Succession recap: season four, episode seven – never accept a gift from Tom Wambsgans

   2023-05-08 21:05

Spoiler alert: this recap is for people watching Succession season four. Don’t read on unless you’ve watched episode seven.

Bullied guests, bad wine and blazing rows. Welcome to the worst all-back-to-mine bash ever. Here are the metrics on the seventh episode, titled Tailgate Party …

Climbing the greasy polls

It was Election Eve. Polls showed a 4% swing to Democrat candidate Daniel Jimenez, but the headline story here? Never accept a gift from Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen). The pilot episode saw him present Logan with an unwanted watch. Now “Father Sexmas” gave his wife, Shiv (Sarah Snook), a scorpion paperweight. A joke, apparently, because “you kill me”. Tumbleweeds blew across their Tribeca triplex.

The post-coital pair prepared to show off their newly reconciled status by co-hosting ATN’s traditional pre-election party – or, according to billionaire Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), “your dad’s bullshit, braindead, AOL-era legacy media, putrid stuffed-mushroom fuckfest”. We’ll put him down as a “maybe”, then.

Across town, Kendall (Jeremy Strong) met ex-wife Rava (Natalie Gold). Their eldest child, Sophie, refused to go to school because she was “freaked out by the election”. A passerby in a T-shirt depicting ATN’s Nazi-sympathising anchor Mark Ravenhead had made a “racially tinged comment” to her. When Kendall dared question Rava’s parenting, she hit back that he was “running a racist news organisation”. The second week running that ATN’s lurch to the far right had caused blowback for Team Ken-Ro.

Regulate this, Warren G

As the “funeral management committee” convened, Connor (Alan Ruck) was fresh from his latest visit to the funeral home, noting that Logan was “looking good” as he had “woken up on the right side of the coffin”. Merry widow Marcia (Hiam Abbass) was trying to hijack the ceremony. The siblings agreed to “fuck Marcia”. They wanted a “tight 90”, not a “three-day griefathon”. Kendall offered to deliver the eulogy. “Your usual ‘malign influence’ material?” spat Roman.

Back to business, the brothers worked angles on the GoJo deal. Despite Kendall’s triumph in Los Angeles, the Living+ stock bump was wearing off. In case they couldn’t price Matsson out of the sale, plan B was to tie up the takeover in regulatory knots. Shiv reluctantly agreed to invite old flame Nate Sofrelli (Ashley Zukerman) to the party. As a political strategist who worked across tech and trade for Bernie Sanders-alike Senator Gil Eavis, he’d be a useful inside ally. Double agent Shiv was straight on the phone to Matsson, warning him that “Dumb and Dumber” were “going regulatory”. He needed to head them off. Pinky was playing a dangerous game.

Ain’t no party like a tailgate party

Dom Perry corks popped. Mini-burgers were adorned with stars-and-stripes flags. Freedom fries were salted. Let the strategic mingling begin. As VIP guests arrived – “thought leaders, podcasters, op-ed narcissists, crypto fascists, rightwing nutjobs, venture capital dems, centrist ghouls and beltway psychos” – the Roys set out to spread “surveillance capitalism heebie-jeebies”.

Spreading surveillance capitalism heebie-jeebies … Tom and Greg.

Nate teased that he wouldn’t drink too much of Tom’s wine. General counsel Gerri Kellmann (J Smith Cameron) was still furious. When Roman pretended her firing “wasn’t real”, Ger-Bear was having none of it. She wanted “eye-watering sums” and to manage her own departure, otherwise she’d go public with his dick pics. Roman was bang to rights, even before she delivered a final kicker: “I could’ve got you there … But nope.” Silly slime puppy. Kendall raised a toast to Logan, before asking for a moment’s silence. At which point, who should enter noisily? Talk about timing.

Operation Nuke the Luke

Keep your friends close … Roman and Kendall formulate a gameplan.

“VIP in the house!” Thrown by Matsson’s surprise arrival, Kendall hastily formulated a gameplan. They’d continue their regulatory schmoozing while Shiv stayed close to Matsson. “Let’s mash the Swede,” agreed Roman. Shiv steered Matsson around, advising him who and how to network. Like “a self-teaching AI”, he learned fast, reassuring sceptics that GoJo wouldn’t “data-mine you all to death” and he’d be more amenable than “the dumpster brothers”. Such treachery wasn’t without risk for Shiv. In return, she wanted a “very, very, very significant role”. Notable how Matsson didn’t agree immediately, saying he’d ponder it.

Kendall’s manoeuvres went less well. Button-holing Nate, he promised to “reset the dialogue” if the takeover went away. Regulators would have legitimate concerns about foreign ownership, let alone Matsson’s extreme political positions and Holocaust jokes. ATN would go easy on the Jimenez administration if it could kick the deal into the long grass. He pushed too hard, too fast. “I’m not Gil, you’re not Logan and that’s a good thing,” said Nate. Once again, the brothers were reminded they weren’t worthy.

