May I just say I will miss Sundays? Thanks to Showtime releasing the new episodes Saturday at midnight, I adjusted my weekend program this year. I have watched the show two times until 2am and took notes. Then I slept on it and wrote all day Sunday taking a lot of pleasure in putting together what I see, what I read between the lines, and my favorite part, speculating (I have hits and misses!) about what could happen next in this crazy ride! I give standing ovation to all brilliant minds behind and in front of the camera for surpassing all expectations! And special thanks go to my husband for bearing with me for the last couple of months and keeping my mother, who has been visiting for the last six weeks, entertained Sundays! ❤️
While the season is coming to an end, we still have so much to say about it. We are currently updating the dining guide which we will publish next week followed by a FUN Best of Billions Season 4 post, a locations guide and much more. Hope you stay with us between seasons!
Advance Warning: This is the longest episode review I have ever written. But I feel all the feelings and have to get them out of my chest. Thanks for bearing with me. Love to you all!
Well, I cannot imagine a better title than Extreme Sandbox for Billions Season 4 finale where Brian Koppelman and David Levien play their own extreme sandbox pulling twists and turns at every opportunity. Spanning over an intense 48-hour or so period, and going into history as the TV hour during which I yell the most at my TV screen, this is the craziest ride ever!
We know Chuck has told Wendy he would not live without his BDSM way of life and so we find him this evening on a medieval-torture-equipment controlled by the dominatrix who visited him at home in Episode 6 Maximum Recreational Depth. While a worm may always be ready for the hook, Chuck feels he has not deserved his punishment yet. And, man, does he earn it or what in the next 60 minutes? 😀
Axe, on the other hand, is having a romantic evening with Rebecca. Drinking wine. Looking at Gauguin’s “Two Tahitian Women” and talking about art. It seems the originals Margolis has promised Axe now hang on the walls and I cannot help wonder if Rebecca knows they are the originals and the reproductions are in “permanent transit” state at Margolis’ freeport 🙂
We already know, thanks to the last scene in the previous episode, Axe may be cooking something where Rebecca is the potential collateral damage. And the moment Axe talks about the greats suffering more than others, you know he will be coming for her. Axe kindly asks Rebecca whether she can organize a “state changer” for Wendy: Maybe a spa retreat? His chopper is at their service. Ah, what a gentleman, you may think… for a second! Ah the bad man behind blue eyes?! Isn’t “Behind Blue Eyes” an amazing song selection here? Kudos!
The moment Axe says he is asking Rebecca to do this for him because he knows Wendy will benefit from her insights more than his, I yell at my TV:
“Don’t do it, girl. He is doing this just because his insights are needed elsewhere to bury your business.”
But, of course, Rebecca is clueless about the information Victor has recently brought Axe to use and destroy Taylor’s business with some significant collateral damage! And who can blame her for believing the man she loves?
Chuck comes home to find his wife packing for her day trip with Rebecca. Chuck knows Wendy could still not digest the fact that she is losing her medical license and promises that since they have not officially ruled on it yet, he would still work behind the scenes to save her license. And the next morning he tasks Allerd with finding what makes Dr. Zhang, the chair of the medical board, lighten up! The thing is that he is late. Sean Ayles has already found out about what can lighten Dr. Zhang up in his own father’s wisdom:
“Elbow grease alone won’t solve what elbow grease and a few silver coins will.”
The institutional lubrication Axe needs to provide makes him feel like he needs the lube himself, but he will do it for Wendy. So, you may again think what a gentleman… for a second! But when you stop and think: Remember, in season 2, Axe told Taylor the kind of giving he loves is the one that gives him back. And this one will give him back. Because once Wendy’s medical license is revoked, she will still perform as a performance coach but not as a medical doctor. This means her sessions with Axe Capital employees will not be protected under “doctor – patient confidentiality” Too much of a risk for Axe to take in case the company finds itself on the wrong side of the law again.
And I am not saying Chuck would not be able to handle the medical board, I am 100% sure Allerd would find something in Dr. Zhang’s past because everyone has something in their past. It is just that Chuck does not have the time to deal with Wendy’s problem today because he has his own headache in the form of Jock Jeffcoat visiting him.
