Billions on Showtime, Episode 4: Short Squeeze

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Episode 4 opens with Axe Capital PM Mick Danzig slowly walking in his yard at 4:42am with a Singani 63 bottle in one hand and a semiautomatic in the other as Andrew Bird sings his Oh No with lyrics going “arm in arm we are harmless sociopaths…” in the background… Danzig starts shooting at deer eating his plants and gets squeezed by the police. Whether he is just a harmless sociopath is up for debate.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Axe and Hall take care of the situation that there will be no report on Danzig. But Axe cannot give the world another reason to hate them. What the fuck is happening? Danzig seems to lack adrenaline. He may feel a twinge when he goes down. But he feels nothing when he goes up. Then he sees the deer outside his window: “Eat. Move. Shit. Repeat.” And Bang! Where is Dr. Mojo when we need her?

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Dr. Mojo is driving a Porsche! She spots Peter Decker crossing the street to US Attorney’s office as she is dropping Chuck off at work. Chuck pretends he did not even see him. He does not have the balls to tell Wendy. Not yet.

Well, you can take Bobby boy out of Yonkers, but you cannot take Yonkers out of Bobby boy. Axe is taking his childhood friends to Metallica’s big North American gig in Quebec. The old buddies are in for a real treat from flying on Axe’s private jet to a taste of Purple Urkle in their private apartment to VIP tickets including a meet and greet with the band! By the way, my two worlds collide now that the third cast member from The Americans makes his appearance in Billions. Hello, Agent Beeman! 🙂 Noah Emmerich is Axe’s old buddy Freddie.

Pouch catches Axe on the runway just before he leaves. He is uncomfortable about their short play with Cross Co. There are rumors that Yum Time will cancel the distribution contract with Cross Co which could be a potential conflict of interest. Axe does not budge. He was not on Yum Time board when they made the short play and he is not involved in day to day business of Yum Time. There is no paper with his name on it. And he delivers the line of the week there and then: “Like your wife says, hold your fucking position until I tell you I am done.”

Chuck Sr. is determined to see THAT gubernatorial campaign in his life time. Thus, he can’t risk leaving Axe to Chuck Jr’s timetable. With a little help from his friends (read: insider trading) he comes up with a move that gives its name to the episode: Short Squeeze.

What’s Short Squeeze? Suppose there is a certain stock thought not to be doing well. So, people choose to short it. But sometimes the company may have some good news and the stock may rise in price which means the short sellers now have to cover at a higher price and lose money. Say you buy it at $10 and the price goes up to $90. You need to cover $80 per share and if you have a lot of shares, you are a little bit screwed…

Cross Co is not doing well. So Chuck Sr and his friends block buy and prop up the stock turning it into a “strong buy” which is predicted to go to $90 per share — which means a real fuck up for Axe who receives the news on the flight to Quebec!

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

And it’s not just that but his prime broker asks him to cover as soon as possible. Axe should now play ball with Ken Malverne of Vista Verde (the older hedge-fund guy whom Axe called a “poacher” in Episode 2) who is a top share holder of Cross Co. Ken owns the shares and if the company tanks he will be fucked so Axe should make him happy. Some 25% happy. Done. Axe tells Hall he has reason to believe it is Chuck Sr who is making a play against him and the first person Hall calls to give a heads up is… Ari Spyros!

Now… We’ve been ready to ROCK to Metallica since Damian tweeted about the trip to see the biggest band in the world back in September and Jania Jania did a wonderful blog about Bobby Axelrod rocking to Metallica then. So… Horns up, everyone!

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

I find 40+ year old guys rocking to Metallica complete with devil horns adorable. The music you grow up with is special. It is very personal. It stays with you and whenever you go back to it you are 15 all over again… So, well done, Axe & co. Having said that… I find 40+ year old guys hitting on 20 year old women equally creepy. So, I am happy to see Axe sip his beer as his buddies go hunting the opening act. But… Oh no… Bobby meets Elise (portrayed by wonderful Kerry Bishe), a young musician who was was born to flirt. Where is Lara when we need her?

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Elise is a complete know-it-all (“Best song?” “Fade to Black.” “Wrong.”) who thinks she has figured it all out about life as most 20 year olds do. She gives Axe doctor’s orders. First he needs to watch Citizen Kane (I second that). Then he should feel free about thinking where this night is going (I do not second that).

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

I knew it! I KNEW IT! Axe steals the hearts of all married women once and for all by passing on Elise and moreover saying “it’s a real thing” for his marriage. Hey, Elise, believe me, figuring out life is a much longer process than you think. But you are right. Citizen Kane is a must see for Axe and everyone else.

