An episode full of sex, money, and yachts

By Ray Rahman
February 15, 2016 at 06:41 PM EST
Jeff Neumann/Showtime
S1 E5
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It’s happening, it’s all happening! Tonight’s episode is jam-packed with action. You’ve got Axelrod nearly escaping on his shiny new yacht, Connerty nearly having sex with two different women in Iowa, and Rhoades doing weird sex stuff on the floor of an S&M club.

But first, let’s begin in the country.

Axe vs. Mrs. Axe: We open with Axe taking a leisurely bike ride through nature (with a bluetooth in his ear, of course). He rolls up to “Axe Hills” — his farm, where he and his hand Tito assess the quality of their freshly laid eggs. I don’t know about you, but something about Axe also being a rustic-living egg expert (okay, eggspert) seems a little too pat to be real.

Anyway, back at home, Axe is in the kitchen cooking breakfast for the kids, giving the house chef the morning off, and announcing a surprise family trip to the Galapagos on their soon-to-arrive new yacht. Lara is less confident about these plans. In fact, she’s downright irked not to have been consulted on any of this. Maybe even mad.

So how do these two very mature adults iron out their problems? By having hot pool sex! It seems to do the trick, and Lara eventually, reluctantly goes along with Axe’s plan. At this point, she still seems to be unaware of the fact that he’s been slowly shutting down Axe Capital. Surely, that’d put a new wrinkle in her calculations.

Rhoades vs. Dollar Bill: Rhoades and crew are investigating Dollar Bill Stern to dig up any dirt on him, but it turns out he’s pretty close to a choir boy (albeit a very rich choir boy). Sensing Rhoades’ impatience, his team flails a long-shot at him: evidence that suggests Stern might’ve bribed an Iowa farmer. But something as seemingly small-time as that is not enough for an arrest warrant — at least not yet — and that only annoys Rhoades even more. “Don’t tell him part of the story until we know the whole story,” Connerty reminds the team — right before Kate not-so-subtly suggests that he needs to put on some deodorant. That’s right, Billions can be funny sometimes!

Later in the morning, Kate overhears Connerty arguing on the phone with a realtor about an apartment he’s been looking at. His financials aren’t quite in order, and he needs a guarantor. Interestingly, Kate — very much his junior — offers to be Connerty’s guarantor. There definitely seems to be something brewing between the two of them.

At any rate, the team, sans Rhoades, continues looking for ways to exploit Dollar Bill’s farmer connection. Connerty finally finds one: Stern’s credit card was used at a downtown Des Moines hotel restaurant. Stern, it turns out, is a junkie for rewards points.

But Connerty and Rhoades’ conversation is quickly interrupted by Obnoxious Journalist Boy, who asks them about the rumors that Axe Capital is shutting down. Rhoades becomes upset for two reasons: 1) Obnoxious Journalist Boy is, indeed, very obnoxious, and 2) his office was unaware of the Axe Capital news. Luckily, they’ve got sources on the street (well, Kate does), and the news seems to be legit.

But first, they must head to Iowa to see what kind of dirt they can get from the farmer. Turns out, a lot: The farmer admits that Dollar Bill offered to pay his kid’s expensive medical bills in exchange for some illicit information.

Afterward, to celebrate, Kate and Connerty head straight to the hotel bar so that they can flirt each other’s pants off. Now, remember, Connerty also happens to be doing it with FBI Terri. So that puts everyone in a bit of an awkward situation for now, especially when Connerty goes upstairs to have sex with Terri and then comes back to the hotel bar to drink more with Kate. They start bonding over the usual romantic stuff — apartment leases, presidential ambitions, Sullivan & Cromwell, The Naval War of 1892 — before the sexual tension becomes too heavy for them to handle.

And where is Rhoades while all this is going on? Outside a kinky S&M club, on the phone with Wendy. He’s there in order to feel degraded — “like a worm” — to work off the guilt he has about the less-than-honest way he coerced a confession out of the simple Iowa farmer. I’m going to keep this part of the recap short, for all of our sakes, but let’s just say Chuck goes into the club with Wendy still on the phone. And some sex stuff happens.

NEXT: Wags and Wendy make a plan

Dealmakers vs Windbreakers: Back at Axe Capital, it’s like end days. As the portfolio managers start learning of their accounts being frozen, panic starts to overtake them. Wags tries to keep them (and himself) calm by telling them they’re not bailing, they’re “pruning slowly.” It’s hard to tell if he even believes it.

He walks into Wendy’s office basically drenched in stress. She, too, is concerned, so they come up with a plan: Make Axe talk to the investors so that he has to tell them the news himself. “Make it real for him,” she says.

Wags heads over to Axe’s private theater and interrupts his planned Citizen Kane screening to turn over the names and numbers of the firm’s key investors. Meanwhile, the mid-level troops back at the office have descended into mid-level chaos. They’re lounging around, shooting hoops, holding eating contests, and generally wildin’ out. “A couple more days, and it’ll be f—ing Lord of the Flies in here,” Wags sighs.

Wags and Wendy come up with a two-pronged plan: Wags takes the team out to an “off-site” at a strip club while Wendy heads over to Axe’s house to talk him off the cliff. But there’s a small glitch — Rhoades’ guy happens to be spying on Casa Axe and has the unfortunate job of having to inform Chuck that his wife just entered Axe’s house alone. The implications here are clear: He’s got a twinge of concern that Wendy might be boinking Axe. All of which goes to Connerty’s point that Rhoades needs to recuse himself from this case, for his own sake. To make matters worse, Obnoxious Journalist Boy published an article in today’s paper that claims Rhoades is holding back on taking down Axe Capital because his wife works there.

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So Rhoades goes in the other direction and doubles down. That’s right: A small army of FBI agents raids Axe’s offices and arrests none other than Dollar Bill Stern. And they do it right in front of Axelrod himself because he’s returned to the office after watching the telecom sector “swirl down the drain.” It was all a ploy, you see — he was never really exiting the game. Remember Konstantine from last episode? Well, he gave Axe a heads up that this — the events that led to telecom’s demise — was going to happen, so Axe had to find a way to temporarily divest from that market without it looking like he had inside information. Hence him faking this bout of “temporary insanity” by freezing all his funds in the sector.

It was a clever play. But maybe too clever — the windbreakers are all up in his business now.

Bank notes:

  • It feels like it should be pointed out that tonight’s episode was directed by Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, Your Friends & Neighbors), though I’m not exactly sure why.
  • There’s a funny bit where Dale, the newbie on the U.S. Attorney team gets admonished for using the term “dude” in a meeting. He’s fresh from a more bro-y law firm but quickly gets told that the vibe in this office is “serious but serious.” Later, Rhoades himself tells Dale, “Somewhere between ‘sir’ and ‘dude.’” Watching Dale adjust to his new office throughout the episode is a small but worthy delight.
  • Chuck Rhoades saying “We [Americans] think noblesse oblige is a new dish at Olive Garden” is one of the series’ more ham-fisted lines (and there are many).
  • At one point, Kate sorta-confirms Axe Capital shutting down by reporting that a couple of traders were seen taking a long lunch at Westport’s LeFarm. But in reality, that restaurant closed last October. Come on, Billions, keep up!
  • But one thing Billions nails is New York City food-cart politics. Loved hearing Rhoades and Connerty’s small talk about rival knish vendors. Small details like that make this show very believable.
  • Axe naming his megayacht “The Good Life”? Sorta corny.
  • Axe looking at Hall and saying “You freak me out sometimes” might’ve been my favorite moment of the show so far.
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