Jayson Buford is doing a deep dive into the history of prison wine sommeliers.
Abe Beame reads Dostoevsky in a glass house in the Hamptons.
We open on Ken in his Command Pod, reveling in the fallout of the Waystar raid. He’s with Greg, and you can feel the increasing emphasis on Greg’s role in the fate of this prosecution that Ken just doesn’t seem to either be processing or taking seriously enough.
Logan has summoned Greg, who somewhat reasonably fears physical intimidation – if not a full blown Quad Studios scenario. Ken kind of laughs it off and trusts Greg in his position, and in his commitment to Ken, based on nothing. I think 100 years from now, the device “Chekhov’s Gun” will be known to generations of nerdy English majors and TV recappers as “Greg’s Watch.” Roll credits.
“Little Lord Fuckleroy” (A reference none of these millennial culture-less douchebags would ever get and is clearly a middle-aged Ivy League Writer’s Room in-joke) is called into a conference with the Waystar inner circle. Ken believes the axe is falling, that the purpose for the call is firing him from the company. But instead, it’s a crisis call. Josh Aaronson, a 4% shareholder who has lost $350 million on what his stock was once valued at, has had his faith shaken by the recent instability of the company leadership and its devalued share price. He wants an in-person sit down/beach trot/hard look under the hood with Ken and Logan.
The responses are predictable, with virulent anti-semitism from Roman and Karl in regards to their coffee and bagel shareholder (“chiseling” and “a pound of flesh” respectively), a flat refusal from Ken, Karl coming in with the weasel/rat on a sinking ship’s perspective on what’s at stake, and Logan (separately, with Shiv) closing like Mariano Rivera, with a definitive and guttural hammer, urging Ken to do “the right thing” for the family.
Logan meets Greg for a pivotal rum and coke, where his job is threatened in the event he goes forward with abetting Kendall in his prosecution. Logan puts pressure on Greg to join the Waystar legal team, Greg responds, fishing for a payout, and Cox is just masterful, showing why it’s useful to surround yourself with weak-willed sycophants and morons, so easy to fucking flatten, as Greg gets utterly rolled here, his resistance melting in the face of Logan’s power like ice in hot sand.
Later in a pow wow with Tom, Greg shares his canny plan, using his leverage to take over Parks, with savvy and a ruthless strategy to take power. Once again, Greg’s ideas>Greg’s character. They just do not do enough investing into Greg the person for him to get off these random Machiavellian stratagems at a minimum of once a season. We should see him, living on the planet Earth, displaying any sort of emotional or intellectual intelligence besides occasionally materializing out of the woodwork with these divine power moves.
The “B” plot for this episode (with all due respect to Tattoo Man, some go nowhere and do nothing side quest BS I’ll leave for Jay to bring up, if he wants) is Logan panicking over the position he’s been left in, vulnerable with the shareholders and under the microscope of the Department of Justice. So he begins the process of tightening the screws on “The Raisin”, a president we’re continually told is not a Trump facsimile but certainly has a lot of parallels [ed. note, I suspect it’s a Trump/Reagan hybrid]. The shit begins rolling downhill with Logan to Shiv, suggesting it’s time to ratchet up the tension on the president using a top down, dictating the news model ATN has consistently claimed not to operate under; then Shiv making it flesh with Tom, who needs the order to trickle down to Ravenhead.
Tom keeps doing this martyred, dramatic, performative focusing on his impending fate in front of Shiv, conveniently reading white collar jail brochures in front of her and fretting about remembering to burp the toilet wine. Far be it for me to minimize another person’s imminent jail time, but the way “Terminal Tom” dangles it is somewhat shameful, and continues to point to a flip. It’s a miracle these people still even keep up the appearances of being together but I suppose Logan and Marcia are still “together”. We leave Tom thoroughly bitched, eyes cast down and reasonably unhappy.
I continue to be disappointed with Connor’s back of the bench status this season, the show really needs to find a utility for one of its greatest utility players. But we get a shimmer of it here, with Shiv playing pretend post office, attempting to stamp the packages and crack the whip, and not only seeing Waystar and Waystar satellite figures like Connor rebelling against it, but her own father, boss, and the executive that initially empowered her, undercutting her authority. It’s all classic Logan, being non-committal and vague, then stepping in to set the people you empowered up for failure – pointing to lame birdsong, speaking out of both sides of your mouth, as the paper tiger in question being responsible for their own lack of success you personally ensured. Sucks and potentially points to an ultimate defection by Shiv.
Without prior briefing, Logan and Ken do a beautiful, separate helicopter waltz to meet with Josh on an island that looks like a Hamptons beach house. The ostensible, questionable purpose of the meeting is Josh sussing out what the future of Waystar, defined by Logan and Ken’s relationship is. Josh is weighing defecting to Sandy and Stewy or outright selling his position in the company. Kendall’s idea, his lifeline, is investing in a tech company called Go Jo, a platform apparently better suited to hosting ATN’s “good” content currently shoddily presented.
