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‘Succession’ Episode 5 Recap: Puppet Master Out

By Kaleena Rivera | TV | November 15, 2021 |

By Kaleena Rivera | TV | November 15, 2021 |

Succession_Gerri_J Smith-Cameron.png

(spoilers for episode 5, season 3 ahead)

Over the course of season three, the action has been fairly muted as everyone has tried to quietly cope with the fallout from last season. But episode five brings a whole new level of chaos into the proceedings, with imaginary dead cats and the fate of private jets being just a few of the unexpected issues to arise in this calamitous day.

The episode begins and ends with viewers witnessing the exhausting ballet performed anytime Very Important People gather. It’s the day of the long-awaited annual shareholder meeting, an event that loomed large since last season. The fate of the firm rests on this meeting, and there can be no distractions, even if, like in Kendall’s case, your daughter is going to inadvertently kill her pet rabbit against the wise counsel of the babysitter. Kendall may be at war with his family, but on this day, they share the same goal: to maintain power over Waystar. From where the Roys are sitting, the closer the decision comes down to a vote, the bigger the odds are that they’ll lose it all. In a rare show of unity, nearly everyone is hoping to make a deal with Sandy and Stewy instead. What the terms of that deal should be, however, is up for debate, and should those terms not be to Logan’s satisfaction, he’s more than willing to play chicken as his children can only scream from the sidelines.

The Sandy/Sandi/Stewy contingent (daughter Sandi must now speak entirely for herself and her father, as Sandy’s deteriorating health has left him practically nonverbal) is willing to make a deal, but their price is too steep. When they invite the Roys back to the table—a move motivated by Kendall, which backfires like everything else—a potentially viable deal is proposed. There’s just one small catch: after Logan, no Roy could ever hope to become CEO. Gerri and Karl are amiable to this prospect. It’s only a title after all, isn’t it? But Roman, Shiv, and almost surely Kendall, were he in the room, have no intentions of letting their dream go, even though its unlikelihood has been proven time and time again.

Shared craving for power aside, each of the Roy children has their own personal agendas to attend to on this day. Connor is still hellbent on obtaining a high-ranking position at Waystar. Like last week, he’s not shy about voicing his willingness to release all of the Waystar skeletons from the closet should he be denied. Unsurprisingly, he’s far less assertive when the time comes for him to relay his request to Logan himself (re: he’s not able to threaten his father to his face). Shiv, meanwhile, is desperately performing for her father’s attention, pretending to single-handedly negotiate deals. Roman’s also playing up to Logan, though it seems as though he’s remaining close to his father as a means of security in addition to power. Surrounding them are the long-time employees who are willing to have their extensive experience undermined by their boss’s offspring for the sake of a paycheck.

But no one’s agenda is as single-minded as Kendall’s, who spends the majority of the episode delighting in what he believes to be his superior powers of manipulation (“Puppet Master, out!”). In between acting as a go-between with Stewy and his family, he also kills time by batting Greg around, whom he’s summoned to his suite. Greg is apologetic for throwing in with Waystar, but Kendall is weirdly cool about the whole thing. It’s not long before we find out why: he’s going to give Greg to the feds. Though Kendall needs Logan to win in the short term by maintaining his hold on Waystar, it will also have the side effect of stabilizing his position against the DOJ. Kendall is intent on seeing Logan in ruins, and if it takes the body of Greg, or Tom, or any of the other living rungs that reach up toward the top, so be it. But Kendall enjoys pretending to be magnanimous, so he gives Greg an alternative, which is to drop out of the joint defense in exchange for not getting torn to pieces. “I like you, Greg, I really do,” Kendall says, followed by a finger gun motion, which is very reassuring to a would-be victim of extortion. If things weren’t bad enough for The Egg, he’s also been informed by Ewan, who, as I predicted, is infuriated by Greg’s change of allegiance, has now sworn to donate his entire inheritance to Greenpeace. “Even my part?” a baffled Greg whines. Once upon a time, Logan predicted that Ewan wouldn’t have the stomach to cut off his only grandchild, but both he and Greg have overlooked the fact that Ewan’s disdain for Logan far exceeds any lingering affection for his progeny.

With a deal almost in hand, Team Logan is in high spirits. All except for Logan himself, that is. He’s grown increasingly bitter over the whole affair, which would not be in any way unusual for him, except he’s also rambling quite a bit. He also seems to be a wee bit disoriented, a fact no one wants to address until it’s far too late. They’re too busy fretting over the possibility of the deal falling through, with Shiv outright panicking over the idea of Logan turning it down. Her worst fear is realized when a cornered Logan lashes out by snarling “F—k ‘em.” Everyone except Roman, who appears to maintain nothing but unwavering loyalty to his father, are uneasy and hesitant, but they relay his response to the Triple S crew. But they soon come to the realization that Logan is, indeed, very unwell. Logan’s assistant, Kerry (one of the few people he seems to trust without reservation) reveals he’s suffering from a UTI and figures out he’s gone most of the day without his medication. While Shiv and company may have some concern over Logan’s well-being, their biggest worry at the moment is trying to determine when his cognition began to waver and did it happen before or after he decided to sink the deal? With the clamor comes the most hilariously shameless moment of the episode, in which Connor tries to take advantage of his father’s ill health to claim his stake:

Connor: “He was in really good shape when he offered me European cable.”
Shiv, wide-eyed: “When did he say that? Because he was definitely out of it when he said that.”

