As winter has arrived tonight, the level of intrigue, negotiation and backstabbing in the world of finance and law in New York is on par, if not higher, than what happens in Westeros. Axe and Chuck, the real-life dragons in disguise as human beings, forge on and give proper sendoffs to those who mess with them, making this episode my favorite this season!
While Jack Foley gets into the oven for cremation, a delicious-looking pizza gets out of the oven at Una Pizza Napoletana. Axe, Rebecca, Chuck and Wendy are having a private double date with chef Anthony Mangieri personally serving their pizzaz.
Axe makes a toast to the new State AG. We find out this is Wendy’s first night out in a month. She thinks this opportunity of great pizza in total privacy was too good to skip. And when Chuck says if the only way he could eat this pizza naked on Times Square, he would, Wendy puts him in his place immediately.
“Yeah you would. You might even prefer it. The problem is you’d make sure to undress me, too.”
Wendy’s rage is still very much alive after a month.
You know Axe and I rarely see things eye-to-eye but this is one of those moments: Chuck was in a tough position and did the only thing he could to defeat those who wanted to finish his career. While Axe’s words do not make a good impression on Wendy, Rebecca’s do:
“Most people are self-absorbed narcissistic assholes. So they might revel in your shit for a minute, because it distracts them from theirs. But after that minute, they’re gonna forget about you, just go right back to their own shitpile.”
Well, it was the powder room in Mad Men, but it is “a few drags” in Billions where the women disappear and the men talk shop 😀
Knowing his wife, Chuck is worried about his marriage. Axe, on the other hand, believes Wendy will come around. But yeah it took him a couple of millions, a piece of Axe Capital profits and giving up on the civil suit against Chuck to have Wendy back on his side again. And her anger lingered after her return to Axe Capital — Wendy refused to have sessions with Axe after she came back to the company. And while I still believe Chuck did the right thing when he revealed his sex life to the world, it is too hard for me not to get pissed with these two guys when they talk about how they care about the consequences of their actions?!?! I have two words for them: Ice Juice. And if it had not been for Wendy, I doubt the two men would have been able to dig themselves out of their own graves. They’d better get a grip.
It seems Axe does not want Chuck to worry about his marriage because he has a new project for him. Chuck has got rid of Andolov for him but it is still not bad enough. Axe now wants Taylor in a fucking cell?!?! Axe’s frustration is all over his face. Does this mean Axe has run out of moves to beat Taylor in the Games of Market? Is he that desperate to get rid of them ?
And while he agrees to help Axe, Chuck has other things in mind: Jack Foley may be dead but his collaborators are still alive and well in Albany.
The new state AG runs into the new SDNY US Attorney on his way to his new office. Bryan, who is into all things Japanese, presents himself as a Shinobi (aka as Ninja) who can get into the Shogun’s palace and cut his radial artery while he was sleeping, Chuck knows that Bryan cut his and yet he is still standing. So the US attorney not expect to get good cases from him.
Not too fast, Chuck!
Chuck arrives in his office only to get bad news. T’s request to file a records subpoena for Taylor Mason was rejected on the grounds that the office of the AG does not have the authority to do that. And Chuck knows it is not the governor’s “morning wood” but it is some “half-crow, half-cowboy, all son of a bitch.”
Chuck gets the details when he visits Governor Sweeney in Albany. Jeffcoat has threatened to freeze, delay and yank federal funds to the state unless the governor curtails the powers of the state AG — leaving no other option for Sweeney.
Senior calls a meeting at Duane Reade at 51 West 51st Street where he is picking up his “little blue helper.” And while no child wants to know about his parents’ sex life, Chuck finds out his mom and dad have not coupled since Tony Orlando made his last appearance on the Billboard chart – Google says 1979!
Senior knows Jeffcoat has “spayed and neutered” his son and is ready to shed some light on the current situation.
This exact location, Senior points out, was Toots Shor’s, a place where Albany power brokers hung out with mobsters and Broadway stars. More importantly, this was the place Senior met Black Jack for the first time. Foley was working on changing the the mayor of Utica. And he was not only able to make an incompetent man to be the mayor but he was also able to make the current mayor a lawn man!
Chuck gave the historical speech he gave last week to be a law man not a lawn man! So he asks his team to look into the New York State Assembly for misdeeds. And as soon as the list arrives, he sits with state senator Scolari at Donohue’s and succeeds in making Scolari not repeat himself for the first time! Black Jack is dead. Scolari’s name is on the misdeed list. So, yeah, times of tragedy may call for silence and sustenance… And adds Joe Scolari:
“Also a new spirit of cooperation.”
