“We’re being punished for the sins of others. No one real gives a fuck.” So says Logan (Brian Cox) when an exposé about Waystar’s cruise cover-up—truly the Chekhov’s gun of Succession thus far—drops in New York magazine. “It’s all about me. It’s not real. It’s not honest,” he continues. “They don’t give a flying fuck for these poor bitches. They hate me.”
We’ve seen plenty of #MeToo stories on TV, but never one quite like this, one where the focus isn’t on the journalists and survivors working to excavate cultures of abuse, but rather that culture itself trying to preserve itself in the wake of a tsunami. And, sadly, Logan isn’t wrong when he declares that nobody “real” cares about the women at the center of the piece, which concerns sexual coercion, professional retribution, and the possibility that it wasn’t an accident when a woman fell from the boat and drowned in years past. We’ve seen time and again—Harvey Weinstein, R. Kelly, Les Moonves—how overwhelming and all-consuming any allegations of sexual abuse and corporate misconduct must be to make anyone actually care about investigating them. There’s obviously a bit of Trumpian self-victimization in Logan’s declaration that the media is out to get him, but it’s also true that #MeToo is an effective weapon for those who want the powerful to confront their own abuses. Sexual misconduct, after all, makes for a juicier headline than a tale of financial malfeasance.
The Roys, however, aren’t concerned about the long-term damage, but rather the short-term. No one—not Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), Gerri (J. Smith Cameron), or even Shiv (Sarah Snook)—cares whatsoever about the idea that Waystar actually committed these abuses, and everyone agrees that the allegations aren’t serious enough to make any major waves. “It’s one woman in the 1990s, not, like, 20 women four years ago,” Gerri says. Roman, meanwhile, calls it “quaint” in comparison to the last few years. “Is this one of those things where I need a woman to explain to me why it’s bad?” he asks. “I’m not your grope Geiger counter,” Shiv responds. Only two things matter in the wake of its publication: How will they respond, and can they salvage the Pierce deal?
What a funny, morbid, and thoroughly modern scene it was when Logan urges Nan (Cherry Jones) to at least sign a letter of intent over breakfast as Kendall refreshes the publication’s page over and over. Here’s a multi-billion-dollar deal that’s being hazardously rushed so Logan can lock it in before his company’s history of bad behavior is again resurfaced. Nan bucks at being pushed, though, and the deal remains un-inked. That’s not for a lack of trying, though—even Rhea (Holly Hunter) is trying to make it happen. Nan’s a sharp one, though, and suspects that Rhea is in league with Waystar. Nan and her family seemed as if they were willing to overlook the allegations—due in no small part to Shiv boldly decrying the company’s “dinosaur attitudes” at a panel—but Rhea’s betrayal seems to have soured things inexorably. “I don’t appreciate being hustled,” she says, firing Rhea and infuriating Logan, who chases her car while screaming that “we haven’t fucking finished!” One can imagine Uncle Mo said something similar when one of his dancers refused to sign an NDA. For now, at least, it looks as if the deal is off. That was quick.
Time for plan B: Gerri tasks Roman with schmoozing a West Asian businessman, Eduard (Babak Tafti), whose dad apparently “has a hose attached to the central bank.” As I’ve failed to note above, the Roys have easy access to such a person because they’re at a swanky conference, Argestes, that seems inspired by the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, every January. Eduard is interested in a collaboration with Waystar, if only so he and his associates can start their own propaganda outlet. “News with a positive agenda for my region,” he explains, “but from our point of view.” Gerri and Roman know it would be bad news to invest in such a project, but Waystar’s going to need the money. “Depends on the numbers,” Gerri says with a shrug. If Roman’s able to lock it down, that could score him the attention he so craves from his dad, who clearly doesn’t have that much faith in his youngest right now—he initially wants Tom to chat with Eduard, but Gerri pushes for Roman.
Speaking of Gerri and Roman, there’s no humiliation-centered jack-off sections in this episode, but there is a crystallization of the pair’s professional team-up. “Me, kind of like a Jagger-Tarzan, fronting things up and swinging through trees with my little dick, singing and killing shit,” he says. “And you, back home, cooking us soup and making sure the numbers are right. Rock star and the mole woman?” He doesn’t even need to be CEO, he says, a subtle nod to his feelings of subservience in her presence. The underdogs?
