Well, I said it time and again that it is only Wendy’s short that could force Axe and Chuck to take a break from their pissing contest and get themselves and the woman they both care about deeply out of the huge mess called Ice Juice. And the first half of the season has seamlessly built to this climactic episode which I believe is the BEST hour of television in a while, at least since we had Golden Frog Time!
Well, Dollar Bill is not alone in carrying bags full of money for business. We now find Chuck, the US attorney of the SDNY, paying $50K to a man who will plant the slide in Axe’s medicine cabinet while he is away at Art Basel in a few weeks. Axe and Chuck have so much in common they seriously could have been BFFs in another life. For one, they both know how to deal with vulnerable immigrants! Like Axe ended an American dream by having Maria Gonzalez deported to Guatemala in Episode 2: Wrong Maria Gonzalez, Chuck is now creating an American Dream by promising Mr. Adubo $50K more as well as U.S. visas for his family in Congo once he completes the job.
With the confidence he has in the slide that will put Axe in jail, Chuck goes to have some pig ears with Black Jack Foley over lunch at The Spotted Pig and talk about his political future! Foley wants to casually start Chuck’s campaign so the money people will have a feel about him as if they are at morning workouts at Churchill Downs. Yet, he has a few reservations: Is Chuck squared away? Locked down as a Firstie at West Point. How about marriage? Solid. Foley still wants to sit with Wendy before he turns “a man of purpose” also into “a man of the people.”
If only the defense and the prosecution had the confidence Chuck had! It is so much fun to witness how they build strategy based on what we call asymmetric information in game theory.
Eastern District does not seem to officially have the slide as evidence but this does not give Axe comfort. The new Halls advise even if they recruit an assistant at the EDNY and remotely access the case file, they may still miss the evidence with a code name. Bach’s strategy is “motion to dismiss” which would force Bryan to present the evidence to prove they have a case. And while Dollar Bill has put the pink champipple on ice, they know they will have recon day at the court.
On the prosecution side, while Bryan thinks even Evel Knievel cannot jump the gap between what he knows and what he has to prove, Dake believes dismissal would be poor optics for DeGiulio. Bryan needs to do what Knievel always did.
Rev her high
Pray for mercy
Try to put her down on the ramp
And hope you are one of the elect
Dake may be the Calvinist Chuck thought he was after all 😀
Before the opening speeches, I want to take this opportunity to thank Chuck for bringing Axe to the court, because Axe does not do suits otherwise, and in Billions costume designer Eric Daman’s words, “when Axe does wear a suit, it’s like a punch to the face.”
Bach opens the defense with a tribute to Brian Piccolo: The case is like his promising career cut short by an untimely death. The prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to prove Mr. Axelrod is guilty of any charges; however, they have unfairly stripped him of his ability to trade and destabilized his life.
Axe constantly studies Bryan as he struggles to make his case. He has reason to believe several of their witnesses have been tampered with. They are trying to identify an operative directly linked to Bobby Axelrod who sabotaged Ice Juice. They believe there are witnesses that can ID him. While we find out Judge DeGiulio is a fan of George Clinton’s “Free your mind and your ass will follow” he still chooses to play King Solomon: He’s splitting the baby. Bryan has one week to present evidence or the judge will dismiss the case. When Bryan pays a visit to the judge later, he gets some priceless Seth Godin fix from him: The Dip is the moment you feel like the one before defeat but it is in fact the one before success. If Bryan digs in, he may put Axelrod where he needs to be.
After the recon session, Bach is sure Bryan does not have the slide only to hear Axe call him Pollyanna. Axe is not taking a plea or leaving the country but he will have the new Halls look into the security at the FBI evidence lock-up. Yikes!
I find Taylor and Oscar’s story very refreshing in the midst of the on-going court case maybe because it feels very familiar! I went to school in geeky enough settings that I can easily share a few stories close to sending someone delphiniums because their leaves are clustered according to the Fibonacci sequence!
