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The ‘Billions’ Stock Watch: Betrayal On The High Seas


Showtime

The Billions Stock Watch is a weekly accounting of the action on the Showtime drama. Decisions will be made based on speculation and occasional misinformation and mysterious whims that are never fully explained to the general public. Kind of like the real stock market.

STOCK DOWN — Mentors

Bobby Axelrod has done a lot of messed up stuff on Billions. He’s done it often, repeatedly, and often for reasons that don’t seem to require the level of action he brings to the situation. It’s kind of his whole deal. But still, even with that long history, in a life littered with examples, this thing he did to sweet Johnny was… it was really messed up.

Quick recap: John is the son of Axe’s former mentor. When John’s dad passed away, Axe vowed to be there for the kid, which he was, in the form of paying for business school and investing heavily in John’s new fund. Now, John wants to cash him out, for reasons ranging from 1) because he wants his firm to remain small, to 2) he wants to make something of himself without Axe, to 3) he always thought Axe was a jerk.

Axe didn’t know that last one, at least not before he took John out on a boat to go fishing. What looked like it could be a charming moment of emotional growth for Axe (lol) turned out to be an elaborate ruse to absolutely destroy young John by leaking harmful stories about him and stealing away over half of his clients while he was sans cell phone and cell phone service. All for the crime of… giving Axe his money back with a healthy return on his investment. Yeah. Axe is not a healthy dude.

Here’s the thing that really stuck out for me, though. Axe didn’t get the real reason John cut him out — the one filled with vitriol and resentment — until he faked the engine failure and left them momentarily stranded at sea while he and (who we later discover was) Spyros did their Coast Guard flimflam over the radio. But the plan was already in motion by then. It was a done deal. John never really stood a chance, regardless of what action he took out on that boat. It makes it all… even more messed up.

Think about it this way: What if, instead of shouting at Axe and playing the “well my daddy never liked you anyway” card, John had agreed he made a mistake and decided to keep Axe’s money in the firm? Axe still would have ruined him. John never had a way out. His “options” at that point, whether he realized it or not, were:

  • Snap and tell the truth and have his life ruined, which Axe would justify as crushing a potential enemy
  • Say he was wrong and take Axe’s money back and still have his life ruined, which Axe would justify as a mercy killing because he was too soft for the business or something, whatever, I don’t know, poor John

The lesson here, as it usually is, is to never get on a boat with a psychopath. Nothing good can come of it. I’ve seen enough movies and television shows. In fact, I’ve seen so many movies and television shows that a tiny part of me expected Axe to, like, stab him and heave him overboard, which would have been really dark and somehow still not as messed up as the lengths he went to — a full day, with all of his senior staff working on it, and hours of face-to-face subterfuge to set it all up — to disgrace the guy publicly. Axe is a weird dude, man. And not a good one, either.

You know what? Let’s just amend that to “never get on a boat,” full stop. Can’t be too careful.

STOCK UP — Continuing to destroy your enemies after their death, from the pulpit, at their funeral

Showtime

On a big night for television, with the final season of Game of Thrones premiering in the same 9 p.m. time slot Billions has occupied for the last few weeks, Chuck held his own version of the Red Wedding. Kind of. It was at a funeral instead of a wedding. And instead of people getting murdered all willy nilly, it was corrupt Albany politicians getting arrested. In church. At Jack Foley’s funeral. During a eulogy that Chuck was very much not asked to give. It was pretty great, to be honest, with Chuck going full Giamatti in the pulpit, starting with talk of Julius Caesar and quickly leading to mass arrests. Again, in a church. At a funeral.

The whys of it all are barely important. Jock convinced the new governor to kneecap Chuck’s authority through executive action so Chuck ran around blackmailing the Assembly to drum up support, then used that support to get the executive action reversed, then followed through on his threats against the Assembly anyway — and I know I’m really stuck on this next part but I don’t see how I can be expected to just get over it — during a man’s funeral.

Imagine being, like, Jack Foley’s nephew. You have no idea what Uncle Jack really did for a living. You just knew he was powerful and nice to you and hooked you up with your first car a few months ago. Now you’re at his funeral and everyone is giving you condolences and waaaaiiit a second, who’s that guy and hollllld on is that the guy who just told the world he and his wife love bondage and heeeeyyyyy why is he hollering about Rome and waaaaiiiit a second is that the FBI? Raiding Uncle Jack’s funeral? Holy crap.

On second thought, I bet that fictional kid had a blast telling that story in school on Monday. It worked out pretty well for Chuck, all things considered, but that kid was the real winner in all of this. Congrats to him.

STOCK DOWN — Googling yourself

Showtime

Still not super ideal times for Wendy Rhoades, as she’s dealing with the fallout from Chuck’s press conference without any of the rush or newfound power that Chuck got from it. She’s just become more of a laughingstock, or at least a curious cultural oddity, the powerful wife of a powerful man who engages in bondage play in her free time. We get the idea of the extent of it all in the moment depicted in the (very useful!) GIF above, which shows her in the immediate aftermath of Googling herself.

