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The past haunts just about everyone on a table-setting Billions

Maggie Siff, Asia Kate Dillon
Photo: Jeff Neumann (Showtime)
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The “previously on Billions” segment alerts us that some familiar faces will be showing up this week, giving your faithful recappers a heads-up on which characters from the past we’ll need to brush up on. One of those faces, that of Danny Strong’s Todd Krakow, never appears in the episode proper, though he is a key figure in the ongoing power struggle between the state and federal attorneys general. The callbacks to Wags snaking a coveted burial plot from Michael Kostroff’s Mick Nussfaur look like a strategic mistake, in retrospect; I didn’t figure out the twist ending of the “Wags in a dress” storyline even with those hints, but I bet some of you did.


And then there’s Victor Mateo, long ago fired from Axe Capital, but still a useful puppet for Axe back in the Ice Juice days. Now Victor isn’t taking Axe’s calls, and it doesn’t take long to find out that’s because he’s under investigation by the SEC for insider trading. Axe isn’t too worried about it until he finds out Taylor had planted a Trojan horse in his agreement with Victor’s company making Axe a part owner. If Victor falls, so does he. Axe calls in yet another favor from his new best buddy Chuck, but there’s too much heat from the federal side, and connecting the dots between Chuck and Axe would be all too easy for Jeffcoat and his minions. Axe has to find another way to deal with the problem, but he can’t bring himself to talk about it with the person who is likely best situated to help him—his new girlfriend Rebecca Cantu.

Enter Malin Akerman, in her first (and only?) appearance of the season as Lara Axelrod. Axe needs closure before he can move on with Rebecca, so he frees Lara from their agreement that she and the boys remain in New York until they graduate high school. This prompts Lara to wonder what their life would have been had they not become so rich, but Axe squashes that line of inquiry: “There was never going to be a different version.” Freed of that mental block, Axe is able to go beyond the “maximum recreational depth” at which his romance with Rebecca had stalled. He also finds a solution to his Victor problem (as always, the solution is money), with the latter finding himself back in the bullpen at Axe Cap. The past always comes back to haunt on Billions.

Condola Rashad, Toby Leonard Moore
Photo: Jeff Neumann (Showtime)

For Taylor that means reliving a familiar cycle with their father. Douglas Mason’s design has a workable prototype, so it’s time to take the next step. For Taylor, that means bringing on additional investors, but burned by his past experience with financiers, Douglas wants Taylor to fund the whole thing personally. Taylor calls their father out on his “pathology,” reminding him that he was actually fired for working on a personal project on company time and then taking it across the street to a rival. Douglas is forced to acknowledge that he’s not the smartest one in the room, at least when it comes to finance.


Taylor has the brains, but also the empathy that most of the other character lack, even if they, in Wendy’s words, don’t present that way. Proving again that she can get down in the mud with the rest of them, Wendy uses that empathy as well as notes from her past sessions with Taylor to figure out that they are trying to mend fences with their father through a new project. (Not for the first time, Wendy also uses Mafee to collect additional intel on the work in progress.) Her conclusion is that Taylor must be manipulated into destroying the relationship with their father, which sounds psychopathic even by Billions standards.

At home, Wendy has relegated Chuck to the guest room, which doesn’t stop him from disrobing in her bedroom (in a very Tony Soprano move). When she sees he’s been self-mutilating, she agrees to let him see a dominatrix, who attacks her new gig with a gusto that takes even Chuck by surprise. Seeing Chuck trying to cover up his black eye, Wendy is certain everyone will assume she gave it to him, and of course she’s right. It doesn’t help that Chuck has a court appearance scheduled, as his chess match with Connerty continues to play out.


Enter another familiar face, Rob Morrow’s Judge DeGiulio, who helps Chuck pulls a fast one by pretending to be interested in pursuing a case against Krakow, knowing Connerty will try to wrest the case away from him. When he does so, it causes a near-rift between Connerty and Jeffcoat, who doesn’t want his underling pursuing a case against a cabinet official. That’s just how Chuck planned it, but to his credit, Connerty figures that out and kicks the case back to his former boss.

Connerty’s emergence as a worthy adversary for Chuck can only be a good thing story-wise, though it’s definitely a bad thing for Chuck. After being refused a wiretap warrant for Chuck and Senior by DeGiulio, Connerty finds a judge more receptive to the idea. The table is set for a strategic battle that may be a bit more evenly matched than expected. Your move, Chuck.


Stray observations

  • The Rhoades children make their first appearance of the season mere minutes before Lara does. Congratulations to all who won their office pools.
  • Were you worried that you’d never see Paul Giamatti with a safety pin through his nipple? Billions has you covered!
  • Wags compares his planned vengeance against Nussfauer to his orgasms: Slow, thunderous, and “in your eye.” Ewww.

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About the author

Scott Von Doviak

My debut novel Charlesgate Confidential is now available from Hard Case Crime.