Some people say my love cannot be true
Please believe my love, and I’ll show you
I will give you those things you thought unreal
The sun, the moon, the stars all bear my seal
N.I.B – Black Sabbath
Welcome to the Trader’s Desk, where a refreshed and relaxed Lady Trader is ready to dive in to “American Champion”.
This week, Billions almost seemed like an episode of the Love Boat, in that we had stories about couples. Let’s look at some of these (surprising) pairings:
Wendy wants Chuck to get the Medical Board to drop its investigation into her. She doesn’t want Chuck the Lawyer, or even Chuck the Husband, but Chuck the Killer! If Chuck can do this for Wendy, it will go a long way to start repairing their marriage, according to Wendy. Chuck wants a promise, but that is not what Wendy is dishing out; she is commanding Chuck to make a “selfless act”, while this ask is completely selfish! The Killer Chuck that Wendy has vilified in the past? Well, Wendy’s standard fluctuates as the need arises (as I have been saying for years!). “Kill for me, not for thee” is the motto of the day.
Chuck is a bit confused. Wendy can’t just pick and choose the traits she wants in him, when she wants them. Being in a relationship means accepting your partner for who they are, just as you would want them to accept you. Since Wendy has no idea who she is anymore, it’s not surprising she does not really know what she wants from Chuck. Right now, she sees Chuck as a tool to help her try and get back to who she used to be, and being a medical doctor is important on that journey. The problem I see is even if Chuck can fix this whole Medical Board situation, the only person who can get Wendy back to who she was and wants to be is Wendy herself. She is lost, and she is the only one that will be able to find her way back.
Chuck tries to do what he’s told; even going to visit his old friend Dr. Gilbert in prison for help, but that goes nowhere. Chuck being Chuck, he gets himself in a showdown with Connerty, via Jeffcoat. In a deal that could save Wendy (and Chuck Senior) Chuck says “No Deal”! He chooses to continue to hunt his White Whale, Jeffcoat, instead of helping Wendy, and then lies to her about it! When and if Wendy finds this out, the shit is going to hit the fan! Will Axe be the “killer” Wendy needs to help save her medical license? Perhaps, but this marriage, in my opinion, is in its last stages. Two individuals who are only looking out for their own self-interests does not make a lasting relationship. While this couple withers on the vine, a few others are blooming.
Rebecca and Axe are bonding over one of the strongest things they have in common – business. Standing in front of Rebecca’s newest business deal – Saler’s Department Store – they discuss Rebecca’s vision for the store. When she can quote Hoffa, the smile on Axe’s face is almost childlike! Has he finally found the ying to his yang?
Rebecca is going to make a lot of changes to the business, so she needs to show some stability to the Street by keeping the Board intact. That may be easier said than done.
At the Saler’s Board Meeting, Axe and Rebecca find out that two of the Board members have sold their shares for a nice premium, even before hearing Rebecca’s plans to overhaul the business. They don’t want to reveal who they’ve sold to, but a threatening Axe is hard to refuse.
The buyer of the shares is none other than Taylor Mason. The Board knows about Taylor’s meeting with Bensinger, and knows their combined shares will control the Board. Rebecca has to postpone the meeting until she can reconstitute the Board and plan her next step. She has an amazing weapon in her arsenal – Bobby Axelrod!
When Rebecca finds out that Axe knows Bensinger, she makes a very un-Axe-like suggestion – maybe they can “sue for peace”? That’s not going to be possible since Bensinger would like Axe’s head on a spike! No negotiations; it’s time for Axe to give a little payback. This scene really shows the different approaches Axe and Rebecca have towards a problem – one would use a scalpel, the other a hatchet! But, this power couple can make anything happen – together!
Axe finds Bensinger’s weak spot: Bensinger wants to buy the Chrysler Building to keep it out of Chinese hands. Axe sends Wags on a mission: buy the Chrysler Building, and that is just what he does!
That move gets Axe just what he wants – Bensinger into Axe Cap. Axe will sell the building to Bensinger, at cost, as long as he backs Rebecca instead of Taylor. Rebecca has been waiting in the wings and now comes through to lay out her vision for Saler’s to Bensinger. She wants this to be her legacy – to show that a little girl can dream and make it come true. Rebecca plays to Bensinger’s love of Americana, and states how she will keep Saler’s “America”. The look on Axe’s face while Rebecca is giving her pitch is one of pride, admiration, and respect. He sees all that Rebecca is: smart, passionate, straightforward, and above all, a great business woman. What is not to love?
