Only in the world of Succession could something like the Aspen Ideas Festival become more pretentious than it already is. It’s pulled off, though, in this episode. The festival is called Argestes — a northwest wind in Greek mythology — and while I haven’t been to Aspen, I hope the real-life version features less cruelty and sociopathy than its Succession counterpart.
After Logan’s show of brute financial strength in last week’s episode, he’s eager to complete his purchase of Pierce Media. The $25 billion deal is not cooperating with his whims, even though he “needs this done yesterday.” While waiting to disembark from their private jet — there aren’t enough runways to accommodate all the private jets — he sends Kendall to do a passable impression of one of his own tantrums. Kendall, ever the good soldier (though showing some signs of free-thought as of late), is happy to comply.
Once they arrive at the lodge-based reception, it becomes clear that the deal will not come together just because Logan claps his hands. He’s agitating for Nan Pierce to show up to sign the papers there while attempting to avoid contact with any of the architects of the takeover bid putting pressure on the Roys. Meanwhile, Kendall is in a room filled with people that he’s fucked over, disappointed, or both. He’s promptly told that he’s not trustworthy, which is a true statement.
Shiv, meanwhile, has been left at home for the festival. After last episode’s outburst, in which she prematurely announcing herself as the successor to her father for the CEO position at Waystar Royco, she’s fallen in the shoving match to be in Logan’s good graces. She’s tasked with following Frank for the week to learn the business she will ostensibly be running. She immediately spurns the assignment, and leaves. The Roys do not do work, even when it’s the only thing to do.
News of an impending crisis reaches Aspen. New York Magazine has a piece coming, a “muckraking” story about the deaths and sexual assault that occured on the Roy’s cruise lines. Tom (and Greg — sorry, Gregory — who pocketed some evidence for future blackmail) were deputized to bury the scandal in the show’s first season, but someone has come forward, and the company is flying blind. Shiv, having the most tempered instincts, is brought in to consult via speakerphone: she advises they buy some time to make sure the Pierce deal happens by offering to cooperate for the story and slowly giving them carefully selected information. Kendall, on the other end, advocates for all-out warfare with magazine, a bet that the threat of their deep pockets and a legal assault will quell the story for fear of bankrupting the entire publication. Logan, predictably, opts for the fire and brimstone of Kendall’s approach.
Following last week’s chill from Marcia, she’s nothing but supportive once the walls start closing in. “When I’m with someone, I’m with them,” she tells Logan when he hints at the cruise report’s imminent release and the “nasty” things that will be said about him. “I know who you are.”
Consistently out of the loop, Tom and Greg are preparing for a presentation that Tom will give on the state of their news network, which seemingly no one but them cares about. The pair have concocted a new slogan for their white supremacy-touting news network: “We’re Listening.” The problem is that through set-top boxes sold by the company, says Greg, “We’re listening quite aggressively” to customers in their homes. The suggested fix: “We here for you.” “It’s maybe less active,” says Greg. “Less spying on you in the shower.” Evidently also going for something less sensical, they settle on “We hear for you.” “It’s good because it’s not clear exactly what it means,” Greg says. “More wiggle room.”
While there’s no more hair-raising, degrading sexual exploits for Gerri and Roman, the pair do begin to solidify the beginnings of an actual partnership. Gerri gets him an assignment courting the investment of a Saudi billionaire: “What are his loafers made of, human rights activists?” Roman quips, before Gerri gamely attempts to impress upon him the gravity of the situation. “I don’t know what the world looks like in 36 hours,” she says. It’s almost romantic.
While Logan, through Holly Hunter’s Rhea, is able to convince Nan to show up at the festival to try and get her to sign the deal, she arrives at the worst possible time. New York feels bullied by Kendall’s threatening approach; their response is to shorten the publishing timeline. The family has “hours, maybe minutes” until the piece is posted online, with the printers ready to go by the end of the weekend. Logan’s breakfast meeting with Nan devolves before they even order; he attempts to push the deal through immediately, while Kendall frantically refreshes his phone to see if the story has been published. Needless to say, the gambit fails.
Throughout the episode, Logan shows signs of physical weakness: He’s often disoriented, can’t focus long enough to read the cruise story, and eventually vomits at a table. To him, the cruise story is simply a personal attack. “We’re being punished,” he says. “They don’t give a flying fuck for these poor bitches; they hate me.” In response, his family begins jockeying for power. They have a presentation coming up, and after some very serious hesitation, Shiv decides to step up as the public face of the company. Quickly, the fight turns brutal. Neither Kendall nor Roman want to give up the spotlight, and once onstage the trio begin to attack each other in public, with Logan and Nan in the audience. Shiv narrowly wins the contest to be the most aggressive adult child by directing an attack at her “dinosaur” father. “I was just dancing,” she says later with a shrug
Logan is clearly less able to shake the insults off. When Roman begins to joke about it backstage, he gets backhanded. “It’s just a tooth,” he says, gamely playing it off. “I’ll get another one.” Kendall doesn’t take it as lightly, getting in his father’s face for the first time this season (and, you know, since he murdered a waiter and had it covered up). The family is falling apart, and so is Logan’s treasured deal.
There’s a showdown with Nan — she’s calling off the deal, and calling for Rhea’s resignation, thanks to her not-so-shrewd double-dealing with Logan. Pride, eventually, beat out money for the blue-blooded matriarch. It’s not something Logan can accept, who yells and hits her car as she pulls away. For once, he’s not getting what he wants.
Previously: “A Fool and His Money”