Succession recap: A greeting card from hell
Just as Kendall (Jeremy Strong) couldn't get out of his own way when trying to make his case to his siblings that their father needs to be removed from power, his obsession with his media image continues to lead him in the wrong direction and winds up blowing up in his face when he tangles with a media figure who punches way above his weight class. And his continued desire to humiliate his family triggers a blowback that strikes him at the very worst time.
Though Kendall begins the episode claiming "I'm just really happy in my headspace, and I hope they are happy in theirs" when referring to his siblings, since Shiv (Sarah Snook) has become Waystar's newly named domestic president, he decides to train his ire on her even when she's trying to make the best of a bad situation.
And being the president isn't the easiest thing when Logan (Brian Cox) is intent on keeping his reins on the power and contradicting everything his acting CEO Gerri (J. Smith Cameron) recommends doing. Especially when he responds to a document subpoena with an abrupt "F--- off!" Logan is also on edge by the rumor that Kendall might make an appearance in the office since he's still technically employed by the company.
Since Shiv is now one of the public faces of the company, she attempts to tell Kendall to back off when they cross paths at a major journalism gala that night. Kendall has already made a fool of himself by yelling "F--- the patriarchy!" in full view of the cameras when he arrived, but at least he makes an effort to apologize to Shiv for his insulting behavior at Rava's (Natalie Gold) apartment last episode.
Shiv tries to turn the temperature down as well by reminding him that they have the same aim. They both want their father out of Waystar, she just wants to give him a gentle nudge off the cliff rather than knifing him in the back in full view. But while she proposes fixing Waystar's real problems from the inside in a pitch that is much better than Kendall's ever was, all he does is respond with a glib, "They made you get all dressed up for this?" She doesn't even know why she bothered and asks "Do you actually not give a f--- and it's all just ego?" And from his behavior throughout the episode, the answer is an obvious yes even if he's too righteous to admit it.
Shiv isn't the only one onto Kendall's real game here, but he's too drunk on attention to realize that when he witnesses a brutal takedown of himself after the gala by a political comedy show called The Disruption with Sophie Iwobi. Modeled somewhere between The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, The Disruption takes full aim at Kendall's woke boy image, as Sophie herself (played by comedian Ziwe Fumudoh) tags him "Snitchy Rich" and rails that actual progressives have been embracing a man who a mere month ago was calling the investigation into Logan a witch hunt. Sophie eviscerates him with precision, but Kendall equates any attention with love. "She loves me. This is love," he murmurs to his aghast party guests. Though his public relations rep tries to dissuade him, he decides he should go on the show since it's part of being in the "conversation."
Having failed to get Kendall to back off and not realizing she might have inadvertently given him the idea to come into the office, Shiv visits Logan at his apartment where Marcia (Hiam Abbass) is still renegotiating her prenup. "Love and marriage," Logan comments darkly as he feels his money drain away. Though he initially wants to know if she got Ken to back off, his conversation with Shiv turns into a fascinating exploration of their relationship. A bit put off by Shiv's reluctance to fully defend him, Logan admits with startlingly vulnerability, "You know, every time I don't see you out there saying something, I think, 'Does Shiv even like me?'"
Shiv's never quite been daddy's little girl, but her lack of open adoration and trust seems to rankle him. "Do you trust me?" he asks bluntly to which she replies "Yes, of course." but her long pause before she clarifies, "Uh, on what?" gives away the game.
It's a fantastic piece of acting for both Cox and Snook as father and daughter try to feel out if they can really and truly trust each other. Shiv wants to know the truth about what Logan knew about the crisis, but when he tries to pass it off as the actions of a few bad apples a "quarter of a century ago," she isn't buying it. Her father has never been hands off about anything regarding his business and when she points out he's on all the incriminating emails, he asks bluntly, "Do you know how many emails I get a day? I don't read my emails. I get the action points."
He admits that maybe there were some "salty moves," but "I fought for you and your brothers but you will not find a piece of paper that makes you ashamed of me, okay?" When Shiv notes that the government and the law has a lot of leverage over them, Logan confidently notes, "The law is people. And people is politics. And I can handle the people."
But can he really? Because he makes a real mess of it when he tries to press on senior White House aide Michelle-Anne Vanderhoven (Linda Emond) after she appears on one of ATN's political shows. She notes that the president's past friendliness with Logan is causing political problems and that the president hasn't quite found the tone of ATN's coverage helpful of late. Logan threatens it can get a hell of a lot worse and it starts to get rough before Michelle-Anne puts a stop to it and promises she'll see what she can do.
