“Know your role.”
That’s what Logan and Kendall keep repeating to the rest of the Roy family in “Tern Haven,” in which the Roys and Waystar Royco are launching a charm offensive against the Pierce family in an attempt to acquire their clearly CNN-style media company PGM. Logan has an entire scheme and strategy worked out, and he lays it out to the family in a meeting before they take a fleet of helicopters to Plymouth Rock: Don’t talk about Ravenhead (that ATN host who was the focus of last week’s episode), ATN (their Fox News-style channel), Israel (self-explanatory), Brightstar (their amusement park, where Roman is taking management training), and the cruise rumor mill (remember those documents Greg destroyed, but then also blackmailed Tom with?). Approved conversation topics, in contrast, are “gossip, investment, art, movies, tittle tattle, wider cultural interests,” Logan says, and he’s serious. And, of course, every single Roy aside from Logan goes off-script—so much so, in fact, that I think Shiv has catapulted her chances of being Logan’s heir.
Honestly, what did Shiv think would happen? Everything she did this episode was out of sorts for her. I can understand that she is increasingly skeptical of Logan, and that she and Tom keep sticking to their vague plan of world domination, and certainly Kendall’s hackles are raised. He understands that her increased interest in Waystar Royco and presence in meetings means something. But for Shiv to cut off Logan like that, and derail his plans, and introduce herself in that family dinner as his successor, and to realize by the end of the episode that Logan might not really want her, and that even the Pierces don’t really want her? By the end of “Tern Haven,” they accept the $25 billion and also accept Logan’s insistence that Shiv not be guaranteed as his successor. That is a real emotional wallop, and Sarah Snook does goddamn amazing work this episode tracking Shiv as she goes from hopeful to aggressive to regretful to bamboozled to resentful. Let’s observe!
In the beginning of the episode, when she’s joking around with Logan, calling Waystar Royco “my baby soon” and doing that weird sideways dip thing we’ve never seen before—she looks genuinely happy and hopeful here!
Then, at dinner, when she whips out “For fuck’s sake, Dad, just tell them it’s gonna be me” …
… Which causes the following shocked reactions in her brothers and Tom …
As everyone files out of dinner, though, we see Shiv realizing that perhaps she did something wrong. That perhaps pushing Logan wasn’t the correct play—and she’s right.
Because during the meeting between Nan, Rhea, and Naomi and Logan, Kendall, and Shiv (Marcia being invited, but Logan conveniently ignoring that invitation and not bringing her in), when the Pierces say they want a public announcement and guarantee that Shiv will run the company and Logan refuses, Shiv sees the writing on the wall. Look at this side-eye!
And finally, on the helicopter home, sitting directly across from her father, when she asks him with that desperation and that regret and that anger, “What happened?” and he has no answer for her—perhaps because he was never going to have an answer, never had any real intentions of giving her the company at all. Shiv should know better than to think Logan Roy would explain anything to her. It doesn’t matter that she’s his daughter. It’s not going to happen.
What does that mean for the rest of the season? Does this place Shiv firmly against Logan now? I honestly have no idea, but this is all a ding to her armor, as is the fact that the deal goes through. Because for as much as Cherry Jones’s Nan Pierce talks about how “money is a social construct” (are you fucking KIDDING me?), they still walk back on their treasured “principles” to take Logan’s $25 billion. The blue-blooded, bougie, uppity Pierces honestly seem terrible? I mean, my god! They are a stereotypically thoughtful and liberal family, as pretentious and self-absorbed as the Roys, who they clearly look down upon as new money. And to be fair, the Roys ARE that! They are gauche as hell! Roman masturbates in Gerri’s bathroom! Kendall, after a night of heavy cocaine use and slamming back bottles of vodka, shits in his bed! These people are the worst! And yet I also think that hanging out with the Roys might actually be more fun than spending time with the Pierces, with their Washington Post-like “triumph in the truth” plaque, who get their second PhDs in Africana studies from Brown and quote Shakespeare at the dinner table and praise Whitman and Thoreau and look down on Oprah’s Book Club and nonironically say homey things like “Soup’s on!” while taking credit for a gigantic roast that their kitchen staff worked on all day.
What Succession shows excellently is that the Pierces and the Roys, for all their surface differences, for Nan Pierce’s insistence that her media company helped bring down the Berlin Wall, for her grand speech about how “virtue, integrity, these things actually exist,” are just the same. Connor’s nemesis, who attacked him for not knowing names of any other elected officials, folds when Connor offers him a cabinet position. They’re shown practically bumping fists at the end of the episode! Rhea is all flirty winks and reassurances that the family will go for the deal to remain relevant and rich, and she’s not wrong. And then there’s Naomi and Kendall, who have so much in common because they are so, so consumed by self-loathing and so, so fucked up.
