Billions Season 2 Episode 5 Recap: "Currency"

Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.
Pictured: Toby Leonard Moore as Bryan Connerty and Condola Rashad as Kate Sacker.
Do you guys think the scripts for this show are like 300 pages long? People talk so fast trying to explain things! That’s obviously always the case but I think it was especially apparent in this episode, after the striking early scene of a man jumping to his death. His company couldn’t deliver the super-thin screens for phones they had promised. The screens cracked under heat. I kept feeling that imagery throughout the whole episode: something, something is definitely going to crack and the heightened speed just upped the heat. And when that big crack came, boy was it satisfying.
Bobby feels the most at risk for breaking this week. He’s facing his first down quarter at Axe Capital, ever. He holds an all hands meeting where he asks his people to think big, which was similar to the meeting Chuck had with his staff about finding an unwinnable case earlier this season. Dollar Bill has what Axe needs, but he can’t tell him in front of Stephanie. So, it’s probably illegal. She says Axe needs to learn that he’s not a machine, but you can feel the fear of failure crawling under his skin in every scene, it seems inevitable that he’s going to make a mistake.
And that entire time we can feel Chuck lurking, just waiting for a slip. Chuck tells Kate about his father taking him wolf hunting as a kid, which, hilariously seems like the most on-brand thing his father could do. I’m surprised dear ol’ dad didn’t make him do it with his bare hands. They couldn’t catch any wolves and it sucked, until they learned the best bait for wolves (and beasts in general) which is… LOL Bryan walks in and Chuck can’t finish the story. Later he tells Kate that the best bait is “time.” I know it’s a little corny, but nothing is better than getting cut off right before you make your big point in a speech. It will never not be funny to me. So yes, Chuck is biding his time, waiting for Axe to slip up, and then he’ll get him.
But until then, he has Boyd and Tom McKinnon wearing a wire. Honestly, give this actor an Emmy for how deftly he played this scene where he’s just freaking terrible at wearing a wire. You catch that sportsball game last night? Anyway we should talk some time about all the illegal stuff our company does. He’s already cracking and Chuck has to give him a brief reprieve, to make sure he’s really hungry for it.
Back at Axe Capital, Axe finds out through Deb – look, I know this show has a billion characters (second meaning) but I would love to learn more about her – that Mafee might have an idea, but he’s afraid to tell Axe. He has an old pal, Everett, who’s a currency guy.
And when Axe takes a meeting with Everett over lobster, Everett tells him Nigeria is going to devalue their currency soon and a massive short against it could help make that happen sooner rather than later. OK look, I feel like this has to be said now, but this makes me feel uneasy. I mean, earlier this episode we saw a guy kill himself because of a deal and that made me sad. That guy was just a character! Sometimes they fuck over companies on this show that don’t really exist and I can just be like “meh.” But Nigeria, as you all know, is a real place. It has real people who suffer from a devaluation, even if on the show, it was already going to happen. Watching fictional billionaires try to profit off an economic crisis in another real country feels wrong to me, but maybe an economist can explain to me the “grey” area.
But what is fun is watching a bunch of billionaires try to act tough while sitting in a tiny booth at a shitty diner. Axe has Boyd call up some bigwigs (including our man Krakow) to help him with the short. This scene suffers from a little syndrome that plagues many TV shows called “last time on.” You see, my friends, of course Billions had to remind us that Axe screwed over Jerry O’Connell last season and that Jerry O’Connell’s name on this show is Steve Birch. So the whole time you’re kinda like “Hmm, why’d they remind us about this guy specifically?” And then Axe says, “What is the more powerful driver: boning me or your own self interest?” And it’s like “DING DING DING, THIS GUY WANTS TO BONE AXE!”
So yeah, O’Connell… I mean Birch leaks what Axe is doing and bets on the Naira. One funny thing in this scene is Birch says Bobby might’ve thrown him this deal as an apology but it’s not enough. LOL forever Birch, I can assure you, Bobby never thinks about you. He would’ve also needed that “Previously on Billions.
But Bobby finds a way out of this (which we’ll get to later) and is so confident that he fires Stephanie, telling her she was wrong he’s not human, he’s a machine, “a fucking Terminator.” IDK Axe, don’t you root for the humans in those movies? Anyway I liked Stephanie a lot too, so I hope she screws Axe over. I mean… one of the people he’s hurt is eventually gonna get him for real.
