Billions on Showtime, Season 2, Episode 5: Currency

source: Showtime

How to save a quarter? How to bag a wolf? We learn from the very best in this week’s Billions episode 😀

Wags arrives at Axe Capital in his vintage Mercedes in the opening scene of Currency. He looks GOOD for a change. And he has something important to tell Axe but the other does not let him speak because it is not his turn to speak. While Wags was MIA for the last couple of days “learning the Yaqui way, or how to run like the Tarahumara” Axe has been fighting the “Battle of Thermopylae” frequently cited as an example of a patriotic defense where the small Greek army was able to defend its land against the huge Persian army in a three-day battle. 

source: Showtime

48 hours ago:

Axe is at the racetrack with Gordie talking to Nick Pawlowski who may be the driver that comes and dances for Axe whenever he feels like it. Even though Axe does not want Nick to share with Gordie the whole story of how he saved the racetrack, he is proud of Gordie’s answer “suckers” when asked “who makes a bet if they don’t know how it’s gonna turn out?”

source: Showtime

Axe is here to inquire about any rumors Pawlowski heard about a casino coming to Upstate New York. It turns out the big casino guy Donald Thayer is behind the project but the exact location is not clear. Given that Axe knows him, he will need a moment with Thayer, but urgent business intervenes. I do not know if Axe feels like a sucker now — and it’s impossible not to think of Samsung Galaxy Note S7 recall when you see Samsomic’s Sapphire Super-Thin story — but Samsomic is going down the toilet taking Axe’s quarter with it. Boyd calls Axe to give a heads up that Sam Brandt from Street Scoop is ready to boo him on TV.

Facing with a down quarter for the first time ever, Axe Capital employees have three days to come up with an idea to turn this around.

source: Showtime

May I just say I LOVE the symmetry in Billions? It was Chuck in Dead Cat Bounce who had three days to find a case “screaming for justice” so he could save his ass. And now it is Axe who has three days to come up with an idea that will prevent Axe Capital from going under water like Crimson Tide.

However, the way they approach to their people is quite different. Chuck understands them. He shows empathy. He knows they are class valedictorians who always played it safe and want to keep doing so especially now that the Head of Crim is up for grabs. He rightly points out they may want to incorporate some “calculated risk” to their game plan for a win. However, Axe calls the ideas “window dressing” and his people “selfish motherfuckers” looking to keep their bonuses.

Dollar Bill is not a selfish motherfucker 😀 He is talking to Victor (Remember him?) and has what Axe needs for a “quick fix in a non-quick fix market.” However, given that the conversation needs to take place with Steph in the room, Bill cannot give Axe what he wants. Instead he provides food for thought:

source: Showtime

“You may have solved one problem but you have made the crucial one much harder to solve.”

Well, who knew Mafee would turn out to be Axe’s Kate? 😀 Mafee knows Everett “Eveready” Wright from college. They played lacrosse together (Hmm. I’m curious now about Mafee’s background given that lacrosse is usually a blue blood sport). Eveready is now trading currency at Richards and may give them a good currency play. Mafee’s hesitation is he knows Axe will give Eveready a job and he will meet Deb. Axe is GOOD in pretending he is hearing for the first time about Deb and Mafee 😀

source: Showtime

As Chef Ryan makes a lobster feast ready for Axe and Eveready, I spy with my little eye one of our favorite cookbooks in Axelrods’ cookbook collection: Plenty. And I don’t know why but the way Axe cracking the lobster is quite sexy.

Eveready spills the beans: Thanks to low oil prices, Nigeria’s oil industry is now way weaker than numbers suggest and the Central Bank governor shared with him they will devalue the currency. It can happen within a month, but if some big players come together to take a monster short position against the Naira, the Nigerian currency, it can happen tomorrow. Eveready now has a job at Axe Capital and you can read about recent Nigeria currency devaluation here.

The first person Axe approaches with the idea is Boyd but Spartan-Ives cannot take the risk of being seen as taking down a government. Axe must get into this with players like himself and Boyd is confident he can help:

“If I tell them where the gold is, they will show up with their shovels.”

Indeed. Three billionaires walk into a diner. Blauvelt Coach Diner, to be precise (many thanks go to Brian Koppelman for the tip!)

source: Showtime

Todd Krakow, Krakow Capital: Axe made his Anata-Tek lose 50% of its value.

