Billions on Showtime, Season 7 Episode 5: The Gulag Archipelago

The Gulag Archipelago, mentioned by Victor and that titles the episode, is a book written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I never read it but I am familiar with the author thanks to my Russian literature loving parents’ home library. Solzhenitsyn wrote to help raise global awareness about the political repression in the USSR. This particular book tells the story of a zek (a Gulag inmate) from his arrest to the show trial to being sent to a Gulag (labor camp in Siberia) to reflect on and learn from “his mistakes” based on interviews, reports,  legal documents and  Solzhenitsyn’s own experience as a zek. And as Solzhenitsyn revisits the ways things could have gone in his book, our characters deal with their past mistakes in their unique ways in the episode.

Philip and Taylor are not comfortable with the $500M limit Prince put on the investments they can make final decisions about. And Victor questioning them about whether they need to ask the principal for a hall pass ruffle their feathers, too.

But when they go to Prince with this complaint, Prince treats them as whining school children and brags about how he could do more with less when he started his first company in a garage with a flip phone. Scooter recommending Taylor and Philip to go to Wendy and not to Mike if they want to wallow in their bruised egos does not help, either.

Still, Taylor and Philip go see Wendy and talk about The Hunt for Red October to develop an argument for Prince.

Taylor: “Pretend I saw Hunt. Once the high command becomes unreachable it is up to the captains to make the best call they see fit.”

Philip: “You’re at 200 fathoms and the missiles start firing and you’ve got to have the leeway to act.”

Wendy: “And you have your argument for Prince.”

Yet the problem solves itself when MP Cappers live a version of this story which ends up with a $1.6B potential gain gone for the company. Yikes!

Dollar Bill brings balloons that were meant for his niece’s birthday party to the office. Helium is in short supply, so Bill had to go to Queens to buy the balloons, and missed the party. But he is inspired by the experience to invest in Titan Industries, the only company that is able to fulfill their helium contracts after the first of the month.

We know that Billions likes using real-life stories and helium shortage is real. You can read all about what is going on here. The shortage is especially concerning for health care since hospitals rely on helium for MRIs.

As the helium deal is “sitting as pretty as Jennifer Beals holding the blowtorch” (Flashdance was one of my favorites growing up)…

…Taylor tasks Rian to look for something that could help them make tons of money. And Rian finds a start-up with breakthrough helium extraction technology. The company is going public next week and the IPO is going to pop. Taylor has Spartan-Ives holding a spot for MPC for an hour. The thing is that the buy-in is $634M with no splits or partnering with other funds so MPC has to put in more than half a billion dollars. The only two people with full sign-off authority, Prince and Scooter, are at a private Killer Mike listening party. And because they have to give up their phones at the door it is only their voicemail that MP Cappers can reach at the moment. Prince’s Folly indeed!

So Prince can expect Killer Mike’s endorsement if he puts his money in black banks and help them flourish first-hand, an initiative that I would applaud… but he cannot expect a deal like the helium start-up one to come to his door again. Even though Victor successfully gets another hour from Spartan-Ives, it is not enough. Prince gives Wags full sign-off authority for times when both he and Scooter are not around so it seems lesson taken.. However, he cannot help being arrogant to his team, either.

“If it was me in your shoes, I would find a way.”

Since she is running for Congress, Kate is thinking about her liabilities. Remember that she dealt with the “dark and dirty” (I am using Bradford’s terminology here) thanks to Hall (yes, Hall!) last season. For those of you that did not follow Season 6 closely, Wags arranged for Hall to help Kate. Hall’s job was to uncover the kind of dirt on Kate that nobody else could find and he uncovered dirt about Kate even Kate didn’t know about! It turned out that Kate’s dad paid off her prep school’s headmaster for his daughter to avoid any serious consequences after Kate was part of a group that vandalized a school building during a protest. When Kate confronted her dad, he explained it in terms of protecting the progress of Black people in general.

Now it is time to revisit her “garden variety oppo pack” and so she brings her liability in an envelope to Bradford. The surprise is that, even though Kate is not very surprised, he already knows who is in the envelope because he created liability charts for everyone in close relations with Prince when he took on the campaign. Bradford recommends Kate to act on the liability sooner than later because “unburied landmines get most first-timers” in congressional elections… which brings us to Hibachi Shogun in Queens and a certain Teppenyaki chef in action!

Hello, Bryan! We missed you!

Bryan is out of prison and now working full-time in the kitchen. I am surprised he is working in a restaurant but I am not surprised that it is an Asian restaurant because Bryan has always had a thing for Asian cultures and food!

