The Punch opens with a bang and throws a number of punches, literal and metaphorical, at us all.
We find Axe doing laps in his Hamptons pool and listening to Replacements’ The Ledge that goes “I’m the boy they couldn’t ignore, for the first time in my life, I’m sure” on his waterproof headphones. We cannot ignore the boy does not look okay today. We have never seen him like this before. The pressure is taking its toll on Axe. He is at the end of his rope.
Kids come back from an afternoon outing with Mr. Layner, a Hamptons neighbor, and his kids. As they declare their afternoon was awesome, Lara gets a call from her friend Lilly asking if the kids arrived home safely. She saw Mr. Layner drinking before he drove them home. This gives Axe what he’s been looking for: A punch bag! He gets out of the pool, literally runs to his car, drives to Layner’s house and turns “Margy time!” into “Punch time!” 🙂
Well, I did not take it literally when Chuck said in The Pilot that Axe “is Mike Tyson in his prime.” It seems I should have! Axe punches Layner as if he is the world’s heavyweight champion finishing the job on the boxing ring!
Emergency meeting at Axelrod residence: Orrin Bach says if the word of the punch gets out, it may knock out Axe’s business. Sheryl, who runs communications at Axe Capital, knows some gossip writers are already on the story and Lara’s friend Lilly should come forward to confirm Layner’s drinking. Bach, prepared as ever, has a retired police officer with him. Chief Mueller has been retired for 7 years but is still respected in the Southampton Police Department. He has intel that the police has a video of Axe punching Layner and there is pressure for an arrest but Mueller is arranging a backdoor arrival meeting for Axe and Bach at the police station. Still, Team Axe should get confirmation of drinking asap.
Oh yes they should! We know via Chuck Sr’s grapevine that Garth Sykes’ Flagship already jumped ship. Axe cannot tolerate another institution to leave the company. And he now has one of his strongest backers Raul Gomez come all the way to Westport to tell him he needs to settle his trouble asap. Withdrawing his money is the last thing Gomez wants to do but he WILL do it if there is any misdemeanor. This is serious shit.
Lara sees Lilly just to find out oh she is so sorry but her husband says press would fuck his business badly. What the fuck? But we all know the type, don’t we? She starts a thing, gets you in trouble and then watches from the sidelines. I know Lara despises Lilly is not coming forward but what Lilly says about her maid is probably not helping, either: “I have to go. The maid is leaving at 3 today. Some bullshit about taking her kids to the doctor.” I imagine Lara as a modern day Madame Defarge that records the names of the people to be revenged 🙂
Guess what lands in Mike Dimonda’s mailbox? THE Video. He asks for a comment for his piece. We now find out Axe has photographic memory that creates wonders! He singles out the person who should have made the movie: The girlfriend of Layner’s son. Sheryl is on it! She’d better be on it, because Axe looks like a time bomb: it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when that he will explode. Look at those crazy eyes: “Find that original video, pay what we need, get it.”
Once he hears from Lara about Lilly, Axe is on his way to Hamptons police station: The police do not like the fact that they need to, in addition to college kids and regular dirtbags, to deal with billionaires punching multi millionaires. They will take a statement of Axe’s versions of the events but it is ultimately the DA’s call to proceed or not. And, yes, they have the video.
Axe needs to move fast now. He takes Dimonda to dinner and kindly asks for a short hold, just a day, on the punch piece. And when Dimonda says he would not spike it despite how good the veal chops are at the restaurant, Axe brings out the big guns: Dimonda could use THAT DAY for a meeting with a certain network chairman in Aspen about his own show: “Charlie Rose has got to move on at some point, right?” Done.
Damianista’s side note: if you want to eat where Axe eats, this is Artie’s Steak and Seafood on City Island, the Bronx. The owner, Spiros Chageres, in a Bronx Times news report, says Damian Lewis enjoyed their “shrimp and scallops over glazed tomatoes.” So, go for it!
