Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers for the entirety of “Succession” Season 3, Episode 5.
Much of the previous and current season of “Succession” has been slowly building up to Waystar Royco’s annual shareholder meeting, which will determine whether or not the Roy family retains majority control over the company’s board.
After Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) multiple declarations of war against his family and the formation of a powerful alliance between board members Stewy (Arian Moayed) and Sandy (Larry Pine), the company’s fate hangs in the balance. Patriarch and Waystar CEO Logan Roy (Brian Cox) is not as powerful as he was two seasons ago, and his three loyal children, Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Connor (Alan Ruck) have hardly proven themselves capable of taking the reins.
Finally, the wait is over. Episode 5, titled “Retired Janitors of Idaho,” begins and ends at the shareholder meeting, where everything, in true “Succession” fashion, falls apart spectacularly. Two seasons after the question of who would succeed Logan as CEO first surfaced, it is made painfully clear that there is no answer in sight.
It’s time for a breakdown of Episode 5 – all the twists, turns and best lines of dialogue.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
It’s the morning of the big day, and Logan is already pissed off. His security guard Colin (Scott Nicholson) gets him outfitted with a walking boot and cane, presumably for injuries he sustained during the hike in last week’s episode.
Behind him, a TV reveals a small but crucial piece of information: ATN, the conservative news station owned by Waystar Royco, is pushing rumors that “the president’s memory may be suspect.” In Episode 3, Logan ambushed senior White House aide Michelle-Anne Vanderhoven (Lisa Edmond) about The Raisin’s (his not-so-private name for the nameless President of the United States) position on Waystar’s cruise ship scandal. If The Raisin refused to get onboard (ahem) with defending Waystar, Logan warned, there would be hell to pay in the form of unfavorable coverage. Judging by ATN’s headline, The Raisin stood his ground – a decision that unfolds dramatically over the course of Episode 5.
At company headquarters, Kendall struts around a suite occupied by his team (“The #Resistance!”) clutching a green juice. A stressed-out Frank (Peter Friedman) calls to tell him that Logan is “definitely willing” to let control of Waystar’s board go to a vote. If the coalition of Stewy and Logan’s nemesis Sandy Furness (Larry Pine) wins enough votes to take over the company, the Roy family will lose control of the company – and, after so many scandals and rebellions, the odds are not particularly in their favor.
This puts Kendall in a tricky position: having publicly declared war against his father, Kendall wants him out. Yet in order to one day become CEO, his family must retain the majority of the board’s seats. In other words, Kendall must work with his estranged family’s interests in the short term to secure his own interests in the long run.
The second Logan steps foot into the building, he sends his assistant Kerry (Zoe Winters) off to take the “temperature” (add that one to your “Succession” drinking game) of the conference. In turn, she urges him not to forget to take his pills – for what, exactly, we don’t know yet.
Deal, No Deal
Back at Camp Roy, things are not looking good: the Stewy-Sandy coalition is asking for “the moon on a stick” in their negotiations. In exchange for settling with the Roy family, they want four seats on the board, affording them unprecedented voting power. “Let’s just throw it open to the f–ing retired janitors of Idaho,” Roman sighs with the gravitas of someone who has spent many sleepless nights working out a solution (he hasn’t).
Yet Logan’s imminent arrival keeps everyone’s nerves in check: this isn’t the first time the old man has found himself in a tough spot, and he always manages to come out on top. As any “Succession” fan knows, this kind of overblown confidence is usually the first sign that something is about to go seriously wrong.
But Logan doesn’t let the cat out of the bag right away. When Shiv asks if he’s heard that negotiations have reached a standstill, his blank stare suggests contempt as much as it might disorientation. His response – to dig up more dirt on The Raisin – is clearly not a solution, but everyone assumes that God must have his reasons and scrambles to comply.
