“American Champion” was particularly rewarding to Billions fanatics with an encyclopedic memory of the show’s previous guest stars, who were phased out after their particular plot-line was replaced by another. Remember the performance coach Dr. Gus (Marc Kudisch) and the doomed oncologist Dr. Gilbert (Seth Barrish)?
Since this was such an eventful episode, I’ll break the action into sections.
Keeping Up With The Rhoadeses
Rerouting trains carrying port-a-potty “night soil”? Visiting prisons to extort incarcerated doctors? For Chuck Rhoades,it’s all in a day’s work. Yet again, Chuck spends his days doing things that have absolutely nothing to do with the duties of Attorney General of the State of New York. Tax dollars!
For once, Wendy (Maggie Siff), and father, Chuck Sr. (Jeffrey DeMunn) are united. They both want Chuck to use his killer side to get them out of a bind. Wendy’s desperate for her case to be thrown out by the state medical board. Somehow, she’s under the impression that with her license, she can “turn herself back into who [she’s] supposed to be.” We’re skeptical. Chuck Sr. needs the hold on his construction site, placed by Jock (Clancy Brown) and Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore), overturned so he doesn’t bleed money.
And so, Chuck trudges toward his many favors somewhat reluctantly. On the Wendy front, Chuck visits Dr. Gilbert (the poor gent who took the fall for the Ice Juice debacle in season 3) to see if he can persuade the medical board. It’s a full circle moment for Wendy. Dr. Gilbert represents the first few inches in her fall from grace. Wendy had worked alongside her husband and Bobby to set Dr. Gilbert up as their “patsy,” in her own words. Now, she regrets ever taking those steps. Gilbert agrees to help, so long as he can get out of jail.
Compared to the emotionally heavy encounter in the jail, the scheme to force Jeffcoat into lifting the hold on the work-site is pure rock-n-roll. Chuck and his team (who, for some reason, are happy to go along with this) reroute a train carrying port-a-potty waste to stop outside his Southern homestead. Just as he and his wife sit down, the scent comes. It’s unbearable. Jock has to relent.
And so, Chuck pulls it off. Rather, he almost pulls it off. Jeffcoat, broken by the sheer scent, agrees to lift the work site and clear things up for the med board, in exchange for Chuck dropping his mobile voting pilot program.
To Connerty’s surprise, and to ours, Chuck refuses. Is he really trying to be noble and preserve democracy? What’s going on here? Here’s what we do know: Chuck is aiming for a big target. He’s fighting his own fight. And that means he can’t fight Wendy’s, too.
To gear up, Connerty heads to Dr. Gus, the performance coach. He's tired of finishing episodes with the glum expression of defeat.
Meet the Power Couple
Wait — which power couple? This episode saw both Axe and Taylor forming the most dangerous of attachments: Romantic ones. Because those are some of the most vulnerable kind. They can be easily exploited.
Bobby and Taylor’s most recent battle centers on the terrain of Rebecca Cantu’s (Nina Ariadna) life goals. She’s just become CEO of Saler’s, a department store dinosaur that can’t compete in the 21st century landscape (the Saler’s logo is clearly modeled on Sears). Rebecca has surprisingly genuine and personal reasons behind the investment, especially when compared to how Bobby and Taylor make business decisions.
Enter: Taylor, who’s gearing up to snatch control over the Salers’ board and stomp on Rebecca’s party. They successfully buy out two board members, but what they really need are Sanford Bensinger’s (Richard Thomas) enormous shares. While trying to win Sanford over, that hint of attraction between Taylor and their co-worker Lauren Turner (the marvelous new addition Jade Eshete), sparks into full-fledged public make-out. Strange to see Taylor be so unprofessional. Nice, too.
Though Taylor and Lauren’s success is short-lived. Sanford’s a tough person to manipulate. He’s quite the opposite of Bobby and Taylor: Morally upright, charitable, the spirit of a quarterback golden retriever. He runs the Giving Oath, which billionaires pledge to give their savings to charity (which Bobby declined in season 2, incurring Bensinger’s wrath). Bobby’s correct: He can’t be worked.
But Bobby and Rebecca do work him over to their side — simply by being themselves. Bensinger admires the way they care about each other: “That’s kind of strength and loyalty great brands are built on.” That’s the thing. Rebecca and Bobby actually seem to be the real deal. I love watching him watch her. He respects and supports her. Bensinger’s right. Rebecca makes Bobby more human, less money lizard. Let’s hope Taylor doesn’t destroy Rebecca and Bobby the way they destroyed their relationship with their father.
Trouble in Axe City
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that Axe Capital isn’t just Wendy, Axe, Wags, and Dollar Bill. They’re the cool kids, sure. But there are lots of other workers — and they want a seat at the popular table.
Bonnie (Sarah Stiles), queen of Axe Capital and saint to the cause of equal pay, wages an all-out war to join the elite Flagship Fund. The “key employees” in Flagship see three times the returns on their investment in Axe Cap.
As it turns out, Flagship had closed a while ago. But Bobby, seeing Bonnie’s intrepid spirit after she led troops to his office, re-opens it — and has her join. To no one’s surprise, Bonnie didn’t really care about equal pay. She cared about being valued. Maybe Bobby has learned her lesson from Taylor, whom he’d used and overlooked. Here, he comes out and tells Bonnie he appreciates her.
Bonnie’s in Flagship, and Bill’s out — punishment for blabbing about it in the first place. But there’s still enough sexual tension left for them to make out in his minivan large enough to drive around his two full families. This episode sated my make-out quota, and then some.
Though this is an episode of happy couples, Chuck and Wendy’s slow dissolving will remain the magnet (or black hole) of this season, around which everything orbits.