In one of the best episodes of the entire series, which I would call “the calm before the storm” Axe, Chuck and Wendy finally set up the game to take down Prince. The key to the episode is the three of them discussing Prince’s strengths and weaknesses in Chuck’s SDNY office where Wendy does her thing:
“We’re facing an ambitious, competent, , confident, charismatic, socially conscious strategic thinker with high emotional intelligence and deep sources. But he’s morally complex, which means he likes to think he’s more ethical than those around him. And he’s not immune from engaging in questionable tactics to achieve his goals. That is a slippery slope and once place he can be hit. And he believes his own infallibility above all else.”
Prince is a very difficult target thanks to his strengths Wendy lists in her assessment of him. However, his intense belief in his own infallibility, which Axe himself had before his own fall, will be of immense help to take Prince down.
Axe drives his Bentley to his new Axe Global Headquarters in his Guns’N’Roses T-shirt. The new office is an all-white, warehouse-like space where we get to see two familiar faces right away: Mafee is on the phone at his desk and Helena shows up to tell Axe that Prince is waiting for him in the conference room. Prince looks calm, competent and confident. He seems to have overcome the shock he had two days ago and he is here to tell Axe about what he did yesterday.
Prince, Bradford, Philip and Scooter, still in their tuxes, are sitting in Prince’s office in the early morning after the U2 concert. Philip thinks that Prince has tasked him with getting out of all their positions in the heat of the moment and now that he has cooled down a bit he would give it up on the “everything must go” sale. But he is wrong. Prince stands behind his decision. While Philip thinks that the market will think they are scared and moreover their investors may sue them, Prince insists on dealing with such issues if/when they come.
“You can’t keep anything. Get us flat. Everything becomes cash and exposure to Axelrod and his attacks go to zero. This is a guy who’s strip-mined towns (Sandicot), knocked out prominent families (Axelrod Hall), taken over boards (Yum Time), blown out firms (Saler’s), and sabotaged thriving companies. (John Rice Capital) Killed my ambassadorship. Exposure. Zero. And that’s not even considering Rhoades and all the curd he has the capacity to do to us.”
Fair enough 🙂
Prince now tells Axe about how closely he has been watching the MPC employees whom Axe calls his “kidnap victims.” Prince sees them differently. Some employees like Dollar Bill and Victor are in the “trusted category.” That is because they have met Taylor, who has been trying to recruit them at Axe Global, and made it clear they preferred not to have their feelings run the show and that they would stay at MPC. And when they go back to MPC offices, they talk to the high-ups, and explain the situation. Prince thinks Ax trained them well.
“They did the right thing. Like Henry Hill after the Air France heist (true story portrayed in Scorsese’s Goodfellas). They paid tribute. They kicked up.”
Meanwhile, Ben Kim and Tuk who have not even dared go meet Taylor because they would let their feelings run the show go into the “untrusted” category. Prince fires them on the spot with a recommendation to these “good guys, good earners” to join a 4H Club!
He probably does not share this part with Axe but Prince tasks his “trusted” employees with finding base hit trades, singles or doubles (with risk/reward ratio 1:1 or 1:2), with predefined exits, for when they will go back in. But they need to wait until Prince gives them the greenlight to take action. Prince is proud that Bill and Victor take him over Axe.
“Sadly, your move to hire back your people out from under me failed like nearly everything you’ve tried lately.”
“Not everything, Mike.”
We find out that Andy has packed her things and left for Colorado to be with Derek. While she will be back for the next campaign event, she does not feel like their original agreement stands because she knows why the tiger team effort to rescue Derek did not work out. Oh, and it turns out Derek sent a picture to Axe 🙂
Damian’s dead pan delivery is everything. I am still laughing!
Prince keeps up the appearances by sharing that he knows what Axe and Chuck want him to do but here he is to disappoint Axe: he has figured out their plan to distract him and chosen to focus on real business instead.
The first order of business at MPC is for Kate, and despite Spyros, to have Winston reset the parameters on the risk algorithm he has developed earlier at MPC and the company was able to get the algo back thanks to Wags’ “Winston, This is your life” presentation in Episode 3 Winston Dick Energy. And now they need Winston to reset the parameters to reduce profit as prime objective temporarily to go for low risk investments. And they would be happy to pay the 7-figure number Winston asks for if he took care of this today.
Then Kate shows up in Prince’s office to share some important news from her source at the SDNY. And while she does not want to reveal her source’s identity, Prince already knows that she has met Amanda Torre! So the footsteps Kate hears when she and Amanda meet at a dark and deserted subway station so Kate could get the scoop on upcoming investigations are real! WOW. This is HOW CLOSELY Prince watches his employees these days. And it is laughable when he says he does not know who they track, he only sees the results. BULLSHIT.
