“Sometimes I don’t know where
This dirty road is taking me
Sometimes I can’t even see the reason why
I guess I keep a-gamblin’
Lots of booze and lots of ramblin’
It’s easier than just waitin’ around to die.”
Because you feel it.
It was certainly an aha moment to see Donnie frantically hiding his pills during the FBI raid in his house in Episode 8. I have been uneasy since Axe rewarded him for his loyalty: tripling his stack and giving him 200K shares of Rubinex despite the fact that the guy was not able to deliver! But the pills last week and Wendy noticing his weight loss this week and… I knew… Donnie is seriously sick. And this makes a few other things make sense for me.
What follows is my idle speculation: I just think Axe has known Donnie was sick. Axe is kind to him while Wags is being Wags in the PM meeting where Donnie is not able to see the matrix. And then when Axe triples his stack, Donnie tells him he did not come to ask for this. Did he come to tell him he was sick? And, maybe, just maybe, they make a deal: Axe, knowing Chuck is on his tail, gives Donnie Rubinex and let him get attention while the rest of Axe Capital goes with usual business under the radar. Thus Donnie saves Axe a bit of time to add further insulation to his business and will not live long enough to give Axe to the US attorney: A guy that has always been a mid-level player is now becoming Brian Doyle — a Yankees player, a reserve player for years, that plays a wonderful game at the 1978 World Series — playing one single epic game. I know. It is a pretty cold-hearted scenario since it is about Axe using a sick man to save his ass. But it may turn out to be true. Or not.
In case it is true: You may call Axe a predator. You may also call Axe a rational man. You may call Donnie a victim. But you may also call Donnie a rational man. He knows he is dying and he is making a deal with his boss to have a “game changer” in his hands for his family… Remember how Walter White starts his “blue” business in Breaking Bad?
I will keep this discussion short because, first, we don’t know if Axe really knew Donnie was sick, and second, we, the Fan Fun team, had a long conversation about this among ourselves today and may go ahead and write a blog post on this very topic should the show give us the backstory about Axe and Donnie making a deal. So, stay tuned! But, in the meantime, I applaud the show for making us think hard about such controversial issues.
Ok so… where the F*** is Donnie?
Donnie is in the office. Per their conversation in the last seconds of Episode 8, Axe tells Donnie to go long Kemlot with 2 million shares. Most of their conversation takes place in the newly constructed panic room that blocks any reception that Bryan and co. cannot hear a word other than “let’s get it done” as the two get out of the panic room.
Donnie is not feeling well. He is feeling the pressure. He is a man that tried to tell the truth all his life and he is lying every day. Wendy tries to have a conversation but Donnie’s answer tells it all: “We both know who you answer to.” Wendy thinks Donnie means Chuck. Donnie, in fact, means, Axe. However, either way, Wendy is the last person Donnie can talk to right now. This pissing contest between Axe and Chuck reminds me of the Cold War. Big players fighting their wars on small players: Korea. Vietnam. Donnie Caan. Not so different.
Donnie longs Kemlot. He leaves his phone on his desk, his shirt (which probably has the wire on it) on his chair, swaps his EZ-pass with someone else’s and drives away.
It takes some time for Axe to notice Donnie’s absence thanks to the repercussions of his now public 9/11 trades. Remember the Rolls Royce Axe drives on Henry Hudson Parkway just after the deal is off in Episode 6? I doubt he can drive that car again. It now has “Fuck You Pigs” graffitied all along its side. Axe makes sure his kids do not see it and calls someone to bring over the Range Rover. Lara feels the hatred and suggests they move somewhere far away for a while but Axe is not buying into it: “No one is chasing us from our home or my work.” He is in denial. Lara is not happy.
Axe Capital parking lot is the new Zuccotti Park and protestors are chanting: “Towers down, Profits Up.” They turn down the donuts and the coffee Axe sends them with his compliments; however, on a hilarious note, they do not turn down limos to take them home when their bus is broken. Axe delivers the line of the week: “No one turns down a limo.”
