(spoilers for season three, episode three ahead)
The main thrust of this episode can be summarized in the oft-used phrase, “hurt people hurt people.” It was only a matter of time before this power war would begin to draw blood, with the battle finally expanding outward from the boardroom and into the court of public opinion.
This episode opens with Kendall at a restaurant with a member of the press. He’s relishing giving the goods on his family and Waystar (“It’s all going to shit”). More importantly, however, Kendall claims that he’s in discussion with the DOJ to receive immunity in exchange for information. He gives the impression that immunity is a sure thing, which, knowing Kendall, probably means there’s talk happening but no real movement yet. But in the meanwhile, he’s smug as hell, which is a dangerous place to be considering that he’s largely isolated, surrounded by little more than ‘yes’ people. It’s difficult to determine whether or not Kendall is better off without his family, seeing as how none of them have his best interest at heart, but at least they offer a measure of protection from himself.
Over at Waystar Royco, Gerri is struggling at this CEO gig. She’s being condescended to and undermined. It’s no wonder; she may be CEO in name, but everyone knows who the real boss is, and he’s sitting just a few glass rooms away. Despite the hair-thin authority she wields, Logan still narrows his eyes over the possibility of her wielding too much power. But his greatest concern at the moment is Kendall, whose now-published interview has people talking. Logan can’t pin down what his next move will be, and he’s clearly agitated by it. Shiv tries to steer the conversation toward the town hall meeting they’re planning in an attempt to placate their employees and give the false impression of transparency. Logan listens half-heartedly, because why would a man who’s unconcerned about federal agents inquiring over a subpoena (much to Gerri’s dismay) be worried about worker morale? He’s determined not to play ball with the feds, unable or unwilling to imagine just how disastrous of a move that may potentially be.
Feeling more confidence than he’s rightfully earned, Greg is playing both sides. By day, he’s getting pushed around by Tom for not going with the Waystar lawyer; by night, he’s hanging with Kendall in the back of a stretch limo, drinking champagne with his entourage as they alternate between reading positive and negative tweets (“He’s bootleg Ross with a daddy complex”). Waystar offers the benefit of security, but should Kendall emerge the victor, there’s an excellent chance that Greg could wind up with the world’s swiftest promotion. But Kendall’s true willingness to take care of him comes to light when a misunderstanding over a watch costs Greg $40K, which, in turn, may cost Kendall one of his only allies.
For the moment, Kendall is positively soaring, happy to don the cloak of celebrity, striding into red carpet events playing the role of a temporarily displaced rock & roll CEO, shouting empty platitudes like “f—k the patriarchy” for the press’ benefit. Once he enters a charity gala, however, the first person he sees is Shiv across the room, which gives him a moment of pause. Kendall might be high on his own self-produced hype but nothing will remind you of who you are (for better or worse) quite like family. He goes on the offensive, approaching her as she talks to a still-bitter Nate. For the moment, the two choose civility, with Kendall even going so far as to apologize for the nasty things he said back at Rava’s (throwing misogynistic insults doesn’t jibe with the socially conscious persona he would love to convey). Shiv takes the moment to discuss “reconciliation” on the off chance that he might be willing to come back to the fold in some way. She knows that the best chance they have to weather this potential disaster is if Kendall backs off entirely. Unsurprisingly, she gets nowhere with it, as Kendall, before coolly walking away, provides the unsettling observation that she is now in his previous role, shilling for the company in order to meet their father’s approval. One point to Kendall.
With Shiv out doing field work, the press appearances fall to Roman, and he hates every second of it. The PR duo of Hugo and Karolina (speaking for Logan) prefers that the lone daughter take on the role instead. Shiv may have been granted the title of “president,” but right now, the most convenient thing in the world would be to have her use her gender to operate as a buffer between Waystar and public perception. Of course, Logan won’t say it as such, choosing to frame it as something personal (“…I think, ‘Does Shiv even like me?’”) in order to manipulate her. He wants her to publicly defend him by way of bringing Kendall down, but the Roy siblings, petty and mean as they are to each other, are bound together; that tie is made of more complex stuff than what keeps them to Logan (i.e. fear), which is illustrated by the fact that when pressed for a happy memory of his dad, Roman has to use the time Connor took him fishing instead.
Over at Kendall’s place, he’s keeping the party going. Keen on sharing his high profile with the dozens of people gathered around, he turns on the tv after hearing that he’s the subject of a repeat segment by popular late-night host Sophie Iwobi (Ziwe Fumudoh, perfectly cast here). Clearly none of the party-goers care a whit for Kendall, because if they did, they would have turned the television off the moment Iwobi referred to him as “a jar of mayonnaise in a Prada suit.” Although everyone has the wherewithal to look embarrassed for him, Kendall, weakly laughing to minimize the burn he just endured, half-heartedly seizes this as a publicity opportunity, as well as a way to prove that none of the talk gets to him because he’s ultimately coming from a righteous place. He’s decided he’s going to go on the show. “This is great,” he repeats over and over again with a smile that can’t quite reach his eyes.
Tom and Shiv. They’re just like Lord and Lady Macbeth, if Macbeth was an effete hookworm. He spent the evening consulting with a lawyer friend about his chances for avoiding jail time and the news isn’t good. Maybe the alcohol has something to do with it, but he proposes that he, himself, fall on the sword, which would certainly result in a prison stint (likely a brief one, though), but at least the sacrifice would come with the eternal (monetary) gratitude of one Logan Roy. Shiv brushes it off at first, but after sitting with it for a few minutes, begins to see the appeal. It would be the simplest solution, plus getting out in front of it would remove a large amount of Kendall’s power. Plus, with Tom being her husband, Shiv would also get to shine in her father’s favor. When Tom finally does propose this to Logan, he appreciates the offer and attempts to gracefully downplay the need for it, although the assurance of “it won’t come to that,” means that it almost certainly will.
