Two episodes in and my head is still spinning. ‘Original Sin’ reminds me of Axe’s trading style that Mafee talks about in the season premiere: Fast. Aggressive. Sure-footed. And I applaud the writers’ room and everyone behind and in front of the camera for this brilliant episode they give us with redemption or lack thereof at its heart in all different shapes and forms. I also want to take a moment here to express my support for the on-going strike. I so hope it puts a full stop to the big studios’ greed. Best of luck.
Now on to the episode recap which I break down into four parts – each named after Wendy’s lost boys : Bobby, Chuck, Mike and Others 🙂
Luke, Leia and Chewie arrive at Axe’s new humble digs: Welcome to Raby Castle, one of the finest medieval castles in England 🙂
The king of the castle gives them a tour. It turns out Axe is now running Axe Global with his son Gordie at the helm of digital currency. This is not a huge surprise given that Gordie had set up a bitcoin farm in his dorm room in Season 5 Episode 3 Beg, Bribe, Bully that caused power outage not only in the school building but also in the entire town.
Axe Global is as lean and mean as James Coburn’s silhouette in the Mag Seven Days” and Axe has already doubled the two billions he got from Prince when he sold him Axe Capital. But he is still testing his people.
“Prince send you here to get me leaning forward so he can knock me down again?”
It has been two years and Axe still seems to suffer from the trauma he had in Season 5 Episode 12 No Direction Home:
“So this is what it is to lose.”
It turns out Wendy, Wags and Taylor are on official MPC business to get rid of the controversial foreign investors in anticipation of Prince’s presidential run. And Prince has no idea that they are here to recruit Axe in a campaign to stop his presidential run.
When Taylor asks him about what he is missing about his prior life, Axe takes it as a tactic to make him feel nostalgic and get sympathetic to their cause. When they talk about how he spent years to build Axe Capital and now it belongs to Mike Prince, Axe takes it as a tactic to stoke his anger.
And as Axe tries to change the conversation to Taylor’s number, they have their priorities set:
“I can still reach my goal. And I will – after we take out Prince.”
Their chat is interrupted by a call from Scooter who asks Taylor how the “Redemption Tour” is going. And he also asks them about the fire cracking in the background. Taylor may be a good liar but Scooter can easily check if there is a fireplace at the hotel they are supposedly staying. Just saying…
Wags has more of a “we need you, my king” approach with Axe as they sample the king’s kingly liquor collection.
We learn that the first few months in Switzerland were not easy for Axe. He did not move freely, speak freely or buy freely. And now that he has his freedom, he does not intend to go into hiding ever again. Thus, he would never step on the US soil without guaranteed protection and an escape route.
All life experiences shape us in ways that we sometimes do not even realize. And Wendy is spot on that the last few years have changed Axe. Look at him: he is even talking about passing some of his damage to his offspring!
They talk about their relationship. I agree that they might end up together in 95 out of 100 alternate universes but they are in one of the 5 they do not.
Bobby wants to know about the Wendy in the universe where Mike Prince is the President: Wendy knows that the feeling they never have enough drives billionaires. However, she has come to the point that there is such a thing as too much. Mike Prince is over that line. And Wendy knows that Bobby in all 100 alternate universes would still hold a grudge against Prince.
“So you have my reason figured out. What’s yours?”
What Wendy puts in so many words, I would put in one: Redemption. Yes getting involved with a presidential campaign and affecting lives of millions of people is TOO MUCH. You have to draw a line somewhere. And we have seen all the lead characters in Billions, except for Prince, drawing a line somewhere: e.g. when Axe stops the “final solution” Dollar Bill offers in Season 5 Episode 3 Chickentown, or when Chuck says even he cannot do that when Swerdlow offers to secure an illegal immigrant child’s kidney for Senior in Season 5 Episode 7 Limitless S*it , and now Wendy draws the line at Prince’s presidential bid.
And she makes Bobby admit what he did not to Taylor.
“Prince is in my head.”
Well, If I have learnt a thing or two about Bobby Axelrod over the years, even though he has evolved, Bobby would have his plans to take down Prince in all 100 alternate universes. Yet, after a night of serious reflection, he declares his decision:
What a song by Bob Dylan.
Go away from my windowLeave at your own chosen speedI’m not the one you want, babeI’m not the one you need
He asks his people to stay with him. They will have everything here in the UK. Freedom. Opportunity. Self-determination. Each other.
Axe claims he could get Taylor to a billion dollars in 36 months if they stayed with him. But Taylor has run election simulations and Prince gets elected 9.8% of the time. This has consequences that are too great and more important than their number. Wags is more about his love for A/C, Big Macs, and baseball. Wendy has already shared her reasons to fight and envies him that he can stay out of this. It seems Bobby chooses freedom over everything else.
As they are leaving, Bobby feels the urge to reveal his own take on Prince:
“You can’t bring him down. So you should help him. Get him elected. That how you get him out of your way once and for all.”
Now, I am 100% sure Bobby has his own plans to get Prince out of the way. But does he need Prince to get elected to take him down? Or does he just want to protect his three musketeers as he pursues Prince?
