Talk about twists and turns — Billions is on fire!
As Ira and his girlfriend are having dinner at Craft, the new Halls are sitting at the next table recording their conversation. We do not know if it is her ordering $14 a gram white truffles, 20 grams of them, on her Tagliatelle with Guffanti Butter from Emilia Romagna (the region of Italy which I believe has made the most sacred contributions to human kind: prosciutto, parmigiano-reggiano, and balsamic vinegar) but Ira hesitates to propose. Since he has lost all his savings in Ice Juice, they cannot have the wedding she deserves, cannot go to the honeymoon they discussed and cannot even afford the engagement ring he has picked for her. He can barely give her truffles! Ira is in love and probably expecting his girlfriend to say she would marry him no matter what, but guess what, she wants to wait! Is anyone marrying for love anymore?
While one couple cannot get married because of financial problems, another couple is talking about financial problems as they are ending their marriage. Bach says it will take up to four months for the agreement to get finalized and I am still behind my words that these two will get back together before then! 😀 As Lara thanks Axe for honoring what they always said they would do in case of a separation, splitting the assets 50-50, Axe is genuine when he says they built it together.
Yet, he is concerned the government may find a way to stain all his money that has been through the banking system and the amount he is sure that they cannot touch is about $320 million. The two of them putting aside the separation immediately and focusing on the money is beyond me. Axe should have more the government cannot see and has an idea about how.
He finds Raul Gomez, the head of the police pension fund, at the shooting range where Raul practices to keep his certificate even though he is retired. Someone who still practices in retirement should understand how Axe cannot give up trading, right? But Gomez resists when he realizes Axe is there to ask him to move the pension fund’s $2.2 billion to one of his satellites. The police cannot risk “a whiff of impropriety” at the moment even Axe makes sure there is no connection between him and the fund who will invest the pension fund’s money.
A man needs to provide for his family and Axe sees an opportunity where every one else sees a disaster: Michael Panay’s fund is going down.
Axe meets Panay at the new Whitney Museum. Panay is selling everything and will walk away with $40 million which he believes he can live on. Axe does a quick calculation for him: Only his debts and his properties require $10 million a year. Add to that his new home office with a lease and an analyst or two, the private school for his kids, his daughter’s horse, and by the way, will he start flying commercial with the mortals or what? Yikes! Or will he give up on his personal driver? God forbid! Panay is ready to give an inch off his dick to get his life back and Axe may have an orphaned $2 billion looking for a safe home.
Who knew Chef Ryan would be critical in luring Raul Gomez into business? Ryan is tasked with replicating the burger Axe, Wags, and Raul had at Ann’s Snack Bar, a small restaurant in Atlanta famous for their burgers, when they were down there to see Killer Mike‘s R.A.P Music release party. Raul moved an extra half billion from his fund to Axe Capital right after that night and so who knows the burger may do the trick again! Chef Ryan follows the original recipe, and tries his version on Axe and Wags. While Axe thinks it is very close to the original, Wags does not find it good enough and goes ballistic on Ryan that they may need to fly Chef Ann’s sister (the chef died in 2015 and his sister and brothers are running the restaurant) with her vat of original cooking oil to make the burger for them. When Axe WTFs him, he spills the beans: Taylor is looking for “quants” aka the rocket scientists of Wall Street, who use mathematical models, rather than traditional research and intuition, to trade securities. Wags believes, since the Dutch East India Company first offered shares to the public in 1602, no mathematician has been able to figure out the markets. Besides, Billy Beane never won a World Series. Moneyball, anyone?
While Wags does not believe in quants, the PMs at Axe Capital seem to be intimidated by them. Mafee is talking about the computers taking over the world like in The Tommyknockers which Rudy is quick to point out is about aliens, not computers 😀 Mafee feels he got into the sector a generation too late like Tony Soprano did into his sector, and Ben Kim regrets he did not listen to his mother and did applied mathematics rather than coding at Stanford. The only PM who seems to have no fear is Dollar Bill! The man is not uncertain that computers cannot do the research he does and, well, he certainly has a point 😀
Taylor sets up a two-step quant interview that starts with the interviewee being given a cardboard they need to make a box out of, followed by a verbal part where they need to convince Taylor of their approach to the markets. The first guy cannot turn the cardboard into a box and fails the verbal part, too, because all he wants to do is to model Taylor’s thinking process while Taylor wants an algorithm that works better than their own brain. The second guy gives in to his emotions and ruins the cardboard when he cannot turn it into a box.
The third guy, who worked at NASA for 20 years, is the only one that sees there is no way to make a box out of that cardboard, and his algorithm seems to work, but Taylor tells him it will not work. Wags’ body language and soft ball questions have made Taylor understand this candidate is all Wags’ doing but they cannot figure out why. We now learn what Wags was REALLY thinking about when he overreacted to Ryan’s burger: Wags was at Lehmans when some smart guys thought they figured out the market, and it was Axe, on a chance meeting at a golf outing, who told him to get out of it before it was too late. This traumatic experience set Wags’ loyalty to Axe as well as his prejudice against quants. Taylor, knowing Theo Epstein did win a World Series adoting the same strategies Billy Beane used, will now build their own quant team.
As she prepares breakfast, Wendy tells Chuck to come home late tomorrow night, because his dad will visit the kids. Chuck makes it clear he does not want his dad home and he does not want his dad to see Wendy, either. What does Chuck think Chuck Senior may want to talk to Wendy about? Her one night stand? They finally agree Wendy will take the kids to Senior and then pick them up.
