The first Axe-less episode in the final season has three storylines that are light-hearted compared to those in the first two. We meet two new characters and welcome back two familiar faces. And a few lead characters doing soul-searching brings complexity that leave the viewers asking for more!
I do not know if Chuck’s first order of business as the U.S. Attorney of the SDNY has been to release Jock Jeffcoat from prison, but one of the first is to offer a job to Ira as the two are eating a lavish breakfast from Russ & Daughters in some office at the SDNY. When Ira asks if they are having their breakfast in a random office so Chuck would not have any food smell in his office later, Chuck says the office is Ira’s if he wants to.
To be honest, it is not very difficult to convince Ira even though his first reaction is about the long hours, long odds and shitty pay. But a quote from Montaigne, a name plaque ready to hang on his office door and Chuck’s usual “we’ll get them at all costs” speech to his staff do the trick and Ira Schirmer becomes Chuck’s Deputy U.S. Attorney.
At Mike Prince Capital, there is a send-off party if one can call it that. it is Winston’s last day of work at the company and he says “you’re welcome!” to his colleagues who look like they will not miss him one bit.
Even Rian, who seems to be the only one that will be missing Winston, finds it weird that she will miss her colleague, but then he was the only one that looked at her the same way after they were forced to move to the main floor which Rian calls “Princident.” Haha.
Talking about Rian, I wonder whether Prince put her name on the list he submitted to Bradford in the last episode… but he is now in his office, I find him not attending Winston’s party a bit rude, talking to Bradford about his SuperPAC FEC disclosure that he will share with Chuck.
For those of you that are not familiar with American politics, a Super PAC is a type of independent political action committee that may raise unlimited amount of money from individuals, corporations, and unions. But it is not permitted to contribute to or coordinate directly with parties or candidates.
What Prince wants is Chuck to go after his Super PAC and nothing else. So he is throwing him some read meat to chew on. Prince believes that he may not afford to have Chuck Rhoades in his nature.
The day after Winston leaves the firm, the security lets Philip know that a former employee is on her way to MPC.
For those of you that have not followed Season 6 closely, Bonnie did not leave MPC on friendly terms. She had a hard time adapting to the new office culture. And when Prince cut her number of clients by half and tasked Wags with overseeing her trades when she traded against her own colleagues, Bonnie got angry, screamed swear words and left the firm. I believe that is why Philip has found out about her arrival from the security!
Bonnie shares the news that Winston is pitching some Risk Management Software on the street. Since he has just left MPC, it is very likely he developed the software while working at the firm which means the software belongs to MPC. The software is called WDE aka Winston Dick Energy that names the episode.
Now, is Bonnie doing this because she has a big heart? Of course not! She wants a raise in her comp at her new firm. If she receives a job offer from MPC, she is happy to forward them the pitch deck tomorrow! Oh, and it is two birds with one stone for Bonnie that she does a “call me” to Dollar Bill as she gets on the elevator to leave.
It turns out WDE is an AI-based risk management software that can give a considerable bump to returns – exactly what Bradford asked Prince to do in their first meeting. The firm needs to get that software and so they should proceed quickly with a law suit.
While Philip’s question about the optics of Mike Prince taking legal action against a former employee in this pro-worker environment is legitimate, Kate’s response is that they cannot gamble losing the technology. It is very interesting to see Kate, who used to be a very pro-worker public servant, turning 180 degrees when the job requires her to! And was she always into sports or these sports references are part of her job now? 🙂
Since they are concerned about their own reputation as much as that of MPC, Prince gives Taylor and Philip 48 hours to solve the problem quietly. If not, Kate is proceeding with a lawsuit. And Taylor not being willing to have him get involved with the WDE is too much for Wags.
Wags has also had a hard time adapting to MPC and it has become obvious at a gathering with the author Michael Lewis at Harry’s to celebrate the 35th anniversary of his book The Liar’s Poker. Lewis, in his address to the crowd, says that the street has changed and people cannot even say “fuck” in the office now (which is Dollar Bill’s complaint about the new office culture!) but the characters about which he wrote his book 35 years ago are here and he raises a glass to those “crass motherfuckers.”
Several of those motherfuckers treat Wags as someone who got behind, as someone who went from working for a bad ass to working in a politician’s stable – one calling Wags having as much of an edge as Barry Manilow which reminds me of Axe calling Stephen Birch having as much of an edge as Mr. Rogers back in Season 3 Episode 1 Tie Goes to the Runner.
