Previously on Billions…
We start off with Wendy in some spooky looking place with Hall who directs her inside where Axe is waiting. It turns out to be a spa and it is just the two of them…well there is the possibility Hall is lurking around. Bobby says “It has been a weird couple of days”. At which point we flash back 72 hours.
Wendy is not happy. Wendy is in fact very mad with her husband. She is afraid that her absence from the office when Bill was arrested will make it seem like she knew it was coming. Chuck proceeds to tell her what they think of her won’t matter because in the end, when he is done, there will be nothing left and she is beautiful and talented and will land on her feet. Her answer is “Fuck you”.
Axe is rallying the troops and sounding the battle cry. He is standing on high surrounded by his subjects. I admit to having difficulty keeping a straight face when he began by describing Chuck as “An unscrupulous adversary”.
The scene with Axe addressing his people is intercut with Bryan and Chuck interrogating Bill Stearn. I find it hilarious that Bill is even known in these circles as the stingy multi-millionaire. Chuck lays out the charges against Bill and what he is potentially looking at, 12 years, and a $9 million fine.
Bobby is geeing up the troops with this was “An attack on all of us”.
Back to Bill who is getting the “Why you and not someone else” speech from Chuck and Bryan. Bill looks unimpressed with their tactics while Orrin advises him that he doesn’t need to say anything.
Bobby is getting into his stride now “Today, we stand at the praecipes.”
Chuck tells Bill he has one chance to give him Axelrod.
Bobby gives a history lesson about Pearl Harbour with Wags and Donnie adding some soundbites.
Chuck tells Bill that he knows (Bill that is) that Chuck has the tools to go all the way. Axe is a crook and he is going down. Bill has this one chance to take a deal as it won’t be on the table tomorrow.
Bobby talks about the war that unleashed the might of America, a victory that left America as the most powerful nation on Earth.
Bill Stearn has two words to say to Chuck. No it is not Fuck you. That will come later. Right now, he’s saying “No deal”.
Bobby says something that is very important. “Those who try to bring down our house, will see their own houses fall.” Poor Wendy is standing listening to all of this. Those words sound very ominous for her because for her that could mean quite literally.
Orrin now steps in to do his bit “The case against my client is entirely without merit”. Bryan scoffs in indignation at this and we see here is where Bryan begins to unravel in this episode and just doesn’t stop. Bryan responds with “Bill Stearn bribed a company official in exchange for material inside information. It does not get any clearer.”
Bryan’s old lecturer from Law School is about to give his former student a lesson on just how unclear anything can be when you have the language skills to muddy the waters and emotional reality to tug at heartstrings.
“He (Bill) became friends with a farmer working at a company he covers. He was so moved by the plight of that man’s daughter that he arranged transportation and medical care for her. Now, if you can convince a jury of citizens that paying to save the life of a sick child constitutes an illegal benefit then you should go ahead and take us to trial.”
Bryan‘s look of disgust says it all.
Orrin continues “my client has no interest in co-operation, no interest in a plea and he does not recognise your authority.”
This is a fantastic scene in which you should pay as much attention to Chuck and Bill who are, for the most part, silent as you should Bryan and Orrin. Kelly AuCoin and Paul Giamatti do some fantastic work in this scene through facial expressions and slight movements. Watch their eyes.
Chuck spoke of having “the will”. As he looks at Bill in disgust he may be starting to consider that Bill has it too.
Bryan, on the other hand, is losing it. “He does not recognise your authority” is the easiest way to attempt to rile anyone in authority. Chuck who is that bit more experienced than Bryan does not react verbally. It is obvious he takes this shot hard, but he’ll fire back when the time is right and it isn’t now. Bryan cannot contain himself with “What the fuck does that mean?” Well, that ‘Fuck you’ I was talking about earlier? This was it. This was Bill saying Fuck You with his Fuck You money.
Bobby can’t contain himself either as he paces back and forth in his office. He orders Wags and Donnie to liquidate 2% of the fund immediately and that will be their ‘war chest’.
Wendy then interrupts the 3 man marching band to tell Axe that open war isn’t good for anyone. She tells him his whole mentality is wrong. That he isn’t accepting certain things are out of his control. “Too right I’m not” is his reply. While Axe’s loss of control is more obvious, Wendy is visibly struggling to hold it together. She tells him that if he wants control back he needs to push away the part of him that is raging and do something that will make him uncomfortable.
Team Chuck are ordered to find Bill’s weak point while Bryan has more to say for himself. He doesn’t want Axe to walk away with a fine and a family office. Chuck assures him he will not allow that to happen. He is going to put Axe in a cell.
Lara arrives at the Stearn household with “muffins” which are in actual fact hiding a whole financial package to take care of the Stearn family.
Wendy is doing some digging with her husband as they redo their conversation from the day before. She wants to know why he is going after Axe so hard. She doesn’t buy his reasons and she knows when he says he can’t recuse himself from the case he really means that he won’t.
Axe is having trouble meditating.
Team Chuck has hit a road block in trying to find something on Bill Stearn. Bryan and Kate have a moment in Japanese and Terri notices.