I want to reiterate here that I still believe Kate is not the soulless woman she has come to portray this season. She is playing the long game, and she will be part of the alliance who takes down Prince within the MPC. I also think that Kate approaching Amanda at the Women in Criminal Panel in Episode 10 Enemies List is a subtle, but effective way of reaching out to Chuck.
Chuck comes up with the legal investigations idea thanks to Orrin Bach, who appreciates the takeout lunch from Kensington Deli at the meeting Chuck, Ira, Wags, Mafee and he are having to strategize about how to target Prince’s private holdings.
“Legal entanglements. Lawsuits designed to tie up their resources in lengthy battles that distract them from their core business operations.”
This reminds me of the aggregated lawsuits, 127 of them, Chuck is served, courtesy of Axe, in Season 2 Episode 1 Risk Management 🙂 I remember that Bach’s eyes are lit when he hears about Axe’s plan at the Yonkers Raceway 🙂
Back to the episode. Like I believe that Kate’s approach to Amanda is a subtle but effective way to connect with Chuck, the harsh way Chuck treats Amanda, when she protests against going after Prince without knowing if he has committed any crime, is a subtle and effective way to get back to Kate. He wants Prince to know that investigations are coming.
The thing is that, as Wendy suggests, Prince is intelligent enough to get this. It does not take long for him, as he channels his inner Herbert Yardley to figure Chuck’s strategic thinking process, to realize that Chuck wants him to know about the investigations, get distracted, and not pay attention to what he really has to. And that brings us to an important person of interest!
Montana Governor Nancy Dunlop, who lost to Prince in their fireside discussion at The Owl to get “Fourth’s” support in Episode 8 The Owl. Now that Dunlop is beaten, Bradford wants her on Prince’s side so that Prince can use her organization, complete with her field operatives, voter data and so much more which Prince rightly calls “the keys to the whole candy store.” And guess what… Dunlop is in NY and free for dinner until…
…she is not!
Prince: “You counted on that. Winning Governor Dunlop and her support. But I remembered what was important to me. Presidency and how to get there.”
Axe: “I think you know she hasn’t made her announcement yet.”
Prince: “No, but I think I know what it’s gonna be.”
It is now Axe’s turn to tell Prince about what HE DID yesterday. And I do not think Axe tells about his meeting with Chuck and Wendy to Prince but it is at the heart of this episode. I already talk about Wendy’s assessment of Prince at the beginning of the post so here I will only talk about their discussion of Prince’s financial decisions.
The street is talking about Prince going all cash these days. Axe knows that this is not sustainable since Prince’s investors will not pay 2/20 for staying in cash. Prince has only a few days to cash out and make sure his opponents are nowhere in his holdings, he will massage his investors and employees for a few days, and then he will buy back in fast. And we already know Prince has tasked Dollar Bill and Victor with finding good base hit trades for him for when they will get back in. Yet, if the goal is, as Chuck suggests, to annihilate Prince, then many people will lose in this, in particular the former Axe Cappers whose money is all tied up at MPC. Thus, Axe likes the idea, but doesn’t love it.
As they change venues before work day starts at the SDNY, Chuck sees that Axe is covered for real at the new company headquarters. But Axe sees it as a temporary place and he has his eye on a different space for the long haul. I suspect he is talking about taking back what was his! And when Taylor comes to tell him that Bill and Victor have passed on their job offer, Axe understands because MPC is holding their money hostage. He also tasks Taylor with finding out about how long Ben Kim’s and Tuk’s non-competes are. Can Axe take over MPC and save all the hostages? What do you think?
But Axe now has a phone call to make and convince Governor Dunlop to sit down with him before she talks with Prince.
And over dinner at Rao’s, a NYC institution that has been serving southern Italian food since 1896 in its original place, and where you can get a table only if you’re a regular or you are a guest of a regular, Axe shares with Dunlop how he can help her.
“The one thing you will never regret spending money and time on is a great experience. A memorable time. That’s what I provide.”
And the next great experience he wants to provide the governor with is a trip to the White House! However, as Axe is confident that he can put her on top of the race if she agrees to do it in the way he lays out, Dunlop is hesitant.
“It’s a hell of a long way from there to the presidency.”
I do not think that Axe shares this next piece with Prince but it turns out Dunlop has an after dinner drink with Chuck in his office.
Dunlop now has two billionaires who want to take her to the prom but neither one jazzes her up about the after party 🙂 She can see that Prince ate the Great Man Theory which essentially says that people in positions of power deserve to lead because of characteristics granted to them at birth, and is in for second servings! 😀 But she cannot see the difference between him and Axe. Besides, Prince is in politics and that is where Dunlop’s future lies. Chuck puts the difference between Axe and Prince just right: Clarity. Bobby Axelrod knows that he is a monster, accepts it, lives with it. Mike Prince, on the other hand, denies he is a monster. The ball is in Dunlop’s court to decide.
