Damian Lewis teases about Bobby and Wendy, a relationship that keeps fascinating us, before Billions Season 2 premiere, in an interview with AssignmentX:
“As the paranoia increases, their relationship is challenged, too. Wendy is quite capable of taking care of herself, as we saw at the end of last season, when she plays Axe in that last moment and runs away with the Maserati and a five-million-dollar bonus. Was it five million? It suddenly doesn’t seem like very much in the world of Billions. And she doesn’t work with Axe anymore. Axe relies on her heavily, though. Of course, there’s always going to be a question of pride with him, and he attempts to lure her back. But it’s because, I think, there is some truth in the fact when she says, “We built this company together.” I think she is good counsel for him, and he needs her. He feels more confident with her. There certainly isn’t, for now, any kind of romantic interest between them.”
Driving away with extra five million dollars in her bank account and a brand new Maserati, Wendy seems determined to keep her distance from the two men whom she cared about the most, the two alphas who betrayed her the second their personal interests were at stake. But this woman, who still has her moral compass intact after swimming with the sharks for fifteen years, keeps getting attracted back to her two sharks like moths are attracted to light. I completely understand why these two men cannot give up on Wendy. She knows them. She understands them. She nurtures them. They feel more confident with her. But why can’t she give up on them? I vividly remember Wendy’s response when Bobby asks her why she is still sticking around in Season 1 Episode 6 The Deal:
“Meaning matters to me more than happiness.”
Is that it? Is that why she finds her way back to these men again? I find Wendy’s personal reflection, her deep and careful thoughts about her own feelings, especially in relation to her two most intimate connections, quite thrilling. And her personal journey in Season 2 reveals a bit more about my favorite relationship in Billions that it makes me sit and write yet another two-part post about Bobby Axelrod and Wendy Rhoades. Hope you enjoy it.
Here is how my earlier two-part Bobby Axelrod and Wendy Rhoades: A Special Relationship post ends:
“Bobby will want Wendy back so badly. And we know our guy is used to getting what he wants. But, after all, Wendy is not a Philly steak or a private jet. I am giggling as I think about what a DELIGHT it will be to watch Bobby moving mountains to win Wendy back which, I believe, will bring some tension to Axelrod household!”
We find Wendy getting better and better at showing the finger to alphas around her in Season 2 Episode 1 Risk Management. I smile big when she crushes Todd Krakow, who wants to hire her, as he starts with some smart game theory to identify Wendy’s type (loyal or not loyal) followed by an utterly stupid “you passed the test.” No, Todd, Wendy does not want your chocolate factory.
Yet, the ultimate finger goes to Bobby when he shows up at Wendy’s new digs at 400 Madison Avenue under an assumed name. Well, no wonder Bookworm believes Bobby is the boy who does not want to grow up. While Bobby and Wendy have this amazing on-screen chemistry that makes you think they have a romantic past, Bobby is now more of a little boy with her. And when the little boy does not watch his language and says “that motherfucker is trying to poach my most valuable…” about Krakow, Wendy delivers my favorite line of the episode:
“I am not your anything.”
I feel for Bobby the moment he hears these words but I come back to my senses quickly. The kind of thing Bobby does to Wendy at the end of Season 1 is despicable. I understand he keeps the pictures Hall takes at his spa meeting with Wendy to use as a last resort, and he takes them out only when he thinks he may be looking at a real jail time… However, Bobby accusing Wendy of selling him out without giving her any benefit of the doubt is not what people would do to their comrades who have been in the trenches with them for 15 years. Loyalties are constantly tested over the first season: Wendy passes with flying colors. Bobby fails miserably.
So Bobby can find the door right now. And no flowers, but, hey, maybe he can try “one girl is worth 20 boys” at some point, because IT IS, particularly in this case. As much as I care about Bobby, someone needs to tell him Wendy is not that harness driver who would do the dance for him whenever he feels like it! Well, Bobby knows THAT but he cannot help trying!