If Axe, who now values freedom more highly than ever, takes down the man who wants to control everyone’s freedom, this may be his own personal redemption. And I bet he may get the guaranteed protection he needs with a little help from Chuck!
As expected, the State of NY dismisses all charges against Chuck. And like this is not enough humiliation for Dave, Judge Wayland also tells her, despite the defendant’s Chad ‘Ochocinco” Johnson Touchdown dance, to have better judgement next time and not waste judicial resources. Yikes!
Chuck already knows Dave has balls. And she is bold enough to knock on his Brooklyn brownstone door to tell him that he should not have high hopes of re-taking his State AG seat because she is not leaving her office.
After calling her “Sugar Ray hellbent on cracking that shell” Chuck basically calls State AG’s office a minor league position. Dave may be relieved but she also sees that Chuck has got his eye on something. Well, Dave, Chuck is a chess player. When Chuck moves a piece on the chessboard (read: Lucien Porter’s article) he has his next moves planned already.
And we find out about what job Chuck has his eye on when he shares it with Judge DeGiulio that evening at The Dead Rabbit, one of the hardest to get into bars, in Manhattan! And Chuck “Robin Hood” Rhoades does not only get in, but he also has a drink on the house and kind looks from good-looking young women!
While DeGiulio mentions potential federal positions from a judgeship to the General Counsel of the Treasury for Chuck to take, Chuck has his eye on one job and one job only: Original Sin.
“That one sin begat a world of sinners. One minute all was pure. The next, a hellscape on earth.”
Well, if you ask me, this is the brief summary of 6 seasons of Billions with the original sin being the moment Chuck has decided to go after Axe! And now Chuck wants to re-take the seat he had when Billions started 7 seasons ago and redeem himself. This is what I feel about him. Because, in my opinion, Chuck knows deep down about the exact moment he made the mistake of going after Axe for nothing, for an expensive house for God’s sake, which led to other mistakes that ultimately ruined his marriage. And now that he has the best public reputation he has ever had, can’t his Solicitor General friend do a favor put in a good word on his behalf to the POTUS? Well, DeGiulio admits that he has more sway than Kara Swisher (a wordplay on the journalist’s podcast ‘Sway’) with the POTUS but this is a very long shot.
Chuck is not giving up. He visits the man who actually recommended to the former POTUS to fire him from the SDNY.
I love it that, during Chuck’s long monologue about sin, justice and redemption, Jeffcoat does not move a face muscle. And he laughs really hard when Chuck offers him his release as first order of business upon taking the US attorney seat at the SDNY. The only thing Jeffcoat needs to do is publicly admitting that he, as the Attorney General of the United States, made a wrongful recommendation to the former POTUS to fire Chuck from the SDNY.
There is an obvious commitment problem here which probably makes Jeffcoat laugh hysterically in the first place. Why on earth would Jeffcoat trust Chuck? Chuck may get what he wants but then he may still keep Jeffcoat in prison!
At his next dinner with DeGiulio at Peter Luger Steak House which made several appearances on Billions earlier, Chuck shows the Solicitor General that he gets results. Karl shows up in the middle of their dinner with a laptop showing a video in which Jeffcoat says the words!
And we have the best dialogue between the two friends!
DeGiulio: “How in the name of God and Texas and all that is holy did you get Jock Jeffcoat to say that?”
Chuck: “I made him an offer that was just the right size.”
Jeffcoat literally sniffs his new cowboy boots and HE IS IN LOVE!
From a game-theoretic stand point, I argue Jeffcoat makes the right decision by saying the words. He is looking at a long stay in prison and he has nothing to lose since there is a small but positive probability that he can get his freedom back. But also, as a man of God, he may even feel good about redemption.
Karl also says he has co-executive producers from 48 Hours at his table who are very interested in broadcasting the Jeffcoat video! Even if it is a bluff, it works… And the most anticipated phone call comes late at night as Chuck Senior is ready to throw in the towel…
Lo and behold, Chuck Rhoades is BACK at the SDNY supporting my belief that Billions may, in fact, end in the same place it started seven years ago. I bet Chuck will make it possible for Axe to come back to the US as a free man and they will take down Prince together.
Prince, who thinks his employees are on their way to London to get rid of controversial MPC investors, seemingly interviews a young man for his campaign manager position. But it is up for debate who is interviewing who!
Bradford Luke asks Prince to describe his dream of walking into the Oval Office once he wins the Presidency. Prince responds that he has never conjured that image but Luke calls his BULLSHIT! And it turns out Prince did not only dream about it but probably, I am sure actually, that he even rehearsed it!
So, yes, Prince is as megalomaniac as it gets and Bradford Luke looks like the perfect choice as his campaign manager because he admits he would only work on a megalomaniac’s campaign!
Luke offers Prince the “Eisenhower Path” to victory. No, Prince does not need to win a world war, he just needs to be excellent in his chosen field like President Eisenhower. He has to have record returns with impossible parameters. And his investments have to be both profitable and ethical because all eyes will be on MPC.
