Billions recap: Magical Thinking
The episode starts off with Axe Capital losing up to $1 billion in an instant after Axe makes a bet that everyone in his office advised him not to make. But that’s weird because Axe doesn’t make bad bets. How could this have happened?
It takes nearly an entire episode to find out, but the astute among you (especially the ones who read deeply into the way Axe handled Donnie’s death) might have figured it out already.
To get to the bottom of what’s throwing him off his game, he kicks everyone out of the building and holds an all-nighter with his one-woman psychology department, Wendy Rhoades. This is significant, given the fact that in the previous episode we learned that the two of them haven’t had a full session in quite some time. The trust between them has been eroding, but Axe is in such a bad place right now that he simply needs Wendy’s help, period.
After many hours of talking, debating, snacking, walking, vaping, etc., the two of them end up by a small lake near the office. They get down to brass tacks: Axe flubbed the bet on purpose, out of guilt. He was inflicting punishment on himself for what he did to Donnie — for stealing away whatever little time Donnie had left on this earth. And furthermore, he admits that the real reason he didn’t have Donnie go through with that life-extending drug trial his doctor offered was because he was afraid that Donnie would end up living long enough to testify against Axe. (He also tells her about a few incriminating things he’s done, but we’ll get to that later.)
Anyway, it’s all cruel stuff. But does that make him what every successful banker fears they might be: a sociopath? He asks Wendy, but she eases his mind. He’s not normal, no, but he’s not quite a sociopath either because he does feel the guilt of his actions. He’s somewhere in between, she tells him.
But Wendy does more than just administer heavy dollops of pop psychology in tonight’s episode. Early on, we see her taking a spin at the new fund where Maria now works, the same place Wendy secretly invested a bunch of money in. They’re looking to hire her as their new performance coach, and Wendy herself is considering a change — especially since last episode, when it really dawned on her that her colleagues at Axe had been slowly squeezing her out of the inner circle.
From the moment she walks inside the new joint, it’s very clear she’s dealing with a different animal: The office is large and spacious with flowing hallways, the culture is more open and collaborative, and the top brass is 60 percent women. “There is another way,” her would-be boss tells her.
But here’s the thing that sort of bothers me about the scene: Wendy is supposed to be, like, pretty renowned in the finance world. Not only is she one of the oldest employees of Axe Cap, but she’s also a U.S. attorney’s wife. There’s no way she’s walking around that trading floor, in plain view of every low- to mid-level employee in the building (not to mention some high-level ones) without one of them getting the word out that Wendy Rhoades was touring the joint.
And while word doesn’t quite get back to Axe, he intuits it and asks her point-blank whether she’s looking elsewhere. She tells him she is.
NEXT: Chuck’s being tailed
Like his wife, Chuck is also sweating over job openings. That judge he unbenched (and got arrested) last episode needs a a replacement, and he thinks Adam over at the attorney general’s office would make a fine candidate. But before he ensures that Adam’s nomination sails through the Senate, Rhoades wants an assurance from him that he’ll have a hand in picking who replaces his old seat at the A.G.’s office. Got all that?
But to do that, he has to make a plan — and that involves asking his father for help, as much as that pains him. His father, after all, is friends with the senator that Rhoades needs to seal the deal. His father agrees to do it but only after making Chuck apologize to his face.
Interestingly, one of the most honest moments of the episode — maybe the entire series so far — took place at the uber-obnoxious club in New York called Goldbar (a.k.a. the one with the stupid gold skulls on the wall). That’s where Chuck meets up an old law school buddy of his who’s living the sad single life after a bad divorce. Sure, he’s meeting young women and going out every night and having wild, unrepentant sex all over the place — but he feels empty inside. This life he’s living, it isn’t a real life. It isn’t the life anyone really wants.
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This weighs on Chuck’s mind because he fears that Wendy might be stepping out on him. She’s been gone all night. Paranoid, he has his driver surreptitiously creep by the Axe Capital office, where, lo and behold, he spies his wife on the balcony, vaping and laughing on the balcony. They’re not being quite intimate, but they are very close to each other.
So he goes to the place he always goes when he’s feeling down: his friendly neighborhood S&M club. But things go wrong there. First of all, he starts feeling guilty for being there without Wendy’s permission. Second, he’s been tailed. The bouncer throws down a man with a camera, and when Chuck grabs the camera from him, he realizes that Axe’s (or someone else’s?) goon has been following him around all night and taking pictures. At Goldbar, at the Axe Capital offices, and at the S&M club. Yikes.
He goes home with his head hung low. Upon entering his bedroom, however, he perks up a little. Why? He sees his wife’s laptop on the bed. He opens it up, enters her password, and voila: It’s Wendy’s notes from her all-night session with Bobby…including the incriminating details of bribery, intimidation, conspiracy, and who knows what else.
Chuck looks around, drags the file into an email, sends it to himself, and then deletes the email from his wife’s “sent” box. Game on (again).
- Kate and Connerty are still doing it. Cool.
- I can definitely live without yet another story line that has Lara Axelrod sweating about Her Old Neighborhood and Her Old Friends and what they used to do in The Old Days. Tonight, she and her sister went boozing at the crappy bar they used to go to as teens, then went on a joyride and a shopping spree just like when they were kids (except now they have a lot more money). It’s getting tired. We get it, Lara — you’ve changed a lot.
- Doesn’t Axe Capital have building security at night?