Every week, The Ringer will celebrate the passing of yet another Billions episode by honoring the installment’s best, worst, most, and least. These are your Billions Superlatives.
It’s been such a great season of Billions, filled with horrible parenting, shocking alliances, and two unforgettably strange kissing scenes, that I almost forgot about John Malkovich. Where the hell has he been? The guy was supposed to show up this season as a Russian oligarch— which is such a perfect, delicious bit of casting that it’s frustrating The Americans didn’t give it a spin first—but eight episodes in and no Teddy KGB.
Thankfully, this week’s episode, “Icebreaker,” rewards our patience by giving Malkovich a properly menacing introduction, while Dollar Bill gets a dollar bill stolen at work (no, seriously). Let’s jump into the “Icebreaker” superlatives.
Most Overly Masculine Activity
Buckle up: This week’s episode opens in a place that’s vaguely and boldly identified as WEST TEXAS, which means we’re hanging out with Attorney General Jock Jeffcoat, a man who somehow lives up to the absurdity of his own name.
Jock brings Chuck along for a good, old-fashioned coyote hunt; those darn things are making their way onto his ranch. Chuck has his reservations about shooting innocent animals, but Jock pushes the envelope.
Sorry, little fella. Chuck needed to look tough in front of the big boss!
Best Deep Reference to The Americans
For the five or so people that watch both Billions and The Americans, once you get past all the scruff, you will realize that this one-armed hot dog vendor Axe is speaking with is none other than Arkady Ivanovich! I’m going to guess Dollar Bill made the recommendation.
I assumed his nickname was solely a cliché because he’s a cheap bastard, but it turns out Dollar Bill literally keeps a lucky dollar bill on his desk … and it was stolen!!! This is like the hedge fund equivalent of that dramatic Twitter thread about the woman who stole and threw out her coworker’s refrigerated lunch.
As Dollar Bill tries to round up the potential culprits at Axe Cap, he grabs Rudy’s bag and dumps out all its contents. Talk about a bad day to BRING YOUR FLESHLIGHT TO WORK.
Owning a Fleshlight is one thing, and I’m not here to shame anyone’s vices. But, Rudy … why on earth is it in your bag at the office? On second thought, I really don’t wanna know the answer to that.
Now that Axe’s legal troubles are behind him, he wants to build a whole new book and essentially start from scratch at Axe Cap, and believes his best bet is investing the money of a Russian oligarch by the name of Grigor Andolov, a.k.a. John Malkovich. He is somehow not all that dissuaded by this prospect, even though the hot dog vendor he met had both arms before he got in Grigor’s way.
If that wasn’t foreboding enough, Axe meets Grigor, who is playing hockey with the New York Islanders and checking NHL players into the ice.
Good God. This is not what most billionaires do when considering whether to purchase a sports franchise, but damn if it isn’t an extremely badass way to be introduced in a series. (I’d like to think this was a subtle shot at the Brooklyn Nets’ Russian owner, Mikhail Prokhorov.) But still, I’d like to be on the record: Axe investing a menacing Russian billionaire’s money is probably not a great idea.
Best Pop Culture Reference
This gets Dwayne Johnson’s oily stamp of approval.
Most Menacing Russian Threat
Obviously, it’s from Grigor: “You invite me over to the house where your children sleep, and this makes you tall and tough and proud? I’m a fucking businessman.”
[Whispers gently] Hey, Axe, I think investing this guy’s money might not be a great idea.
Most Unexpected Cameo
To prove his worth to Grigor, Axe wants the treasury secretary/extremely Steve Mnuchin type Todd Krakow to discreetly meet with the two of them. Of course, that’ll cost Axe a favor, and it involves … Kevin Durant?!?!?
No, Todd isn’t a Golden State Warriors superfan: He just wants KD to wish his son a happy bar mitzvah in a friggin’ video. Gotta say, this threw me for a loop, especially since I just saw this Durant killing Houston in the midrange the other day. Get you an MVP who can do both.
Dollar Bill, still on the quest to find his lucky dollar bill, finds a new dollar bill at his desk the next day plastered with his face.
The whole “Dollar Bill lost his dollar bill” fiasco escalated so quickly, I only just realized: Did we ever even see the dollar before? Anyway, whoever is doing this to him is definitely getting their car rammed by a minivan.
Biggest Non-Fleshlight-Related HR Violation
Dollar Bill, please step away from Ben Kim. He’s clearly a sweet, innocent young man who did not steal your lucky dollar.
Loser of the Week
OK, so not only did Rudy get outed for bringing a Fleshlight to work, but he was the one who stole Dollar Bill’s dollar!! The dude was having a really bad quarter and was worried about getting laid off, so he stole Dollar Bill’s lucky charm as a way to throw off his mojo. Yeah, that didn’t work.
Wags decided to give Rudy the rest of the quarter to get his act together, but if bringing a Fleshlight into a corporate space is only, like, the third dumbest thing he did this week, he is clearly not long for Axe Capital.
This is obviously Grigor’s “signing important legal documents” turtleneck and not the kind of turtleneck he’d wear any day of the week. It’s beautiful and looks so snug for a cold winter’s day, which I assume is every day in Russia. Great turtleneck; Archer would approve.
Worst Business Decision
By the end of “Icebreaker,” Axe is officially investing Grigor’s money. Before signing the documents, Grigor casually tells Axe, “You can’t lose my money, understood?” which roughly translates to, “Lose my money and the best you’ll become is a one-armed hot dog vendor.”
Axe still doesn’t seem too worried, but then Grigor tells a “funny story.” Back in Russia, he was waiting to drink some warm mulled wine in line with other folks (I guess that’s a very Russian thing to do). Once he got his cup, he saw a young boy in line who was envious of the warm drink in his hand, so he gave the kid a sip. He then noticed the boy’s mother and her “plump breasts,” so he gave the boy his entire cup, took her away, raped her, and then “left her for the soldiers.”
“Do you know what happened to him?” he asks Axe, who says no. “I always ask,” he replies. “No one ever knows.”
AXE GETTING INVOLVED WITH THIS GUY WAS A REALLY, REALLY TERRIBLE IDEA.