The Roys and their slimy subordinates are back, and rest assured they’re still the same bunch of power-hungry, incandescent messes we love to hate and hate to love. Every week, The Ringer will break down the biggest developments, track who’s leading the literal line of succession, and catalog each episode’s most savage burns, Cousin Greg–isms, and more. Let’s continue with the seventh episode of Season 2, “Return.”
Succession’s Line of Succession
There’s a new contender for the Waystar throne: erstwhile PMG CEO Rhea Jarrell. After being fired by Nan Pierce at Argestes, Rhea appears on Logan’s plane as he and his younger sons are being shuttled to London. She was already on her way there to take in some theater, she tells them, and Logan offered her a ride in return for the chance to pick her brain. Unconvinced, Kendall and Roman believe they may be hooking up (more on that later).
Jarrell’s timing is impeccable. Just two episodes ago, she was juicing Logan out of an extra billion dollars at Tern Haven, and just last Sunday, she was kicked to the curb after failing to close the acquisition for Pierce. Logan actually values her input, as opposed to how he views his children’s. He asks her for an honest assessment of each of his children and their potential should they take his chair.
“Shiv thinks she’s smarter than she is,” she tells him. “Roman could actually be good, but not right now. Kendall is … I don’t know. It’s like you put him in a big diaper and now he can shit himself whenever he likes. He has all the shots, but he doesn’t know when to play them.”
It’s brutal, but it’s accurate. The duo form a bond, in more ways than one. They need each other; Rhea, to get back on her feet, and Logan, to find someone with genuine acumen who can help his sort out his company’s—and his family’s—future. It’s this symbiosis that leads Rhea to offer help getting Shiv out of the picture. Rhea, while not at all tiptoeing around the fact that she and Logan may have a sexual relationship, implores Shiv to throw her name in the ring for Rhea’s old job as the head of PMG. She suggests this under the guise of helping Shiv, a fellow woman in a tough industry, when, unbeknownst to her, Rhea is acting on Logan’s orders to remove Shiv from the field. Shiv flies to London to track her father down for a response on a corporate memo she’d made. He’s read it—and made sure the rest of the plane did as well. When she confronts Logan about his runaround tactics, he goes off on her, saying her expressing interest in the Pierce job is “fucking him about.” That’s one potential successor, at least temporarily, out of the running.
Tom is being investigated for his role in the cruise ship scandal cover-up, so he’s not looking great for the time, either. But Roman has a better shot at the job than he ever possibly has. Yes, Logan struck him and knocked out a tooth at the retreat, and sure, he never apologized to Roman for it. But things are on the up and up. Roman’s completed his management training, won at least some respect from outsiders like Rhea, and formed a mutually beneficial alliance with Gerri, who is, at least on paper, next in line. In a reception at Logan’s home at the top of the episode, Gerri tells Roman that if he’s serious about their potential tag team for chairperson and CEO, he needs to either tell her all the terrible things he’s done, or be ready for her to run opposition research on him. Later, when Roman tells his father he’s secured his mother’s vote, he gets a “good kid” and a pat on the shoulders. Stonks.
And though Kendall is still a good soldier, acting as his father’s hatchet man, his place in the pecking order is less assured than ever. He lashed out at Logan for hitting Roman at Argestes, and remains as much of a mess as ever. Nothing Kendall did in “Return” raised his chances of taking his father’s job, but the actions of others might have pushed him further from it than ever.
This leaves Rhea as the episode’s fastest riser. In an hour, she went from not even on the board to first in line. Logan placed her in charge of creating a short list from which his successor will be chosen. Like Mikhail Prokhorov attempting to auction off a mining conglomerate, Rhea has the ability to make or break the search. She’s already sleeping with Logan—a coupling Roman describes as “a rhino fucking a hummingbird”—and his trust in her to dispatch Shiv implies that Rhea might have the upper hand on his children. There’s a new challenger, and based on what we know about the Roy offspring, she might play the game better than any of them.
Theme of the Week: Kendall’s Unmooring
A strange thing happened on Sunday’s episode. Not strange in the “Logan urinates on an office floor” or “Roman ejaculates on an office window” way (though while we’re here, wow there’s a lot of genitalia-related bodily fluid on this show), but in a “I didn’t know that was still possible” way. The chapter opens with Kendall laughing in the bathroom at his telephone, on which his girlfriend(?) and once business adversary Naomi Pierce demands he send a dick pic. Kendall initially declines, but her continuous pleas and their admittedly adorable banter wears him down, and he consents to sending a snapshot of his junk—all with a smile. Later, after Naomi flies in from Venice to visit him in London for a tryst, he seems positively taken by her; a sort of boyish (classic Ken) wonder that comes only when experiencing new love.
It’s unnerving to see Kendall happy. The once-presumptive heir to the Waystar fortune has spent almost all his time on screen in some level of stress. Even his earliest appearances that might appear to come from a place of joy, like when he was singing along to the Beastie Boys in the series premiere, were tinted with anxiety. His interactions with his estranged wife, Rava, and his children are uncomfortable. His siblings ostensibly love him, but their conversations play more like Shakespearean dunk contests than they do warm relationships. His father seemingly oscillates between enjoying his value as a pawn and flexing to show how little Kendall means to him, the latter occurring far more often than the former.
