Billions Recap: Walk on the Wild Side

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Photo: Jeff Neumann/Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME
Billions

Billions

Flaw in the Death Star Season 3 Episode 5
Editor's Rating 5 stars

OMG THIS EPISODE! What a gift. What a treasure. This one was going straight out to the fans, and I loved every minute of it. I barely know where to start! I think I should save the best for last?

This is quite a week for dueling pairs, whether it’s the clashing egos of Spyros and Dollar Bill, the claim on Wendy’s time that Chuck and Axe are batting back and forth, or the mild helplessness of the New Halls when faced with a doctor who can’t be bought. Sacker and Connerty, too! Everyone gets a chance to shine on.

Dollar Bill, who has been SUCH an enjoyable romp for the supremely talented Kelly AuCoin (I am sure you are familiar with his turn as Pastor Tim on The Americans, something to remedy if not), wants to run one of his extremely sketchy shorts on a pharma company that’s about to get besieged by animal-rights activists. (That man just loves handing bags of cash to people in exchange for intel.) As per usual, he has come up with a justification for the short that would probably pass muster if questioned, but as head of compliance, Spyros flags it instantly. These two have been waiting to square off for months. Stephen Kunken has gone to town playing up Spyros’s absolute awfulness — the chi-chi obsession with coffee, the sportscar, the terrible short-forms of normal words, the fact that he LITERALLY raped a woman in college! — but he’s not wrong that Dollar Bill has put the future of the firm in jeopardy before, and will certainly do so again.

The faux couples-counseling session that Wendy drags these two into is hugely enjoyable (best not to shriek “NEEDLE-DICK!” at a colleague on the trading floor), as is Dollar Bill’s particularly Dollar Bill–esque insistence on stripping in the middle of Manhattan so Axe knows he’s not wearing a wire. (No one thought he was wearing a wire, for the record.) For once, Axe decides to play it soft and sweet, buttering up Spyros with a dinner at Daniel and some reasurrances about his importance to the Axe Capital “family.” Axe isn’t going to make Dollar Bill back down over nothing, he’s promised to funnel his “more creative” market moves through Victor Mateo’s fund going forward.

This episode’s contribution to the central arc of the season — that is, Axelrod v. the splintering loyalties over at the ADA’s office — brings us back to Dr. Gilbert, the softspoken oncologist who let Donnie go to his grave a few months ahead of schedule, at Axe’s behest, and who worked with him to create the infectant that had people yurping up Ice Juice on the street. Axe can’t read him and he doesn’t understand him, and that makes him dangerous. A man who doesn’t want money is sufficiently alien in Axe’s world to be a threat. When Chuck finally manages to narrow down and meet with Gilbert in person, it becomes clear that his involvement will come at a cost as well. Gilbert isn’t going to be satisfied with immunity, he needs to keep his medical license — a complete nonstarter if Gilbert winds up testifying in court. Luckily for Chuck, Gilbert does have the slide he repeatedly assured Axe he’d thrown away, and if Chuck can make his case with that piece of evidence and without Gilbert’s testimony, that just might work out for everyone.

Or not. It’s so fitting that Axe is only able to get a read on Gilbert once money hits the table. He instantly knows that Gilbert’s ask for $200 million dollars is a stalling tactic, when another man would have meant something entirely different from it.

It’s loyalty-reading and motivation that get even more messy for Connerty and Sacker. The latter has decided that her future is on what she refers to as “Chuck Airlines,” so if Connerty wants to start toppling that situation, it’ll be on his own. But Connerty, being prone to moments of real insight, is yanking on the fraying ends of the Lawrence Boyd deal. Why isn’t Boyd in jail? Sacker and Chuck say it’s because he furnished them with more names, but it doesn’t smell right (even when Sacker backdates Boyd’s new intel onto her old notepads, a real line for Sacker to have crossed). Boyd would love to screw Chuck over, but at the end of the day, he has his yacht back and his freedom back so this is neither his circus nor his monkeys. If Connerty is going to get Chuck, this path may be closed.

Okay, now we come to the POWER MOVE of the week. Get excited!

You’ll remember that Taylor got stuck going to Silicon Valley to meet with our new awkward billionaire venture-capitalist friend Oscar Langstraat (who I JUST realized is played by Mike Birbiglia! Good job, Birbigs!), despite describing VCs as “hedge fund managers who’ve read the Tibetan Book of the Dead.” Well, their meetings goes … much better than expected.

We first start vibing the tension between Oscar and Taylor during their last pitch meeting of the day, when they bond over a Star Wars plot point. When he asks them to have dinner with him, we know it’s a Dinner dinner and not a dinner dinner. Taylor obviously is picking up what he’s putting down, but has other plans. Showing up to those plans — a.k.a. a gloriously dorky Netrunner tourney — they discover that Oscar has elected to join them.

What follows is the sexiest collectible-card game session in the history of film, and then a no-holds-barred sexual encounter back at Oscar’s extremely nice house. (He thoughtfully turns off his home robot first.) This is a MASSIVE new move for Taylor, whom we have only seen in button-downs and firm handshakes up until this point. Taylor goes back to the East Coast the next morning, after a warm good-bye to Oscar. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?! I yelped at the screen. ARE YOU GONNA CALL HIM?! I cannot believe we have to wait for this.

In a wonderful episode with many delightful moments, let us close with the look on Ben Kim’s face when he realizes they are not gathering in the atrium of Axe Capital to enjoy a Fudgie the Whale treat together. Or, perhaps, the look on Spyros’s face as Dollar Bill slams an SUV repeatedly into his beloved German sports car.

No one tells Dollar Bill what to do. Not even Bobby Axelrod.

Billions Recap: Walk on the Wild Side