Still, Luke is not ready to get involved with the Prince campaign yet. He needs to dive deep into Prince’s personal life and meet his wife before his final decision.
While Luke’s attitude rubs Prince sort of the wrong way, Scooter convinces the boss that political campaigns are all about enduring humiliation and I admit the examples he gives are solid: Bernie dancing on Ellen and Hillary cozying up to Bill in 60 Minutes.
Philip announces Prince’s new investment policy on the floor.
“Big and brassy. Something like Gaga would have won before she became a movie star.”
While the other MP Cappers raise ideas varying from pharma companies reversing aging to tech companies making quantum battery for electric cars, Victor skips this step to enter Prince’s office with a bag in hand. He is sure he has the product Prince needs.
Meet Korlera, a product using safe Bluetooth 5.2 technology to connect doctors with patients in parts of the country underserved by medical care. Victor’s grandparents who live outside of Buffalo say Korlera is like meeting Marcus Welby, MD in their house. Victor obviously has no idea about this doctor but Prince’s smile implies he watched the show when he was a kid!
Once Philip calls it “a Lady Gaga” Prince tasks Victor with super-sizing Korlera. And he tells Peach who says Bradford Luke called and offered to connect Prince with some other campaign managers that she should tell Luke to hold off on gifting Prince to others and keep his eye on the medical sector! He also calls Andy to say it is time for her to come back from Colorado!
For those of you who have not watched Season 6 closely, here is a refresher about Andy: She is a professional mountain climber and the coach of the American National Climbing Team. She shares two adult daughters with Prince but they have an open marriage. They have stayed married probably because they always knew this day would come.
The message Prince sends to Luke seems to work that the man enters Prince’s office unannounced as though he has Leo McGarry walk-in privileges!
Luke has bad news about Korlera. A guy in Arkansas suffered a stroke due to an equipment malfunction and a lawsuit is coming to kill Korlera. So Prince tells Victor “Medice, cura te ipsum” (“Physician, heal thyself”) which is confusing. And when he asks Scooter if Prince wants him to hold the position and solve the problem, or get out of the position, the answer he gets is a yes… 🙂
So, Victor being Victor, he chooses the shady alternative and finds a weakness about the Korlera doctor who claims the equipment malfunctioned in the Arkansas patient’s case. It turns out that the good doctor’s office bought $138K worth of surgical-grade cocaine in a year in which the doctor performed ZERO operations.
So… the doctor takes responsibility citing human error, the law suit against Korlera disappears, and the company stock flies high. And Victor takes the rest of the day to travel to Buffalo and take his grandparents to a real doctor! I plan to present him the best grandson award in our MVP post on Wednesday. Yet, what he has done to save Korlera is beyond redemption and I wonder if this will come back to bite Prince in the ass.
Bradford Luke is impressed enough that he is in on the condition that he meets the wife. So Mike and Andy prepare for their meeting with Luke. They stage the house so the campaign manager would think they have a commuting but a functional marriage. They even remember a couple they knew that even they could see they did not have sex for months… so for Luke not to see that either, they try to have a romantic moment. And while Molly does not help much remembering their early days does… So the golden couple sits on the couch to tell Luke their story…
…yet Luke has done his homework and knows they have an open marriage to which the American electorate is not open 🙂 So he asks both of them to come clean and make a list of the people they slept with in the last 5 years. Did Mike put Rian on the list? Or is it too casual to mention? And is Andy’s list longer or what? 🙂
“No more all you can eat buffet. It’s prix fixe for the both of you from here on out.”
As Luke, Leia and Chewie look tired, lost in their personal thoughts, maybe trying to figure what Axe’s last words meant, on the way back home…
…Mike Prince announces his presidential campaign with Andy by his side and a lot of diverse populations on stage supporting him! What those people do not know is that Prince has no intention whatsoever to listen to them…
Other Lost Boys
Dollar Bill’s guy from Spartan Ives calls to feel out the price on a block trade. And while there is a condition attached that you do not trade the name asked about, Bill will obviously do it through an executing trader! While Tuk likens it to your best friend stealing your girl at the prom (sorry, Tuk, about your prom experience!) Ben Kim knows an executing trader who happens to be….
We know from the season premiere that Bill and Mafee lost their company because of “culture problems” Bill created at the workplace. Ben Kim sending Bill to meet a trader friend of his from Wharton and inviting Mafee to share a dragon fruit rippage at the same place is his way of having his two friends kiss and make up. Bill asks Mafee to do a trade for him and Mafee needs only an apology from his friend/partner to do it for him. Well, redemption again.
And not just that but Dollar Bill declares Philip a fucking badass after the latter wins by cheating in a round of liar’s poker, a popular game often associated with Wall Street traders. It should also be a relief for Bill to figure that Spyros will not be his personal wet nurse!
As Rian applauds Philip for beating the bully, Winston says Philip has got ‘Winston Dick Energy’ happening that makes Rian almost puke… But the thing is Winston Duke Energy is the title of the next episode and I cannot wait to see what Winston has in store for us!