This Week’s Episode Brings Both ‘Redemption’ and a Striptease
by Dana Feldman | Forbes | May 27, 2018
There are only two episodes left in the third season of Showtime’s No. 2 drama series Billions and this season is the show’s best yet. The latest episode entitled “Redemption” has more than its share of surprises, including Axe Capper Ben Kim (Daniel K. Isaac) doing a striptease in front of potential investors.
Chuck Aims To Take Jock Down Once And For All:
On the heels of Wendy’s (Maggie Siff) advice, Chuck puts a plan into action and digs up dirt on Waylon ‘Jock’ Jeffcoat (Clancy Brown). He suspects his boss may know what he’s up to, but moves forward despite the danger. We’ve seen how Jock obliterates his enemies, but Chuck isn’t one to easily back down from a fight.
To raised eyebrows and looks of concern, Chuck gets help from Kate Sacker (Condola Rashad) and Karl (Allan Havey). He gives them the chance to bail at no cost to their careers, but both take the assignment. The key to the takedown: Jock’s brother, “a Billy Graham revivalist type,” as Chuck describes him. His mega-church broadcasts to a loose of network of cable TV stations nationwide. Chuck points out that the brother owns these stations, but he suspects the media deals aren’t legal. He advises his newly formed team that those inside the organization are likely to be loyal and to focus their efforts on someone that left. He’s shut down by Sacker when he suggests that speaking to her father could be beneficial to the case. She quickly says to keep him out of it, that she cannot risk her father becoming a target for Jock. He, of course, doesn’t listen.
Chuck inquires about a particular set of deals by powerful government officials in Texas several years back that revolve around a powerful religious center and its ability to broadcast its message widely via various television stations. He’s given just enough information into how certain land deals were struck a decade ago that allowed wires to run across half the state, in addition to how land leases, conservation areas and water rights might have been imminent domain, in addition to what these deals might have cost who and who might’ve benefitted.
He knows Jock wielded his power as governor of Texas back in the day and is steered in the right direction: Jock and his brother made a killing allowing the cable company in Texas to run its lines underneath the family ranch land for massive licensing fees four times market value. They then kicked a chunk of that money back to the cable company president and via money laundering, made a huge profit.
In the midst of this, Jock makes a point of letting Chuck know that he and his wife have grown rather tired of “restaurant eating” while on the road. Chuck and Wendy are forced into having the Jeffcoats over for dinner. Not willing to put on an apron for the occasion, Wendy borrows Axe’s private chef. When Chuck gets a flat tire on his way back from a fact-finding mission, and is late to the dinner, Jock alludes to his suspicions as to what Chuck was up to.
Axe Almost Allows Desperation To Overtake Reason:
In a moment of panic and desperation, Axe explores an unappealing investment after Russian oligarch Grigor Andolov, played by John Malkovich, tells him he’s pulling almost half of his investment, $1.5 billion, to make an oil deal. “I put it in, I take it out, I shake it all about,” Andolov says when Axe points out that the money “just landed.”
Axe calls Wags (David Costabile) and tells him they need to step up the timeline on the cap raise. Axe, Wags and Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) meet to discuss and Taylor says they’re well positioned, that Andolov’s money is showing they’re back in the game. That is, until Spyros (Stephen Kunken) points out that “$1.5 big ones” have been pulled out of the firm.
“The street will see the drop in assets under management and read it as one of two things: redemptions or loss,” warns Taylor. Axe says they need to leverage up big and quickly. Wags has an answer and it’s the least attractive option; a middle man for big money that’s as liquid as they come. Though this means big capital and fast, it also means abiding by terms Axe refers to as “unpalatable”: total transparency into Axe’s trades and selling off a piece of Axe Capital.
Andolov eventually decides to put the money back and the two come to an agreement moving forward; he will give Axe a warning should he decide to pull his money again. “I know you must have broken things, people, deals, someone’s hopes and dreams in order to get money back into your firm,” Andolov says. Taylor was one of those hurt by Axe’s actions. Andolov introduces Axe to his family and mother, inspiring Axe to visit his mom.
Taylor Unwittingly Risks Everything For Axe Cap:
Taylor makes the ultimate sacrifice for Axe Cap, risking their relationship with Oscar Langstraat (Mike Birbiglia), when they ask Axe for some help with a business celebration Oscar is having. In so doing, Taylor unintentionally gives Axe information on Oscar’s client and he cuts in on the deal. Taylor is devastated upon realizing there’s a $200,000,000 private equity investment from Axe Cap into Genometech Atlas, the company Oscar was just celebrating the closing of a deal with. Taylor is enraged by Axe’s betrayal accusing him of selling out their relationship by getting the client to break their letter of intent with Oscar. Taylor is forced to tell Oscar what has happened and then turns to Wendy for support.
