In case you missed Part V, it is here.
Billions has never shied away from shocking us over its first two seasons; say it is when Bobby threatens Wendy with the pictures Hall had taken of the two of them naked at the spa, or when Chuck sells out both his dad and his best friend to get Bobby, or when Bobby steals Donnie’s Christmas because he cannot risk him living longer. And now it is time for Wendy to shock us all with her cold-blooded calculations as she makes her decisive move to save her two boys and herself from going to prison.
It is fascinating how Bobby and Chuck immediately recognize the need to dump Ice Juice scheme on someone else when Wendy leaves the table for a few minutes. They have to make Wendy’s short go away but in such a way that the case does not go to trial. They divide the work: Firstly, Bobby will have the new Halls to “massage” the phone records so they do not locate Wendy in Chuck’s office when she calls Mafee to short Ice Juice. Bobby will also make it look like Dr. Gilbert has made profits in Ice Juice. And he will need to make sure Mafee does not share with the Feds what they want to hear about Wendy’s short. Chuck, on the other hand, will ensure that the good doctor will take the plea and go to prison without a trial. Yet, both men hesitate to mention sending someone innocent to prison in front of Wendy thinking that she may not take it.
Bobby: “You think she can handle framing someone who didn’t do it?”
Chuck: “Wendy’s got steel in her, but I’ve never known her to go that far.”
Wendy: “So, who’s going to be our patsy?”
This is it. Wendy can be as good as her two boys at being very bad.
Now, as much as I find what is going on in the room quite disgusting, I can see where they are coming from. Who else remembers the exchange between Axe and Donnie in Season 1 Episode 7 The Punch that we are all animals after all? We act on our instincts. And when stakes are extremely high, we have the capacity of doing what we cannot imagine doing otherwise. So exactly like not letting Donnie see another Christmas was the only exit for Axe then, sending someone innocent to prison is the only exit for Wendy now. And when it comes to Mafee, Wendy makes her move only when she knows it has to be her that can convince Mafee not to cooperate with the Feds.
It is Bobby who first tests the waters with Mafee to see whether he would be willing to take one for Axe Capital, and figures he does not know his employees like he did in the past. A visit to Taylor, who is good friends with Mafee, allows him to find out about Mafee’s old-fashioned sense of honor: he might lie to protect a friend or someone he loved. And that is enough information for Wendy to make her move, or in Wags’ words, the oldest trick in the book.
Wendy: “His unwillingness to lie. His sense of honor. His great, big, sweet heart. All these things that seem like impediments. We can use them. I can use them.
Wendy: “He likes me.”
May I say I simply adore Bobby being completely clueless about what Wendy is talking about?
I believe this is a brilliant moment for the show to reveal there is no romance between Bobby and Wendy. It seems Maggie Siff is finally convinced the relationship is platonic, too 🙂
“Initially, in the first season I thought there might be some unconscious romantic love. As I’ve come to understand it, I see it as more of a platonic love. There are things about Axe’s brilliance and his aggression that are attractive to her, but only in terms of exciting her as a friend, as a therapist, someone to work on.”
Bobby is someone to work on for Wendy. So is Mafee at the moment. We finally get to see Wendy at her most manipulative. And she pulls it seamlessly: Mafee’s sheepish look as Wendy flirtatiously takes a sip from his beer speaks volumes.
Wendy tells Mafee that she shorted Ice Juice based on what he told her about the stock (which is true) and they will now paint it like a conspiracy at the court (also true). And when Mafee asks how bad it could get for her, she tells him no one else at Axe Capital would ask her that and THAT is what makes “Dudley” special (not so true):
“Really really bad.”
Disaster averted. Mafee gets a $1M check from Axe and a kiss from Wendy.
Wendy has clearly violated the patient-doctor privileges she has always been proud to keep confidential. And I really do not want to hear her talk about her doctor’s oath ever again! That said, I kindly disagree with a review I recently read that argued it might be time to accept Wendy is no different from Chuck and Bobby in terms of morals. Personally, I do not think Wendy would have done anything like this if she had not been under extreme pressure. And we begin to see how different she is from her two boys in dealing with guilt in Episode 8 All the Wilburys.
Wendy struggles with what they did. And when she talks about it to the two men who have already moved on from the shit that happened, she hears almost the same thing.
While Wendy says “the things we did” Chuck prefers to say “things we had to do.” And when Wendy suggests maybe they need to step back and deal with it instead of charging forward for the Governor’s mansion, Chuck does not even hear her:
“No, ma’am. The only way is to swallow that guilt and move forward. Otherwise that guilt will swallow us.”
And Bobby who knows Wendy as good as Wendy knows him notices the guilt Wendy lets in when she warns him against the massive capital raise he wants to do as soon as he is back at the helm of Axe Capital.
“That is not a very Wendy thing to say.”
So I believe he stops by Wendy’s office later in the day not to get advice but to give some. Bobby talks about the initial jolt he felt when the case was dismissed: It was like doing 220 miles an hour on a dirt bike in Moab and skidding to a stop just by the cliff…
…but now that he is back, he feels nothing. The thing is Wendy does not have anything for him. She believes the advise she would give is less pure because of what she has done. So is she. She set up Mafee and used his loyalty as long as she needed it. It is no surprise to hear that what Wendy has done barely registers as bad in Bobby’s world! Well, from stealing someone’s last Christmas to having an innocent woman deported to Guatemala, Bobby is quite the expert in knowing what registers as bad 😀
“You can sit here killing yourself but when you do something to put yourself back in charge, remind yourself that you are not less, but more powerful for what you’ve come through, that’s when you feel better.”
