Who would have guessed we would see Chuck Rhoades saying the following words to Bobby Axelrod?
“Thank God, you’re here.”
YES! Axe is back and all the world is right again!
Bookended with two showdowns between the King and the Prince in London and New York, Episode 10 Enemies List gives us a tale of two cities that sees Axe and Chuck work together to free Wendy from Prince’s trap and ultimately get their alliance together with the goal of stopping Prince from being the next POTUS.
Prince gets sarcastic with his host at Haddon Hall. According to him, Axe is doing much better than an average fugitive because Prince was very generous with him when he bought Axe Capital. But Prince is here today to let Axe know that he knows that Axe is cooking something up with Wags, Wendy and Taylor against him. Since this is not true, Axe responds that Prince is channeling his inner Howard Hughes, referring to Hughes’ germ phobia. Prince does not like the comparison. Hughes was paralyzed by fear. Prince, on the other hand, is moving with his “sense of calculated vengeance.” And if Axe tries to go further, the person who will suffer will not be him. It will be Wendy.
“I have tied her to the railroad tracks and I own the whole damn transcontinental.”
Prince sets the ground rules: He will know if Axe does any digging, tries to warn Wendy, or plans an attack on Prince. This ties Axe’s hands for now that he ends up telling Chuck, who calls to say that he cleared the path for him and expects him to come to New York, that he needs a bit of time before returning to the US. But then I am not sure if quoting Marsellus Wallace from Pulp Fiction helps Prince.
“You might feel a slight sting. That’s pride fucking with you.”
As Axe rightly points out Wallace nearly loses everything in the movie by obsessing over pride until he is rescued by the very man he says the words Prince quotes to: Butch, portrayed by the one and only Bruce Willis.
Back in New York, Prince is getting ready to make an announcement about the recent significant structural changes at MPC. Knowing that several employees (read “former Axe Cappers”) will come to Wendy and Wags crying after the announcement, Kate tells Wendy and Wags that, for their own sake, they should comply and act like they fully support Prince’s decisions.
The employees have to give away their smart devices before the confidential meeting. The boss quotes John D. Rockefeller about not being afraid to give up the good to go for the great and announces that Scooter will now be the sole COO, Philip will unilaterally have the sign-off authority for all trades over $500K when Prince and Scooter are not around, and Kate will not only be the head of legal, but she will now take over compliance and, yes, HR, too! Wendy is taking a new CEO position at the online therapy company Mental. Prince also offers a carrot to incentivize his employees to work under the new structure: He is giving away three partnership slots for those who excel in performance and loyalty! And Taylor and Wags? Prince does not even mention them. Besides, Taylor is MIA.
Prince is obsessed with finding out about what every single employee is thinking. I am positive he would try to get chips into their brains if he could. But the closest he could get into those brains is via an AI company conducting AI scrapes every week.
Even the good news Bradford brings is not able to calm Prince down. He may be leading in every national poll, but the only poll that matters is the one on election day. That said, he is excited about the upcoming U2 concert in his honor at Lincoln Center, the very place Scooter was supposed to conduct the orchestra. And when Bradford says that Politico calls the concert “a coronation for Prince for Independence” I want to puke.
There is some visitor traffic at Haddon Hall today. Taylor is visiting to convince Axe about working together to take down Prince. Yes, they have $650M and change in the fund that Prince has confiscated, but they are as determined as ever to make sure he does not become the POTUS. And while Axe offers to call a car for them, they do not stand down…
…so Axe explains the challenge. Prince has set up some trap for Wendy which they have to figure out right away and free Wendy without tipping off Prince. Only then they can turn their full attention to Prince.
Once Taylor tells him that Wendy has been made the CEO of Mental, Axe’s Plan A is to buy controlling shares of the firm. But even though he is ready to pay $1.5B for those shares, nobody is interested. Prince is obviously ahead of them. He made sure there is no sale of Mental shares.
Plan B is to assume the debts that Mental owes but Taylor likens Prince’s game to that of Norwegian Chess Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen when they realize Prince has already settled with the lenders assuming all the outstanding debt of the firm. As both plans are now gone, Taylor steps up and takes us all back to Alpha Cup Charity Poker Tournament at Edison Ballroom in Season 2 Episode 3 Optimal Play.
“A bad motherfucker once told me hate is nature’s most perfect energy source. Endlessly renewable.”