Now, if Bobby is disappointed when Wendy shows him the finger in her office, he is devastated when he gets an email from Wendy letting him know she will be at the Alpha Cup as Krakow’s performance coach in Season 2 Episode 3 Optimal Play.
Oh My God.
In the blink of an eye, Bobby turns into this desperate little boy who cannot accept the fact HIS Wendy will sew someone else’s shadow. Damian blows me away. And, I cannot help think about why Wendy lets him know… Well, she says “I didn’t want you to be caught off-guard” in her email… I believe this is sincere because Wendy genuinely cares about Bobby. Still, I wonder whether there exists a strategic component to her email: Knowing how Bobby feels about Krakow “poaching his most valuable employee” and knowing Bobby must always win, does Wendy want to provoke him and sit, relax and enjoy the show Bobby will stage at the tournament to break Krakow?
And Bobby does not disappoint, does he? He immediately facetimes Taylor, who does not want to take part in the tournament, to tell them they will be playing at Alpha Cup for Axe Capital because it is included in the 168 hours a week that he is paying them. But the exchange between him and Wendy when she arrives with Krakow is cold. Bobby is beyond sarcastic when she says she is not working for Krakow but for herself.
“I bet that’s what his masseuse and his manicurist tell themselves, too.”
Having said that, I admit Bobby is not the only one who does not like it when Wendy helps Krakow to relax his features. I believe this is as strategic on Wendy’s part as emailing Bobby to let him know that she will coach Krakow for the tournament. Wendy certainly knows how possessive Bobby can get especially when someone walks away from him, and now that he has been sarcastic with her, she is playing with him like a cat is playing with a mouse. Well done, girlfriend!
I believe Bobby and Wendy take immense pleasure in playing with each other and THAT may be the reason why they cannot give up on each other. While Bobby is using Taylor to break Krakow and have Wendy watch him crumble, Wendy, in my opinion, knew all along what was going to happen in that room. And it is even more fun thinking Bobby knows that Wendy knows why he is doing what he is doing to Krakow. The only thing they miss is the smartest person in the room who is not only breaking Krakow into pieces at the poker table but also figures out “breaking Krakow” has something to do with THAT woman in the room. I am not uncertain Taylor may have figured their boss out more than their boss has figured them out. Taylor now knows that the man who does not want things to get in the way of winning has attachments he cannot shake.
I tend to think of Wendy more of a rock than a performance coach in Bobby’s life. Wendy did not only put him together after 9/11 but also was able to keep him grounded for years. As much as he exudes so much confidence, Bobby Axelrod is a human being who is aware of his one major weakness: He can act on an IMPULSE. His soldiers, say Wags, Hall, or Bach, sometimes give him exhausted looks but they ultimately go and do what he tells them to do. Wendy seems to be the only one that says “no” to Bobby and when she says that, he complies. No wonder Wendy is the only one Bobby uses “Please” and “Thank you” with at Axe Capital.
Wendy knows they make a great team together. We know Billions loves metaphors and the story Elena shares with Wendy in Season 2 Episode 4 The Oath, about Wilco is brilliant: Tweedy and Bennett were true partners communicating at a level only a few could. But even though they knew they made each other better, they could not find a way to work things out. Bennett left and Wilco was still Wilco but never as good again. And Bennett, who just could not keep it together on his own, died a few years later of a drug overdose. To apply it to Bobby and Wendy, Wendy knows they are true partners, and that they have made each other better in the last 15 years and built an empire together. And she knows, now that she has left, Axe Capital is still Axe Capital, but that her “lost boys” can get lost without her.
And, hey, she finds one “lost boy” shortly after her meeting with Elena, at her office door: Yes, Wags is a “lost boy” who does not even know how he got that Yosemite Sam tattoo on his ass but he is one of Wendy’s lost boys. Bobby knows Wendy cares about her lost boys so he sends Wags to her so she sees how much they need her. Wendy knows that Bobby knows she cares about her lost boys. And I believe they both know Wendy helping Wags may open the way for Wendy to return to Axe Capital.
