Hey, remember The Slap? That NBC show that exposed what happens in a very, very specific slice of the world — Yuppie Bougie Whole Foods NPR Harper’s Magazine Brownstone Brooklyn — when someone slaps a kid? Well, this is the Billions version of that, so of course it’s called “The Punch.” It goes a little something like this:
Axe is listening to the Replacements (song: “The Ledge”) on waterproof headphones as he hate-swims around in his Hamptons estate’s pool. He’s usually a Metallica guy, but I guess he’s feeling extra emo-angsty today, so he’s breaststroking one out hard with the help of Paul Westerberg.
Elsewhere in the Hamptons, his two sons are being shown a good time around town by Bruce, a family acquaintance who also summers in the neighborhood. Problem is, Bruce has been — and still is! — drinking. And Bruce is going for it: He’s throwing back beers at the rec center, in front of the kids, in the car, everywhere.
Naturally, this information gets back to the Axelrods. So what does Bobby do when he hears of Bruce’s irresponsible, child-endangering exploits? Shirtless and still wet, he jumps into his Jeep Wrangler and hightails it over to Bruce’s beachfront compound to punch him in the face in front of all of his friends and family.
Team Axelrod: Yet not even our boy Yonkers Bobby can run around punching people without consequence. The only thing more dangerous than a rich asshole is a rich asshole who’s been embarrassed, which is exactly what Bruce is right now — so he threatens to sue Axe. That’s exactly the kind of negative publicity Axelrod can’t afford right now, what with outside investors already pulling out after Dollar Bill’s recent arrest. So he and Lara convene with a publicist, a former East Hampton police chief, and their company (and I guess also personal?) lawyer to talk strategy. A star-studded war room like this can only work in Axe’s favor, right?
Not quite — even at his own office, the punch has become jokey gossip. And now there’s a video of the incident, and it’s edited to make things look as bad as possible for Axelrod. A journalist (you can guess which one) has gotten ahold of it and is ready to publish. Things are looking bad.
But these are the kinds of situations Axelrod strives in. So, within the span of, like, one day, he and his team are able to A) Suppress the edited video by bribing the lowly print journalist with a potential TV job, B) Hunt down the teenager who filmed the original video in which Bruce admits to drunk driving, C) Bribe the teenager for the video, and D) Turn said unedited video into a viral sensation, with half a million YouTube views and counting. All in a day’s work! Now hopefully he can get back to his actual job, which we got to see him do zero times this week.
Team Rhoades: Back at the U.S. Attorney’s office, Spyros is reaching Peak Douche. Ever heard of a cortado? He has, and he wants everyone to know it. He also wants everyone — particularly Chuck Rhoades — to know that he’ll now be taking a lead role on the Axe Capital case, lest the Rhoades’ faux-recusal arrangement with Connerty comes to light. (Interesting sidenote: In most movies or TV show, it would be the big banker billionaire who’d behave so noxiously, not the SEC office. Billions flips that script just a bit, often going out of its way to make Axelrod seem decent.)
As for Connerty, he seems to sprinting ahead with the case. He and his FBI collaborators have turned a man on the inside, Donny, to wear a wire — at Axelrod’s house. Literally moments later, Donny is already at Axelrod’s door, very unsubtly asking for sensitive information. The ol’ Yalie doesn’t get the job done; instead, he gets invited inside for whiskey and Skull and Bones-worthy camaraderie.
But camaraderie isn’t enough for Rhoades. He wants dirt, and Connerty isn’t delivering enough right now. So he starts to put the pressure on Connerty by micromanaging his every move. Predictably, it drives Connerty up the wall, and eventually he snaps. He offers to step down from the case. Rhoades hits him with a compelling counteroffer: How about you, um, just stay on the case? Connerty accepts. Nothing changes. Job well done, everyone!
NEXT: Wendy still needs a new job
Team Wendy: Over in Wendy-land, there is much unrest. She’s meeting with a slick headhunter named Chase for some recon, just in case. She finds out that she can do basically whatever she wants. Yay! But… she doesn’t know what she wants to do. Boo. Basically, she can’t find something comparable to her current job unless she stays in the hedge-fund world, which she shouldn’t do for a whole host of reasons.
So Chase comes back to her later, over drinks, with an offer she can’t refuse. It’s a more challenging job at a blue-chip company with comparable salary — everything she wanted. But will she take it?
— This seems like a weirdly sloppy episode, or at least a strangely plotted one. For instance, we start things off seeing Donny as an informant, but only later get a shoehorned rush-job explanation as to how or why. Best case scenario: Later episodes will follow through on this week’s many seemingly random dangling threads. Worst case: This was aimless filler episode. I’m rooting for the former.
— Also, that little trick where Axelrod mentally Sherlock-ed the incident to find out who exactly filmed the punch on their phone? That was terrible.
— Also also, Chuck revealing out of the blue that Spyros has been a rapist all along and thus no longer has the upper hand? What?
— One actually good scene was Wendy trying to untangle Chuck’s web of white lies about how his brokered deal with Axelrod got un-brokered. Which man in her life does she trust more? Should she trust any of them at all? Of course not! It should be fun to see what happens when she realizes it.
— Speaking of Wendy, she’s starting to suspect something is up with Donny, reinforcing her need to get out of this conflict-laden situation of hers.
— I’m getting some weird vibes from Headhunter Chase. I’m sure you are, too.
— Lara’s strives to make her spoiled kids more streetwise by, uh, having them dig clams by the breakwater; whatever they catch will be the only thing they’ll get to eat that day. Then she has them go camping in the woods so that they can learn to build fires and, like, not get eaten by bears. What future apocalypse world does she imagine is in her sons’ future?
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— Another week, another Paul Giamatti S&M scene.
— “roaddog789” is a weird password.
— How about Rhoades peeping on Connerty from the closet like an A+ creep?
— Opening the episode with The Replacements’ “The Ledge” and ending it with the painfully apt Pixies’ “Debaser”? The show’s music supervisor deserves some awards.