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

Tom, from my POV, you know, keep cranking because you’re doing great. Photo: HBO

In “Wambsgans Watch,” we weigh in on the state of Tom Wambsgans’ relationships in each of the remaining episodes of Succession. Spoilers follow for episode two of season four, “Rehearsal.”

Tom Wambsgans has gotten very good at his job. I don’t mean his role as a leader in the ATN newsroom, where he issues meaningless proclamations like, “From my POV, you know, keep cranking because we’re doing great.” I mean the job he’s given himself in life, which is to keep skating by in unearned positions of power while talking out both sides of his mouth. Tom has become a really skilled liar. When he says, “I don’t know what you mean” after Shiv accuses him, correctly, of tying up every high-powered divorce attorney in Manhattan, I almost believe him, and I know damn well he isn’t telling the truth.

Basically, if you’re in the presence of Tom Wambsgans and you see a bus approaching in the distance, brace yourself, because you are about to get thrown directly under that sucker. Well, unless you’re Logan Roy, a man Tom cannot afford to irritate. In this week’s episode, he mostly manages to avoid doing that while also breaking some Greggs. Let’s get into it!

Who is Tom Wambsgans fucking with this week?
A number of people, actually. He clearly has it in for Syd, and she knows it. When Logan, prowling through the newsroom like Hitman Santa, asks where she is, Tom’s response — “She doesn’t tend to stay late when it’s opera season” — makes it clear that Tom does not see her as his “partner in crime” despite what he says to the newsroom. It’s also a hilariously shitty thing to say since Tom had to turn around and dash through a tunnel to get back to ATN after leaving the office early. The way Syd is treated, coupled with Logan’s immediate distrust of Gerri for laughing at Kerry’s audition tape (even though Hugo was the one playing it on his laptop and laughing harder), is just further confirmation that ATN/Waystar is a terrible working environment for competent women over the age of 40.

Tom is definitely messing with Greg in this episode — more on that shortly — but the person he’s fucking over more than anyone is Shiv. Not only does he make sure that all the big-time divorce lawyers are conflicted out so that Shiv cannot hire them, Tom makes that move based on advice he got from Logan. That’s the worst part of it for Shiv: Tom is dunking on her with an alley-oop from her own father. No wonder she tells Tom, and I quote: “You want to be my dad’s little bitch-boy? Why don’t you deliver him a message, bitch-boy? Tell him to fuck off and stay out of my life.”

Tom actually looks a bit stricken after Shiv hangs up on him, as if he truly believed that he could pull a “This is business, not personal” on his divorce. For a millisecond, he seems worried, either because he genuinely doesn’t want to hurt Shiv, or because he’s afraid of what she might do to retaliate. Or both.

Who is fucking with Tom Wambsgans?
I mean, Logan is fucking with Tom a little bit by showing up in the newsroom unannounced, heckling Tom during his speech, and bitching about the really important and costly issues related to ATN’s operation. (“Why am I looking at all this pizza? It’s out of control, Tom.”) But he seems to appreciate Tom’s response to Kerry’s disaster of an anchor audition, wherein he says she “has it” (a lie) but also concedes that she needs time to develop as an on-camera personality. This is the closest Logan has gotten to someone being honest with him, and he seems to respect Tom for it, if only because it lets Logan off the hook for derailing Kerry’s on-camera ambitions. (Please give Matthew Macfadyen a special achievement Emmy for turning the sentence “You know, she has a lot to learn” into a walk across a very precarious tightrope suspended between two extremely tall Manhattan skyscrapers.)

In keeping with his pattern of doing what Logan would do, Tom then gets someone else to handle the “incredibly delicate piece of diplomacy” involved in telling Kerry she won’t be getting an anchor’s slot right away. And who better to handle an incredibly delicate piece of diplomacy than Greg? You know, other than literally any other sentient creature on planet Earth?

How fucked up are things between Tom and Greg?
In addition to forcing Greg to do the unpleasant work of cutting Kerry from the callback sheet, a job Greg blundered even more spectacularly than I thought he would, Tom continues to treat Greg like a foster puppy he might give back to the shelter at any moment. He pats him on the head one minute (“Hey, buddy,” he answers when Greg calls), then slaps him on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper the next (he refuses to let Greg forget about his sex tape, A Bit of a Rummage). Sadly, this is the sturdiest relationship Greg seems to have at the moment, so he’s holding onto it with both awkward hands.

At the end of this episode, how fucked is Tom?
Honestly, he seems very not-fucked at this point. He’s on good footing with Logan, he outsmarted Shiv on the divorce front (for now), and if he has to do anything nasty or uncomfortable, he has Greg to do it for him. But I think Tom might be fucked in a longer-term sense. Any Succession character who’s navigating life with some confidence in episode two is probably poised for a downfall before the season’s over. In short, this very tall man is peaking too early. Then again, Tom is so good at deceit now that maybe that’s just what he wants me to think.

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