Logan is trying to avoid legal trouble anyway he can, but it's slowly dawning on Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) that he's most likely looking at jail time no matter what happens to his father-in-law. After harassing and demoralizing Greg (Nicholas Braun) for hanging out with Kendall and punishing him by sticking him in a windowless office, Tom drunkenly confesses to Shiv late one night that he's thinking about offering himself to Logan as a sacrificial lamb in a way to eek a win out of a no win situation. He's always been an outsider in the family, but Shiv knows that it was her request to protect Tom last season that started this whole conflagration with Kendall in the first place.
Tom goes ahead and makes the offer to Logan without any strings attached. Logan is honestly both surprised and moved by this show of loyalty from his son-in-law. But he doesn't have much time to reflect on it because it's shortly after that Greg tips off Tom that Kendall is about to arrive at the office right before the company's big town hall meeting. Why Kendall told Greg in the first place is a mystery unless he was depending on Greg being about as reliable as a leaky bucket?
As for Kendall, his plan to come to the office is pissing off Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan) who knows these kinds of stunts won't help secure his immunity deal any faster. Unable to see reason again, Kendall claims he can't let his father dominate the battle space and he feels like they are losing the momentum. Logan's head is no cooler and wants to fire his son, but Gerri reminds him that doing that would be handing the Department of Justice a gas can. While they let Kendall in (who is live-streaming the whole incident), Logan decides to rattle him by having Colin (Scott Nicholson) — the same security agent that witnessed the aftermath of Kendall's car accident in season 1 — appear in his office to quietly remind him just what kind of dirt his father has at his disposal.
The moment should give Kendall reason to pause, but he's determined to go through with his biggest stunt of all, and he makes sure Shiv is going to bear the brunt of it during her first big public moment as the company's president. As the town hall begins, Shiv takes the stage and starts to address Kendall's accusations and Waystar's corporate responsibility moving forward. She does well at first, even managing to make Hugo's (Fisher Stevens) suggested "We get it" slogan sound naturalistic, but as she continues to speak, Nirvana's "Rape Me" starts to blare over the speakers in Waystar's atrium. Kendall stays out of view, but she knows exactly who did this as she struggles on when the music won't stop. She eventually flees the stages and storms into Kendall's office to find all the empty speaker boxes — how did Waystar's security team not notice their placement? — and spits in his appointment book. The sun is setting in Logan's office when she arrives and he says "Sorry, Pinky, now do you see?" Oh, she does indeed.
Kendall thinks he might have made a clever move, but Shiv decides to go nuclear on him right as he arrives at The Disruption for his appearance. Both Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Connor (Alan Ruck) have gathered at Shiv's apartment where she's taken her anger at Kendall and focused it into a vicious letter that Connor terms "a greeting card from hell." The letter, which she wants the three of them to sign and release publicly that night, airs almost all of Kendall's dirty laundry — save for the car accident and that's only because none of them know about it. But even missing that little detail, the missive is a brutal takedown that mentions their brother's history as a drug addict, serial liar, and absentee father who has had his own problematic relations with women. Shiv might want to cut Kendall off at the legs but both brothers realize they can never take this back if they release it. Showing the same weird family loyalty they showed their father, Connor and Roman refuse to sign it and gross Shiv out with a sexual reference that makes her decide to just release it on her own without the help of her useless brothers.
While Kendall is unsuccessfully trying to schmooze the Distruption comedy writers to make him look better before the show, Shiv's letter quickly starts to suck up all the air in the media conversation he's so obsessed with being a part of. In a quiet panic, he tries to get the show's producer to agree not to talk about Shiv's letter, but there is no way she'll destroy the show's cred in that way. In a shot that shows just what a devastating actor Jeremy Strong can be, the camera tracks Kendall as he slowly loses it and hides in an empty server room while Sophie Iwobi disembowels him on air for bailing on the show and reads Shiv's letter in full.
But while still hiding out in the server room, Kendall learns his father is in for his own PR disaster when his phone starts pinging with the news that the FBI is raiding Waystar's headquarters at the very same moment. Turns out the deputy attorney general was spooked by Logan's conversation with Michelle-Anne, and now Logan has no choice but to cooperate as federal agents flood the building. Lucky for Kendall, his father's own bull-headed mistake blows news of his own humiliation off the front page just at the right moment. But for how long?
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