Last week on Succession, the Roys went to fake CPAC and helped pick the next Republican presidential candidate. This week, Kendall throws himself a "big nervous breakdown of a party" for his 40th birthday and almost everyone had a bad time. Succession is a show all about how people jockey for power (and process trauma) — after the video below, an appropriate celebration of Kendall's unique brand of cringe, check out our spoiler-filled season three, episode seven Succession Power Rankings.

1. Logan Enjoying A Flute Of Champagne And Toasting To Justice While Sitting Most Of This Episode Out: After a season in which his empire seemed at its most vulnerable, Logan has finally found some good vibrations. Gerri announces that the DOJ case is falling apart: nothing systemic, nothing sanctioned, no one's going to jail, and no reputations are unsalvageable. "It's gonna be a number," Logan says satisfactorily.

Perhaps apropos of that victory, this is the least amount of screen time for Logan all season. After just a few moments at the top, he skips out on the meat of the episode: his son's nervous breakdown-disguised-as-a-birthday party. (It happens to be the funniest, most painful, and best episode of the season so far.) But his presence is of course felt in every scene with the scarred, traumatized siblings, whether it's Roman delivering the poisoned birthday card to Ken, or Connor invoking his absence while bemoaning his bag-shitting incident.

Before we experience Kendall's ego death at Hudson Yards, we see Logan's already moved past the toasts and back onto business matters—he's still looking to shore up the company in the wake of the shareholders' meeting, and is insulted when GoJo founder Lukas Matsson stands him up ("Where is he? Getting his nose done? Asshole whitened?").

Roman and Shiv are able to work together to convince him of the importance of this deal: "We have a scale issue," Shiv warns. "Our streaming platform is for shit, and we have nothing that looks like growth. This gets us consequentially into streaming, into sports betting, into social media. We have a little window. Miss this and we end up being pilot fish nibbling leftovers from Bezos' fucking teat." Matsson sent his lackeys to do business with Logan, so he sends Roman and Shiv to Ken's party to try to parlay. Even the children he seems to like remain first and foremost his messengers.

2. Who Will Get A Gift From Daddy? It's not baby teeth and an iTunes gift card, but it is a power move.

HBO

3. Kenfest 2021: Scenes From Kendall's Existential Breakdown Slash Immersive 40th Birthday Party: This was a truly spectacular week for trainwrecks, and there was no bigger trainwreck than Kendall, whose season-long nervous breakdown hits its high point here. Everything about his conceptual birthday party—the location at Hudson Yards, the sign outside declaring "The Notorious Ken Ready To Die," the recreation of his mother's vagina ("You've just been born into the world of Kendall Roy"), the room where there's fire on all the screens, the room where he roasts his siblings with giant newspaper headlines, the treehouse ("Hey Ken, may we please step inside your mental disorder?"), the Tiny Wu-Tang, I could go on!—is exquisite cringe.

This is the nightmare party we all want to attend, and huge props to director Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers) for making it look so nauseating and vibrant—she picks up on the small, intimate moments as adroitly as the neon-lit hues of Kendall's birthday festivities.

"I think it's pretty fucking iconic," Kendall declares early in the episode while overlooking the crowd gathered for this massive tribute to his ego, and while Sophie Iwobi is nowhere to be seen, I have to imagine she'd agree. But I don't know if I'll ever get over not getting to watch Kendall perform his big birthday set piece: an ironic speech about how this is the culmination of his life's journey—to be crucified to save the morons—followed by him singing Billy Joel's "Honesty" while "crucified."

"It's like 15 layers over-determined master's degree fucking hokum," Kendall says. "I'm dressed in a tuxedo, nailed to a cross singing 'Honesty' by Billy Joel, it doesn't make any fucking sense." It does and it doesn't Ken, it does and it doesn't.

A photo of The Notorious Ken sign from Succession

The Notorious Ken

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The Notorious Ken
HBO
A photo of Kendall in the fire room on Succession

This is fine!

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This is fine!
HBO
A photo of the headlines from the Succession future room

My favorite part: "Tom Ashamed!"

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My favorite part: "Tom Ashamed!"
HBO

4. The Rise Of Roman: When Roman removed himself from the running to take over as interim CEO in the premiere, it seemed like a classic act of self-sabotage from the least confident sibling. But that was just a hiccup on what has been a long journey from least capable sibling to Logan's right hand. Roman has been paying close attention to Gerri and his father (he's been far more open to mentorship than Shiv and Ken ever were), he's learned from his siblings' mistakes, and he's quietly become Logan's closest ally in the family.

