Billions: Two Men Step into a Boxing Ring…

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Screen Capture: Toby Leonard Moore as Bryan Connerty in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”



“Are you ready to rumble?” Of course, I am paraphrasing Michael Buffer’s classic phrase for the latest episode of Billions because it is appropriate. There is a charity boxing match between Axe Capitol’s ‘Dollar’ Bill Stearn (Kelly AuCoin) and Mason Taylor Capitol’s Mafee (Dan Soder). Both sides are in it to win it. Why else would they be training so vicariously? It’s not as if they are locked in a vendetta? …. MMMmmm… That’s exactly what is happening here.

Brief Episode Synopsis: Billions: S04.E08. “Fight Night”

Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod (Damian Lewis) helps Rebecca Cantu (Nina Arianda) with a business venture. Chuck Rhoades, Jr. (Paul Giamatti) faces off with US Attorney General Waylon ‘Jock’ Jeffcoat (Clancy Brown). Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon) ignites a public battle with Axe. Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff) suffers a blow that could jeopardise her career.

Promotional poster. Image Credit: IMDb
“Billions” promotional poster. Image Credit: IMDb

SPOILERS ALERT: If you have yet to watch this episode, please feel free to stop reading at this point in the article. Continue reading after you watch the episode.

Screen Capture: Asia Kate Dillon and Damian Lewis as Taylor Mason and Bobby Axelrod, respectively, in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”
Screen Capture: Asia Kate Dillon and Damian Lewis as Taylor Mason and Bobby Axelrod, respectively, in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”

Did you see Axe and Taylor face-off against each other live on television? Axe was in the studio while Taylor called in to the show to defend themselves. Who do you think won this round? No prizes for guessing Axe. It was Taylor. She obliterated him. It was epic. Granted, Axe would not have sought a television appearance if Taylor had not baited him into it be being on the same financial show the previous day.

Screen Capture: Kelly AuCoin, Dan Soder and Mattew Baiamonte Jr. as 'Dollar' Bill Stearn, Mafee and the Referee, respectively, in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”
Screen Capture: Kelly AuCoin, Dan Soder and Mattew Baiamonte Jr. as ‘Dollar’ Bill Stearn, Mafee and the Referee, respectively, in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”

The charity boxing match was the lamest fight in the history of boxing. What the f*** where they doing in the ring? A lot of what ever it was was dirty. Even though the ref did nothing to stop it, the commentators recognise the b***s*** immediately.

Screen Capture: Taken from the Billions episode “Fight Night.”
Screen Capture: Taken from the Billions episode “Fight Night.”

What is the one thing you need for fracking? Taylor set a trap for Axe and he walks right into it. Normally, Axe would have immediately picked up on what Taylor is doing. On this occasion, Taylor had the upper hand. They were playing the odds Axe would support fracking being made legal in New York state. Taylor themselves could not be seen supporting fracking legislation. They wanted everyone, specifically Axe, to think they were opposing legalisation. Knowing Axe will support fracking, Taylor bought up all the water rights in the state.

Screen Capture: Taken from the Billions episode “Fight Night.”
Screen Capture: Taken from the Billions episode “Fight Night.”

As a consequence of using private files against Taylor, Wendy could be facing professional issues. Such behaviour is unethical in the eyes of the medical community. It is likely Wendy could face an ethics board for her actions. If the claims against her are substantiated, her medical licence will be revoked. Further, there could also be other penalties.

Screen Capture: Maggie Siff as Wendy Rhoades in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”
Screen Capture: Maggie Siff as Wendy Rhoades in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”

Is there a trailer?

An aspect of Billions many people like is the abundance of pop culture references. If obscure references are your thing, this episode will give you everything you have ever dreamed of in under an hour.

Film References

“The last thing I need is a jogging buddy that is less talkative than Ghost Dog,” Bonnie Barella’s (Sarah Stiles) said. I would have missed this reference to the 1999 Jim Jarmusch written and directed film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai if I had not have recently watched the production. Forest Whitaker was perfect as the title character in this production.

Screen Capture: Kelly AuCoin, Sarah Stiles, Louis Cancelmi  and Dhruv Maheshwari as 'Dollar' Bill Stearn, Bonnie Barella, Victor Mateo and Tuk Lal, respectively, in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”
Screen Capture: Kelly AuCoin, Sarah Stiles, Louis Cancelmi and Dhruv Maheshwari as ‘Dollar’ Bill Stearn, Bonnie Barella, Victor Mateo and Tuk Lal, respectively, in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”

“Wimpier than George McFly at prom” is a nice reference to the first instalment of the Robert Zemeckis directed Back to the Future trilogy. If it were not for Marty McFly travelling back in time, George would have not plucked up the courage to deck Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) and seize his opportunity with Lorraine Baines (Lea Thompson).