It isn’t a flash Ferrari or an Audi that gets them on Bills case it is two Honda Mini Vans “One in beige, one in boring” that uncovers his secret life. As Dale notes “Who has two Honda Mini Vans?”
Wags and Bobby are having a panic meeting. Wags is trying to be the diplomatic one, “The smoke is enough to choke you, there doesn’t need to be a fire.” but Bobby isn’t having it. Wags wouldn’t mind if they had to become a family office as it would mean pruning of the staff half of whom he can’t stand. Bobby, however, is not for being “Another rich dick playing the market with his own money.” Wags points out “You’ll be the biggest dick.” Axe comes up with an idea of endorsement from Lawrence Boyd and Wags needs to make it happen. “The healing waters of Lourdes, cleaner than a maiden’s honour.”
It must be so hard to be Bryan right now. Just when he thinks he’s on a win and on the up someone slaps him down. Bryan is like an excited little kid as he explains to Chuck that Bill Stearn has two families. The two of them take to the interview room with this great revelation thinking that they can now bend Bill Stearn to their Will. Bryan wants to know how Bill has time for bribing people. Looking after two families and coaching two baseball teams. Bill splits his time as evenly as possible and “tries to be fair”.
Chuck jumps on the “fragile wife” bandwagon to try and make Bill cave.
Bill is not having it and sends his wife an email with the whole story. Bryan is disbelieving, Chuck is angry and says “You just blew up your family for Bobby Axelrod?” Bill responds rather magnificently “I’m keyser soze motherfucker”.
This is rather interesting comment from Chuck because one could take the view that Chuck Rhoades is risking blowing up his family for Bobby Axelrod as well.
Bryan and Orrin have a chat in the men’s room. Bryan finds it hard to understand why someone like Bill would be so loyal to Bobby Axelrod. Orrin attempts to explain, but Bryan isn’t quite ready to process it yet. Nor is he ready to process the suggestion that he will flip sides. Orrin says that “For true believers like you, it is the worst because they never see it coming.”
Bryan calls Bobby a “filthy money pig”. This sounds very personal, but unlike Chuck I do not believe Bryan’s issue is specifically Bobby Axelrod. He’d say the same about Birch or any of the others. Chuck is clearly all about Bobby. Bryan also tries to express how hard they will come after Bobby and how they won’t let him off the hook. Orrin responds with “You know you just work here, right?” One thing is very clear and that is that Orrin Bach wants Bryan Connerty on his team.
Axe is not happy. He can’t meditate so he is in the gym and nearly blows his Achilles. He interrupts his attempted blowing of his Achilles to go interrupt Wendy who is on the phone – I suspect that this is when she was talking with Chuck Senior.
Axe has himself all worked up and decides now is the time to ask Wendy about the £250,000 she took out of the fund. He is questioning her loyalty here as he compares what she did with her money with what Bill did.
Wendy says “I won’t be the shuttlecock you two (Chuck and Bobby) smack back and forth. You two just sniffed each other one day and decided you didn’t like the smell.”
Orrin describes Bill as “inspiring” but pushes Bobby to do a deal with Chuck. Bobby is insulted by the suggestion and says Chuck cannot be allowed to walk around using rumour and hearsay to destroy lives and businesses.
It is fundraising season and Adam has arrived to inform Chuck that everyone (the administration), but particularly the Attorney General is concerned about how his case against Axe looks. Either everyone will be talking about him being lenient because his wife works there or that he attacked Axe capital because she worked there. Hmm that seems a bit lose/lose to me.
Wags calls Bobby to tell him that he has been invited to Lawrence Boyd’s box. This is the personal image boost Axe/Capital is in need of right now.
Lara is rather frank with Bobby and says she thinks he should settle and do what is right for the family rather than what his pride is telling him. She is afraid they will be pariahs. Dean and Gordie were uninvited to a party. Bobby is being stubborn in this scene, saying “I” a lot and talking about his family life like a stock trade.
Chuck Senior is in full gloat mode at the dinner table as he tells Chuck that Garth Sykes is dumping Axe and he tries to goad Wendy into revealing information. Wendy, as ever, only reveals what suits her and remains tight lipped otherwise. Perhaps because she knows that Chuck Senior has the position wrong. A trip back to Short Squeeze and we remember Axe agreed to cover 25% for Ken. He may have decided to give him Garth as part of that deal since Garth is a bed wetter who would be far more comfortable with Ken and his caution
Chuck Snr & Jnr take a jaunt outside with Snr giving Jnr grief because he bows to Wendy’s ground rules about no smoking in the house. Chuck Jnr’s “I pretty much do what I want” sounds feeble. They discuss Chuck’s ascension to higher office. In a surprise mini twist it comes to light that Chuck Snr has been taking advice from Wendy and I think it was him she was talking to earlier in the episode when Axe stormed in on her.
Chuck accuses Wendy of turning his father against him and Wendy puts him right on that. His father called her and asked for her opinion and she gave it.
Wendy then opens up to Chuck about Axe telling him that she knows Axe better than anyone, but even she doesn’t really know him. That if Axe cannot win it will become about making Chuck’s loss bigger than his. Chuck seems astounded and asks if the loss wouldn’t bother Axe. Wendy replies that of course it would, but he came from nothing so he fears, probably expects to have nothing again and that is something someone like Chuck could never understand.
