Rockefeller. Guggenheim. Frick. Axelrod?
Some of New York’s finest institutions are inseparable from the rich-white-dude names attached to them. Once those names are up, they’re pretty hard to take down; Carnegie Hall won’t be turning into the Zuckerberg Hall anytime soon. But it’s certainly not impossible to change the lettering — especially when our boy Bobby “The Bob” “The Rod” “The Axe” Axelrod is in the building.
The building in question here is the fictional Ellis Eads Hall, one of those grand, Carnegie-style concert venues that well-heeled New Yorkers flock to for society functions. “Such a sh—y name on such a great building,” Axe says to Lara as they stand out on the street, vaping in secret. Who is this Eads, anyway? Why do stiffs like him get a building? Bobby Axelrod, hedge-fund magnate and local-pizzeria investor, is a billionaire. Is that not good enough for you snobs?
And so Axe begins his quest to rename Eads Hall. That’s the fun, splashy, Page Six-friendly diversion of tonight’s episode. But a lot of plot-impacting hard news goes down, too, so let’s dive into all that first and circle back to Eads Hall later.
Not far from the $25,000-a-plate charity dinner, Chuck Rhoades and his sidekick Connerty are at the U.S. attorney’s office discussing their Axelrod strategy over cold take-out. That is, until they get an call from the office’s communications chief, Tara. She’s just wrapped up a hot, cocaine-fueled lesbian sex session, but that’s not what she’s calling about — she’s just learned that the Financial Journal is running a story that implicates hedge-funder Stephen Birch in illegal trading. This is the first Rhoades is hearing of Birch’s wrongdoing, and he’s not happy about it — the press are making his office look bad by doing his job better than him, all thanks to that thirsty journalist who buddied up with Axelrod.
Back at Eads Hall, Axe is having a chat with his lawyer Orrin (played by yet another That Guy — Glenn Fleshler, whose credits include a murderer’s row of serious cable dramas: Boardwalk Empire, The Knick, Hannibal, and True Detective). Orrin warns Axelrod that Rhoades has committed himself on bringing down Axe Captial, so he should consider laying low and making sure his money isn’t “too smart.” Nah. Axelrod spontaneously decides to donate a cool $1 million to whatever the gala’s cause is (…reading?), earning the attention of everyone in the room — including Steven Birch himself.
Then the phones start buzzing. Everyone looks at their push notifications and sees the same Financial Journal news alert. There’s a criminal in the room, and amazingly it’s not Penn Jillette. All eyes are on Birch while Axelrod has to hide his grin.
The next day at work, Axe Capital begins with business as usual. Axelrod starts a staff meeting with his best clear-eyes-full-portfolios speech — the company is up 32 percent on the year — before publicly quizzing each analyst on their performance. Everyone responds in obnoxious alpha-speak, shouting things like “whiff the numbers,” “bang the short harder,” “p—y on the short side,” “grab it like it’s a horse c— and you’re Catherine the Great.” Someone even quotes Goodfellas.
One insecure analyst named Donnie Caan, though, is less cocksure. “I think Apple still has room to move north,” he offers. The room goes silent in awe of Donnie’s incompetence. It’s like a baseball manager telling his team, “I think we should try hitting the ball with a bat.” Axelrod is disappointed.
Luckily for Donnie, there isn’t much time to dwell on it, because the company gets a surprise visit from the SEC. Everyone’s portfolios and trades are getting inspected!
The result of the investigation is, for viewers, an A+ montage of how different staffers react to pressure. Some respond with nonchalance along the lines of “I got a tip.” Others are less cooperative — and some downright hostile. Dollar Bill keeps repeating “lawyer,” while Victor asks the auditors how much they make.
But everyone can just chill: It was simply a drill, Axelrod announces, and the fake SEC officers are the firm’s new compliance department, installed to safeguard against what happened to Steven Birch. Or as Wags says, “We have to be more pure than the Virgin Mary before her first period.” But the red-team drill does expose on thing: Victor is shady wild card, and so optics-conscious Axe makes an example of him by publicly firing him (and making sure the press and investors know about it).
What he didn’t anticipate is “Victor’s psychological profile,” which is prone toward vengeance, but that’s why he has Wendy. It falls upon her to make sure that Victor doesn’t raise a stink on his way out. He knows things, after all.
You know who else knows things? Hall, the Thomas Cromwell-ian fixer to to Axelrod’s Henry VIII. He’s obtained video of Tara’s two-woman coke party and uses it to blackmail her — he wants regular updates on what Rhoades is up to.
NEXT: Axe’s revenge