We continue to award our Most Valuable Players for Billions season five in a compilation post called the ‘Billions MVP Fanbook,’ which commemorates all those in honor of achievement for the utmost brazen, uber shameless, ultra scheming, unmatched bad asses to date – from sports references, music and tasty food to pop culture remarks, shocking twists and ultimate paybacks. In case you missed it, here are the MVPs for episode one, episode two, episode three, and episode four.
Let us continue with that tradition as we award our Most Valuable Players (MVPs) this week. Here are the Billions MVP awards for Season 5, Episode 5, “Contract.”
Wow, okay…where to start? I think this was my favorite episode thus far this season, mainly because it took a deep dive into Axe’s upbringing and family life. There’s a lot to unpack and therefore a lot to award.
Most Shocking Twist – Axe’s father is alive!!! I knew his father had “left” the family long ago and that there was strife, but without any more details to go on and because Axe admitted to both Wendy and Lara that he cries sometimes watching videos of service men returning home from duty, I assumed his father was not coming back, ever. Because Axe crying at ‘returning fathers’ was maybe an indication his father would never be able to return, possibly due to death. Not the case at all! His father is a grifter with a gambling addiction (he has a notion for card rooms) and seems to be an alcoholic (the way his car would pull into the driveway at night, or the way his keys would jangle searching for the lock). His father is very much alive because Axe’s mother admitted she recently gave dear old dad the Lexus that Axe himself bought for his mother. Axe threatens to cut his mother off. Axe is angry.
Significant Storyline – Bobby’s childhood was fraught with domestic violence. No wonder he would spend his free time away from home or outside shooting hoops on the side driveway. While sitting on his childhood bedroom floor, Bobby spoke to Wendy of acting as a buffer between his mother and abusive father, trying to divert his father’s attention away from her and onto him. He became the protector. There is sometimes role reversal between a child and parent in a dysfunctional home where the child is forced to mature faster than the average child. The parentified child takes on household and financial responsibilities beyond the normal means expected for a child at his/her age. Bobby did just that – he became “the man of the house” – working summers at the Country Club, barely scraping by, and eating for free thanks to Bruno. Remember in a previous season when Axe stormed the Yale Club and yelled at Chuck that he knew nothing of having to grow up fast, having to earn without a silver spoon in his mouth, and nothing but empty space where balls should be clanking around down there.
Best Payback – Axe. He found that Lexus car his mother gave to his father and had it flattened in a car crusher at the scrap yard, then had the compacted block of metal delivered back to his father’s house like a pepperoni pizza just ordered from Dominos, only the pepperonis were Lexus emblems.
The Billions writers were purposeful in not giving Axe’s dad a name or a face. But how cool would it be if Axe’s father was played by Bruce Dern!
As Axe and Wendy watch the mangled car delivery from afar, we as the audience witness probably the best emotive acting by Damian Lewis since that Brody scene in Homeland (season two, episode five) – Axe’s face contorts into a snarl with upper lip quivering and nostrils flared. You can almost hear the panther’s growl.
The Punch Gets Usurped – So Bryan Connerty is back this episode, only this time in a jumpsuit and shackles and he spoke no words at all! Instead he punched Chuck in the eye before being dragged back to his cell.
The punch award (the trophy Axe threw in the trashcan that Mafee/Dollar Bill gave him in season one) is officially usurped from Axe and given to Bryan. Remember when Axe punched Bruce in season one, episode seven? WORTH IT!
Cutest Couple – Ben Kim and Tuk make the cutest couple; too bad it’s fake. I need more Tuk cuddle noises and at least Ben wouldn’t ghost Tuk.
Wondrous Pop Culture Reference – This award goes to Capitalist Douche Winston for nicknaming newly hired Rian as ‘Gal Gadot’s quirky sister.’ #WonderWoman
Food for thought: Is Gal’s Taco Algo the next Ice Juice play?
Supreme Spyros – Spyros looks like he just got back from the haberdasher with this top hat attire he’s donning. Axe compares him to a butler but I kept waiting for him to pull a rabbit from under that topper. Add a teacup and he’s the Mad Hatter. Or in this case, a cappuccino cup.
Twice Throwback Award – Wendy when she told Winston “Dave Mustaine thought he would return to Metallica.” This is a throwback to season one when Axe went to a Metallica concert and also season two when he wore a Megadeth concert tee. Mustaine started out in the band Metallica but left and co-founded heavy metal band Megadeth.
Fraternal Twins Award – Wags and Leah Calder. While Wags was preening in his deep navy pinstriped suit with a bold yellow paisley tie, they both wore the same shirt to the same meeting – a blue and white striped button down with contrasting chalk white collar. Albeit Leah’s collar was popped and Wags’ collar was tacked down with a collar pin/tie bar. They would have gotten the Identical Twins Award if their stripes were the same exact inches apart. And if we’re picky, Leah’s shirt is blue with white stripes and Wags’ is white with blue stripes.
Cutest Moment – Chuck Senior
Awwww <3 It seems Roxanne certainly got her Build-A-Bear going to Build-A-Bear for little Willow!
Consummate Comeback Kid – Jackie Connerty
No, I am not talking about Bill Clinton. I am talking about Jackie Connerty.
Jackie came a long way from being a troublemaker ex-convict: He has agreed to use his very special skills to help the NY State AG, had his inmate brother move to a more comfortable correctional facility, set up Chuck so Bryan could give him a punch in the eye, and got the girl, too!