Prince’s last bit about last night comes after Axe finishes his Dunlop story. It turns out that Prince has been able to meet Dunlop late last night and that is why he thinks he knows what kind of an announcement she will make tonight. And he finishes with an offer to Axe: it is interesting that the guy with no interest in diplomacy is now offering peace talks!
And now I have to remind you the rest of Wendy’s assessment about Prince which I believe will ultimately help the alliance to take him down.
“…he’s morally complex, which means he likes to think he’s more ethical than those around him. And he’s not immune from engaging in questionable tactics to achieve his goals. That is a slippery slope and once place he can be hit. And he believes his own infallibility above all else.”
I really think Prince believes in the Great Man Theory that Governor Dunlop has talked about earlier. The way he talks about how old time kings would give back some lands even in victory to prevent further bloodshed and about how great presidents dictated peace through strength shows that he sees himself as a great man. And as a future great president, he promises not to mess with anybody sitting across the table from him if they dropped the fight against him right away. Hmmm…. I am sure that all those people sitting across the table know about commitment problems, Mike!
As both Axe ad Chuck assert that Governor Dunlop will reaffirm her candidacy tonight… surprise, surprise! Dunlop shows up at the peace talks and announces her support for Prince and that she would share the presidential ticket with him! Axe gets sarcastic with Dunlop that at least she got a decent price 🙂
And THIS IS IT, ladies and gentlemen! This is the plan! I bet this is how Axe and Chuck have laid out the plan for Dunlop. They may be looking disappointed at the table and watching the TV broadcast of Prince – Dunlop ticket quietly, but they should be smiling big inside.
Prince’s belief in his infallibility is his Achilles heel. He does not stop and think for a second that Dunlop accepting his offer to be on the ticket with him could be part of the plan Axe and Chuck have put together. Because in Prince, Prince trusts. I believe that Axe and Chuck have asked Dunlop to meet Prince late last night and accept his VP offer so that Prince feels infallible than ever. And Axe calling him “another run-of-the-mill usurper scrapping for turf in this room” just before Dunlop shows up is very calculated to make feel Prince even greater than the very great man he believes that he is.
Coupled with Bradford bringing the news that he has been invited to Camp David for intelligence briefings, Prince’s God Complex is at its peak. And this will help Axe, Chuck, Wendy and others to take him down. Prince’s fall will be big and bad. My fantasy is that he goes to Camp David and is told he had never been invited. Can you imagine?!?! And when he comes back, he has no company, and he takes that computer and throws it thru Wendy’s glass – you know we still haven’t seen that scene! And what’s Wendy doing there? Who hired her back? I think the Trojan horses are on it: Scooter, Philip and Kate are doing this while Bradford is keeping Prince busy on the road. Hahaha.
The series finale will certainly keep us at the edge of our seats as the two sides have their ultimate showdown. We the Fan Fun Team has our individual predictions about who each of us thinks will be on Team Prince or Team Revolution here. But I have been developing my theory over the course of the season in my recaps so I also share it here.
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 have already talked about Kate playing the long game and helping take down Prince from within MPC earlier in the post. 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. Oh, and Scooter asking Philip about whether he would be able to do what he had to do with the personnel left at MPC may actually be about whether they can still take down Prince from within.
We are three people short. I believe one of those may be Andy. She knows Prince better than anyone and she has said she feels like their original agreement about the presidential campaign is broken thanks to Prince’s actions. 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.
Yes, we have just seen her hug Taylor before leaving for an adventure in North Africa, but we really do not know if she and Taylor had a conversation after the hug, or if she has decided to stay until they take down Prince. Remember it is always about what we do not see in Billions. I still think Rian may play a critical role in Prince’s downfall. And Prince leaving his fingerprints on her tablet in Episode 9 Game Theory Optimal may come in handy soon! And if not, so be it, I am having so much fun trying to figure out what will happen!
All others including Dave Mahar, Karl Allerd, Chuck Senior, Judge DeGiulio, and Amanda on Chuck’s side, Dollar Bill, Victor Mateo, Mafee, Ben Kim, Tuk and other former Axe Cappers on MPC side, Mr. Sacker and Bryan Connerty (Axe can ultimately make a lion out of him!) on Kate’s side would stand with the rebels if/when they found out a revolution against Mike Prince is in the works. But when we talk about the core of the revolution, I put my money on my own dozen whose pictures you see above.
One final thing: We still haven’t seen the scene in which Prince throws a computer through Wendy’s glass and then storms into her office. This means we will see it in the final episode. But Wendy has already left MPC, so why is she there in her old office? Could it be that Axe has taken over MPC and made it Axe Capital again and Wendy is back in her office?!?! PRETTY PLEASE!