Roman is the one who pushes for Mencken as the GOP candidate, the one who Logan can joke around with at the end of the shareholders' meeting, the one who helped him track down Shiv earlier in the season when she went AWOL. Somehow, Roman is now the detail-oriented one when it comes to the business, while Shiv talks "big picture" regarding the GoJo deal. He is the one who is able to worm his way into the treehouse to meet with Lukas Matsson, and then is able to charm him by letting him literally piss on his phone.

And Logan trusts him enough to discuss the details of Ken's buyout offer, to Shiv's horror. "Dad put my name on there, it's housekeeping, I can't even do anything with it, it's musical chairs," Roman says. "Dad and I handled it." I wouldn't be surprised if it's a phrase we hear a lot more in the future.

The other thing to note is just how vicious and arrogant Roman becomes in the wake of his success. Roman has never seemed uglier than during the episode-ending argument with Shiv and Ken, in which he needles Shiv over her marriage and unloads years of resentment at them both.

"You're a bunch of stuck up cunts who can't bear to see me win, that's all this is," Roman declares. We are a long way away from that time Roman rescued Ken from a meth binge or the time Ken stood up to Logan for hitting Roman. Kendall's reply is haunting: "You're not a real person, you're not real." Even after Roman knocks down "Shitty Jesus" from behind, it's Ken's words which stick in the air.

5. Logan Junior: As much as Roman is the favorite child currently, there's no denying that Kerry also has a very special place in Logan's heart. "He's having a midlife crisis at age 80," Shiv complains at one point. "It's fine," Roman counters. "It's not, he's fucking an assistant 50 years younger than him," Shiv says. "It's not a crisis, that's normal, it's the opposite of a crisis, we should all be so fucking lucky."

Late life crisis aside, it's clear that Logan is listening to Kerry's advice, as that meaningful look between them last episode when he picked Mencken implied. And he is definitely rubbing off on her, as when she offers this concise Logan-esque summary of Matsson: "He thinks he's a genius. He's made one good piece of tech. Fuck him."

6. "Privacy, Pussy, Pasta": While we've heard the name GoJo thrown around a few times earlier this season, it comes into focus this episode when we meet its founder Lukas Matsson, "the Odin of codin'." He appears to be having a miserable time at Ken's party, playing games on his phone and complaining about the lack of essentials ("privacy, pussy, pasta").

He explains to Roman he's hesitant about entering into a deal with Waystar because of Logan: "I do have one question though: When will your father die?" he asks. "I don't want to be rude, but what kind of shape is he in? We talking less than a year or five years? Because if it's five, that's a long time. It would be better sooner."

Rudeness aside, Matsson doesn't want anyone hanging over him, which Roman can understand, and he is able to pivot to something a little less morbid: "I mean like, we're all obviously hugely looking forward to my father dying, but there's another shape to this. How about you never ever have to speak to him?"

After they bond over how shitty Waystar's streaming site in the toilet—Matsson literally pees on Roman's phone, while Roman notes he can't pee in front of other men, which is a story for another day—Matsson agrees to a meeting with Logan on Monday.

Matsson is of course played by HBO regular Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood, Big Little Lies), and while he is a very good and enjoyable actor who excels at playing nasty-but-complicated pieces of work, something about his portrayal of Matsson doesn't quite work for me. Adrien Brody's worked as Josh Aaronson because he still fit into the scenery of the show—he felt and acted like a guy who would fall into the Roys' sphere—but Skarsgård's take on an antisocial tech genius is a little too showy and icy all at once. He comes across like a Big Name Guest rather than a character.

7. The Little Kicks: Who would have guessed that Shiv would have the same dance moves as Elaine from Seinfeld? After arriving at Kendall's party ("Oh my god, this feels disgustingly Kendall") and absorbing the full mania on display, Shiv learns that she got cut out of Roman and Logan's plans for Ken ("Historically, who owns the fucking company has been of some interest!"). After a season filled with false starts and familial frustrations—a season in which her father has refused to acknowledge her successes and quietly cut her out of the decision-making process—Shiv gets wasted and performs a full-body dry heave set to music.

"Wow, she's really dancing there, very emancipated," Greg notes at one point. "I don't think she's taken anything. Just getting the demons out I guess." As Roman later puts it, it was the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Failure."

The episode-ending fight between the siblings, in which old wounds are ripped to shreds, is the ugly low point for everyone this season. Shiv is used to being seen as the responsible, smart child of the family, and she really hasn't caught on that the roles are changing. Roman is far more capable than ever before, and she no longer is needed to finesse deals on his behalf: "How would you finesse something that's done, by ruining it? I don't see how you fit in," Roman says.

The argument gets more personal after that. Early in the episode, Shiv was needling Roman over his non-relationship with Tabitha and his sex issues, and Roman turns the tables toward her marriage here. "You're having a very bad day, I know that, hearing that you have to continue to share your apartment with the old meat wardrobe," Roman says. "I saw you sipping dad's champagne like you were sucking a lemon...I thought maybe you were thinking of all the dick you were going to ride when he was inside."