While Mafee thinks a k.d. lang album along with tickets to UFC would cover all the bases, Taylor seems to enjoy their long-distance relationship with Oscar whose “I feel like I kicked over your Lego house” is everything! And when he finds out Taylor is trying to improve their algorithm and the young quants they have hired to test the algorithm are not much help, Oscar shows up at axe Capital the next day with his “standard coding provisions” just to keep them company. The two of them sitting on the bed with computers on their laps again feels familiar because my husband and I still work sitting across from each other in our study with computers in front of us. I cannot tell you how much I love the way Taylor and Oscar fall for each other’s brains.
Love life aside, Taylor is stressed out about the uncertainty surrounding the court case. What if Axe ends up in jail? Wendy understands Taylor may be terrified on one hand, and secretly hoping Axe leaves so they can see what they can accomplish at Axe Capital on the other. Her advice for Taylor is that they need to think of their gut as their deepest part, what Axe does at his best, or they could be doomed without knowing. If Taylor was not rattled before, they are rattled now! Given that they are used to be the boss at Axe Capital these days, the power dynamics may get interesting once Axe is back to trading.
Thanks to the new deadline, Chuck needs to have Mr. Adubo plant the slide in Axe’s apartment within one week. But even though Chuck is willing to to pay double, Adubo calls the deal off because Axe’s apartment has barbed wire. If he gets caught, even if his family makes it to America, he will be useless for them. Why not Chuck use an Axe Capital employee to put the slide in Axe’s apartment?
Chuck cannot ask Wendy, but can ask the man who brought him Axelrod in the first place two years ago: What Chuck does not know is Spyros, who Chuck catches at his lactate threshold, is not a cuckoo bird that would sneak its eggs in another mother’s nest! He is a golden eagle working for a winner for a change 😀 And, hey, he cannot care less that Chuck may use “date rape” against him.
Ah Spyros! Even though he tells Chuck he is well respected at Axe Capital, Spyros knows his colleagues are not taking him seriously. And so he feels the urge to prove everyone he has the ability to save the boss! Diving deep into Ice Juice IPO trades, Spyros identifies Wendy’s Ice Juice short along with two critical facts: Wendy has not traded at all before in her whole history at Axe Capital. And, more importantly, she shorted the stock while in Chuck’s office, which Spyros finds out thanks to a friend working at NSA!
Where Spyros sees team spirit, Axe sees someone getting disqualified for sniffing glue on the team bus! While he is ready to forget this stupid moment as well as the $2K he has paid for retaining Bach for his Head of Compliance, Spyros spills the beans: He has already gone full le Carré and Bryan has Wendy’s short in his hands.
“The only reason you’re not flying is because these windows don’t open.”
As I feel Axe’s pain as he is taking the stairs down to go tell Wendy what the fuck just happened, I am also worried he could pass out. I know, I know, I have been talking about Wendy’s short as her Achilles’ heel for months, but I did not know how this information could find its way to the prosecution because I knew Axe would not do it to her… Who knew Spyros had the balls to do it? We all know his days are numbered at Axe Capital now.
I completely agree with Axe that Wendy did what she did for whom she loves: Knowing Chuck will lose a lot of money in Ice Juice, Wendy acted on her maternal instinct – it could be emotional but I think also a rational one in this particular case – to protect her kids’ future. Axe is ready to hire the best lawyers for her and Wendy should also tell him the words she wants him to say to feel safe.
“Are there any? Really?”
“No. Not really.”
I choose Chuck as the Pollyanna of the day since he still thinks Bryan may want to get Axe more than he wants to get him! The only courtesy Chuck receives when he tries to get cute with Bryan is a house visit where the latter tells Mr. and Mrs. Rhoades they are all but fucked. And he will wait until he has Wendy in the witness chair to inquire further about the police sketch of Hall 😀
The man who was ready to take unnecessary risks to avoid jail is now considering to take the plea with a minimum 7-year sentence. While Bach thinks surrendering his empire for one loyal soldier is not a good idea, Axe tells him even he owes Wendy for his place at Sagaponack because Axe Capital would never have been what it was without her.
“Your personal Oscar Goldman.”
“If you will.”
