know.”

We are back to Donnie’s funeral.

Bobby takes Lara’s hand as the minister talks about love. Dollar Bill and Wags have a drink.

Orrin Bach is strutting his stuff in Court. He calmly puts forward the reason no case should be taken forward against Dollar Bill. Asking if you could save the child’s life wouldn’t you do it just because you could?

Source: Showtime

Bryan has still got quite a lot to learn. His indignation gets the better of him and he adopts an aggressive tone that will get him nowhere with any judge. This judge says that pursuing this case would demand a jury learn the unknowable “what is in Mr Stearn’s heart” and dismisses the case.

Bryan tries to protest, but is advised that “you and the Southern District should reconsider the deployment of Government assets in the settling of personal scores.”

Bryan reports directly back to Chuck who is not happy to hear that “personal scores” was used as part reasoning for the dismissal. Chuck thinks Judge Wilcox is too comfortable in his seat.

Chuck tells Bryan and Kate to take the day off and that they need to get circular with their thinking.

Mafee adds a bit of comic relief by trying to ask Debbie out. She smacks him down “I make plenty and I am out of your league.”

Keyser (Dollar Bill) arrives back in the office to a rapturous welcome. What follows is a fantastic scene. Firstly Wags disapproval of Bill lapping up the welcome could not be clearer. Secondly, Axe throws everyone off kilter by ordering Bill into his office in a no nonsense tone that appears to suggest he is extremely displeased with him.

Source: Showtime

Followed by “Close the fucking door.”

Bill asks what he has done.

Bobby answers “Pretend we’re having an argument.” All the while looking like he is thoroughly pissed and ready to lamp Bill one.

“You wanna fucking tell me why?” comes Bill’s response while he comes round to go toe-to-toe with Axe.

Everyone else is watching this though they can’t hear because Axe’s office is sound proof.

Axe then gets himself quite worked up “I want the streets to think that you and I are on the outs. I especially want those fuckers who left to hear about it. I wanna give Carly, Channing and Hlasa a good fucking.”

Bill joins in with getting worked up. “I heard they went out on their own. You didn’t bless that?”

Bobby: “I didn’t bless that at all.”

Bill: “That’s a shame. They were talented and I kinda liked them.”

Bobby: “oh so you don’t wanna help me out?”

Bill: “Fuck that. They fuck you, they fuck me so let’s fuck them. What do you want me to do?”

The finger pointing and arms out wide at various points going on between Bobby and Bill are spot on and the way they get closer and closer to one another as well is just brilliant.

“Bobby: “I’m going to poke you. Poke me back.”

“I’ll poke you all goddamn day.”

The subsequent back and forth about how Bill has been and what he has to do when he leaves the office is just as fantastic, but the best bit for me is

Axe: “Come bonus time, I am going to show you enough love, you could start a third family.”

Bill: “Two is plenty.”

Source: Showtime

They declare their love for each other, have a shoving match and then Bill leaves Axe’s office telling Axe “to go fuck himself.”

Mafee wants to back to 5 minutes ago when all he had to worry about was Debbie turning him down.

We are back again to Donnie’s funeral and Mafee seems to have won Debbie over as they are sitting holding hands.

Donnie’s wishes were that everyone drink and have a good time. Donnie also left word that

“Have them all bury my picture in Autumn leaves and as they do they should make a wish for the world that has nothing to do with the financial markets.”

Lonnie has come through for Chuck. He has found dirt on Judge Wilcox relating to how he sentences people and his financial background. Chuck is pleased enough with what Lonnie has found that he promises to get him back from Eastern District.

Bryan is in awe of Kate’s apartment “If I live to 100 hundred I wouldn’t be this grown up.” You said it Bryan. In the end, Kate has to make the first move and plants one on Bryan’s lips. Finally!!!

Source: Showtime

We see Bill and Wags dropping their leaves around Donnie’s pictures. Wags has an emotional moment.

Chuck Senior is here to tell his son to stop fucking up. Ironic given he is living through his son due to his own fuck ups.

The media are clubbing Chuck like a baby seal. Chuck Senior has an idea which is that Junior should take a year off, move the family to the farm and Wendy can open a practice for the bored housewives. Chuck can write a book. Chuck realises what his father is pushing for…Chuck to take the congressional seat of a friend.

Chuck is not impressed and tells his father his advice is no longer welcome.

