(spoilers for season 3, episode 4)
This week’s theme can be summarized simply as “desperation.” Almost all of our major players are vying to maintain their tenuous grasp on power, not realizing that, like the sand on a billionaire’s private beach, the tighter one tries to hold it, the more grains slip out of their grasp.
The episode opens with Kendall in his “command pod” feeling smug about Waystar’s raid by the FBI. “You glad you’re not on their team, huh, G?” Kendall nudges Greg, who can barely muster a response. He’s received a message from Logan for a one-on-one meeting at his place, a terrifying prospect even in the best of circumstances. Kendall gives his blessing, but only after reaffirming Greg’s loyalty to him.
But soon, Kendall, or “Little Lord F—kelroy,” also finds himself mired back in Waystar business when he ends up on a conference call with Logan’s whole team. It turns out that a large shareholder, Josh Aaronson (Adrien Brody), is unhappy about the recent dustup and is preparing to embrace new leadership under Sandy and Stewy via their takeover bid. This is just as bad for Kendall as it would be for Logan, because although Kendall talks a big game about social consciousness, his ultimate aim is to become CEO. No Waystar, no position. Kendall wants to play hardass and refuses to help. But when Frank tries again, explaining that his standing with Aaronson is shaky at best, Kendall realizes it’s in his best interest to play ball.
The FBI raid at Waystar seems to have only amounted to a low-grade disaster, more of a hit on their appearance than anything else (for now). Logan knows he’s not out of the woods yet and wants to shore up guaranteed protection via the president. “The Raisin owes me everything.” He’s already tried asking semi-nicely, so it’s time to bring out some firepower in the form of journalistic hardballing. Logan tasks Shiv with ensuring that ATN swings the pendulum of public opinion on The Raisin while he tries to put out the fire with Aaronson. Shiv knows this is her big chance, and she plans on seeing it through.
This week marks the return of The Slime Puppy. Roman has devised a (not-so-brilliant) secret weapon plan against Kendall: he plans on revealing that fifteen years earlier, during Kendall’s bachelor party, the two callously bribed a homeless man to have Kendall’s initials tattooed on his forehead. Gerri is correctly worried that this would blow up in their collective faces, but Roman is undeterred. Later, when he brings him into Waystar intent on trotting the poor man, Mr. Albescu, in front of the media, Roman is disappointed to discover he’s gotten laser treatment during that time. He has to make do with photographs, and although it’s a painful memory for the man, Roman wields money as a cudgel. We’ve seen a slightly more vulnerable Roman for some time now (since his hostage situation in season 2), but this blatant exploitation serves to remind us that Roman is still a Roy, incapable of viewing anyone beneath a certain socioeconomic status (“a poor” as Roman says) as real people.
Greg arrives at Logan’s house for the requested meeting. After some insincere schmoozing (“Drink?” “Of, uh, alcohol?”), Logan cuts to the chase, presenting Greg with a contract to sign on to a joint defense. Greg sees this as his big chance, his surest way of obtaining power and influence. Unfortunately, he’s forgotten he’s an utter dolt who’s far beyond his element, not to mention that this will surely unleash the wrath of his grandfather. None of this is on his mind, however, as he only has abstract visions of money and power dancing along in his mind. “What’s it worth? In terms of the ‘me’ of it all?” Unsurprisingly, Logan tells him to piss off, and to come back when he’s ready to bring concrete terms for a deal.
Shiv is intent on carrying out her orders. Where else is a better place to start flexing some muscle on the media division than your own beleaguered spouse? Tom is in full pity party mode lamenting his possible prison stint, so much so that he’s flipping through printed out summaries of penitentiaries, much like how a high schooler thumbs through college catalogs. Shiv only momentarily offers reassurances before getting back to the subject of putting pressure on leading ATN news anchor Mark Ravenhead, whom you may remember as the “I’m just interested in that period of history,” total neo-Nazi newsman from season two. Concerned that it will appear as though she’s undermining him (which she is), Tom gives some pushback, which Shiv steamrolls over.
A spouse rolling over is one thing, but what about someone who doesn’t share the same bed as you? Connor, he of the oh-so-brief grasp on reality, is feeling the pull of The White House once more. With four years to catch the next election cycle, he’s humble enough to make do with a high-ranking major executive role at Waystar. Thinking very clearly on how an additional dollop of nepotism would look on top of their legal and shareholder woe sundae, Shiv tries to offer him air time in their media division, but Connor has a temper tantrum. “I just don’t think I want to deal with you, Shiv.” Therein lies the problem: no one wants to deal with Shiv. A lot of it has to do with misogyny, but there’s also the fact that Shiv has never worked in the company before. She has no authority of her own, which is why she has to keep invoking Logan’s name. It irritates Frank and Karl enough that Logan calls her up to put the brakes on her efforts. Knowing that she’s on the shakiest of ground, Shiv grows more desperate and barges into a news meeting. As awful as seeing Hugo and Roman heartlessly prod Mr. Albescu’s forehead was, the cringiest moment of the episode is watching the meeting come to a screeching halt upon her arrival. But in for a penny, in for a pound. Shiv moves onward, cornering Ravenhead and eventually strong-arming him into doing what she wants thanks solely to her “my father” card.