Did you notice the reference to the Rob Reiner directed A Few Good Men? “Refuse the order,” Kate Sacker said, “Like Dawson and Downey should have with the Code Red.” Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson (Wolfgang Bodison) and Pfc. Louden Downey (James Marshall) were the characters in the 1992 film that Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) ordered to perform an illegal ‘code red.’

While it was the use of the Rocky song “Eye of the Tiger” was a nice touch, there should be a few direct quotes from the film itself.

Boxing References

Did you notice the Joe Louis vs. Rocky Marciano reference? Sara Hammon speaks of a “washed up Louis meets his Marciano.”

Another boxing reference, Bonnie spoke of the 1988 fight between Donny LaLonde and Sugar Ray Leonard. Donny lost the fight to Sugar Ray.

Television References

Was “We all have dragons to fight” a reference to Game of Thrones? With the series being prominent in entertainment news, it’s a strong possibility that that was a reference to the HBO series. When Taylor speaks of Sir Tristram de Lyones, I was initially thinking this could be yet another Game of Thrones reference. On second thoughts, this is more likely a reference to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

New York Pop Culture References

Screen Capture: Sarah Stiles as Bonnie Barella in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”
Screen Capture: Sarah Stiles as Bonnie Barella in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”

In response to Bonnie’s “Ghost Dog” comment, Wendy apparently “did not sign up for the coffee klatch run.” Did anyone else know “coffee klatch” was still a thing? It dates to at least the 1950s. The only reason I know about it is because my parents frequently employed the phrase in conversation.

Screen Capture: Maggie Siff and Paul Giamatti as Wendy Rhoades and Chuck Rhoades, respectively, in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”
Screen Capture: Maggie Siff and Paul Giamatti as Wendy Rhoades and Chuck Rhoades, Jr., respectively, in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”

Had you heard of She Wolf Bakery prior to seeing this episode? If you are a resident of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, there is little chance that you would not have heard of their exquisite goods. Even if you did not live in that specific New York area, it is still possible you would have heard of the bakery. According to Chuck, Jr., Wendy is partial to their bread.

Political History References

Screen Capture: Paul Giamatti and Jeffrey DeMunn as Chuck Rhoades, Jr. and Chuck Rhoades Sr., respectively, in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”
Screen Capture: Paul Giamatti and Jeffrey DeMunn as Chuck Rhoades, Jr. and Chuck Rhoades Sr., respectively, in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”

Chuck, Jr. references President Lyndon B. Johnston. It is understood Johnston believed he and the United States Congress had a duty to see President John F. Kennedy’s vision for these United States become a reality.

Other References

Stearn references Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace. Mike ‘Wags’ Wagner (David Costabile) correctly observes Versace was the victim. The individual that actually killed the Italian fashion designer was serial killer Andrew Phillip Cunanan.

If you noticed any other references, please feel free to comment on them.

Final Thoughts

Screen Capture: Damian Lewis and Nina Arianda as Bobby Axelrod and Rebecca Cantu, respectively, in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”
Screen Capture: Damian Lewis and Nina Arianda as Bobby Axelrod and Rebecca Cantu, respectively, in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”

Billions is full of self-serving characters. Selflessness does not come easy to any of these characters. No one does anything because of the goodness of their own heart. Even when Axe does something nice for Rebecca, he gets something out of it for himself.

The vendetta we see playing out between Axe Capitol and Taylor Mason Capitol is being mirrored by an equally as vicious vendetta between the Attorney General of New York Chuck Rhoades, Jr. and the United States Attorney General Waylon ‘Jock’ Jeffcoat. In Jock’s corner is the current US District Attorney for the Southern District of New York Bryan Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore).

Screen Capture: Condola Rashad and Harry Lennix as Kate Sacker and Franklin Sacker, respectively, in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”
Screen Capture: Condola Rashad and Harry Lennix as Kate Sacker and Franklin Sacker, respectively, in the Billions episode “Fight Night.”

Based on how Kate questioned Bryan’s blind allegiance to Jock, she is on board with their game plan. Kate will most likely stab Bryan in the back, metaphorically speaking, just like Bryan did to Chuck, Jr. when he was trying to take down Jock.