No one throws a dinner party quite like Succession. While one corporate meeting this season has already featured a descent into madness, this week’s episode, “Tern Haven,” sees the Roys completely buckle under pressure (including questions about what books they’ve read recently). The family has decamped for a meeting at the Pierces’ — stewards of the prestigious PGM news organization, which Logan has made it his mission to purchase, despite cooler heads consistently urging him in other directions.
Kendall is still his right-hand man, and Roman is progressing in management training — his father says he’s proud of him, but also not to mention the program for fear of looking like he’s “back in business kindergarten.” The smirk on Kieran Culkin’s face following the praise is summarily wiped away. Shiv, though, is uneasy. Logan continues to give her just enough to keep her on the hook, but refuses to confirm that the conversation they had in the first episode about her becoming his successor was not a very, very vivid dream.
The Pierce family is considering Logan’s $20 billion-plus offer, but they are (rightfully, it must be said) concerned about the Roys’ moral character. They’ve called for a meeting to assess what the family clearly lacks — an air of refinement, or basic decorum. Frank, the Roy consigliere brokering the meeting, suggests they stay away from conversations of substance, pointing them instead toward “cultural interests.” The problem, of course, is that the Roys do not have cultural interests. While the Pierces casually quote Robert Frost and Shakespeare, the Roys do not find much solace in art — even Shiv, it seems, has not opened a book in years — and the tastefully appointed but chilly homes the family is constantly shuttled between do not suggest a personal touch in terms of decoration; the art in gilded frames might as well be wallpaper.
Despite that, Logan puts on a brave face and seems to have a handle on the classics while giving a speech. He acknowledges that the Roys must seem like the Romans to the Pierces’ Greeks: large and vulgar. It’s a deft touch, and one that barely makes up for Shiv insulting a Pierce over his decision to get a second PhD, or Conor getting into an argument about libertarianism with a member of the Brookings Institution.
Tom, as the de facto head of ATN, the Waystar Royco version of Fox News, is essentially directed to be a punching bag. The Pierce family believes that the Roys are bad for journalism, and Logan wants to feign ignorance. “We need to wear the hair shirt, call you a shit bag, and say we never watch, OK?” he tells Tom. The problem is, that confirms that Tom is the head of news for the company, and suggests he will be the one running PGM if a purchase were to happen. When questioned about the “white nationalist elephant in the room,” he immediately capitulates from any form of rational conversation, opting instead to call spinach “the king of edible leaves.”
Towards the end of the dinner, Nan Pierce, the matriarch, asks point-blank who Logan’s successor will be. When he hesitates, Shiv unwisely jumps in to tell the room that it’s her. She admits later to not having a plan, and it immediately splinters the Roys. Kendall begins drinking, Roman leaves; it’s apparent the whole game has fallen apart, and this is after Roman invented a novel to seem well-read. Following her admission, Shiv quickly realizes how conditional the offer always was. “There will be repercussions,” she tells Tom later. “I fucked it.”
In the resulting spiral, Kendall steals away with Naomi Pierce — who also has addiction issues — to go “do illegal drugs” together, while reassuring each other that this is actually them at their best. They snort coke, drink Grey Goose, kiss, and attempt to start a helicopter. A typical night, until Naomi begins to talk about her rock bottom, which was aided by constant coverage in tabloids owned by, you guessed it, the Roys. Kendall, a company man even when he’s blind drunk, tells her to ignore that and take the money his father is offering.
Meanwhile, Roman — appropriately shamed at the dinner table in front of his father — attempts to initiate sex with his girlfriend. After his phone sex with Gerri in last week’s episode, he seems to be grasping that he needs sex to feel “wrong,” but still has trouble communicating that when his girlfriend isn’t into pretending to be dead. Instead, he skulks to Gerri’s room for a late-night rendezvous, and the two further explore their submissive-dominant relationship. Gerri orders him into the bathroom and insults him until he’s finished; it’s unclear whether she gets out of it other than satisfaction in her own power and efficiency.
The next morning, the Roys and the Pierces sit down. Against all odds, there is a deal still on the table. Holly Hunter’s Rhea urges the price up, and Tom is immediately abandoned as the head of news without so much as a bat of the eye. The sticking point comes not from price or personnel or editorial safeguards but the issue of Logan’s successor. The Pierces want Shiv to be announced as a successor: She’s a woman, with a liberal political background to boot. That would make the deal easier to swallow for all involved.
Yet despite his earlier promises to Shiv, this is what Logan refuses to acquiesce to. He will not move forward on anything but his own terms, and it finally comes to pass for Shiv that nothing will guarantee she ever gets the nod. Logan, for his part, seems to be refusing to accept his own mortality in any public way. Instead, he walks away from the deal.
Of course, this being Succession, he gets PGM anyway. Money always wins in Logan Roy’s world.
Previously: Open Relationships