First things first. Thank you Xfinity Watchaton Billions Watch Party for an amazing evening at Classic Car Club of Manhattan! Lady Trader and I felt like billionaires as we sipped Champagne on Axe’s plane, ate quail-masquerading-as-ortolan with napkins on our heads, played Black Jack like there is no tomorrow, enjoyed a Q&A with show creators and cast members followed by an early screening of the crazy good Episode 4, and, hey, we got to hang out with these two! Kelly and Toby, you guys rock!
Credible threats? Check. Ultimate sabotage? Check. Unparalleled favors? Check. Shocking twists and turns? Check. Taking care of business at all costs? Check. We are in a “World Gone Wrong” exactly like in Dylan’s song opening and closing the episode and Billions is on fire this week!
Primary Day / 5 hours until the opening bell
It is 4:30 am in the morning and the Burke brothers are “bright fucking yellow like you’re in Kill Bill” and busy at a school bus parking lot making sure the buses will be out of commission this morning. Huh?
2:18 hours until the opening bell
It all becomes clear when Axe gets into Chuck’s office – without a knock! We find out when he was a kid, Axe once lost a $100 that he did not have in a carnival game. He was too young to figure out the business model: He thought the game was about knocking the pins down while it was all about having people pay to try to knock the pins down 😀
And while Chuck’s opponent is thinking there is an election going on in NY state, the primary is as rigged as the carnival game! Axe has made sure that the state will have its lowest turnout especially in districts where Chuck’s opponent is doing well. School buses are broken so parents need to drive their kids to school this morning rather than go vote. And a good number of voters are now taking a free day trip to Atlantic City 😀 Since it is the primary that really counts, Chuck will have it by the end of the day. But, hey, why is Chuck not making the happy dance?
Chuck spills the beans: Even the lowest turnout in the city may not save his campaign at this point. Chuck Senior has not been able to convince Foley to green light Chuck for the State AG seat. While Senior has tried his best to tell Foley that if he shoots, his son will shoot back, and both will die. On the other hand, if no one shoots, everyone will survive. But Black Jack does not yield. Instead, he gives an ultimatum: Chuck should withdraw his candidacy by 5pm tomorrow or Foley is going public with what he knows.
We all know what Foley has on Chuck and I think Axe can make an educated guess, too. It is beyond hilarious to see Axe wearing his performance coach hat that he used to advise Wendy last season. It seems Axe wants Chuck to be the State AG even more than Chuck himself does. This should have something to do about the favor he will name after the election, no?
He quotes Walter Mosley’s book:
“Always outnumbered, always outgunned.”
That is the state of the world guys like Axe and Chuck always find themselves in. Axe knows Chuck can fight this because he was the most formidable enemy he ever had.
“My chest was out, sure, but inside it, my heart was racing, when I knew that you were coming for me.”
Who knew Axe would open his heart to Chuck? Besides, he reminds Chuck he is only a phone call away if he needs him! It is official. These two are BFFs 😀
The moment Axe leaves Chuck’s office, Chuck tasks Karl Allerd with finding out why Black Jack prefers everyone dying to everyone surviving, a lose-lose situation. It turns out Foley is completely rational: He is dying of liver cancer. He does not have anything to lose and is committed to stop Chuck from being NY’s next AG.
We see “great man’s final move” as Foley passes a piece of paper to Jeffcoat in return for immunity for his heirs. The AG covering a real crime that threatens public safety in return for information about Chuck’s unusual sex life – which is NOT a crime – makes my stomach turn. I am sure Jeffcoat thinks he is getting rid of Chuck Rhoades for good.
Not too fast, Jock!
1:33 hours to opening bell
Axe is doing a Mercedes AMG GT Coupe test drive with Rebecca sitting next to him. She is leaving for Houston shortly for the zero-gravity flight she has booked for $165K and will have the entire aircraft to herself. She asks Axe whether he wants to join her but he has no time for “Vomit Comet” today.
Axe needs to make sure the CEO of the “Noon to Night” who could not turn any real profit go away. He owns 11% of the company shares and he is meeting Chris Sacca who has agreed to back Axe with his own shares in a coup to overthrow the CEO.
But first things first: Axe likes the ride and buys two $132K each.
“What color do you want?”
I do not know about Rebecca, but I want the metallic silver! The funny thing is I am driving a silver Mercedes Coupe, too, with the major difference being mine is 2008 model and I only paid $13K for it 😀
37 minutes to the opening bell
Axe’s day takes a drastic turn as he gets a shocking phone call from Baton Rouge.
One of the LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminals at the port has a perforation nobody has noticed until it was too late and the tank will explode. No one else knows about it yet and Axe has 3-4 hours until the whole world finds out.