Just when it looked like game over, the quad squad got wind of a potentially fortuitous scandal. After witnessing Matsson’s public bullying of comms chief Ebba (Eili Harboe), they pretended to sympathise while fishing for intel. Sure, his image as a coding genius was PR spin. Yes, he’d been sending her frozen blood but that was the least of his problems. Trouble was brewing in India, where GoJo had vastly inflated its subscriber numbers. “New money,” gloated Kendall. “You’ve got to hold those fresh bills to the light. I knew he was a bullshitter.” Well, it takes one to know one.

Matsson was rushing through the sale so the story would “get lost in the deal dazzle”. Was this the silver bullet the CE-bros needed to pull out? As he made puerile homophobic wisecracks and shrugged off Shiv’s questions like an overgrown teenager, Matsson almost resembled a long-lost Roy brother.

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No Oman, no cry

Power-hungry couple … Connor and Willa.

Spooked by polling data and with his supporters causing civil unrest, “alt-right” candidate Jeryd Mencken called in a favour from Roman. Connor’s paltry 1% support base could prove pivotal in several states if he could be convinced to drop out of the race. Was he prepared to hop off his “digital battlebus” and “divert the Conhead stream into the Mencken river”? Depends what’s in it for him.

National stereotypes flew thick and fast as they horse-traded over potential positions. Connor fancied the UN. They offered an ambassadorship in Mogadishu. “A bit car-bomby,” demurred Con, angling for Europe or one of the Koreas. “They’re not gonna put you anywhere with nukes,” said Roman. How about Oman, “the poor man’s Saudi Arabia or rich man’s Yemen”? Wife Willa (Justine Lupe) wasn’t keen, persuading Connor that he’d invested too much to quit now. Even after flaming out, he could parlay his ill-fated campaign into a memoir or tour the speaking circuit. Still raw from his rejection by Gerri, Romulus lost his rag. He wasn’t the power player he desperately longed to be. Not serious people indeed.

If only Shtom kept stumm

How did they go from icky sexting to splitting up? Tom spent this episode jealous of Nate, whinging about tiredness or desperately trying to offload his biodynamic German red which “smelt like wet dog”. When he abandoned his own party to hit the hay, Shiv followed and a heartbreakingly bitter row erupted. She’d been complicit in Matsson promising leadership change at ATN. Bad news for Tom, who’d been sucking up to secure his position “post-Roypocalypse”. Shiv was panicking that she’d backed the wrong horse. Both fearing for their futures, they turned on each other savagely.

He called her a scorpion. She called him a snake. She resented him for robbing her of Logan’s last six months. He resented her for being prepared to see him imprisoned. He was “a conservative hick” who’d never deserved her. When Tom said she was unfit to be a mother, why didn’t Shiv mention her pregnancy? Because the baby isn’t Tom’s? Or because it is? Either way, the lights went out on their rekindled romance. They were left looking ineffably sad in separate beds. Meanwhile, Roman volunteered to do Logan’s eulogy. Finally stepping up or mischief in mind?

The heir apparent

“Kendall+, the Waystar Jesus” remained in the ascendant, thanks to his audacious plan to “go reverse Viking and pillage their village” by acquiring the weakened GoJo. “One head, one crown” hinted that he’ll shaft his sibs in the process. But will his godfather and mentor Frank (Peter Friedman) back him?

Line of the week

Honourable mentions for Roman’s vision of a Democrat regime (“Red Guards rounding up thought criminals and turning police stations into cuddle puddles”) and last despairing plea to Gerri (“I could stand in a cupboard and jerk off while you explain what the SEC is … Too soon?”). But let’s declare a rare win for Connor and his explanation for those coffin-side vigils: “I find it consoling how much he’s not there.”

Notes and observations

  • A rollercoaster week for Greg (Nicholas Braun). Matsson called him “Gary”, recalling Logan’s “Craig”. The comic relief cousin went from being mocked as “a hanger-on, a dingleberry, genetic backwash” to impressing the Swedes with his sociopathic willingness to sack staff. Which I guess is a win?

  • No sign of Karl, Hugo or Karolina but we did see comebacks for Nate, Rava and bewhiskered Maxim Pierce (Mark Lynn Baker), AKA Connor’s “intellectual heft”.

  • Was Shiv’s “What the actual fuck?” a This Country homage? Was Tom’s crying claim a nod to this sobbing CEO?

Did this episode represent a mid-series quality dip? And where does your swingometer point? Rejoin us here next Monday. In the meantime, happy headbangers, please deposit your voting slips below.

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