Kane is a classic that depicts the American Dream as something that may not be as desirable as it looks that one can, in fact, envy those that “eat, move, shit, repeat.” The movie is about the life of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane as told from the accounts of people that know him closely. We can’t get Kane’s own point of view because he is dead. And this very point may be what essentially forces us to question what is (was) truly important in his life, but also makes us think hard about what is important in life in general.

Kane gives up his emotional security for financial security to live on TOP of the American Dream. His last word “Rosebud” turns out to be the brand of the sled he played with in the snow when he was a kid. That is, he leaves this world not with the fulfillment for his newspaper successes or political ambitions but with a longing for his childhood…  essentially the price he pays to live the American Dream.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

I imagine the journey from Yonkers to Axe Capital has been a steep and hard climb for Bobby Axelrod. How much of his emotional security was Bobby forced to give up to build the empire he has today? How much of this exchange has been fulfilling? And, besides, now that the US attorney is chasing him, how much more would he be willing to give up to keep what he has? Who will Bobby Axelrod turn out to be? What is his “Rosebud”?

As Axe is multi-tasking in Quebec, Chuck is working on to bury Axe on his own timetable with a few wrinkles on the way.

Kate catches another big fish: Tara. They have Tara text Hall for a meet and get the FBI involved to make an arrest but, hey, they really don’t know who they are dancing with. Hall does not take the bait. He calls Axe and lets him know Decker is flipping on him and their source is burnt.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Using the tip from Hall, the SEC now has a dossier on Chuck Sr and Ari Spyros is more than happy to share it with Chuck. It may go into the system tomorrow… or not see the day of light if Chuck makes a few concessions: A lot of fucking respect to Spyros. Spyros will talk and answer questions first at every presser. And if Spyros puts Chuck on a case in the future, he will take it asap. I bet Spyros will wear extra cologne at their next meeting 🙂 Chuck calls dad and makes sure he says “Okay, son” to every word he says!

source: Showtime

Peter Decker, treated to some Shake Shack take out (one of my go-to take out places in NYC) in a proffer session with the US attorney’s office, is singing about the workings of Axe Capital.

It turns out Axe is more like a nation state than a man. He has his own constitution. He does not chase information, but information flows to him. He does not go to Philly when he craves Cheese Steak but cheese Steak comes to him from Jim’s, and Shank’s and Tony Luke’s, too. The king chooses when all three are delivered.


We learn Axe gives his blessing and a chunk of capital to those who have given him years of loyal service and “ass-kissery” to start their own funds. And he expects transparency on all their ideas in return… Remember the guy who calls Axe at the beginning of Episode 2 with the idea about Gold Standard making a comeback. That was Decker!

Axe makes bigger and faster moves on the smart ideas making them useless for whoever has come up with it in the first place but pays back with “tips” which makes the whole process worthwhile for all including himself.

How come? Bryan could not find one single document to link Axe to Decker. It turns out “there are accounts with the names of holding companies, LLCs, and reinsurers with names on them that clear to other accounts with other names.”

A holding company, Lady Trader tells me, does not produce its own goods or services; rather, it owns other companies’ outstanding stock. The sole purpose of its existence is to own shares of other companies to form a corporate group. A close example is Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. And people can set up LLCs and can own “shares” in them. Since they are private entities, you don’t have to disclose who owns shares in the LLC. Nothing illegal, and it’s done mostly for privacy…. Then how can Axe make use of those holding companies and LLCs?

Well, Axe may have these companies invest in Quaker Ridge and give Decker tips to buy or short stocks, and profit from the results. It is a way of getting inside information, and trading on it, but leaving no paper trail back to Axe.


source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Chuck is having a hard time containing himself and finally asks the question he believes will seal the deal: “At what point what exact moment did Axelrod instruct you to buy Pepsum Pharmaceuticals?”


Not so fast, Chuck!

So… Decker is singing but not Chuck’s favorite tune. Decker is not 100% sure but he believes the voice that gave him the tip on Pepsum on the phone belongs to “Dollar” Bill Stearn. There is not enough evidence to implicate Axe and Chuck is almost losing it as he tells Bryan about his desire to expose Bill to some medieval torture: “I want to put him on the rack and stretch him until he gives us Axe.” Yikes! Then he comes home and confesses to Wendy about Decker…

Well, Chuck and Axe may have one thing in common after all… They have real working marriages. Chuck gets relaxed in Wendy’s company. Axe genuinely smiles as he facetimes with Lara…

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Axe saves the day (he wins 15 million and Chuck Sr loses 480K), convinces Garth Sykes to stay with Axe Capital and bails out his buddy Freddie who thought he could make a short play, too. Freddie, Freddie, did you really think you could swim with the sharks? Wrong! And don’t forget Axe does not “hold on to a loser”… We don’t know if this applies to old buddies as well…

If it really takes guts to make a change, as Elise has suggested, Axe has the guts and is not sticking to the classics upon his return from Quebec.