Well, it seems storming the castle is not in the cards for Axe today because he needs to protect his own castle. He calls Dollar Bill to tell him to get out of all positions in natural gas NOW and runs for his life!
1 minute to the opening bell
Axe is in the office ready to get out of all positions in natural gas using “dark pools” where they can sell large blocks of securities without showing their hands to others and thus avoiding immediate market impact .
But what the fuck?
The computer system is off and the IT guy cannot figure out more than the fact that they are hacked! Well, what goes around comes around, doesn’t it? Axe has sabotaged the elections and now someone else has sabotaged his company’s computer systems. Axe knows it is Andolov way before Hall confirms it is a Russian made circuitry that hacked the system.
Knowing he will not make it to his meeting with Sacca, Axe calls someone he trusts: Rebecca. If she can go and do this huge favor for him, he will re-book the “Vomit Comet” experience for the two of them!
They first ride Ben Kim as their “Justify” and use Ben’s personal computer connected to his hot spot to do the trades but his computer is frozen after the first two trades. So are all direct links to trading desks. Now what?
I love this scene mostly because it demonstrates how dependent we all are on our machines right now. I used to know people’s phone numbers, and birthdays. I used to study a location I would drive to. I now just rely on my phone for everything and the phone going out of battery feels like the end of the world. Oh well.
I remember Taylor talking about “young lungs” to Axe in Season 3 Finale. But you sometimes need older lungs to know about both Reebok Blacktops and voice trades! Axe, Wags, and Dollar Bill get out the old phones and a dusty files with phone numbers. They call the CEO of every prime broker and offer them carrots (5 cents rather than 3 cents per share for getting Axe Capital out of Natural Gas plus an invitation to Axe’s box at Arthur Ashe) and sticks (“I’m a good friend, but a bad fuckin’ enemy”) to get out of their positions quietly like in Le Samourai.
I cannot help give a little Damian Lewis trivia here: His character Milo Shakespeare in The Baker (aka Assassin in Love) is kind of a tribute to Alain Delon’s Jeff Castello in Le Samourai. They are both professional hit men living with a little bird in a cage and both films open with a long shot of the main character lying in bed! 😀
The young Axe Capital employees are watching the theatrical performance Axe and Wags are giving in front of their very eyes. These kids have never done a “voice trade” before, they simply do not know how to do it. And when the big dogs deliver with the company incurring only 10% of the losses they would otherwise do, no one says it better than the one and only Ari Spyros:
“All Hail our lords and saviors, Robert of Axelrod and Michael of Wagner.”
And don’t forget Dollar Bill, who, with a little help from his friend at Toronto Stock Exchange, has been able to get out of $70M worth positions. It is good to see Bill has left the traumatic experience in Chickentown behind! 😀
The two Chucks visit a development area in Green Point that Senior trusts his son to expedite the permits so he can build his “Elysian Fields” and make it his legacy. And while he is shaken by the news that Foley has a cancer moving through him like a race car on Bonneville Salt Flats, Senior does not have any intention to give up on his dream. His advice for Chuck is to face whatever Foley wants to say and deny it. The issue is Chuck knows he can take the public shame but does not know if Wendy can.
Chuck meets his wife at Madison Square Park to talk things over. You can feel that he expects Wendy to tell him to keep fighting even when he tells her he needs to withdraw his candidacy because otherwise Foley is going public about their sex life.
Honestly, I find Wendy’s reaction very much out of character. Yes, we have seen Wendy getting more emotional, more human if you will, over the last few episodes but again she is the one who told Chuck – when he was hesitating to run and considering to teach at university – that he needs to keep going in Episode 1. She is the one who called the New York AG seat Chuck’s calling while packing for their trip to the casino in Episode 3.
Wendy is a rational person who knows this will be the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads forever. And the only way to get rid of it is to face it publicly – Jeff Bezos style – and tell the people who believe they can control you to go and fuck themselves. If Chuck were my husband, I would tell him go and own it.
Wendy does not. She thinks their sexual behavior is outside the Overton Window – acceptable behavior in public discourse. And if Chuck makes their sex life public, he will not only lose but also will make them e a laughing stock. And while Wendy knows Chuck can take the humiliation, she actually thinks he partly needs it, she cannot live with it. Chuck will need to walk away from the race.
Cook lets Sara know Axe Capital is under some cyber attack. And once Mafee finds out about the “panic yard sale” Taylor decides to sell their natural gas positions to drive prices down and bleed Axe Capital. After their “virtual group high-five” later in the day, Sara asks Taylor the Russian word for God. They both know who is pulling the strings behind the cyber attack and creating an opportunity for them.
