If this week’s Succession isn’t the first time a dead cat has thrown a deal at Waystar Royco into chaos, it is certainly the most deranged. A “dead cat” in business or political terms is, as I’m sure you know, a dramatic or sensational idea that is tossed into an argument or debate in order to detract from a more pressing issue – a real tactic with a name so darkly comic and unpleasant that it seems tailor-made for the mudslinging and devious Roys. In this instance, the dead cat is a hallucination seen by a confused and frightened Logan Roy, who has become briefly demented after failing to keep up his regimen of medication for a stubborn UTI. (I had no idea that older patients could quite literally be driven temporarily mad by the progression of a urinary tract infection, but as Connor points out, “Reagan had a UTI and nearly nuked Belgium.”)
Three important things occur as a result of the feverish patriarch insisting that this imaginary cat be taken away and disposed of: first, we get to see an aide pretending to remove an invisible cat while trying to maintain a serious expression; second, Roman gets to discover a new, disgusting favourite phrase, “piss-mad,” which he starts using roughly every 30 seconds; finally, in a continuation of last week’s display of frailty, Logan thoroughly humiliates himself, looking less like a tyrant and more like a doddering old man. “You don’t need me to hold the sceptre, do you?” Tom asks as he helps him to the bathroom, the nobility of the image only adding to the ignobility of the act.
Master of Puppets, Killer of Bunnies
This week Kendall –who at one point exclaims “hashtag The Resistance” in a way that made me feel like a slug having an entire shaker of salt spilt on its body – finally does a very small amount of parenting, reassuring his children’s nanny that it shouldn’t be a problem if their rabbit eats a bagel. “That advice is for f***heads who are going to go to Tampa and leave a rabbit with a big gulp and a dozen cinnamon raisin [bagels],” he says, flippantly, when she suggests that Google tells her something different. Pleased to have put out another minor fire, he calls Shiv for a one-sided conversation about strategy. He has been talking to his handsome frenemy, Stewy Hosseini, whose boss Sandy is threatening to buy out Waystar Royco. Kendall – who considers Stewy his “third oldest friend,” a phrase so childlike and specific that it almost breaks my heart – believes he’s managed to finagle a deal that will stop the takeover, even if it means that the Roys will have to eat some humble pie. “Puppetmaster, out!” he crows. “I no longer wish to receive these calls,” Shiv deadpans back.
As it turns out, Sandy’s demand for written assurance that none of the Roy successors will ever be named the CEO of Waystar Royco is the biggest stumbling block for the whole family. To add insult to injury, he also wants them to give up their private jets, which he believes make them look out-of-touch and tone deaf. (That Roman reacts by throwing a babyish tantrum over being denied his “PJ” suggests Sandy is correct.) Figuring that it might be possible to alter certain details later, Shiv and Gerri are about to take the deal when Logan, slowly beginning to turn into what Roman calls “the piss-mad King of England,” roars his signature objection: “F*** ‘em!” Because nobody has realised yet how sick he is, his proclamation throws the Roys into immediate disarray – if they refuse the deal, everything goes to a shareholder vote that is unlikely to be skewed in Logan’s favour, making them assume that he knows something that they don’t. Shiv calls Sandy’s daughter and instructs her, as Logan might put it, to go f*** herself. “He’s dad,” Roman insists, still angling helplessly for that much-coveted kiss from Daddy, “he’s always six steps ahead.” When Logan claims to find the dead cat about 60 seconds later, the scale of the family’s error is immediately obvious. In an embarrassing volte-face, Shiv is forced to go and grovel, agreeing to a fourth chair on Waystar Royco’s board for Sandy’s company. By the episode’s end, they have narrowly escaped a terrible implosion, but the atmosphere is not all that victorious, and a sharp, ammonia-like stench of failure and embarrassment still lingers in the air.
“Roman’s a knucklehead, Shiv’s a fake, Kenny’s screwy,” Connor says, summing up his siblings’ weaknesses with admirable concision. Because Roman is a knucklehead, he goofs and bumbles his way through a telephone call with the US President, who tells him that because the company has been seeding the idea that he is suffering from dementia on their channel, ATN, he has decided against running for a second term. Because Shiv is a fake, she quietly negotiates a seat on the board for herself as well as meeting Sandy’s demands on the deal. Because Kendall is screwy, his kids’ rabbit ends up dead after ingesting too much bread, a mirror for his father’s imagined dead cat, and a metaphor for his seemingly inexhaustible ability to disregard advice in favour of sheer, maniacal bluster. Because Logan Roy is, piss-madness or no piss-madness, ultimately Logan Roy, he recovers enough to tear Shiv a proverbial new one over her willingness to capitulate to Sandy. She ends the episode trying not to cry as Tom nervously slips his arm around her, maybe privately imagining to himself that she is really Cousin Greg. Earlier, Tom informed Shiv that he’d been keeping an eye on her menstruation with his iCal in the hopes to “put [a baby] in for when [he’s] out” of jail, and frankly, were I in her place, I would be struggling not to break down, too.
“I’m sure that you’re pretty upset at me going over to Waystar, but I had no choice,” Greg tells Kendall this week, nervously, correctly intuiting that the lacquer of niceness Kendall has smoothed over everything about his grab for power is just that – a fragile outer layer covering what is still an angry, ugly, pitch-black mess. “I’ve been summoned to see my gramps today,” he adds, “and I don’t want to be getting it in both ends.” (Somewhere, Tom Wambsgans no doubt sensed a psychosexual disturbance in the force at this utterance, sitting up a little straighter at his desk.) After calling Greg “big dog” with the hideous California-ad-man coolness he is so fond of affecting, Kendall says with casual cruelty that he might be left with no choice but to “burn” his cousin, using him as “meat” to keep the Department of Justice interested in his father’s case. “Is that okay?” he asks Greg, rhetorically. “It doesn’t sound great!” Greg yelps back.
Later, when our favourite human Great Dane does meet up with Grandpa Ewan, he is stunned to find that Ewan has decided to remove him from his will, leaving his fortune and his property portfolio to Greenpeace. “Is there a way to sue a grandparent but, like, in an affectionate way,” Greg asks his legal counsel, later, “that says ‘I love you and I’m glad you’re in my life, but I’m also taking legal action?’” Learning that there isn’t, he floats the kind of suggestion that keeps fans wondering whether or not Greg is as much of a wide-eyed babe in the woods as he appears: would it be possible, he wonders, to sue Greenpeace? “I like this Greg!” Tom exclaims, a little too enthusiastically. “You going after Save the Children next?” If Tom could somehow track Greg’s cycle with his iPhone calendar, he would most definitely do it.