Peerless Precog – Chuck
I have to disagree with Ms. Calder: This is actually Minority Report at its best since Chuck, the peerless precognitive, looks at pictures of Jackie at a Bugatti dealer and foresees that the ex-convict is there to case the place! And now Chuck is will stop a grand auto theft from happening only to have Jackie commit another crime!
Most Fascinating Arousal Template – Kate
When Kate had a fling with Bryan in Season 1, I remember her telling him in Episode 11 Magical Thinking that she wanted to do “something dangerous” and the two ended up in Coney Island Luna Park late at night, played with firecrackers and were chased by the night guards.
So even though she always does the right thing and keeps a very clean track record, Kate has a soft spot for danger. And it seems she has an even softer spot for men who could speak Italian! When you put two and two together, an ex-convict speaking Italian is the perfect date for the future congresswoman!
Oscar-Worthy Cinematography – Ari Spyros
And the Oscar goes to… Ari Spyros for trying to go for a Dog Day Afternoon vibe with the footage under dire conditions – well, he needs to pretend he is a bank customer at the same time he films with his phone hidden in the palm of his hand! Oh, and also for his contributions for sending Vark Community Bank to where it should… Hell!
Most Heart-Breaking Story – Bobby Axelrod
Axe grabs this award from the hands of Chuck who has been holding it for a while with his “Pancake Eater” Story!
Think about it: A boy understanding the evening will turn bad from the way his dad’s car gets into the driveway and his keys jangling at the door. A boy trying to distract his dad with a fight he had or a kid’s ass he kicked that day (probably the only things this kind of dad would see as an accomplishment!) so he does not beat his mother… And doing it all knowing that it will eventually happen… My heart goes out to this boy who was able to pull himself out of this deep shit and I completely understand that he does not want anyone to live in this toxic house where he used to go out just to breathe!
Damian Lewis deserves standing ovation for his acting in this scene. He was born to play broken souls.
Damnatio Memoriae Award – Axe’s Father
For those of you that are not familiar with the concept: Damnatio Memoriae or “condemnation of memory” indicates that a person is to be erased from official accounts like he never existed. A great example comes from Ephesus after Herostratus set fire to the Temple of Artemis. with the intention of being famous. The Romans, who viewed this as a punishment worse than death, adopted the practice.
Based on the story Axe shares with Wendy, his father totally deserves this award. Some fans were talking on social media earlier this week about who would play Axe’s dad. Honestly, I do not think we will ever hear his voice, see his liking, or know his name. Axe has already sent him a clear message – the destroyed Lexus – about what will happen anytime he tries to take a chip off what Axe has. So I believe the old man knows it is time to leave New York.
Like Gingersnap, this was my favorite episode so far this season, and not just because it is maintaining two running themes I have loved so far …
Weekly Godfather Reference – I don’t know what has gotten into the writers here with their continual references to the greatest movie pairing of all time, but I’m certainly not complaining. This week it was Chuck Sr getting into the act, playing with his baby girl. As soon as he put the orange slice in his mouth, I knew it was trouble. Anyone who has ever watched the Godfather movies knows the danger of oranges – whenever one Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) ate an orange, something bad happened. And his deathbed scene was eerily similar to Chuck Sr’s scene. Thankfully, Chuck survived it.
Weekly Song I like To Play – it is uncanny how each week they have managed to use a song that I not only love, but also have played before (like, as in, performed). And a second straight week of Neil Young! Listen to the story of the song from Neil himself, and the signature choppy guitar playing. Such a great song. And so beautiful at the end of this episode, pitting the song against the two old men, Chuck Sr and the Senior Axelrod.
Most Disappointing Cameo – Bryan Connerty. I was all excited when I saw that Toby Leonard Moore was coming back in episode 5. I couldn’t wait to see how they were going to bring him back into the storyline. I have always liked his character – even his fall from grace last season. And he’s too good a character to just lose completely, so I was in great anticipation of what they would do with him. And what did we get? A punch in the jaw? Eh. Maybe they will do more with him in season 6?
Most Questionable Paper Football Moves –
I have three issues with the Tuk/Spyros paper football battle:
1 – Goal posts should be on the ground, not in the air:
2 – You don’t use a standing block to kick, you just use the table!
3 – Unbeknownst to many, the ideal way to kick a paper football is not this:
The best way is to place the long end (the hypotenuse) on the table and kick the full face of the football. This applies a greater force to a larger part of the football, resulting in greater distance (and accuracy). Believe me, I have played many games of paper football in my life and have tried all the methods. This one works best. Knowing that, you can now fleece the Ben Kims of the world of all those bills he had waged on this contest. (We played for dimes and nickels in my day).
Fanboy/Girl Moment – Wendy and Nico both offered up fangirl/fanboy moments when they would not know how they would react when encountering certain celebrities. For Wendy one of hers is US National Women’s Soccer Team star Megan Rapinoe.
For Nico one of his is Henry Aaron, one of the greatest sluggers in MLB history.
And Nico says that when he actually met Aaron, instead of playing it cool, he totally geeked out and asked him to sign his cap.
I can appreciate that – I had a similar moment last summer when I went to Broadway and saw Tootsie, and got to meet the amazing Sarah Stiles
According to my friend that was with me, I totally geeked out. So I appreciate Nico’s reaction. I’ve been there.