Since Chuck had warned Jeffcoat about the shit train coming his way, Jeffcoat is now returning the kindness: They have a case that will ultimately take Chuck down and so he is here to give Chuck a chance to walk away. And as Jeffcoat describes how the case will make Chuck “loud as a cow elk trying to squeeze out breached twins” Chuck responds with his maternal grandfather’s wisdom and at the AG’s face… in Italian. Like Jeffcoat, I do not know what Chuck says but again like Jeffcoat I get the general idea. Besides, I know Vaffanculo, the last word Chuck uses, means “Fuck you.”
And, for those of you, that want to know more about Chuck’s rant to Jock, I asked Bryan Koppelman on Twitter:
No. Idiomatic Roman Italian
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) June 10, 2019
But still Chuck moves the shit train to get his father, who Jeffcoat has almost kidnapped, back! The Rhoadeses know Jeffcoat is coming for them. What we do not know at this moment is how prepared they are! 😀
As Rebecca leaves the apartment for her day adventure with Wendy, I feel heartbroken seeing her smile in the elevator. Too bad she does not know Axe as good as we know him.
We have four years of experience with Axe and know that loyalty is EVERYTHING to him. Besides, we all caught the side look he gave to Rebecca in Episode 11 Lamster when she told him about her new partnership with Taylor, didn’t we?
I tweeted about my concerns that night!
Loyalty is EVERYTHING for Bobby Axelrod. Now that Rebecca has cut a deal with Taylor, look at his face, I don't think Ken thinks highly of Barbie anymore. #Billions #DamianLewis #BobbyAxelrod #RebeccaCantu #NinaArianda pic.twitter.com/vltFk7yFYU
— Fan Fun Damian Lewis (@FanFunDamian) June 3, 2019
And, lo and behold, Axe is on the phone with Sanford Bensinger who we find out likes a good breakfast!
Clueless about what is coming their way, Taylor is talking to their employees about their own mistakes. In contrast to Axe who they never heard say “I was wrong” or “I am sorry” Taylor owns their mistakes and they are sorry. But now they are in a business partnership with Rebecca that should end Axe’s animosity against Taylor Mason Capital. And so they will now go back to their mathematical model and put the Q back in the “Quantitative.”
Taylor is not a dreamer. They certainly know Axe still hates them. But having diagnosed Axe’s structural weakness earlier aka his commitment to Rebecca, Taylor assumes Axe will not take any action to hurt his girlfriend. WRONG!
Bryan, on the other hand, is a dreamer. He is running his own Kamikaze mission and trying to convince Kate to give him the privileged parts of the tapes. While Kate sees the Jack Torrance kind of look in Bryan’s eyes, the US attorney denies seeing creepy twins riding Big Wheels! As Kate insists that him not hearing the privileged parts of the tape is good for EVERYONE, Bryan is not listening. But when he knows Kate will not go along, he gives a call to Jeffcoat for help and arranges warrants for a search in Chuck Senior’s as well as Secretary Krakow’s personal safes. Kate will personally handle the searches.
After his breakfast with Bensinger, which we don’t see, Axe visits Chuck at home to talk about, well, Silence of The Lambs 😀
“Look I got Taylor in the well, it has applied lotion from the basket. All that’s left is skinning.
So is this Axe and Taylor? Creepy. VERY CREEPY.
While Chuck is willing to do the skinning for Axe, he needs Axe’s help because it is him who knows Taylor and how they will move when desperate. So it is Axe who should tempt them — maybe with some former employee that he has let go in the past approaching Taylor with an opportunity too good to pass — and Chuck will take care of the rest. And we all know the former employee who fits the description, don’t we? 😀
Rebecca and Wendy experience Extreme Sandbox — filed under things that I never knew existed until Billions — where they drive construction equipment to literally move dirt and crush cars?!?! I have to say this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen — sorry, Rebecca! – but if it is working for Wendy’s healing then I am all for it! And later when they sit down for a few beers, Rebecca asks Wendy to read her:
“Most people let their childhood shit run them. You use yours to propel you.”
I cannot help wonder who Wendy has in mind as she talks about the people who let their childhood shit run them 😀 And one of them — I believe Axe’s obsession with loyalty goes back to his childhood where his dad left and never came back — is working behind the scenes to sell Rebecca’s company.
Axe, whose face speaks volumes as Rebecca opens the board meeting with a big smile, is there for the ultimate betrayal.