Meanwhile, MVP guest star Stewy pays a visit to Team Kendall’s headquarters. He wants to play hardball with Logan. But in a reversal of their usual dynamic, Kendall calls him out. Stewy and Sandy’s financing is starting to fall apart, and risking a vote would be bad for everyone. Kendall offers to play double agent, and Stewy reluctantly agrees.
When he learns that Stewy is willing to reopen negotiations, Logan grows suspicious: if they’re willing to come to the table, they must be hiding something. Kendall tells Shiv to work with Sandy’s daughter, hilariously also named Sandi (Hope Davis), to get him to settle. Though Shiv says Kendall’s advice is unwelcome, it becomes invaluable later on.
What follows is one of the season’s most darkly funny scenes, an instant classic. The Roy family (minus Logan) meets with Stewy, Sandy and Sandi, who speaks for her father. And I mean that literally: the ailing, decrepit billionaire exclusively communicates to her through indecipherable groan-like noises. The rest of the room can only look on in horror as he garbles into her ear.
When the dust settles, they offer to settle with one condition: veto power over any Roy family member named to take over as CEO. To everyone’s relief, Logan agrees.
Connor takes this as an opportunity to ask for a job to help jumpstart his career (“Europe, nothing vital, like cable”) and Logan isn’t having any of it, indicating that he does not share everyone’s happiness about the deal.
The main action gets a delightful break in the form of a scene between Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) and his grandfather Ewan (James Cromwell). After Kendall tells Greg he “might have to burn him” for joining Waystar’s legal defense, Greg panics and begs his grandpa to let him take his own lawyer, Roger Pugh (Peter Riegert) for “another ride.” Ewan is furious that Greg has gone with the Roy family – so furious that he decides to donate his entire estate (including Greg’s inheritance) to Greenpeace. Ever-present is the irony that Ewan’s fortune comes from his stake in Waystar Royco as he rants and raves about the evils of his brother and the company.
A Comedy of Errors
Waystar executive Frank takes the stage at the shareholder meeting in Gerri’s (J. Smith-Cameron) place, the first of many times that a speaker is forced to read off a teleprompter meant for someone else.
Backstage, Logan suddenly decides to reopen negotiations. The coalition counters with a new condition: they must forfeit their private jets. It’s embarrassing, but presumably not a deal-breaker. All they need is Logan’s sign-off.
Everyone waits with bated breath for Logan to decide, but all he says is “I need to piss.” This is when it finally hits: something is seriously wrong with Logan Roy.
Another executive, Karl Muller (David Rasche) rushes onstage to tell Frank to stall. The two smile and laugh throughout the frantic exchange so that the audience doesn’t suspect anything is wrong. “Succession” is often compared to Shakespeare in a dramatic sense, but the sight gags and mishaps of this episode are reminiscent of his comedies. (Frank puts a fine point on this when he explains to the shareholders that there is “much ado about…something!”)
Logan finally seems to comment on the proposed deal when he shouts, “F– ’em!” Is this “classic Dad” or is he completely out of it? Roman and Shiv decide that it’s a sufficient “no deal,” and she passes on the news to Sandi. (Another fantastic running gag follows: Greg is tasked with delivering messages to the stage, always when he’s about to dig into food or drink.)
The uneasy calm doesn’t last: Logan starts groaning in pain as disorientation clouds his senses. He addresses Shiv as his wife and freaks out about a dead cat that he believes to be rotting under his chair. A phone call with Kerry reveals that he has a UTI which causes confusion if he doesn’t take his medicine. The simmering panic reaches full-blown anxiety when Kendall shows up and starts screaming about how everyone is “putting everything I have fought and bled for on the f–ing edge” by not taking the deal. Naturally, his siblings tell him to f– off.
A fed-up Frank makes Gerri take his place on stage, where she ad-libs her entire speech. Meanwhile, Roman and Shiv cannot reach a consensus about the deal, now that it’s clear Logan was not lucid when he gave the green light to call it off. Finally, Shiv takes the initiative to meet with Sandi and offer them four board seats, plus a new seat for herself. On Kendall’s advice, she appeals to Sandi’s ego and it works.
