This fast-paced and very clever Billions episode gives us an extremely fun and most Billions-y hour this season. All the characters have to read their opponent and make decisions very fast. It is like watching a wild boxing match – punch, punch, punch, and a big knock out. That said I am sure there will be a thrilling rematch!
It has been 24 hours since they acquired a bank. However, it seems Axe is focusing on everything but the bank!
We know that, after Bruno retired and moved to Florida, Axe has adopted a new pizza place, Una Pizza Napoletana, and we saw him in Season 5 Episode 6 The Nordic Model making a business offer to Chef Anthony Mangieri and his TV cousin Domenick who has a degree from NYU Stern.
“The freezer section. We start there. Best frozen pie ever. Then the sauce. Gelato. We roll out the complete line. The whole Una food experience — but at home.”
Now, Anthony and his cousin are down in Florida anxiously waiting for Bruno’s verdict while Axe is joining them on Zoom. And Domenick is about to have a heart attack since they have 100K frozen pies on a ship from Italy!
“Holy Shit! Oh, kid! You did it!”
And we know that Genio della Pizza is a go! I so wish that this storyline had been real so we could all buy Chef Mangieri’s pies at a local store – not the first best but believe me, it would be the second best. Cent’anni!
Axe’s heart is absolutely in this pizza company because it turns out that he has given generous ownership rights to his partners. Well, Bobby loves his pizza men, he sees them as true artists as they are and help them to flourish. You know what? I have just realized I call him Bobby only when he does something good – like this. This is the Bobby Axelrod I came to like…
But now he is Axe again, the worst version, too – the one who is obsessed with his enemy. Axe is on the phone with Jay-Z talking about getting rid of Prince’s conference “The Mike” and creating something new – a real “Black Swan” event. And here is Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who Axe wants to meet, explaining what a “Black Swan” event is.
And when Wags tells him that he would better focus on the bank, and not on the Mike, Axe is a complete asshole to him.
But I have to jump in here to share a fun Jay-Z trivia!
Did you know that the Jay Z album Magna Carta… Holy Grail, had a track “F.U.T.W. (F… Up The World)” with the lyrics going on like this?
Feeling like a stranger in my own land
Got me feeling like Brody in Homeland
On Jonathan Ross Show, Damian jokingly reveals that he knew he made it “across the pond” when he found out about the Jay Z song:
“He referenced Brody in one of his songs which was… I don’t know, if you want to arrive anywhere, that’s where you want to arrive isn’t it? In a Jay Z song.”
And when asked if he had spoken with Jay Z about the song, Damian answers with a laugh:
“It’s ‘Jay’ now between us two but no, no I haven’t.”
Back to the episode: You know it is serious when Wags comes across as the voice of reason! And he is. Mike Prince had to cancel his upcoming conference because people are running away from him like the plague and he has also been terminated as the public face of the Haiti earthquake relief charity Shake the Quake (remember Axe was in the exact same situation after people found out what he did on 9/11!) yet it is still not enough for Axe.
“He’s not dead until I say he is.”
Axe loves playing the God, doesn’t he?
The guy, who is dead when Axe says he is, is now talking to an investor who wants to pull his money from his company. While Prince starts with his flawed people may be the great hope for the future blah blah he has to finish with some Axe-quality threat with a little help from Van Halen.
“On every wall and place, my fearsome name is heard.”
And he does it in front of his employees, too – deliberately to restore trust in the company and himself so they don’t run away like Axe’s employees running away to set up Ionosphere). As the investor decides to stay for now, Scooter is about to frame and hang Prince’s “The Big Cat Ernie Ladd” level speech on the wall. But Prince feels dirty. Bullshit. He may now feel dirty and has to go face his demons, he still tells Scooter he sees the appeal in what he wants to do and lets him exercise his however he wants. This is nothing but Prince is leaving the dirty stuff for Scooter to deal with.
Prince looks like a man in a confessional as he is sitting in Mrs. Fells’ living room. And I hope you have noticed that Mrs. Fells does not hand the water glass to Prince but just leaves it on the coffee table for him to take!
And the story he tells Mrs. Fells about that last night he was with David… How happy David was about their upcoming Rio trip and the next company they would create together, while all Mike was thinking about was he wanted it all for himself… Poor little Mikey!
Prince may be giving a good enough performance that could make many believe that he could only be a monster from Monsters, Inc. but, no, I am not buying it. How dare he comes to visit Mrs. Fells to ask her what he can do for her?!?! The nerve! David has been dead for decades and has Prince ever called Mrs. Fells just to ask how she was doing during that time, or would he have ever called her if what he did to David had not become public? If this is not a monster, who is???? Axe at least admits he is a monster. Prince is in total denial of who he is.
Mrs. Fells, who refuses to get any help from Prince, gives him advice that sets the tone for the rest of the episode.
