On we march into the gilded fray on Billions: a modern day rags to riches tale with enmity as old as time itself. It's Wily Upstart vs. Old Money on Sic Transit Imperium and somebody wants to be Guvnor!
We getta find out what the episode title means right away; it's "So Passes The Empire" and it's transcribed on the coin Wags (David Constabile) got Bobby "Axe" Axelrod for his birthday. It's for a share in some kind of a security against the world bunker, like a fancier Waco with quinoa and herbs. We know it's expensive because Wags tell us how much it cost AND they look at it through VR goggles because product placement is a real and tangible thing on this show.
TANGENT: I was leaving the gym the other day and a lock of shiny hair caught my magpie eye. It was a very expensive shade of silver, so much so that I looked back at his trajectory of where he had come from trying to see what he was driving. It was THAT fancy. It took me a minute because I'm terrible with cars, but it was a Rolls motherhumping Royce. In BuFu Nowhere, Central Alberta, Canada. At a community rec centre. I feel like Billions has warped my view of how the uber rich operate, I thought everyone would have a state of the art gym bunker built, but maybe sometimes you wanna flip some hair and have somebody stalk your ride. TANGENT OVER!
Governor-to-be Chuck Rhoades Jr. (Paul Giamatti) is assembling his crack team to go after Bobby again, this time for his "Austerity" measures against Sandicot.
I don't know who that is, but I like her already! Bryan Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore), Kate Sacher (Condola Rashad) and Lonnie Watkins (Malachi Weir) are fronting the attack, and for once: Chuck's right. Bobby took a hella risky move being so obvious about investing in ill-fated Sandicot when he did. It's obvious that he had inside information, they just gotta find a way to tie it to his tail. The subpoena for Stephanie Reed (Shaunette Renee Wilson) came in, Kate will be taking the lead on that.
Dollar Bill (Kelly AuCoin) has a birthday present for FunBobs too, but it's not the first round draft pick baseball player he's been "assisting" since 13, it's a car company about to go down in flames. Bobby asks the question of the night: what's Dollar's level of certainty?
Ohhhh we know what that means! It's a lock, FunBobs, run it out. But NO. The casino deal was also supposed to be a lock and all of a sudden Bobby cares what the feds think. I'm pretty sure that's a textbook case of locking the barn door after YOU WENT AND YELLED AT CHUCK RHOADES AND HIS DAD IN FRONT OF WITNESSES AND ADMITTED FULL CULPABILITY.
Dollar's not taking this equivocation and rational move, he comes at Bobby hard. Wags gets up in his face, but Dollar blows him off and brings his attention back to Bobby. If they aren't free men and women doing what they want, who are they? If they can't keep getting richer and richer then the terrorists have won.
Ayn Rand is awesome to read, but I'm pretty sure it would make for a shite world for everyone who lived in a Sandicot as opposed to Bobby's mansion.
Interesting that Wags was acting like Bobby's attack-shih tzu
Chuck is stumping at a town hall meeting in Sandicot; adorable how he's added a little southern to his posturing, the locals shouting "lock him up!" seem to dig it.
I'm still torn on Sandicot, because Bobby is for SURE fucking that town, but they got themselves into debt all on their own in the first place. He's just the debt collector, and a reluctant one at that, since he didn't even want to be there without the casino (which he got through inside information) anyway. So I can't feel bad for Bobby, since he was using inside information that turned bad and I can't exactly feel bad for Sandicot, since he didn't PUT them in debt, what's a recapper to do?
A man stops Chuck on the way out of the meeting, he's taken to see BlackJack Foley who is dining alone in Sandicot and has some advice for our Chuck. After some pleasantries (Chuck came through on the job for Foley's granddaughter), Foley brings up a George Minchak who is going to conduct a stress test on candidate Chuck. He resists, until the name Eliot Spitzer is invoked and he understand the stakes. Better to know! Foley advises Chuck to have the diner's special: the garbage plate, "eat the shit out of it" sounds nastier than Chuck's insistence that Bryan eat the mutton, but it amounts to the same thing. Big cog gets to tell smaller cog what to lap up.