And isn’t Kate Chuck’s twin in the sense that she always uses the stick and never the carrot? UGH. It seems Chuck is changing his ways this season but Kate isn’t. And I applaud Bryan for his perfect description.

“As good as I become with a knife, I’ll never be able to cut like you, Kate.”

Exactly. Kate is here to make sure Bryan does not go all Chris Sheherlis (Heat, anyone?) on her. She knows that Bryan’s brother Jackie is working at a forklift company owned by a company owned by Prince. And guess what? Some items from the warehouse seems to have made their way to Jackie’s house!

Bryan offers Kate food for thought in return. How about making an ally out of him? The only thing he wants is obviously his law license. So he can sail away to corporate law or mergers and acquisitions.

Hahaha now I have a new fantasy about the last season: Kate helps Bryan to get his law license back, Orrin Bach hires him in his law firm, and lo and behold Axe comes back and makes a lion out of Bryan! I still remember my Twitter exchange with the boss from five years ago!

Talking about personal liabilities, Ira is in deep shit. As he and Taiga were walking at night on the street, someone has grabbed Ira’s phone and ran away. And he is now in Chuck’s office because there are sensitive documents on his phone. He already tried to delete the phone to no avail and his carrier is able to delete everything from Cloud only in a few days. As I am thinking about how someone can keep sensitive documents on his phone, Chuck nods Karl to leave the office so Ira can spill the actual beans: What is on the phone is Ira and Taiga’s homemade sex videos. I mean, it is nobody’s business if a couple takes pleasure in filming themselves but, again, why would you keep such sensitive material on your phone? And Ira calls the videos “very vanilla” but I am not sure using a swing would fall in that category 🙂 And it would obviously not look good for him as the deputy US Attorney if the video fell in the wrong hands! By the way, who is this Karl really? From his regular visits to the Gambler Anonymous meetings to catch a good case to knowing every single detail about every step of ID theft, he is such an enigma!

Ira is desperate but his bestie is there for him. Chuck visits Raul Gomez, the former head of the NYPD fund, practicing at the Chelsea Piers Golf Club. We mostly know Gomez as Axe’s friend from early seasons of Billions. He had the NYPD fund invested at Axe Capital until Axe was indicted. But then he condoned Axe to manage the fund through a company Michael Panay supposedly managed!

Now we find out that Gomez is the soon-to-be-installed NYPD commissioner. Chuck and Raul had their differences earlier. The last time we saw them together was at Newton Creek in Season 4 Episode 2 Arousal Template where Chuck could not extract a word from Gomez about Axe managing the NYPD fund through Michael Panay.

The first question Gomez asks Chuck is wha the would threaten him with. It seems though Chuck wants to start a blank page in his new federal prosecutor – head of local law enforcement relationship with Gomez. They could be Francis Albert and Jilly Rizzo…

Frank and Jilly were best buddies.

…if Gomez could give Chuck the CCTV database that would help find the guy who stole Ira’s phone. And just to give Gomez an incentive to go after the phone. Chuck mentions “national security implications” in the matter. Gomez is on it but he also expects to see Chuck at his “welcome aboard” party for which the US attorney of the SDNY has not RSVPd yet. The importance of optics is in this kind of business is amazing.

Chuck  mentioning “national security implications” turns out to have huge implications for Ira’s phone, and in turn, for Chuck himself. Ira comes to Chuck’s office happy that they got the guy and the phone but surprised that they are not giving the phone back to him. So Chuck is on it again. He attends Gomez’s party only to find out that Dave Mahar, as the NYAG, has the phone under custody and has already forced the phone company to disable remote access so there is no way for Ira to delete the videos! Earlier that day Dave was in Chuck’s office with a peace offering, A Petee’s Sweet Potato Pie to be precise, along with a request that she and Chuck hit Prince together. Chuck turned Dave down sarcastically. But it is Dave who has the upper hand now.

Ira also attends the party just to come clean with Gomez and Dave but they already saw the video which Ira describes as “very vanilla” and they have their own preferred flavors like “fudge ripple” and “rocky road” for the videos that make me laugh hard! Poor Ira! But, seriously, one should be a total idiot to keep such videos on their phone.

Chuck sends Ira back  to Taiga, tells him to wait until he sorts this out for him. And he does but the solution comes at a high price. Dave is now part of the Prince investigation as the Special Assistant US Attorney to any federal prosecution of the man so that Ira’s videos don’t find their ways to TMZ, PageSix or, God forbid, Pornhub.

