wambsgans watch

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

Photo: Claudette Barius/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 six of season four, “Living+.”

Normally, this column raises the question of who Tom is fucking over, but a better question this week is who is Tom fucking? Answer: Shiv.

Because this is Succession, where love scenes are incredibly rare but dialogue often drips with weird sexual innuendo (see Roman telling his sister, “I can smell you getting wet from here”), we don’t actually see the sex. What we witness is the foreplay, which involves a game of Bitey and a round of Who is More Romantically Fucked Up? In the aftermath, Tom says he wants Shiv back and acknowledges how much her money is part of her appeal.

But those two scenes are actually … kinda hot? At times during their exchange at the investor reception, I expected Shiv to follow one of her barbed comments (“You were the one after The One, The Actual One, and that’s always hard”) by telling Tom, “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Wambsgans? Just put your lips together and blow.” This is classically dark rom-com banter — the kind of verbal sparring only occasionally seen on television since Moonlighting and an opportunity for Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook to crank up their chemistry until their Bunsen burners burst. Their round of Bitey (another freaky-ass Logan-family form of entertainment, in which two people sink their teeth into the other’s forearms to see who can withstand the pain longest) is so intimate and oddly kinky that it may have brought some viewers to Wambsgasm. If you were one of them: no judgment, only solidarity.

There’s something fitting about watching these two chomp on each other like a couple of vampires — especially as a corollary to Mattson’s admission last week to sending bricks of his own blood to Ebba but also because of Tom’s subsequent confession to Shiv about how he feeds off her money. “I like nice things. I do,” he tells her. “If you think that’s shallow, why don’t you throw out all your stuff for love? Throw out your necklaces and your jewels for a date at a three-star Italian.”

“Come and live with me in a trailer park. Yeah?” he continues. “Are you coming?”

“I’d follow you anywhere for love, Tom Wambsgans,” Shiv responds, at which point they both crack up. This is the most honest they’ve ever been with each other. Tom’s attraction to Shiv is completely intertwined with her wealth, but she loves being wealthy as much as Tom does. Their marriage — which seems poised to continue for at least a little while longer based on the events of this episode — isn’t about having and holding for richer or poorer. It’s about the richer, full stop, and they both freely admit it now. Like every relationship forged by a member of the Roy family, from Connor’s marriage to Kendall’s friendship with Stewy, this one is at least partly transactional. That being said, there does seem to be some genuine feeling between Shiv and Tom that perhaps can finally be unlocked in the wake of Logan’s death.

As Tom tells Shiv during that speech about his money fixation, he always thought he would be caught between her and her dad. Now that Dad is gone, maybe there’s more room for Tom. The quick moment when Shiv almost starts crying right after Tom tells her he wants her back — all hail Sarah Snook, by the way — suggests that this is the case. Or as Shiv puts it after Tom totally destroys her at Bitey, going right for her dark meat and making her shriek with girlish delight, “Tom Wambsgans finally made me feel something.”

Who is Tom Wambsgans fucking with?
Tom does not seem to be in heavy manipulative mode this week, although some may argue that he is manipulating Shiv, because reconciling is in his best professional interest. While that’s true, the way he comforts her after he realizes she has been literally scheduling time to grieve seemed generally caring to me — as did the way he immediately caresses her arm and asks if she’s okay after he wedged his teeth in there. Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but I just want to believe that someone who would bite his wife that hard actually loves her a little bit, okay? Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the day after he and Shiv sleep together, he’s perching again — but this time in Shiv’s office.

If anyone is screwed over by Tom in this episode, it’s every single person forced to listen to the speech he delivers after Kendall’s Living+ barn burner. “How am I supposed to follow this?” Tom asks Greg backstage. “He’s just promised them eternal life.”

Well, you can’t follow that, Tom, especially not if you’re going to bound onstage and do an Oprah impression: “You are an ATN citizen. And you are an ATN citizen. And I am an ATN citizen.” Mercifully, Succession spares us hearing the whole thing, but it’s pretty clear that Tom somehow managed to make remarks even more cringey than his famous “Keep cranking because we’re doing great” address from episode two.

Who is fucking with Tom Wambsgans?
Shiv very well may be stringing Tom along while playing mind games with Matsson. There’s no question that there’s a bit of flirtation going on between her and the Striking Viking. Early in the episode, Shiv basically tells Matsson, a guy who does not like to be told what to do, that he should come over to her plane if he wants to talk to her. Which he does — in bare feet! — then implies that he may have a leadership role in mind for her under the new Waystar-GoJo regime.

Later, she tells Tom that she is not sure what to do about Matsson because they have a connection. “You’re still keeping all your options open, honey?” Tom says. “You should be careful with that.”

But it seems like that’s exactly what she’s doing. She maintains an open line to Matsson and guides him toward voicing his disapproval of Kendall’s Living+ proposal, though she probably wasn’t expecting a tweet with that much Nazi-tinged flavor. At the end of the episode, when she agrees that she and Tom should host an ATN election party, she clarifies that “it has to be strictly strategy” — as opposed to an indication that they’re still a couple. Tom agrees but adds, “I can’t help it if I find strategy sexy, though.”

They both smirk knowingly — my God, Snook and Macfadyen are hot smirkers — but even though she’s attracted to Tom, Shiv is playing to win at the succession game. And that means waiting things out and not committing to anything — including either divorcing Tom or officially getting back together with him.

How fucked up are things between Tom and Greg?
By Tom and Greg standards, their dynamic is actually relatively normal this episode, though I would love to know what Greg intended to show Tom when they burst into that conference room only to discover Shiv mid-cry.

Tom should keep a close eye on Greg, though. Greg is sucking up to everyone in his orbit, which is his way of keeping his options open, but has become more of a right-hand man to Kendall. That alliance could come back to bite Greg, especially since Shiv is so over her brothers right now and will, no doubt, turn the tables on them if she winds up having a more permanent leadership role in the company. But I can’t shake the feeling that, before Succession is over, Greg will somehow have more authority than Tom does — or at least the same amount.

At the end of this episode, how fucked is Tom?
He’s certainly in a better position than he was in the past two episodes. But things still feel a bit precarious and completely predicated on how Shiv decides to treat him moving forward.

He’s not totally fucked this episode, though in the other sense of that word, he definitely is — and in a way he describes as “very nice.” It’s unclear whether Tom and Shiv are a thing again, but they’re at least enjoying a literal bite and some sex. So help me, I’m kind of happy for him. Good for Tommy Wammy.

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