Before he could recover from those offensive remarks, the WDE incident happens on Wags’ watch followed by Taylor turning down his offer to help take care of the situation. Thus, Wags feels like an “obsolete pensioner” now. He needs Wendy’s magic over some Mother’s Milk at the Lalique Bar at Daniel.
It turns out Wags wants the impossible: even Wendy’s magic can’t take him back in time. So Dr. Mojo asks him to grab an opportunity, without asking for permission, to activate his muscle memory.
Wendy’s magic does the trick immediately and Wags follows Taylor and Philip, without asking for permission, to Winston’s apartment and adds his “scaring him out of hiding” to carrots (“head of risk management”) and sticks (“a potential lawsuit”) Taylor and Philip use to have Winston surrender the code.
“Your product along with your bank accounts are gonna be frozen like Ted Williams’ fucking head!”
Winston calls all the companies he has been talking to. He is trying to sign deals with them before Prince brings a lawsuit. What Winston does not know is that Hall is outside his apartment with access to all his communications thanks to Wags planting a bug in Winston’s apartment.
And it does not take long for Wags to convince Rian to sell her “annoying little brother” out since getting that software back is the single most important thing for MPC at the moment. We find out that Winston hacked the DMV to remove points from Rian’s license when she was about to lose it… and Hall finds out about the rest thanks to Winston’s unique coding style.
The old Wags is now back with a hilarious power point presentation in the room Winston is supposed to entice the companies interested in his software. Wags presents “This is your life, Winston!” with details of Winston’s life from his internet search history to his hackings into several government agencies. And when he talks about Winston’s unique coding style that is identifiable, it is game over. Winston has no choice other than surrendering the code if he does not want MPC to give a call to the FBI.
While Prince thinks he may not afford to have Chuck Rhoades back in his nature, it seems it will take some time for Chuck to get used to his true nature. Chuck does not want to lose again. He remembers his once “80 – 0” record which he kept through taking cases he knew he would win. But now he is passing even on the obvious winner case Amanda Torre from the Securities Unit brings in.
“Pump and dumb scheme. Wolf of Wall Street led broker. Scuzzy lawyers. Working people defrauded.”
On top of that her SEC contact is ready to formalize a complaint and Amanda and the FBI turned one of the broker’s traders like Adriana La Cerva of The Sopranos! I just hope the trader does not end up like Adriana!
Now, what else can you look for in a winner case? But Chuck is hesitant. He is now quoting from “The Book of Samurai” that one needs to make decisions in timespan of seven breaths…
So enter the motivators. As Chuck talks about his missteps and that he cannot be emotional in picking cases, Ira reminds him that he kept his “80-0” record using his intellect and his emotions. And now that he also has the love of the people, this is the moment Chuck can take risks. When Ira’s words are not compelling enough, Chuck Senior pays his son a visit to celebrate Chuck’s return to his natural habitat. Ira has told him Chuck was limping and Senior is here with a bottle of Applejack to prove that he can relate to his son.
The fact that Chuck cannot pick a case reminds Senior of the time he was faithful to his wife for five months when his grandson Kevin was born! And when he gave up his ambition of being an example for his grandson, he was frozen until… he met the first wife of Bedminster Golf Club‘s owner. I did not get the joke until I looked up for the club’s owner who happens to be Donald Trump…
Well, Chuck Senior’s priceless life experience cannot convince Chuck to pick a damn case, either. In the meantime, Ira gives Amanda Torre the Super PAC file and she detects a violation: There is a Canadian citizen donating to Prince’s campaign violating the foreign donor ban. But Chuck is not interested even when Kate, Bradford and Scooter visit him at the SDNY to talk about that file.
And we all know who Chuck is asking the question to when he asks about the going price for one’s soul these days. I said it before and I will say it again. I do not get why Kate is still on Prince’s side. Is it really the future prospects she has when Prince is in the White House?
I do not buy it since Kate has always been very cautious in every step she has taken. So I cannot wrap my head around her staying with him even after she has found out about his untaxed billions in crypto! Could it be that she is a double agent of sorts?!?!
