Television’s most miserable wealthy family is back to fight over control of Waystar Royco, and The Ringer will be following their scheming every step of the way. Each week, we’ll break down the biggest developments, track who’s leading the literal line of succession, and catalog each episode’s most savage burns, best Cousin Greg–isms, and more. Let’s continue with the sixth episode, “What It Takes.”
Succession’s Line of Succession, Week 6
Just one week after the Roys almost lost their own company because Logan was driven mad by a UTI infection, “What It Takes” finds the family casually in the business of picking the next Republican presidential candidate. Very few shows could pull off the tonal whiplash of characters going from nearly imploding their entire future to molding the American republic within the span of two episodes, but Succession is a unique and dread-inducing beast. The scariest thing about Logan hand-picking the next potential president from a hotel room suite is how believable it feels.
We’ll get into the waning health of American democracy shortly—a collection of words I never thought I’d have to type out in a TV recap—but for now, let’s break down what this fateful episode means for the Roy children. Roman, Shiv, and Connor are all attending the Future Freedom Summit—it’s only fitting the conference’s acronym, FFS, also means “for fuck’s sake”—with their own agendas. While Connor continues to campaign for himself as the next POTUS with a surprising amount of support from attending Conheads, Roman and Shiv have set their sights on two Republican candidates from opposite ends of the GOP spectrum.
Shiv is pulling for Rick Salgado (played by Yul Vazquez), a conservative with more traditional values; he seems to be a Republican who skews more to the center and clears the low bar of being appalled by the January 6 insurrection instead of implicitly endorsing it. It makes sense that Shiv, who’d previously worked for Succession’s Bernie Sanders equivalent, would support a conservative who might actually reach across the aisle and who talks about fighting for the working class without a hint of evil irony. But more importantly, Salgado is also offering to help Shiv become Waystar’s next CEO—even if it means tossing Logan in prison to do it.
Roman, meanwhile, has hitched his wagon to Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk), a firebrand alt-right figure who comes across like the hate-filled love child of Josh Hawley and Jordan Peterson. Unsurprisingly, Roman isn’t concerned about the threat that an avowed fascist who has talked about burning Korans and says things like “people trust people who look like them, that’s just a scientific fact” would pose to American democracy if he were in the White House; for better or worse (definitely worse), Roman understands that Mencken is the future of the Republican party and ATN’s increasingly aged viewership. Roman’s pitch to Logan is skewed toward how Mencken’s incendiary brand of politics would likely provide a ratings boon and bring in a younger audience to ATN. Roman is keeping politics and business intertwined and therefore is speaking Logan’s language.
Among Shiv’s many problems this week is how she fatally misunderstands what her father wants out of a GOP candidate and how easily she shows her hand. While deliberating in Logan’s hotel room, Shiv repeatedly campaigns for Salgado, making it quite transparent that there might be something in that for her. Even if Logan doesn’t know the specifics of Shiv’s ulterior motives, it’s clear that her desire for Salgado to receive Logan’s blessing is motivated by self-interest. Then, when the scales are tipping in Mencken’s favor, Shiv tries appealing to Logan’s morals and how dangerous a Mencken presidency would be—but she should know better than anyone that her father only cares about Waystar’s bottom line. Salgado’s candidacy never stood a chance; even Connor had more momentum, and he’s Connor.
Given how badly Shiv fumbled the bag with Salgado, it’s worth asking: Is she actually the most incompetent Roy child? As a former political consultant, a GOP summit should’ve been like home court advantage, but she once again finds herself on the losing end of a familial tussle to Roman, who further ingratiates himself to Logan through the course of the weekend. (Rhea Jarrell’s estimation last season that Shiv “thinks she’s smarter than she is” is more than holding true.) To add insult to injury, Logan demands that Shiv appear in a photo with Mencken as a tacit endorsement of his candidacy. She initially resists, before Logan gives her an ultimatum: “Siobhan, are you part of this family or not?” Rather than stand by her moral convictions, Shiv says that she’ll be in the photo, but won’t stand next to Mencken.
It’s a pathetic display of “resistance” that lays bare all of Shiv’s problems over the past two seasons. At least when Kendall was being psychologically tormented by Logan in Season 2, it was because there was an involuntary manslaughter charge being held over his head as blackmail. Between all of these indignities, all Shiv can hope for is the promise of being Waystar’s next CEO, and it’s been obvious for a while that she’s never going to attain it. She’s in a hell of her own making, right down to smiling for the cameras near the man whose malicious ideology she vehemently opposes.
Takeaway of the Week: Presidential Pick ’Em
“This is just a nice political conference with like-minded donors and intellectuals,” Roman explains to Greg at the start of the episode, before Tom helpfully adds, “A.k.a., picking the next president.” Greg naively assumes that presidents are picked on Election Day, but in Succession’s universe—one with many uncomfortable parallels to our own—these kinds of decisions are made over drinks in lobbies and hotel room suites. Logan essentially had the power to remove the “Raisin” president from seeking a second term by having ATN run unfavorable coverage against him, and he just as easily has enough sway to pick the next person who sits in the Oval Office.
