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'Billions' recap: 'Quality of Life'

Posted on

Jeff Neumann/Showtime

Billions

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
1
run date:
01/17/16
performer:
Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Maggie Siff
broadcaster:
Showtime
genre:
Drama

So, let’s start with the big news: Donnie is dead. Dead dead dead. Deady Dead McDeaderson. Dead!

But you know that because virtually this entire episode revolved around not just his funeral but also flashback scenes that offer us a flurry of background information as to what exactly happened to the gentle, nature-loving trader named Donnie Caan. But of course, other players had big days today, too, so let’s get started.

Donnie  

After a meeting at work, Axe noticed something was up with Donnie. His employee looked unhealthy and had run from the conference room to the bathroom. So Axe followed him in there, only to find out that Donnie is struggling with pancreatic cancer. He’s only got a few months left to live.

Selfishly, this gives Axe an idea. First, he offers to get the best medical help for Donnie — a first-class oncologist who regularly caters to world leaders. Second, after learning that the divorced and re-married Donnie has fallen short in his goals to leave behind the kind of luxurious nest egg he’d hoped to leave for his kids, Axe offers to make sure the kids and family were left with the kind of money that could see them through their lives — about $40 million or so.

What does Axe want in return? Donnie’s cooperation, naturally. This means that while Donnie was engaging in all of his trickery the past few episodes— pretending to be an informant and feeding Chuck Rhoades bad information — both he and Axe knew that these were Donnie’s last days. Dark stuff.

It gets darker: When Axe was told by his super-doctor that there may be a drug program that could extend Donnie’s life by 3-6 months, Axe decided it was best if they don’t tell Donnie. “What would his quality of life be?” he asked/told the doctor, who immediately understood what Axe was really getting at. Yet, it’s unclear right now what exactly Axe’s motive here is. Is he selfishly worried that Donnie’s continued presence could cause his double-agent plan against Rhoades to backfire? Perhaps he thinks the longer Donnie lives, the more of a chance he has to screw this up. Or is he simply being cheap? Or, perhaps, he was he genuinely concerned about the quality of Donnie’s final days. At the moment, only Bobby knows for sure.

Dollar Bill Stern 

After beating the U.S. attorney’s insider-trading allegations in court, Bill “Dollar Bill” Stern returns to the offices of Axe Capital a hero. Everyone on the trading floor is cheering his name like he just won the Lombardi Trophy. He’s on top of the world — until Axe angrily calls him into his office.

But it turns out, Axe is just fake angry. From the inside of his soundproof glass office, he and Dollar Bill begin to mock-fight in front of everyone. There’s shouting, pointing, poking, shoving, face-reddening. But it’s all a ploy: Axe wants everyone in the building and on Wall Street in general to think that he and Dollar Bill had a falling out. That way, he can use Dollar Bill to get revenge on Axe’s latest enemy: Ionosphere, the small new hedge fund started by those three employees who took off in the last episode.

NEXT: Bobby exacts his revenge 

[pagebreak]

Given Dollar Bill’s unquestioning loyalty to Axe Capital, the plan works brilliantly. First, Dollar Bill gives the Ionosphere trio a tip that nets them huge returns. Then he shows up to their makeshift offices and, over Champagne and Heineken, gives them what he says is some primo intel — news of a potential merger.

They eat it up, and a day or two later, realize they’ve been had. Their fund is nearly broke now, which means the few early clients they have will likely flee the scene. That’s when Axe himself walks into the room. (Weirdly good timing, Bobby!) He gives them a deal: He’ll float them the money they need to see them through this rough patch so long as they basically sign over their souls to him. Ionosphere becomes, more or less, a subsidiary of Axe Capital — and one that’s never allowed to carry more than a billion in capital to boot. With their tails between their legs, the Ionosphere Three accept.

Connerty and Kate 

They’re officially doing it now! That is all.

Chuck Rhoades

Few big pieces of news here. Remember that judge that got in Rhoades’ way last episode, the one played by Anthony Edwards? Well, he obstructed Rhoades’ will once again this week by ruling in favor of Dollar Bill Stern. In his ruling, he even admonished the prosecutors for pursuing a “personal” vendetta.

This rankled Rhoades. So, he had his man in the Eastern District dig up dirt on the judge — and dirt they found. Turns out, the judge has made large investments in private prison contractors that make big money of their incarcerated inmates. And the judge has been instrumental in providing them with those inmates: For years, he’s been over-convicting poor and young defendants of color, giving them giant sentences for small offenses. Busted.

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Rhoades has him arrested and then plots how to replace him — ideally with a friendly face from the attorney general’s office, someone who might be more sympathetic to his cause. And then Rhoades can replace that position at the A.G.’s office with an even friendlier face. This is key right now, because the attorney general’s office has just taken the Axe Capital case away from Rhoades thanks to the big Donnie blunder.

Speaking of Donnie blunders: Rhoades tries to make an appearance at Donnie’s funeral, only to get turned away — by his wife. Rhoades agrees to leave, but not before having the most awkward handshake in the world with Bobby Axelrod.

Wendy Rhoades 

While we’re on the topic of Wendy, we should mention how suspicious everyone is becoming of her. And with good reason because Wendy seems to be doing a little of digging herself. When she shows up to Donnie’s boyfriend’s house to bring food and kind words, she begins to ask question about what Donnie’s been up to. Lara soon arrives to see it happen, and runs back to Bobby to let him know that Wendy might not be trustworthy right now.

Bobby tells Lara that Wendy’s still fine, but then later, we learn that he himself hasn’t had a proper session with Wendy in some time — probably ever since Chuck’s battle against Axe Capital began. Furthermore, Wags also acts a tad adversarial toward Wendy, especially when she starts asking him questions — like whether or not Donnie’s family was really left with $40 million from Axe Capital after his death.

Chumbawamba

Of course, the British band behind the song “Tubthumping” are the real heroes of the episode — they got two big moments tonight. You’re never gonna keep them down!

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