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 fifth episode, “Retired Janitors of Idaho.”
Succession’s Line of Succession, Week 5
After weeks of anticipation, the Waystar shareholder meeting to determine the future of the company has finally arrived. Without the support of Adrien Brody’s Josh Aaronson, the Roys are likely on the losing end of a potential shareholder vote, and are therefore desperate to broker a deal with Stewy, Sandy, and Sandy’s daughter, who is named … Sandi. (That’s not confusing at all.) Stewy and the Sandies are also hoping to settle, perhaps fearing that Logan will pull something out of his ass to prevail like he always does. The problem is that Sandy refuses to make any concessions to Logan, the man he hates with the fire of a thousand suns. He wants a fourth board seat for his team, veto rights on any Roy kid becoming CEO, and the end of the use of private jets at Waystar. (It’s Sandy’s pettiest request, and yet it might be the one that everyone in the room balks at most.)
In short, everything is on a knife’s edge in “Retired Janitors of Idaho,” and an especially curmudgeonly Logan appears willing to risk the company on a vote if he doesn’t get his way in the negotiations. But as becomes apparent, there’s a razor-thin line between Logan being a cutthroat businessman and an old man losing his grip on reality due to a UTI. Yes, on one of the most important days in Waystar’s history, Logan forgets to take his medicine and becomes increasingly delusional. (A UTI destroying the mental facilities of an elderly man is a real thing; as Connor helpfully notes, Ronald Reagan almost started a war with Belgium while suffering from a urinary tract infection.) At one point, Logan refers to Tom as “son” and calls Shiv “Marcia.” He even asks his security guard, Colin, to remove a dead cat from under his chair. And, well, spoiler alert: There isn’t, in fact, a dead cat under his chair. But no one knows what’s happening to Logan, or what to do, so their only course of action is to have Colin “remove” the “cat.”
With Logan indisposed for most of “Retired Janitors of Idaho,” the company’s future rests in the hands of Shiv, Roman, and Waystar’s corporate underlings. In the end, it’s Shiv who connects on a Hail Mary, arranging a one-on-one meeting with Sandi in which they broker a deal that suits both of their interests right before the shareholders go to a vote. Shiv is willing to hand over a fourth board seat to Sandi, provided that Team Logan gets an additional board seat of its own—one that, oh what a coincidence, could belong to her. And so, with only moments to spare, the vote is called off.
By the time Logan takes his meds and returns to his normal self, everything is already set in motion—the champagne has been popped to celebrate the deal. Shiv soaks in all the praise and can’t contain her excitement over what she perceives as a triumph. But the Roy patriarch isn’t in a celebratory mood: As usual, Shiv didn’t do enough to impress him. He believes she made too many concessions during negotiations, and that there’s “blood in the water” because their side showed weakness. (When Shiv suggests that the extra board seat should go to her, Logan gives her a death glare with enough fire to melt the polar ice caps.) The tension reaches a boiling point when Shiv tries to hand her father a glass of champagne. Logan forcibly knocks the glass with his hand, and then erupts at his daughter.
If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, then Shiv might be as loopy as Logan when he’s off his UTI medication. Time and again, she’s been reeled in with the promise of having a seat at the table before Logan pulls the chair out from under her because she “hasn’t done enough.” She so badly wants to do a good job, to prove that she’s capable—but the only person who can grant that approval is simply not built for that kind of sentiment. It won’t be the least bit surprising if Shiv isn’t offered the literal seat at the table that she fought for in the negotiations. With four episodes of Succession’s third season remaining, we’ll see whether Shiv finally sees the light like Kendall, or whether she once again begins the self-defeating cycle of trying to win Logan’s affections.
Takeaway of the Week: Meat Puppets
Succession is rarely a subtle show, and in the opening moments of “Retired Janitors of Idaho,” the episode revealed its hand with a couple of news chyrons about the “raisin” president’s supposed mental state:
The chyrons conjure an image that wouldn’t feel out of place in medieval times: an unhinged ruler presiding over their kingdom with a bunch of feckless subordinates who are too incapable or afraid to stand in their way. In Succession’s universe—one that has many uncomfortable resemblances to our own—the world is run by a handful of vindictive, increasingly ailing old men engaged in a dick-swinging contest. The Raisin notwithstanding, we have Logan and Sandy Furness, the latter of whom is now, thanks to an undisclosed illness, wheelchair-bound and only capable of grumbling orders to his daughter.
Sandi never hesitates to follow her father’s orders, making her an appropriate parallel this season to every Roy child not named Kendall. But that’s not the only thing they have in common this week: As much as Stewy and Sandi are at the mercy of “the world’s angriest vegetable,” as Stewy puts it, Team Logan is equally paralyzed when their leader becomes incapacitated. The viewer can sense that Logan might be losing his grip long before the Waystar lackeys or his children suspect anything—when he grumbles “fuck ’em!” and stares off into the distance, they can only assume it’s a power move. “Look, he’s gambling the company because he’s a fucking badass,” Roman, the most resolutely loyal sibling, says. “He knows what he’s doing … he’s fucking Dad, he’s six moves ahead.”
