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 four of season four, “Honeymoon States.”
In last week’s landscape-altering episode of Succession, Tom Wambsgans expressed concern that he had lost his protector. He was right to be worried.
It quickly becomes apparent in “Honeymoon States,” which takes place entirely at a wake/scramble to determine the interim CEO of Waystar Royco, that Tom is a man without a safe harbor. Actually, it’s Karl who sums up his situation best, with a brutally honest explanation of why no one from the company’s top brass or the Roy family would support Tom becoming CEO.
“The negative case would go, you’re a clumsy interloper and no one trusts you,” Karl says. Now, he could have just ended his comments there. But he doesn’t. “The only guy pulling for you is dead,” he continues, “and now you’re just married to the ex-boss’s daughter and she doesn’t even like you. And you are fair and squarely fucked.”
In a wonderfully panicked piece of acting from Matthew Macfadyen, Tom takes this in with a face that looks like he’s just been shoved off a Brightstar cruise ship. “Jesus, Karl,” he chokes out. Tom hasn’t been this humiliated since he had to oink-crawl his way through a game of Boar on the Floor.
While Karl could’ve said all that a bit gentler, he’s not wrong. Wambsgans has officially been Wambsgansed. Let’s discuss, preferably while shoving an entire fish taco down our throats!
Who is Tom Wambsgans fucking with this week?
At first, it seems like Tom might be willing to fuck over whomever he needs to fuck over in order to get that interim-CEO gig. When he, Karl, Frank, Karolina, and Gerri have their senior-management huddle and Frank begins to suggest that “the kids” — meaning Shiv, Kendall, and Roman, because Connor is basically the Invisible Man Who Just Inherited a Sick Apartment — might not be up to the task of running the company, Tom immediately refers to them as “screwups and dipshits.”
But as soon as he realizes that those screwups and dipshits might very well decide his fate, and also after Karl punches him in the kidneys with his words, Tom sucks up to every single Roy sibling (not Connor, obviously) in hopes of finding an ally with some level of power.
A word cloud of Tom’s comments throughout the day would look like this: “Respectfully. I’m here to serve. Let me show you some kindness.” Whether Tom fucks over someone in the future — which, let’s face it, he probably will — in this moment, he is behaving like a man throwing himself on the mercy of the court.
The one instance in which Tom seems genuine is his interaction with Shiv. He speaks to her as if he wants to get back together, reminding her of a happy moment early in their relationship when he flew to her in France, and seems genuinely concerned for her well-being. It’s notable, too, that Tom is the only one Shiv openly talks to about the guilt and grief she’s feeling about losing her father. Shiv also knows something Tom does not: She’s carrying his baby, which, assuming she eventually gives birth to the child, means she and Tom will be family, on some level, for life.
Tom doesn’t realize it yet, but he may have a permanent foothold in the Roy family because of that fetus. And that could give him a tiny bit of power? Maybe?
Who is fucking with Tom Wambsgans?
Oh, wow, practically everyone. We’ve already talked about Karl’s roast, a.k.a. the Wambsgans Reaming Heard ’Round the World, but Gerri’s got no love for him either. When Tom says he is “sick with grief” over Logan’s passing, Gerri hits him with a zinger: “Oh, you’re sick with grief? You might want to put down that fish taco, you’re getting your melancholy everywhere.”
When Tom approaches Kendall about trying to clean the slate now that Logan’s gone, Kendall curtly responds, “I like you, Tom. Good luck,” in what may be the most ironic use of the phrase “good luck” in recorded history. Roman has even less patience for Tom or, if you prefer, Tommy Wammy/Tightrope Tommy/Tiptoe Tommy.
Roman can see straight through Tom’s attempts to ingratiate himself to anyone willing to throw him even half a life preserver. Roman’s fourth nickname for Tom — Lip Balm Tom Wam, Who’s Lubing Up His Lips to Kiss My Butt — is the most accurate characterization of his brother-in-law in this entire episode. That said, when Tom reminds Roman that, despite whoever’s name has or hasn’t been crossed out on that recently discovered piece of paper, Logan recently made it clear to Roman that he planned to put him in a leadership role, Roman looks pensive. Tom plants a seed that makes Roman feel just as entitled to the interim-CEO job as Kendall, enabling the two of them to freeze Shiv out of the position.
Even when Tom’s getting fucked over, he’s still able to pit the Roy siblings against each other. I have a feeling that’s a tool he may pull out of his shed again in the future.
How fucked up are things between Tom and Greg?
This is basically a rhetorical question at this point, but there’s something particularly dysfunctional about how Tom uses Greg to boost his ego after it’s been kicked all over Logan’s substantial apartment.
During a speech by Ron Petkus, the GOP donor and ultraconservative played by Stephen Root, Tom makes petty comments about Logan to Greg, which is Tom’s way of soothing the wounds sustained from his conversation with Karl. “He was a man of grace, humility, dignity,” says Petkus, even though Logan was none of those things.
“He was a man who died fishing his iPhone from a clogged toilet,” Tom whispers to Greg, later adding, “He was a man who wasn’t wearing his compression socks so he could look hot for Kerry.”
When Greg tries to play the same game, though — making a weird joke about how Logan molded the country into “the shape of a dick” — Tom chastises him for lacking class. Once again, Succession reminds us that Tom is, at heart, a Greg who’s in denial about how much of a Greg he actually is. Really, who needs three or four Gregs Gregging for you when you’re already a Greg yourself?
At the end of this episode, how fucked is Tom?
To once again borrow Karl’s inspiring words, Tom is “fair and squarely fucked.” But I still think there’s a chance he and Shiv form a formidable alliance, if only because this was only episode four and we’ve still got six more to go. And as we learned last week, anything can happen on this show.
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