But this is Chuck and he does not leave anything to chance, does he? He seals the real deal with Sweeney at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament where the governor is getting ready to read his eulogy at Foley’s memorial. Now that Chuck has a list of misdeeds committed by the State Assembly, he has the numbers there to have his powers restored. But he is ready to make the governor a legend now if he is willing to sign the executive order allowing Chuck to begin the spring cleaning in Albany. Sweeney will be in the newspapers and Sunday shows for weeks. Now that is a carrot big enough for the governor to tell Jeffcoat to go fuck himself through his signature.
Chuck goes on the stage before the governor has the opportunity to do so. He is here to talk to his “Friends, Romans, and Countrymen” about the criminals and conspirators that infested New York politics. As the windbreakers storm the church and put the cuffs on Scolari and his corrupt colleagues, Chuck announces they will make corruption disappear from New York. A proper sendoff for Black Jack indeed 😀
And I cannot help give a little Damian Lewis trivia here: If you want to see a FANTASTIC “Friends, Romans, and Countrymen” speech, see Damian Lewis as Antony below in The Guardian’s Shakespeare Solos project.
As Chuck is giving a proper send off to Albany politics, Axe is giving his own to a young hedge-fund manager whose Business School education he funded. John Rice is the son of a former colleague who died in September 11 attacks along with many other colleagues.
John visits Axe to give him a check for $102 million – the capital Axe gave him when he started his own fund plus the profits he gained over the years. John has done as good as Richard Petty at Daytona and his assets have now hit the billion dollar mark. Axe is surprised John is spitting his money back at him like Furiosa did to Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road since it is very unusual to do so. John’s answer is simple. He wrestled at Princeton and he smashed it when he did it within his boundaries. And he got smashed when he became overconfident and bloated. So today he is writing checks to a couple of people. Yes, he is very grateful to Axe for all his help, but no, he is not taking the check back.
As soon as John leaves, Axe tasks Wags with finding out who else John has cashed out. And the answer does not make him happy:
Axe needs some Wendy time but he wears his therapist hat, too, since Wendy is in her office with her lights off hiding from everyone in the office. She is a private person who thinks her being exposed may in fact affect her ability to train and inspire the employees. Axe thinks differently:
“This makes you more of an exotic species they need to impress with their alpha dog energy.”
Ha! But Wendy wants him to cut to the chase. It is John Rice. Axe would typically destroy him immediately but he is not ready to do it because he has this sensation he cannot figure out.
Wendy is very clear: It is all about Taylor. Axe feels like one of his “kids” has just rejected him and does not know whether he could be responsible for the rejection. Yes he helped John with B-school and gave him capital to start his own fund but has he spent any time with him? Has he been the mentor he needed to be?
Axe now knows what to do but first things first: He tells Wendy they need her at Axe Capital. Who cares if people are talking or if anyone is talking about her sex life? She should not give power to them by staying in the dark.
This mutual therapy shapes the next few days for them.
Wendy is now hunting for Rudy’s social media password so she finds out what the people that matter, their enemies, are talking about her.
While we do not know whether the Opera LED Light and Galvanic Therapy Mask (Thank you, Jason Opland, for the information!) he is wearing will make Wags a baby Benjamin Button, we know that he can help Wendy with Rudy’s password: Nicole Aniston? No. Blair Williams? No. Cory Chase? Bingo. What a sad state someone should be in to make a porn star’s name his password? And aren’t Rudy and his wife having a baby?!?!
Axe visits John Rice Capital. How about a fishing trip in salty waters? And, oh no, this is not about the check John gave him but this is about Axe’s good heart feeling bad about not having been the mentor he needed to be for John? 😀 😀 😀 Off they go to the marina, get rid of their phones for the day and start on their bonding experience.
While John starts small talk, Axe is there for the real thing: They talk about John’s dad. He was Axe’s mentor at the old company. He was always the first to arrive at the office and asked for coffee without realizing nobody was there to do that. Axe used to go out and buy his coffee: Light and sweet. John’s dad liked it that Axe paid attention to details others did not. Oh, and he was a killer gin player.
In the meantime, something is cooking at Axe Capital. Spyros finds out all the prominent members of Team Axe are in the upstairs conference room, well, except for Ben Kim. And Wags tells Spyros they will call him when and if he is needed.
Axe and John catch fish, throw them back into the sea, have a couple of beers, and John finds out they are there because of the check! Axe advises him to check with Chris Webber before he calls Timeout. Business School and Christmas gifts were being nice but he invested in John’s fund because he saw something in him. But he now thinks John is afraid of being big and he does not like it. Axe has the check in his pocket, should he tear it up?
Then it is time to call it, but, hey, Axe cannot start the boat! And when he calls for help, he learns that even an offer of $100K cannot get him to the top of the towing line.