Chuck asks Wendy to reach out and see if she can arrange a meeting for settlement between the two parties.
Lawrence Boyd pissed in Bobby’s face. When Bobby showed up he arrived at party for “mailroom dipshits”. Not good.
Bobby is meeting with Hall discussing counter measures. Hall suggests using the conflict of interest i.e. Wendy. Make sit looks like she is involved, fraud, and embezzlement or maybe she is having an affair with Bill…or Axe. Axe does look a tad disgusted, but he doesn’t say no.
Bryan is apoplectic when he realises that Chuck is going to settle with Axe. We gave our Billions half time report here and I discussed Bryan. To say Bryan is unhappy at the prospect of Axe getting a deal is an understatement. His calm façade has vanished in this episode in its entirety.
“I didn’t come here and sacrifice real money to let these guys write their own get out of jail free cards.”
This is quite a statement from Bryan who earlier in the episode had called Bobby “a filthy money pig.” It seems to me that certain thoughts are creeping into Bryan’s mind like how the defence pays better and how Chuck Rhoades crossing the line may even be worse than someone like Axe crossing it. I thought in The Good Deal that Bryan was projecting a bit on to Kate. He was making it about her while actually voicing concerns about what he is considering for himself…defection to defence, “a fact of our world”.
Chuck is not happy with Bryan’s latest display of dissent, something that is becoming more common and dismissed him like a teacher or parent would dismiss a misbehaving child from the room.
Hall arrives outside Axe Capital to pick up Wendy and take her to Axe. She asks Hall “Have we met?” and he deadpans “No, And we still haven’t’!”. I love this guy!
We arrive back at the start of the episode with Bobby and Wags in the spa. The nakedness is to assure each other that no one is wearing wires…well particularly assure Axe. Bobby wants to know why Wendy is sticking around.
“I am not going to tell you I’m sticking around because you need me. Even though you do, more than ever. I am not going to tell you I am here for my patients or because I love my job, even though I do love my job. Your collection of insecure egomaniacs would lose a billion a year if I didn’t keep their heads straight. I am not going to tell you I am here spying for Chuck because you know that is total fucking nonsense! The answer is I am here for me. Because I built this company just as much as you did.”
Bobby interrupts with “That is a bold statement”.
Wendy continues “That is a true statement. I put you back together again when your whole world burned and I found meaning in that I still do. I am not happy here, not always, not now, but meaning matters more to me than happiness and I am in this water because I don’t want to see you throw it all away when you don’t have to.”
Bobby doesn’t want to lose Wendy and offers to make a deal with Chuck.
Bobby admits he feels like someone else when he tells Lara he did the right thing for all of them.
Chuck gets on the phone to Adam to tell him he is not recusing himself because Axelrod has agreed a deal including $1.9 billion.
Chuck Senior is on the phone to revel in his son’s glory and starts reminiscing of old times including about a kid he made sure did not get into Dalton after he had an argument with Chuck. This is something all parents do whether they mean to or not, whether they realise it or not, a parent always finds some way of telling their kid “no matter what you do, it will never be enough to please me”. No matter the age of said kid, teenager or fully grown adult, it always stings.
There is also a fun point that Chuck Senior has been banned from smoking inside now that Mrs Rhoades Senior has heard Wendy’s rule.
Team Axe is having a meltdown, well Axe is. Wags and Orrin are trying to put a gloss on the family office.
Ben Kim was in charge of the food for this meltdown meeting and Wags is not impressed telling him to “step it up”.
Axe signs the $1.9 Billion dollar cheque.
Axe is looking very smart in his suit.
Chuck and Bryan taunt Axe about taking a deal. This prompts Axe and Wags to retaliate eventually leading to Chuck deciding no family office. Axe refuses to accept that and tears up the cheque.
Wendy is upset that no deal has been made and does not think she can cope with continuing to be stuck in the middle. Chuck outs all the blame on Axe. Silly man must know his wife will get to the bottom of it.
Chuck tells Wendy he is recusing himself from the case.
We see Bryan and Chuck having a meeting in the dark of night. Bryan is now in charge of the case or so he thought. Chuck is ‘officially’ recused, but unofficially he wants Bryan to keep him in the loop. There can be no paper trail to Chuck who says “The gloves are off” and “We do whatever it takes.”
Just less than 30 seconds ago Bryan was using the phrases “Always”, “I’m all in” and “You can count on me”. He was calling Chuck a hero for not going through with the deal. As Chuck leaves him standing and Bryan turns to head off in to the dark of night himself, he does not look like a man so defined “Always”, “I’m all in” and “You can count on me”. He is a child who just realised his dad is not a superhero and isn’t perfect nor right all the time. He is a man who now finds that it is not the criminal that has him conflicted, unsure of himself and questioning his beliefs, but his boss who is supposed to honour the law. His mentor who is supposed to be just, true and strong. Bryan is about to discover he has to stand on his own two feet in more ways than one. What will he do?