The ‘Billions’ Stock Watch: Welcome To The Party, John Malkovich


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 UP – John Malkovich


Ladies and gentleman, John Malkovich is now on Billions. And he’s playing a shady and dangerous Russian oligarch, and giving it the full-on Teddy KGB accent from Rounders, which is fun because Billions creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien wrote the screenplay for that movie. It’s all connected and I couldn’t be happier. I whooped with joy when he took his hockey helmet off to reveal his beautiful, terrifying face.

Anyway, important Malkovich facts:

  • His character is named Grigor and he and his billions of possibly illicit dollars are how Axe plans to raise money fast in a post-Ice Juice world. He likes to tell long scary stories and say things like “You can’t lose my money,” and then reiterate that he really means the word “can’t.”
  • He likes shows of strength, as we saw in the pantry of the fancy restaurant when he and Axe negotiated by telling each other to go screw and then smiled and shook hands.
  • He did the thing in the above screencap. In general, if someone feels the need to loudly insist that they are a businessman, possibly sprinkling the declaration with profanity, they are probably not just a businessman. Especially if they are John Malkovich.

There’s not a ton of Billions left in this season. One assumes this Axe-Grigor partnership will get dicey real quick. I’m not exactly sure how Axe will wriggle out from under the thumb of a violent oligarch who likes to tell business partners truly disturbing stories about orphaned children. I suppose that’s why we watch the show.

STOCK DOWN – Attorney General Jock Jeffcoat

With Axe free and clear of his legal problems and holding meetings with Russian businessmen while surrounded by boxes of produce, Chuck needs a new adversary. And his new adversary is… [spins wheel]… Attorney General Jock Jeffcoat! Good old Jock made it easy for him, too, thanks to his Babylonian history lesson and staggering lack of concern about the suspicious death of one Mr. Lugo, the prisoner who killed a guard in self-defense and then passed away in the back of a transport van on the way to trial. It was always coming to this, really, from the moment in the season premiere when we saw him with his feet up on the desk, preparing to launch into a speech about who Chuck should and should not prosecute. The bill is due.

It is nice, though. Chuck has an adversary that lets him play Morality Crusader. I’m sure he’ll do some gross underhanded stuff during battle, because Billions can’t have a character go get a cup of coffee without ruining a barista’s life, but it might feel good to root for a character on this show for once, even if it’s just for a minute.

STOCK UP – Bar Mitzvah greetings from Kevin Durant


To recap: The Secretary of the Treasury agreed to attend a secret kitchen meeting with a freshly exonerated hedge fund creep and a murderous Russian billionaire, in which the two of them talked over him and basically cuckolded him, and all he asked for in return was a Bar Mitzvah greeting for his son from NBA All-Star Kevin Durant, which only Axe had the juice to provide.

What a remarkable television program.

STOCK DOWN – Telling longwinded stories about confusing movies in job interviews

Unbelievable to me that Connerty got the FBI gig after that display. He told a rambling 90-second story about a strange movie where a mathematician drives himself insane and decides to drill a hole into his skull about it all, and then he compared himself favorably to that mathematician. She should have given him the number of a decent therapist, not a job.

Good for him, though.

STOCK UP – Bonnie


Shouts to new character Bonnie for both snapping at Dollar Bill and literally introducing herself to the audience by saying “My name is Bonnie” within about 60 seconds. That’s a pretty efficient start. I suspect we are going to like Bonnie.

Also, while the resolution of the “Dollar Bill’s stolen lucky dollar” plot was kind of a letdown (I was really hoping it was, like, Jerry O’Connell’s character in full heist mode, with a black ski cap and turtleneck, out to take down all of Axe Cap one lucky charm at a time), it did give us two separate scenarios where Dollar Bill was being a loud sexist/racist until someone physically threatened him, at which point he scurried away. I enjoyed that. He’s like a junior high bully.

STOCK UP – Staying in the car

Specifically, what we are discussing here is Wags’ decision to stay in the car in the parking lot while Axe was meeting with the one-armed Russian. But even in general, just waiting in the car while other people do stuff is pretty great. I don’t wanna be all hopping out every time you need to run in and pick up the food or drop off some paperwork at the office. Those aren’t two-person operations. I’ll even stay in the car for like 15 minutes while you buy a lamp at Target. I’ll just chill out and play with the music and stuff. You can go do all of that, like a sucker.



Poor Lonnie. Poor, poor Lonnie. Guy just wanted to go out to a nice dinner with his old boss and puff his chest out a little and what did he get for his trouble? A tongue lashing meant for another man. He didn’t even know what he was getting himself into.

Just once I want to be at a restaurant where this happens, by the way. Like where two men in suits have an argument that never escalates to full yelling, and it ends with one of them slamming his napkin down in a fit of impotent rage and then storming out. I feel like I’ve seen it on television a hundred times but never in the real world. Gotta fix that ratio. Maybe I’ll just do it myself. Might even work in the whole…

“Good day, sir.”

“But we h-”

“I said good day!”

… thing.

STOCK DOWN – Coffee carts

Really just an unnecessary swipe at coffee carts this week. I guess I should give the guy a break, though. Can’t be easy to go from an Olympic-sized swimming pool to dreaming — dreaming — of graduating from a coffee cart to a hot dog cart. A big part of me hopes he makes that leap and then keeps going, to food truck to restaurant to high-end restaurant to restaurant empire. I hope we check in with him periodically for the rest of the series and by the end he has a billion dollars and a television show.

STOCK UP – Drinking water like a maniac


I like that Damian Lewis has so embodied the frantic, hard-charging shark-always-swimming-so-it-doesn’t-die mentality of Bobby Axelrod that he made the decision that this is how the character drinks from a bottle of water. It feels right. Of course, Axe rips the cap off and glugs a sip of water down like that. It’s so perfectly aggressive, like he refuses to waste a single bodily motion on not attempting to establish dominance, to the point that he risks choking on two ounces of Fiji. It’s the little things sometimes, you know?


It pains me deeply to drop Wags’ stock this week. I feel like I have to, though, based entirely on that story he told Taylor about his ex-wife. That was so weird. He liked the way she danced so he’d film her in secret and send the video to his friends and when she got mad about it the rage in her eyes would turn him on. Wags, my man, I don’t think that’s the charming story of a love lost that you think it is. That’s… probably not okay. Don’t do that. It’s creepy and it puts me in a tough spot like this where I have to punish you. I’m so mad at you for making me do this.