Just after watching this week’s Succession, I read an article about a nightmare billionaire named Charlie Munger who is helping to fund a residence hall at UC Santa Barbara in exchange for creative control over the design. Despite holding no degree in architecture, Munger has helped design multiple projects like this, including a reviled University of Michigan dorm.
The Santa Barbara building will force most students to live in dorms without windows. Common spaces will hoard the natural light in the building, which Munger and the school claim will encourage students to leave their prison cells, er, rooms.
Munger’s response to the backlash was, if nothing else, direct. After espousing the virtues of his design and touting the alleged success of his other buildings, Munger told MarketWatch, “I’d rather be a billionaire and not be loved by everybody.”
The Roy family invests more in media companies than college dorms—unless there’s a subsection of the theme parks division dedicated to residence halls. Still, Munger’s statement felt like a faint echo of a line Shiv delivers this week as she tries to convince an ATN pundit to change his tune about the president after her father’s fallout with the White House.
When the anchor threatens to expose her meddling, Shiv doesn’t flinch. Hasn’t he met her family? “We don’t get embarrassed.”
Like Munger, who is essentially designing a Squid Game-like social experiment for kids who probably just want a normal place to live, Shiv knows that she can get away with anything because she and her family are the ones with the money. They have the power.
The Roys’ days at the top, however, might be numbered. This week, both Shiv and Roman are trying to clean up Daddy’s messes while Kendall revels in his demise.
Last week’s installment ended with Ken hiding in a TV studio while his would-be host addressed Shiv’s public statement that her older brother is a delusional druggie-misogynist. Now that he’s watching news coverage of the FBI’s Waystar raid from his couch, the onetime heir to the throne is in better spirits. He appears unfazed when Greg informs him that he’s taken a meeting with Logan. As chill as Kendall seems, however, Greg’s a little scared Logan might kill him.
Invigorated by the prospect of seizing an embattled Waystar from his father, Kendall chooses a fascinating sign-on for a conference call with company executives: Little Lord Fuckleroy. The popular late-19th century serialized novel Little Lord Fauntleroy follows a boy named Cedric whose father dies—probably a winning theme with any Roy child except maybe Roman.
But Kendall was likely also referring to the novel’s social themes, which urged nobility to extend consideration and aid to those who depended on them. (Keeping Daddy’s money and power for the low, low price of behaving like a decent human being? Kendall can get on board with that.)
The conference call is basically a who’s-who of Waystar executives. Billionaire Waystar investor Josh Aaronson (played by guest star Adrien Brody) is getting anxious about all the upheaval and instability—and that pesky FBI investigation. The solution? Fly Logan and Kendall out to Josh’s home on Long Island to prove they can cooperate.
Kendall hates the idea; the optics, he points out, “are janky as fuck.” After some smooth-talking from Frank, however, he relents. Father and son are to meet on the tarmac to clear the air, but true to form that never happens. Better to save the acrimonious reunion for when they meet the man who could decide their company’s fate.
Meanwhile, Greg sits down for a rum and coke with Logan. (“Nice and strong—strong for a man!” he wheezes.) Logan wants Greg to join Waystar’s joint defense, while Greg wants to know, “What’s in it in terms of the me of it all?”
Logan replies with all the bemusement of a technophobic grandfather watching a tween use TikTok: “Why don’t you figure out what you want to ask.”
For everyone else, the day’s agenda is a tentacular beast. While Shiv tries to convince that aforementioned ATN pundit to turn up the heat on the president, Roman is hard at work uncovering a dark remnant of his and Kendall’s brotherhood. And then there’s Tom, the “shame sponge” who spends his week comparing prison facilities and half-heartedly applying the “thumbscrews” on Greg.
Shiv’s quest to lord over Tom both at home and at work continues here: She wants anchor Mark Ravenhead to bash the president, and for Tom to push him to do so. Tom resists what he sees as an attempt to undermine his authority, but of course he gives in.
Ravenhead initially refuses to cave, but Shiv—already convinced that Karl, Frank and others don’t respect her authority—drops a well placed, “Well it’s what my dad wants...” to let the anchor know he’s already lost. (Hence the “We don’t get embarrassed” exchange.)
But the most meaningful interaction between Shiv and Tom has nothing to do with ATN—it comes later, when Tom opens up to Shiv about how terrified he is about the whole “going to prison” thing. “I got deep in the prison blogs,” he says, and learned an unsettling amount about “toilet wine.”
Shiv responds with all the empathy one would expect: “I don’t know what to say to you.” A well-timed call from Logan is all it takes to excuse herself.
During that call, however, we see the possible source of Shiv’s inability to extend compassion and support to Tom. Logan has called his daughter to scold her for running afoul of the men over which he’d ostensibly granted her power. When Shiv asks him to back her up, he refuses.
Connor, of all people, is the one who states Shiv’s position most plainly: “Remember when you had that play post office and you used to stamp all the mail that came into the house?” he asks her. “This is a little bit like that, isn’t it?”
And then there’s Roman, who decides the best way to end Kendall for good is to unearth a dark spot on their shared record. When they were young, he tells Gerri, he and Kendall drunkenly paid a homeless man to tattoo Ken’s initials on his forehead. Roman drags “Tattoo Man” to the Waystar offices to secure photo evidence of Kendall’s (and his) past misdeed.
The man, who has since had the tattoo removed, doesn’t want photos to get out. “It doesn’t feel good.” Still, Roman presses, “There must be a number... I’m just gonna say a million dollars.” He repeats: “A million dollars.”
Just like Shiv and everyone else in the Roy family, Roman knows that pretty much anyone can be bought—at a price the family coffers can afford. They belong to a class that finesses media narratives, treats college students like lab rats to be housed in experimental facilities, and can dangle obscene heaps of money above people’s heads to separate them from their dignity. No rules, no consequences, no reason not to offer a child a million dollars if he can hit a single home run right now.
The bribe works, but when he presents the photos to Gerri she advises they keep the story to themselves—and that Roman start focusing on moves that will actually advance his position.
While meeting with Logan and Kendall, however, Josh the investor reminds them of an inconvenient truth: The Roys actually do answer to someone—him and his fellow shareholders. If the family can’t rally enough support, they will lose the company to Stewy and Sandy Furness in the upcoming proxy vote.
Even as Waystar’s future rests in their hands, however, Kendall and Logan can’t even fake being a team. Kendall arrives early to pitch Josh on backing him for CEO. Logan begins to struggle and wheeze on the hike back to the house from an ambiguously successful beachside meal, but he won’t stop taunting his son. Eventually, his exhaustion catches up with him. (We love a metaphor, don’t we folks!)
“No doctor, not in front of him!” Logan says as Kendall half-heartedly urges him to take a breather with more than a hint of condescension. “You’re trying to fuck me!”
When his father finally collapses and their host calls a doctor, Kendall—forever a champion reader of rooms—continues to try and convince Josh to back their family. “Maybe you should worry about your dad right now.”
Somehow Kendall still thinks that the meeting was successful—until he gets a call from Roman, who furiously asks, “Do you have a fetish for almost killing dad?”
The Roys have lost Josh’s support and, by extension, possibly the company. The episode ends with Kendall looking on as Josh approaches Stewy and Sandy for another pitch. One thing we can say for Charles Munger’s horror dorms: They’re probably just a step above actual prison cells.