Wendy’s Advice Leads Ben Kim To Come Out Of His Shell:
And, the best part of the episode: When Ben Kim asks Wendy for advice on how to overcome his timidness in a session, she advises him to make bold moves. At first, she commends him for standing up to Dollar Bill (Kelly AuCoin), but he says his confidence waned after. “I think the snap-back made me even more timid somehow,” he tells her.
He then explains how they’re looking for short-term cash generators and he has one, but while in the restroom with Mafee (Dan Soder), Wags and Taylor, he was too insecure to share his idea on how to generate alpha quickly. He began to tell them how he’s been tracking rental car companies for years and there’s a kernel of an idea that’s grown, but then he clams up. He tells Wendy he couldn’t pitch the idea, or concentrate with everyone watching him. “I had pee fright,” he admits.
She takes him on a walk upstairs to the C-suite offices and tells him he has the potential to get one. He must, however, find a way to live up to his potential instead of spiraling. “You must find a way to shift the paradigm,” she coaches, pointing to various offices he could potentially get if he heeds her advice. He needs to do something totally out of character, something big, bold, something public that terrifies him in order to free him, so he can break through the confidence barrier that will help him break through the C-suite barrier. He takes her words to heart and in his lovable awkwardness, performs a striptease in the elevator to Nelly’s “Hot In Herre” with Axe and potential investors, costing Axe cap the deal. His timing is off to say the least, but he does gain the confidence to successfully pitch Axe his hunch into rental car usage in business cities that ties into a possible merger or acquisition that could benefit the company.
Daniel K. Isaac On How Fans Got To See A Lot More Of Ben Kim In This Episode:
Ask fans, and you shall receive! Daniel K. Isaac spoke about his revealingplot line in this week’s episode and playing the ever-present and consistently hilarious Ben Kim. “Well, you do get to see a lot more of Ben this week…a lot, a lot more, right?” Isaac says, laughing. The character, he says, started out as the new employee at Axe Cap in the pilot episode, but he wasn’t sure where things would go from there.
“He comes in bragging about his Stanford education and is immediately shut down by Axe’s brilliance. So, he’s just trying to navigate this environment of toxic masculinity and ego in the finance world amongst these very large personalities. Ben is sort of like me, a mix of introverted and extroverted. I’m naturally the quiet person in the room, so this has been a great source of comedy, awkward comedy specifically, which is my favorite,” he says.
Isaac says the ensemble cast represents a real-world office environment with its mix of various personality types, but Isaac reiterates he had no idea where this character would end up. He reflects on the very first table read for the pilot episode when, he says, there were so many characters that everyone met in a giant rented event space in downtown, NY. “There were huge square tables, it seemed endless. There were maybe 60, 80 people there. I’m not sure the actual number. And, none of us knew, other than the main four characters Axe, Chuck, Lara (Malin Akerman) and Wendy, who would remain. We just thought we were working on this crazy, amazing project with such talent behind it. I’ve learned in this business to just enjoy the moment and go with the flow.”
Isaac soon learned the show was picked up and that he’d maybe be in two or three episodes. “I’d shoot one and then they’d say to keep my schedule open. They kept asking me to come back.” By the end of the first season, Isaac had been in all 12 episodes. “The same thing happened with season two,” he says. “I was told to just keep my schedule open, that they’d see what happens.” Again, he was in every episode. The same with season three. “I truly could not be more grateful when I was told it’d be 12 more!”
After three years, Isaac says the show has become a family. “I just finished this tiny off-Broadway play (he played William Inge in “The Gentleman Caller”) and everyone from the show has come out to see it. This all started from one scene in the pilot. And, now we see that Ben Kim has come all the way through, in the flesh, literally bearing it all out there!” he laughs. “To see Ben have this moment, it’s truly my favorite thing I’ve ever shot for television.” It was slightly terrifying, he adds. “I just thought, I’m literally putting it all out there, but it was such fun to do! The actual practice of doing something that’s out of your comfort zone, that shifts the paradigm within yourself, is a wonderful thing. I feel the writers were doing this as much for me as they were for Ben. I just hope people will enjoy seeing this much of him! It warms my heart when fans say they want more of the character.”
Another aspect he’s appreciative of is that Ben isn’t just plopped into the script as a stereotype or token. “He’s a fully fleshed out human being.” As a Korean-American, Isaac relates to the character, explaining that his parents were immigrants. “I grew up in California in a household where I spoke both languages and I’m an only child and had the same pressures as Ben to do well.”
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