Checking their dad’s Untitled Lattice Fin Project, which we saw Douglas giving to Taylor earlier in the day, puts a smile on Taylor’s face. They want to raise capital for the project. Who knows maybe they need some old lungs to generate more revenue for TMC!
When Chris Sacca tells Rebecca he cannot back Axe since he dumped his shares in “Noon to Night” Rebecca has to “kill” the CEO on her own. And, man, she does it seamlessly! The CEO does not seem be intimidated first when Rebecca tells him Axe wants him gone. Axe is the Al Capone of Wall Street and does not have the credibility to convince the board. Oh, but how about Axe signing over his 11% to Rebecca who promises to use all her connections and credibility to get him out of his seat? Game over. The CEO agrees to step down with a $13M exit payment, Rebecca brings back 3 board seats to Axe one of which she is getting for herself and they can re-book their zero-gravity flight for 6 months later. And if these two are not soul mates who are? 😀 And is it me or it feels like a de javu hearing Rebecca say “you’re damn right, I am.” Axe certainly has a “type.”
Chuck is in the kitchen of Franceus Tavern, a historical tavern George Washington is known to have bid his troops farewell. And today Chuck will have the press here to bid them farewell and disappear from the political scene forever. Or not.
Chuck may be bending over for his own pleasure but he will not bend over for Foley’s. Instead he chooses to add to the history of the Tavern with his own historical speech. He starts with Churcill:
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
A prosecutor’s job is to dig deep and find what is under all darkness and Chuck will start now with shining light on his own darkness: He practices BDSM with his consenting wife. Bondage, dominance, whips, ropes, masks, pinches punches, what have you.
Chuck trusts his constituency can handle it. And while it would be great if they still voted for him, it would be the best if they told someone today about who they really are and felt more comfortable in their own skin.
My vote is for Chuck of Rhoades! As a voter, I think if this guy can tell people who want to control him to go fuck themselves now, he will tell them to go fuck themselves while in office.
Who else do you think is voting for Chuck?
It may be surprising for you all since I have always been Team Wendy but I am 100% with Chuck on this one. What Chuck and Wendy do in their bedroom is their business. And nobody, and especially someone as self-righteous as Foley, should be able to threaten Chuck for his consensual, if unusual, sex life.
And may I just say those Billions writers should be prophets or something? The embassy incident. Bezos. They wrote the scripts MONTHS before all these things happened. Now I cannot wait for the next Billions prophecy.
Wendy crashes the party as Chuck celebrates his exit poll numbers with his campaign team and she cannot take more Churchill. Chuck can shove Churchill up his ass and she believes he will fit 😀 Wendy is extremely concerned about what her colleagues, her friends, her parents and her kids will think of her. I am surprised that the woman who teaches everyone how to be thick-skinned does not seem to have the thick skin I thought she had.
On the other hand, Chuck’s new BFF is very happy with Chuck’s victory! And he delivers the most hilarious line of the episode:
“She’s gonna beat your ass for it.”
Well, Chuck already knows his marriage is in trouble but what he is curious about right now is the favor Axe will name.
As she deals with the shock, Wendy gets a Skype call from Taylor. Taylor, who knows what it means to be under public scrutiny because of who they are, is there to talk if Wendy is up for it. Will Wendy call Taylor back? Could this be the beginning of a beautiful friendship? Time will tell.
30 days later
The New York born and bred Chuck Rhoades is the new AG of New York. Alas, he does not have his wife standing beside him.
And when we find out about Chuck’s first order of business as the state AG we know why Axe wanted Chuck to win this office maybe more than Chuck himself did.
Andolov, whose funds Chuck seems to have frozen, tries to seduce the state AG with a potentially fruitful friendship. But Chuck is not interested in a real life “Lestat and Louis” with Andolov. His office has detected Andolov’s close relations with blacklisted governments and he now has 12 hours to leave town.
As Andolov and his family are boarding the plane that will take them to Russia, Axe shows up to give him a parting gift: Andolov’s funds in TMC will be unfrozen and given to him upon his landing in Russia.
Axe tells Andolov he should keep in mind that Axe can be scared but he cannot be scared off. And in case Andolov wants to settle further score with him, he will understand how isolated, protected, and a strong man Axe is. There is nothing he cannot do to defend what is his. Is it too good to be true or Andolov will really leave Axe alone if he stirs shit only in America? And if he will, now that Taylor’s guardian angel is gone, what is next?
Oh, and if you want to see the episode script written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, Koppelman shared a link on Twitter. ENJOY!
Teleplay for Overton Window (Billions 404) https://t.co/Ho1ZFVdkXF
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) April 12, 2019