Jayson Buford was never fond of raisins in the first place.
Abe Beame always knew Wambsgans had incel tendencies.
There was no cold open this week? So bizarre, I believe it’s happened at least once or twice before, but it’s jarring, and such an interesting decision why they might or might not decide to do that.
In lieu of that, we open post-credits on Ken continuing to get fucked, a lot, being an insufferable dick at a trial walk through for his DOJ inquiry against Waystar at Lisa Arthur’s office. It’s foreshadowing what’s going to be a disastrous real thing for many of the same reasons. Ken’s problem remains what it has been all season; he’s as high up on the paperwork that he has seems to go. Without the cooperation of Greg (and Ken’s willingness to give him up?), or anyone higher on the food chain at cruises when the documents were destroyed, the worst he can do is implicate himself, and claim that Logan had implicit knowledge he can’t prove.
Lisa tries to convey to Ken the precariousness of his position. Waystar has decided to play ball and present all the appearances of cooperating, drowning the DOJ in paperwork with his white shoe legal team, while hammering the current administration between the lines with ATN on offense. With Ken’s case is not as strong as initially sold due to what sounds like a myriad of byzantine red tape qualifiers, Ken seems to be living in a fantasy world where the DOJ will cater to his every whim and hand him immunity, snipe his dad, and place him on a feather pillow atop his family company unblemished.
You can read Lisa’s mounting despair on her face as she fully reckons with the delusional asshole client she put her chips behind. Ken increasingly lashes out at her (his queen on the chessboard), and the government officials who won’t give him what he wants, like the petulant child he is. As I would imagine many of us saw coming from miles away, Lisa (and Sanaa Lathan) and seemingly Ken’s case, is gone like that – at least for now.
But this episode’s story is truly set beginning aboard a PRIVATE JET, with Logan’s BOOT OFF, which is about as clear a nod as we get that little to nothing from the last episode will carry over to this one. Logan is chummy and in close proximity with both Kerry (hinted at by the kids as a possible new surprising-but-not-really-that-surprising hook up for Logan) and Roman, summoned over to look at memes before calling the team in for a huddle. They’re setting an agenda for The Future Freedom Summit (or, “The ATN Primary”), a kind of RNC Eyes Wide Shut orgy, with six months to go before a presidential election, post actual primary, that serves to shadow crown-er, elect the party’s next nominee.
On the way to that convention, Shiv and Logan ride in the car together. To Jay’s credit, harking back to a debate we had last week that Jay was 100% right on: Shiv was bothered by the loud and uncomfortable exchange they had after she had negotiated the deal with the Sandy/Stewy faction. Shiv wants to “check in” with Logan, to make sure they’re on good footing and to let him know how he made her feel, as she tries to belittle Roman and remind Logan of the water she carried for the company. It’s all very needy and anxious preoccupied-attachment cringe shit based on what we know about how this family functions. I want to take this as an opportunity to contrast this directly with a moment from Season 2, Episode 7 that I think speaks volumes to what ultimately happens in this episode. Here is the exchange with Shiv and Logan from this episode:
Here are Logan and Roman, in a car, following an incident where Logan backhanded the shit out of Roman, he lost a tooth, and it’s actually Logan who brings up the incident, giving Roman the opportunity to speak his mind and air his grievances, which of course he declines to do, desperate to change the subject. My heart breaks every time at his infant-like blank resuscitation of the shit he sees out the window. Cars, buildings, everywhere, indeed.
Beyond what is about to transpire, the contrast really highlights why one child has the better temperament to take the reins from Logan than the other. Roman is a broken dog, he serves at his father’s pleasure, he knows his father’s temperament, how to craft an argument he’ll want to hear. Logan demands loyalty from a collection of sycophants and yes men, and it’s beginning to appear that Roman is the ultimate creation this God made in his image. The show has doubled back and changed Logan’s mind many times before, but with this coming, all-important, world altering decision very much brought across the goal line by Roman, it feels like something crucial has shifted (for the time being.)
But the material conversation in the car with Shiv and Logan is over who Logan and ATN and the Waystar apparatus writ large, will back in the coming contest for the nomination. The obvious party-backed choice, who Logan believes he’ll be supporting, is The Raisin’s Vice President, Dave Boyer. Shiv begins to show her ideological underpinnings, she wants the party that will be her dominion – in the event she claims the throne – to resemble something closer to her own heart and mind in a progressive candidate.