Carly, Channing and Hlasa are celebrating their first week success. It seems they had a good tip and it came from Dollar Bill. Carly says she should have known as “everyone has been talking about your brawl with Axe.” Bills shows up with another tip on Penn Consol and a bidding war behind the scenes.

Chuck is in Judge Wilcox’s office who says if Chuck is here to criticise him for his ruling on the Bill Stearn case he “should proceed to the other side of that door and tell it to the doorknob.”

Chuck is not here for that though. Chuck is here to talk about other cases. Cases where the middle class white walk out of the courtroom free and the Latino kids go up state for 20 years. He is here to talk about the Judge’s link to a prison system that cons everyone. He is here to talk about his condo and his girlfriend. Chuck has the Judge by the balls and the Judge knows it.

Source: Showtime

Chuck says that the Judge will resign for undisclosed personal reasons or the FBI can come in. Chuck then makes the case for why the Southern District believes prosecuting him would be a fool’s errand.

Wendy arrives at Walter’s. Walter gives her a genuine smile. She brought him casserole. Walter is surrounded by toys. This is Donnie’s secret santa project. Wendy asks if Walter needs a hand, but he says help is on the way. Walter says Lara is taking it over. Wendy delivers an insincere sounding “so good of her” and I can’t help but feel Walter’s “she’s (Lara) been great. They’ve both (Lara and Bobby) been great” is equally insincere. He notes that Wendy is in a complicated position. He says it was hard on Donnie not being able to tell her. Wendy starts probing, but Walter has spotted Lara coming and clams up. I do not think he appreciated Lara ruling the roost in his house either, but he asks Wendy to leave in order to defuse the situation brewing in front of him. Lara really insinuates that Wendy is not part of the Axe Capital family.

We then see Wendy and Axe. Wendy is trying to get Axe to open up, but he isn’t having it. She then asks him if he knows how long it is since they have had a session. He says “we talk all the time” but Wendy is not letting him off the hook that easy. “I mean a real session…three and a half years. Will you come see me?” Axe does not answer.

Lara and the two boys are wrapping presents for Donnie’s secret santa project. Gordie declares that they are “slave elves” for which he receives his mother’s reproach. It is no wonder he is such a whiner when dad always jumps in with a shortcut. Lara seems to need to re-teach Bobby as much as she needs to teach their two boys. Bobby is all for getting some interns from the office to come and help. Lara takes control and pulls Bobby away for a conference which ends with no interns and dad helping to wrap.

Lara also tells him about her running into Wendy at Walter’s. This conversation ends with Bobby saying “I trust her”.

Source: Showtime

Chuck makes a rousing speech at Judge Wilcox’s retirement party before Eastern District comes in and arrests him. It is a beautiful moment.

Carly, Channing and Hlasa have a big problem. They have lost big on the second tip that Bill gave them. They are in panic mode so the last person they want to see is Bobby, but that is who they get.

Carly seems to have been the one who cottons on first that Bill screwed them. Bobby takes a seat acting as though he owns the place and by the end of this conversation he may as well do.

Source: Showtime

Bobby will seed Ionosphere with $250 million of seed money, they will have to sign non-compete and non-solicitation agreements. They will enter into a revenue share agreement. The current rate for seed money is 20 – 25%, so Bobby suggests they call it 40% – clearly because they messed with him – and he wants their trade files sent to his office every night. There will be a limit on how much outside capital they can raise. At no time can they manage more than $999 million dollars…no billions for them. There will be no buy out on the share revenue agreement and no lock up on Bobby’s money. He can pull the plug at any time. That is the deal. No negotiation.

“I’m counting to five and then it is off the table.”

He doesn’t even get past one. Like I said, owns the place. He also tells them he better see them at Donnie’s funeral.

We are then back at the funeral reception and Bill gives Carly a wink in mention to the fact that he played the three of them.

Bobby starts his speech by telling us “I don’t go to funerals. I skip them. I send mountain of flowers and food to the wake, convince myself that is the right thing to do. When asked why, I would say well we wanna remember him how he was…or some other bullshit. The Truth? I like to keep moving so I don’t have to think about it. More truth? I am not the type to grapple with it all.”

Lara does not look pleased at this bit.

