Billions Season 6, Episode 3: ‘STD’
Photo: Christopher Saunders/SHOWTIME
You must return it to Billions. The timing of the show is impeccable. Just as the Olympics begin in Beijing this weekend, so does billion’ blow to bring the Games to New York.
The episode kicks off with the news that Mike Prince isn’t the only power player to catch Olympic fever. A friendly encounter between Ben Kim and Mafee – the latter opened his own shop alongside Dollar Bill after former boxing opponents bailed out the new regime in last season’s finale – reveals Prince had better get away with it. post for this New York offer. Virtually every investor with money to spend buys land because, as Mafee assures in the most disturbing way possible, it’s an “STD”.
A “sure thing, man”. Sigh.
Other parties interested in this Manhattan land grab include Charles Rhoades, Sr., which is how Chuck gets wind of the billionaires’ latest quest. Further excavation reveals another familiar name. Someone who hasn’t been seen on Billions since June 2020, when his explosion of coronavirus references saw him lose his job as Treasury Secretary: Todd Krakow. Danny Strong’s disgraced civil servant, who still proudly hangs his Nico Tanner portrait, is on a ‘reputational rehabilitation’ tour, despite still being deliciously creamy as ever.
Chuck first decides to make an example of Krakow, citing him for illicit real estate activities, but since it’s early in the episode and there’s always a deal to be made, things take a slight detour. Until now, Chuck has no idea that these land grabs are related to the Olympics or that Mike Prince has the potential to become New York City Commission Chairman. That’s until Krakow spills the tea. Within seconds, Chuck, seeing another opportunity to crush Prince (“Humiliations galore,” Krakow purrs), advises Krakow to resubmit his land purchase requests. And demands that Krakow appoint him as head of infrastructure “so that the city can benefit from all this spending”.
We know Chuck owes Chuck, but Kate Sacker is appalled by this development and certainly isn’t buying Chuck’s promise that it’s for the “greater good.” How much longer will she put up with this?
At Michael Prince Capital, the atmosphere remains dissonant. Scooter and Wags are unwittingly paired up so they can woo Colin Drache (Campbell Scott doing a smug continental accent), a member of the fictional International Sports Commission. This subplot is less about the introduction of a new character and more about how Wags and Scooter are the new Odd Couple: almost nothing in common but absolutely entertaining when they’re together. For example, Scooter quickly puts a stop to Wags’ bullying tactics in favor of honoring their millennial employee’s reasonable compensation claim for doing an internet scrape on Drache.
This endemic friction seeped into every level of MPC, with Ben Kim torn between loyalty to Mafee and Dollar Bill, and to his workplace. He feels bad that Prince is going to kill his friends’ land contract, and his usual sources of support, Taylor and Wendy, do little to ease his conscience. Wendy’s best advice is not to tell a friend’s secret for the sake of her workplace next time, but even she knows how pointless that is. Although she doesn’t admit that she would have liked to join Mafee and Dollar Bill, she admires their decision. This admission prompts Ben to implore her to speak on behalf of their former colleagues. She does, but it’s not what everyone wants to hear: Wendy tells Mafee and Dollar Bill to back out of the land deal to save their reputations. They refuse.
Meanwhile, we’re introduced to newly elected mayor Tess Johnson (Gameela Wright), whom Prince immediately uses as a pawn for his own gain, buttering her up with the suggestion that she’s a vast improvement over her predecessor. (Prince pauses before saying the former mayor’s name rhymed with “Will Le Dlasio,” but notes that he “left office like a punch line.”) He encourages Mayor Johnson to speak out against the Manhattan-based Olympics bid, promising to build a stadium in Westchester County instead. Wait what?
I’m a resident of Westchester, by the way, and I think Charlotte York Goldenblatt can best sum up my reaction to Prince’s plan to have an Olympic arena in my backyard.
