The ‘Billions’ Stock Watch: A Terrible Week For Pizza And Chuck Rhoades

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 — Chuck, repeatedly


Not a great week for Chuck Rhoades, a man whose new move appears to be “showing up unannounced to dump a problem on very successful women, to various degrees of success.” He stopped by Wendy’s office to ask her about donating a kidney to his dying, liquor-drinking, cigar-smoking, pigheaded father. He showed up at Cat’s door to ask her to kind of compromise her life’s work so he could hammer the Manhattan DA with a threat about punishing sex workers. And he crashed the Manhattan DA’s fancy dumpling lunch to deploy that threat in his efforts to steal back the tax fraud case he started building against Axe. No high-achieving woman in New York is safe from the old Chuck drop-in. I’m surprised he didn’t wake up Sacker at 2 a.m. to ask her if she knew his Netflix password.

The worst part: All of it ended up being for naught, as Axe out-maneuvered him with a midnight art ruse that involved a helicopter and a dozen or so empty crates. That one hurt him. He had been riding so high earlier, especially when he swung by Axe’s apartment to make a circular threat and spill wine on a priceless Van Gogh to smoke out Axe’s true reaction, dropping references to the classic and true “Steve Wynn flails his elbow through a Picasso” story. (Please read Nora Ephron’s telling of this. It’s a great story.) But there he was, later on, befuddled and bamboozled, his case in tatters, his father still kidney-less, and altogether just defeated, except for the part where Cat got them a sex worker for the night as some sort of reward/lesson involving his decision to not follow through with his really ugly threat about burying other sex workers out of spite.

Baby steps, I guess.

STOCK UP — Axe, professionally if not personally


Axe should be happy, in theory. He got everything he wanted. He and his team figured out how to dodge the tax fraud case by turning his masterpiece-filled apartment into a private art gallery owned by his charitable foundation. He’s well on the way to getting his bank, after sidestepping various regulators — one of whom was bought off by Chuck, the other of whom justifiably hates him and thinks Spyros is a putz, also justifiably — and calling in a favor from Krakow, the Secretary of the Entire Dang Treasury. Wins all around, in situations where he definitely deserved to take losses.

And yet… not so much. He’s a paranoid wreck all the time, convinced the world is out to get him (which it is, as of a result of his many shady actions over the years), and the thing with Wendy and his artist, Nico, is driving him insane. I don’t know how else you can describe it. He saw the portrait sketch of a mostly nude Wendy and punished Nico by forcing him to paint a portrait of Krakow, and then stayed up all night drinking wine and watching bootleg security footage of the building to see how long Wendy was there. Then he called her as soon as she left in the morning and set up an ominous dinner between him, the two of them, and whoever he chooses to bring, which will almost certainly be a catastrophe designed to punish everyone. Axe is a child. He’s broken and ruined and dangerous and he destroys everything he touches.

But at least he got to keep his paintings, I guess.

STOCK DOWN — Art, which, for this discussion, also includes pizza


Tough week for otherwise principled artists, as Axe continued his long and storied tradition of corrupting everything he claims to love. There was the aforementioned thing with Nico about doing the portrait by commission of noted weasel Todd Krakow (and, really, does anyone anywhere play a better weasel than Danny Strong?). And then, literally, on the way out the door from that discussion, he poked his head into the pizza kitchen to propose bastardizing a pizza maestro’s work — the same pizza maestro who doesn’t like delivering his pizza because it loses quality en route — by adding frozen pies and gelato and an entire empire of high-end Italian freezer stuffers, much to the delight of the chef’s cousin and business manager, Manz, played by Dominic Lombardozzi, in his ongoing quest to appear in every premium cable drama on television. I’m rooting for him. Love that guy.

Art has never won a battle with commerce on Billions. It never will. If and win Axe ruins this pizza operation, I will be inconsolable. Pizza is the one pure thing we have left in the world. We must protect it.

STOCK UP — Taylor Mason


Yes, Taylor outflanked Oscar to land the big fancy methane client for the new impact fund with Wendy. Yes, acquiring the patent and tracking down the rogue employee were brilliant Axe-like moves that negated Oscar’s attempted massive overpay Raiders-inspired punishment. Great, terrific, wonderful. None of that is why Taylor falls under Stock Up this week. The real reasons are as follows:

  • Taylor did a surprisingly decent Mike Birbiglia impression while making the pitch in front of both Birbiglia’s character and the methane guy
  • Taylor got to call in Hard Bob, noted zero bullshit broker, who is way up there with Chuck’s goon Karl on the list of menacing older dudes from this show I wish I could call to handle my own problems

So Taylor has that going for them, which is nice.

STOCK UP — Mafee and Ben Kim, my sweet boys of finance


We learned a couple things about Spyros this week: He’d been faking his status as a member of Mensa and his nickname at the SEC was “Roomba,” not because he cleaned up problems but because he sucked and was creepy. These double confidence blows led to a tailspin, which led to him studying for the Mensa test for real, which led to the discovery that Mafee is like a world-class genius, which led to my sweet finance boys Mafee and Ben Kim putting a whole fake test in motion so Spyros could pass and get off their backs.

I love Mafee and Ben Kim. I would watch an entire episode where they just go on vacation together and mosey around some high-end all-inclusive resort, hopelessly chatting up fellow tourists and drinking umbrella drinks and being their awkward, kindhearted selves for an hour, but in swimsuits. Mafee has suntan lotion all over his nose. Ben Kim gets giggly when he’s drunk. I can see it all now. And I want it. I could use a break from Axe and Chuck trying to destroy themselves and each other.

STOCK DOWN — Pig kidneys


Senior has problems. His kidneys are failing and no one — not even his bastards, which he denied in a furious rage and then admitted to moments later — is a match. He’s sitting at home alone and lashing out with extra cruelty at Chuck, the only person who is trying to help him, and a person he has screwed up beyond even Wendy’s help. I shouldn’t feel bad about any of this. The man is a crusty old bigoted monster whose view of the world was out-of-date 30 years before he was born. I am a little sad, though. I think it’s his way with words. I mean, his delivery of the line in that screencap up there immediately after Wendy suggested looking into the promising practice of using pig kidney… just delightful.

We must keep him alive or let him stick around as a ghost that haunts Chuck. Like, a real ghost. A Jacob Marley and Scrooge situation. But Senior is somehow both Jacob Marley and Scrooge. This makes perfect sense to me.

STOCK UP — Having a braintrust


I do not envy Axe in many ways. As I said earlier, he’s a broken little boy who wants every toy and refuses to share. He is incapable of real happiness because there’s a bottomless pit inside him that he needs to keep heaving things into in a perpetual and impotent attempt to fill it. I hope he goes to prison as soon as possible.

But, look. I would very much like to have a group of people on call who can orchestrate something like a midnight art helicopter swaperoo. I don’t see a scenario in my life where I will ever require a midnight art helicopter swaperoo. I don’t even see a scenario where I will require any kind of helicopter swaperoo at any time of day, to be honest.

It would be comforting to know I have the option, though. That’s all I’m saying.