Ken Malverle, Vista Verde: Axe called him a “poacher” while Malverle was having dinner with Garth Sykes.

Steven Birch, formerly Piedmont Capital, now home office: Axe served his head on a silver platter to Chuck and changed the conversation from his $63M Hamptons House to Birchie’s shady Arcadia Railroad deal.

Axe knows these guys’ self-interest will ultimately dominate their possible urge to fuck him. What he does not know is Birchie’s self-interest is equal to fucking Axe.


source: Showtime

Now that the Nigerian government knows about the currency play, they raise the interest rates to increase the demand for Naira and prop up their currency. Eveready advises that an objective and revered economist’s support can still turn this around. And Axe’s apparent confidence in the deal, thanks to Boyd being willing to corroborate his story on Street Scoop, makes Malverle and Krakow stick to the strategy.

Now, as much as he needs to take care of immediate business, Axe needs to secure the future as well. Taylor confirms Sandicot is a “shit hole” unless the casino arrives, so Axe needs to learn the casino’s exact location before committing to the muni-bond deal – his ideal way of “giving” 😀

Now, I may not know the hedgefunders that make cameos, but I certainly know a thing or two about chefs. So I smile big when Chef David Chang appears to serve his Momofuku Ko tasting menu to Axe and Thayer! Chef Chang has a number of restaurants in the city and his food is YUM. I understand Billions Writers Room loves Ssam Bar and my personal favorite is Nishi.

source: Showtime

The keys of a 1969 Dodge Challenger and a promise of 5% off the books on the deal gets Axe the answer he has been looking for: SANDICOT. Thayer is waiting to hear the final decision but the committee more than hinted it is a done deal. But then why do I have an uneasy feeling about it?

source: Showtime

Over at the US Attorney’s office, Kate wants to know whether they should be proactive on Spartan-Ives case now that McKinnon is back on wire. Chuck tells her about a wolf hunting trip he had with his dad before he was in high school. They tried everything to bag a wolf for three days but could not even see a single one. They were able to bag one only after they got advise from an old, experienced hunter. Before Chuck is able to share the hunter’s advise, Bryan interrupts to say McKinnon called.

source: Showtime

McKinnon is nervous about the wire and gives it back. Chuck is patient. He will just “let it eat at him.” McKinnon will come back begging to wear it.

In the meantime, Dake is chasing Lonnie who has avoided him for the longest time. Is it because he knows a thing or two about the Danzig case? Dake tells some Mr. Allerd in a church that Lonnie is the one who has what they want. Mr Allerd, who apparently worked under Mondale back in the day, is willing to push for a suspension to have Lonnie sit with Dake. The AG wants results as soon as possible.

The hunting advice that worked for Chuck turns out to be nothing but TIME. Indeed. McKinnon calls back in a few days to say he and his wife are having dinner with the Boyds at Ai Fiori and he wants to wear the wire. And, guess what, while he certainly embarrasses himself at the table – it should be quite hard though to show restraint while your wife is openly flirting with your boss – McKinnon makes Boyd sing BIG TIME! The wolf is bagged.

source: Showtime

But, hey, where the fuck is Wags?

Even though Wags said he would make an appointment with Wendy, it turns out he never did. So Wendy comes to find her lost boy living with an IV stand in The Pierre. Wags has left nothing to our imagination about his ass tattoo and I admit it is bigger than I thought 😀

source: Showtime

As the two have an intimate conversation in my personal Zen Garden, Central Park, we find out Wags’ conception of Zen Garden is more along the lines of AVN awards. And as Wendy digs deeper, Wags gets it out of his chest: He feels useless now that Axe has Steph as his Chief of Staff. Standing Ovation for David Costabile who makes you FEEL Wags’ pain.

Wags arrives at Axe Capital to give his resignation only to find out what he will evolve into next: His old self! By telling Axe he is not a machine or an algorithm, and that he is “allowed” to have a down quarter, Steph brought on her own execution. So our rapacious scumbag is back: “COFFEE!!”

I think Axe MISSES his team! Axe has now seen once again what Wendy’s magic is capable of and he seems to be annoyed by Dr. Gus kindly asking to get into “his kitchen.” Thus, I totally see Axe putting in some real effort to bring Wendy back and I sincerely hope the law suits will not be used as a bargaining chip. But, regardless, we all know Lara will get in the way.