Logan does his part, sitting down, making eye contact, and getting girthy with his assurances. In this, we can see the potential for what a Logan and Ken team would have looked like. A tapped in ideas guy bolstered by the old man who knows “people” and “deals”, but alas, or potentially thank god, this unholy union will never happen.
But because this is a television show that demands stakes and tension, and these episodes are not 25 minutes long, it’s not enough to sway Josh and he demands taking Ken and Logan on a trek through, what I’d imagine is the titular Meadow, a tall grass swept beach/hellscape crucible. But not before we get one of the most brutal, agonizing 23 second silences in television history. Ken and Logan are left in Josh’s living room, with Josh pulled away by what will be several unexplained distractions that remove him from the meeting, leaving the emperor and his prince to make half-hearted gestures and awkward faces at each other, with nothing left to say. Fucking agony.
Logan seems to anticipate the physical peril the walk represents, but his hubris won’t allow him to demure. There’s a weird energy to Josh that Jay and I will be discussing shortly. He pushes Logan physically, he pushes Ken’s position and reputation. It’s difficult, at least for me, to suss out exactly what he wanted out of this entire meet, unless it was either barbarous sadism, or the confirmation that he needs to defect from a rotted from the inside Roy camp. Brody plays him a bit aloof, elusive and dodgy. He’s always just far enough away to give father and son rope to hang each other, but stays close enough to enjoy the carnage he’s somewhat responsible for sowing. They walk.
Josh’s concern speaks to what Stewy claims matter of factly in the season two finale. He wants to get the most value out of his investment. By his account, that value projection is directly linked to his confidence in Ken and Logan’s ability to reconcile. The most interesting section of the episode is given to Brody, who cuts to the quick of the plight of the outside shareholder, constantly held at arm’s length and jerked off by Logan, who only gives his mettle, his strength as a reason to continue to keep the shareholder’s chips in his corner, which is a strategy that is betrayed by his own health after the sit down and interrogation by Josh.
What constitutes as probably the biggest “oh shit” moment of this season, is Logan’s health collapses again. Pushed by Ken, and the son, and the hike, Logan collapses in a way reminiscent of the pilot, and “Argestes”, and any number of convenient junctures in the show’s history. This undoes all the work they accomplished throughout the episode on the pitch, and ends with Josh embracing Stewy, fittingly, on the runway, where the Roy boys couldn’t stand to make nice.
But there is a moment. Really an incredible moment, when Logan once again is either the best bluffer in the history of poker or fucking Rimbaud (or both), when pressed on what the future holds by Josh, and suddenly, really stunningly goes to bat for Ken. His son, that he loves. And to discuss this moment, and what it means, if it in fact means anything besides getting fucked on a date, is my good friend, safeguarding 30,000 acres of wilderness, on the verge of setting up a podcast on Napoleonic history with a considerable level of investment interest, cracking the nut of happiness like a modern day Thoreau, fresh off a scheduled flight from Cashville, Ten-A-Key, Jayson Buford. Good evening Jay.
I’d castrate and marry you in a heartbeat. pic.twitter.com/fiGcrl6j84
— Succession (@succession) November 8, 2021
Jay: So, it is interesting that you think that he actually goes to bat for Kendall. I don’t think so. He might feel that way, but that is only about exercising control of the situation. It is purely a play, as is Ken even bringing up the fact that Logan knew about the cruises scandal in the first place. Logan is attempting to show Josh that it is he that will still be running the company and that it will stay with the family in his impending death. That doesn’t mean he truly cares about Ken right now. The whole time in this episode he is playing mind games. Not wanting to ride in the same car as him, shit talking about him about his drug use. Logan Roy is humiliating Ken as usual. It was almost sad to see Ken play into those games when he starts to trash talk his Dad on the walk. Strong’s physicality was great in that scene. We’ve seen him stand up to Logan, but when he is sober, he’s always stiff, masculine, and stoic like his dad is. Incredible to see him morph into Logan in the meadow.
Abe: So I more or less agree with that read. Whatever is said in that moment seems to be immediately undone when the trance is snapped as Josh comes back from his phone call. But there’s a moment, the way the camera lingers on Ken as Logan is speaking, the vulnerability and open heartedness of what Logan is at least presenting. Maybe I just want to believe it, but there has to be a kernel of truth in there somewhere for him to suddenly pull that out of his ass, right?
This show loves putting its characters on “the rack” as Logan would say. This was obviously one for Ken, but really mostly Logan. Josh is kind of this grand inquisitor figure, who emerges from nowhere, and I’d bet most returns from whence he came, but shows up to push Logan and test him in a tough spot where he’s not in control for once. This private island is a personal hell, much in the way “Prague” was a hell for the boys on Tom’s bachelor party trip, or “Austerlitz” was for Logan, not in the advertised and sponsored PR bullshit therapy session, but in the brutal family fight in the kitchen that went down late night. These characters are pushed to the brink until they’re so uncomfortable, and their defenses and hostilities are worn down and they crack, I think we may have seen a brief glimpse of that tonight.