Deb Kawi (Ifenesh Hadera) is in session with Dr. Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff); she's been trying to get into investing for 16 months now. Wendy wasn't aware of that, which yeah, means, you haven't been aggressive enough, Deb. She's fighting her conscience on the Sandicot deal too, does she even want to get into this end if this is what it means? She brings up what her reverend used to say and whoa!, session over, Deb! That attack of conscience isn't gonna get you a trading job!
Deb goes straight to Bobby's office where he and Wags are discussing the existential nature of whether they've become "pussies" or not; Bobby votes no. He sent Deb to see Wendy, ahh, that was a setup and she saw through it. That's kind of a shitty thing to do to someone you are supposed to trust, Bobby, losing Danzig over Sandicot must have cut deep. Do you need a tissue?
Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) overhears Mafee (Dan Soder) and Ben Kim (Daniel K. Isaac) talking about Bobby's birthday party, they look worried. By that I mean Taylor looks worried, not Mafee and Ben. Taylor asks Wags how important is attendance, then swears when Wags confirms it will matter. Wags smirks at Taylor's "f*ck!"; "you're one of us now."
Stephanie gives Kate a couple of nibbles during her subpoena; Dollar Bill mentioned a "Victor" while wanting to pitch a sketchy deal and that Taylor is right in the thick of things these days.
Do you remember that guy distinguished guy who liked to talk down his nose while holding his fingers together like Montgomery Burns that Bobby used before when he was buying naming rights on a fancy building downtown? Good, because he's in Bobby's office and they never say his name and he's not in IMDB anyway. The pitching coach we never saw is, thank goodness, but not this guy Bobby just hired to shepherd his legacy through the ages for half a millions dollars a year. Legacy Dude's first recommendation is to immediately cancel the birthday party; it can't be good for anyone's legacy to be throwing a lavish party while turning an entire town of 180,000 into paupers. Bobby's not going to be reactionary, though, Legacy Dude is going to help him launder his reputation, just like all the greats!
It must be exhausting, being the Man With the Money and having people come at you all the time for it. Fun for a little while!
Ira (Ben Shenkman) has come to collect his chip; time to pay the piper and ask your dad to invest in Ira's Ice Juice (herk) IPO! But Chuck doesn't want to get dirty ethically, that's why he has friends like Ira to do it for him. Let him think on it, bestie! Ira pauses for one second and of course, of course! It's like Ira forgot he was just for using!
Bobby's dealing with the birthday blues (I'm the WORST on my birthday) while surveying the party setup with Lara (Malin Akerman); they discuss the Armageddon bunker prezzie from Wags before deciding they'd just build an ark. Okay, TWO arks, one for her extended family, who will be living in Jersey. He's feeling off about the party, none of these people are friends, they all work for him. Except maybe Wags and Dollar Bill, kinda. She thinks occasions like Bobby's birthday need to be celebrated, for posterity! He deserves to be celebrated.
She's even willing to overlook the whole "seeing Wendy" thing, so good thing he has every intention of doing so. Not that Wendy will see him, there is that tiny roadblock. Oh yay, Wendy will be at the party tonight and ten bucks says she tells Lara that it was SHE who refused Bobby access to her hallowed office.
Oh ho, but Wendy isn't going to Axe's party after all and good for her. I do not owe you ten dollars, stop it. Chuck doesn't understand either, what's that about? She thinks coming back was a mistake, but she didn't know that until she did it and I fully agree that sometimes you have to do it that way.
Bobby's still obsessed with Dollar's Klaxon car deal, he's had Hall (Terry Kinney) check it out and the only weak link is: Victor, whom the Feds are already tracking. Sure glad you aren't biting just because someone called you a pussy.