It turns out Axe has Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, the executive chef at Butter, to make pancakes for Sanford Bensinger which signals to the latter they will have a serious conversation. And my jaw drops as the two men talk about getting the chest of gold before Saler’s sinks to the bottom of the ocean and saving “kind-hearted and good” Rebecca. And then they just pass the syrup!
Axe interrupts Rebecca in the board meeting to make his point. Saler’s locations will be closed effective immediately. The real estate will be transferred to a real estate investment trust controlled by him and Bensinger and will be sold off at market value. The brands the department store carries, from clothing to shoes, to autoparts, will be spun off for top dollar to private equity buyers. Last but definitely not the least, the toxic debt Saler’s has will be dumped to Kling’s balance sheet and Kling’s will be put to Chapter 11 bankruptcy immediately! Oh, and Rebecca does not have any power as the CEO anymore. Bensinger has converted the debt Saler’s to him into shares with voting rights and he, together with Axe, convinced the other board members with a carrot — a one-time dividend payment from the sales proportional to your shares in the company — to move with them. Well, this is what Bobby Axelrod calls extreme sandbox! Why would you crush cars where you can crush people? Right?!?!
One minor detail that Rebecca genuinely cares about: How about the 50,000 employees? Oh they will settle with them about pensions and benefits. And Bensinger’s words speak volumes about why we are where we are today in America:
“I know people, and what those people will feel is: something’s better than nothing.”
And may I say Bensinger addressing Rebecca as “young lady” and sharing with her about him going from his paper route being stolen by a newspaper to owning that newspaper in the future (how similar his story is to Axe going from being insulted by Eads Senior to putting his own name on Eads Hall in Season 1 Episode 2 Naming Rights) makes me sick to my stomach? What a sexist expression implying that she is a woman who does not have the experience these two veterans have! So, pardon my Italian but Vaffanculo!
And now that I am done with Bensinger, I am turning to Axe! I do not know what the exact medical diagnosis is but I do not think Axe is right in the head. As a game theorist who studies rational behavior, I can certainly see his business decision to get rid of Saler’s is as rational as what Rebecca has made in her partnership with Taylor. But doing all this to the woman he thinks he loves in such a sneaky, cold and calculating way is SICK.
I do not believe Rebecca got into a partnership with Taylor only because she cared about her relationship with Axe. But I believe it was a significant factor in her decision since she saw early on that business is more personal to Axe than sex, and that a conflict of interest could shift their relationship quite quickly. Moreover, Axe repeatedly told Rebecca how much he admired Taylor. And finally Rebecca saved Axe from a professional suicide by getting into this partnership with Taylor because otherwise he was getting out of a lot of profitable positions just to help Rebecca buy her own house appliance company.
And how does Axe pay back? By lying in bed next to her and plotting his next move to ruin her business! Damian’s face alone deserves an Emmy here! I feel the cold that he talks about turning hot, to rage, there. He blows me away.
And his arrogance as he talks with Rebecca? OMG. Axe talks about the market calling Rebecca a genius now because of what he did. He talks about his romanticism, his plans about marrying her and having kids with her (he is again unilaterally deciding these things — how does he know if she wants to marry and have kids with him?) He tells her now they are even, both fucked over, and so they can see what is left between them.
“What is left between us is nothing.”
I recently took my mom to see her favorite show “My Fair Lady” (with a feminist ending I applaud) at Lincoln Center Theater. And as Axe gives his outrageously bullshit monologue, all I can think of is Eliza singing “Without You“:
There’ll be spring every year without you
England still will be here without you
There’ll be fruit on the tree
And a shore by the sea
There’ll be crumpets and tea without you
Art and music will thrive without you
Somehow Keats will survive without you
And there still will be rain on that plain down in Spain
Even that will remain without you, I can do without you
Mr. Axelrod, Rebecca Cantu can do without you!!!! And I cannot wait to write about the anatomy of this relationship sometime in summer. Stay tuned!
The bad news travels fast to Taylor. Given that their investors will walk away once they learn about Saler’s debt being dumped to Kling, Taylor knows they may not have a firm by the end of the day.
While Mafee advises to go the “Dog Flutie” route for a possible “Miami Miracle” Taylor does not believe in miracles. But they remember a text they have received earlier from a good friend of Mafee’s. We all know at this point Axe is coming for them hard while the “Sun God” is sitting at Saler’s board room and telling the state AG that it is time to put the cuffs on Taylor, but no charges, because this is how he wants it.
