wambsgans watch

What’s Tom’s Deal on This Week’s Succession?

Get this man a nap, stat. Photo: HBO

In “Wambsgans Watch,” we weigh in on the state of Tom Wambsgans’s relationships in each of the remaining episodes of Succession. Spoilers follow for episode nine of season four, “Church and State.”

This week’s episode of Succession contains the lowest amount of Wambsgans all season. Perhaps that’s simply because Tom is unable to make the funeral, where the majority of the action in “Church and State” takes place. Or it could be a more meaningful hint that Tom, as an outsider within the Roy family, is simply not quote-unquote essential personnel as we move into the final moments of this series.

What’s fascinating about Tom’s absence from the funeral is what it signifies. As Shiv says after Tom slinks into the reception looking like George Michael Bluth after a rough breakup, “You would never have dared not to come to his funeral when he was alive.” Perhaps Tom didn’t feel beholden to pay homage to Logan, a dead man who, in his words, “has lost quite a lot of influence over the past few days.” Or maybe he was avoiding Shiv and the heavy emotions that may arise from sitting through the funeral. Or it’s possible Tom actually did feel a responsibility to stay at the office given all the news and chaos unfolding. Is there a chance that, for once in his life, Tom Wambsgans was actually … doing his job?

I mean, probably not. He was probably just delegating a bunch of tasks to make himself feel important, then staring dejectedly at the New York Times for extended periods of time. But with only one more episode of Succession to go, I’d like to delude myself into imagining some potential growth for Tom.

Who is Tom Wambsgans fucking with this week?
Tom is too busy and too tired to fuck with anyone.

Who is fucking with Tom Wambsgans?
Well, for starters, the New York Times. It’s got a huge spread that breaks down the events that led to ATN making the call for Mencken — “12:15–18 a.m., Darwin Injures Eye at Critical Moment.”

“So who gave them the timeline?” Tom asks Greg.

“A lot of people know,” Greg responds. “A lot of people don’t want to go to the Hague for war crimes.” (Translation: It was Greg. Greg gave them the timeline.)

Tom is not concerned that he might be implicated in any so-called war crimes. Tom, a man who spent a good chunk of the series terrified about going to jail, is concerned that he’s not implicated enough. “This diminishes my role,” Tom says of the infographic, as if he didn’t go out of his way to diminish his role by making Greg do a lot of the dirty work and snorting cocaine.

In yet another instance of Tom insisting on his own importance without living up to the responsibility that comes with it, he tells Greg he’s going to have a hard time making the funeral despite being “a front wheelman” who’s slotted in the “casket front right” spot. (Greg, naturally, swoops in to take over that position when Tom doesn’t show.) He also directs Greg multiple times to make sure Mencken and his people know Tom was the one who ultimately swung the election in their favor. Even at his most frantic, Tom remembers to remind Greg to work on that. “There are fires in Baltimore, Darwin might resign, online is peaking,” he says when Greg calls from the church. “Tell them I will get there as soon as I can. And tell them it was me.” That last comment lands like a Wambsgansian version of Olenna Tyrell’s “Tell Cersei it was me.” Insistent, but more pathetic than threatening.

When Tom finally drags himself to the reception, Shiv also fucks with him at first, picking up a glass of Champagne and taking a couple long sips, which is the equivalent of holding a gun to their growing fetus’s head. At the moment, she is the only one with the capacity to control their child’s health and well-being, which gives her all the power in that relationship. She knows it, and she wants to make sure Tom knows it.

When he asks why she didn’t tell him about her pregnancy sooner, she says, “Because it seemed so sad, Tom.” Like so many lines on Succession, this one is pregnant — sorry — with interpretations. Shiv could mean it’s sad she found out the pregnancy was viable the day after her father died, or sad that she would be having Tom’s baby during their nasty divorce, or sad that Shiv, a woman seemingly ill-equipped to nurture, is somehow going to be a mother. She might just mean all of that.

Considering that she’s now angling to be the CEO of Waystar via an arrangement with Matsson and Mencken — guess Mencken’s politics don’t actually bother her that much?! — her comments to her mother about never seeing the baby while he/she/they is growing up may not be entirely a joke. Tom is definitely not entirely joking when he responds to Caroline’s congratulations with, “Well, if it wasn’t such a fucking disaster, it would be a dream come true.” Shiv’s right. It is so sad.

But it also seems like the balance in the Tom-Shiv relationship, as dysfunctional as it is, has been restored. Tom eventually takes her aside and apologizes for not making it to the funeral, again citing his work obligations and the fact that he’s so, so tired. “You know, I was the first one in there with him after he died,” he says of Logan, which, based on the events in episode three, might not be entirely accurate? “I was. So I did say good-bye to him. I did.” Then Tom Wambsgans breaks down crying, and between this and Roman absolutely losing it during his eulogy, I feel like I need to make funeral arrangements for myself. Damn this show for making me feel bad for people I would loathe in normal circumstances!

Tom seems to feel genuinely guilty that he didn’t show up at the funeral, didn’t show up for Shiv, didn’t properly grieve. And just as Tom did for Shiv in episode four of this season, Shiv shows him some kindness. She tells him to go to their apartment and sleep, which comes across as, perhaps, a more official invitation for him to move back home for good. Or maybe she just wants to get rid of Tom so she can resume girlbossing around the reception in her portrait neckline.

Shiv has always had the upper hand in the relationship, and it seems like Tom is too tired — literally and figuratively — to fight about that at this point. Tom Wambsgans may have finally reached a crucial phase in his grief as well as his marriage: acceptance.

How fucked up are things between Tom and Greg?
The Disgusting Brothers dynamic is mostly par for the course in this episode, although it’s notable that Greg continues to get more quality face time with the right people than Tom does. He manages to get that coveted casket front-right pallbearer spot at the funeral. Matsson also greets him with the phrase, “Hey, sexy,” which is creepy but also, I guess, sort of a term of endearment? I’ve been saying this for weeks, but I think Greg will come out of this series in a better position than Tom. I don’t know how that’s going to happen with only one episode left, but I stand by my intuition.

At the end of this episode, how fucked is Tom?
Possibly not too fucked. If Shiv’s plan works, she seems poised to advocate for him to keep his position at ATN. If Kendall or Roman assumes control of Waystar, they may keep him on, too, since he was so willing to go along with calling the election for Mencken. My main concern about Tom at the moment is that he’s going to take a nap at the apartment and sleep through all of the events in the final episode. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen since, for reasons that defy logic, I want as much Wambsgans as I can possibly get before this show ends.

More From This Series

See All
What’s Tom’s Deal on This Week’s Succession?