Billions on Showtime, Season 5 Episode 11: Victory Smoke

WOW. Is this it? Is this checkmate?

I don’t think a scene-by-scene recap like I always do will not do justice to this utterly crazy episode. That is why I have decided to talk about how Chuck has made sure that Axe gets caught in the trap he set up for him along  with the personal costs of doing that for everyone involved.

So shall we?

Meet Dawn Winslow – woman of the hour.

A former music producer, Winslow is currently the CEO of Fine Young Cannabis (FYC) – the company Prince seems to be targeting. CEO Winslow refuses to speak to anyone from Axe Bank, including the boss, because she is in an exclusive negotiation period with Prince. And Hall, who has been listening to Prince and his daughters, brings the news that Prince plans to use his daughters, the next generation, to lock FYC: a smart marketing strategy where CEO Winslow will get to be a mentor for the next generation of women in the cannabis business.

While Victor sees the only way for Axe Bank to take FYC money is to outbid Prince, Axe is against overpaying. He knows that Winslow will want to look around for one last time before she locks it and Wags has to make sure that, at that very moment, it is Axe that Winslow is looking at.

And she is.

Axe first impresses Winslow with a rare find: Wu Tang’s single copy album “Once Upon A Time in Shaolin” then he promises her company something Prince cannot: tv ads targeting the company’s most coveted customers. Winslow is intrigued but she does not want to change suitors at the last minute.

Billion dollar question remains: why is Prince going after this particular cannabis company?

The answer seems to be obvious for Axe & Co. FYC is the market leader in cannabis industry with a $1.6B revenue only last year. However, there is one piece of information that Team Axe misses: Prince is pursuing FYC because what the company is selling is illegal. UGH.

It turns out Dawn Winslow has a leak that neither Dollar Bill nor Victor nor Hall have been able to see yet: Kate has reviewed all legal cannabis companies, and singled out Winslow as a CEO running a criminal enterprise. So they decided Prince should target this one so aggressively that Axe will do anything to take it from him. Smart. Sneaky. Sinister.

And since Axe has tasked everyone with looking into Prince and his intentions, Team Axe not has not looked into Winslow’s business closely. They are probably supposed to do it during the due diligence process.

So, with this outrageous private information in hand, Chuck, who has set up the stage for Axe’s fall, is fine-tuning every move, tying every loose end, making sure every piece falls in line, and waiting patiently to collect the fruits of his labor.

Chuck uses Wendy to manipulate Axe.

Let us go back to Season 5 Episode 10 Liberty. Now tell me. If you are Chuck, and you are holding this Jeffersonian dinner with the likes of the NY governor, a NY senator, the Manhattan DA, the Solicitor General and Mike Prince of all people. Would you actually like your soon-to-be-ex-wife interrupt your dinner with a Face time call?


Given that Chuck certainly knows Wendy will get angry and give him a call as soon as she receives the demand for financial disclosure, why does he insist Ira send them to Wendy tonight?

Because, ladies and gentlemen, Chuck wants Wendy to call, see the meeting, and let Axe know about it right away. Notice that Chuck does not even try for Wendy not to see anyone at the table; on the contrary, he lets Wendy see Prince on the screen.

Remember – Chuck is a chess player. He knows that once Wendy gives Axe the news about the dinner, Axe will give a call to Senior and make him crash the party at Chuck’s as Axe’s spy! And I believe Chuck also makes sure that Solicitor General shows up only after Chuck Senior is there so he can hear what De Giulio has to say about legalization of cannabis. Coupled with Taylor, in cooperation with Chuck and Prince, recommending Axe to go after legal cannabis money for his bank, the game is set.

Wendy is a smart woman. But since she is consumed by the thought that Chuck wants to look into TMC books, she does not even think about the timing of the demand for financial disclosure delivery.