Yet, his dad seems to be the least of Chuck’s headaches this morning. The Attorney General, who believes life was better when people shit outdoors, wants Chuck to prosecute an inmate called Jose Lugo who killed a federal guard in prison. While Jeffcoat may not be a fan of John Rawls whose theory of justice is based on equal basic rights, equality of opportunity, and promoting the interests of the least advantaged members of society, I certainly am.
It turns out Bryan had the Lugo case, went full Gil Grissom there (CSI, anyone?). Lugo who had a pending drug use case was held in MCC because he could not make bail and the guard whom he ended up killing hurt him multiple times to the point of splintered wood in the rectum. I find Billions talking about young people who cannot make bail on drug use charges and billionaires making bail immediately and then complaining about 320 million not being enough to live on in parallel brilliant.
Bryan’s words leave no other option for Chuck other than meeting the MCC warden: His office has always protected her in the cases from inmates about the beds being hard and the food being bad, but he may now choose to slow down on the 400 cases against her unless she kindly cooperates. The only thing the warden needs to do is to tell the true story about Lugo to Randy Kornbluth from the Journal.
While Chuck offered Ira a nice little sinecure, Axe is ready to offer him his life back! He starts the seduction in the line for “recession special” at Gray’s Papaya. All recessions come to an end and Ira’s can, too. Today. (side note: I was lucky to watch them shoot this scene. Go behind the scenes with me here.)
While Ira sees his civil suit against Axe like Dream Team against Cuba in 1992 (136-57) and that Axe can get the hots dogs and shove them up his ass, the billion dollar question Axe asks probably gets him thinking:
“Can you afford to wait that long?”
Axe has found Ira’s weakness: He is in love. A text message “Reconsider, for her sake” brings Ira to the negotiating table.
Axe offers Ira some “recession special”: he is willing to buy Ira’s worthless Ice Juice shares for $30 million through Ionosphere and, hey, the offer comes with a bonus where Ira can choose an engagement ring from Buccellati’s exclusive collection for his fiancee, there and then, on Axe’s tab. The only thing Ira needs to do is withdraw his civil suit, refuse to testify against Axe, and give Axe’s legal team a statement about how Chuck did what he did.
Axe seems to have worked out his deal with the Burke Brothers as well. In their interview with the Eastern District boys, the Burkes claim they do not take orders but only give them and are more than happy to be filed under “masterminds” in Ice Juice sabotage. Eastern District Boys need to swallow it now with this: Ira, who was ready to cooperate at Viand Cafe in the morning has now changed 180 degrees in the afternoon.
In his interview at the Eastern, Ira does not want to talk about Bobby Axelrod because he does not know about his involvement in Ice Juice. Yet, he is more than happy to talk about what he knows: Chuck and Chuck Senior’s involvement in Ice Juice. While Bryan is all ears, Dake cuts the meeting and gets straight with Bryan. Their job is to convict Axelrod. If they let Ira talk, there may be a Brady disclosure where they may have to share their findings favorable to a defendant with the defense. Dake does not stop there and blames Bryan for being disloyal to a man who has been a mentor to him! Bryan is at the end of his rope.
As she goes to pick up the kids, Wendy makes an effort to convince Chuck Senior to reach out to his son but Senior is not giving in. He is the aggrieved party and his son should reach out to him first.
“Your son is the man you made him.”
Too bad she is driving the Maserati tonight because the box full of Chuck’s 3rd place trophies from school Senior is trying to get rid of would not fit in there! As Wendy tells Chuck the conflict between them may be taking its toll on his father, Chuck responds these things happen in Somerset Maugham‘s stories but his father is an ox. He will only speak to him if he comes brokering peace. I trust Wendy’s “black magic” to bring father and son together soon!
Raul, who seems to have done some thinking himself, realizes this evening of billiards coupled with the delicious burger reminding him of that night in Atlanta is to seduce him. And guess what? He does not resist like he did at the shooting range anymore. That said, what is in there for him?
The look on Axe’s face tells me Raul is asking for some personal perks for the first time. Is it Axe’s vulnerability that makes it easier for him to ask? Once Panay convinces the board of trustees at the police pension fund, the new Halls pay a visit to his office to prep the place before Axe shows up to set up the new terms.
Bottomline: There is no such thing as a free lunch for anyone. Panay will trade how Axe asks him to. His 2/20 will now be 1/10 meaning the rest will go to Axe who will need to share it equally with Raul. The payment will be made in cryptocurrency so it cannot be tracked down by the government. Panay will also sign a document indicating his full and willing participation in the deal. Given that the alternative is to say goodbye to his properties, his private plane, and his driver, Panay is in.
While Axe is on a roll convincing people left and right, Chuck is not able to convince Jeffcoat even when the Lugo case makes headlines. Where New York Times sees a victim in Lugo, Jeffcoat and Breitbart news see a murderer. The AG has already fired the warden at the MCC and is advising Chuck not to muzzle but shock collar the dogs that do not stop yapping. Even though I think, after all he has done to his dad and his best friend, Chuck is a piece of shit, I still find it exciting that he and Kate are joining forces to be the Maquisuards!
Bryan abuses his power by having the police look the other way when the Fordham boy in him comes out to punch the Inwood boy, but come on, this guy needs to vent, too! The Burkes are now under arrest for parole violations, and we find out Bryan is a “Carrie Mathison” at home with suspect photos pinned on his personal white board with the two Chucks at the center! I have said it before, I will say it again: Bryan Connerty is the conscience of the show. I really hope he is strong enough not to give in to either Axe or Chuck, and stays the way he is. The world needs more people like him.
As Ira is stealing his now fiancee’s heart all over again with the gorgeous engagement ring, courtesy of Mr. Robert Axelrod, Billions steals my heart all over again with this genius episode ending with a song by a true genius. Leonard Cohen’s “swan song” You Want it Darker sums it all up and gives you chills.