Succession S4E7: Tailgate Party

“I thought these people would be very complicated, but they’re not. It’s basically just money and gossip.”

Lukas Mattson is the epitome of an awful human being — arguably the Musk of the show — but as that quote reminds us, he’s not dumb. As Shiv butters him up, he’s a “self-teaching AI.” Or is he? Ebba suggests otherwise, but then in this world of shifty, semi-competent high-class grifters and quintuple-crosses, is he another empty suit (see Musk) or is he the lone genius in the room.

He also kneejerkedly tweets Nazi quotes, makes casual monkey comments re: Indians, and homophobia falls out of his mouth like a daring young man on a high-flying trapeze. Either way, Matsson is catty, manipulative, possibly a low-key fraud, and an Elon Musk stand-in (redundant?). And if you have any question he’s a stand-in for a certain Twitter tyrant, Dem operative Nate (remember Nate?) admits to Matsson he pays him his “9.99 a month.” Matsson also admits later that he “doesn’t always read people.” Musk has been forthright about growing up with Aspberger’s. Maybe it’s just this world of cruel rich robots, but he’s nowhere near as bad as Musk. However, he’s gleefully harassing his comms director, so screw Matsson.

In the cold open, we get a glance of the next generation of Roy therapy bills as Kendall meets with his baby’s mother. It’s not that I’m even trying to be cute here; I’ve genuinely forgotten her name and their official marital status. Could I look it up? Certainly. Next question! Their daughter’s life is a mess b/c everyone hates Mencken and ATN (Royworld’s equivalent to Trump and Fox News). His one-time lady calls him out, and deservedly so, for caring more for his racist news channel than his children. And the cat is in the cradle. And, also, the silver spoon.

So, the central conceit of this episode is that newly re-fucking Tom and Shiv are holding an ATN pre-election party. It’s also clearly held smack dab in the middle of massive layoffs, the GoJo deal swirling, and the clearly audible death rattle of the Mencken campaign. So, yes, the party will be memorable, and, yes, for all the wrong reasons.

Tom and Shiv are obviously dynamite about to meet kerosene, but we’ll leave their epic and awe-inspiring battle for the strays section. And the fight has more strays than your average animal care & control center. We’ll just say that they begin the episode in a ridiculous mutual lovebombing positive feedback loop. If you’ve ever been around a couple that’s into each other on an sickeningly intense level, you know that it will very soon end in tears. For most of the night, it’s also clear that the reaper is not just waiting in stance for their relationship. Both Shiv, as it begins to dawn on her that Matsson might not be the savvy businessman she thinks, and Tom, who is hearing from everyone how fired he is as two Shiv flirtations are attending on her invite, know each of their worlds is likely about to crash worse than Roman’s ill-fated rocket of two seasons ago.

Speaking of Roman, no one has a worse night. Although he does give us one of the cutest moments when he pulls a The Bachelor couch moment on Connor, coquettishly asking if he can steal his brother for a minute. Otherwise, he’s popping from one indignity — and one roost-returning chicken — to another. The biggest of them all coming as he tries to convince Gerri his axing of her was a joke. Gerri laughs about as hard as when Roman’s dick pic he meant for her went to his father. About those pics of Roman’s dick, Gerri’s kept them to serve as her golden parachute/good reference insurance. She’s out. She twists the knife by reminding him that she could have had him crowned king. But, now, her words: “Nope.” Her martini sip places the period on that one-word sentence. Old Roman would have been turned on, but he’s clearly crushed.

Cousin Greg takes two steps forward and three steps back. His suits seem somehow crisper as his confidence grows. He’s only slightly wrong when he observes to Kendall that Matsson has expressed “a particular distaste for my particular flavor of me.” In actuality Matsson considers him “backwash at the bottom of the gene pool.” At least, he did until our favorite Cuz reveals the hundreds of people he’s casually fired this week. Matsson, now, may not respect him, but may see Cousin Greg’s worth. Matsson’s right hand Oskar, on the other hand, goes from spitting in his face to genuinely seeming drawn to him by the end of the exchange.

One of the biggest shifts this season is the balance between and perception of the two members of the Disgusting Brothers. Tom flounders when Matsson plays power games early in the night. However, when Kendall sends Cousin Greg into what the latter knows is a charm suicide mission, young Mr. Hirsch soldiers on and holds his own, even after the aforementioned face spitting incident. Cousin Greg has proven a much more adept sycophantic corporate servant than so-called master Tom. Oh, Cousin Greg, I’ll miss YOU the most! And that probably says a lot that is not good about your friendly neighborhood recapper here.

