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Underlined or Crossed Out? Breaking Down Episode 4 of ‘Succession.’

Logan Roy may be no more, but even from beyond the grave, he’s still finding ways to mess with his children

HBO/Ringer illustration

Television’s most miserable wealthy family is back for one final season of scheming, and The Ringer will be following their tragicomic power struggle 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 fourth episode, “Honeymoon States.”

Succession’s Line of Succession, Week 4

Well then! Succession … completed?! Or, as Karolina put it, peering at her phone during Sunday’s episode, “Honeymoon States”: “It’s done. The board voted it through. Ken and Rome step up from COO.” Guess that settles that! [Touches earpiece.] Ah, well, except for maybe a few additional details that are, in fact, germane.

One such detail is that Ken and Rome stepped on top of Shiv to advance their corule, a move that left her stumbling down the stairs. Another is that the primary argument for the Royboys’ ascension was an 8.5-by-11 sheet of paper written and annotated by Logan at indeterminate times and previously shown to no one, including, say, an estate lawyer. Then there’s the whole “underlined or crossed out?” question regarding Logan’s wishes for Kendall to be, or not to be, Waystar’s chief. It might just be the new old woman or young girl illusion of our era. (When Shiv points this out, Kendall snaps back: “It sure as fuckin’ shit doesn’t say Shiv!”) It’s worth noting that all of this jockeying is for a supposedly interim role, assuming the sale to GoJo goes through—which is not a safe assumption at all!

Let’s back up for a moment. (Or as Frank would say, “Would anyone care for … a look at the china?”) When “Honeymoon States” begins, the Waystar board is preparing to have a call to determine who will replace Logan at the top of the company for the time being. (Since the family members don’t have a board majority, the decision isn’t purely up to them.) There are a lot of people milling around the late Logan’s apartment, and a good number of them consider themselves to be the right fit for the role. That includes the triumvirate of Frank, Karl, and Gerri, whose walk-in pantry conversation about the CEO role is a master class in CYA corporate angling.

But when Frank, one of the executors of Logan’s estate, gets his hands on a sheet of paper found in Logan’s safe, all hell breaks loose. For some topics, such as “what music I want at my funeral,” Logan’s non-legally-binding document provides helpful logistical clarity. For others, such as “who should run the company,” it only makes an already muddled situation worse. Did Logan want Kendall to run the company after all, or did he want anything but that? Really, who’s to say?

One thing is obvious: The paper has reinvigorated Kendall’s quixotic quest to come out on top, however nominally. He convinces Stewy (and maybe Smiley—oops, I mean Sandy) to back his case. He agrees, in a whatever-it-takes kind of way, to share the position with Roman. He tells Shiv that three’s a crowd and that her influence will have to remain behind the scenes. (Harsh move, though it was Roman’s involvement in that power play over Shiv that felt more like a betrayal. After all, the two younger sibs had lately seemed simpatico about Kendall’s tendency to turn aggressively alpha. Now, even though the brothers have assured Shiv that her opinion and input will still matter, it could be tricky for her to feel like she has anyone she can trust.) Kendall appears to show mercy to Hugo when he’s informed that Hugo’s daughter may have participated in some macabre insider trading—only to turn the admission into some light blackmail as the episode ends.

Kendall starts leaning way into “It’s what my dad would do” to justify his cutthroat impulses. As he puts it: “Same old, but with a vibey new banner.” Just how long this banner will fly is now a key question.

As Gerri makes clear, the company’s shareholders and board are seeking a quick, clean, golden-parachutes-all-around takeover by GoJo, which is theoretically supposed to take place soon. But an unreachable Lukas Matsson makes the situation unclear, and the Roy family circumstances—and, by extension, the company’s affairs and, by extension, the deal—have probably materially changed. It’s time to fly to Scandinavia to determine exactly how much they have.

Takeaway of the Week: Beating a Dead Horse

Takeaway? You mean like that bag of Kerry’s belongings, and also Kerry herself?

