tailgate party

Succession Power Rankings: A Little Party Prezzie

Photo: David M. Russell/David M. Russell

In a meta twist, we have a succession situation right here in this very recap: Emily St. James needed to step away from these rankings so she could focus on fighting the good fight as a member of the WGA, and as a longtime power ranker and devoted observer of miserable, terrible rich people, I thought it made sense, dramaturgically, for me to cover Succession through the end of the season. I prepared thoroughly for this task by saying “big shoes, big shoes” to my assembled group of shareholders (the Gumby I keep above my desk) until I felt ready to move forward.

The Roy kids are throwing a night-before-the-election party, and this shindig has everything: secrets and schemes, 40 “thought leaders” (barf), and a surprise guest-slash-crasher, cutesy Americana-themed hors d’oeuvre and German wine that no one wants to drink, and aggressive bro-hugging accompanied by fevered chanting of “We love the deal! We love the deal!” So let’s see where everybody stands after the events of “Tailgate Party.”



Is Willa going to save the U.S. from fascism? Thank you for your service, Willa! Willa gets minimal screen time in this episode, but with it, she wields such disproportionate power that I cannot help but be impressed. She has graduated with honors from the Marcia Roy School of Husband Management and Manipulation. (And, I will admit, I thought it was actually very sweet when Con responded to Roman’s outburst with “There’s one person here who doesn’t think I’m a joke, so I’m going to listen to her.”) Willa has put in the time. She has done the work. Once, she was just a working girl trying to make a play called Sands — except the sand she got was construction sand, not desert sand, and it was full of sand mites (!!), and it seemed like perhaps nothing could go right for her. But look at her now! I have believed in this couple for so long (or at least since the wedding episode, when we saw that they both actually wrote their own vows) and am delighted to see this scrappy outsider elbow her way to the top.



Cool as that fizzy red that Tom can’t get his guests to drink, unmoved by her slime puppy’s whimpering non-apologies, covered by reputation management that will protect her good name for five years, set to sail into the sunset with “eye-watering” sums of money: Gerri cannot be dethroned. “I could have gotten you there,” she tells Roman, with a perfect laugh. “But nope. Nope.” Gerri will always know what to do to advance her position, even and especially if that requires leaving Roman and the rest of the Roys in the rearview.



Connor could thwart a Mencken election — or not. Connor could go to South Korea — or maybe he wants North Korea. (“I don’t think I want to go anywhere that doesn’t have nukes.” Okay, girlboss!) Connor could move to a compound in Oman, or maybe he just wants to curl up in the old family mansion he bought from Marcia. (Sure, he overpaid, but better to overpay for that townhouse than to overpay for Pierce, no? Point for Connor.) It is absolutely perfect and hilarious that Con, polling at a hefty one percent, has somehow found himself out here calling the shots — literally over his dad’s dead body — while his siblings scramble around trying to undo the deal they were so desperate for not four episodes ago.



Still waiting to see a better exit strategy from this comms director who hates communicating beyond skedaddling before the India-subscriptions debacle comes out. But I trust she has a plan to mint some blood money, if you know what I mean.



I used to think that all the Roy children were, as their father proclaimed, not serious people. But Kendall’s moves of late have impressed me. Much like with his Living+ presentation, Kendall averts implosion at these festivities by being a surprisingly adept public speaker: charming, warm, quick to recover when Matsson interrupts. Although he is still too obsessed with being, as he puts it, “bigger than Dad ever was,” his daddy issues are not presently preventing him from making savvy business decisions. He can tell that it might not work to chase Matsson out on price alone, so he figures out a Plan B: regulatory fuckery. His intended tactic in this department doesn’t pan out as he’d hoped when Nate bails early on the party, because it’s getting too cozy for his rule-following tastes, insisting they don’t have to be like the men who molded them. How valiant, Nate! But the universe hands Kendall a boon in the form of Matsson’s wildly inflated India subscription numbers. His big episode-ending idea is classic Kendall in that it is both too big to work — What if they “reverse Viking” the deal and Waystar acquires GoJo? — and maybe the correct amount of so crazy it will work. He has been swearing up and down to his siblings that they’re all in this together, but he has his eye on the prize: “One head, one crown.” Manic Kendall with the gleam in his eye is back, baby! Hide your waiters, hide your wives.



For someone who knows he has big skeletons in the closet and blood on the FedEx receipt, Matsson’s being remarkably careless — though I guess in a classic tech-douche way, where he thinks his power is infinite and his actions will never have consequences. I don’t like to tell other people how to do their jobs, but if it were me in this situation, I might ease up on the public sexual harassment of my comms director who knows my India subs are fake. But what do I know? I am but a humble power ranker who has never, not even once, sent my blood in the mail to another person.