Maybe, maybe not. It’s not entirely clear where Shiv stands with Logan. He didn’t invite her to Argestes, after all. She only came because they needed her to be the “acceptable face” of Waystar in the wake of the scandal. She does a solid job of it, too. First, they send her to chat with Rhea, who convinces her to sit on a panel with Roman and Kendall. “Apply a nice tourniquet,” she says, “and [the Pierces] can grit their teeth.” Shiv tries to claim that this “isn’t really my mess to clean up,” which sounds naive for someone who wants to take over the company. When you’re in charge, it’s always your mess to clean up. “Hey, whatever, my dad worked in an asbestos plant, so it’s all gravy, right?” Rhea says. Sure, she’s saying, you can sit this one out. You can still be rich. We’ll all still be rich. But, in this instance, rich doesn’t mean powerful. It’s time to step up.
Shiv does so, too, overshadowing Kendall and Roman on the panel—Family Ownership and Corporate Continuity in the Digital Age (“Whatever the fuck that means,” Logan grumbles)—by eschewing the former’s boilerplate patter for a more innovative approach. “Sometimes companies develop bad habits, and you need fresh eyes, clean hands, and new ideas to address those,” she says, calling herself “more aggressive” in a bid to set the stage for her own reign. Her words don’t go over well with the Waystar brass, however, especially the aforementioned “dinosaur” comments. Behind the scenes, she’s criticized by Kendall and Marcia (Hiam Abbass), as well as Logan, who boils over with rage. That leads to him backhanding Roman in a moment that recalls last season’s “I Went To Market,” when Logan smacked Kendall’s son. Kendall’s furious response—“Don’t fucking touch him!”—comes from the residue of that moment as much as it does his love for Roman. It also serves as a reminder that, for all his maneuvering this season, Logan is still sick, physically and mentally. All he wants is trust, but can he be trusted still?
Offering up the comic relief this episode is Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) and Greg (Nicholas Braun), who are primed to introduce ATN’s new slogan, “We’re listening,” before having to re-strategize after Greg learns that Waystar is gathering data via their own set top boxes. “We actually are listening,” he says. “It seems sometimes we are listening quite aggressively.”
“So the question is: Is it a smart thing to say we’re listening when we are, indeed, listening?” he asks.
Hilariously, the pair settle on “We hear for you,” a phrase that gets funnier every time they say it. “It’s not clear exactly what the hell it means, so lots of wiggle room,” Greg says. The slogan lands with a thud when Tom introduces it at his panel, especially considering the Argestes tech team renders it as “We here for you” on the slides. It’s amazing that the writers can cram in such a funny, resonant subplot into an episode that’s goddamned overflowing with major plot movements.
- Let us welcome the great Fisher Stevens to the cast! As Hugo Baker, senior vice president of comms, parks, and cruises, he’ll be around a lot more this season.
- Just another shout-out for that scene between Shiv and Rhea. Snook and Hunter were occupying so many levels there, playing both the conversation and the conversation beneath the conversation. Snook’s knowing smiles, an indicator of how she was playing the game as much for herself as she was Waystar, were perfect.
- “The fact that I’m even having to ask... dead girls and boats... It’s unpleasant on the tongue.” Amazing delivery by Hunter.
- Greg-ism of the week: “You doing the old cocaine? Do a little bump, bumpbump.”
- Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I wonder if Roman won’t give Greg any coke because he gave Kendall his first bump and watched it ruin him. Roman’s always seemed concerned about his brother’s sobriety.
- Kendall screaming at the staff and knocking their snacks off the table was jarring, to say the least. “Everything you’re doing is fucking bullshit and I am very disappointed in you,” he screams, no doubt repeating some words his dad’s thrown in his direction in the past.
- Also at Argestes? Sandy (Larry Pine), Stewy (Arian Moayed), and Lawrence (Rob Yang), the latter of whom I glimpsed in one shot. It’s wild to me that Yang’s still listed in the main credits when he’s been in pretty much one episode this season. I was hoping he’d rear his head here; maybe the scene got cut?
- Well, it’s confirmed: Tom’s last name is spelled Wambsgans. I blame HBO’s closed captioning for me getting it wrong.
- Shiv gives Tom shit for flirting with another CEO. She’s different than the actor Shiv fucked because she’s “a real person with a face.” The actor, meanwhile, by virtue of not being rich and powerful, isn’t.
- The comedian at the roast was perfect. “We got the Roys here. Ahoy there! Permission to never come aboard?”
- I also laughed at Marcia telling Logan she doesn’t understand this tradition. “Why do we come to get insulted?”
- “Oh, shit, I hope he doesn’t do me.”
- Waystar is producing a movie called Frat Baby 2.