Kendall and Logan are en route to Aaronson’s estate. For a duo who needs to show that they’re aligned with one another, it doesn’t bode well that they feel compelled to take separate helicopters and private planes to the same location. At least Logan has the presence of mind to try to arrive in the same car together, but Kendall’s pettiness, as well as his continued belief that people like Josh Aaronson like him more than they actually do, makes him continue onward to arrive at Aaronson’s house on his own. Once there, it’s not long before Kendall jumps straight into polished corporate-speak, trying to woo him to his faction, or at least against Stewy and Sandy. Josh isn’t a Roy, but he’s still wealthy beyond imagination, not to mention the power of holding a 4% share, which affords him the ability to jerk around—note that he confesses to Kendall that he exaggerated his daughter’s illness because he simply “didn’t wanna come into the city”—people who would never take it otherwise (Brody is pitch-perfect here). Once Logan arrives, the false pretense begins. He and Kendall try to pretend that there’s something resembling a loving father-son relationship, complete with the World’s Most Stilted Hug. At Josh’s insistence (his crunchy granola sadism coming through) they go on a long walk, something the eighty-three-year-old Logan Roy reluctantly agrees to rather than run the risk of appearing weak.
Tom arrives at Greg’s makeshift office prepared to put the “thumbscrews” to him, but there’s no need: After thinking it over, Greg’s decided what he wants, which is to be back in the Parks Division working as Operations Director. Tom the “shame sponge” is in near hysterics; lowly Greg the Egg is moving up in the world while he’s staring down the barrel of a jail sentence. His world is about to crumble, his wife can barely muster an ounce of concern, and now it looks like Greg may be the one left standing. He tries to fight Greg, using him as a proxy to vent all the frustration he’s feeling about his life at the moment, but, in a rare showing, Greg stands up for himself. When Tom tries yet again to take solace in Shiv, she brings his ramblings on toilet wine to a halt in order to take the call from her dad.
Now sitting down to lunch, Logan is ready to get down to brass tacks. Josh has no real love for any of the factions in the Waystar war; his sole concern is on his money continuing to flourish in the firm. Logan tries to assure him the legal troubles will come to a swift end with nothing more than “slapped wrists and a payout.” Knowing how shaky the Roys are, Josh doesn’t buy it, nor their assurances that they can work together in relative harmony for the good of the company. Logan brings out the big guns: “He’s a good kid, and I love him.” Kendall is visibly affected by this. He knows it’s nothing but lies, but it’s hard to forget a lifelong fantasy. “Maybe it will all be his one day,” Logan continues, reigniting Kendall’s resentment. Once the hike back to the house is underway, and Kendall gives a dig at Logan’s age, the two men snipe each other along the way. Logan gloats about pulling Greg out from under Kendall, Kendall taunts him about his ailing health. Logan’s breathing gets more and more labored until, at last, he collapses. Kendall is naturally concerned, but as the two men half-carry Logan to a nearby rock to rest, Kendall tries to bring it back to business. It’s all too much; between Logan’s seeming weakness (physically as well as business-wise) and Kendall’s callousness, Josh is out. As Kendall sits on the tarmac, digesting this news, he has a perfect view of Josh enthusiastically welcoming Stewy, who has just landed. It would seem that Josh’s decision was made much earlier than he let on, perhaps over their sea-side lunch, as he stepped away to take a seemingly innocuous phone call.
This episode has set up a number of live wires as characters grow increasingly desperate to get what they want. Out of all of them, I think Connor is one to watch out for. Of the Roy siblings, he’s been the most neglected (especially painful considering his status as the eldest) and the years of resentment have been bottled up within him. While it may seem like a stretch that Connor could drop a bomb on Logan by going public with his terrible business practices, we are talking about a man who publicly declared his presidential candidacy by releasing a YouTube video of himself declaring he would no longer pay taxes against the advice of literally everyone. Tom grows increasingly fragile by the day, and the Roys may want to deploy the Wambsgans parachute while the option still presents itself. Before this week, I would have said that the Roy most likely to self-destruct would be Kendall, but as Shiv grows more frantic, the possibility of her falling apart when Logan inevitably disappoints her seems increasingly higher. As long as none of it gets in his way, Logan won’t mind any additional damage done to his kids, but with the upcoming shareholder meeting looking grimmer by the second, he would do well to get his proverbial house in order.
A Moment of Zen With Cousin Greg:
“I don’t know how you did it back in the ’60s. Different times. Different times, indeed. Better times? Not—not for all.”
The Biggest Lie:
“I like you too, pal.” -Josh
The Biggest Truth:
“Tom Wambsgans, minion wrangler and shit-eater.” -Tom
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t feeling justified in her unwillingness to hike (yes, send the cart for me, I have no fear of appearing weak), she can be found on Twitter here.