Wendy not attending Bobby's birthday party isn't sitting right with Lara, so she calls Wendy's home number to urge her to reconsider. Really? Her home line? Okay, it's so Chuck can pick up and they can have an awkward conversation about Wendy's lack of "clarity" regarding her attendance at the party. Lara and I don't know what clarity Wendy thinks she needs; this is a work party, come pay fealty to the king of Axe Capital or get the eff oot.
Chuck hangs up and calls Wendy on her cell phone (oh she DOES have a cell, imagine that), he thinks she isn't going to the party because of him and that makes him happy, but she should go. Go find out if it really sucks. She turns the car around because divorce is a motherhumper.
Bobby meets Dollar back by the batting cages; Dollar left out the part where Victor was the source and that's bugging Bobby. It seems Axe screwed Victor over and he just doesn't know if Victor's over it yet, or if he's looking for revenge, like dishy Jerry O'Connell. Dollar brings up the code of the wild west, being an outlaw used to mean something. He hands over Victor's number, call him, talk face to face, work this out. Happy birthday.
I gotta say, Dollar's usually pretty intense AND tense, he's looking pretty smile-y and content these days. Maybe he's picked up a third family.
Wendy's in Bobby's office, just as he likes her. She wants to know if he really does want her at his birthday party?
And then her face
Ohh this seems tricky. Don't do it, guys! Don't!
Kate's found the connection between Bobby and Sandicot, but I don't think Joey The Nose is gonna talk. Plus, they think his name is Thayer, what? Chuck takes a run at him at the construction site, Joey the Nose isn't exactly shaking in his boots.
Upshot is: Joey the Nose is protected, I think Chuck's questioning whether his new patron is as powerful as the bent nose gang, because they would have to be.
Taylor approaches Bobby playing stickball with a wall, do they want to jump in? Taylor's "I'd get too intense" makes me and Bobby stop and snort-laugh. There is no easy banter with Taylor, they consider and mean everything they say. Sooooo, this party, does Taylor really really have to attend? Bobby tells them those rules are for those that follow rules, not outliers like them and Bobby. But why AREN'T they coming by the way? Taylor's sister is getting married and Bobby's party is on the night of the rehearsal dinner in Michigan. See, there's at least one corporate jet, though, and after some discussion regarding carbon offsets and rainforest alliances, I think we have an agreement! Bobby talks a bit about how he ended up in this world; it spoke to him and he.got.it.
But Taylor misunderstands
And that I could not agree with more: life is too short. I once had a boss ask me (repeatedly) to leave my wedding early so I could come back to work and organize a huge meeting for him, true story. There was a corporate jet involved and I probably shouldn't have told my then-almost-husband about it, hey?
Chuck's meeting with his patron in the dead of night in matching fancy cars; why wasn't Thayer Joey the Nose scared? Foley wants to know why Chuck put himself in that position anyway, how does that help his budding political career? The other penny drops for Chuckles: Thayer is protected by Foley too. Foley takes this to it's logical conclusion: what happens if people find out about Thayer The Nose? They find out about Foley and Chuck Sr. conspiring to crush Sandicot, which was the original blow against those apple-cheeked orphans.
Foley is just now realising that Chuck is All About the FunBobs, he gently suggests that Chuck check himself lest he wreck himself. Chuck "but DAD! but DAD!"s a bit more but then finally concedes.
Chuck's used to making his own decisions, being El Jefe and telling everyone else what to do; he should have known falling in with The Kingmaker was the end of that. Foley's got schemes going on in eight different directions and no1curr what Chuck wants.
Party time, excellent! So.much.extreme wealth on display, including a bunch of uncomfortable-looking cars in primary colours. A band is playing that I should probably recognise...the vocalist sounds like Doug from Doug and the Slugs but I don't think this is CanCon. I can't believe Bobby didn't get Bruce Springsteen!
Now Chuck has to explain to Bryan about not prosecuting Bobby for Sandicot...it's strategic, see.
Bobby isn't at his own party, he's meeting Victor instead. They banter back and forth a bit, Victor is still very angry that Bobby burned him (sorry, I canea remember Victor at all so I don't know if it happened real time last season) and Bobby admits he feels bad. Bobby's there to take his measure and at the end; he takes him back in his own satellite office.