Chuck continues to act as he gets his $25M check from Wendy. He tells her that he really wanted to hold that amount in his hand – Chuck has zero interest in money and I really think Wendy should see through him now – but now it is all sadness he is feeling. That is probably true. But he has no one else but himself to blame about what happened to his marriage. And, yes, while some of Wendy’s money goes to him, the rest of her goes to Axe.

Chuck makes Chuck Senior gives the green light for Axe Bank.

Axe Bank is a Delaware corporation. And Chuck Rhoades, Sr. the bank trustee that was appointed to the board to scrutinize every single decision is the person who could lift the probationary terms on Axe Bank.

However, Senior is not willing to do that – well, this is what we call a commitment problem in game theory. Once Axe provides a kidney for Senior, there is no guarantee that Senior will pay his debt. And now he finds excuses varying from not wanting to go to prison for lying to simply not feeling like helping Axe and has already told Hard Bob and Wags to go fuck themselves 🙂 Knowing Senior better than anyone, Wendy takes over the job of convincing Senior – and, indirectly, helps Chuck, again!

Wendy asks Senior, who is trying to tell her his “test flight” with Roxanne, what he wants: Well, Axe cannot make Senior 20 years younger but a meaningful profit share from the cannabis money can make him feel 20 years younger!

And, on top of that, Chuck tells Senior not to be a rubber stamp for Axe, totally on purpose, to guarantee that his dad goes and tells AG Moody to lift the probationary terms on Axe Bank. Chuck Senior is on his way to Delaware in his Jaguar after telling his son he “never promised him a rose garden.” But he is about to give him one!

AG Moody is totally confused when Chuck Senior recommends him to remove the probationary terms on Axe Bank. Wasn’t this man appointed as the bank trustee to stop Axe Bank from happening?!?! Moody, who warns Senior that he may go to jail if this goes to prosecution, still gives Axe Bank the green light and washes his hands clean of Rhoades family.

Chuck convinces Prince that he is doing the right thing.

While he is as big a monster as Axe, Prince is hesitant about using his daughters to land FYC. What if he stops here and lets Axe do the rest? Well, it is unacceptable for his partner-in-crime who see life as a big chess board. The whole point here is to have “the rabbit zipping around the rail so the greyhound chases it headlong.” If Prince backs down, Axe may stop and think. Besides, if Prince wants to play the game, he needs to play his highest-value pieces.

Then don’t do it, Mike! But he does – he does it as if life is a chess board and Gail and Liz, his daughters, are pieces on the chess board.  And look at Chuck talking about good and evil, he could be a brilliant TV preacher in another life 🙂

Prince also gives Axe a call to provoke him further. He reminds Axe that he is coming from the streets of New York, he is a pirate, a goniff, and he will not be able to stop him from taking FYC.

“I have strings attached to all my fingers. When I yank them, you’re gonna shake, rattle and shit yourself.”

As much as I would love this to happen to Prince, at this point I am just hoping it does not happen to Axe.

And I will say it again. As Chuck and Prince talk about Axe like he is the Satan himself, they should look at the mirror to see two men who threw their best friends under the bus to get what they want before and who are now ready to manipulate two daughters, two dads, and one ex-wife only to see Axe in jail. Claiming that they are doing this in the name of justice is BULLSHIT.

Kate is on it.

Kate believes in the legalization of cannabis and her brief to the Solicitor General gets high praise from De Giulio. And even though she knows that her brief is more about baiting Axe than changing the world, she is reminded by Karl that this is not different from anything else purported in front of the SCOTUS – which is probably right! Besides, I add, the kind of change her brief will bring can make her a household name and carry her over to the congress.

Having taken her every single step very carefully, Kate is frustrated when she finds out that her dad is now relaxing the cannabis ad policies on his network. While her first instinct is to let him know that law is coming,  Chuck tells her that she cannot tell her dad to back down. Because if Franklin Sacker backs down, this may also allow Axe to stop and think. Chuck is ready to feed not only his own dad but also Kate’s to the wolves, too.

