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At the end of Billions, Season 3, Episode 9, Grigor Andolov (John Malkovich) tells a story to Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) about the Christmas market in Moscow. He asks a question about what happened to a boy:

Andolov: Many years ago, I was walking along the Moskva Christmas market. You ever seen Moskva Christmas market? Always a sense of good cheer, even during the lean years.

I think it was the wine. They serve warm wine with the spices in it... cinnamon and...

I was waiting on the line — everyone was always waiting on the line — and finally I got my cup, I turn, and there was this little boy. Runny nose.

He looking at me so desirous of my cup of this warm, warm wine that I give him a sip. He stares at me with such a gratitude.

And then I notice his mother. Plump breasts. She must have known someone.

So I give him my cup of wine.

And I take his mother away from the square. Behind the soldiers. And after, I leave her for the soldiers.

And I walked back, and this little boy is staring at me with his greedy drunken eyes.

Do you know what happened to him?

Axelrod: No.

Andolov: I always ask. No one ever knows.

What is the real meaning of this story? And how is it connected to the Axelrod – Andolov relationship?

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It's an apparent warning.

The preceding dialogue gives us a clue

Andolov: One rule before we go forward: you can't lose my money.

Axelrod: No. Of course not. My every move is geared to make and not lose money.

Andolov: No. You can't lose my money. If you do, we have problem.

The episode pretty well sets up Andolov as a (probably) sociopathic oligarch and this final "story" serves to further show us (the audience) the depths of his potential for cruelty and violence while still, theoretically giving Axelrod an out....which he doesn't take.

In this instance, it could be perceived that Bobby is the "little boy" of the story, the boy accepted something from Andolov but the consequences were extreme.

An apparently, generous act in giving the boy what he wanted turned extremely dark as a result. Andolov took what he wanted and what happened to the boy is left to the imagination.

The statement that "No one ever knows" seems to indicate that Andolov has told this story many times and everyone still goes ahead despite the risks....which, if they could guess what happpened to the boy, they would not.


Update following Episode 10

In a late scene in Ep10 we learn that the boy in the story was, allegedly, Andolov himself.

That scene whilst, at the same time clarifying the story, tends to re-inforce the threat that Andlow represents.

Andolov: There is plenty I would kill for, you know, if we're being honest. And there's no reason not to be.

But family, Axe, I would do things for these people that you couldn't imagine. As they have all done for me. Especially her, my dear mama.

Axelrod: You're the boy, aren't you? In your story. Who took the wine from the stranger.

Andolov: If that were true, what would you be saying about my mother?

Axelrod: That she did what she had to do to protect her family and you and didn't complain.

Andolov: I am fortunate to have her.

  • As an addendum: the 'plump breasts... must have known someone...' line can come across as a reference to plastic surgery to an American audience but the NY Times recapper is probably closer to the truth: 'When Andolov got a look at the kid's well-fed mother, he realized the boy wasn't poor at all, just "greedy". The punishment he doles out to the woman beggars "Game of Thrones" for sexual brutality.' – lly Sep 17 at 9:14
  • This Reddit comment covers how the use of the story changes between the two episodes as well. – lly Sep 17 at 10:31

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