Chuck saves the day so Taiga can now stop looking for houses in Delaware and Ira can have sex again! It is so funny that Ira hesitates to delete the videos (I am not sure it was Taiga’s idea to make them in the first place). And we find out what kind of man keeps such videos on his phone: the kind that has his birthday as his password! OH. MY. GOD.

Ira is extremely grateful and tells Chuck that he owes him one. Whaaaaat?  The Ice Juice incident alone is enough for Chuck to owe Ira for a lifetime of favors. But I love it that they have such a real friendship and share the leftovers from Dave’s sweet potato pie!

And  I think the things Ira says about Chuck, that he could always see the big picture, is about the Chuck we have never known, the Chuck we have never met, but who Chuck was before we met him in Billions. Ira has known him way longer than we do after all. So cheers to the Chuck who has done the right thing for his friend. I know I am repeating myself but THAT Chuck can even get his girl back!

And that girl is on a mission to take down Prince.

I am not sure if Wendy is honest when she blushes as she mentions Bradford’s name to Dr. Mayer or what she really wants is the doctor’s guidance about her approach to Bradford as though she has feelings for him. Having Bradford under her spell would be a major step in taking down Prince.

Bradford comes to Wendy’s office to ask for a conversation about Prince. Prince is not the kind of candidate Bradford is used to, and so the campaign manager wants to hear Wendy’s insights into him and the company. They agree on dinner, but when Bradford cannot come up with a place, Wendy calls, gives her name and makes a reservation in two seconds!

I am super impressed (I am sure Bradford is, too) to see that Wendy’s name can secure a last minute dinner reservation at arguably the best restaurant in NYC at this time: Tatiana. And chef Kwame Onwuachi makes a cameo, too, to start them off with a few things: Chopped cheese with black truffle, curried goat patties with a few dipping sauces. I want to have them, too. Yes, I’ve been trying to make a reservation for months to no avail!

Wendy refuses to talk to Bradford about Prince without Prince’s approval so Bradford calls him to get his blessing. This is a smart move on Wendy’s part since when Bradford tells Prince that Wendy would not talk without his approval, he says “she is loyal.”

And that is exactly what Wendy wants: To make Prince believe that she is loyal to him. And Bradford likening Wendy’s loyalty to “Riker to Starks, game seven” is even better since basketball is everything to Prince 🙂 If  you are not into NBA, this is about Coach Riley sticking to his player Starks who had a really bad game seven in the NBA finals.

Prince is surrounded by very smart people who he thinks are loyal to him. And tonight when he says “If it was me in your shoes, I would find a way” at his team, he is missing the fact that there is someone at the table who would always find a way but chose not to: Taylor.

It turns out that after Wags trying to sabotage Prince about Hurricane Rosie, Taylor has tried the same thing with the helium IPO. They decided to do it after their conversation with Wendy earlier in the day where they saw Wendy had no concrete plan to take down Prince.

So Taylor first made sure the original company got out of the IPO and then spread the word that the stock was shit. After they bailed on the IPO, they leaked to Spartan Ives that candidate Prince would appreciate it if they took a look. The only thing they had not anticipated was Victor getting an extra hour from Spartan Ives.

As Wendy pointed out to Wags in the previous episode it would take some serious team work like in Murder on the Orient Express to take down Prince. But thanks to Taylor’s individual efforts, they now have Wags with a full sign-off authority when Prince and Scooter are not around and, in turn, some bits and pieces of a plan. Wendy’s reaction to Wags’ sign-off authority speaks volumes. Go on, send Prince to Siberia.

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!

4 thoughts on “Billions on Showtime, Season 7 Episode 5: The Gulag Archipelago”

  1. Spyros rendition of Van Halen? I was really excited when I first started watching Billions that I shared a character’s name, (my first name is Spyros) and less excited thereafter…however this episode contains moments where he is actually tolerable, like when he mentioned the Clarence Beeks shhhhhhh. Thank you all for writing it adds value to an internet that is sorely lacking in it. who do I talk to about typos I find or do I just shut my pie-hole and ignore it?

    1. Thank you for reading! I’m the author so please let me know of the typos. Since we’re not pros, they do not release the episode to us… I watch Friday morning and then write the recap quickly. I’d appreciate a second pair of eyes, always.

      Spyros is a brilliant character. I don’t write much about him unless he is the part of a real plot, and not a comic relief, but he typically is the latter. I am sure he will get a lot of awards in our Wednesday MVPs post!

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