Logan has gone from bad to worse (“Um, he’s concerned there is a dead cat under his chair.”), and just when things seem like they can’t get more disastrous, Kendall appears and does his best Logan Roy impression (but instead of intimidation, it only serves to be embarrassing). Shiv makes an executive decision: while Logan is convalescing, they are going to try to salvage the Triple S deal. Roman objects at first, but soon everyone is in agreement. She races down to meet Sandi, who’s glad to open discussion back up, but wants to run it by her father. Shiv tries to be smooth, a tactic that doesn’t work nearly as often as she thinks it does, but she has one major advantage, which is that Sandi is almost a perfect reflection of Shiv. She taps into what she knows from experience, namely that being the ambitious daughter of a powerful man is often a thankless job. Shiv renegotiates the deal, which designates a fourth seat on the board to Sandi and a fifth to Shiv herself. It’s the biggest power move she’s made throughout the entire series, though it’s hard to imagine her not receiving any repercussions for her brazenness.

It’s exactly the sort of move that Kendall would have made had he been in her shoes. Now that he’s on the outside, his importance to the federal investigation running cold, Kendall’s uselessness is keenly felt by him. He has to insert himself back into the conversation somehow, which is why during Karl’s speech, Kendall crashes the stage against the advice and cajoling of his PR rep, Berry (“Your very absence has a certain power”). But when it’s logic versus Ken’s ego, good sense will lose every time. “Step aside, please,” Kendall says, as he brushes past a horrified Karl to the podium. While it’s probably the most exciting thing to happen to the audience that day (after sitting through Frank and Gerri’s lengthy improv), it’s also gut-wrenchingly awkward to watch. With nothing prepared in advance, Kendall proceeds to have a moment of silence for all the people hurt by the cruise line. When that doesn’t move the audience—which consists of people deeply invested in the company you’re putting on blast, Kendall, you walnut—he begins stating the names of each victim in a move that is straight out of a bad Sorkin film. It doesn’t get the play he wants because on top of it being the wrong crowd, it also comes across as clownishly insincere. Afterward, his PR team tries to spin it for his pleasure. When he asks for feedback, the assistant responds, “Someone called it, ‘The Sermon on the Marriott,” a brilliantly scathing observation that flies right over Kendall’s head.

While some seek power, others turn away from it. And so it goes that the President of the United States, The Raisin himself, has had enough; this term will be his last. Once again, Logan has overplayed his hand. Waystar’s most powerful ally is walking away from the table. Shiv and everyone may be happy about the deal, but a much-improved Logan knows better. They got the worst end of it, and without a staunch ally in the White House, wrestling Waystar back under his control while also navigating a lengthy investigation isn’t going to get any easier. Logan plays his favorite game of Pit Your Children Against One Another, with Shiv being on the losing end, and Roman receiving the prize of a literal pat on the back. However, Logan reserves the worst of his pettiness for Kendall, whom he invites to a meeting only to leave Kendall sitting nervously in a hotel room all by himself. Once he realizes the move for what it is, he calls Logan, who instructs Kerry to block his number, a move which feels unusually final, letting us know that Kendall now no longer even has the benefit of being acknowledged.

For an episode filled to the brim with the drama that Succession has become known for, my favorite development is the increased focus on the assistants that help keep this circus running. Colin bagging an imaginary dead cat and flitting out of Logan’s sight with it is a great bit of physical comedy delivered by actor Scott Nicholson. Though the biggest laugh of the night for me was seeing Kendall’s assistant, Lisa, whose usual control over her facial expressions fails magnificently upon getting word that the kids’ rabbit is now gravely ill. Actor Juliana Canfield has been operating along the background of each episode with a restrained incredulity that’s consistently funny to watch, but watching her close her eyes and slowly bring her fingertips to her forehead hilariously underscored just how exhausting it is to work for a boss like Kendall Roy. The money may be too good to walk away from, but you can see that working for an insecure poseur is beginning to take its toll on her. I look forward to seeing this play out over the remaining episodes.

We’re more than halfway through the season and with the threat of the shareholder meeting behind them, they can now turn their attention to the investigation. The Roys will want to see that come to a resolution as soon as possible, now that the likelihood of a tougher DOJ being brought in by a new White House administration looms large over the horizon. Greg may want to take a look at Tom’s makeshift prison catalog to get an idea of what his future may hold. Just so long as he doesn’t begin to track his partner’s ovulation cycle without their knowledge because yikes. Tom’s desire to fast track children is certainly born of an increased desire to nestle himself further into the Roy clan—hence his small joy at being referred to as “son” by Logan during the bathroom scene, prompting a cautiously optimistic “Anytime…Pop…Papa,” from Tom—and a selfish need to tie Shiv to him during his incarceration, but the fact that it evokes any sympathy whatsoever is a testament to Matthew Macfadyen’s sensational work this season. But if Tom’s gained a parental figure, Kendall’s essentially lost one, even if said figure is a piss-poor parent constantly at war with him. If the Puppet Master thought he was on the outs before, he’s now truly out in the cold. With no more shareholders to please or deals to make, Logan no longer has any need for Kendall whatsoever. Kendall may try to act like his father cutting off all contact has no effect, but it’s a safe bet that any further advancement in the DOJ’s case will come courtesy of Kendall’s channeled rage at this latest insult.

A Moment of Zen With Cousin Greg:
“He’s so annoying.”

The Biggest Lie:
“Yeah well, without family control, I can’t change things, and that’s actually what I’m all about: change.” -Kendall

The Biggest Truth:
“Roman’s a knucklehead. Shiv’s a fake. Kenny’s screwy.” -Connor

Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t Googling why bread is bad for rabbits (answer: it’s the starch), she can be found on Twitter here.

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