I agree with Lara that the woman she and Mo met to talk about their business expansion plans treated her as “the wife.” However, if Lara wants to be treated like a business woman, she needs to let Axe treat her as a business woman, too; not as the wife, as long as business is concerned. Yes, Axe is impatient with Lara but his point is well-taken: Lara would not have heard him should he have told her she was not ready. She started “Hangover Central” on an impulse and now expects to take it to the next level in a month or so. I wonder what Lara is thinking about her marriage now. Is it hard? Oh yeah I’ve heard other people say that 😀

As Axe and Boyd are waiting to go on air, Bach calls to tell Axe FBI will be there within the hour to arrest Boyd. Axe does not reciprocate the “heads-up” with Boyd since he needs him to go on the air and save his quarter. Even the great Lawrence Boyd is cannon fodder after all. Having said that, Boyd has nobody but himself to blame for what happens to him. He thought Chuck understood the game. What does it even mean? It seems to me Boyd himself does not understand the game.

It is a true TREAT to have Axe and Chuck together again in a room. Their interaction is swift and to the point this time.

“I don’t believe in omens or fortune tellers, but this must feel a little like your future foretold, huh?”

“You mean watching you arrest other people as I walk right out of the door? Yeah, kinda does.”

Chuck takes a break from his diet (I have noticed he even turned down Katz’s pastrami sandwich) to celebrate this milestone in his career at Mile End Deli! I wonder if the AG will join him on the podium to celebrate his success in Spartan-Ives investigation. But I am even more curious about whether we will see more of the Swiss sculptor Chuck met at his Jiu-Jitsu practice. He is cute and witty with her. Could he use her to make Wendy jealous?

source: Showtime

Talking about Chuck and Wendy, the dynamics between them are way more interesting this season now that their couple therapy opens a window into their marriage. One may get a bit suspicious about whether Chuck is telling the truth when he says he does wear his suit to neighborhood parties not to remind everyone he is the US attorney but to prove he is more than his looks. However, since he wants to finish the therapy with a favorable outcome and that he knows about Wendy’s deep understanding of human psychology, his optimal play is telling the truth. And I find it sad. It should be very hard to feel inferior to your spouse and it could partially explain why Chuck cannot stand the “special relationship” between Axe and Wendy. I also find it totally believable that Wendy misreads the situation. Because she is an insider here, her feelings may well get in the way of a true diagnosis. We have a saying in Turkish that “a tailor cannot sew up her own robes” – meaning a person’s expertise is often of practical benefit to everyone but herself 😀

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, Season 2, Episode 5: Currency”

  1. A little bit of England again eh? Plenty cookbook are recipes from London’s Ottolenghi 🙂

    Refreshing to hear a couple of Native American references in current television. Nice!

    1. Ha! Yes, Ottolenghi is a kind of Chang or Batali in London – he has a restaurant empire. He even has his own TV show.

  2. Love this review!

    Axe & Thayer- “But then why do I have an uneasy feeling about it?”- absolutely agree here. I don’t trust this scenario. The ink isn’t dry and Axe is taking Thayer for his word. What did Axe ask his kid earlier? “who makes a bet if they don’t know how it’s gonna turn out?” Only signature to paper is the way to absolutely know how a deal will come out.

    I’m sorry Lara was hurt by Axe’s terse response but she deserved the info he gave her. (And note to couples everywhere- don’t lay a heavy conversation on your significant other as they are clearly anxiously rushing out the door to a meeting. It’s unfair. The conversation can wait until the next day unless it is a life or death subject.) Lara played the dilettante and got burned. Just repeating “I’m a businesswoman” over and over doesn’t make it true. I wish she would go with her true strengths- management. She manages the hell out of the family and the home. No shame in going back to school and getting a degree (legitimacy) in management. I did it at age 58.

    Thank you, thank you , thank you for listing the restaurants. I am making a serious list to visit them all at some point.

    No matter Axe’s human flaws I still want him to prevail. Not only because of his hottness, but because he has great potential to learn to be more humane and philanthropic. Being philanthropic after generations of poverty, or close to poverty, is very difficult because there are no family role models to show you the way at an early age. Generosity within the family is always accepted, but to understand and have empathy with others wasn’t immediately available when you are trying to keep your own head above water. I wish that Axe will revisit the ideas that Bensinger presented to him. It will save his life in the end.