Axe even volunteers to step off the Board so that Rebecca and Bensinger can be the ones to work on the plan. Rebecca adamantly refuses; she wants and needs Axe to help her steer this plan. Axe seems taken aback. Is it that someone is truly saying they need him – his mind and his expertise – not just his money? Whatever it is, it is enough to impress Bensinger; their “strength and loyalty” seal the deal. Bensinger wants the combination of Rebecca and Axe (ReAxe) to take this forward. He will not go with Taylor, and this power pairing is on a roll. This is a duo of equals, who compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and I love it. I don’t know how long this love fest will last (and we all know Billions is not a “happily ever after” type of show), but I’m here for it!
Taylor knows Rebecca is Axe’s main squeeze and wants to make life as difficult as possible for her on her first day as CEO of Saler’s. Taylor doesn’t really care about Saler’s or Rebecca for that matter; this is all about getting at Axe. (Oh how the student has learned so much from the master!!) TMC has bought shares, but not enough to be a force on the Board yet. As Lauren states, buying more shares on the open market will cause the share price to rise. However the biggest debt holder on Saler’s is Sandy Bensinger – old enemy of Axe and the man who denied Axe his NFL team! If Bensinger converts his debt into shares, then backs Taylor, TMC becomes a threat to Rebecca and Axe. Lauren is a step ahead, and has got a way to get to Sandy. She has set up a meeting for “breakfast for dinner” with Landry, Sandy’s son, and Taylor at the Kellogg’s Store in Union Square.
Lauren tells Taylor the way to make this meeting a success with Landry is for them to “be yourself”, something Taylor is usually not comfortable with. Lauren trusts and believes in Taylor, and knows they’ll do fine on the fly.
Taylor does a great job and Landry will set up a meeting with his Dad. Lauren’s insight into not taking Landry to a bar has paid off. Taylor tells Lauren it was very risky in going “off book and not telling me”, but Lauren had faith in Taylor. She knew they would “crush” the meeting. Lauren loved seeing Taylor be quick on their feet and “come alive” when faced with the challenge. Taylor is happy Lauren is paying such close attention. Lauren then takes a bigger risk – she leans in and kisses Taylor! This is a dicey move because if the feelings are not reciprocated, boy will it be awkward! But Lauren is good at reading people, so she made the right move; Taylor, who has been emotionally beat up for a while, enjoys the intimacy, and kisses Lauren back.
After spending the night together, they walk into TMC with looks like the cat that swallowed the canary. Taylor thinks they may have broken “some rules” but for Lauren, that is what made it so much fun. Lauren would like to keep this just between them, and definitely keep it from Sara. I believe there is an attraction between Taylor and Sara, and Lauren probably sees it as well. No need to get the person who hired you pissed because you stole their crush! Sara is a good COO, and is in the office early too. She overhears the last part of this conversation. What don’t they want Sara to know? Taylor, being quick on their feet again, praises Lauren’s ability to get the Bensinger meeting without bars and shots. Lauren says she needs to keep her reputation as a party girl intact, so that is the big secret.
After Axe and Rebecca make their play, Lauren and Sara tell Taylor that Bensinger is going with Rebecca. Taylor is disappointed, but now knows just how emotionally committed Axe is to Rebecca, and will use that against him in the same way Axe used Taylor’s feelings for their Dad. Taylor has now become more like Axe – making decisions based on emotions, which rarely work out well. Oh and Bensinger? Taylor channels Arya Stark and states that “he just added himself to my fucking list!” If Taylor is as successful as Arya, then look out! It will be interesting to see if Lauren likes this side of Taylor as much as she likes the “Spock” like side.
Dollar Bill-Bonnie (BilBo):
I know what it is like to be one of the few ladies in a male-dominated profession and office, so I totally feel Bonnie and her frustration at getting unwanted male attention. But is all of it really that unwanted?