“Eat. Move. Shit. Repeat.”

Axe tells Wags to delever, that is, pay the company’s debts, sell 5% of all the company positions across the board then start selling sector by sector – first Telecom. They both know people will think Axe is out. But is he? I admit the poker face does give nothing away but, hey, I have a hunch…

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Axe squeezes in a secret meeting in Quebec City with his old friend Constantine who has worked at Mundia Tel all his career, obviously a Telecom company. Constantine gives Axe a tip that he knows Axe would know what to do with. Axe tells Wags to start selling with Telecom. Oh no, he is not out. Yes, it’s a zero sum game. And Axe is there to kill and eat. And not be eaten.

We believe in Axe. And nothing else matters 🙂

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!

18 thoughts on “Billions on Showtime, Episode 4: Short Squeeze”

  1. Loved Bobby’s loyalty to Lara. He always rewards loyalty at work, so its nice to see that he practices what he preaches there. It also speaks to the truth that their relationship is one of devotion and partnership. They have each other’s back, in all matters. Love it.

    I’ve been marathon watching the first season of Homeland this week, while I affix rhinestones to various things(glamorous burlesque life and all!), and I really noticed as I watched tonight, what a different character Bobby is from Brody. And I just finished re-watching Life, so I can really see the difference between Charlie, Brody and Bobby. Its pretty incredible, it sometimes even feels like those are three different actors!! His range is great, and you can really see how all his preparation and dedication to his craft is poured into each character. And his portrayal of a New Yorker really makes me miss my New York friends 🙂 He really nails it!

    1. Same here! My husband still says I am very jealous of Elise, and maybe I am, but I don’t care! Axe scores BIG in my eyes – he has a “real thing” in his marriage and I LOVE IT! <3 People that are ruthless and greedy at workplace could still be loving in their relationships. And, I think, Bobby's "blue collar" ethics - street honor code - helps, too.

      We have been talking about Damian's versatility for quite some time on the blog and off the blog among ourselves. The difference between Bobby and Brody certainly deserves its separate post! In contrast to many big name actors in Hollywood, I am not naming names, playing just one character with a different name in every show/movie they are in, Damian Lewis brings brings to life a completely new character in every new project. And Bobby is no exception. And he is different from anything he has done before. That tells me a thing or two about why he has chosen this project as his next, too. He's such a NYer in the show, isn't he? I am a part time NYer, lived there 5 years and never really left so all in all I can say I've been living in NY for 15 years and yeah Damian completely nails it!!!!

      1. When I lived in Missouri for a few years, I made friends with some transplants from Queens who had come there when TWA moved their airline HUB to St Louis. I adored them, really loved their attitude, their sense of humor, quick wit and honesty. They taught me how to take a good joke, and how to give major attitude/sass. Watching this show makes me miss them so much!!

        And yes, his ability to really embody different characters. I pulled up the three characters he’s most known to me for, and I can see it in his body language in still photos, even. Bobby is all from the hips, the swagger, but also in his forehead-I’ve never noticed the wrinkles in his forehead so much! Bobby has this tension in his forehead, he’s always thinking. Brody had tension between his eyebrows, from his sorrow and anger and fear. And Charlie had those wonderful smile lines around his eyes, and a serious clenched jaw, someone who was happy, but at the same time had endured, and wanted something in return. Its very interesting, as those zones of the face correspond with an acting discipline I study called Delsarte! I bet Damian’s teachers are not far removed from the great Delsarteans from back in the day…..

        1. Wow, Holly, I just LOVE this comparison of Bobby, Brody and Charlie. Amazing observation. All different face muscles at work, huh? BRILLIANT! I’ll look up to see what Delsarte is about. Wow.

          1. The Delsarte information out there is pretty dry, at times, as his original writing was pretty technical. There are some great google images that come up, referencing how head, heart and vitality are shown in the body. My teacher, Joe, has a website

            It kinda blows your mind to learn about it. It changed my life.

          2. Holly, by the way, we just LOVE your comparison of Brody, Bobby and Charlie so much that — only if you would be up for it — we would LOVE to share a guest blog by you on how Damian uses different facial muscles for different roles. You have the experience and we would love to share this with all the fans.

