Jeff Neumann/Showtime
February 01, 2016 at 06:19 AM EST

Billions

type
TV Show
genre
Drama
run date
01/17/16
performer
Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Maggie Siff, Malin Akerman
broadcaster
Showtime
seasons
3
Current Status
In Season

Round 3: Wendy Rhoades vs. Wags

Wags is in Wendy’s magical therapy room, opening up to her about his “ATM” fetish. No, not the bank-account kind of ATM, but the poop kind of ATM. Wags just really likes “a woman taking it into her mouth after a little raw-dogging,” he tells Wendy, which really makes you wonder what the hell this has to do with work.

But Wendy, with outlandish clarity, knows exactly how it relates to Wags’ professional situation. Wags (and therefore Axe Capital as a whole) is getting leveraged for a bigger salary by Maria, one of their star traders. She’s gotten an offer at a bigger, more traditional firm, and they’re offering her more money to boot. Wags, as a result, is forced to make a counteroffer to keep her — but he’s feeling real hurt about it. Where’s her loyalty, he wonders. He hates people with no loyalty.

So he tells Wendy that he’s got a plan to make Maria pay. She, in short, will get “ATMed” by the company by getting fed less valuable information than before. You know, like poop. As a result, her trades will be less profitable and, over the course of years, her value and net worth will fall dramatically. That’s payback, Axe Capital-style.

Wendy doesn’t feel good about this because of her own personal loyalty to Maria. And when Maria waltzes into Wendy’s office later to “boast” about her leverage play working, Wendy is forced to sit there and listen, unable to warn her plainly of the dangers ahead. So she takes another tack, via therapy, telling Maria to imagine how much better her life would be if she took the outside offer. As with everything Wendy touches, it works. Maria bounces, much to Wags’ chagrin and Wendy’s delight. In fact, Wendy’s so happy with the move, she makes one of her own. She secretly invests $250,000 of her own money with Maria’s next firm…almost as if it’s insurance against her position at Axe Capital, should she ever need it.

Winner: Wendy Rhoades

Round 4: Chuck Rhoades vs. Pete Decker

First off, Connerty and Terri from the FBI are apparently doing it now, and are cutely quoting lines from Glengary Glen Ross together. Just FYI.

On a related note, Chuck Rhoades’ plan to get to Bobby Axelrod via Pete Decker, a banker with insider trading links to Axelrod, gets interrupted when the Eastern District decides to take on Decker themselves. It wasn’t an accident, either — it’s clearly the work of SEC hack Ari Spyros, who’s eager to get the glory any way he can, even if he was to bypass the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Annoyed, Chuck tries to horse trade with the Eastern District to get the Decker case back. He offers them a glamorous terrorism case — “Statue of Liberty bombing attempt” — and closes the deal. The only problem is that he also has to take Spyros along with the case.

These scenes, by the way, include one of the show’s first and most effective moments of intentional humor — a little segment where Chuck keeps getting caught saying things on speakerphone. It’s a small gesture, comedy-wise, but an uncharacteristically charming one for Billions. These sorts of quirky, slice-of-life bits of humor (rather than boorish locker-room quips we’ve gotten up to now) are something the show’s been lacking for too long — and as someone who has seen future episodes, I’m happy to say the series does a much better job on that front from here on out.

Case in point: a scene soon after, where Rhoades, Connerty, and Spyros get Decker into a room to negotiate their terms. If Decker provides dirt on Axe, he’ll get to walk. It’s a tense scene full of macho showmanship — until it’s all undercut by a goofy-yet-revealing riff on the fact that Spyros’ cheap cologne has been stinking up the room the whole time. Everyone can smell it, and they let him know it, too. It’s funny stuff. I may have even laughed out loud.

But anywho, that’s all just a fun diversion. The main takeaway is that Decker is unwilling to play ball. It’s not until later in the episode when the bright, young, ambitious one-to-watch Kate presents Rhoades and Connerty with their way in: Decker’s parents. Decker has implicated their own money — in their names — in his financial wrongdoing, meaning they’d go down with him. Good job, Kate!

Equipped with that knowledge, Chuck follows through on this new tactic by accosting Decker at his son’s softball game. Of course, Decker’s own parents are in the stands. They’ll be in handcuffs before the seventh-inning stretch if Decker doesn’t cooperate. Needless to say, he does.

Winner: Chuck Rhoades

Round 5: Chuck Rhoades vs. The Dog Poop Man

Every morning, Chuck likes to take a stroll along the river on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. And every morning, his walk gets ruined by some jackass who, without fail, refuses to curb his dog’s poop. (Getting the theme of the episode yet?) But not this morning. Chuck finds the pajama’d man and his dog and gives him a verbal thrashing. “I am that guy,” Rhoades tells him. That guy who won’t let your dog poop all over the city. “Why don’t you just let it slide?” says Dog Poop Man, with a hint of annoyance in his voice.

That just makes Chuck even angrier. Bad idea. So Chuck stares Dog Poop Man right in the eyes with that Paul Giamatti intensity and tells the guy to pick up the dog’s poop with his hands. AND THE GUY DOES. This is Peak Giamatti, exactly the sort of scene you want to see him in week in and week out. Because this is Chuck Rhoades’ city, and nobody poops on Chuck in this town.

Winner: Chuck Rhoades

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