But greed means never wanting to say you’re sorry, and sure enough, Bill retaliates by repeatedly ramming Spyros’s prized Porsche with his S.U.V. It’s a welcome showcase for the comedic talents of actors Stephen Kunken and Kelly AuCoin as Spyros and Dollar Bill, both of whom are delightfully insufferable. (The awkward way they shake hands on their truce alone is a scream.) It’s also proof that “Billions” has developed a “Sopranos”-like knack for creating self-contained side plots for its supporting players that flesh out the show’s world while enhancing our appreciation for its core themes.
As all this is happening, Bryan Connerty finds himself in the unenviable position of becoming the Spyros of the federal prosecutors’ offices. A conversation with his girlfriend, a flight attendant on the corporate jet that once belonged to the disgraced banking titan Lawrence Boyd (played by a returning Eric Bogosian), gives Bryan the bright idea of using Boyd as a back door into a collusion case against Chuck for his role in the Ice Juice case. Bryan deduces that Boyd, who was sprung from prison the day the Juice got cut loose, was the messenger Rhoades used to tip off Axe about his and his father’s investment in the stock, thus luring Axe into the trap that took him down.
But when Connerty reaches out to his friend (and ex-girlfriend) Kate Sacker for help, she opts to use Boyd for her own ends instead. In exchange for his testimony against other executives at his former company, Kate and Chuck offer Boyd his confiscated yacht and passport, which he uses to fly the coop as soon as the deal is done. Kate and her colleague Karl Allard (the avuncular actor Allan Havey, best known as the superlatively square ad man turned cartoonist Lou Avery on “Mad Men”) even use an old notepad to forge backdated evidence to hide Chuck’s involvement in Boyd’s release. Bryan knows he’s been played, but that and $2.75 will buy him a subway ride.
Bobby Axelrod faces a similar dilemma. He and his inseparable, grim-visaged security gurus (played with straight-faced hilarity by Tom Lipinski and Brian Wiles) have been struggling to stop Dr. Gilbert, the oncologist Axe employed to test the potency of the poison used to spike Ice Juice, from making a deal to testify.
The key is a slide containing a biological sample from Donnie Caan. Bobby’s former employee, Donnie died from cancer before he could be forced to flip against his boss, thanks in large part to Axe’s having persuaded the doctor not to recommend an experimental cancer treatment. Throughout the episode, Bobby attempts to ascertain whether Dr. Gilbert destroyed the slide as instructed, a process depicted through a series of rapid-fire flashbacks and what-ifs that rewind and replay competing versions of Gilbert’s actions. (To employ a reference Taylor and Oscar might enjoy, imagine Axelrod as a sort of Wall Street version of the “Dune” character Paul Atreides, using prescient visions in order to avoid prosecution rather than to defeat the vile Harkonnens.)
In the end, Axe determines that the doctor must be cooperating with the feds precisely because he solicits a $200 million bribe. Bobby and his henchmen know Gilbert is too much of a do-gooder to demand personal enrichment, and the offer is just his way of playing for time while Chuck makes his case. But as with Bryan, knowing he’s been had and being able to do anything about it are two very different things, at least for now. The slide now resides in Rhoades’s refrigerator, taped to the bottom of a shelf. Something’s rotten in there, that’s for sure.