Wendy’s return is accelerated, unknowingly, by Chuck, who gets a zillion phone calls from Ira regarding the law suits Bobby has brought against him, while Wendy joins Chuck and the children for dinner at home. A quick post-dinner visit to Ira’s apartment after clarifies it all for Wendy:
“The irony is he’s probably never needed you as much as he does right now.”
Now… I saw this one coming but, honestly, I thought Axe would make an offer that he would drop the law suits if Wendy came back to Axe Capital. But now it is Wendy who has her terms lined up in a meeting at Pier 62 Skatepark: She will never share any information with Bobby about any of her patients. She is keeping all her files on a air-gapped computer for obvious reasons. She wants 20% increase in her salary and 2% in stakes.
Bobby agrees to all but the stakes. No one but him can own any of the company. Still, he will give Wendy a profit share and a payout of 1% in the case of a sale. And he does not even seem to struggle with the final term:
“You will drop the law suits against my husband.”
“Ok. I’ll drop the law suits.”
Motherfucker, indeed. So this was part of the scenario all along to bring Wendy back to Axe Capital. Bobby knew Wendy would come back to save her children’s father — he remembers, as vividly as I do, the moment Wendy did not give him Chuck’s voice recording when he offered her $10M because Chuck is STILL the father of her children. Bobby knew Wendy would come back, if not for anything else, for her family. And, I believe THIS IS also the reason for Chuck not sharing much about the law suits with her. Chuck is smart enough to know that the law suits could be a bargaining chip between Bobby and Wendy to bring the latter back to Axe Capital.
Ok then. Wendy adds a new condition to the deal: Bobby needs to go somewhere else should he need a session himself.
Wendy is now becoming the first Axe Capital employee with a contract while Bobby is dropping the law suits, quietly and over time, to make sure there is no juicy news story. But while he can arrange this quietly with Bach in Wendy’s presence, he is being all showy about dropping the cases against Chuck and gets a response from Wendy:
“Grand gestures are not necessary. When it comes to you, Bobby, it’s the small kindnesses I prefer.”
But I would really have preferred Wendy to read the final version of the contract before signing it. I know her lawyers read the contract and everything seems to be in place but what if Axe had Bach make some last minute change, say, something like a binding condition that she cannot work in the finance industry should she leave Axe Capital… Call me paranoid, I have my reasons!
Wendy is not as paranoid as I am at the moment. But she has no idea about Dake’s offer to Bobby that he could guarantee immunity for Bobby should he admit $5M check to Wendy was a bribe. She also has no idea Bobby does not say no to Dake right away but tells Bach he does not have any interest in sending Wendy to jail ONLY AFTER Wendy signs the contract to return to Axe Capital. I suspect Bobby might have used Dake’s offer as a bargaining chip to bring Wendy back in case the lawsuits were not enough. Yeah I did not know I was capable of thinking this level of intrigue earlier, either. Billions, what have you done to me?
While saving Chuck’s ass is an important factor in Wendy’s return to Axe Capital, I think it is still an “excuse” to return to a place she left at a time she was not ready to leave. WHY does Wendy want to be back? Yes, she cares about meaning than happiness and that she has built Axe Capital as much as Axe has. And, yes, exactly like Tweedy and Bennett, Bobby and Wendy could communicate at a level only a few could… and they make each other better… But, after all, exactly like Tweedy and Bennett, they could not work it out… so WHY?
Here is Maggie Siff giving her own take on Wendy’s return to Axe Capital in an interview with The Variety:
“What’s always interesting about their relationship is the depth of their history and their love for each other,” she says. “It is platonic, but there is something about him that she wants to be near. And something about her that he wants to be near. There are mysteries that are yet to be revealed.”
Indeed. To be continued…