overnights

Billions Recap: Jesus Christ, Chuck

Billions

Not You, Mr. Dake
Season 3 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating *****

Billions

Not You, Mr. Dake
Season 3 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Jeff Neumann/Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME

The title of today’s recap refers to the number of times I screamed those words at my TV during this week’s episode. With a dash or two of “Chuck, the hell are you doing?” and “WENDY, ARE YOU SERIOUS?” I yelled no such thing at Axe, because if Axe can still surprise you with chicanery, you have not been paying attention to the last three seasons of this show.

For an episode that really screws up some innocent lives, it has a delightfully gonzo-heist vibe, which could have felt dismissive but actually adds a queasy note that elevates the whole thing. Not since the Maria Gonzalez’s deportation have we seen so clearly the skull beneath the skin. And, most importantly, we get a lot of Wendy. More Wendy, always.

And this isn’t “say intelligent, insightful, perceptive things while wearing a tasteful sheath dress in her well-appointed office” Wendy! This is down in the dirt, wrasslin’ Wendy. I love it.

Staring down the barrel of Bryan Connerty’s last-ditch attempt to bring Axe to trial, the issue facing our ne’er-do-well threesome is not just that they need to get themselves out of the idiocy-to-jail pipeline, but they need some other poor sumbitch to go down in their stead. Comedic highlight of the week? Axe and Chuck discussing this in hushed tones, confident that Wendy would never feel comfortable dragging some poor sucker down just to stay out of jail. When she returns from the bathroom and coolly asks, “Okay, so who’s our patsy going to be?” we have all the evidence we need that this will be a really interesting high-wire act, and that Wendy has a LOT more steel in her than even Chuck suspected.

I am more innocent than I knew, though, because when it became clear that Patsy the First was the nice doctor with the moral center, I lost my damn mind. DR. GILBERT? The pleasant suburban oncologist, happily noshing on ice cream with his family when the feds knocked his door down? DOES WENDY KNOW ABOUT THIS? The whole slide-under-the-ketchup-bottle maneuver was a touch too on-the-nose for me, I must admit, but I did appreciate the chutzpah of it all. Over the course of the episode, as Chuck worked Gilbert over like a gentle priest in a Russian novel, I only got madder at him. Should Gilbert have told Donnie about the clinical trial? Sure. Would three months have mattered? Whatever. It’s not enough to justify sending someone to jail for FIVE YEARS to cover your own ass, even if you let them keep the $11 mil you fraudulently put in their account.

(Sidebar: There is no way on God’s green Earth that even Chuck could fix it so you could keep that money, come on now.)

The really beautiful moment, for me, was getting to see Original Flavor Hall’s face again, albeit covered in grizzle and wearing a fisherman’s poncho. The kids just couldn’t get the job done, so sometimes you have to call in the big guys! What the kids can’t do, apparently, is sit like a fucking ghoul on an IT guy’s bed and threaten his whole life until he changes the phone records, a thing that Hall is demonstrably great at.

Now we get to the meat of the situation: bailing Wendy out. It’s not enough to have records changed, we also need Mafee (my heart and soul!) to lie for her. Or sort of lie for her? They need him to look like a lovesick dupe, and, luckily for them, Mafee IS a lovesick dupe. And for Wendy, no less! I nearly threw up from discomfort as Wendy did her thing to work him over.

(Also, let’s not forget the REAL hint of steel, which is Taylor telling Wendy that they trusted her to advise Mafee to do the best thing for himself, having sensed that the world’s sweetest analyst might be getting fitted for a coffin.)

Wendy knows exactly what motivates Mafee: honor, chivalry, being a company man, and serving the greater good, so she knows that presenting what she needs as a quid pro quo would never work. She can’t even ask him directly to do what she needs him to do. Instead, as she sashays sexily into his apartment, she’s a wounded fawn, terrified because of this horrible danger she’s facing. Money would never do it — the memory stick Axe winds up giving Mafee with a million in crypto on it ultimately does nothing to make him feel better; it’s Wendy making out with him “platonically” that really smooths things over — he needs to feel like he’s protecting the weak from the strong.

I felt almost as bad for Connerty, as he got shut down by the AG in front of Chuck “Yeah, I’m Gonna Get Away With This” Rhoades. First season, I had no particular fondness for the man, but as everyone else hardens into their worst selves, he’s starting to look more and more principled. I’m also hoping that his final stand in the courtroom caught the attention of at least one bright journalist looking to make a name for herself.

(Oh, did I mention there’s one more body on the floor? Dake is back on the train to D.C. because he was tested by the new AG and found wanting. I’ll miss the lil’ Calvinist buddy. Sorry, Dake!)

When the dust settles, Chuck and Wendy feel like used bubblegum: old, worn out, and without the satisfaction of having done even remotely the right thing. Axe (with Enabler in Chief Wags in tow) goes more the Sex Workers and Drugs in a Hot Tub route. Let’s talk briefly about that final scene? I can never tell if someone is dead, dying, or just looks funny at the end of a cliff-hanger (cf: The Young Pope), so Axe could easily have had either a heart attack or a pang of guilt, and I have no idea which. Tell me what you think.

Billions Recap: Jesus Christ, Chuck