That bad motherfucker needs to sit down and listen to the hate. Fair enough!
As Axe and Taylor are looking for a way to free Wendy at Haddon Hall, Chuck, Wags and the endlessly curious Senior are sitting in the latter’s living room with the host serving what he calls “hors d’oeuvres” from the doorman’s lunchbox 🙂 But thank God Chuck has ordered food from Sable’s, an Upper East Side institution famous for its top secret smoked fish recipe!
In Chuck’s mind, Wendy, Taylor and Axe all being unaccounted for attests to the abilities of the enemy they are confronting. Prince is ruthless. Wags thinks Taylor may have bailed out like Colonel Markinson in A Few Good Men but he cannot be more wrong. And how about Wendy who is typically more punctual than Mr. Diamond in Trevanian’s Shibumi?
Well, who would have guessed that Wags and Chuck would bond over a book – Shibumi to be precise, that Wags loved when he read it when he was 14. Yeah Chuck is more interested in Diamond’s punctuality and Wags is more into Tanaka sisters, but so what? 🙂
Chuck and Wags call Axe to ask for an arrival time only to find out that he needs more time to clear some stuff from his plate before he heads to New York.
The ever punctual Wendy is late because Bradford jumps into the elevator with her as she is on her way out. He wants to learn what kind of misinformation she fed him. The thing is she was not feeding him anything, she was getting information from him, and she really thought Bradford would come to her when he found out who Prince really was.
Honestly, I have also been thinking that Bradford might join the alliance against Prince, especially after his facial expression in Episode 4 Hurricane Rosie when he hears Prince promise to his Taiwanese business partner trade privileges once he becomes the POTUS. But now that Bradford is talking about being filter/buffer/protector to Prince like Kelly and Mattis were to 45, and Haldeman and Ehrlichman were to 37, I am not that sure about his motivations. And is it me or Prince is a bit like 37 because Nixon also had an enemies list of his own and he loved bugging the offices of his opponents:)
When Wendy finally arrives at Senior’s place, Chuck asks Wags and Wendy to help him understand why Axe is slow to join them. Chuck knows that Axe, once committed, is unrelenting. And it does not sound like he does not want to join them but that he is not able to at the moment. What could it be? Wendy’s first thought is Prince may have put Axe in jeopardy, too. But Wags diagnoses the situation right.
“The only thing that would stop Axe is if he were putting someone he loved in jeopardy.”
This triggers Wendy to dig deep into her new company’s books. As she sees something is off with the revenue, she calls Rian to look into the books for her and Rian figures out the trap Prince set for Wendy. There is a second set of books, different from what Wendy and her lawyers saw when she got the the job offer from Mental. The real books have revenues made from billing insurers for the company AI check-ins as if they are human sessions, which is medicare fraud, a federal crime. And since they had Wendy sign a document certifying to the company’s financials, she is now personally liable. Besides, the real documents have been on her tablet all this time linked to her software!?!? Wendy is looking at some serious jail time. YIKES!
In the meantime, Chuck and Ira try to convince Wags to tell them how MPC does what it does because it is the only way for them to identify the weaknesses. Wags is not willing to talk since he cares particularly about the former Axe-cappers at MPC. But he also knows they have to impoverish Prince. It is his billions that give him the standing he has in the society. So Wags takes the necessary risk and tells them all. Still, he adds, there is a level beyond that, a veil, beyond which even he cannot see. And it is my pleasure to share the job ad Wags has for the person they need to do this.
“Need the instincts of a truffle hound mixed with a Daniel Negreanu-like ability to think 9 moves ahead, mixed with the cold and steady hand of a sniper a la Barry Pepper in (Saving Private) Ryan. The full package.”
There is only one man, ladies and gentlemen, that fits the description.
Now that Wendy knows what keeps Axe in the UK, she calls him even though Axe does not want to talk per Prince’s rules of disengagement. But Wendy is determined. She draws the big picture with a scene from Silverado, a movie with a great cast and a young Kevin Costner! Wendy is Stella and Axe is Paden at Midnight Star Saloon. Cobb is threatening to kill Stella. So Wendy says what Stella says to Paden in the movie to Axe:
“He’s using me to stop you.”