You should not, to whatever degree you’re strong enough to avoid it, Google yourself, especially if you’ve just been through a situation that could result in national embarrassment. (Think of the days and days and days of jokes Jay Leno would have squeezed out of this situation.) It seemed to have worked out for Wendy, somehow, in large part because Wendy is as much of a freaking shark as anyone on this show, and an awkward double date and a couple days hiding in the dark are all you’re going to get out of her, but you’re not Wendy. I’m not Wendy, either. Try not to Google yourself and never read the comments. It’s the only way to survive out here.

STOCK DOWN — The unseen Jock Jeffcoat

Jock, despite earning zero seconds of screen time, enacted a plan that was foiled by his enemy in spectacular fashion. That’s just a straight-up loss. Guy was just sitting around off-screen, never getting the chance to make his case or even rip off a few classic Texas-isms about steers and baseball and whatever other analogy he can twang into the conversation with his boots up on someone else’s desk. Was not a great week for him. Especially not after what happened at the funeral.

But then. But then!

We’ll come back to this.

STOCK UP — Bryan Connerty

Showtime

Here is Bryan Connerty popping out from behind a column to ambush Chuck on his first day with a lengthy story about Japanese lore, because no one on Billions can ever say hello to anyone without launching into a long, semi-related monologue about animals (the mating habits of falcons, poisonous spiders) or history or music. It’s the best. I want to start talking to everyone like this.

WAITER AT APPLEBEE’S: And for you, sir?

ME: [staring out window into rain-soaked parking lot] Many people believe, incorrectly, thank cicadas don’t eat. They may not eat as you and I consider the term, sure, but they do acquire nutrients by sucking plant sap with their suction-producing mouthparts.

WAITER AT APPLEBEE’S: … I’ll just give you guys another minute then.

The reason Connerty gets the Stock Up designation is, yes, because this is cool and I want to start doing it a lot, but also because it’s fun to picture him practicing it all. Like, him furiously scanning Wikipedia for a fitting story to lead with before settling on Japanese lore, then him practicing it in the mirror for an hour the night before, then him finding the perfect spot to spring out from and then just waiting there in silence like a weirdo, possibly for up to 20 minutes. I choose to believe he got too excited and popped out on some guy he thought was Chuck before we saw any of this.

“In Japanese lore… ah crap, sorry. Thought you were someone else.”

“Christ, you scared me. But… now I kinda wanna know where this was headed.”

Please show me this just one time, Billions or any other show. Show me someone practicing all of this before doing it. Show me them plotting it out and messing it up and running through a rehearsal of their cool surprise speech. I think I’ve earned it.

STOCK UP — Pizza, generally

Showtime

This is fancy pizza. Fancy pizza is fine. And it’s to be expected when it is the centerpiece of a meal eaten on a double date featuring two billionaires, an old-money politician, and a high-powered hedge fund psychiatrist. But it’s important to remember that just about any kind of pizza is good. Fancy pizza, pizza from a local Italian place, even those little English muffin pizzas you make in the toaster oven. It’s an almost indestructible food. So simple, so few ingredients, such little prep time. It honestly might be our best food. Bread, tomatoes, cheese, heat. Bingo bango, perfection.

I really like pizza. That’s what I’m getting at. I like it so much that my mouth barely stopped watering when the show cut from the pizza in the oven to Jack Foley getting cremated. I’m not proud of this but I feel it’s an important disclosure to make.

STOCK DOWN — Just picking up your damn medicine

Showtime

GUY AT PHARMACY: Yeah, picking up a prescription. Name is Kendrick. Greg Kendrick.

PHARMACIST: One second, Mr. Kendrick.

[three feet behind them, Charles Rhoades, Sr. is ranting about how this place used to be a restaurant where kings dined]

PHARMACIST: Hmm. I’m not seeing anything in the system. Let me see if it’s in the back.

[Charles, Sr. now shouting about using power as leverage to force your enemies to obey your every whim]

PHARMACIST: Ah, I see. Looks like it was entered wrong. Just give me one second.

[Charles, Sr. now shifting to a seemingly unrelated story about him hooking up with four cocktail waitresses right here in this spot, where the bathroom used to be]

PHARMACIST: Yup, there we go. We can have this filled for you in 15 minutes if you want to wait right here.

[Charles, Sr. now swearing and poking his finger into his adult son’s chest in a way that is so powerfully uncomfortable for everyone in earshot that the carpet is actually starting to peel back in retreat]

GUY AT PHARMACY: I’ll just come back later.

STOCK DOWN — Charles, Sr.

Charles, Sr. has somehow leapfrogged Wags to become the most gleefully debaucherous character on the show, which I love in ways I did not expect. The guy just loves arching his eyebrows in approval of disgust and doing crimes. That’s it. That’s 70-80 percent of his day. And it looks like it caught up to him, again, just months after the Ice Juice Fiasco, as his permit greasing went sideways in a way that resulted in Sacker and the FBI in a surveillance van watching him and his son discuss fruits of a poisonous tree while strolling around the docks, because if you ever want to catch someone conspiring to commit crimes on Billions, you just mic up a random dock and wait. Someone will roll through soon enough and lay out all their plans to an accomplice or enemy. You could end corruption in Manhattan in about two weeks.

STOCK UP — Lauren, Taylor’s New Wags

Showtime

We like her.

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