Intent on locking in the biggest source of support he can get, Logan decides to corner Senior White House Aide Michelle-Anne Vanderhoven (Linda Emond), the rep Gerri spoke to back in the season premiere, after a planned news appearance. He wants to know where he stands with the president but doesn’t like the answer he gets. The president, preoccupied with his poll numbers, wants to distance himself from Logan. Logan, infuriated, promises that should his support be withdrawn, he will, in turn, set the might of his media empire against the president. Once upon a time, Logan may have handled the situation a bit more delicately, but the current situation has him scrambling, which makes mistakes far more likely.
Kendall wants to strike while the fire is hot. He makes good on earlier rumors that he would go to Waystar Royco to rattle Logan’s cage, against the exasperated objections of Lisa (who, at this point, must be wondering if this case is worth it). Logan, who earlier threatened to punch Kendall in the nose if he ever so much as steps foot back in the building ever again is ready to bring on the drama. Gerri sees that things are soon going to go from bad to worse, seeing as how drama is the last thing they need. Hugo and Karolina try to stall Kendall, while Logan and his inner circle talk to the lawyers. In the interim, they take away Kendall’s key card access and login credentials. For a moment, Kendall’s swagger is interrupted by Logan’s head of security who handled the coverup in Scotland. “I know you,” he hisses. It shakes Kendall, as it usually does any time he’s reminded of his role in the death of that poor caterer.
Downstairs, the town hall has commenced. Shiv has taken the stage, grandly fulfilling the role that she’s wanted for so very long, visible to not just the employees inside the building but also to every major Waystar office throughout the globe. She’s only beginning to dive into the glossy speech prepared for her, when, out of nowhere, the sound of Nirvana’s “Rape Me” begins to blare. The massive discarded speaker boxes left strewn around Kendall’s office leaves no doubt that he was the one behind this humiliating act of sabotage. The word “angry” barely begins to cover what Shiv is feeling. Her previous unwillingness to publicly burn her brother no longer exists. She’s ready to blow some shit up and tries to enlist her other brothers to help, but Connor and Roman aren’t there yet. Shiv is the only Roy feeling a tie that’s now been severed, and she’s fully prepared to light the bomb on her own.
It’s the night of the Sophie Iwobi show. Kendall is walking cocksure into the gladiator ring armed with nothing but a baguette for a sword. At one point he approaches the writers’ table, which is basically like wading into shark-infested waters while wearing a meat suit. After making an ass of himself, a member of his PR team finds him and reveals what Shiv has done. All of his humor and false confidence evaporate. He tries to get out of doing the show, but with filming happening in the next fifteen minutes, the show’s producer does everything short of tap dancing to keep Kendall on, assuring him that it’s simply “a comedy show.” He agrees to stay, but it’s obvious he has no plans to go up on that stage. Crouched in the corner of a server room, Kendall watches Sophie insult him before revealing the contents of Shiv’s open letter. The letter is penned under the guise of concern. It’s what lies between the lines that is absolutely devastating, though some lines are fully intended to humiliate him, such as, “I’ve now been a direct witness to his misogynistic rants and comparisons to world historical figures that were suggestive of grandiose and disordered thinking.” Once the late-night host finishes, she comments, “And that’s from his sister, and she’s the f—king nice one!” Oh, Sophie, if only you knew.
Things are no better at Waystar. The FBI has arrived with a search warrant and, for a moment, it seems Logan is not going to cooperate. Nearing the end of her rope, Gerri finally lets loose on him (“Well, I guess the government isn’t a f—king Pez dispenser!”) and tells him in no uncertain terms that the federal agents will have zero reservations about using force, which seems to be the one thing that finally brings Logan to heel. When he finally acquiesces, Gerri’s relief is palpable. As the horde of FBI agents raid the building, news teams blast the coverage far and wide. Kendall watches on his phone, a slow smile coming back to his face.
Joy has always been in short supply on this series—as much as these ridiculously wealthy people try to convince themselves they’re actually happy in their lives—but by the time the credits roll on this episode, misery reigns supreme. Kendall, who excels at self-delusion (even more so than Connor), will probably try to give the impression that he has fully bounced back from this humiliation, but the strike by Shiv is going to leave a mark. It’s a devastating move because it’s the absolute truth: Kendall is an addict, a misogynist, and a bad father. But the move does alter the rules of battle, as the Roy family has historically kept their messy ways private. It’s hard to say how Kendall will respond to her attack, but if it directly involves the investigation (especially since Shiv herself has personally had a hand in the coverup), it could make the town hall debacle feel like the good ol’ days. In the meanwhile, we’ll have to see if the FBI raid bears any rotten fruit from Logan’s gnarled company tree.
A Moment of Zen With Cousin Greg:
“I’m a humble custodian now.”
The Biggest Lie:
“I didn’t know about any of this shit.” -Logan
The Biggest Truth:
“It’s a Times New Roman firing squad.” -Connor
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t grateful that Kendall didn’t get the chance to use a Love Boat reference in his cringe-filled joke line up (I mean, really, dude?), she can be found on Twitter here.
Header Image Source: HBO/Warner Media