“Stop ruining good people because you think you are better than them. You are not better than anyone.”
As Prince, in his own words, is butchered Apocalype Now-style (it is here but pretty graphic!) in New Castle, Indiana, Scooter is all about exercising his demons to stop the next global food brand from happening. He buys the shipping company supposed to deliver Axe’s frozen pies to New York and stops the ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!
Yet, Scooter does not know who he is dancing with! Wags, who is determined to serve the pizza on time, he solves the problem with the critical element and $10M from Axe: Buying the necessary Italian ovens and hiring a small army of workers in a warehouse. And, lo and behold, Scooter is lost for words when he sees Wags tasting some Genio della Pizza in his local Morton Williams 🙂
Prince is back in town, with Mrs. Fells’ advice in his ears, to clear his conscience. He will sell all the impact companies he owns because they may now lose reputation and value because of their affiliation with Prince. It is such a selloff, and Prince is only selling to sell, where Rian and Taylor see a huge opportunity! Bad news is they need to ask the boss since this is outside the Mase Carbon “guidance” but the good news is Taylor knows how to sell it to Axe – buying Prince’s shares gives Axe Cap a huge advantage!
But if only the boss is willing to hear them… OMG. Axe plays both Taylor and Wendy on Zoom!
Axe is obviously aware that buying Prince’s shares will be profitable for Axe Capital. But he still tells Taylor not to buy Prince’s shares; on the contrary, he asks Taylor to sell everything that overlaps with what Prince is selling, increasing the supply on the market and making all those impact companies worthless! Axe pretends to come around when Wendy supports Taylor – probably to make sure Taylor and Wendy do not monitor the Axe Cap moves, and he calls Mafee to let him know that his moment of reckoning is now and tasks him with selling, yes, SELLING, all the company shares that he told Taylor to sell earlier. Axe Capital is losing more than Prince does in these trades just for Axe to have a laugh? Isn’t he playing the God again here? INSANE. BRUTAL. INHUMAN.
Axe then turns to Wendy about how Tanner is doing. Wendy hesitates probably because she knows Axe will interfere with Tanner’s work. And he does when she finally spills the beans: Tanner is a bit off. He has taken a commission from that collector Lisa, had dinner with some other collector, too, and that he is looking at some real estate in Vermont… Well, Axe is ready to offer his helping hand just to take the pressure off… How about him giving his two paintings to Lisa the collector, and Tanner paints two more for him? So Axe would play with Tanner’s cash flow in this scenario but hey he is a mortal, right? I have to say I am, probably for the first time in five years, pissed with Wendy. I know that she is genuinely concerned for Tanner because he has been changing since he started to see money as freedom – which surely has a truth to it.
Here is my question: why is it be okay for Wendy to fine tune Axe Cap employees so they focus on making money and more money and receive a $9M bonus in return while it is not okay when Tanner needs a new commission to afford some land in Vermont?
I am sure Wendy knows that Axe will give Lisa the collector a call even when she tells him to leave it. And, believe me, Axe is not there to help Wendy. He is there to persuade her that Tanner is not the “mythical incorruptible artist” who is immune to temptations! Axe has been working on it for a while and he now orchestrates the end of Wendy – Tanner relationship that also costs him four paintings!
Oh, and it was the drawing Tanner made of Wendy that triggered Axe to stir the cup in the first place. And now he can keep it forever as a token of his big accomplishment. I wonder if/when Wendy will see that!
Damianista’s note: You probably notice there are a LOT of scenes in which we see Bobby on Zoom or Facetime. This is because Damian had to film these scenes in London and later than the rest of the cast for obvious reasons. And Bobby Axelrod being away at his country house makes sense also because Covid-19 is hitting the city and we know that many rich NYC people left the city for their second homes in upstate NY or Hamptons for a year or so.
Taylor and Lauren find out about Axe’s latest move from Mike Prince who is waiting for them in front of their apartment building so he could yell at Taylor for what they have done. But Taylor’s facial expression says it all for Prince: They have had no clue!
Now that Prince knows it is not Taylor but it is Axe who is behind the Axe Cap sell off, his next move is to pay a visit to Chuck who has had his share of personal and professional headaches the last couple of days…
We first see Chuck sitting in the front of a computer screen with Senior looking to order a casket at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapell, known for staging many celebrity funerals including that of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Rudolph Valentino, and Judy Garland.