And if only Kate knew why his dad agreed to relaxing policies over cannabis ads! Over a glass of Chateau d’Yquem from his birth year (I mean – drinking Chateau d’Yquem from any vintage is exciting and that may be the only thing I envy these billionaires for – the kind of wine they have access to) Franklin Sacker is hesitant to be the pioneer in breaking the taboos on the media about cannabis. He does not care if he will be Bruce Springsteen in 1985 but when Wags tells him that Axe will support his daughter’s electoral campaign and will make it look like she has huge grassroots support, Sacker gives in.

But Kate is firm about stopping her dad from getting involved with FYC – a criminal enterprise –  so she goes ahead and gives evidence to the Manhattan DA Gramm for a lesser crime her dad has committed, price fixing that obviously violates antitrust laws, and gets him arrested.

Kate is actually protecting her dad this way – as Chuck suggests “a minor charge, some embarrassment,  no jail time”-  and she knows this arrest can actually help Chuck, too. From Axe’s perspective, this will look like Chuck having Franklin Sacker arrested to stop Axe from closing a deal with FYC. And this will make Axe even more aggressive in his offer to Winslow. Kate is right and her future is bright. Congress is only a pit stop for her.

Chuck ends his feud with Manhattan DA Gramm.

The only person who could let Axe know about what is going on behind the scenes is DA Gramm.

Gramm is a smart woman. Processing the information at hand, she figures out that the theatrical performance Chuck gave at the Jeffersonian Dinner was all about setting a trap for Axe. She makes her cost-benefit analysis: Sharing this information with Axe is a profitable option for Gramm, yet she does not want to have Prince and Chuck together as her eternal enemies. So she and Chuck come to a mutually beneficial agreement: Chuck will clear all criminal cases with her going forward only if she grants him one imminent arrest: that of CEO Winslow’s.

“Enjoy it.”


Most importantly, Wendy is not the Wendy Axe needs anymore! 

Wendy has unknowingly dragged Axe into cannabis business. Then she has made a huge mistake by telling Taylor about her changing relationship with Axe when she sold him her TMC shares to be able to “lump-sum” Chuck. Taylor now knows that they can manipulate Axe through Wendy…

…and, lo and behold, Rian, in her usual quirky way, is in Wendy’s office telling the office shrink (but also her boss at TMC) that Taylor secretly had a meeting with Larry Boyd (what is his new job? singing for a rock band or something?) and advised him the opposite of what they advised Axe!

I do not even want to think of Wendy as the Trojan Horse Chuck has in the company to destroy Axe. But she is becoming one. Taylor knows that Wendy will go to Axe before she talks to them about their meeting with Boyd, and the boss will get even more aggressive about taking FYC money. UGH.

On top of that, Wendy has been emotionally distracted since she and Axe have recently opened their hearts to each other. And, as Wags rightly observes, she wants to accept Axe as he is, and is not trying to change him. In normal times, Wendy would have given Axe a call and tell him to approach cannabis money with more caution. She would actually have seen through Chuck by now, too! But now that they will be a couple, instead of talking about the very serious matter in hand, the two are talking about Fiji! UGH. And that is why Wendy is, unknowingly, hurting Axe big time.

I know that many fans have been waiting for love words to be spoken between these two. Not me. And while I wish them all the happiness in the world, I also know this is not an “and they lived happily every after” kind of story. So me thinks this relationship is doomed from the get-go, courtesy of Chuck. And it would be great if both Axe and Wendy got their shit together before it is too late! Otherwise, Fiji will only be a dream.

Wags has MORE pressing business – seriously??? 

Wags claims that “I’m ready for everything” is his first, middle and last name but I am not sure. I seriously wonder if the CEO of Axe Bank is paying as much attention to the bank business as he is paying attention to his, well, REVENGE!

Remember the Kappa Phi Beta fiasco from Season 4 Episode 6 Maximum Recreational Depth:

“My vengeance will come like I do…slow, thunderous, and in your eye.”