With Shiv off dealing with Sandi, Roman (aka “Bootleg Logan”) is chosen to answer a call from The Raisin – the President of the United States, mind you – in Logan’s place. In a huge blow to Waystar, The Raisin informs him that he won’t run for reelection, thanks to the toll that ATN’s rumors about his neurological condition have taken on his family. It’s only a win for Connor, who apparently still harbors delusions of running for president.
Shiv’s deal with Sandi, Sandy and Stewy is celebrated by all. In the heat of the moment, Tom tries to get sexy with his wife but ruins it by revealing that he’s been tracking Shiv’s ovulation cycles so she can get pregnant in case he goes to prison. “I’ve got like six more ovulation cycles until all sex is prison sex!” he exclaims to her utter horror. If anyone had doubts that their marriage was doomed, this excruciating scene says it all.
Karl happily announces the settlement to the shareholders, but his joy is short-lived. Like a predator coming in for the kill, Kendall slowly approaches the podium and takes over the mic. He asks for a moment of silence for all the victims of crimes that took place on his family’s watch, before reading out their names and vowing to start a foundation for the victims. It’s either a politically genius move or his most pathetic attempt yet to salvage his situation. “He’s not even wearing a tie,” Tom scoffs, uselessly.
At the end of the day, the Roys sip champagne, but nobody’s heart is in it – especially Logan, who is back and grouchier than ever. He does not approve of Shiv’s deal, a situation reminiscent of the way he reacted to a decision Kendall made for him in Season 1 after he suffered a stroke.
“There’s blood in the water and the sharks are coming,” he grumbles before yelling at her in front of everyone. Only Roman delights in her humiliation.
A self-satisfied Kendall is asked to stick around, but Logan stands him up. In the final shot, he tells Kerry to block Kendall’s number, “permanently.”
And The Best Line Goes To…
Reigning one-liner champs Greg and Roman put up a good fight, but are no match for the show’s most lovable asshole, Stewy. I had to pick two lines because one simply won’t suffice:
“Shouldn’t you be on a rainbow soapbox somewhere screaming Time’s Up?” – Stewy’s greeting to Kendall at his team’s suite
“Sandy’s the angriest f–ing vegetable … f–ng belligerent zucchini.” – Stewy, on the phone with Kendall in the middle of negotiations with Sandy
“Those rules are for f–heads who are gonna go to Tampa and leave a rabbit with a Big Gulp and a dozen cinnamon raisin.” – Kendall, ordering the babysitter to let his kids feed their pet rabbit a bagel against better judgment
Ewan Roy: “I have tried as much as I am able, to show you love and compassion.”
Cousin Greg: “Are you kidding? You’re the best darn gramper out!”
- Hats off to director Kevin Bray for the shot of Sandi and Shiv parting ways after striking the final deal. In separate scenes, they both utter the line, “I just do what my dad tells me,” somewhat sarcastically. The side-by-side framing of the women in this scene makes it clear that they are more than their father’s proxies.
- When Kendall threatens to give Greg up to the DOJ as punishment for deserting him, he says, “It’s not much but it’s a morsel — plus it likely gives them Tom.” A delicious throwback to Season 2’s finale in which Roman suggests that Tom take the blame for the cruise ship scandal, “with some Greg sprinkles” on top.
- Roman reacts to Sandy and Stewy’s offer to settle if the Roys give up their private jets by saying, “First they come for the PJs and they said nothing. Then they come for the outsized compensation payments…” It’s possibly the most demented, hilariously inappropriate reference ever made to Holocaust survivor Martin Niemoller’s famous quote, “First they came for the Socialists, and I said nothing…”
- Karl comes onstage to announce the settlement deal as a pre-taped video of Shiv plays in the background. He cuts her off right as she’s saying “Because at Waystar, we’ve always cared about women” – a perfect demonstration of just how little the Roys care about the consequences of their actions.
“Succession” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.