Shiv wants a change of pace, a bold new direction. As we’ll see, she betrays herself as badly out of step with the country, the party, and her father, which I imagine is what most will seize on when reviewing this episode. Shiv simply doesn’t get what direction the wind is blowing and Roman does. But to me, the greatest difference is how each child chooses to deal with their personal conflicts with their father. Shiv is direct and will at least put up a weak challenge. In deference to his father, Roman is the “Welcome mat” with a sarcastic asshole veneer that Logan has bred in him his entire life.
The Summit itself is another masterpiece of setting that only this show can deliver. It’s an elegant banquet table overstuffed with ghouls, freaks and sickos – truly a sumptuous feast.
Crowd “color” aside (including the legend Stephen Root, an influential donor and the Duke of the borderline Pynchonesque named Pound Ridge), the drama breaks down to three-ish contenders: David Boyer, the sturdy and boring Mike Pence-type status quo, Jared Mencken, a nativist Trump/Mark Ravenhead/Josh Hawley/T-Rex symbiote, “and” Rick Salgado. We’ll get to the final two, and their implications in a bit.
But even with the fate of the republic in the balance, for me this was Tom’s episode. He spends the entire runtime drinking metaphorical wine that tastes like shit that he can’t bear to come out and call shit. He’s looking at a future of unpalatable options, prepping his palate with arsenic-spiced Grand Slam breakfasts for the prison caff, throwing cake batter at a brick wall, hoarding mackerel tins for bartering, serving as a Christmas tree to hang every sin on. It’s equal parts pathetic, hilarious, and devastating. Impending jail time has softened Tom as a character for me, made him appealingly broken and vulnerable in a way Ken was last season, finally lending humanity to a character that served as a punchline for much of the first two and a half seasons of the show. He’s still a ridiculous moron, but his transparent fear and pain, his quid quo pro-less agreement to bite the bullet for Greg, and his hard to argue with decision not to go for immunity with Ken, awarded him episode MVP in my heart.
But we should discuss the Jared Mencken/Salgado schism. Mencken is a fascist, an admirer of some of “H’s ideas, a misogynist pig, a snake oil populist, and crucially, a room service waiter when he needs to be. Shiv hates him, but Mencken shares Roman’s penchant for the blue, Borscht Belt zing, he’s loud and bold, and he’s not afraid of ATN’s anachronistic “influence”. He’s ready to be shafted for safer options, and takes the opportunity, in earshot of Roman and Logan, to neg, declaring ATN and Waystar stagnant sharks. I swear there is a dead eyed glimmer in Roman’s eye as Mencken delivers this diatribe that is reminiscent of Gerri and the bathroom door, and probably secures Roman’s support. What’s frightening, and somewhat impressive, is face to face with this monster, Roman kills his approach, and gets Mencken to serve Logan his requisite soft drink.
On the other hand, Rick Salgado is a Latinx, dyed in wool conservative who seems to be trying to shy away from the culture war shit with an eye on policy. A kind of old GOP, feckless Jeb Bush/Rubio surrogate who allows the wind to direct his dick and has the Jurassic conservative’s idea of a progressive vision for the future of the party that widens the aperture on who gets to be a Republican. He also offers Shiv a quid pro quo to kill her dad in exchange for the nomination, which makes her motivations in her vocal support delightfully muddy. She is a horrible advocate for him, not even feigning objectivity as they debate the merits of the three candidates, and he never has a legitimate shot. In the end, Pinkie is down bad, off-center in a picture with the family and Mencken, brought to heel and what feels like fucking cooked.
There’s subplots we didn’t even get to, involving the kids’ mother Lady Caroline surprise impending marriage to a seat sniffer (I’d like to point my bat towards center field and call that this subplot exists to serve as the eventual setting for the season finale, conspicuously at a wedding back in Europe. Bodes poorly for Kendall!), and Connor Roy, the almost president we never deserved (the last shot of him left splayed and devastated on the couch, my God), that I’ll leave to my partner to either bring up or leave alone.
