Maybe the right thing to do is not to make such a big deal about seeing Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) and Oscar (Mike Birbiglia) have sex. Maybe, in 2018, it’s more appropriate to treat this premium cable pairing between a gender fluid hedge fund manager and a cis male venture capitalist as routine fare. But we can’t help it. We’ve never seen this on such a mainstream show before, and it’s exciting.
In fact, let’s start with Taylor’s storyline, since it was self-contained and had little to do with the Chuck vs. Axe and Dollar Bill vs. Spyros cage matches. Taylor is in San Francisco to meet with Axe’s new BFF Oscar. Taylor knows that they’re being treated like an errand boy, and isn’t taking the whole private jet to San Francisco perk seriously. They are preoccupied when they arrive at Oscar’s offices, eyes glued to their cell. Oscar is immediately intrigued, and teases Taylor by saying they’re about to hear a tech pitch from Steve Wozniak. Taylor looks genuinely thrilled for a moment, until Oscar says he’s kidding. He’s even further intrigued, spotting a fellow nerd in millionaires’ clothing.
Instead, they see a guy pitching an app called Table Service. “Everyone loves table service,” he says. Taylor looks at the pitch on their iPad for approximately three seconds before declaring it a waste of time. Oscar catches them on their way out the door, asking them to give the next pitch a shot. This time, the guy has some kind of technological gizmo that only Richard Hendricks would understand, and Oscar uses Death Star logic to get on Taylor’s good side. “Have dinner with me,” Oscar says to Taylor in a downright romantic way. Taylor gets super nervous and panic-leaves, clearly not used to this kind of attention from a straight white dude.
Besides, Taylor really does have other plans. They’re joining a Netrunner tournament and, adorably, when they walk in the door, Oscar is there. He tracked them down — or just knew exactly what they would be doing on the same night as a Netrunner tournament. They play opposite each other, and using the language of the game (which we gather is some kind of culty old-fashioned version of Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering; sorry we’re not cool or rich enough to know the rules) to seduce each other. It works, and Taylor winds up at Oscar’s very sexy mansion that night. They undress. They make out. They take to the couch.
The next morning, Taylor leaves in a private car, and gives Oscar a cute little goodbye wave. But this is Billions. While we’re hoping there was nothing sinister in Oscar’s play for Taylor, we can’t help worrying that he’ll somehow use their night together against them.
On to the battle between pretentiousness and machismo that is Dollar Bill (Kelly AuCoin) and Spyros (Stephen Kunken). The somewhat comedic conflict begins when Dollar Bill hands over a bag of cash to a scientist, essentially buying his testimony in a Mendham Pharmaceuticals case. Then, he heads to work, where he asks Wags’ (David Costabile) permission to short Mendham. Classic insider trading. The kind of classic insider trading that Spyros, as former head of the SEC, was brought to Axe Cap to nix. And he does. In light of Dollar Bill watching Spyros arrive to work that day in a shiny cherry red Porsche, while wearing a Porsche jacket (and likely pronouncing it the way Joey did on Friends), Bill hurls a truly wonderful insult at Spyros by calling him a “six-figure pants shitter.” Spyros says something about “caca de vaca,” while sipping his fancy espresso out of his tiny cup, and the two of them are sent to Wendy’s (Maggie Siff) office. We learn that Spyros has never been married but has been in couples’ therapy with three different women. There’s a pretty good exchange of insults, again, ending with Dollar Bill sighing, “I hate every pore of you,” while manspreading on the couch to a ridiculous degree.
Wendy points out that they’re never going to like each other, so she threatens them with their jobs. She’s never told Axe (Damian Lewis) to fire anyone for being a dick, and she doesn’t want to start now. She winds up in Wags’ office, collapsing on his couch and demanding, “Bottle,” in a very Mad Men way. (Yes! Siff was on Mad Men.) After chugging some whiskey, Wendy points out something kind of revelatory: When Chuck (Paul Giamatti) and Axe first met, they liked each other. They knew they were the smartest guys in the room.
Dollar Bill is trying to reach Axe to take his side on the Spyros mess, but Axe is too busy (we’ll get to that.) So Bill finds Axe on the streets of Manhattan, and strips down to his boxers to prove he isn’t wearing a wire. We get a beauty of a line, exquisitely delivered by Lewis: “We look like we’re having a lovers’ tiff at best.” He relents, and they wind up at Daniel with Wags and Spyros to hash it out. Obligatory cameo by chef Daniel, plus random close-ups of the overpriced food commence. Axe tells Spyros to get in line, using some omerta logic on him, and he complies. Bill apologizes to him in front of the whole fund, and then tries a little tenderness by ramming his SUV into Spyros’ Porsche. Cute, we guess.
Now to the meat and potatoes. The new Halls meet Axe at a private landing strip in the middle of the night (he was originally going to be the one heading to San Fran to hear Oscar’s pitches.) Axe is flying alone (sad). It turns out that Bryan (Toby Leonard Moore) and Dake (Christopher Denham) are getting too close to discovering the involvement of Dr. Gilbert, Axe’s pal who created the toxicant in the Ice Juice saga. Of course, it isn’t Bryan they should be worried about, but Chuck.
Chuck seems to recall something from the session notes he read off Wendy’s computer back in season 1: the name of a doctor who ostensibly attempted to cure Donnie, Axe’s flipped employee who died of cancer. Chuck’s theory (which is true): Axe paid this doctor to hide any real cures from Donnie so he could die before testifying against Axe Cap. So Chuck goes on a fishing expedition, including a somewhat heartless visit to Donnie’s widow, in search of this doctor’s name.
Meanwhile, Axe and the new Halls approach Gilbert, more and more intensely over a series of private, spooky visits. Axe can’t shake the feeling that Gilbert kept evidence (the tainted slide) of the Ice Juice maneuver. But there’s a blind spot: Gilbert has never used Axe’s pay-offs for personal gain. Sure, he’s accepted dirty money, but he’s donated it. Or used it to fund research. Axe doesn’t understand someone like this, and it’s to his detriment. “I want for nothing,” Gilbert tells Axe at one point. But doesn’t everyone want for something?
Chuck ultimately finds Gilbert, and gives him a choice: him or Axe. As we find out, in the final scenes, Gilbert chooses Chuck, who now has the slide taped to a panel in his fridge. When Gilbert calls a meeting with Axe to ask for money to buy his silence, Axe knows he’s fucked.
In the middle of these very well-played chess moves, we have yet another adversarial tête-a-tête, this time between Bryan and Sacker (Condola Rashad). Bryan wakes up one morning, sees his flight attendant girlfriend leaving, and pulls a page right out of sad Bobby's playbook in Stephen Sondheim’s Company:
Poor Bryan. He looks at his Carrie Mathison whiteboard and narrows in on Boyd (Eric Bogosian). Right. Why did Boyd suddenly get out of jail free? He tracks down Sacker to ask, and Sacker tracks down Chuck, who realizes he should maybe launch some kind of investigation into Boyd’s former hedge fund to make the deal look clean. Boyd wants his boat back. Chuck makes it happen. Bryan is defeated, again.