Following up Logan’s deathisode, especially with an installment that is set only a day later, is a difficult act to pull off. But “Honeymoon States” is Succession at its scheming, ruthless, slapstick, trapped-in-a-nine-figure-apartment best. In one hour of television, we learn:

That Shiv is with child; that Colin has a child; that Hugo is fucked; that Logan maybe wasn’t wearing his compression socks on the fateful plane because he wanted to look good for Kerry; that Marcia is back, baby; that Roman has a conscience, but not too much; that what Karl did with cable in the ’90s was huge; that Tom has a thing for silk blouses (and that Tom is also fucked); that Stewy’s dad is 95 years old and just started suing the neighbors; that Willa wants to knock down some walls; that Mencken is on his way to pay his fascist respects; and that Kendall has the best grief guy.

Oh, and we learn that Matsson has a minion named Oskar who laughs like Brandt in The Big Lebowski.

But if there’s a consistent theme to this episode, it’s—well, I’ll let Shiv say it. “I bet you’re worried you picked the wrong horse,” she says to Tom. “You might have picked the dead horse.” These are intentionally provocative words from a woman who is grieving, separated, and pregnant, sure. But she’s also not wrong. There are a number of people featured in “Honeymoon States” who hitched their wagon to Logan or placed their bets on his prowess in a concentrated-stock manner that exposed them to significant risk. And the most notable of those people is Tom.

Tom was—as he made sure to let Greg know—one of the last people to see Logan alive. He was the first to let “the children” know about their dad. And he spends “Honeymoon States” seeking out each one of the remaining Roys, trying to weasel his way back into their good graces despite having sided with their antagonist in matters both publicly traded and personal. This is an effort that yields humiliating responses from the siblings, from Roman’s dismissive wordplay (see no. 5 in the brutal insults section below) to Kendall’s icy, six-word story: “I like you, Tom. Good luck.”

When Tom tries engaging his possibly-soon-to-be-ex-wife, Shiv displays some of her deepest vulnerabilities. She admits to her guilt that Logan might still be alive if not for a series of events that she helped launch and to her sorrow that he won’t be around to hang out with his grandkids. (Tom, who remains unaware of Shiv’s pregnancy, points out that Logan wasn’t ever a friendly pappy kinda guy.) But when Tom tries to connect with her about the turbulent, but nevertheless tender, early days of their relationship in Paris, Shiv shuts down. “A little while ago, wasn’t it?” she says, stonily. “A while back.” (Side note: The show continues to love teasing viewers with cryptic references to Shiv’s “difficult” flop era. Say more!)

Tom isn’t the only one spiraling out of Waystar’s inner core far out into space in the wake of Logan’s death. In The Wire, characters always used to say that someone who had the boss’s ear (or had the boss by the balls) had “suction,” and Succession has now shown that when that sort of tight seal gets compromised, a lot of things suddenly crash to the ground. (Kerry never had to play Boar on the Floor, but I think spilling the contents of her upstairs drawer on the floor in front of an audience was way more demeaning.) Kerry tells Roman that she and Logan had talked about marriage, that he was going to “make the arrangements,” that … that … that … well, none of that really matters now, dear, and the only arrangement to make is which subway to take home. This is worse than a Murdochian email!

Not everyone picked the wrong steed. Gerri, Frank, and Karl may have seemed like Logan lifers, but ultimately, they have always been savvy enough to hedge their bets and use “the shareholders” as a shield. It doesn’t seem as though that has really changed. Willa’s now-husband may be dwindling at sub-1 percent in the presidential horse race, but Logan’s death didn’t really change much for her (other than ensconcing her in a majestic and stuffy Upper East Side manse, it appears—the things we do for probably-not-really-love!). “Congratulations. Look how far you’ve come,” Marcia says to her, trying to belittle Willa, but the newest Mrs. Roy casually and satisfyingly turns it back on the elder. “Look at us both, right?” Willa says. Get rekt! But Marcia ran a strong race, getting out of the game at a time when she was mostly ahead.

