'Billions' Wags survives Peloton bike heart attack, sings Eagles' 'Lyin' Eyes' like Rock God

·7 min read

Spoiler alert! This post contains details from Sunday's Showtime "Billions" episode.

"Billions" character Mike "Wags" Wagner has fully recovered from his Peloton bike workout heart attack in the Jan. 23 premiere episode. He's now a Rock God.

The fan favorite character portrayed by David Costabile shockingly reveals that he sings in a billionaire rock camp band. In the second "Billions" episode that aired Sunday, Wags shows rock chops singing the Eagles' "Lyin' Eyes" with his fellow crooners.

The Broadway performer and "Breaking Bad" star Costabile confirms that those are his vocals forever intertwined with his talented bandmates in the humorous flashback sequence. "Almost every single actor I know would give every shred of the life up just to be a rock-and-roller," says Costabile. "And sadly, I was never in a rock band."

Until now. The rock camp band actually includes "Billions" director of photography Giorgio Scali , who was the lead guitarist of Costabile's favorite ska band in college, Plate O' Shrimp ("They were the band. I was star struck when Giorgio started working on 'Billions' ").

The drummer is Jacob Slichter from the band Semisonic (with the major hit "Closing Time").

(L-R): David Costabile as Mike "Wags" Wagner and Peter Zizzo as Stuart Rask Jr. sing "Lyin' Eyes."
(L-R): David Costabile as Mike "Wags" Wagner and Peter Zizzo as Stuart Rask Jr. sing "Lyin' Eyes."

"I was fan-boying it," says Costabile of the TV gig. "I was totally out of my league with these professional rockers. I'm a professional singer, but I can't play guitar. I had to fake playing the guitar... Don't tell anyone that."

Oops.

But the scene is a pitch-perfect with Wags refusing to blindside his best friend and camp bandmate — Rask Sportswear CEO Stuart Rask Jr. (played by Grammy-winning musician Peter Zizzo) — in a business deal.

"He lets me sing the Glenn Frey parts," Wags explains. "To do Stu dirty like that, Glenn would never have done that to Don Henley."

Yet, Wags begrudgingly assists his Mike Prince Capital colleagues to avoid becoming an MPC Don Felder (the Eagles guitarist terminated from the band in 2001). Wags does indeed do Stu dirty, and gets Felder-ed from the band.

But we do get two soulful bits of "Lyin' Eyes" in the episode named after the appropriate "Billions" song. The credits roll with a final harmony from the band.

Costabile has a peaceful, easy feeling about not appearing in any more rock moments.

"I would be a poor excuse for a rock-and-roller, which I think is also why Wags get kicked out of the band," says Costabile. "But it was super fun to do."

Deeper: Are you at risk for a heart attack during your workout?

(L-R): David Costabile as Mike "Wags" Wagner and Peter Zizzo as Stuart Rask Jr. in BILLIONS, “Lyin’ Eyes."
(L-R): David Costabile as Mike "Wags" Wagner and Peter Zizzo as Stuart Rask Jr. in BILLIONS, “Lyin’ Eyes."

Episode one: Wags had a heart attack in the season 6 premiere

Haven't we seen this before? Showtime's "Billions" features a new depiction of a major character suffering a heart attack following a Peloton workout in the drama's Season 6 premiere.

Mike "Wags" Wagner (Costabile) survives his minor heart attack after riding a Peloton with his favorite instructor on the financial drama. The incident mirrors December's premiere of HBO's "Sex and the City" reboot "And Just Like That … " which depicted Carrie’s husband, Mr. Big (Chris Noth), dying of a heart attack following his 1,000th Peloton ride.

Showtime creators tell USA TODAY that Wags' Peloton plot point was a coincidence, created without any knowledge of the strangely similar HBO storyline.

"That was all in the show, written a year ago and shot in April," says "Billions" producer and co-creator Brian Koppelman.

But after "And Just Like That..." aired, "our phones blew up from everyone on the show texting each other," says Koppelman. "So all we did different was add one line."

The often-meta drama "Billions" rolled the cameras to show a triumphant Wags returning to applause from his relieved office workers and announcing, "I'm not going out like Mr. Big."

"It would be completely out of our character not to take a swing," executive producer Beth Schacter says. "It's too good. We're going to make the joke."

'And Just Like That..." heart attack: Peloton created video response, and then pulled it

Mike "Wags" Wagner (David Costabile) celebrates surviving a heart attack in "Billions."
Mike "Wags" Wagner (David Costabile) celebrates surviving a heart attack in "Billions."

Peloton released a statement to USA TODAY about the "Billions" episode:

"We get why these fictional TV shows would want to include a brand that people love to talk about, but Showtime's use of Peloton's Bike+ and reference to a Peloton Instructor was not a brand, product, or instructor placement, and we did not agree for our brand and IP to be used on this show or provide any equipment. As referenced by the show itself, there are strong benefits of cardio-vascular exercise to help people lead long, happy lives."