The title of this episode is derived from a New Zealand Children’s Story called Lion In The Meadow. I’ve never read it but I’ve browsed some hastily culled internet Cliff Notes and it’s basically about monsters real and imagined, monsters spoken into existence. The meaning in the story as it relates to the episode is ambiguous to me, but if you’d care to check out the hyperlink, and consider the idea in relation to the episode we just watched, I’d love to hear your theory.
Jay: I’ll check it out at some point before the next episode. That’s interesting: Do we think Josh has Logan out there on purpose? Had a conversation with my non-writer best friend, who thought that Josh had Logan out there down bad because he wanted to see if Kendall was going to let him collapse. Does Kendall truly mean war, or is he still the scared boy that wants to prove to his dad that he is a big man like Logan is? It’s clear to me that the health of his daughter was a ruse to get the two gentlemen down here face-to-face outside of their element. I love the cinematography of Succession, which is always great. Two scenes stand out: The jets out in the water reminded me of Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece Dunkirk and Logan and Ken in the woods was like a miniature version of Paulie and Chris in ‘’Pine Barrens’’ of The Sopranos. Men at war and men in unity at the same time. Will Logan and Ken ever see eye to eye?
Abe: A quick “How The Sausage Is Made” note for the reader: Jay and I do these in the same doc, back and forth like a cipher, so we actually watch each other tapping these notes out, and as soon as I saw “C-H-R-I” coming I started laughing because I knew he was going Dunkirk, which I have to assume at this point is a bit for him as a regular point of reference/quasi religious text along with Carol and several other prestige indie films released between 2016-2019 (I did love the shot and even have a bit I edited down about how the choppers dancing with one another en route to the meet with Josh was the co-directors Pulcini and Shari-Berman’s best of the episode).
I think “Pine Barrens” is a fantastic point of comparison, because I had the same feeling that it was this heightened fugue state broken out from reality. I’ll reference another Nolan “classic,” Inception, because it captured dream logic so well. Once they’re out there in the tall grass, you begin in the middle, certain things Josh says contain contradictory logic with how and why they have to go out there and how they’re getting back, he keeps darting away and floating back at the least opportune times. In the end, Stewy and Sandy were always coming, it feels almost predetermined. A crucible set up to funnel both father and son back to their worst selves and base instincts, and to nearly kill Logan. I said it was dream logic, but it’s actually a nightmare.
Jay: I want to make it clear: I don’t look out for ways to talk about the Todd Haynes classic Carol… What’s that you say? Oh, it’s just me dreaming about Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in the hotel? The beautiful forbidden romance crashing into their desire? Let me stop….
What if Stewy is who put Josh up to this? I’m finally believing one of your Stewy conspiracy theories. With him being at the tarmac giving Josh (Brody) a hug, it shows how little control Ken truly has over his situation. That hug seemed celebratory, as if this was the plan all along. Next week should be some good Strong and Arian Moayed scenes.
Speaking of Jeremy Strong: Can we talk about how great the Kendall fit is in this ep? They dress Ken terrifically. When he is feeling himself, he is always dressed like a rich kid Musk styled billionaire, mixed with Bezos’s need to be liked. When Ken is in depressive mode, they have him matching, almost to show how uncomfortable he feels, within himself and the outside world. This episode he feels pudgier; less athletic and unsure of himself. He’s much maligned and casted aside from his family right now.
Abe: Cutting close to the bone here. Tough week in the Beame household because the algorithm finally perfected my aesthetic: Nice sweaters in the street, and basketball shorts in the crib. Credit card statement is rough. Neither here nor there.
This show is so good at dressing these characters in shit that looks normal, but is probably exorbitantly expensive. I didn’t even pick up on the Ken fit till you mentioned it, but he is kind of an entire Elliott Smith song: A brown button down corduroy jacket, with brown jeans, and a nearly matching brown or olive colored collared shirt underneath, but we can’t be sure because he stays buttoned up the entire time? And the collar is popped? You’re right. It’s a great catch. The height of awkward discomfort.
But it’s fitting, because along with Logan and his ailing health that conveniently reared its head yet again at the least opportune time, it appears that Josh Aaronson’s 4% is out the door and gone. We’ll see what the ramifications may be next week.
Jay: We’ve talked about this before, but the juxtaposition of Logan’s power mixed with his lack of control over his health lends a fascinating perspective on aging. He’s a character who lacks the emotional weaknesses and blindspots his children suffer from, but his ailing health is the great equalizer, and it’s employed in that fashion here, arguably to expose him. This could be the beginning of an interesting re-opening of Logan’s health as a pivotal plot point.