        2. You made very precise notes about his acting…. after all he is representing classical theatre school of “old good Europe”. I also noticed that he is behaving completely different during interviews when he is in England vs. his appearances in American guest shows and I am not talking about his ability to change accent. When he is home, he is looking and behaving like a real Londoner dandy (who he actually is), very intellectual , cultured and mannered, while on American TV, he is acting, he is actually playing to be glamour bold and sparkling, in a very successful way, like Hollywood star is expected to be, having incredible funny sense of humor in his both images…don’t you think?

          1. You are spot on, Veronica! I am so buried under Billions and I will probably keep writing on this show until the end of the season, but what you are talking about is on my to-do list for late spring early summer because I have also noticed how different he is on talk shows, but also in public, even clothing is different, his posture and manner are all different — so interesting how he switches between “British” and “American” Damian. Fascinating!!!!

  2. Great episode! This combined two things I love: my work as a trader, and heavy metal music.

    I’ll tackle the music first.

    I can just imagine a 16 year old Axe, Ginger mullet, very faded Metallica t-shirt, ripped jeans, and high top Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers, hanging out with his buds in someone’s basement. How can I get that detailed? Well, that was me and my friends (except we were in a basement in Brooklyn, not Queens)! We were all metal-heads (still are). And I know what’s it’s like to see your favorite band 30 years later. Our old group got together last spring and we all went to see Black Sabbath at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. It’s a chance you just don’t miss.
    The choice of songs for the episode was very clever. The song Elise was singing was “Round and Round” by a hair band called Ratt. The lyrics of the song “what goes around, comes around” was fitting, since Axe needed Ken, and the Chuck needed Spiros. Both played hard ball with the men who put them down earlier. And of course, Axe’s friend Freddy, getting left behind.

    The song Metallica is signing during the concert is “Master of Puppets” which is a song about drug addiction (and a damn fine song if you ask me). If you read the lyrics, it is about something controlling you and making your life miserable. Can this be why Axe is possibly closing shop? All the pressure, and the deals, always having to come out on top of every trade – has the desire and the rush become his master? Yes, he has a private jet, beautiful home, but at what cost? One of his oldest and closest friends betrays him. He has to constantly look over his shoulder at who’s coming for him. And to top it off, he needs to go to Ken, who he has no respect for, for help. It’s a very powerful song ( and the lyrics are fitting for this episode.

    Ok, now back to the short! A short is such a dangerous trade. There is an infinite amount of money you can lose as opposed to the finite amount of a long. Example: if I buy $100 worth of Disney, and it goes to $0, I can only lose that $100. But if I short $100 of Disney, and the stock takes off, well I could lose thousands. And that is why Axe agrees to pay 25% to Ken – he needs those shares, desperately!

    Things like that happen often. Short squeezes are part of the game, but if you get caught in one, it’s tough. Lucky for Axe, Yum Time drops the trucking company and the shares plummet. Things like that don’t happen too often. Most times, you take your losses, lick your wounds, and move on to the next trade. Eat, move, shit, repeat.

    1. Lisa, wow, you are a REAL Metallica fan, and I feel how much you could love the show. My confession is due: You and I are certainly from the same generation, but I am more of a ’80s pop fan, but I, at least, understand how you could feel seeing your most favorite band. I just can’t wait to be a front row joe at Duran Duran’s North American Tour this spring – different band, same feeling! 🙂 The music you grow up with just takes you to whatever age you were back then and I am certainly ready to be 14 again!!!!! I love your comments about the music! Elise’s song makes perfect sense with Axe and Ken & Chuck and Spyros. Brilliant!!!! I, in fact, thought maybe Axe seems to be withdrawing just to come back with even a bigger play. That secret meeting with Konstantin was interesting at the very least. This episode was the one that made me crave for more immediately. I think the real treat is just starting!

      What do you think about Axe giving a short play to Pouch for Cross Co before he even got on the Yum Time board? I feel like he knew that contract would be cancelled after all and that is why he shorted Cross Co early on. Ha ha Eat Move Shit Repeat indeed!!!!

      1. Another wonderful blog. When you said it is amazing how the three of us can look at one episode and pick up different aspects, you were totally spot on. I loved reading through this. Your question of what emotional security Bobby has given up is brilliant. I too would like to know what his Rosebud is.

        I had originally thought Axe was shorting Cross Co to cause some ripples and give YumTime potential distribution issues.

        1. Thank you!!!! I am so curious about his “Rosebud” and we may find out about it or not – Bruno’s pizza maybe? 🙂 – But I just hope we can find more about his past and “missed opportunities” thanks to his background as the story unfolds in the weeks to come. A complex creature this Bobby Axelrod is. So many layers and I want to see them all!

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