Perhaps the only thing more horrifying than the future of the American republic falling into the hands of one person is the priorities of that one person. For starters, Logan wants the next presidential candidate to give him assurances that the Department of Justice will back down from investigating the company’s cruise division. He also expects that the government will keep the growing tech industry—the biggest threat to Waystar’s continued dominance as a media conglomerate—in check. These are some big requests, but to underline the type of power that Logan wields—and how much GOP candidates must yield to him—the current vice president Dave Boyer (Reed Birney) anxiously waits in a hotel hallway to get a quick word. (As Logan flirtily jokes to his assistant within earshot, he suspects that the second-most-powerful person in the country stood around for 10 minutes looking like a chump.) Worse yet, Logan calls up Boyer in the middle of the night and demands that he fetches him a Coke—a “kiss the ring” moment that’s even more jarring when you consider that Logan was freaking out about a fake dead cat just one episode ago.
As if Succession’s presidential predicament wasn’t depressing enough already, Logan ends up endorsing the most odious GOP candidate—someone who makes Connor seem like the second coming of Abraham Lincoln. And to win Logan’s approval, Mencken doesn’t even have to talk to Logan about his policies—not that he has any—or what favors he can pull for him in the White House. All Mencken needs to do is hand-deliver him a Coke as an implicit statement of ass-kissing servitude:
To paraphrase Padmé Amidala in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith: So this is how liberty dies … with the thunderous cracking of a soda can. Help us, Succession’s Democratic Party, you’re our only hope.
The Most Callous Display of Wealth
With every passing episode of Succession’s third season, Tom has become more obsessed with the possibility of facing jail time. (Tom didn’t do himself any favors by offering himself as a sacrificial lamb to Logan, a possibly ill-fated decision that none other than Shiv signed off on.) Between reading prison blogs and talking with his “prison consultant,” Tom believes he’s becoming more prepared for a life behind bars, and the latest step of this adjustment is to eat … diner food?
“You know that Rasputin would take a dose of arsenic with breakfast each morning to build up his tolerance,” Tom explains to Kendall during his second diner meal of the episode. This is ridiculous on multiple levels: For one, how dare Tom insult diner food—diner food rocks! If you don’t enjoy a plate of fried eggs, hash browns, and waffles (or pancakes) doused in syrup, can you even call yourself an American? Secondly, Tom should probably be more concerned about things other than prison cuisine—like, you know, not going to prison in the first place. And if he does get sentenced, I reckon he’ll have a lot more to worry about than whether he likes what’s being served for lunch.
But eating diner food and comparing his behavior to Rasputin’s isn’t the only self-own from Tom this week. He and Shiv have also invested in a vineyard, which sends them some bottles to sample in their hotel room. “Oh, screw top,” Tom says with palpable trepidation before sampling a vintage that looks like a fizzy glass of iced tea.
“It’s floral. It’s not sugary or vegetal. It’s quite agricultural,” he says. “It’s, uh … it’s not very nice, is it, the wine, Shiv?” Not only can money not buy any of the characters on Succession happiness, but it appears that it can’t get them a good bottle of wine, either. Karma, like arsenic, can be hard to stomach.
The Most Brutal Insults of the Week
5. After Shiv opposes Mencken’s presidential nomination for being a threat to American democracy: “You have a trophy husband and several fur coats, I think you’re gonna be fine.” —Roman
4. When Shiv is fishing for recognition for saving Waystar during the shareholder meeting: “Kerry, get Shiv a fucking medal.” —Logan
3. A blunt (and unfair) assessment of Lisa Arthur’s legal counsel: “Look, I really value all the work you do, honestly, but let’s try harder. Yeah? Let’s try harder. Thank you.” —Kendall
2. After rebuffing Shiv’s sexual advances: “There’s not really any point. … You’re still on contraception and it’s just like throwing so much cake batter at a brick wall.” —Tom
1. A tragicomic recap of Kendall’s journey through two and a half seasons of the show: “I don’t mean to be insulting but, having been around a bit, my hunch is that you’re going to get fucked. Because I’ve seen you get fucked a lot, and I’ve never seen Logan get fucked once.” —Tom
The Cousin Greg Corner
While it’s unclear how much time has passed between the shareholder meeting and the Future Freedom Summit, it’s been an anxious period for Cousin Greg. That’s because Kendall still hasn’t decided whether he’s going to burn him in the DoJ investigation—here’s a sad sample of their one-sided texts:
With his own fate out of his hands, Greg hatches another half-assed plan. While grabbing their late-night diner meal, Greg asks Tom if he’s willing to tack on some corporate wrongdoing to his metaphorical plate since he’s already resigned himself to spending time in jail. (Personally, I was hoping Greg was going to ask Tom if they could room together in prison; that’s the kind of Succession spinoff I’d watch in a heartbeat.) Incredibly, despite getting nothing out of the deal, Tom says he’d be willing to do Greg a solid and take the fall for him. Tom certainly has some affection for Greg, which could partially explain why he’d agree to it without a quid pro quo. But while the promise might’ve been sincere in the moment, Tom could have second thoughts after seeing Greg get tossed in the air by a bunch of fascists chanting “GREG!” and “FUCK GREENPEACE!”
For someone who once wanted out at ATN because it was against his “principles,” Greg sure seems like he’s in his element surrounded (and literally hoisted) by alt-right figures. Greg might’ve acted like an audience surrogate at the start of Succession, but over the last two seasons in particular, he’s proven himself to be just as obsequious and power-hungry as the rest of his extended family. At this point, it’s safe to say that Greg the Egg is rotten—and irredeemable. Greenpeace, go get that inheritance.