Billions (S02E05):”Currency”

So here’s what happened:

After the suicide of a Developer whose product failed quality assurance testing, a product Axe Capital banked on to shore up their first quarter returns Axe Capital now faced their first-ever downturn and Axe lit into his brokers to find the next biggest idea to salvage his first quarter. It was his secretary, Deb Kawi played by Ilfenesh Hadera who informed Axe that Mafee had an idea but was too scared to present it to Axe himself. When Axe finally coached it out of Mafee it had to do with a rumor Mafee heard from an old college friend, Eveready played by Keith Eric Chappelle that Nigeria planned to de-value its currency. Axe was intrigued.

Axe also did some more digging into the Sandicott / Casino project proposal hoping to find something redeemable about it to invest to avoid disappointing his friend Bruno, but at every turn there was bad news.

During couple’s counseling, Wendy complained Rhoades always wore a suit even to the most causal of events. She thought it was out of arrogance but he admitted it was to shore up his appearance as to what other people may have thought of him when Wendy could have done better in the husband department. Wendy was floored at the admission.

Dake was on the move again; his latest target was Lonnie Wately. Lonnie tried to dodge him but Dake issued an ultimatum that Lonnie make the time.

Rhoades attended another kung-fu wrestling session and grappled with a woman with whom he afterwards had a flirtatious exchange.

Axe met with Eveready and asked him to pass along his research for Axe to review. Axe liked what he saw but needed other firms to join in with him since the monetary risk was too high for Axe Capital to carry it alone. Axe first asked Boyd but Boyd declined and instead recommended Axe join forces with Krakow, Malverne and Birch instead, Axe did so and they all agreed to join forces. However, the deal went bust after Birch leaked the news of the Nigerian devaluation as revenge for Axe screwing him over in the past. Eveready recommended Axe have someone publicly vouch for the venture like Boyd, on a business news show to calm the markets and salvage Axe’s first quarter.

McKinnon, Rhoades’s mole inside Spartan-Ives was not the smoothest informant and fumbled an attempt to solicit information from a fellow executive in the bathroom. It wasn’t a until he went to dinner with Boyd and their wives and in a drunken stupor got Boyd to admit to details surrounding their latest Treasury auction rigging event. That was all the ammo Rhoades needed.

Wags, having been MIA for days already with no one able to reach him Axe decided to visit Dr. Gus to find out if he had heard from Wags. Axe walked in on Dr. Gus training for a bicycle race and was not impressed. Dr. Gus saw it as an opportunity to impress himself upon Axe with his quick assessment skills and as you can imagine the entire scene just sprayed testosterone as they exchanged control positions, but when Dr. Gus threw Wags under the bus in an attempt to score pole position in Axe’s inner circle Axe called him on it and walked out of the office.

Wags descent into his own personal hell had basis – he had seen one of his mentors, someone he considered a giant in the industry felled by dementia, and because of which the sudden weight of his mortality hit Wags like a rock. He confessed to Wendy over several days of deep counseling that he felt useless, no longer needed, especially since Axe hired a Chief of Staff. He felt like he was on the way out. When he realized (with Wendy’s help of course) why he was driving himself into descent he finally showed up at Axe Capital and offered his resignation. Axe rejected it. Axe told Wags he needed him, especially since Axe had already fired Step Reed earlier for an analytical misstep regarding Axe’s personality. That reassurance was all Wags needed to jump mentally back into the game.

Lara told Axe that she wanted to pursue a formal capitalization of her new business. Solicit money the old fashioned way – present a business plan and seek out funding. Axe asked if she were ready for the rigors of formally seeking capital for a start-up and Lara arrogantly answered yes. Axe nodded and asked Boyd to arrange a meeting with some investors.

The meeting went well but not for the right reasons – it was perfunctory meeting, more as a favor to both Boyd and Axe and Lara was insulted. When Lara later complained to Axe, Axe beat her down with a list of reasons why she wasn’t ready for the real rigors of seeking capital for a start-up: her idea wasn’t original, she didn’t create it, there wasn’t a unique market for it, and so on and so forth. In short, Axe gave his wife a lesson in basic business start-up: be original.

Later that same night Axe and Boyd were in the “green room” about to go on air on a business show to support the Nigerian venture with Axe interviewed first followed by Boyd. Right before Axe was about to be interviewed Orrin called and informed Axe that Boyd was to be arrested within the hour. Axe said nothing to Boyd about the warning call and proceeded with his segment of the interview. After Boyd concluded his segment of the interview Axe informed him of his imminent arrest. Boyd understood why Axe didn’t inform beforehand and acknowledged that Axe tried to warn him about Rhoades. Moments later, Rhoades and Brian arrived at the studio and arrested Boyd. Axe and Rhoades exchanged barbs before Axe walked out of the studio to a frustrated Rhoades.

The last scene saw Rhoades consuming a sandwich and gravy fries like a starved man. Season 2 has hinted in a couple of episodes that Rhoades love of food, but at the conclusion of this episode it was clear he has an eating disorder and it is triggered whenever he is stressed. In this episode it was brought on by Axe’s parting shot to Rhoades after Boyd was arrested sent Rhoades straight to the delicatessen and straight into an eating binge.

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The best line of the episode was from Axe to Wags: “While you’ve been off learning the Yaqui Way or run like the Tarahumara I have been in here fighting the battle of fucking Thermopylae! ” Yes he was.

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