    Watching Boyd get carted off, seeing the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease on Wag’s former mentor, and watching Wags almost drown in self-pity when he realizes he could be easily replaced because he has “outlived his utility” was heartbreaking to watch but gave me hope that Axe (& Wags) will transcend their robot mentalities and learn to be more human. Axe has shown signs that he is not a psychopath, yet Wendy has warned him that he is in danger of heading that way if he doesn’t change his ways. Wags showed empathy in his scene with Wendy on the bench, as she pointed out. They should all follow Wendy’s advice now- Pivot.

    1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading!

      My husband and I are foodies, he likes cooking and we both love eating 🙂 That is why finding out about the restaurants featured in the show is extra FUN for me. I have been to several of them earlier, and exactly like you, I am making a list to visit the others later! But I love it that NY’s beautiful architecture and world class cuisine stand as extras in the show – makes me happy!

      Good to know I am not alone in feeling uneasy about the casino deal. Axe was committed way too early – hope the casino project will not fall through the cracks in the last minute. And I hope Thayer has not been holding a grudge against Axe that he manipulated him. Hope Axe does not end up being a sucker!

      I did not feel sad for Lara. If she claims to be a businesswoman she needs to take the criticism like a businesswoman. You are absolutely right. Saying you are a businesswoman 100 times does not make you one. And you are, of course, absolutely right that you don’t press on your significant other when he is completely preoccupied. To give credit to Lara, I am not sure if she knew about the problems Axe has been dealing with. He does not really share much with her, does he? aAnd so maybe she had no idea. Having said that it did not take much to understand that the man was in a real rush to get out of the house and take care of business. I think I am still pissed at Lara for being so cruel to Wendy at the Alpha Cup that I was okay with the way Axe talked to her. Otherwise, I would find him rude. Lara going to school would be EPIC – who knows, it can happen!

      Some of my research is on social mobility so I more or less can argue that, on average, new money tends to do less philanthrophy and they are usually against redistribution (paying higher taxes to be spent on public expenditures) while old money is quite the opposite. They tend to do more to philanthrophy and are in favor of redistribution. However, it is also observed that new money becomes old money over a few generations and so their attitude changes over generatons accordingly. Axe is first generation money, and he is still young so it is not a surprise that he does not want to pledge to the Giving Oath and that municipal bonds are his ideal way of giving —ultimately benefiting him as much as the communities 😀

      I am so glad WAGS IS BACK! And now that Wendy’s magic has done it again, I expect a more serious effort to bring her back. Hope they do not mess it up gloriously!

      Love our weekly back and forth – THANK YOU for reading <3

  3. Great post! Funny how we switched roles a bit this week, with me giving the play by play run-down and you going deeper into the motivations. Glad I resisted reading this before writing mine. 😀

    Mafee is totally a lacrosse player. His gravity…like his stance close to the ground…is what I remember from the few lacrosse players I’ve crossed paths with. Is it really a blue blood sport? Not like polo, for instance.

    Were you ever able to identify that diner? I swear it looks like something straight off of Queens Blvd., but I wasn’t able to identify which of the many outer borough diners it may be. For all we know, it may be something higher end in Manhattan, with only an ironic diner vibe. 🙂

    1. Thank you! <3

      Yeah I think lacrosse is a rich kid's sport. Maybe not necessarily blue blood but probably more blue blood (old money) than not.
      This is a good article:
      And this paragraph is particularly enlightening 😀
      “…lacrosse is unique in that it seems to have perpetuated a system that makes the sport designed exclusively for the upper crust, and in fact has colleges and corporations that use lacrosse as a way to determine who they’d like to admit to their realms (and in the case of colleges, attract monied donors in exchange for allow their children to call themselves college athletes by playing non-scholarship lacrosse).”

      No, I have not been able to pin down the diner yet but it does not mean I have given up 😀 It is so much fun to figure out all the food in the show.

      1. Interesting! I knew a guy in college who played lacrosse for the college team, and he wasn’t monied at all. Then again, as you know, I didn’t go to an Ivy. 🙂

        The description reads like folks buy a spot on a team for their kid who probably wouldn’t get on a team on his own. I’m still not sure the thinking applies to young men who actually are good enough to get on a lacrosse team based on skill alone. Anyway, I’d say Mafee fits the sport, physique-wise. And you’re right, it’s leads to interesting questions about where he comes from!

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