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‘Billions’ Recap, Season 5, Episode 8: Back in Business – The New York Times

On the opposite side of the great “Billions” divide, Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) takes on an altogether more dangerous adversary than a law student: his fellow billionaire Mike Prince (Corey Stoll). When Bobby learns from his thoroughly hung-over right-hand man Wags (David Costabile) that Prince is on deck for an ambassadorship to Denmark, the two men dig for whatever dirt can cancel the appointment and ruin Prince’s reputation.

They settle on Scooter Dunbar (Daniel Breaker), Prince’s equivalent to Wags. Using a small army of runners to cover up his own involvement, Scooter appears to have developed a serious sports-betting habit, precisely the kind of security vulnerability that gets people axed from government positions. (Or at least used to.)

But Wags’s attempt to bigfoot Scooter on the issue backfires when Prince shows up to Axe Cap headquarters, revealing that the bets were his own. The reason he placed the bets through Scooter and the runners wasn’t to hide a dangerous vice, he says. It’s because, given his well-earned reputation as a power player, his position could tilt the betting odds were it widely known.

Not that this stops Axe’s attack. Keying in on a stray mention by Prince of his past, Axe tasks his lieutenants to dig deeper. Once again, it’s Dollar Bill who gets the goods: According to the mother (Becky Ann Baker) of Prince’s late partner, Prince swindled his former partner and best friend out of a billion-dollar deal — contributing, she believes, to his death in a drunk-driving accident. The ensuing TV news exposé lets Prince know he has a real fight on his hands.

Indeed, if there’s a through line for this episode, it’s about characters trying, and often failing, to stay true to the people and things that mean the most to them. The artist Nico Tanner (Frank Grillo), the current love interest of Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff), recoils from the culture of limitless cash and entitlement embraced by the Axe Cap/Taylor Mason Carbon power structure — although that doesn’t stop him from fleecing one of them for thousands of dollars for a mere scribble. (His vigorous, shirtless creation of a new painting before an enraptured Wendy, to the tune of the Velvet Underground’s euphoric song “Rock and Roll,” is the episode’s valedictory moment.)

As for Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon), the wunderkind trader is aghast to discover that the Mase Carb up-and-comer Rian (Eva Victor) still works as a cater waiter in her off hours. The side gig is an attempt to keep alive her relationships to her old friends, she insists. But if other major investors see her at work, Taylor argues, they will question how Taylor runs the shop. At Taylor’s behest, Rian quits her side hustle and settles in for a cozy night in front of the telly with her boss. Is it just me, or is there reason to worry that Taylor’s right-hand woman, Lauren (Jade Eshete), won’t be the only woman in the young genius’s life before too long?