In the meantime, he receives the inevitable call from Raul Gomez who needs to do what he needs to do: move the NYC Police Pension fund money elsewhere. It is fascinating Gomez is not judgmental with Axe. He should still be grateful to the guy who made A LOT OF money for his guys. He is okay with Axe taking more than 90 days to release the money if he needs to but Axe tells him he does not hold hostages.
Well, it does not apply to everyone 🙂
Sean Ayles shows up with a proposal to change the Symphony Hall name to Freedom Hall or Enterprise Hall and finds out it is either Axelrod Hall or Go Fuck Yourself Hall. No, Axe is not buying St Nicholas and his anonymous donations story: “If it was anonymous, how do you know he did it?” Ha!
He also tells Wags, after his Cryotherapy session (his new toy!) that he will hobble his three employees, Carly, Channing and Hlasa, who jump the ship as soon as protests start. Hobble? Yes, exactly like in Misery. Watch it at your own risk!
Lara’s family has the inquisition set up at her restaurant. A brother or a brother-in-law suggests she is married to a criminal and it’s time to divorce Axe’s ass. There is no prenup (which, in fact, shows Axe is a pretty decent guy in marriage) so she will still be rich if she wants that “blood money.” Hey, Mr. Know-it-all, have you ever heard of something called… love?
Her brother Sean lets Lara know he cannot show his face in his neighborhood and some guy at his old house is talking about driving a fire truck into Axe’s office. Lara immediately knows who that is: Mikey. The guy she was dating when she met Bobby at an aid tent after 9/11. Lara visits Mikey who tells her she took “big life” that he would not offer her over him. She had the “ups” and now she needs to face the “downs.”
Determined to turn the “downs” into “ups” Axe and Lara visit the Fire House Lara’s heroic brother Dean worked along with Mikey and others. Axe makes his case — a very hard sell — to the crowd. When told he is talking like a politician, Axe gives them even more than Dimonda gives the public: That he stepped on the gas after the second tower was hit. He did not do it for himself. He felt responsible for the families of his friends that perished in the attacks. He is being honest about it. He is not proud of it. It is what it is. But he, I feel, also does not want to come across as vulnerable. So he keeps the facade cool even though there is a split second that I feel the facade is crumbling when he says “Paul, talk to me.” And, Damian walks the perfect walk on this very thin line.
A surprise visit by the fire inspection officers ends in clearing Lara’s restaurant due to violation of fire code. Even though Axe tells her he will have violations cleared, Lara sees this is bigger than that. She also lies to Axe about her family being 100% behind him. I am not sure if Axe is buying this (probably not) and if he really cares (probably not). Lara, thinking it is Chuck who is going after her business, pays a visit to Wendy to ask if she thinks her being targeted is just. Wendy does not say much other than Chuck’s job is his and her job is hers. Does she really believe Chuck is recused?
Lara sees the big picture when Mikey drives his truck not into Axe Capital but into Axe Hills. He even leaves thirty pieces of silver on the farm implying Axe being Judas. And he tops it all by standing around so Lara sees him and knows who is responsible. Shame on him. What an ass.
It is amazing to see Lara is closing the restaurant and selling the farm. I don’t think she would do this if she needed to deal with Chuck. But this is “her people” and, as she tells June in The Pilot, they can make the ground fall out from beneath you. Axe’s “People forget. Things change.” does not apply to Lara’s people. She knows. Because she is one of them. And we know she will not forget this.
Axe knows he just shuts down when things go bad. He operates on auto pilot, which I believe, in his world, is equal to doing what is rational completely detached from emotion — exactly like what he did on 9/11. As Lara says he has got to change THAT, maybe implying this side of him as a weakness, I feel, this couple is going to make it. They are honest with each other. They are able to have hard conversations. My dear Bookworm has wonderful insights about Axe in this scene that I find fascinating. But no spoilers! Please look out for her Previously on Billions on Saturday.
The word travels to Axe that Donnie is missing. We have seen Axe earlier asking questions that he already knew the answer to, but this time, as he confirms to Wags later, he is genuine: Where the F*** is Donnie?