Cobb’s threatening Stella does not mean Paden cannot kill him first. And exactly like he tells Prince at the beginning of the episode that it is important to focus on your friends, not on your enemies in life, because your friends will handle the attacks for you, Axe is now the friend Wendy has to handle Prince’s attack on her. The man who listens to hate inside him has a Plan C. Or should I call it Plan D – D for Derek? 🙂
Prince arrives at Lincoln Center in his tux and with his entourage, extremely confident that he is so close to residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, only to run into the last person he would imagine of running into: Axe donned in his Slayer T-shirt playing Angel of Death to his presidential campaign!
Axe himself is not the only surprise for Prince. He has Derek, the very man Andy asked Prince to send the tiger team to rescue, with him. It turns out that Kai Huang Liu, Prince’s Taiwanese business partner’s son, who has ben sitting in jail for the fake NFTs he sold in the US also sold fake NFTs to the Chinese. So it is a straight-up swap: Derek for Liu.
Derek seems to be very eager to talk about Prince and Andy’s open relationship with Anderson Cooper, Christiane Amanpour and Rachel Maddows. Can Prince take that?
No, according to Axe.
“There’s nobody in this country who would vote for President Cuck.”
Now it is Axe who lays out the ground rules. Prince will stand down and let Wendy clean up the practices at Mental and run it for real. And he will never fuck with her again. In return, Derek will go to Colorado and keep quiet. And, if some mysterious accident happens to him, Axe has Derek’s full testimony on record already.
When he visits Axe at Haddon Hall, Prince says to Axe that all serious presidential contenders have an enemies list and the ones that go the distance are the ones who can have their list squared away. According to Axe, the problem with it is that you wake up all your enemies in the process.
“I’m back now. And I’m wide fucking awake.”
Even though Prince tries his best to keep up appearances in Axe’s presence and says he will now go and enjoy the concert being held in his honor, he’s scared shitless now. He tasks his people with clearing every position in their portfolio as soon as Axe and Derek leave.
Axe receives a warm welcome and a “thank God, you’re here” from his former nemesis at Chez Rhoades. Now that Wendy is free, they are ready to get to work.
Food for Thought: I keep going back to Wendy telling Wags at the end of Episode 4 Hurricane Rosie that they have to do it like in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. I love the book and the original movie in which 12 people coordinate to murder a man who hurt so many people in the past. And since every word and reference used in Billions has a purpose, I believe it will be an alliance of 12 that will collectively coordinate to take down Prince in the series finale.
So let us count: Wendy, Wags, Taylor, Chuck, Ira, and Axe. Six. I am positive that Kate is not the soulless woman she portrays this season, she is just playing the long game, and she will be part of the alliance who takes down Prince. I also think that Kate approaching Amanda at the Women in Criminal Panel they were panelists on together could be a subtle, but effective way of reaching out to Chuck. Seven. And then we have Philip who is not a big fan of Prince since he screwed Prof. Ruloff in Episode 7 DMV. Eight. More importantly, one of the dozen murderers in Murder on the Orient Express is the victim’s right-hand man! So, ladies and gentlemen, I put my money on Scooter to join the alliance against Prince. Scooter’s face spoke volumes when Prince came to his office to say he could not allow him to conduct the NY Philharmonic in Episode 4 Hurricane Rosie. I am positive this is not the first time Prince disappointed Scooter. I am also thinking about Dr. Mayer. Why did she let everyone go to take Wendy as a patient? Out of her big heart? And if she is reporting to someone, who is that? Prince or Scooter? My hunch would be Scooter since Prince has not confronted Wendy about what she said to Dr. Mayer. Scooter may have found out about Wendy’s plan early on from Dr. Mayer and may have been playing along. And I am sure Wendy knows about it all. With Scooter, we have nine
We are three people short. I believe one of those may be Andy. She knows Prince better than anyone and that the rescue mission could go wrong only if Prince wanted it to go wrong.Ten. Then we have Bradford. He has been witnessing what kind of man Prince is for a while, and when he realizes that Prince would not let him be the filter/buffer/protector, he may join the ranks of the opposition. Eleven. And, ladies and gentlemen, I believe the last member of the alliance will be Rian. While she was considering to leave the company, once she sees the trap Prince has set up for Wendy, she returns to the office and accepts Philip’s offer to take one of the new partnership slots. I think Rian will play a critical role in the downfall of Prince. And Prince leaving his fingerprints on her tablet in Episode 9 Game Theory Optimal may come in handy soon!