But I want to open with what bothers me most about this episode. We’ve oscillated wildly on this show when it comes to Logan’s health, but perhaps never so much as the last three weeks, from the death march on Josh Aaronson’s island in episode four, to a near comatose piss mad Logan last episode, to a savvy operator wielding power and influence like an infinity gauntlet with an iced bezel, of fully sound mind and body this week. So to address these issues and many more, I turn the conversation over to a ketel corn shoveler here to show you frilly clit flickers the truth, Jayson Buford. Good evening, brother.
Jay: Since we’ve met him, Logan has always been in declining health. With that, comes days where he is good and days where his mind is eroding. It’s possible that he has a built-in animal instinct in relation to this job, that’s so developed that it works on auto pilot. Regardless, he’s in rare form here. It reminds me of the Vaulter episode. Seeing him tell Shiv at the end “Are you apart of this family or not?” is a devastating example that the business that the Roy family is pushing white nationalism and sex crimes in Cruises.
Until now, the power that the Roy family had wielded has been recognized, but rather abstractly. Little phone calls, moments, or even motifs about The Raisin, about Logan’s influence, who is employed by the Roys, and the way the Roys are viewed by the general public have been discussed, but we have not seen them in action like this episode. It’s bone chilling to see Roman and Logan pick the new President, a white nationalist that would have been on the side of Charlottesville rioters, Kyle Rittenhouse, Capital Rioters, George Zimmerman, and many other white supremacists that have inflicted deadly violence on Black people and people of all ilk. On Succession, it is often said that these people are terrible people and we love watching that. That is true – to an extent – what they are is relatable and still human, you often see yourself in Ken’s high chases, Roman’s crassness, or Siobhan’s weariness. This is the first episode where I did not see myself in any of them. The Roys made their choice tonight, and it’s one that will have fascist results for the country they inhabit.
Abe: I feel like the clear story tonight was the rise of Rome. Shiv completely squanders the equity she earned in the last episode in what appears to be a complete and total inability to read the room, and Rome finds a savvy pivot to elevate Mencken. His pitch, where all of his wormy conservative asshole tendencies came together like Voltron to make a tremendous future in which he’s the Prince Machiavelli of this empire, taps into all the internet’s worst tendencies and maximizes them to make an antichrist, was terrifying. What did you think?
Jay: Roman is becoming the brazen, audacious, and dangerous executive that he was meant to be all along. His loyalty, shaped by the worship of his Father, and shaped by his need for his affection from Logan and everyone else, is becoming weaponized. We’ll see if this is a trend that continues in this season. My guess is, yes: Succession writers love to do these types of arcs, and there’s a specific arc with Roman (and Shiv) that is coming. We have to talk about Wambsgans, who I think is the star of the episode. The scene with Kendall is an all-timer, with Tom all but admitting his grab for upward mobility and power. ‘’You know, they’re picking the next President…’’ wasn’t just a recognition of the family he married into, but the slimy way he was willing to put power above all moral compass.
I loved how honest Ken was in that scene too, with him admitting that his case isn’t that solid and that he needs Tom. A lot of Wambsgans are wondering whether he knows what is going on, or he is just faking it. This conversation with Ken is his most intuitive moment, with him all but telling Ken what is going to happen to him. ‘’I’ve never seen Logan get fucked’’ is what we’re thinking too. If Wambsgans is the audience’s brain, then that’s saying something. (Speaking of which – Tom and Greg in the diner is an all time great scene between the two. Braun, who I have criticized from time to time for his lack of range, was great in that scene. For the first time, I felt he was on the same playing field as the rest of the actors). Tom had one of the best arcs this episode. What do you make of him?
Abe: I mean, yeah. Absolutely, it’s text. There were so many crushing details in this episode. The way Wambsgans is training himself for prison food, his agenda-free willingness to eat Greg’s sins as he’s held aloft on the shoulders of conservative dude bros, he may, at this point be the single character who has learned/changed the most since the series pilot. But let’s get to the Con moment since I didn’t get to it in recap. We had a moment where Logan nearly made himself Joe Kennedy, with Con and Panhandle Pete as his JFK and RFK, what was that about? Logan sniffing his own gas? All it took was Greg giving mild trepidation to piss on the embers, If that’s all it takes, did Logan have the right dream?
