As we start the second half of Season 2, Axe and Chuck are at opposite ends in their personal and professional lives. Axe seems to have made up with Lara but is suffering from the Sandicot deal. Chuck, on the other hand, is doing his professional victory lap for taking down Boyd but has a fragile relationship with Wendy. And, in an interesting turn of events, Episode 7 Victory Lap makes both men converge to exactly the same point: Black Jack Foley. Man of the Hour. It seems we will get to see more of David Straithorn in the coming weeks.
Poor Bruno comes down the stairs in the middle of the night, holding a baseball bat, just to find Axe and Hall in his living room. Hall believes when an operation goes sour, they need to go to its genesis: Marco.
Does the bag Hall leaves on the table have torture equipment in it? And it is not hard to imagine what he whispers into Marco’s ear when we hear Marco swearing on his eyes that he did not trick Axe. Nobody knew whom he was talking to about financing. Marco believes this is the usual Albany machine shit: They are getting “fottuto” probably because someone’s cousin did something to somebody’s boss in a distant part of the state! Yeah, kind of!
Chuck is seemingly spending a day with Kevin in the park but actually giving an interview to Mike Dimonda. Even though he says he would never consider running for political office while serving as the US attorney, he does not miss the perfect photo op, either!
Chuck Rhoades for Governor or what?
While Chuck tells Wendy only about playing catch, Kevin talks about dad’s interview. Wendy does not like that Chuck has used their son as a prop and is not buying Chuck’s bullshit about Kevin getting his first exposure to relations with the press. When she confronts him, Chuck feels the urge to reveal he had to Columbo (My grandmother and I never missed an episode when I was little kid!) his way into finding out about her return to Axe Capital. Lo and behold, they are now allowed to see other people!
Where Wendy sees half-truth, Chuck Sr sees the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He, in fact, sees Camelot! The look on Chuck’s face speaks volumes: He is READY.
Chuck Sr is a practical man. He has quit his golf club today for not allowing women. It seems he will not have much time anyway for golf in coming days : With his campaign manager hat on, he lets Chuck know that the Tappan Institute is commissioning a poll to see his state-wide popularity and with his marriage counselor hat on, he knows Camelot needs a Jackie! And, no, he does not want Wendy just to stand behind Chuck at the podium but to build a killer out of him like she does every day in her job!
Axe arrives at his Hamptons house with the family to prepare for war only to find Chef Ryan in a “make love, no war” mode 😀 Despite all twists and turns in this show, this could easily be the most surprised expression we see on Axe’s face and I cannot stop giggling as Ryan says “and you did not call…”
Ryan should be a real good cook that the chill boss pardons him. Now he has to wash his hands and make lunch for eight.
In the war room, Wags likens the Sandicot mess to “Billy Batts in the trunk” and Eveready comes up with the dark spell: AUSTERITY.
The note exchange requires Sandicot to pay Axe first before all other financial obligations such as union contracts and teachers’ salaries. Axe may just enforce it and seize the town’s assets: Land. Utilities. Buildings. Vehicles. Pensions. The city also has a $900K Remington about whom Mafee of all people, who took Art History in college for an automatic A, provides information.
Taylor further explains the dark spell: If they force Sandicot to pay them, the town will not be able to pay salaries and pensions. Schools will close down. As graduation rates will go down, crime rates will go up. The city will need to cut back on police force which would bring all kinds of other problems. The remaining businesses will get affected and more jobs will be lost. A PR nightmare for Axe Capital. Axe tasks his team with finding a way to get this done without destroying the town.
Hall finds out it is Senator Joe Scolari who made the call for the last minute switch from Sandicot to Kingsford. And if Axe did not know how state politics worked before his meeting with Scolari, he knows now: The committee “chose the location that would bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people and it turned out to be Kingsford.” It is as bullshit as Axe claiming to take on the obligations of Sandicot as a New York state investor!
Danzig has been losing sleep about Russian Hackers since last night and when she finds out about “what happened yesterday” Wendy gives him the big picture: Axe Capital is not very different from Russian Hackers in being agents of chaos. Axe Capital employees are constantly playing in the gray areas morally and legally but they can live with it since they do not exactly know whom they are hurting in the process. But, when it comes to Sandicot, they know exactly whom they are going to hurt and how.
Bottomline: If you are losing sleep over it, take an action.
Danzig takes an action as they are discussing an astroturf campaign to present Axe Capital investors as victims: A TV ad shows a retired school teacher who loses her money invested in Axe Capital because the town the company invested in is allowed to default. While Danzig proposes to hold the debt, take a short-term loss and redevelop downtown, the counter-argument surprisingly comes from Taylor: Even though Axe may look like he is hurting the town, the town asked for it. They mismanaged their business knowing the federal government would save them. I get Taleb‘s “be anti-fragile or die” but I do not get why people of Sandicot need to pay for the local government’s bad business. And why does everyone stand up and leave when Taylor finishes talking? Does whatever Taylor states become the law of the land or what?
It seems the “nature” argument is not compelling enough for Axe to go ahead. And Wendy is not giving him what he needs, either. She knows Axe wants to talk to her about Sandicot not to genuinely explore his options in the matter but just to make himself feel better about what he is about to do.
