The warning signs have been there all along.
Kendall thinks he’s a cool guy—and like all extremely rich people, he has the supreme confidence to prevent anyone from disabusing him of the notion. He’s the guy who overpaid for Vaulter, the irreverent new media site that must have seemed like a cred-building alternative to ATN, which seems to appeal to the angriest white people in the retirement home. He’s the guy who wore those conspicuous $500 Lanvin sneakers to a meeting with Manhattan artists looking for a sponsor. (The New Yorker referred to it as “a tactical shoe error.”) In fact, his entire vision for Waystar is premised on a break from ossified assets, like his father’s push for local TV stations last season. The Waystar of the future must be attuned to whatever trendy thing will make him seem forward-thinking and hip.
And so in “Dundee,” before the family members, business associates, and local officials gathered in Scotland for a surprise celebration of Logan’s 50th year in the business, we witness the mortifying spectacle of a tribute rap, with beats by DJ Squiggle and rhymes by the hollowed soul with the custom jersey and bowtie. Here are the four flavors of reaction shots to Kendall’s musical debut:
1. Uh, what’s about to happen here?
2. Ironic enjoyment. (“It’s burning my eyes but I can’t look away.”)
3. Total shock.
4. Trying to get into a groove that does not exist.
Kendall’s ill-advised foray into rap music recalls “MC Rove,” a notorious number from the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner in 2007, when Brad Sherwood and Colin Mochrie of Whose Line It It Anyway? brought the once-feared Republican consultant Karl Rove on stage for a similarly stilted comic bit. Even the writers of Succession couldn’t hope to top the spectacle of the gravel-voiced Rove flailing awkwardly around the stage, but “MC Rove” was at least intended as parody. Kendall delivers his rhymes in earnest (“Don’t get it twisted, I’ve been through hell / But since I stan dad, I’m alive and well”), peppered with a little Roy family invective to give them some edge. Maybe the best part is how he emphasizes the OG in Logan (“L to the OG) and leaves AN to drift off into the ether. We love you, Log.
The rest of “Dundee”—and honestly, it’s not easy to remember that there’s anything else happening in this episode—carries over the Rhea-related drama from last week, as Shiv looks to avenge getting played so badly. (“We need to fuck her from 100 different directions at 1,000 miles per hour,” she tells her siblings, to a largely muted response.) Though Rhea probably doesn’t know the extent to which the Roy family is a viper’s nest, she proves a quick study on how to do damage control and ingratiate herself to the right people. But not before Shiv plants a seed in Marcia’s head about the new woman in her husband’s life, or enlists Kendall to have her offer a toast to Logan’s late sister Rose, who’s the sorest of sore subjects from his past. She’s also made unaware of Logan’s aversion to surprises, which makes the entire process of throwing the party and recording the tribute video amount to one large conspiracy against her.
Rhea faces some terrible blowback, especially from Marcia, who asks her if she is regularly tested for sexually transmitted diseases. (The phrase “regularly tested” is particularly sinister in its implication that Rhea could need to get tested often.) But the Roy children are so susceptible to plays on their vanity, so it doesn’t take more than a line or two for her to turn Roman (“I get your rep. Some labels take a while to peel off, but I happen to think you have a best instincts of all of them.”) and Kendall. (“When we’re out on the other side of this all, it’s you. It’s always been you.) Roman and Kendall are so far on the outs with their father that they crave this sort of flattery, especially coming from the woman who currently has his ear. She’s teasing out the possibility of what might happen when they come in from the cold.
In the end, though, Shiv finds a more substantive way to screw over Rhea than to make things awkward with Marcia or to touch on one of Logan’s sore spots inadvertently. When news surfaces that a longtime accountant in cruises has damaging information on the payouts and shadow logs that covered up abhorrent misconduct in the division, Shiv comes to understand that a new CEO would suffer huge damage to her reputation. And so she decides to allow her father to enjoy his evening without knowing the accountant is prepared to come forward, and she gives him her implied blessing on Rhea as CEO, which has the added benefit of impressing her father with her magnanimity. (Incredibly, her dad doesn’t suspect he’s being played.)
The real rot underneath “Dundee,” however, is the phony mythology that props up the Logan Roy story. He’s returning to his humble beginnings in Scotland, where he’s been honored with a plaque and a tour of Dundee University, which features the Logan Roy School of Journalism. (“What’s next? The Jack the Ripper Women’s Health Clinic?,” his brother quips.) His kids are under the impression that he quite literally didn’t have a pot to piss in, and that the road to billions was an improbable rags-to-riches tale. (“He had to shit outside, right?,” asks Connor. “Sometimes I think I’ll never truly understand dad until I shit outside.”) But one glimpse at his cozy childhood home renders it such an obvious fiction that Logan won’t even get out of the car for a quick tour and a photo-op. He wants to get out of town with his bullshit intact.
Sad Sack Wasp Traps
• The week’s funniest subplot involves Willa’s play, Sands, becoming Connor’s own personal Heaven’s Gate. He makes excuses for the first preview performance, which is filled with place-holder lines due to a mysterious virus that’s infected Willa. He tells Kendall that what he saw was “the worst it could be” and that it would only get better. But Greg soberly reports that there might be mites “thriving” in the nine metric tons of sand that’s been dumped on stage, and the project is such a debacle that one of the actresses, Jennifer, has skipped town for a fling with Kendall. “You’ll have to talk to the sand supplier like everyone else” is a line for the ages.
• Connor does get the best tribute video, however. “I super-love you, superdad.”
• Greg assessing the single Scottish protestor with the “Roy Cunt” sign: “I feel like it’s weirder with one protester, like you don’t know whether to make eye contact.” Surely this is a reference to Janey Godley’s lone protest in Scotland when Donald Trump turned up to celebrate the passage of Brexit.
• Roman’s streak of failed party surprises, like the satellite launch during Shiv’s wedding or the call to a Pierce surrogate during the Hungarian retreat, continues with his purchase of the wrong local soccer club. The real kicker comes from Karl, who says, “If it’s any consolation, I’m horrible at gift-buying. Always get the wrong thing.”
• Kendall’s inability to square up to Jennifer and end their fling face-to-face is a reminder that he is, in fact, a weak and craven human being. A tragic arc isn’t necessarily a redemptive one.