I’m docking points for that bomber jacket. Sorry. Money can’t buy good taste.



Poor, sentimental Roman: the only one of the three Roy siblings who foolishly believes they are still doing this “one for all, all for one” thing. He will be absolutely wrecked whenever he discovers that is not the case (possibly right before he is supposed to give his father’s eulogy). Impulsively firing Gerri was probably one of the dumbest things he has ever done, and he knows it. While he is technically present during the confab with Kendall and Ebba, in which she gives the boys the dirt they need on Matsson, I don’t know that we can give him credit for making her talk. She seemed ready to spill.



Oh, Shivvy. Too susceptible to flattery to realize when she’s on the wrong side of a deal. All it took for her to sell out her brothers after a brief but genuinely moving post-paternal-death bonding experience was one (admittedly very hot) guy telling her he liiiiiiked her. Now she’s calling Matsson “Lukas” and giving him all of the intel he craves without getting the intel she needs to know if she’s making a colossal mistake. She spends one-third of the party lying to her brothers; one-third of it basically babysitting Matsson to make sure he doesn’t, as he puts it, “scream ‘people are data’ and stick his dick in the guac”; and one-third having an absolutely devastating, add-it-to-the-Emmy-reel argument with Tom. Tom calls Shiv a “tough fucking bitch who will always survive,” and on that front, he is not wrong: He is always on the verge of being out on his ass, and she will always be a Roy. But she will also probably have the words “I think you are incapable of love, and I think you are maybe not a good person to have children” ringing in her head for the rest of her days.


New money

Gotta hold those bills to the light!



Inconsequential hall monitor who bails early on the party, but he does manage to rattle Tom just by showing up.



Tom starts the episode on a high: plotting with his sweet boyfriend Greg and bringing in breakfast to his wife, with whom he’s reunited. But his descent starts early with an ill-advised gift (a scorpion paperweight? Tom!) that lands about as well as you’d expect. You know a joke is going really well when you have to keep saying “It’s funny” and “It’s a joke” over and over.

When Tom started telling partygoers that he was tired, I channeled the spirit of Barbara Walters to shout at my screen, “Stop it. Nobody wants to hear that.” While at first he was tired in a fun, sexy way (from Shiv keeping him up all night), he is soon tired in a deeper, more profound way (from realizing he is going to be shitcanned and that Shiv will always treat him like a loser), and he totally unravels. He is clearly unsettled by the reappearance of Nate and destroyed by his wife’s mockery of his impending termination. It’s a real comedown from “Sorry I broke your dick last night” to “Mr. Mild, here is a one-pepper menu item,” and by the end of the evening, Tom is full-on spiraling. You know it’s a bad couple fight when everybody starts digging into the resentment archives. When Tom yells, “You were going to send me off to prison!” it hits like “Well, I’m sorry the man you love died and you’re stuck with me!” Father Sexmas has not forgotten he was once the Christmas tree.


Fake numbers

As someone who loves to say that money isn’t real and we can always just print more of it (It’s not, and we can! Do not @ me), it pains me to admit that fake numbers had a rough one this week. Would that we lived in a world with two Indias, but here, in this one, Matsson’s subscription numbers are even more impossible than Kendall’s Living+ projections, and his cavalier attitude about that could be the thing that brings his whole deal crashing down.



Forced to do mass layoffs over Zoom — which, God, imagine being somebody who worked at Waystar for, like, 25 years just to get summarily executed via teleconference by Cousin Greg — and hated by Matsson, Greg is in a lousy position this week, having endeared himself to no one but Tom. I am not counting him out completely. Being team KenRo could work out for this climber yet. But for now, this “disgusting brother” is sitting near the bottom of the pile.



She’s having a hard time at school, where her classmates have formed an “anti-ATN club” — plus, she’s getting recognized and shoved in the street in what she reportedly believes was a “racially tinged” encounter … and none of it is going to be enough to get her dad to call her. But it’s just because Kendall is very busy doing everything to make the world safe for his kids, whom he never sees and has not mentioned literally all season. Kendall could’ve drowned that one time or died that other time, but instead, he is living long enough to see himself become the villain. He has sacrificed Sophie to the bottom of these power rankings so that he can rise to the top five. Cat’s in the cradle, turn turn turn, etc.


That German wine

It’s a fizzy red. It’s supposed to bubble. It separates the real connoisseurs from the weekend-drinking Malbec morons. Maybe if we hide it behind the bar to create a kind of scarcity, that’ll help?

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Succession Power Rankings: A Little Party Prezzie