Getting the mayor on his side was an integral part of Prince’s long game. The following day, Krakow holds a press conference announcing its partnership with High Plains Management, aka Mafee and Dollar Bill’s company, with real estate development projects in East River. and a whole new stadium. Not so fast, guys, because Mayor Johnson is holding her own press conference, announcing that she won’t allow such a stadium to be zoned.
With his Olympic dreams shattered, Krakow agrees to meet Prince for one of the Billions‘ signature Creepy Nighttime Cats by the water. A few sufficient barbs are traded, but eventually Krakow agrees to join Prince’s bid for the Olympics. The rift between Taylor and Mafee, however, is not so easily mended. Accelerating Taylor at their scheduled weekly dinner, a livid Mafee tears into his former boss, accusing them of being so “lacking in human understanding” that they wouldn’t even step in when they knew the High Plains Management offer was up. difficulty. (Hey, man, Wendy tried to warn you!) But Taylor realizes Mafee is right: you can’t be “enemies in business and friends out.”
With Krakow out of the way and on his side, Prince launches his real plan on Mayor Johnson the next day: There will be to be a stadium in Manhattan – a sustainable and repurposed stadium, with the athletes’ village expected to become low-income housing after the Games. All built at no cost to the city by real estate magnate Bud Lazzara. How did Prince recruit Lazzara? Why by promising the downfall of Chuck, of course! Borrowing from Krakow’s first wish to Chuck, Prince assures Lazzara that Chuck will suffer “humiliation galore” if the building tycoon joins his bid for the Olympics.
Upon reflection, Wendy and Taylor realize that they can’t just escape the loss of Mafee and Dollar’s Bill by pretending nothing happened. In short, the defeat of their friends – and some serious nudges from Ben Kim – ignited a spark in their damaged souls. They visit High Plains Management with both a friendly warning and an olive branch: stop getting too big for your pants, but in the meantime, good old Spartan Ives will fund High Plains, so they don’t have to. not to close. That, and Taylor and Mafee are back for the weekly dinner. Hot stuffed animals galore!
At the end of the episode, Prince’s gigantic victory appears to be an “STD” (wow, I can’t believe I just wrote this). But that only motivates Chuck – and Billions – to take out the heavy hitters. No, no surprise cameos. Quotes from Bruce Springsteen and musical cues from the Rolling Stones. Before hijacking the Prince’s Olympics press conference (is it the third in this episode? I’ve lost count) in true man-of-the-people style, Chuck recites a verse from “The Ghost of Tom Joad” in as a warm-up. Then he directs a symphony of chaos alongside Prince’s sunny announcement of the High Line Olympics: first, a major traffic jam, which then leads to a cacophony of sirens and car horns. Armed with nothing but a megaphone, the man on the street delivers a rousing speech about how the billionaires don’t care about the ordinary people of the city. The frustrated crowd is pissed off, and Lazzara and Krakow begin to wonder if they should spend their billions on such an unpopular project.
To paraphrase Mick and Keef, it seems Chuck’s plan of action is to “scream and scream, kill the prince, and swear at all his servants.”
• Has anyone else noticed the new MPC scenery? Portraits of Nelson Mandela, Stacey Abrams and Prince’s basketball heroes. But nothing could be more pretentious than the giant portrait of the Dalai Lama hanging in Prince’s office.
• The “Cat’s in the Cradle” scene between Scooter and Wags is why I said earlier that they had almost nothing in common. It was a great, subtle throwback to the forgotten subplot about Wags’ parenting failures and the bond Wags and Scooter have after all. It turns out Scooter has put his career above his kids, too, and now the pair are fighting back tears when Alexa plays the Harry Chapin classic.
• I am impressed with Chuck’s knowledge of the Purim story.
• Fun fact: “STD” included two Stock exchanges references (yay!!!), but only Krakow’s “Winthorpe and Billy Ray in orange juice” line was taken from the original film. Mafee and Dollar Bill’s exclamation, “Mortimer, we’re back!” was from Coming to America.