Kendall actually has a mixed partygoing experience as he lays on his charmless chrisma all night. It’s kind of a testament to Kendall having some value — or Jeremy Strong’s steady performance — that it occasionally works. One of the most interesting moments of the night comes when he makes it clear he’s no idealogue. He’s ready to screw over the right-wing Republican Logan and ATN have been trying to install for the better part of two seasons. Most of his scheming plays to mixed results. That said, he does end the night very much relevant, with a ruthless plan. And it just might work. We’ll see what the other meddling kids come up with.

Finally, the best player of the night is easily Connor Roy. In a show famous for its characters being likeable as toe jam, Connor may have just won by not playing. Perhaps Ferris Bueller warned him with his intel from his other major ’80s movie. Tempted by Roman, he turns down an ambassadorship to Oman in exchange for dropping out of the race and helping SuccessaTrump become prez. As Connor clumsily puns, he decides to run “O-man by his wo-man.” It’s supercringe, but pays off when Willa finally says no. Connor then stands up to his family, making a valid point that there’s one person in the room who does not think he’s a joke. He’s going to listen to Willa.

It says a lot about this show that a singular moment of genuine kindness amid a remorselessly cold sea of sociopaths can be as impactful as it is. Viva Connor Roy.

Stray Acquisitions:

  • Now Matsson is going after NYC. I can take the casual racism. I can handle the unearned superiority. But now he’s coming after the city of my birth, the greatest burg ever created.
  • Somehow Lukas Matsson and Kendall Roy manage to have the world’s first dick measuring contest over whose is shorter. It’s about funky numbers and Matsson “wins” by not reading the 2023 room and calling Kendall’s numbers “gay.”
  • However, have we talked enough about the cute callback to Matsson actor Alexander Skarsgard’s most famous role in the manner in which he mesmerizes Ebba. On True Blood, Eric Northman (Skarsgard) famously gave his romantic targets blood as does GoJo’s creepazoid CEO.
  • Damn this show for making me genuinely sorry for the worst kind of human, Tom.
  • Tom admits that “political strategy” is one of his turn-ons, which totally tracks. But apparently so are poorly done polls showing his preferred candidate down four points.
  • My first reaction was that if Rasmussen is saying Democratic candidate Jiminez is up by four, he’s probably up double-digits. Then I remembered that Rasmussen is notorious for giving ridiculous numbers favoring Republicans for most of any cycle before releasing a final poll the weekend before Election Day that is more realistic. It’s the final poll that is often the only one cited in the postmortem. Therefore, Rasmussen can make claims of reliability even as 2023 polls claim Trump is more popular than pumpkin spice latte.
  • TL;DR: if fictional Rasumussen says two days before the fictional election, Jiminez over Menken by 4, and this show knows its politics (as it generally does), the result will be Jiminez by 4.
  • “Your mom loves me more than you because she’s cracked.” Wow, Shiv managed to insult three people, including herself, with one swing of her kitana of wit.
  • That said, even after the mutual lovebombing followed by the most brutal airing of grievances in TV history, I’m still rooting for those crazy Tom & Shiv kids.
  • At one point in their screaming session, Shiv says to Tom, “you don’t deserve me.” First off, that can go both ways. Hence, they totally deserve one another.
  • One final thought on Roy-Wambganss Rumble in the High Rise ’23: Shiv really should have just let Tom get some sleep.
  • One final, final thought (for real this time): Tom and Shiv aren’t wrong about any of their breathtakingly savage reads. However, the one thing I absolutely do not buy is that Shiv does not care. Tom loves Shiv. Shiv cares for Tom. Again, they’re both ducking awful. And I’m really rooting for those shippable scamps.
  • Kendall to Frank: “I don’t think the Gojo deal is in the best interest of the shareholders.” I knew Gerri. Gerri is a close personal friend of mine (in my head). You, sir, are no Gerri!
  • Do Bentsen-Quayle 1988 VP debates references even play in 2023?! But then, William Saroyan novels from the 1920s (see above) definitely do not, and I own that, so I’m just going to live my life and when I laugh, laugh like hell.
  • Speaking of politics and arcane and/or very dated references, how did I not notice until now that the Republican Idiocracy-in-practice candidate is named after H.L. Mencken. The famous longago satirist’s quote about how America would eventually elect an absolute moron surfaced on the internet in 2000, 2004, and 2016 as we arguably did just that. Touche, Succession.
  • Ultimately, the moral of this episode of Succession: never throw parties with your significant other unless you are prepared to be single.