Now, THAT IS the difference between Wendy and the two men in her life. Axe and Chuck do what they do, they basically see the kind of stuff they did as stuff they have to do and they move on. For Chuck, they may have done what they had to do but now they have an opportunity to do good for a lot of people if they get to the Governor’s mansion. And for Bobby, the recent history, all the legal problems he went through, is in the past, and he is ready to charge forward to make Axe Capital better than it was ever before. Wendy probably cannot comprehend how these men, who have just sent an innocent man to jail, can already think of their next project while Bobby probably thinks it is all good because he has paid $11M to the doctor for doing time and Chuck probably thinks it is all good because Dr. Gilbert has not been a saint anyway.
Wendy keeps wrestling with the guilt. In Episode 9 Ice Breaker, we see her selling the Maserati Bobby gave him after she put him together again in Season 1 Episode 11 Magical Thinking. And while she finds excuses for selling the car, she knows and Bobby knows, and all of us know why she sold it. And when she follows up with a $250K donation to the Axelrod Foundation, Bobby cannot help provide a bit more wisdom 😀
One should not let the guilt win, Bobby suggests. He talks about a time, 16-17 years ago, that he thought he had to be understated for the sake of his investors and flew First Class commercial. But when a blizzard closed down the airport and he found himself booking a motel for the night with the mortals, he went ahead and bought his FIRST Gulfstream the next day.
While she grapples with guilt, Wendy does her best to have things done right at Axe Capital. It is compensation time of the year, and now that Bobby is paying his people out of pocket, he is at his absolute cheapest. Wendy puts in real time and effort to convince Axe that it is in his best interest to be generous with Taylor who I think Wendy believes is still pure.
Taylor does not know whether Axe is trying to punish them but they need forward momentum above all things, even money. They can live with the bonus Axe is willing to give them but not with the fact that he took them off the raise team. While Axe has never changed his decision on comps before, Wendy will talk to him.
I love the scene where Wendy comes to find Bobby at “as close to beta state” during meditation. Bobby, eyes closed, knows it is Wendy that comes in, because others are too scared to come in when he is there. Wendy knows that giving up trading, taking Andolov’s money, and paying his people out of pocket should feel like death to Bobby. But she also knows Bobby chose Taylor for a reason and not only for their mathematical ability. Making them feel like a partner is not an accommodation, it may be the only thing that would make him stronger. Bobby is still not convinced.
So Wendy goes to Lara, the single biggest Axe Capital investor and who has always helped Bobby with comp day in the good old days, and convinces her to talk to Bobby about Taylor. Bobby is grateful to Lara for coming in, and even more grateful to Wendy for making it happen. He gives Wendy a bonus equivalent to her Ice Juice profits. He then removes the hierarchy, the desk, between them as he talks to Taylor about putting them back on the raise team. His words about Taylor needing forward momentum above all things, even money brings a big smile to Taylor’s face since these are their own words which Wendy fed Axe! 😀
And so think about Wendy’s frustration when she finds out in Season 3 Finale Elmsley Count that Taylor has pulled an “Elmsley Count” at the capital raise and has left Axe Capital along with Mafee and a good chunk of the capital they raised the day before. Wendy’s first reaction is they should look within to understand what they may have done to cause this, and when she and Bobby regroup later in the evening she recommends patience.
Most people in the industry would think Axe sent his protege off to open their own shop and invested with them. And he can still do it. Or he can take comfort in knowing it is inevitable Taylor will suffer internally in a few years and they will have no one to turn to. But Bobby does not think he can wait.
While Wendy recommends Axe patience, she is about to lose her own patience with Taylor. Well, it is one thing that Taylor used her empathy for them to get on the raise team, and it is another when Taylor makes her a job offer because a fresh start would be good for Wendy who could not stop Bobby from succumbing to his worst nature but succumbed to it!
Now, while I agree with Wendy that there are things more important in the business like lasting relationships, true loyalty and real trust than money, I give credit to Taylor that this has not been common practice at Axe Capital for a while. But I also think Taylor has made a huge mistake by messing with Wendy who immediately turns 180 degrees about what to do about Taylor.
Wendy: “Fuck them over.”
Bobby: “Different from look inward.”
Well, I highly recommend Taylor to talk to Chuck Senior about what happens to those messing with Wendy! 😀
Simpler times at Chez Rhoades exactly like the times Wendy tells Wags she misses in Episode 5 Flaw in the Deathstar… So maybe it is time to enjoy it over a bottle of wine with an old friend.
“Wendy asked… I said I am no longer the US attorney so there is no conflict. And I have nothing against the guy. Not anymore.”
“I said much the same.”
One question Billions constantly explores is what drives people like Axe and Chuck but also Wendy who can fix minds. Look at them! It is not money. It is not even power. It is certainly the love of the game. Both men are excited about the next challenge, you can almost feel the adrenaline flowing in their veins. And I believe THAT IS, ladies and gentlemen, why Wendy is attracted to both of them in the first place.