Well, even Wendy visits her ex in his office after hearing from Prince that Chuck seems muted and disinterested in his Super PAC case. I find Wendy’s strategy pretty effective: she gives Chuck a recent picture of Eva and Kevin so he always remembers he should do something that works for his kids so they are happy to be seen with their dad in public!
It is very smart of Karl, Senior and Ira to bring Chuck to Grant’s Tomb in my former neighborhood so he thinks it is the location that is supposed to convince him: Chuck knows his history. General Grant lost at Shiloh but President Lincoln refused to remove him because he was fighting and Grant went on to win at Chattanooga and Vicksburg.
While the Ulysess S. Grant story is a great one, the real motivator is inside. And it is someone whose cameo is as big as Axe’s return that gets Chuck back to his true nature!
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. One of the greatest all-time basketball players, who won a record 6 MVP awards, is here to cure Chuck of yips! Haha can you imagine Prince seeing this scene? Prince being a basketball player, I am sure Abdul-Jabbar is one of his heroes. Prince would give a nonessential organ to have someone like Abdul-Jabbar on his side.
Abdul-Jabbar shares that the loss he had against Houston when he was playing for UCLA made him and helped him to be the player he wanted to be. About the fear of getting there? Well, I do not think Chuck Rhoades can compare the challenges he has with this great man who had to fight leukemia, open heart surgery, cancer, fire, and racism. And I believe that if Chuck uses this new opportunity he has at the SDNY right, he can actually be the prosecutor he always wanted to be. Who knows maybe he can even get Wendy back!
I am not surprised one bit when Chuck tells Karl next morning that it is obvious Prince wants him to catch the violation in the Super PAC. So they should open an investigation like they are going after it but try to find another way in. Oh, and Chuck tells Amanda in person that they are taking the case she brought.
“We’re gonna win cases aplenty. I goddamn guarantee you that.”
Now that I have seen Episode 3, I am revising my thoughts about the previous episode because, well, Billions loves symmetry. I think both Axe and Chuck have had traumatic experiences when they lost to Prince and they do not want to act on their emotions. That is why Axe does not go back with Wendy, Wags and Taylor to take Prince down and why Chuck does not even take a look at Prince’s Super PAC file at first. I still believe these two will join forces at some point this season but the one who will coordinate the plans may be…
Wendy – exactly like she does in Season 3 Episode 6 The Third Ortolan, one of my all-time favorite Billions episodes.
Ben Kim asking Wendy for a prescription of Wellbutrin, a well-known anti-depressant, opens a can of worms. Lo and behold, Wendy finds out that many employees at Michael Prince Capital who cannot share with her anything but work stuff are seeing an outside psychiatrist: Dr. Eleanor Mayer seems to create a safe environment for them, dig deep into their inner worlds and do wonders. Let us put it this way: Even Dollar Bill is seeing her and getting results both at work and in the bedroom 🙂
When she vents about this to Wags, he is surprised about Dr. Mojo calling Dr. Mayer “a chick” and her clients “obsessed.” Wendy Rhoades is obviously jealous.
“The Wendy Rhoades I know does not speculate or rely on hearsay. She dives as deep as fucking Mariana Trench until she finds the truth among the supergiants at the bottom.”
So Wendy takes Wags’ advice and meets Dr. Mayer who is no knock-off Melfi!
I have to say I completely understand the MPC employees who prefer to see an outside psychiatrist. Wendy is there to get them ready to make money, money and more money. But this does not necessarily mean that she gets them to a better place. The “hamster on a wheel” analogy Dr. Mayer makes is quite solid.
“The wheel may get bigger but it’s still a prison.”
While she does not regret her strategies with the MPC personnel because it is her job to make them fight and win, Wendy sometimes feels like an errand girl – even though she asks “Am I some errand girl?” to Chuck earlier in the episode when he asks if Prince sent her. I also wonder if Wendy has felt like an errand girl when she gives Prince a sign with “I am the Buck!” written on it to show her support for his presidential bid as instructed by Bobby.
We will see how Wendy benefits from Dr. Mayer’s magic in the weeks to come. She has already decided Prince is dangerous and by the end of this episode she knows that Prince wants Chuck to pursue his Super PAC since he will find nothing there. The Canadian donor has been granted American citizenship on the day of the donation, it’s just not in the system yet. I think Wendy now believes more than ever that Prince has to be stopped. And if she takes the matter into her hands, she can lead her two favorite “lost boys” to victory. Pretty please!