ENTERTAINMENT

‘Billions’ recap: Morals vs. Business

This week’s Billions begins with a little bribery, but it’s not from the usual suspects of the business world. Instead, Chuck Sr. is attempting to bribe a driving instructor into giving Kevin a passing grade on his driving test, which he’s failed miserably. The bribe doesn’t go over well, as the instructor calls the cops, and before long Chuck and Wendy are wrapped up in sorting out the situation and getting Chuck Sr. off the hook with the law.

While there isn’t a ton of intrigue in the details of that plot, there’s some interesting character insight. Essentially, Chuck and Wendy realize that they’ve been fairly absent parents lately, which led to Kevin seeking out his grandpa to take him to his driving test. This realization ties in with Chuck’s journey so far this season, where despite his focus on taking down Prince he’s also trying to be a better man, to allow his moral compass to guide him. By the end of the episode he’s made amends with his son, and he may even have reconnected with Wendy in a way that will pay off against Prince later on this season.

‘Billions’.
Christopher T. Saunders/SHOWTIME
‘Billions’.
Christopher T. Saunders/SHOWTIME
‘Billions’.
Christopher T. Saunders/SHOWTIME

The bulk of the episode though is devoted to two Michael Prince Capital storylines. First, the employees—or as Wags notes, “team members”—of MPC learn that their yearly performance reviews are on the way, and considering that they all just gave honest, negative feedback to Prince for his presidential campaign, they don’t believe it’s fair to be judged at the moment. So, they collectively come together and refuse the performance reviews, saying that they’ll stop working as a whole if management tries anything.

So, Wags and Scooter instead organize a casino night to show their appreciation for the employees. Everyone gets $5000 in chips from the company, and as many rebuys as they’d like on their own dime, and whoever has the most chips at the end of the night wins a dream trip to The Open where they also get to play some golf alongside the PGA winner. All the employees gamble the night away—everyone but Ben, who’s too terrified to even let go of his initial chips—but what they don’t know is that management is using the casino night to analyze behavior and use that data to essentially create a performance review. The employees lose their leverage in what’s a fairly entertaining plot.

Elsewhere, we have to deal with Michael Prince and his business dealings. I’ve been on record this entire season saying that the whole “Michael Prince is a dangerous fascist” storyline isn’t working at all, and while I still think that’s true I also think this episode does a good job of putting in some character work to show how some of those closest to Prince could start to turn against him. This time around it’s Philip. He comes to Prince with a pitch from an old college professor that he considers a mentor. The man’s life work has been dedicated to building bio-concrete, which is concrete that can repair itself.

‘Billions’.
Christopher T. Saunders/SHOWTIME
‘Billions’.
Christopher T. Saunders/SHOWTIME
‘Billions’.
Christopher T. Saunders/SHOWTIME

Prince sees how monumental this opportunity is. He wants to buy the whole company, squash any competition, and get it to market. Plus, he can use it as a campaign tool, floating the idea of a slogan like “changing the foundation of America.” The professor refuses, but Prince still wants the company. So, he starts “patent sharking,” which essentially bogs down the professor’s research, making sure that he can’t bring his own idea to market. Philip, after talking to Wendy about how he’s feeling about Prince’s ruthlessness, tries to get Chuck to use his legal magic to stop Prince, but there’s not much he can do. In the end, the federal government takes control of the research under the name of national security, the professor’s life work is now completely out of his control, and Prince has the potential to use that research to his political advantage once he’s in office.

It would seem that Philip is the latest MPC employee to have reason to turn against Prince. He insists that he’s loyal, but undoubtedly a seed has been planted. Prince is amassing potential enemies, and it won’t be much longer before they move to take him down.

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