The arrogance in Axe’s tone with Chuck is even more palpable than that with Rebecca. You know Axe has been rubbing Chuck the wrong way for sometime now. And not only because he has constantly been trying to teach him his own job.
Axe cutting his vacation short to attend Wendy’s mock interview as well as Wendy’s schoolgirl-ish smile when she saw Axe and her trust for him have all been very hard for the insecure Chuck to swallow. Axe and Wendy’s special relationship has always been Chuck’s vulnerable spot. Besides, now that Axe is telling him he should go arrest Taylor rather than wasting his time does not sit well with Chuck at all!
Upon her return to the office, Wendy takes the most surprising phone call from Dr. Zhang. Because she willingly came forward and took responsibility for her actions, the board has decided not to revoke her medical license and give her a verbal warning. Wendy thinks she owes this miracle to Chuck. And guess what? Her husband does not deny it. But when she sees in the news that Axe has donated $25M to the Pancreatic Cancer Research Foundation, Wendy knows who got her license back. While it is surprising that Chuck tells his wife he did not even try to save her, because he did —he asked Allerd to look into Dr. Zhang — maybe it is just that Chuck is too proud to tell Wendy he tried but Axe got there first!
But the person who is in for the biggest surprise of the evening is Bryan. Bryan, who seemingly did the old prosecutor work, and got warrants for Kate to search Senior’s and Krakow’s personal safes, is using the time Kate is out of office to get into her office and hear the privileged part of the tapes. And his smile turns into terror in the blink of an eye. Because he is THE IDIOT.
Oh my god! Chuck’s long game is everything!!!!! And I am sorry but Bryan gets what he deserves!
It turns out Chuck has almost programmed Bryan to do all he did! I remember Lewisto, my husband, finding Chuck and DeGiulio meeting at Economy Candy as a weakness in the script. He has said Chuck would never meet at a public place like that because he knew he would be followed. And now he is sitting next to me saying “WHOA” because it was Chuck who wanted Bryan to see that and get the wiretaps so he and Senior can feed him whatever they want — from Senior’s imaginary loan problems to Chuck digging into mobile voting.
Moreover, when Chuck meets Krakow at Bruno’s back office in Episode 7 Infinite Game, he asks the Treasury Secretary to be a part of a sting operation against a corrupt member of Department of Justice! 😀 The contract Kate finds in Krakow’s safe is his agreement with Chuck to take part in this operation and what she finds in Senior’s safe is a picture placing Bryan in Senior’s house! Can it get more hilarious than that?
Oh YES IT CAN! As I focused on the cufflinks Bryan’s brother Jackie got from the safe, I did not focus at all on the flag pin Chuck gave to Kate! I thought it was a symbolic gesture. WRONG! And I am loving it! It turns out the flag pin is a recording device which Kate was able to put on Bryan’s jacket before he left to see Jeffcoat where he held Chuck Senior. And, so Jeffcoat’s ultimate Nixonian “if I order it, it is fucking legal” is on record now. So yeah Chuck has got Jeffcoat “right in the onions.” Checkmate! Hats off to Clancy Brown who has brilliantly portrayed Jock Jeffcoat but I cannot tell you how happy I am that the man who is the depiction of everything I dislike in politics is now gone! And this is, folks, what Chuck would call his Extreme Sandbox.
And while Chuck is surprised that Bryan has been so eager for tricks and even crime, I am not. As I wrote earlier in my Episode 8 Fight Night recap, It seems to me that the U.S. Attorney seat is like the ring in Lord of the Rings. Whoever sits on it has an unhealthy obsession with the “precious” and wants to keep it no matter what. Accordingly, Bryan has chosen to be Jeffcoat’s pet and is now paying for it. I am wondering what will happen to him now. My hunch is even if he does not go to jail, and even if he can practice law, he probably cannot have a job in the public sector anymore. So comes my billion dollar question: Would Axe l make a lion out of him? 😀
Better a lion for a day than a mouse for life…. https://t.co/lRSU36wIev
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) April 17, 2018
Taylor and Mafee find Rudy aka “the weak former employee” singing “Nessun Dorma” — an aria that has long been associated with the late tenor Luciano Pavarotti. Rudy talks about Nigerian oil warrants that do not really have a market. Only a few brokers handle them and they can set any price they want. So if Taylor Mason Capital invests a few million, in a week, Rudy can have them revalued and help TMC turn a 10M investment into, say, $200M. While the always earnest Mafee thinks it could be profitable for the company Taylor is skeptical. The aria Rudy is singing is one about someone keeping a secret. Maybe Rudy subconsciously signals to Taylor they should say no? And they do. But even their answer cannot save them from Chuck!
