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'Succession' recap, Season 3, Episode 2: The sibling summit and the Trojan horse

Roman (Kieran Culkin) is trying to figure out where to put his loyalties.
Macall Polay
Roman (Kieran Culkin) is trying to figure out where to put his loyalties.

What happened this week

Shiv, Roman and Connor all gather at Kendall's improvised war room to talk about whether to team up against Logan, but ultimately, they blink. Marcia negotiates her return to Logan following his indiscretions with Rhea, and we find that Stewy is still in cahoots with Sandy — but it's a new Sandy.

85 MPH: Logan

It's tempting to think, "It can't be good to know your daughter has your profile photo in her phone set to Saddam Hussein," but I think Logan would probably take it as a compliment.

As bad as his kids are, it's hard not to think Logan's manipulation of them is worse. He knows how to play to their weaknesses: he teases Shiv with the promise of respect, he teases Connor with the promise of inclusion, he teases Roman with the promise of responsibility. And they all fear him, so when the donuts show up with his note, what it really does is exploit their fears, particularly their fears that he's invincible. Those may just look like donuts, but what they say is: I know everything. I see everything. Don't bother trying. And it works.

The most shocking thing about the summit of the Roy siblings (Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Alan Ruck, Kieran Culkin) is that it almost works. Almost.
Macall Polay / HBO
The most shocking thing about the summit of the Roy siblings (Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Alan Ruck, Kieran Culkin) is that it almost works. Almost.

70 MPH: Kendall

Kendall's best hope is that his siblings, given an opportunity to get out from under their terrifying father, will actually take it. And it briefly seems like ... it might work. Shiv and Roman are intrigued by the possibility even as they insist that only the other one is interested, while Connor is smarting from being treated like a nobody. They all manage to find themselves at Kendall's base of operations at Reva's without any of them admitting they're there to consider switching their loyalty. And what they get is a lot of Kendall's big talk, the same kind of big talk he used to spout after psyching himself up in the back of his limo, rapping. They get Kendall's buzzword-laden corporate-speak, which they fear will be no match for Logan's ferocity.

Kendall is not a new man; he is still the fundamentally insecure and grasping kid he was two seasons ago, and he still doesn't instill any confidence in anybody as a leader just because he made one bomb-throwing move they didn't expect. (He does have the ability to be unexpectedly right about things, even as he says them in ridiculous ways, as when he points out to Shiv that she probably feels a little weird about the fact that she never stood up to Logan and Kendall did.)

In the end, you collide with how much Kendall has not changed when you see how quickly he becomes vicious, misogynist, and generally emotionally abusive to his siblings the minute they refuse to back him.

60 MPH: Roman

Sent by his father to keep an eye on Gerri, Roman keeps to himself the nature of his relationship with her, which is one of the few things that's truly relevant to his situation that Logan has no idea about. Because Roman is, at the very least, intrigued by Gerri and very much influenced by her. And it's interesting to observe, in his relationships with his siblings, that Roman can tolerate everything *except* being teased about sex, particularly when it's adjacent to Gerri, as it is when Shiv brings it up.

Roman asks Gerri for advice, even though he knows she can't be objective, and she tells him that yes, they could bring down Logan, but no, none of them would likely become CEO. So Roman has the same problem Shiv and Connor have: He kind of wants to bring down Logan in the same way everyone wants to be a dragonslayer, but he only wants to do it if it can make him the winner. He would rather Logan be tormenting all the siblings equally than, say, see an outsider get involved.

There are times when Connor (Alan Ruck) tries to be a good big brother to Shiv (Sarah Snook), but she's pretty much never into it.
Macall Polay / HBO
There are times when Connor (Alan Ruck) tries to be a good big brother to Shiv (Sarah Snook), but she's pretty much never into it.

50 MPH: Shiv

Shiv is upset about Gerri getting the CEO job over her, and it seems at first that there's a chance she's going to turn on her father. But Shiv is a pragmatist, and she knows that none of the men in her family intend to cede any ground to her. They laugh it off when she tells Kendall she would only go along with the overthrow if she then became CEO, and they side with Roman when she needles him about Gerri and he gets upset. Shiv would go along with a team effort here, too, except she can feel that in a way, she will never be part of the team.

(Shiv saying "unsubscribe" while Kendall unfurls his dopey speech about the end of empires is my choice for the single funniest line of the week.)