Jay: How serious is Connor as a candidate, or is it still another instance of Logan semi-including him? He knows Connor, arguably the best out of all the kids because he was the first. All Connor wants is a little attention. He doesn’t have the right dream, mainly because Connor is an idiot with no real philosophy, not even a fascist one, so any option that places Connor as president would be a farce. Connor is hilarious in this episode though, with his reactions devastating (‘’I will fight so hard for this fucking family’’). This is a great Willa episode also. She is so done with this family, and can you blame her? Her writing a play on the notes app in her phone was great, as is begrudging love for the man she has decided to be with. I agree with you that the episodes in the latter half of the season will clearly be the wedding in Europe (Italy?).
Lady Caroline Coolingwood, the wicked witch of England, is getting married to a new guy, not the one that she was supposed to be with. (It’s telling just how apart the children are with their Mom. Logan completely won them in the Divorce. She is a maniac, as much as Logan is, so whatever, but still, Roman didn’t even know she was seeing someone new). As I said in my first answer, the Roys got to the point of no return this episode. It was outward hate. What do you think of that direction? Do you think the viewers now view this family differently?
Abe: As in do I think we hit a new low? Eh, not really, honestly. I think the Con moment was interesting because Logan was high off the fumes, huffing his own gas. That a weak and limp wristed, stuttered hesitation by cousin Greg was enough to spoil the energy says volumes about how serious it ever was, but serves to heighten the ridiculousness of this episode.
Jay: Succession is fantastic at writing the adversaries to the Roy family. Like The Pierce family before it, Solgado is still as bad as the people that they think they’re better than. But it’s so shocking just how fascist the guy that they pick is. He’s hateful, even to Shiv, and is exactly the type of culture war fascist that Glenn Greenwald would defend on Twitter. Even when the family doesn’t go to new lows, Roman certainly does, he’s now pushing a fascist, which makes him one. ‘’I guess, I’m a climate denier’’ was a great bar from Logan, a man that gets off on defeating the skeptics, or the critics.
Abe: I get the guy was a gaping asshole, but can we take a moment to appreciate Justin Kirk? First of all, the energy with Roman was off the fucking charts, and he just kind of nails the millennial conservative smarm that characterizes this age of assholes who will use Plato as a cover for white power. I really hope this isn’t a classic Lathan-esque Succession cameo and he’s going to have a role to play in episodes and season to come.
Jay: I thought Kirk was excellent. Slimy, outwardly evil, and completely seduces Roman with his callous words and lack of caring. The line about how he doesn’t have boundaries is great. He takes something that would be good in the right context and weaponizes it: It’s an example of how evil people are now co-opting spaces and places language for their own good. Did you see how him and Roman were dressed alike in that bathroom? Two would-be fascist men being dudes. Politics bores Roman – as he says – and he is only doing this to be a good company man. But it’s incredible how this show can make the worst behavior so compelling to watch.
Abe: I’m going to be crass and say Tom was this episode’s heart, but Rome was its balls. It was gruesome to watch, the origin story of a supervillain, but he finally does this thing. Let me actually jump out for a minute: for nearly three seasons now, each Roy kid has had multiple opportunities to step back and present a vision of the future for Waystar. And it manifests itself in this incredibly dense, hashtag speak that is so brilliant and well conceived, but is also watery oatmeal drivel that means a lot and absolutely nothing that it’s a sort of in-joke patois at this point the show likes to occasionally employ. I think for the very first time ever, Rome really fucking lands the plane. The bone broth and dick pill thing, they give Justin Kirk a reaction shot as what Rome is saying sinks in, and he’s a fucking pudding cup. It’s masterful shit from Rome, and the writers; I’m terrified.
Jay: For much of the series, Shiv and Roman are the closest siblings. Sure, they diss each other, but there’s an inside, jokey, collegial history bond that they seem to share that sets them apart from the other sibling relationships (Shiv making fun of his sexual intimacy issues come to mind). They also haven’t had to compete with each other up until recently – unlike Roman and Ken, who go back and forth between loving each other/being there for one another and trying to kill each other. Competition is the middle name of each member of the Roy family, with them being raised to battle each other in the name of Darwinism. For the first time, Shiv and Roman are competing with each other. You saw the tension between them in the decision scenes, where Shiv’s stomach was clearly turning while her brother was picking a fascist. I wonder if we’ll see more of that.