There is a lot of love for Cousin Greg—excuse me, that “beautiful Ichabod Crane fuck”—and how he really weaponizes the ways that people discredit him. They think he’s a bumbling goof, and then he blackmails Tom and reinvents himself as Gregory and everyone on the Internet starts clamoring for our boy to run Waystar Royco one day. But I think the same praise should go to Kendall, honestly, who always manages to self-sabotage but who also knows how to sell his self-hatred and to make people trust him because of it. Naomi Pierce should despise the Logans—does despise the Logans—but she spends that night with Kendall anyway, each of them telling the same lie to each other. Kendall’s desperation is palpable, but so is Naomi’s, and I firmly believe that it was Kendall’s advice to Naomi that helped seal the deal: “All I would say is, don’t block your own escape. Just imagine getting out from under all this. You can take the money and you can just get the fuck out.” $25 billion sure does provide a lot of escape routes.
Who else could be planning a way out, and who may just need one after the events of “Tern Haven”? We see that Roman is in a sort of spiral now that he thinks Waystar Royco will never be his. We see that Tom could be out as head of ATN because the Pierces demanded it as a stipulation of the deal. We see that Shiv could be out too, and maybe Kendall is back in. So many moves this week, too many goddamn moves, and there’s no way they all work out.
ODDS AND ENDS
+ I think Shiv and Kendall actually understand each other; Shiv and Connor have nothing in common; and Shiv and Roman are each other’s ids, as evidenced by “What if your wider cultural interest is hate-jerking to Instagram? Just asking for a friend” and “Me, she’s talking about me!”
+ Tom continues his rivalry with Cyd, asking whether she can shoulder the responsibility of ATN when the Roys meet with the Pierces. But no! It’s Tom who has to play the role of “the right-wing ogre at your service,” and again we see him smart at Shiv for treating him like shit at the dinner table. Do we think anything will actually come of this?
+ Tom did make me LOL, though, with his counter to uber-wealthy Nan blabbering about how money doesn’t really matter: “Because just this morning I went to the store and I bought a pound of ham and I paid for it by telling them I was really worried about the environment.” That’s such a cynical comment to make, but come on, Nan! Fuck off with this money doesn’t matter bullshit. Only rich people say shit like that.
+ Man, Marcia is really over Logan’s secrecy this season, isn’t she? I loved her “I’m very excited to be getting top marks along with your other pupils” after the first check-in meeting Logan calls at the Pierce compound, as well as her shocked question to Logan about whether Shiv was really taking over the company. Keep in mind that Shiv and Marcia hate each other, and if Shiv takes over, where does that leave Marcia? You know, if you had a year, she couldn’t tell you her whole life, from Beirut to New York City!
+ Per usual, I love the derisive way Roman describes “real America”: “I no longer speak 1%,” he declares. And also per usual, I am very appalled by his attempts at sexual activity with Tabitha; asking her to pretend to be a corpse so he can simulate raping her was a whole lot. How long do they keep this “platonic besties” thing going? And do I actually believe that Tabitha is genuinely attracted to Roman? Not sure I do!
+ All my love to Gerri always, for not only sticking up for herself as being able to run Waystar Royco (“maybe the second to admit” was a great return for Logan undermining her expertise) but also for really knowing exactly what to say to get Roman going. How she harped on his behavior being “completely inappropriate” and “sick” was so naturalistic and well-done, but I don’t know if Gerri gets sexual pleasure out of this dynamic, or if it’s an amusing self-preservation tactic? I can’t tell! Also very on-brand of Roman to admit what they’re doing to Tabitha the next morning, but to do it in such a way that no one takes him seriously. Even when Romulus is being honest, no one buys it. (Note: Kieran was VERY HOT this episode. Look at this heated gaze!)
+ The Naomi/Kendall relationship is fascinating and depressing, two very broken people bonding over that brokenness. The journey from “Would you like to do some illegal drugs with me?” meet-cute to the chopper giggles of “wiggle stick, twisty stick, spinny spinny, chicken dinny” to Naomi’s boner-killing “You’re such a little nothing, aren’t you?” was maybe, what, a couple of hours? But it held multitudes!
+ “Would you like to hear my favorite passage from Shakespeare? Take the fucking money,” was Brian Cox at his smug, superior best.
+ If this is the last we see of Holly Hunter, I will be disappointed, but grateful for what we got, particularly in this episode. Those winks! How she blew off Logan with “it’s not my fucking job, and ask your people”! How she’s actively engaging in a smear-fest against Sandy, claiming he has syphilis! Get that money, Rhea. GET IT.
Image sources (in order of posting): HBO Media Relations, HBO/Succession