In the meantime, Lara is not comfortable with their kids having no street smarts. She does not want them to be the rich kids Axe always told her he had an edge over thanks to his desperation. Axe thinks desperation was also responsible for him still being an animal when they first got together but Lara wants the kids toughen up a little so they can stand up on their own feet. She drags them to the beach for clamming so they learn about earning your own living and finds the ultimate solution in a summer camp that would teach them a thing or two about life.
Sheryl delivers the video within her “budget for this kind of thing” with Layner admitting to his DUI. Axe turns into an instant hero on You Tube with 400K views in less than 2 hours… so much so that he even gets a text from Lawrence Boyd who pissed on his face in The Deal: “Bobby, share my chopper out to the Hamptons for Clean Water Gala.” Axe is now saying hello to the healing waters of Lourdes. Fist bumps indeed!
The day ends on a fun note for Axe as he gets a text from his boys who are desperate to come home from screen-free camp. Dad to the rescue! Axe believes one day at the camp might be enough for the kids to appreciate what they have at home. I wonder what mom will say in the morning but Axelrod boys will make sure they will have great milkshakes tonight! But what is the life lesson for the boys in this? Calling dad works! Axe may have second thoughts when they are 17.
The problem is Axe has been dealing with the the punch he has thrown that he seems to be in the dark about the ones being thrown from within his inner circle! Trouble looms large over Axe Capital and Axe may be in deep shit.
It turns out “loyal soldier” Donnie Caan has been “turned” by Bryan and his team. Well, having seen the guy’s hesitation about starting with 200,000 shares of Rubinex, when his stack was tripled, I knew he would not be Axe Capital’s Brian Doyle. But, honestly, I was not expecting him to be a mole, either. Donnie loads up on Rubinex, sells at a monster profit the moment Rubinex has FDA approval for some organic pesticide and is flagged big time. He could neither provide research on the product nor any sign off from the compliance. And when they pull out meta-data showing he had been in contact with insiders, he breaks, in Bryan’s words, “like a Mexican condom.” Yikes. All wired up, Donnie tries to have Axe talk about the Kemlot trade but after his “bit of a weekend” Axe is just in the mood for drinks and a conversation about Pavlov’s study.
Chuck is “out of the game” as much as Axe was in The Good Life. He has recused himself so there is no “conflict of interest” but he is on it 24/7 and determined to pull the strings behind the scenes.
He first gets rid of Spyros who is pushing hard to be “the commandant” on the case. Chuck finds Marina Slovis, the woman he asks Dale to find the contact information for earlier. It turns out Ari raped her in the past and he is simply frozen when he sees Marina talking to Kate in an office. Glad to say bye to Spyros and his cologne.
Then he extracts information from Bryan regarding his informant at Axe Capital and encourages him to have a little motivational session with Donnie to speed up the process. Chuck arranges a secure place and watches behind the closed doors as Bryan tells Donnie not to “bojangle” him and Donnie tells Bryan it makes him sick to sell out the man who gave him everything. Bryan explodes — “Are you fucking kidding me?” — when Chuck surprises him at the end of the meeting to sing his praises for his excellent work on Donnie Caan. No Chuck is not kidding. He is dead serious.
Chuck preaches to Bryan the following day about how the ends justify the means. He is “willing to look into the abyss beyond conventional morality” and do what needs to be done to save the retirees, the hourly workers, time-card punching factory employees from the likes of Bobby Axelrod.
Ha! Now… I don’t know about Bryan, but I really have a hard time believing Chuck since I heard his own wife putting him in his place when he claims he works for the public good in The Pilot: “No. You work for the good of Chuck Rhoades and maybe sometimes they intersect.”
This is a brilliant observation on Wendy’s part that I believe applies to almost anyone and in particular to people with aspirations for high office. Chuck is no exception. Man, he even makes Bryan to sit in his chair to FEEL it. He asks Bryan only to think about whether he could do a better job with Chuck in his corner or without him.