Because guess what? Thanks to a video malfunction(!) the state AG has only seen the parts of the video where Taylor and Mafee are listening to what Rudy has to say! But Chuck does not arrest Taylor because he now has other plans in mind.
“When I look at the shambles my life has become From my firing, to my public disgrace, to my election with strings attached, to the destruction of my marriage, to my family falling into disrepair Ah, did I make mistakes to cause it? Perhaps. But a truer reckoning is: it all tracks back to one source. One man. A man so corrosive, so virulently infective as to strip me of every good quality I ever had: my kindness, my empathy, my sense of justice. Maybe even my ability to love.”
Huh? As a guy who lets his childhood shit run him, Chuck is extremely insecure on one hand, and too arrogant to accept his mistakes on the other and the combination is quite unhealthy! Yes, Axe has been rubbing him the wrong way for the last couple of episodes, but it is Axe saving Wendy’s license through a $25M donation that brings Chuck to the edge. If Chuck wants to know who is responsible for the situation he is in, he should look at the mirror. He had better grow up and take responsibility like Wendy. And then he may magically feel like his old self again.
On the contrary, Chuck is determined to stay the course and makes an offer to Taylor! Axe wants Taylor to go back to Axe Capital and work for him again. How about Taylor accepting this job offer and helping Chuck to take Axe down once and for all? Ha!
Axe visits Taylor at the State AG office to tell them they are coming back to him. Taylor, even with their small company, was able to win against Axe several times, cost him his relationship and Axe wants them on his side. They do not have to be best friends, they do not even have to be friends, he only needs Taylor’s brain. Taylor can bring along their team and they will have will have a pre-set bonus so they will know where they will land from the get go. They will also have a signed document with Chuck that will have a timeline for the state AG to make what he has against Taylor disappear. And, no, Chuck is not a friend, he is just a useful tool.
Now that they know both men are lined up to get rid of the other, Taylor wants to use their sort of hostage situation for their own benefit. They will do their best to get both men get their guns out, and then get out of their way, and let them kill each other. And understanding that Wendy may be the biggest friction between the two men, I wonder if Taylor will use her to initiate and escalate the conflict.
Without knowing about Chuck’s thrilling victory against Bryan and Jeffcoat, and Axe’s seeming victory against Taylor, Wendy goes to the one person whom she trusts the most.
Axe has just deleted Rebecca’s number from his contacts and Wendy has just learnt her husband did not even try to save her license. They are both at their emotional lows — assuming Axe has emotion somewhere deep inside! And I am at the edge of my seat, maybe more so than I am during all other crazy shenanigans, as Axe and Wendy explore what options Wendy has to sleep in Axe’s apartment. And I am yelling at the top of my lungs:
“No, no, no, don’t do it!”
They do not. These two are true friends and I hope they stay the way they are. That said, while I do not get any romantic vibe from Axe when Wendy is concerned, I am not 100% sure about Wendy at this time. It could of course be her gratitude that might bring her to him but I just get some vibe from her that I cannot interpret.
Is she missing or longing for certain someone on the other side of the bed? And if it is her once strong marriage Wendy is missing, her husband, who has earned his punishment, is enjoying the pleasures, or should I say pain, of the medieval torture equipment!
As Axe welcomes Taylor and their team to Axe Capital with Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ “Peace, Love and Understanding” playing in the background, I cannot help think about his words to Rebecca earlier about Gauguin: That he was broke all the time with his creditors chasing him, he had a bad case of syphilis, and a tendency to marry teenagers. I just hope Axe does not end up like him. I am not talking about syphilis or teenagers.
It will be delicious to see Taylor doing their best to beat Axe and Chuck in their own game in Season 5! Best of luck! And yeah the wait will be long but we all know it will be WORTH IT!