It is not like Senior is dying next week but it seems like he does not have any motivation left to live. He is like “meh” when Chuck mentions the reasons he has to hang on to life for – Roxanne, the baby, his grand children and Chuck himself 🙂 I think it is his dad’s state of mind makes Chuck to get a head start on writing his eulogy. And when he kindly asks Ira if he could do it for him, he shares the strangest fantasy I have ever heard of. It turns out that Chuck, when he was young, used to have a fantasy in which he was at his father’s funeral, standing tall and reading an eulogy that makes his father proud, yes it is a fantasy after all, because his father is somehow alive and proud of the eulogy his son gives at his funeral… which stopped after Chuck became US Attorney. Well, Chuck’s daddy issues are certainly beyond me…
At the work front, Chuck and Kate visit Drew Moody, the AG of Delaware to ask whether he would be willing to help them block Bobby Axelrod from taking over Plaintif-Full because he is not a man fit to own a bank. Chuck believes the man with his hand on the switch of Ol’ Sparky (it seems Delaware has death sentence!) can send this deal to Valhalla but Moody is not sympathetic. Chuck delivered Axelrod’s bank without even giving him a call so why would he help clean the mess Chuck created in the first place? Besides, Moody believes that corporations are better than people because they don’t make the mistakes people make when they are obsessed over one thing! And we all know who the AG is referring to 🙂
May I say I am a bit more persuaded that Chuck may actually be changing? Now that the AG of Delaware kindly told him to fuck off, Chuck is fine with letting this go.
“I made this shit soup, and now I have to sip it.”
Yes, you do.
As Kate comes up with potential solutions from putting FDIC on Axe’s tail for a minor infraction to threatening the board members about investigations to personal misdeeds, we know who she has learnt from! Yet her mentor does not give in. “Go home”, he says, and “stock up on canned goods for the coming plague” – the second Covid reference this season which means we’re still in March 2020 in the show.
Things start to look up a bit once Mike Prince comes to visit though Chuck pretends he is not willing to cooperate first. Prince saw himself above him when he offered help in Season 5 Episode 4 Opportunity Zone and besides every time Chuck makes a move on Axe he makes his life better and his own life worse! And, he adds that he even had to swallow AG Moody practically kicking him out of his office earlier this week.
And exactly like it helped “Bobby D” (aka Robert De Niro) in Cop Land, it helps Chuck in Billions 🙂 AG Moody may not be willing to help Chuck, but can move mountains for Mike Prince so he does not pull a few billion dollars from his state before his reelection campaign!
And lo and behold, AG Moody agrees to get the court name a special trustee to Axe’s bank board who will scrutinize the bank’s every move and decision and report it back. They now need someone experienced who served on the bank boards and Chuck has the right guy for the job!
Chuck Senior now has a reason to live. He will be the cilice Bobby Axelrod will not be able to take off… or will he? 🙂
When AG Moody delivers the shortest short list to Axe…
…Axe knows his next move: checking Wendy’s research on Axe Capital employees’ medical records… You know I asked last week whether there was a match…
Danny Margolis, who has been such a good Samaritan for Axe from the get go – he even drank Ice Juice for the boss! – has a pristine kidney that is a match for Senior. I just cannot stop laughing!!!! This is not just a punch in the face. You can recover from that. But Chuck’s words make me feel that Axe will be the cilice that Chuck will not be able to take off however hard he tries… Well, at least, he enjoys pain 🙂
“Axe stymied us as smooth as Bobby Jones, and Senior isn’t our man anymore. Axe delivered my father something that at this moment transcends even my familial bonds. He gave him life. And so he became the son I couldn’t be. He gave him life. My father is owned by him now.”
Well, Axe may own Chuck Senior, or not. But the fun thing is that neither Axe nor Chuck can trust him completely 🙂
The recent experiences gave Prince a chance to read Bobby Axelrod:
“When he wants something, he’s blind to everything else.”
Prince has just seen Axe losing more than he did as Axe Cap dumped everything they had that coincide with Prince and also how much Axe was willing to spend for the pizza company because he really wanted that to happen! And while Prince knows this much about Axe, we know more – from the humongous risk he took in Ice Juice to the one he took when he tried to buy a house appliance company for Rebecca in Season 4 Episode 11 Lamster. So Prince is right that they can use him as the bait, and the bank as the trap. Yet, the funny thing is while they call Axe emotional, what Chuck and Prince are doing here is totally emotional! And as they are talking about Axe as someone that needs to be wiped off the face of the earth, these are two men who threw their best friends under the bus to get what they want! So I cannot say this is the best team until…
…Taylor pops in! I did not know what Taylor meant when they told Rian to trust them to fix it. But now I remember what they said in the Season 4 Season Finale Extreme Sandbox. When they realized both Axe and Chuck were lined up to get rid of the other, Taylor decided to get both men get their guns out, and then get out of their way, and let them kill each other.
I know that they understand that Wendy has always been the biggest friction between the two men, I wonder if Taylor will use her to initiate and escalate the conflict.
Whatever they end up doing, I do not think Taylor will make a fatal mistake. They never act upon their emotions. They are extremely rational – to the point of acting like a robot. No feelings whatsoever. They just choose to do what maximizes their objective function. They are the kind of individual we assume human being to be in game theory. So, in Taylor I trust.