Bobby continues “But there was no way I was gonna skip this one. Because Donnie grappled with all of it. He was courage and hope. And his intelligence and kindness made we wane be all those things, too. As it did all of you. I am so angry that he is gone. So glad that while he was here, I was one of the lucky few who knew him.”

Source: Showtime

As Bobby says that last part, Wendy, in particular, is looking at him questioningly.

Bobby isn’t finished yet: “I admired Donnie Caan and I am proud to have called him a friend.” He then leads the raising of glasses to Donnie.

I wonder how many of those other people at that funeral are in the same place as Carly, Channing and Hlasa. I wonder when Bobby first realised he could do to people what he just did to them. He did it quite expertly to them. I bet the first time wasn’t so easy.

I also noted that Pouch was at the funeral.

Chuck is working from home and Bryan asks him why. Chuck says because he got kicked out of a funeral by his wife. He needed the quiet.

Bryan has been working out what the Judge Wilcox arrest means and he is on to the fact that Chuck wants to put “a more willing ear” in that seat. Bryan eventually gets to Adam DeGiulio, but knows DeGiulio is in the AG’s office. Chuck says maybe “he leaves a friendly in his place.”

Wags comes to see if Wendy is alright. She says she is “sad”. Wags says of Donnie “one of the few people at work who were remotely interesting.” Love Wags. I’m sure Donnie would appreciate that endorsement from him.

Source: Showtime

Wags lets slip to Wendy that Donnie walked with $40 million while she is telling him how she ruined Donnie’s life. Wags tries to catch himself by saying “hyperbole”. Clearly Wags expected Wendy to know this information.

We meet Dr Gilbert who is offering his condolences to Walter who is thanking him for trying so hard. Gilbert and Axe share a look as Gilbert leaves.

Axe then tells Walter that a messenger will stop by with all the info. Presumably to do with the money from Donnie.

Walter says that Donnie said “I just want to make it to Christmas so I can be santa one more time. He’d see them get the gifts and beam straight through to New Year’s.” This is clearly news to Axe whose face show some emotion during this scene.

We see another flashback, this time of Donnie seeing Dr Gilbert. Dr Gilbert leaves Donnie to finish dressing and goes to talk to Axe. Gilbert says that Donnie has 2- 3 months at the most, but he is a candidate for a drug trial which could add 3 – 6 months on. It would be rough. Axe suggest not mentioning it to Donnie because “what kind of quality of life would he have?”

We then see Bobby putting his leaf down around Donnie’s picture.

Source: Showtime

Chumbamaba’s Tubthumping (I get knocked down), the song playing earlier when Bobby and Donnie were in the bathroom is playing again as Bobby leaves Donnie’s service.

One thought on “Previously on Billions: Quality of Life”

  1. I think you and I can sit down and write the book Bobby Axelrod: The Early Years 😀 😀 😀 For some reason, we both feel the same thing with Axe without being told anything concrete: Growing up with a single parent, maybe losing parents at a young age. I also thought there could be a personal reason to funding cancer research, maybe a parent lost to cancer. I don’t know how much more we can find out about Bobby in the two episodes left in the season, but I really really want to find out more about his early years in Season 2. Fingers crossed!

    I did not notice at all that Ben Kim was listening to Tubthumping when he was told by Axe to “piss elsewhere.” Love that song! I have told you I had never heard of the song earlier, and it turns out it’s a one wonder hit band which reminds me of… Donnie who plays one epic game in his trading career. I am not surprised he came to trading from academia. And I think Wendy is right he would have been happier as an academic. I think you need a certain personality, a more aggressive one, to survive in trading, and Donnie is not that type. I am happy that he was able to do that deal with Axe in the end and died with some peace of mind knowing his family will live a very comfortable life.

    I had to go back to funeral scene to spot Pouch — thanks for the heads-up! We don’t think for a second that he’s been really fired, do we? Who knows maybe he’ll be back at his desk in the next episode! 🙂

    Bobby has strong instincts. Wags does not. Bobby felt Wendy was considering to leave in the Pilot, he knew Lara was closing down her restaurant’s doors, and he felt something was seriously wrong with Donnie. He is paying attention to people around him, it could ultimately be part of protecting himself. Always alert. Always at his 100%.

    Finally… I love it when you say you can give Damian a 45 minute episode with no lines and you still get what is going on. Absolutely. Yes, you are right we say it a lot on this blog but hey we just can’t say it enough!

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