Well, what does Bryan feel? This is what I am curious about.
I don’t buy Chuck’s argument about the public good but I completely buy my Bookworm’s argument that it is likely Bryan will see Axe and Chuck are not that different from each other. Wouldn’t it be hysterical should Bryan leave the public service by the end of the season to start with a 1.4 million dollar salary at a private law firm? We have found out about Kate’s aspirations, but we don’t know much about Bryan’s. We just know he cannot get a decent NYC rental without a guarantor. And, hey, defense pays much better! 🙂
Bryan gets a stick from Donnie late at night with a note that he will be happy to see it. I hope we do not get a punch in the stomach when we see the contents of the stick. But I just can’t help imagine… what if this is all part of Axe’s plan? If I can see Donnie not being the next Brian Doyle, Axe is more than able to see that. What if? What if he gives 200,000 shares of Rubinex to Donnie knowing he will get busted and US attorney’s office will be all over him as Axe and other PMs at Axe Capital move on with their business under the radar? Could it be yet another layer of protection for Axe? I know it’s a stretch but I just want to throw this out there.
In other news that has not reached Axe yet, Wendy may jump ship any moment now. And she is the only person that has felt the change with Donnie: “You used to be one of the most open people here. But you’ve withdrawn from me. Even now I’m sensing you’re withholding.” And what would Dr. Mojo do if Donnie opened up to her in a session?
We find Wendy at a meeting with Chase, the headhunter who her best friend Billie had a fling with at some point. She does not want a job at a hedge fund because it would not feel right to work at a competitor. Chase, who seems to be a natural flirt, tells Wendy it is hard to find the kind of love and money she wants in a job outside the hedge fund world. Wendy wants to keep discreet and does not share this meeting with her husband.
And she is still working at Axe Capital so she needs to make sure Axe knows all signs (read “the deal” and “the punch”) point to him starting to fit a certain type that enjoys self-sabotage. Axe admits he should not have thrown the punch but the deal is another story: “Just think about who had what to lose. And know that I went into that room ready to make a deal.” Wendy is not smiling as Axe leaves the room. She probably now has all the details.
When she asks Chuck about what happened during the deal, his answer is these meetings are often unpredictable and “big gamefish often has one final thrash in it as he gets close to the boat.” Wendy already knows what happened and she could probably tell someone who tells a story with almost no eye contact is lying.
I find it surprising Wendy does not confront Chuck. She may be forgiving because he has recused himself from the case. If only she knew 🙂 Wendy is sick and tired of the pissing contest between the two men and she knows a new job could be the best for her family. She just lets Chuck know that they are meeting Gilberts tomorrow for dinner and, no, they cannot reschedule!
Chuck finds Gilberts creepy since they are a bit too loved up! But, hey, my husband and I know each other’s passwords, too; does this make us creepy? 😀 And I believe the dinner with “Siamese Twins” (which Wendy corrects as “Conjoined Twins” and I love it that Chuck always says “Sure!” when someone corrects his political incorrectness) is all worth it because (a) they are eating at Babbo, a New York staple and one of my most favorite restaurants in New York City and (b) as much as they are creepy, Gilberts sort of turn on Wendy that she starts it with a slap as soon as they are back home.
I have no idea about the BDSM gear Wendy collects from the floor the following morning. But it seems they had a good night and there is a note from Chuck with his password on it 🙂 Wendy seems to be okay with staying in and letting Axe solve his problems on his own that day. Besides, Chase has a great idea and wants to meet for drinks at Chefs Club. He knows she likes Negronis, too.
It turns out a blue-chip consulting firm that do turnarounds from inside out could be exactly what Wendy is looking for: clients vary from innovators, thought leaders to crazy geniuses and people on Fortune 500 that would require her up her game and the comp is platinum, too. Wendy is intrigued by the opportunity. I just wonder if she is also intrigued by Chase. Is this some harmless flirting or more than that? Only time will tell, I guess.