You had me, Billions, until that stupid camera cut at the end watching a dejected Victor's chin come up: it could not have been more of a soap opera move unless you threw in the Ice Princess. Boooo
Chuck's reading through Stephanie Reed's subpoena; he gets to the part where Steph talks about Bobby cornering the market on rare first editions and calls Kate into the office so he can swear at her in disbelief.
Chuck ponders the nature of how you fight someone that powerful, deadly as a bullshark with nothing but time on its hands to sniff out Chuck's weakness. He wants to set a trap for Bobby, hey look: there's that Ice Juice package sitting on his desk! Time to call in Sr.!
Chuck Sr. (Jeffrey DeMunn) is very excited about Ice Juice; it could be the start of a billion-dollar empire! It looks like rancid lemonade, though, so. The only problem is that Sr. doesn't have that much cash lying around; but hey! There's a blind trust kicking around. He won't use the money without Jr.'s acknowledgement, and so Chuck violates his public vow. He just keeps digging deeper and deeper into the murky muck.
This whole thing has been a test of Chuck's character; does he still believe that he is fighting for the little guy, for justice? Or will he allow himself to be swept along in this tsunami of cronyism and patronage, consoling himself with the ludicrous thought that he can make a change from within, while in office? That's my favourite self-told lie, because once you're in, you're like Chuck, blinded by the brilliance and heft of all that carefully polished gilt.
So five seconds after Wendy arriving at the party, Lara knows that it was WENDY who set the not-speaking-to-Bobby boundary and you can actually see the red film come across Lara's eyes. Bobby lied to her AGAIN, and once more it's about Wendy. You all owe me ten bucks!!
Bobby calls just then, he's out at the front gate and he doesn't want to be at his own party. Like Taylor, he doesn't have to follow the rules, right? Except there's Taylor, getting off the private jet after purchasing their offsets or what have you to assuage guilt. I have all the schadenfreude waiting to see Lara tear Bobby a new one about lying to her AGAIN.
Bobby wants to run away, get back to his roots. Old Him would never throw a big event like this to celebrate his own birthday, sounds like existential birthday dread has taken deep root in Axe's soul, I also hate my birthday, but not because I'm getting older. Getting older rocks, the alternative SUCKS.
Time for Wags' speech! It's great, course, Bobby gave him his life, etc etc, but we see Taylor and her sister's bridal party enjoying the corporate jet: have they become One Of Us?
Wags values Bobby's friendship more than all the gold ingots in the world *jerk-off motion* because Bobby accepts him as he is, without judging. It's a gift.
To be honest, I think Bobby doesn't care enough to worry about Wags does with his life, as long as he's there at Bobby's beck and call when he needs him.
He ends with "traders trade, lovers love and cars are meant to GO." Happy Birthday Axe, wherever you are! Dolla Dolla Bill thinks it's fantastic that Bobby didn't show up to his own party, he just "remembered he's a f*cking outlaw." Well, an outlaw with a $500,000 Legacy Dude on payroll.
Deb hands a letter to Wags from Bobby, it's the Sic Transit Imperium coin because he will never accept it. Bobby will never be part of the world rebuilding crew; he'll be the one of the marauders starting a blackmarket op on the outside. That makes total sense for a guy who saw 9/11 as a great way to build a financial empire of his own, even as his brother-in-law was dying in the effort. And we're out watching a content-looking Bobby and a concerned Lara watching horses at a racetrack in Yonkers. She's perfect as a partner weighing the not uncertain evidence against the upheaval it will lead to. Go Lara.
So. I think I've successfully woven my thoughts throughout and not much of a summary is needed, but I will say this: Chuck and Bobby are still trying to find their exact footing in this death match, but the fight remains the same. Two men will (eventually) enter the cage, only one will exit. I don't see this going the way of the old studio owners in Hollywood's heyday who eventually became rival-pals of a sort, these two couldn't agree on water being wet.
Until next time! Cheers