I have to say every time I see a boat in the middle of the sea, alone, I get some inevitable “Big Pussy getting whacked” vibes. Add to this John’s reference to Natalie Wood, and the episode title, and I am seriously concerned when it is truth time.
John spills the beans: He always knew his dad did not respect the way Axe handled business. And he knew about Axe’s situation on 9/11 way before the press broke it: Axe survived the attacks only because he was out meeting lawyers about his severance package – the firm was about to kick him out. John wanted to cut ties with him for a long time but he could not because he needed Axe’s money. But now that he is financially able, he wants no association with Axe.
These are words hard to swallow and I see pain in Axe’s eyes, at least for a second. But Axe will be Axe and as he starts the boat, we know and John knows he broke the boat deliberately. And when John tries to make amends when they are back, all he gets is a scoff from Axe. He tried everything to make John get the check back and he did not. So he will now face the consequences.
It turns out Axe disconnected the cables on the boat, and he called Wags, not the harbormaster. And as soon as they got the signal, they released an interview with Axe where he tells why he does not like John’s approach in trading and that he withdrew all his money from the company! And Spyros was called into the Wannsee Conference to be the “harbormaster” talking to the Vanquisher. And while John’s investors could not reach him on the phone due to obvious reasons, Team Axe (we can see why Ben Kim was not invited) reached out to them with carrots (“no fee until 10% profit”) and lies (I do not think John is getting a divorce) and lured them into Axe Capital. John now has to take an Uber back to the city and live with his big financial loss. As they would say in Westeros: You know nothing, John Rice.
While Axe has been handling one rebellious kid, Taylor, the most rebellious kid, has scored big.
We find Taylor under extreme pressure early in the episode because now that Andolov’s money has left TMC, their investors may have suspicions about the company’s stability. And while Mafee sees Taylor as Vincent Vega sees Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction, anyone?) – the smartest person in the room – Sara thinks they need to operate like Winston Wolfe, the fixer in Pulp Fiction. solving their dead body sheet problem.
So enters Lauren Turner, a young Investor Relations expert who is tending to her hangover with a bottle of pickle juice!
Lauren’s first task is to get an appointment with NY Firefighters Fund who is currently allocating up to $1.3B. And thanks to a night at Johnny Utah’s and a little help from her friends, Lauren is able to arrange a 10 minute meeting for Taylor.
Taylor breaks the bad news to Douglas that they need to bring in new money to support his “lattice grid fin” project which seems to be going fine. Taylor cannot fund the project now because profit margins in trading are small, and so they need size first to turn real profits. Everything depends on them bringing in new money.
And they do. Exactly like they went to the idea dinner and conquered the room, Taylor comes in front of the FireFighters Fund board and wins them over with their personal story. Their father made an important invention when he worked at an aerospace company, and what the company did to him was to ignore his contribution and value, and fire him. Taylor knows that what firefighters do are their contribution and value, and if the board is not careful, someone can steal it. Taylor understands it perfectly since their own boss tried to steal their contribution and value. And exactly like they did not let him do it, Taylor will not let anything like this happen to the Firefighters Fund. Cheers!
By the end of the day, Axe finds Wendy in her office with the lights on. Wendy has found out in her Google search that a lot of people are obsessed with her bustier and her whip — Axe admits he is curious about them, too — it started to mean nothing to her since she does not know them. Then she checked what the enemy has been talking and was surprised that while TMC employees were posting GIFs with Wendy’s head on Dita Von Teese’s body, Taylor told them to stop. Wendy thinks Taylor may see them as pathetic enough not to be a threat anymore while Axe thinks this is a call from someone who knows a thing or two about vulnerability. His verdict?
As Wendy calls Taylor to tell them they would like to talk, I am not able to read her. Could Wendy be thinking that because Taylor believes she is not a threat anymore she can manipulate them? Or now that she knows both Axe and Chuck are the same shit, could this call be the beginning of a beautiful friendship? Moreover, Axe now knows Taylor has approached Wendy to talk things over. And I wonder, once he hears about Taylor getting the NY Firefighters Fund, which should HURT him, whether he will ask Wendy to manipulate Taylor’s potential friendship to beat them at their own game.
Chuck has his powers restored but Chuck Senior is about to deliver him the worst migraine ever. Senior bribes Jake Biancarosa, a NY Department of Sanitation employee, to expedite the sanitation permits for his “Elysian Fields.” And when FBI Agent Dancshazy sees Senior’s permits, the SDNY summons Biancarosa immediately to ask about the details. Do Bryan and Kate plan a proper sendoff for Chuck? 🙂