This is also how I feel about Lara, as I’ve said in prior recaps. I think, eventually, she’s goin g to turn on him, regardless of how much she loves him. She asks him this week to help her get backers for her new business, then gets pissed when the woman she meets with thinks of her only as the wife. He tells her she wasn’t ready yet, because nothing about her business is unique to her. It’s pretty crazy that Lara would play the “only see me as a wife” card when she got the meeting because of her husband and got the idea because of her husband’s job. I have to side with Bobby on this, because no matter how fierce she is, she picked a business that is completely tied to him. And she’s smart enough to learn from the criticism. But then also, wherever she goes, she’ll be tied to him (see: her last business) and his mistakes, so I’m also team Lara. I want her to get out… by betraying him to Chuck.
Anyway, this show did that audacious “48-hours earlier” transition at the beginning again, like it did in the premiere, but it worked for me because it allowed two really great therapy scenes to really land. The first was Wendy and Chuck’s. Nothing is better than watching other people’s therapy on TV and this scene was just so freaking killer. Wendy complains about Chuck wearing his suit to a dinner party when she specifically told him to not dress up. She thinks he’s just got to constantly show how important his job is. But he says it’s because of the way people look at them as a couple. He knows that she can do better than him and that’s how people look at them, and the suit makes him feel better about how the two of them look as a couple. I was so moved by this scene and the scene where Chuck tells his son (who’s mad at Wendy) that Dad is to blame for the separation and nobody is perfect. I genuinely believe them as a couple trying to work it out who still love each other. But then dammit, Chuck kinda flirted with the woman he was practicing martial arts with. Dammit Chuck and Wendy, please don’t cheat on each other! Your relationship is a super-thin screen.
(OK, this feels like a sidenote but Dake seems to be zeroing in on Lonnie. He thinks Lonnie is going to flip. And who could blame him? But Lonnie had that great episode last season where he took down the racist judge with Chuck so I don’t want him to go. Anyway, this is just something to remember. I mainly bring it up to say that I’m finding Dake increasingly attractive and it’s alarming. IDK we all have to reckon with our demons.)
Wags too is reckoning with his demons in an emergency therapy session with Wendy. Wags has begun to feel irrelevant at Axe Capital and has been confronting his mortality after seeing his former mentor on the street. This guy used to be a killer, but he has early-onset Alzheimer’s now and can’t go out alone. Wendy helps him by doing her big move: she tells him to pivot. (Has anyone else who watches this show started incorrectly incorporating this advice into her real life?) Anyway, Wags goes to Axe and finds out that Stephanie got fired and … you know, he’s needed again but also probably is going to relapse.
Now we get to the big glass crack of this episode which I thought was handled masterfully. Tom McKinnon is going to a couples dinner with Lawrence Boyd. As we know, Tom is terrible at wearing a wire, but he’s trying to get Boyd back for sleeping with his wife. Chuck reminds him, don’t get mad at Boyd now, save it, deceive Boyd, and hurt him by getting him arrested. But Tom seems like he’s going to crack. He gets drunk and belligerent, Bryan wants to pull him. But Chuck says leave him there just a bit longer. Then Tom knocks over wine on his wife and the two women go to the bathroom to clean it up. It’s all looking pretty messy, like Tom’s gonna punch Boyd literally. But then a pivot, you can see it in Tom’s face, him deciding to be smart, calculated. Tom says he’s mad because he thinks he’s going to go to jail because of the company’s illegal activities. Boom! And then Boyd just like, admits to everything, he basically just yells, "You know I’m pulling the strings, I’m guilty, don’t worry" to the rafters. And they’ve got him. This was so thrilling!
This leads us to another amazing Damian Lewis scene. So I giphed it for you. Here’s when Axe gets the call from Orrin that Boyd’s about to be arrested:
Image: Courtesy of Showtime.
Image: Courtesy of Showtime.
He’s so still but you can see everything. He’s shaken, but he still goes on TV and says that he is wearing a bracelet in solidarity with Nigeria and that their currency is in jeopardy. He has Boyd corroborate his story, which like, doesn’t that seem unwise given that Boyd’s about to be crazy-discredited by getting arrested? IDK, he tells Boyd after the show that he’s about to be arrested! Chuck finally gets a win! He tells Axe this must be an omen for him, but, again, to Axe everyone is cannon fodder so he quips right back that his future is just watching Chuck arrest someone else while he gets away.
Then Chuck eats some loaded fries and a big sandwich. This could mean two things: it’s a way to celebrate a win, but also, he was trying to eat better, so it’s also kind of a loss. For this show, I think it maybe just represents a win. Those fries looked good. I’m so glad Chuck won one. Oh also, Axe is probably gonna make a lot of money off of that casino that I keep ignoring. These episodes are long you guys, all in due time.
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