49 MPH: Tom

Tom is doing what Tom does best: tormenting Greg and desperately wishing for his wife's love. His decision to withhold his "I love you" from Shiv is just another way of trying to get her to give him more reassurance, but it's interesting how unsettling it is to her. Like Shiv and Roman, Tom spends a lot of this week trying to take out his discontent on other people — Greg, in particular, who has been ducking Tom's calls until Tom thinks to call him from a different number. Tom's gotta leave Greg alone. That kid has seen too much.

30 MPH: Connor

I've always considered Connor a ticking time bomb, in that you can tell how much he notices (and resents) his father taking him for granted, writing him off, acting like he doesn't matter. And weirdly, as Connor has become even a fringe political figure, he's gained allies and an identity that's not reliant on Logan. The little moment where Kendall says Waystar is a declining empire within a declining empire and Connor says "amen, brother" is so sharp and also bitterly sad, because Kendall is just rambling like a knucklehead (as I said last week, my sense is that he's very high), but for Connor, this is the kind of thing he deeply believes in and loves to hold court about. It would be really exciting to him if Kendall were coming around to one of his strange political ideas.

Nevertheless, Connor is not quite at the point Kendall eventually reached, where his hatred of Logan outweighs his desperate wish that Logan would just love him already. And more than the other kids, Connor sees Kendall's behavior as an opportunity at a personal and familiar level. Roman and Shiv (and, of course, Kendall) all are scrapping for control of the company, but Connor sees how he can maybe wiggle in there, into his dad's field of vision and approval, given that Kendall is now a pariah. It would make all the sense in the world for Connor to seize this opportunity to get out from under his father, but he can't, because he's too busy seizing the unexpected chance to ... you know, go for the kiss from daddy.

But maybe most important and most tragic, Connor would have gone for this if his siblings had all been united, if the discussion at Reva's had gone differently. He would have done it if they could have done it together — if, as he says, it could have been nice.

20 MPH: Gerri

The detail that Gerri takes a picture of the TV announcing her ascent is really a good one: This means more to her than she's letting on, and certainly more than she let on last season, when she seemed to believe being temporarily in charge was a burden more than anything. Roman's vision is that she puts together a team to distribute blame in case anything goes wrong, but he and she will actually be in charge. Gerri is playing it very cool right now, not doing anything too nasty (you have to decide for yourself how much she really believes the kids would be iced out if they teamed up with Kendall versus how much she just wants Roman to stay loyal to her).

10 MPH: Greg

Greg is starting to realize that Kendall is a pretty dangerous guy to bet on, particularly when Kendall oh-so-subtly reminds Greg that while he isn't going to reveal to the government that Greg gave him the documents he's basing his case against his father on, he could. But he won't. But he could.

And so, Greg winds up desperate for advice — so desperate that he accepts help from Uncle Ewan, who lines him up an attorney (Peter Riegert) who just wants to use Greg and what he knows in a different way than Kendall does: to bring down Waystar Royco and capitalism in general. It's a line lifted from The American President, but Greg really is the kind of guy who always winds up in a minimum security prison.

Racing along her own track: Marcia

Marcia is ice-cold, and I mean that as a compliment. She's been estranged from Logan since she realized he was sleeping with Rhea, but she knows how to take care of herself, so when she realizes Logan wants a reconciliation for business and political purposes, she makes sure she's compensated for it. And she also helps to address a question a lot of people have probably been asking since last week's episode: Why isn't Logan nuking Kendall by revealing that Kendall killed a kid in a car crash? As Logan says, he probably couldn't reveal that without implicating himself as well (in the cover-up), so in a way, he and Kendall are stuck staring each other down.

Starting her engine: Sandy

New Sandy (Hope Davis) is Original Sandy's daughter, and she's replaced her dad in working with Stewy to take over Waystar at the upcoming shareholder meeting. It's not clear how Kendall will together with that effort: obviously, bringing down Logan could be good for them, but they don't want the entire company destroyed, and neither does Kendall. What would really help is if Team Stewy would back Kendall — if everybody who's trying to get Logan out would work together. Team Stewy gets board seats, Kendall gets to be in charge. Negotiations continue along these lines, because Kendall really expected to get at least one of his siblings to come aboard, and they just didn't.

Those were some powerful donuts.

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Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.