Billions Season 4, Episode 5 Recap: Open & Evolved People Who Understand Vulnerability

Woah, nelly. That right there was an unhinged hour of TV.
In Billions, every action has its consequences. And since Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) and Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) don’t have the word “small” in their vocabulary, their actions are big — so the people in their lives pay major consequences.
No one knows this more than Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff), who, miraculously, is still with Chuck after his ultimate transgression. At the end of last week’s episode, Chuck exposed the highly private details of their sex life to the general public so he could get a job, even though it negatively affected hers. Now, Wendy can’t walk into a consulting session without people imagining her with whips, thus shattering the image of “blank slate” she needs so much. She’s going to develop carpal tunnel from refreshing the Google search results of her name so frequently. Her life’s a mess!
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As a viewer, though, I must admit: Angry Wendy is my favorite Wendy. May she burn so bright she eventually burns up all of these vengeance-fueled men in her life. For now, though, she’s staying with the guy who sounds “kind of like a stuck pig” when squeals, as she tells Bobby — a sentence emblazoned on our minds.
Bobby takes a fishing trip.
This episode is a character study of Bobby Axelrod, and it’s not a pretty sight. That said, it comes as a welcome and necessary reminder of who Bobby really is. After watching enough Billions, sometimes I find myself admiring Bobby — his bombastic self-confidence; his eye for strategy. But the long con that Bobby plays with John Rice (Seth Gabel), his former boss’s son, showcases Bobby’s fanged vindictive side and plunged any nascent admiration into cold water.
This entire episode casts light on Bobby’s past. Brief refresh: On September 11, Bobby was not in the North Tower, along with his other colleagues (including John’s dad) at Wachtel, Raichlein and Rice. He was at the attorney’s office, signing a severance package. Bobby’s trades had been borderline illegal, and his bosses wanted him out. After 9/11, Bobby built up an image of being a folk hero. He paid for former colleagues’ kids educations, like John, and supported the children of fallen firemen. Eventually, Bobby invested in John’s fund.
Now that he’s grown his fund to its first billion, John is handing Axe a check with his initial investment. Bobby is correct in interpreting this gesture as a personal affront. It is personal. Since he’s achieved independent success, John wants nothing to do with Bobby. After all, Bobby’s reputation is soiled by what really made his fortune: On the day of 9/11, Bobby made trades that actually made him a billionaire.
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At this point, Bobby has a choice. He can linger in his feelings (“I don’t traffic in those much”), and understand why he’s reacting to John’s rejection with such force. He can parse his desires to sabotage his former mentees, like John and Taylor, and choose to focus on his own life.
Instead, Bobby takes the more comfortable route: vengeance. Bobby takes John out for a “friendly” fishing trip. They lock their phones in the car. When the bros get back, Bobby reveals that he’d given an interview to the press that cast doubt on John’s trading strategy. With that, poof: The street loses faith in John Rice, and John’s fund is destroyed.
If Bobby did this to John, a kid he’d supported for decades, what is he going to do to Taylor? We shudder at the thought of Bobby’s seismic revenge plan in the works.
Meanwhile, back at the house, Wags (David Costabile) is focusing on more important things than revenge: skincare via expensive lasers!
Chuck Rhoades stages a coup.
We all need hype men. People who make us feel good about ourselves. Mine’s Donte Colley, the guy on Instagram who does inspirational dances. Unfortunately, Chuck’s is his father. “You’ve been spayed and neutered,” Chuck Sr. (Jeffrey DeMunn) tells Chuck Jr. under the glow of Duane Reade fluorescents.
Chuck Sr’s not wrong in his assessment of his son’s power as Attorney General, per se, but he’s certainly mean (and toxically masculine) about it! As Chuck “Sir Eyebrows” Sr. points out, Jock Jeffcoat and Bryan Connerty are blocking Chuck’s power as Attorney General. He needs to seize power back.
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Ultimately, Chuck pulls off his power grab in a quintessentially showy way (yep, there’s a speech involved). Chuck upends the system of corrupt officials in the New York State Assembly that had upheld “Black” Jack Foley’s Albany kingdom — and he does so at Black Jack’s funeral.
Immediately after persuading the governor to sign off on a grant of executive power, Chuck stages a coup right out of the Roman Empire. This will make the governor look good, too: "Look at all the corruption I just vanquished!" As if on cue, policemen and F.B.I. burst into the grand doors and arrest every corrupt official. It’s a bloodbath. And it’s also an assertion of power. Who needs allies when you could just vanquish your enemies?
But make no mistake: Chuck’s reign won’t be any less corrupt than his predecessors’. It’s ironic to see Chuck condemn corruption when he was elected through corruption (remember those buses of felons Bobby shipped to the polls last week?). Connerty is sniffing for anything piece of information that can take Chuck down — and Chuck Sr.'s shady new development might be it.
Taylor Mason strives for morality.
We pose a question: Is Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon) the only decent person on Wall Street? As Bobby says, “an open and evolved person who understands vulnerability?” After all, they do support their dad’s dreams. They do reach out to Wendy when her carefully constructed life is shattered on public TV. They do shut down all gossip about Wendy’s sex life in their fund’s group chat.
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Or is their decency just a facade they deploy to cast themselves as the opposite of Bobby Axelrod, craven and morally corrupt, in order to beat him at his money-making game? Either way, Taylor’s saintly ploy worked to convince the New York Firefighter’s Fund — and kept the business around for another week (an accomplishment at this point, given how their fund is the ship in Jaws, and Bobby is the shark).
Taylor Mason Capital also must be commended for being a hot-bed of women talent. This is finance’s Island of Misfit Toys. Lauren Turner (Jade Eshete) is the latest strategist to be added to Taylor’s squad. With Taylor Mason Capital, Taylor’s nurturing a place in finance for people who don’t look or act like John Rice to thrive. No matter what else happens, I’m grateful to them for that.
Wendy might be, too – she just did the unthinkable act for an Axe Cap employee. She reached out to Taylor Mason.
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