At the moment, the new wild horse is Kendall, and if the past is any indication, his performance will wind up somewhere on the spectrum between “moody workhorse” and “untameable stallion.” Already, he has asked his old pal Stewy for a favor without offering much in return, and already, he has asked Hugo to freelance, the assignment being: Fuck my dad. Kendall is rearing up, because that’s how he was reared.

The Most Callous Display of Wealth

The spit-shake $63 million real estate transaction between Marcia and Connor was maybe the most literally callous display of wealth (sorry, sorry, I’m sure they both moisturize), but it was also a telling one.

Far from wallowing, Marcia (who, may I respectfully say, looks stunning; death really does become her!) is wheeling and dealing, eager to turn her inheritance into something more liquid. Kendall may have been the one who advised “Let ... you know, let’s ... grieve and whatever but ... not do anything that restricts our future freedom of movement” immediately following Logan’s death last week, but Marcia is the one who is living those values now. (As for Connor, I think his “mi casa es su casa” policy is about to really be tested by his new interior design–inclined mother-in-law.)

But all that is chump change compared to one of the line items on the list of Logan’s trust and estate considerations: “the tax position of some artwork in storage,” as Gerri puts it. When Shiv asks what that means, Roman knows: “He’s got, like, a shit ton of investment impressionisms,” he says. (His use of the plural there reminded me of Marcia saying “between 60 and 70 millions” to Connor.) There are “three Gauguins no one’s seen for tax reasons,” he adds.

When Shiv snarks that maybe they should just burn them for insurance, Karl nods and calls that route, financially, “the dream.” I’d keep a close watch on that vault in Geneva: As Karl admits to Frank, he is desperate for the funds required to purchase a Greek island with his brother-in-law, after all.

The Most Brutal Insults of the Week

5. Responding to Tom’s attempt to ingratiate himself: “Tommy Wammy, Tightrope Tommy. Riding the little subtle cycle across Niagara Falls. Tiptoe Tommy! Lip Balm Tom Wamb lubing up his lips to kiss my butt.” —Roman

4. Reacting to Greg suggesting that he’d make a good no. 2 to Kendall in the Waystar org chart: “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAH.” —Frank

3. Explaining why Karl is believed to have clogged the toilet on Logan’s death plane: “The man lives on Wonder Bread and steak frites. He hasn’t had a shit for 20 years.” —Tom

2. “Framing the question” (of how the Waystar board would react to the idea of Tom in charge) “as a friend”: “The negative case would go, you’re a clumsy interloper, and no one trusts you. The only guy pulling for you is dead. And now you’re just married to the ex-boss’s daughter, and she doesn’t even like you, and you are fair-and-squarely fucked.” —Karl

1. Quickly and casually knifing Shivvy-honey in response to her argument that she has the experience to interim-run Waystar because she led its strategic review: “That was daddy make-work.” —Kendall (I mean: true. But I gasped!!!)

The Cousin Greg Corner

Greg the Egg has really come a long way since we first met that goofy tallboi as he was barfing through the eyeholes of his theme park mascot costume. Now, he’s the kind of snob who notices Frank and Karl on the stairs and says, “scurrying like little rats,” or sees Kerry in the house, calls her presence “distasteful,” and then remarks: “Oh god, here come the waterworks.”

This is the haughty posture of someone who once grew entitled but is now feeling threatened, and it’s easy to see why Greg would be struggling with both emotions. Greg has already been written out of his grandfather’s will thanks to his relationship with Logan, and for what? In the end, he chose the dead horse. On the one hand, as he is eventually told, his name is on Logan’s piece of paper! On the other hand, he’s merely “an addendum. Of miscellaneous matters. In pencil. With a question mark.”

“This isn’t Chutes and Ladders,” Roman warns as Greg and his gangly, dangling arms try to go in for a sort of overhead, my-condolences hug. It kind of is Chutes and Ladders though, and now we wait to see who is next to take a big slide down, a big hike up, or a big backhand to the entire board.