There is plenty of talk of “meat puppets” in this episode, mainly from Stewy and Kendall as they pull the strings to get what they want out of the deal. But it’s evident in a tragicomic way—and all the finest episodes of Succession are tragicomic—that Logan will always hold the most power—even in his most enfeebled state. Until they’re in the ground—maybe even after they’re in the ground—people like Logan and Sandy will be pulling the strings of their respective meat puppets, and the rest of the world will simply be left to suffer the consequences.
It’s an unsettling proposition, especially when Succession’s cruel universe functions like a funhouse mirror of the real world; it was just last year that 88-year-old Senator Chuck Grassley tweeted this:
If u lost ur pet pidgin /it’s dead in front yard my Iowa farm JUST DISCOVERED here r identifiers Right leg Blue 2020/3089/AU2020/SHE ///LEFT LEG GREEN BAND NO PRINTED INFO. Sorry for bad news— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 19, 2020
It doesn’t matter whether it’s fiction or reality, dead pigeons in front yards or dead cats under chairs: The truth about power in this country and those who wield it is absolutely horrifying.
The Most Callous Display of Wealth
We’ve mentioned the Roys and their private jets so many times this season that we might as well rename this section The Most Callous Display of Private Jet Ownership. But while we’re focusing on private jets yet again, there’s an important distinction to be made this week: one of the Roys’ go-to 1-percenter lifestyle flexes could soon be coming to an end.
Obviously, the real reason Stewy, Sandy, and Sandi are so insistent on removing the company’s private jets has little to do with optics: it’s more about Sandy adding one more “fuck you” stipulation to the settlement deal, knowing how much Logan loves being whisked anywhere in the world whenever it suits him. For Logan, not having a private jet is like someone living in New York City suddenly being denied access to public transportation. And being told he can’t have a private jet is even more appalling than not having a private jet.
On the bright side, if Logan and the rest of the Waystar higher-ups need a refresher on what it feels like to fly “scheduled,” they can always consult Connor.
The Most Brutal Insults of the Week
5. When Connor arrives at the shareholder meeting: “Great, it’s so central you’re here.” —Roman
4. After Karl mentions that one of the late-stage symptoms of syphilis, which Sandy is rumored to have, is dementia: “Been doing some panicky late-night Googling there, Karl?” —Roman
3. After Greg tells him that he plans to sue Greenpeace: “I like your style, Greg. Who do you think you’re gonna go after next, Save the Children?” —Tom
2. After Connor says that Logan approved of him taking over Waystar’s European cable operations: “When did he say that? ’Cause he was definitely out of it when he said that.” —Shiv
1. When Shiv and Roman wonder whether Sandi is actually pulling the strings on the negotiations instead of Sandy: “Oh, I just do what my dad tells me, like you guys.” —Sandi
The Cousin Greg Corner
It’s been a seesaw season for Cousin Greg: Every time it seems like he’s crawled out of a hole, a new one’s been dug for him. Having figured out what he wants to ask Logan for in exchange for signing up with Waystar’s joint defense agreement—just imagine the storytelling opportunities that’d come with Greg running his own theme park—he now has to deal with Kendall, who’s not pleased with one of his only allies defecting from him. Kendall keeps it simple for Greg: If Greg doesn’t drop himself from the joint defense agreement, Kendall’s going to give him up to the Department of Justice. “You’ll probably be fine, they don’t wanna send bottom feeders to prison. They’ll probably just fuck you and chuck you to get to the red meat,” Kendall says, which is not at all comforting.
Worried about facing legal trouble, Greg runs back to his grandfather, Ewan, and the lawyer he initially set him up with—a.k.a., the guy who most definitely donated to the Bernie Sanders campaign. But unlike virtually every other character in Succession, Ewan doesn’t have any patience for Greg’s constant shifting of allegiances. Not only is Greg out of luck with getting new legal representation, but Ewan is going to make good on what he threatened his grandson with back in Season 2 and cut off his inheritance. In fact, Ewan is going to donate the entirety of his estate to Greenpeace. “You need to take yourself seriously, kid,” Ewan says disapprovingly, a statement that hits harder and deeper than any of Logan’s signature “fuck offs” ever could.
Shaken by his grandfather’s words and the purity of his anti-capitalist convictions, Greg decides he’s going to turn a new leaf and no longer be a cog in the soul-crushing corporate machine that is Waystar.
Just kidding. Here’s an exchange he has with a different lawyer after speaking to Ewan: “Do you think it’s possible to sue a person, a grandparent for example, in a way which is like in an affectionate way, that might convey, like, ‘I love you and I’m glad you’re part of my life, but I am taking legal action against you?’” Oh, Greg: the answer is no.
Unsurprisingly, the more time that Greg spends with his extended family, the more he inherits some of their worst qualities. While it’s played for laughs, the fact that he thinks suing his own grandfather could be spun in a positive light—or that, since he can’t sue Ewan, he’ll instead go after friggin’ Greenpeace—speaks to how detached he’s become from any sense of logic. It’s sad, really. This bottom feeder should really heed his grandfather’s advice, and start taking himself seriously. Otherwise, it won’t be a question of whether he gets eaten, just who actually feeds him to the wolves.