After an awkward coffee voyeur experience with Spyros, Bonnie gets a visit from Dollar Bill. He feels they have a “vibe” after their interaction in the meditation room preparing for his boxing match, and wants to explore it some more. He asks Bonnie out, and she doesn’t really say no, just does a Bonnie and insults him! (I will freely admit that I didn’t really like Bonnie at first, but now I love her. She is exactly the chick I would hang with at the office – she’s a “guy’s girl”, just like me!) Bonnie needs to figure out her feelings and vent, so it’s off to Wendy’s office.
Wendy has noticed the bees around the honey as well. Does Bonnie want advice on how to let Bill down without messing up the work relationship? No, in fact, surprise, surprise, Bonnie wants to know how to have something with Bill and not mess up the work relationship! Wendy asks the right question: is Bonnie interested in love or sex? Before she can answer, Ben Kim barges into the office. He has heard about the secret, elite Flagship Fund that the regular Axe Cappers are not a part of. This fund makes 3 times the returns the known fund does, and Ben Kim is angry that he (and Bonnie) are not privy to it. Wendy convinces him to let go of his anger (and sidesteps the question if she is in the fund!), but now Bonnie has info because: a secret known by more than 2 people is no longer a secret – it’s intel! Bonnie is smart and tough so she knows exactly what she is going to do with Bill. She leaves Wendy’s office and whispers into Bill’s ear that they are on for their date!
At Bury the Hatchet in Brooklyn, Bonnie and Bill are tossing axes (is there a double meaning there?) and drinking beer, which I don’t really think is such a good combination! Bonnie is using her flirting skills and Bill’s attraction to pump him for more info on the Flagship Fund. He is very surprised Bonnie knows about the fund:
“The first rule of Flagship is you don’t talk about Flagship!”
Bonnie gets the information she wants: The Big Three (Axe, Wags & Wendy) along with Bill are invested in the fund and the rewards are “big enough to afford 2 families”! The date is a success!
Bonnie is going to use her new info to stir the pot with her fellow Axe Cappers. It’s like she is trying to start a wildcat strike (and I know all about those, because my Dad was famous for doing shit like this on his construction sites!).She is leading the group to state their demands about the Flagship Fund, but not to the Boss; Bonnie is too clever for that. She needs someone who has Axe’s ear and is expendable. Who is the perfect person that fits that description? The non-Wilbury himself, Ari Spyros! Bonnie’s smooth talk convinces him he is the man for the job, and off they go.
Ari takes the group’s demands straight to Axe, and is of course, shot down. Axe is now going to close the Flagship Fund for good. But Bonnie will not quit after this attempt. She is like a dog with a bone on this.
Axe needs to find out where this all stemmed from, and confronts his troops (and their new mascot, the inflatable rat!). After a round-robin of questions, the launcher of the chaos grenade is uncovered: Mafee! During a NY Urban Professionals basketball game (this is a real league – my partner played in it for many years) Mafee dropped the nugget about the Flagship Fund to Danzig, who then spread it around like measles! The palace coup has failed for now, but Axe sees something in Bonnie during this campaign – a leader that TMC would love to poach.
As a matter of fact, TMC has already reached out to Bonnie. And if Taylor sees value in her then Axe must keep her! He will re-open the Flagship Fund (under a new name) and put Bonnie in it. In a purely “fuck you” moment, while Bonnie is meeting with Taylor, she puts Axe on FaceTime to be the one to tell Taylor Bonnie is very happy where she is and is staying. Its very 3rd grade, but it is funny!
Bill is in the Axe Cap parking garage sitting in his Dodge Mini-van (he is a family man, after all!) waiting for Bonnie. He confronts her: no one plays Dollar Bill Stearn! And to top it off, Bill is out of the new Fund, while Bonnie is in. Don’t mess with Bill’s coin!
Bonnie has a confession: she didn’t just go out with Bill to get the lowdown on the Flagship Fund, heck it wasn’t even the main reason. Bonnie tells all by planting a kiss on Dollar Bill, taking the keys to the mini-van, opening the door, and as we say in Brooklyn: jumps his bones! Bow chicka wow wow! For some reason, I don’t see this couple lasting as long as some of the others!
So much to look forward to coming into the home stretch of this season! We’re off next week, but buckle in – something tells me the final three episodes are going to be a bumpy ride!