With season three of Succession now in the books, Vulture is returning to where it all began with weekly recaps of season one. Rewatch along with us and check back every Sunday night for the next pair of episodes.
“Yeah, this was in no way our worst Thanksgiving,” says Shiv, after a Thanksgiving that would, in any semi-normal family, lead to multiple divorces or breakups, rewritten wills, and hundreds of hours of therapy. Granted, the worst is yet to come, when everyone gathers together for a family game in the living room, but the tenor of this Thanksgiving is familiar to the Roys, who routinely humiliate each other for sport. Much of the greatness of “I Went to Market” derives from seeing the Roys in close combat, where they sometimes respect the formality of the occasion enough to tuck their hostilities into passive-aggression, but more often it spills over into open warfare. Yet the real fascination of the episode is how much attention it pays to romantic partners outside the immediate family, most of whom have likely never experienced anything like this before.
Each of the siblings arrives with someone under their arms, save for Kendall, whose estranged wife, Rava, turns up late with their two children — a subtle sign that she knows how these things typically go and wants to limit the torture. (For her wisdom and caution, she’s treated to the lowest moment of the night.) Connor attracts whispers for bringing Willa, who most seem to know as a call girl and aspiring playwright making the exceedingly awkward transition into being his girlfriend. None of the Roy siblings want to say a word to her, which leads to a bit of forced small talk with Greg that goes badly until he breaks the ice with a most delightfully inane “Would you rather?” question: “Would you rather be trapped in swimming pool with a shark or a cage with a tiger?” (They seem genuinely happy that they’d both rather be in the pool.) Later, Connor proposes to bring an end to their escort-client relationship by offering to bankroll her theater projects in exchange for “going steady.” So nothing fundamental about their dynamic changes at all.
Roman’s girlfriend, Grace, last seen being shooed from one of his five bathrooms for the crime of making the moves on him, draws fire from him over a Waystar holiday smash called The Biggest Turkey in the World. While screwing around in Hollywood, Roman had argued strenuously against the green-lighting and was overruled, and now he’s sulking over a company line item that’s making him that much richer. When he catches Grace showing the film to a couple of kids, all of them giggling happily over it, Roman treats it like she’s cheated on him. Or worse, really, since Roman has shown this beautiful young woman zero sexual interest in the past six months.
Infidelity is central to a burbling dispute between Shiv and her fiancé, Tom, over a prenuptial agreement that Tom’s lawyer/mom has dubbed “a little unconscionable.” The eager-to-please Tom stands ready to sign anyway — or so he says — because he genuinely seems to love her and realizes that equal partnership in this relationship was never a possibility, even though the career opportunities are rich. However, what frustrates him the most isn’t the presence of odious business clauses “like tiered share option tie-ins for my sperm count,” but the absence of any conditions related to infidelity. He wonders, reasonably, if this means that Shiv intends to cheat on him during their marriage. Her answer all but confirms it: If any affairs do happen — and she’s not saying they will, though “shit happens” — then hey, “we’re both grown-ups.”
But no outsider has a more miserable Thanksgiving than poor Greg, who’s been summoned to Canada by his grandpa Ewan (James Cromwell) to drive him down to New York for dinner with his brother Logan at Marcia’s behest. Ewan doesn’t like to fly. He doesn’t like chatter or music, either, because it would keep Greg from concentrating on the road. And stopping to settle Greg’s “rumbling tum” would be too great a disruption to the silent 12-hour drive ahead. Ewan and Logan are two sides of the same brotherly coin: Morally and ideologically opposed, yes, but the same joyless, irascible brute at the core, seemingly devoted to making those around them as miserable as they are. The notion of either of them humbling themselves enough to reconcile with anyone, much less each other, is beyond imagining.
It gets much worse for Greg, however. Not long after arriving in New York, Tom goads him into the special Thanksgiving Day mission of shredding all the company files related to the cruises scandal. Tom is told that a service will come to drive the tattered evidence away into the night, quietly and discreetly, but the person who actually does the shredding may be up for future, uh, legal scrutiny. Should a whistleblower come forward and these documents have gone missing, the authorities will want to check the logs, so Tom should find someone he trusts — you know, a sucker. But just like the last episode, when he spilled Tom’s press conference idea to Gerri, Greg isn’t dumb enough to take the fall for his fake-buddy. So he holds back some incriminating papers for personal insurance reasons, singing, “This saves the day, the other goes away.” He may have no solid foothold in the family business, but Greg is a survivor.
On the main stage, the Roy family ends the occasion with a light memory game with heavy implications. Passing around a simple can of cranberry sauce — Logan apparently likes it, so everyone has brought him one — each person has to add to a list of mostly silly items, ending with “and this,” the cranberry sauce in their hand. When the can falls to Logan, there’s a tremendous amount at stake because his fitness as CEO is under question — at least from Kendall, who wants to use his dad’s health to force a “no confidence” vote at the next board meeting and perhaps get himself installed as head of the company. In a true cursed monkey’s paw scenario, Kendall gets his wish when his dad can’t even see to remember the game they’re playing but winds up expressing his frustration by accidentally hitting Kendall’s son in the face.
The boy’s wounds will heal, however. Logan’s reputation may have taken a permanent hit. So on balance, Thanksgiving was a win for Kendall.
• The main rift between Logan and his kids is over the company’s future, so news of Waystar purchasing a packet of local TV stations, where most people still get their news, is anathema to cord-cutting cool guys like Kendall and Roman. But a highly lucid Logan won’t hear it: “There’s this fancy new business theory. It’s called ‘Make more than you spend and you’re King Cunt.’”
• A small detail, but the only words we hear from Marcia’s son Amir at Thanksgiving dinner is his gratitude over a position in the company roughly equivalent to the VP job Logan eyes for Kendall in the farthest global backwater he can imagine.
• Kendall appears to have Frank’s support for the “no confidence” vote, but it seems obvious that Frank simply doesn’t like the old man, not that he buys Kendall’s concerns about health or his own fitness as CEO. Meanwhile, Gerri surprises Kendall by offering her own vote to him in confidence — “I work for Waystar, not Logan Roy” — but it seems a likely repeat of the last episode when she pretended to talk to Logan on his behalf at the benefit. Logan Roy is Waystar, and she works for him.
• In case the Fox News allusions weren’t clear enough, Ewan calling Logan “a carnival barker for all the wars we didn’t need” makes it unambiguous.
• Exchange of the hour, between Ewan and Greg: “This whole family is a nest of vipers. They’ll wrap themselves around you and they’ll suffocate you.” “I’m pretty sure that’s boa constrictors.”