Peloton addressed the national discussion of Mr. Big's heart attack by creating a humorous video showing Noth alive and sitting by the fire with his favorite Peloton instructor. The advertisement was pulled after two women told "The Hollywood Reporter" that Noth sexually assaulted them. Noth denied the allegations.

Damian Lewis' Bobby Axelrod exits "Billions" Season 5 to Switzerland, while Mike Prince (Corey Stoll) sits on Axe's luxury office throne.
Damian Lewis' Bobby Axelrod exits "Billions" Season 5 to Switzerland, while Mike Prince (Corey Stoll) sits on Axe's luxury office throne.

'Billions' hopes to cash in without Bobby Axelrod

The Season 6 premiere is the first without brash billionaire Bobby "Axe" Axelrod (Damian Lewis), last seen in October's Season 5 finale escaping to Switzerland to avoid being arrested by his forever rival, New York Attorney General Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti).

Showrunners had time to set up Lewis' departure after the British actor ("Homeland") signaled he would not renew his five-season "Billions" contract. The professional decision came amid personal issues, as the London-based Lewis' wife, actress Helen McCrory, died after a cancer battle last April.

"We understood the factors in (Lewis') life and the need to be with his family," says Koppelman. "So this change was years in the making, giving us time to introduce another central character."

Corey Stoll's Mike Prince emerged in Season 5 as a worthy adversary, ultimately pivotal in ousting his rival Axe and taking over Axe Capital.

Showtime's 'Dexter' returns: Michael C. Hall talks serial killer 'rustiness' after eight-year gap in 'New Blood.'

Actress Helen McCrory dies: 'Peaky Blinders,' 'Harry Potter' actress was 52

Mike Prince (Corey Stoll) proves a worthy adversary in "Billions."
Mike Prince (Corey Stoll) proves a worthy adversary in "Billions."

Prince continues to sit in Axe's chair even after workers knock the name "Axe Capital" from the wall (to replace it with "Michael Prince Capital"). The chair is a symbol of the bigger-than-life drama and egos around hedge fund billionaires and powerful prosecutorial foes.

"We saw these guys as sort of Shakespearean kings," says executive producer and co-creator David Levien. "It's not a literal throne, but there's something about the seat of power for the guy who deposed the prior ruler that we hew to. We wanted to change things up on the show, but we wanted certain things to have continuity."

Prince is modeled on a new brand of billionaire different than the type Axe represented, seemingly just consumed with acquiring wealth.

Corey Stoll as Michael "Mike" Prince and Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades in Showtime's "Billions," which returns for a sixth season without star Damian Lewis.
Corey Stoll as Michael "Mike" Prince and Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades in Showtime's "Billions," which returns for a sixth season without star Damian Lewis.

"We've noticed that now, many bring a spirit of 'changing the world for the better,' trying to celebrate their wealth and power in a way that's good for everyone. That's their claim," says Koppelman. "We're prosecuting the show on the question: Is that a legitimate claim, or just another wrapping paper for the same narcissistic, nihilistic billionaire?"

Giamatti's Rhoades, who takes a sabbatical on an upstate New York farm after failing to arrest Axelrod in Season 5, is energized by what he sees as a wolf in principled clothing.

"He recognizes that Prince thinks he's a good guy," says Schacter. "But Chuck believes anyone that thinks they can be a billionaire and also good is inherently evil."

The Season 6 cast of "Billions" (from left): Daniel Breaker, David Costabile, Corey Stoll, Asia Kate Dillon, Condola Rashad, Maggie Siff, Jeffrey DeMunn and Paul Giamatti.
The Season 6 cast of "Billions" (from left): Daniel Breaker, David Costabile, Corey Stoll, Asia Kate Dillon, Condola Rashad, Maggie Siff, Jeffrey DeMunn and Paul Giamatti.

No character is safe in the new world

Prince publicly cleans house after his predecessor's rule-flaunting ways in the season premiere. Wags, Axe's former right-hand man, survives his heart attack, but still contemplates his own career and a potential $80 million payout. Heavy hitters Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon) and Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff) seek their path in the treacherous new environment.

There isn't an Axelrod appearance, or even a call from Switzerland, in the premiere or the entire season. "I don't want to create any false expectation, Damian is not in Season 6," Koppelman says. "But the door is left wide for Bobby Axelrod to appear at some point."

Costabile is optimistic the series will continue to flourish, even with Axelrod's departure.

"We hope the audience trusts us; we have not misled them to this point. The sixth season is not going to disappoint," says Costabile. "Just because there's one character less doesn't mean the storytelling, the intrigue, the deep bench that lives in this world are gone, too. We make that promise, and we keep it well."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Billions' Wags: Peloton bike heart attack to dream rock band stint

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting