Billions (S02E09) “Sic Transit Imperium”


So here’s what happened:

It’s Axe’s birthday and the entire episode is obsessed with what does one give a billionaire for a birthday present?

In Wag’s case it was an exclusive, billionaire fallout bunker where, if a cataclysmic event happened Axe would have a guaranteed spot to the tune of $360,000 as a down payment. Wow! Wags is a really nice friend! Axe asked Wags if he bought himself one and Wags replied he would rather be found rocking out with the marauders.

Dollar Bill’s birthday present to Axe was inside information on Klaxon, a Belgium Auto Company headed for a recall. (By the way, simple shredders are not enough people). Axe said he would think on it. Dollar Bill was not happy with that response and made it known which led to a mano-a-mano confrontation with Wags and a heart-to-heart with Axe.

Rhoades took a trip to Sandicott and waved the “Axe is a bad businessman” flag, made some noise but before he left Sandicott he was stopped by Foley’s personal driver. Foley wanted him to meet with him at a local diner. During their meeting, Foley thanked him for the clerkship Rhoades secured for his granddaughter in DC, but the point of the meeting was to have Rhoades scrubbed by a George Minshak (a female) whom we later learned in the previews for the next episode will be played by Mary-Louise Parker. It was Minshak’s job to ensure nothing from Rhoades past could derail his candidacy. At this point, each and every viewer was probably thinking, “hope she doesn’t find out about the bondage clubs.”

Wendy was in a session with Deb when Deb asked a question that a blind man could see was a “test” question from Axe to see how Wendy would respond. Wendy saw through it and ended the session. Deb reported back to Axe and in course Axe realized that Deb was made by Wendy. Deb took the liberty to pitch becoming more than just an assistant but Axe shot her down. Wags informed Axe that Rhoades was making noise in Sandicott, which spurred Axe to turn down the Klaxon offer from Dollar Bill.

Per a subpoena, Kate interviewed Stephanie Reed about her time at Axe Capital. During the course of this interview Stephanie let out a couple of details, one being about Dollar Bill and a contact of his whom she only knew as Victor. Kate informed Stephanie that her office tried flipping Dollar Bill and failed. Stephanie then recommended a softer target: Taylor.

Axe met with Sean Ayles to create a permanent charitable foundation. The true intent of all this was so Axe could buy the prestige of culture and credibility that Ayles provided to “launder” Axe’s reputation as a great philanthropist. In short, he was spending a half a million dollars “just for some stuffed shirt to spiff up my image!”

Ira approached Rhoades with a proposal to invest in a company called Ice Juice where he planned to quit his job as a lawyer and become its CEO. After some discussion, Rhoades said he would think about it.

As Lara and Axe surveyed the birthday party preparations, Axe vented his frustrations about the issues he faced and just wanted to get away a celebrate his birthday alone with Lara. Lara advised it was important for Axe’s closest colleagues to show what he meant to them, including Wendy. Axe reiterated he had not broken his promise and he and Wendy hadn’t had any counseling sessions, but Lara could see that Axe was becoming frustrated in general with things.

Wendy and Rhoades met at the Townhome for the parent swap when Wendy admitted she questioned her happiness at Axe Capital and whether it was right move to return there.

Axe met with Hall whom he had tail Dollar Bill. Hall reported that Dollar Bill was meeting with an old blast from the past, Victor Mateo, whom Axe had fired from Axe Capital but Dollar Bill’s intentions were true. There was no malicious intent involved.

Lara called the Townhome in the hopes of reaching Wendy but Rhoades picked up. Judging from the dialogue it was the first time they had ever spoken to one another. Wendy had turned down the birthday invitation but Lara wanted her to reconsider. Rhoades passed on the message that Lara called and urged Wendy to attend the party to see if her heart was truly still at Axe Capital.

Rhoades met with Donald Thayer up in Kingsford and tried to intimidate him into talking about Axe but Thayer informed Rhoades he was thoroughly protected in his dealings even from Rhoades. Word of the meeting got back to Foley who then later that night met with Rhoades and advised him to waive off on Thayer, but at the same time would not stand in the way if Rhoades proceeded. Rhoades took the hint and soon thereafter dropped his pursuit of Thayer.

Taylor was having sincere conflict about attending Axe’s party as she had a personal conflict that same evening: a friend was getting married in the Michigan UP. She felt, out of office politics she couldn’t miss Axe’s party.  When she later raised her concerns Axe advised Taylor that people have only one life to live so do it all. Taylor took Axe’s advice and attended Axe’s birthday party and then later that night hopped on a private plane full of her impressed friends bound for her friend’s wedding in the UP while the FBI took pictures from afar.

Axe met with Victor Mateo, and in exchange for the information on Klaxon Victor wanted to work for Axe again, in a satellite shop where he could operate more freely and provide Axe with prime money-making deals like Klaxon.

Kate’s meticulous note-taking paid off in a rather humorous/not-so humorous scene between her and Rhoades. As he read Kate’s notes from her interview with Stephanie Reed he came upon Stephanie’s remark about how Axe bought up all the first edition copies of Churchill’s book, “The Second World War” to spite an “enemy.” So yeah, you can imagine how pissed Rhoades was when he read that note. Once Rhoades calmed down he had the idea to leverage Ira through Ice Juice as an inside track on any future business transactions Axe may have next. Rhoades met with Daddy Rhoades to pitch the investment but Daddy Rhoades informed son Rhoades his money was locked up in the Kingsford casino development. The only option left was Rhoades trust. Rhoades told Daddy Rhoades to crack it open and to use some of it for his casino venture. I don’t think I have to explain to any of the viewers what the downside may be if this all comes out.

Wendy arrived at Axe’s party and was promptly greeted by Lara. Wendy thanked Lara for the invitation. Lara countered it was only because she knew that Wendy and Axe didn’t speak much at the office due to the “no counseling sessions” rule”, and both she and Axe agreed it was for the best. Wendy gave Lara a perplexed look and promptly corrected Lara that it was her idea she and Axe no longer have sessions at the office, and then she quickly excused herself while Lara’s face dropped with the dawning that Axe had lied to her.

In the last scene, Axe called his wife to meet him inside his car outside the gate. When she arrived he told her he wanted to blow his birthday party and do something together, just the two of them. They drove off and ended up at the racetrack where Axe first started out as a simple bookie, but unbeknownst to Axe as the camera faded to black there was an emotional war brewing inside Lara.

Summary thought:

I swear this series is going to end up with Axe and Rhoades glaring at one another through the bars of their respective jail cells.  I am also wondering when both Wendy and Rhoades will start to reach out to others to satisfy their…sadomasochistic needs.