The fallout from Kendall’s Chappaquiddick—which would likely see Kendall charged with manslaughter if it ever came out—has slowly worn on him. When Logan demands his children join him in England to win over shareholders, Kendall is hesitant, nervous about returning to the scene of his greatest misfortune. Still, he makes the best of it, seeing Naomi, who wants him to take her to the zoo. But after Kendall expresses earnest concern for his father, who he (rightfully) believes is having an affair with Rhea, Logan lashes out at him, ordering Kendall to come with him to visit the family of the dead waiter.
The direction stuns Kendall, but again, he follows. Upon arrival, Logan again moves his goalposts, telling Kendall he’s to follow him inside, forcing him to be face-to-face with the people who loved the deceased the most. It is, understandably, enough to shake Kendall. He stands silently outside the room where the boy’s parents and Logan discuss his death, staring at pictures and mementos. He sits in the kitchen, a deer in headlights, as the boy’s uncle asks if he’d like some tea. Gone is his happiness, replaced by fear and regret and loathing.
It breaks him. He returns in the dead of night to slip what appears to be thousands of dollars into the family’s mail chute. He can’t ever tell them what he’s done, but his desire to pay penance is crushing, and so he does the only thing he’s emotionally intelligent enough to do: attempt to let money wash the pain away. When he tries to confess his sins to his mother, she balks, stopping him before he can unload his hurt by telling him it’s late, and she has to go to bed. She’s not awake enough to deal with “quite difficult things.” She suggests having the conversation in the morning over eggs, only to vanish when the time comes. It keeps Kendall from sharing his crimes, but leaves him once again with no one to console him but himself.
Most Callous Display of Wealth
After failing to entrap PGM in his web, Logan is facing an uphill battle in his proxy fight with Stewy and Sandy Furness. Not only did he miss out on a major acquisition, but two major stockholders, including his ex-wife, are threatening to side with the usurpers. And so Logan sends Roman (and eventually Shiv) to speak to their mother and convince her to side with him.
They can’t bribe her, of course, but they can reopen the couple’s divorce settlement. Offer her $10 million, Logan decides. He’s willing to go as high as 50. When Roman tells Caroline that Logan’s max offer is $40 million, she laughs and correctly assesses the true maximum value. Still, it’s not enough. She wants to hurt Logan, and so she offers the children an option to bring back to their father: Either she gets Logan’s summer palace in the Hamptons, which Roman suggests is worth around $150 million, or $20 million and an agreement that her children spend Christmas with her in perpetuity. She hates the Hamptons. But she, like Logan, loves the feeling of control. Caroline suggests bringing both options to Logan, but that’s a farce. Everyone in the room knows Logan would prefer throwing his children under the bus rather than giving up something he truly cares about.
They don’t even offer him the choice. When Logan asks Roman what they agreed to, he tells him “20 and Christmas.” Logan is overjoyed, and gives Roman a rare display of approval. It may not be a gold-plated watch or a diamond chandelier, but there aren’t many displays of wealth more callous than negotiating a settlement worth billions in future earnings with your children as bargaining chips.
The Most Brutal Insults of the Week
5. When your sister is out of the loop in family affairs.
“Are your nips hard? Because you are so out in the cold.” — Roman Roy
4. On your desire to have a boring pilot.
“Good. I like a boring bastard flying me. Serge always looks as if his dick’s still wet and he’s going to give me the name of a good fucking pinot.” — Logan Roy
3. What to say when your cousin-in-law has copies of your criminal cover-up.
“It’s not personal, I just can’t trust you. So in a friendly way, I’m staying here tonight, and I’m going to travel in with you tomorrow and I’m going to go to wherever you have the papers, and then later, together, we’re going to dispose of them off-premises. And if you squeal or if you try to take copies, I’ll break your legs.” — Tom Wambsgans
2. When you discover the not-so-well-hidden papers that could lead to your downfall.
“They’re not, in fact, receipts! Greg, you’re a criminal mastermind. What polyglot genius could ever hope to crack your impenetrable code?” — Tom Wambsgans
1. On the reputation of your family’s company.
“Do you know nothing of the company you’re supposed to be taking over? Waystar? Waystar Royco? We do hate speech and roller coasters.” — Roman Roy
The Cousin Greg Corner
In his time working for Waystar Royco, Greg has been many things: a theme park mascot, an assistant, a parks employee, an executive, a conspirator to commit fraud, and now, a snitch. Greg is spooked when Tom confronts him for the copies he made while destroying sensitive documents. It turns out he’s hidden them at work, because, you know, they’re work-related, and kept them in a folder labeled “secret.” Tom was quick to berate Greg for his lack of clandestine skills, but I’m here to defend our gangly Machiavelli; his secret folder was never found! Not even by the janitors. And so, after giving them to Tom under threat of broken limbs, Greg slips out to the bathroom to practice his mole skills. Get my man a gig with the CIA.
“Hello, hey, hi, hi, I’m involved in a criminal conspiracy,” he says to himself. “Oh, really? Yes. Yes, I am. I destroyed some papers that I shouldn’t have. Oh, did you? Yes, I did. Is that bad? Uh yeah, that’s bad. Yeah, that could be bad. You could go to jail. Would you like that? Would you like that, pretty boy like you? Would you like it? You might even like that. Male rape. Rape of the male.”
Tom successfully sets fire to the documents, but not before Greg gets Tom to confirm their activities on tape, and secretly shoves a handful of would-be-burned papers down his pants. Rocky roads lie ahead for this dynamic duo. It might be fun to see their banter behind bars.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.