And it does! It turns out that Chelz is Nussfaur’s daughter and that Wags originally planned to use the relationship to take his revenge. Yet, he fell for Chelz in the process. Ha! That is what I call two birds with one stone: Wags takes his revenge and gets the girl, too! But I hope he will also have a job tomorrow.

Axe comes to Winslow with one final offer. He may not deliver her tv ads now but he is now giving her 3% interest while almost all banks go zero now plus his country house where there is an olympic size indoor pool for cold days! Winslow is sold but she cannot take another due diligence – the reality is that she does not Axe to see the criminal activity in her business. And Axe, from his perspective, believes that Prince has already done the due diligence anyway so it is okay if Winslow crosses out Prince’s name and puts Axe’s name instead.

As soon as he closes the deal with Winslow, Axe is smiling on the big screen telling Peach to kill the smoke detectors. He used to talk about bringing in legendary Boston Celtic’s coach Red Auerbach‘s victory cigars Hoyo de Monterrey to celebrate huge wins, and here they are.

“Now light them like you’re that goddamn Grucci family.

And he lights one, too, even though smoking is strictly forbidden under Covid-19 quarantine! Alas, bad news arrive before anyone can finish a cigar.

Winslow is under arrest. It turns out that she has been adding in a black market crop with the legal stuff during seasonal shortfalls. Ha! Is this how she has kept the company as the market leader?!?!

And Kate is right that Axe swallowed it like sushi laced with polonium. If Winslow goes down for criminal drug trafficking, Axe will go down with her because he has banked the resulting money. This is truly a nightmare for Team Axe but even worse for Axe and Wendy.

Hall and Bach are there for Axe to tell them what he wants them to do. But Axe can now only look at Wendy in disbelief and say he has no fucking idea. We have never seen something like that happen before.

I wonder what Axe is thinking as he looks at Wendy like that. Is he scared shitless their relationship may have to end before it starts? Or is he trying to figure out why Wendy has not warned him? Could it be that he is realizing they are two different people in friendship and relationship and that the Wendy in a romantic relationship will not be the Wendy he needs to keep him grounded.

So is this it? Is it checkmate? I do not want to believe it. Axe has one more hour to save his ass. I am hoping he does not vacation on Fiji only in his dreams at his jail cell. And, you know, if he ends up going to jail, I so hope he makes sure that Chuck is there right beside him. The season finale will be insane.

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

10 thoughts on “Billions on Showtime, Season 5 Episode 11: Victory Smoke”

  1. You are so correct….this episode was epic in business consequences and personal relationship’s…….and yes… this it??????sad to think after next week, we’ll have to wait a whole year……(,Minor point…I hope sacker gets what she deserves)

    1. Thank you for reading! Yes – I’m holding my breath about what will happen to Axe. I don’t want to believe that this is it and I won’t until I see it happening. Good news is that we won’t have to wait for a year. They’re shooting Season 6 at the moment, they’re past half way I think and Brian Koppelman has said Billions will come back in early 2022.

  2. Me too….pal…but we’ve hardly ever seen Axe without a retaliating move…like now…not yet anyway….btw…Sacker Is on my list for vengeance…she is no damn good and cannot be trusted

  3. In Wendy-Senior convo, Knowing you as I do is repeated in both the ends.. The writers might be throwing a bone in there.
    In a Kate-Chuck convo couple of seasons back, she throws about her dad’s tax evasion yet pretending to be holier-than-thou.. Chuck’s response is of father-child relationship is one thing that is unfuckable..Brian Coppelman is well adept at these relationships and will triage between individuality and pre-determinate..

    1. At the moment, both of them are in deep shit with Axe. Chuck again threw dad under the bus with Axe (like he did in Ice Juice).

  4. Thanks for the recap.
    You made sense of an episode I found very confusing. I couldn’t tie everything together – but you did.
    For me, the show is no longer entertainment. It’s work.

    1. Thank you for reading and for your kind words. I am happy that the recap was helpful with understanding the episode better. And yes Billions is a show that a viewer has to pay attention to every scene, every word even… and it may feel like work at some point! Happy New Year!

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