It is hilarious to see Hall’s codename “Iceland” on the phone probably referring to THAT evening in Reykjavik they talk about in The Pilot. Hall Axe and Wags and assures them Donnie is not in federal custody. At least not yet. But, no, he’s not having dinner with them at American Dream Diner!
Chuck gets some work done before the word travels to him about Donnie being MIA.
Adam DeGiulio is smiling at Chuck the same way the “God smiles down on” him with “this 9/11 shit”. It turns out the AG is ready to be generous for expenses on the Axe case. And, hey, she can even make an appearance on the podium to “class things up” when the Southern District lands the case safely. I love Chuck’s response: “When the jungle was thick, you hid in the hills. And now that I’ve bushwhacked through and I have El Dorado in my sights, you want to sack the city with me?” Ah, of course! You know, Chuck, it’s election year and “a good takedown will make all justice look good.”
Upon finding out Judge Whit Wilcox, who is, in Kate’s words, “a self appointed defender of capitalism” is presiding over Dollar Bill’s pre-trial hearing, Chuck pays him a visit to see what his office should expect from him and is told they are not having this conversation. Wilcox does not allow Chuck to bug Axe’s house, either. As he rightly points out, a house is where the most intimate stuff happens: A fight with a spouse. Baby crying. Lovemaking. Yeah, Chuck may not want that after all 🙂 But, hey, he still does not give up. He will now mirror the hedgies by hedging the risk: He goes to Lonnie and gives him homework: “Look into Wilcox. Go wherever it leads.”
Bryan is getting antsy. Where the F*** is Donnie? When he asks Terri, she answers with a good question: “You’re sure it’s you that wants to know?” Terri is smart, she sees Chuck’s body language does not match his words. Terri is so smart she also sees the body language between Bryan and Kate. The thing they had was fun but it has run its course. Bryan is free for a dinner date with Kate now to celebrate the news she shares with him: “Kemlot Biochem is getting acquired by Far East P&C at over a $100 dollar a share.”
Chuck finally gets good news from Bryan that Donnie used his credit card at a cheap restaurant in downtown Cleveland next to the Convention Center. Chuck knows what Donnie has been up to in two seconds of googling. Wendy hears him saying: “A fucking saint. He let himself be found. He’ll be coming back home.”
Donnie calls Wendy to thank her. The stuff she said made him see what was important for him. He tells her about his spiritual journey. His chance to clear his mind. Guru Ash. “It’s kind of a saint.” “You saw a saint?” Wendy now KNOWS Chuck is not recused and has been lying her all along. What a blow it should be to her. Or maybe not. Hey, Wendy, why not go have that “bathtub gin” with Chase the Headhunter, who pays a visit earlier in the day, after pitching some analysts to Wags, and is dying to have drinks at a Bowery “speakeasy” bar? Even though I believe they love each other, there has been so many lies between Chuck and Wendy up to this point that they may not make it in the end.
Donnie is now at the US attorney’s office with Chuck listening in the next room. He gives Bryan “Glenn Gilmartin” — a high-ranking FDA guy — who supposedly shared the Kemlot information with Axe. The name checks out. Brian presses harder for details. Donnie says he will testify against Axe but he is feeling sick now. Bryan is so close to getting Axe that he presses even harder. Donnie vomits blood on his face and collapses. The episode ends with a close shot of Chuck who is listening in another room. He is frozen.
RIP Donnie Caan (I am not 100% sure that he is dead, but things do not look good for him, do they?) Thank you David Cromer for your superb acting. We’ll miss you. And for those of you that is not familiar with David Cromer: He is a distinguished theatre director, a stage actor and a recipient of MacArthur fellowship aka “Genius Grant.” His Our Town at Barrow Street Theater in which he also starred as the Stage Manager is one of the plays that has stayed with me (I saw it in 2009). Cromer has directed The Effect this year at Almeida Theatre, London, received rave reviews and the play has just arrived at Barrow Street Theatre in New York. Well, the moment I saw this New Yorker article on Cromer’s singular vision, I have got my tickets! 🙂