Bach does not stop there. What about Lara? What about kids? Does Axe know how much his jail sentence would hurt them? Well, Axe still takes the plea but needs to give a heads-up to Lara.
It turns out Lara, who seems to have shopped at Stella for new linens, may consider moving to California with the kids if Axe goes to jail so they are not surrounded by people who know their story. She is quite surprised about the plea since the man she married would never have given in if his freedom or his family had been on the line. If only Lara knew why Axe is planning to take the plea! It may be better she does not know because it could hurt her more than the fact that the man she married is going down without a fight. And their separation has never felt more real than in this scene.
Now, what does a true friend do for his best friend who is “Sinking Down“? Wags makes Axe meet the ortolan, a delicate songbird, as well as a delicacy in French cuisine, typically cooked and eaten whole.
The traditional way of eating the ortolan involves the diner covering his head with a large napkin which is, the legends says, to shield the shame of such a decadent and disgraceful act from God’s eyes, and, the French chefs say, to keep the aromas from escaping: One part pagan ritual, one part essay in gluttony, if you will.
And Axe and Wags have this experience, which feels more orgasmic than religious, with Wylie Dufresne of all people, a ridiculously talented chef whose WD-50 we LOVED. I still remember the first meal we had dinner there and Lewisto asking Wylie if he could give him a hug 😀
Wylie explains they don’t blind the birds as they did in old times anymore but they still drown them in Armagnac, and guess what, that is exactly how Wags wants to go to his eternal resting place that he secured in Episode 4 Hell of a Ride. Besides, he is still a little peckish. Is there a second?
“One is bliss. Two is gluttony.”
“How about three?”
“Let’s find out.”
While Axe feels like an ortolan just before they gouge their eyes out, and reflects on the good old days with Wags, Chuck talks about the glorious days they could have had, had this ever come to pass. It is fascinating the man still has the nerve to talk about his political aspirations! 😀
As “I’m not going anywhere” plays in the background, we sort of feel where we are heading. While Axe is getting ready to face it on his own and Chuck is considering to turn himself in, Wendy has a better idea thanks to the man with whom she has much in common: Black Jack Foley, who has found the most satisfaction and success on the sidelines, knows there is still a play when there is no play.
“If a situation is untenable, Mrs. Rhoades, you break that fucking stick.”
As he finally melts his dad’s heart knocking on his door crying, Chuck gets a message from Wendy and calls Sacker to tell her that Allerd, not Sacker, needs to secure a search warrant for Axe’s apartment at 7am next morning. And when he arrives at the meeting place with Wendy, Chuck knows exactly where they are, because it is the only way 😀
Wendy is breaking that fucking stick. They are now standing in Axe’s living room because the two men fucked it up gloriously and the situation has got so incestuous that if one of them goes to jail the other two will end up there as well. So there is no other way but putting the measuring tape aside and calmly discuss how to bounce back together. But before the two lost boys leave their weapons on the table, Chuck needs a bathroom break, not to pee but to plant the slide in Axe’s toiletry bag, yet another Godfather reference.
What the fuck?
And before we have been able to lift our jaws off the floor, he is back at the table.
Axe: “Full transparency. I give you my word.”
Chuck: “You want transparency? How fucking clear is this?”
Nah. The risk is too big to take for Chuck. He could lose Wendy forever if he trapped Axe like this. He leaves the slide on the table (and I doubt he goes around with multiple slides). How will they make Wendy’s short go away now? I do not know how but I know however they do it, it will be epic.
I have to say, while Bryan feels bad for the kids, I feel bad for Bryan. When the three musketeers get out of this, I do not see a future for him in either the EDNY or the SDNY. Time will tell if he chooses to be a lion.
Addendum 05/02: This is a first. I find myself going back to watch the last 3 minutes of the episode again and again and again. I CANNOT STOP MYSELF. That smile Chuck gives to Wendy after putting the slide on the table… I cannot get over it! It has this “see what I am capable of” and much more in it… And, hey, everyone knows I adore Damian Lewis but may I just say I adore Paul Giamatti, too? 🙂