Navigating tricky and ever-changing relationships is a big key to success in the world of Billions. You can have all the brains and money in the world, but if you’re misreading a relationship you might end up with your pockets turned inside out. It’s not just that everyone has their own motivations and that they’re often trying to hide them in some way, but that the landscape is always changing. Axe may preach the Tao of Loyalty like it’s especially sacred, but he’s more than aware that loyalty is as limited a resource as Victor Matteo.
Tonight’s episode, “Maximum Recreational Depth,” kicks off with a renewed relationship of sorts. Wendy finally takes up Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) on their offer to meet and chat about Chuck’s public admission. She takes Taylor to a speakeasy that serves “vegan mango rice ice cream”—Taylor, despite their attempts to keep straight-faced, can’t help but smile when taking the first bite—and pleads her case, saying she’s ready to talk now, and that she just needs someone to listen. She seems genuine and open…but nobody would know how to put on that front quite like Wendy Rhoades.
Bryan, still frothing at the mouth every time he thinks about Chuck, goes to Judge DeGiulio and asks for permission to wiretap both Chuck and his father. He brings a picture of them at the development site as evidence. The judge laughs in his face and goes back to watching football, and then goes straight to Chuck with the information. In exchange, DeGiulio gets a big case, the kind that’s taught at law schools, thrown his way. As Chuck says, that case along with “a fondness for beer” will have him climbing to the highest court in the land in no time.
Chuck takes that information and decides it’s time to go harder against Jock Jeffcoat. He has his team looking into some travel to the Cayman Islands, and they find that he’s often met with Treasury Secretary Todd Krakow. So, Chuck flies to the Cayman Islands, intimidates a bank owner, and gets him to come back to New York to spill the beans about Krakow. That’s all a play though. He doesn’t want the banker, he just wants to trick Bryan into getting involved and taking the case for himself, thereby putting him at odds with his boss, A.G. Jeffcoat. It’s a plan that involves sabotaging a favor asked by Axe, but it’s worth it…at least up until Bryan takes the case, gets reamed by Jeffcoat, and then realizes he’s been played. The back-and-forth between Bryan and Chuck is far from over.
Chuck’s also got a new relationship in his life: a dominatrix, reluctantly approved by Wendy since she’s no longer engaging with him in that way. Chuck’s first home call goes pretty far, and he comes out of it with some significant cuts and bruises. He says he needs this and that he won’t give it up, but Wendy is clearly worried that he’s going too far, that he’s close to sacrificing everything else to satisfy his sexual needs. Of course, he just thinks he needs his wife back, but that’s no easy task when you expose her as your consensual BDSM partner to the public. (My sidenote is this: do the kids know? They seem to be totally unaware, which seems ludicrous. I know it doesn’t really matter, but I’m still curious.)
That brings us to the relationships that represent the crux of this episode. In the first, Taylor struggles to get their father on board with a pitch that would see them align his lattice fin project with a company that could fund it. He sees the outside funding as a sign of their lack of confidence in the project. Taylor lays it out plainly though: he made mistakes in the past, he’s the best when it comes to the science, but he also needs to get out of his own way and trust Taylor to do the right thing. He eventually sees the light, and perhaps sees Taylor a little differently. “It’s hard becoming a new version of yourself,” he says. “You finally understand me,” they reply. Not Billions’ most subtle moment, but touching nonetheless.
Keep that fractured and then rebuilt relationship in mind as we come to the end of this recap because it’s hugely important. While Axe manages to work his way out of a tight bind—one created by Taylor that involves Axe unknowingly owning part of Victor Matteo’s firm, which is about to be criminally indicted—by not only learning to trust Rebecca and see her as his partner but also by severing more ties with Lara. He’s looking for more information about the secret stuff Taylor is working on too. He wants to ruin everything Taylor has their hands in, and he’ll do it no matter the cost.
That brings us back to Wendy, who’s had two different meetings with Taylor. There’s not a ton of trust there, but there’s something. Taylor doesn’t give up any information about the lattice fin, rather they muse on child-parent relationships in a way that sends Wendy back into her session notes to find Taylor’s problems with their father. Wendy then “accidentally” meets Mafee in a bar and probes around with some questions (and some charm) to figure out just who Taylor is getting into bed with when it comes to investment in the lattice fin project.
She takes that information back to the office, where Axe is still thinking about things with Victor and Rebecca, and Wags is recovering from a public humiliation by drinking a 40 of something strong and vowing revenge. She tells the guys whom Taylor will be dealing with, and that simply allowing them to build the project and then tearing it down isn’t enough. “Taylor needs to be the one to crush it,” she says, exploiting what she knows about Taylor and their father to make sure that relationship severs once again, this time irreparably. Wendy goes home, Chuck asks her to talk and “get back to where we were,” but she simply walks by and ignores him. The landscape has shifted, and Wendy is forging new relationships, and a new cutthroat way of being.