Better yet, Wendy can influence other minds! 😀 The news about Danzig quitting makes Axe interrupt Wendy’s session with Mafee. He tells Wendy her contract is very clear about her having to help his employees perform at the peak just to hear from her that he was the one that made the deal and can get out of it anytime he wants. Ha! Now what, Bobby, except for this look on your face?
Kate and Lonnie are concerned Chuck may be serving Head of Crim to Bryan for lunch at Keens. It turns out this is a special place for Chuck. He learnt about his US Attorney appointment from Senator Vandeveer (Who else? She is Chuck Sr’s senator who also helped Adam DeGiulio to get on the federal bench!) here and he dreamt of taking Bryan here to break the news that he would be the new Head of Crim. Yet, they need to have another conversation today. One that Bryan dreaded having for months.
Chuck skillfully brings the conversation from muttons to rats, and talking about rats, does Bryan have anything to tell Chuck?
“I am the one who called the OPR.”
We go back to the night at Bruno’s: After Bryan leaves the place, Axe gets the call from Hall who heard from the janitor at Chuck’s office that Axe Capital was bugged. Axe catches up with Bryan to inquire about it and gets “Not officially. But, right now, I would not be surprised if it were unofficially.”Axe’s words might further prime Bryan to make the call:
“The man that you work for now… He’s not just dirty, he’s worse than that. He’s a hypocrite. And if you know that and you still let it happen, then I think you know what that makes you.”
While he is quite annoyed Axe could get to Bryan, Chuck sort of admits he was a hypocrite in the Axelrod case. The Head of Crim position will stay vacant in the foreseeable future but Bryan needs to make a decision NOW and it is not just about having mutton chops or not.
We have been saying Bryan has been at a crossroads for some time and he seems to have made his mind up when he visits Orrin Bach getting a manicure in his barber shop:
“Fuck your client. And fuck you, too.”
The initial poll numbers are promising enough that Chuck is ready to explore the electoral terrain. He knows he is vulnerable in upstate New York but Chuck Sr knows how to prop those numbers up. Chuck first needs to find a good clerkship for Black Jack Foley’s granddaughter Emma and then they will just wait for his call. Foley will take Chuck’s measures and bless him.
Chuck asks Adam over lunch at Peking Duck House whether he could give Foley’s granddaughter a clerkship. Adam, recognizing the name, thinks if Emma were as good as Chuck told him, she would have a clerkship by now. Adam seems to be doing things differently now that he is out of the trenches, but Chuck reminds him that it was deal-making and back-channels that got him to the bench he is sitting on. My hunch is Adam will help place Emma in a good clerkship.
In the meantime, it seems I did not get it at all when Wendy told Craig Heidecker she could give his “21 year old hairless girls” problem a quick fix 😀 A Mafee-Deb snogging session inspires Wendy to call Craig and give him another dimension to exist in!
Now that he has got the ball rolling, Chuck needs the woman who would turn him into a killer! I believe Chuck deeply cares about Wendy but he is also smart enough to know why the baby sitter is taking a cab from their house in the morning. So he does his optimal play: He starts with a story to create some nostalgia. He went to the bistro they always went when they were first married just to find out the place has been closed for four years. And he follows up with a calculated apology about Wendy being back at Axe Capital:
“I’m sorry. I was being selfish. If you are happy there then that’s where you should be.”
He sounds so sincere and so strategic at the same time that Adam is right: Chuck is perfect for politics!
Hall now knows it is Jack Foley whose family, old steel and railroad money, goes way back to Tweed, that is responsible for the last minute switch to Kingsford. Things have not changed much since Tweed’s time, have they?
Axe meets Boyd in prison to get a feel about Foley. What drives him? Who is close to him? How can Axe get close to him? It turns out Boyd could have put Axe in the same room with Foley back in the day but now he is off his speed dial! Besides, Boyd does not recommend austerity and tells Axe to be careful even though what he is planning to do is not illegal.
“If they hate you enough, they will find legal grounds to fuck you.”
Axe now needs a face to face with Foley. Will he take Axe’s measures and bless him, too? 😀
Bruno drives his Chevy to Axe’s driveway lined with luxury cars just to give his two cents. Axe may have everything now but he should know a thing or two about the people of Sandicot.
“These people, they’re just like you while growing up.”
This is the last thing Axe needs to hear. On one hand, you feel Axe’s pain while he is listening to Bruno. And I wonder if he is in extra pain because he is disappointing the only father figure in his life. On the other hand, Axe does not shy away from being rude to this old man, from intruding into his home in the middle of the night and dragging him to Marco’s office, to not even inviting him in when he drives all the way from Yonkers. One thing I have always admired in Axe was the connection to his have-not roots. But it seems the connection is not as strong when it comes to personal business stakes.
The justification Axe desperately needs comes from someone who believes in what she says: Lara.
“Did anyone ever help us, or look out for us? When my mother was closing the blinds so that bill collectors wouldn’t know that anyone was home?”
Lara reminds me of Marie Antoinette, surrounded by her overly expensive wardrobe, saying “let them eat cake” in this scene. As AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock” starts playing, Axe is ready to rock his Ferrari Scuderia Spider and fuck Sandicot. And I understand one more time I would not last a day in their world.