Shiv tries firing back ("Nobody likes talking about me fucking guys as much as you do, is that because you're the COO who can't fuck?") but her faraway look in the back of the car with Tom at the end of the episode implies there's some truth to what he's saying.

It all comes back to the seismic shift in power between the two—and also those little kicks. "Dad is using you as messenger boy, and you're too dumb to see it," Shiv claims, projecting her own insecurity onto him. "It's very difficult for you to have to do the dance for dad, because you just suck at dancing," Roman retorts crudely. "Turns out he loves it when I do the daddy dance. He loves fucking me and he just doesn't want to fuck you anymore."

A photo of Shiv and Roman on Succession

The moment when Roman notices Shiv's reaction to the news Tom won't be going to jail

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The moment when Roman notices Shiv's reaction to the news Tom won't be going to jail
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A photo of Roman and Shiv on Succession

The camera focuses on Shiv first, then shifts to Roman.

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The camera focuses on Shiv first, then shifts to Roman.
HBO

8. Libertarian Power Couple Connor Roy & Willa Ferreyra: Connor isn't exactly having a great week. Even before he gets to Ken's party, he's broken his arm due to "ranch stuff"—in this case, he was drinking cognac with Maxim Pierce, he got too excited about some poll results that showed he's near 1%, and he slipped doing a little Irish jig.

He's mortified when he sees the giant newspaper clip Kendall made saying he was elected president of shitting his bag. It turns out this is an inside joke among the siblings about the time Con took Ken and Roman on a fishing trip, ate some bad fish, and literally did shit the bag. "Oh man, what if McCartney tweets this?" he laments.

Mostly, he is upset his siblings refuse to take him and his 1% polling seriously, though lord knows he doesn't make it easy: "That's four million people, enough to sway the race, and I'm interested to see who comes crawling first: Merkel begging for me to save democracy, or Soros serenading me through the trees."

And to top it off, Kendall and his various assistants keep trying to take his coat away from him ("I will remain coated as is my right"). Don't they know he lost a wool at a fusion restaurant in Vancouver one? But here's the silver lining, and why he's so high up this week: he may not have the respect of his family, or enough support to make any meaningful difference in the election, but he does have a partner who seems to genuinely be on his side.

"My partner is cold and he'd like to keep his fucking coat on, and he's running to be the next president of the United States of America, so maybe you should show him some fucking respect," Willa says to Comfrey after she offers Con a complimentary cashmere sweater. The look on Connor's face is priceless—he's never seemed happier.

A photo of a very happy Connor on Succession

The look of love

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The look of love
HBO

9. The Notorious Ken: "Honesty is such a lonely word/Everyone is so untrue/Honesty is hardly ever heard/And mostly what I need from you."

We start the episode with Ken singing Billy Joel's "Honesty" while prepping for his party, which is basically like starting a normal Succession episode two-thirds of the way in (imagine if Logan's birthday party episode started with Kendall warming up with "L To The OG"). Usually they give us a little time to ease into the cringe madness, but we are at full tilt with "pure nut-nut" Kendall from the start here. He declares he's "anti-fragile" and can accommodate anything, but if he starts second guessing his ideas, everything will collapse—and wouldn't you know it, everything does indeed start collapsing almost immediately after the actual party begins.

It's clear Kendall was genuinely happy to see his siblings when they first arrive; there's the usual banter (Roman: "Call me old fashioned, but I think you should ask before you construct a giant replica of someone's vagina") and jabs, but the three siblings (and Rava) may in fact be the only people he really wants to see. Hell, they may be some of the only people he actually knows there, as the place is filled with randos and people who get off on Freudian Hudson Yards parties for would-be billionaires.

That's right: if Kendall took his dad's offer and cashed out, he would be worth $2 billion. "But it's a mind game," he insists. Naomi doesn't see a downside in taking it. Everything spirals out from there: he figures out that Roman and Shiv are really there to find Matsson, Connor won't take off his coat ("It's souring the vibe"), and the wrong music is playing in the main room: "My thing is all bangers all the time, all bangers all the time."

Soon it seems that like Tom, he's taken the wrong drugs in the wrong order: "Look, it just feels like an asshole's birthday party. And my thing from the very first meeting was that it shouldn't feel like an asshole's birthday party," he tells his PR team. As they say, if it looks like a conceptual, immersive, highly ironic but sincerely over-lavish birthday party for an asshole, and it sounds like a conceptual, immersive, highly ironic but sincerely over-lavish birthday party for an asshole, it probably is. He backs out of his big Billy Joel moment; even the prospect of seeing the Tiny Wu-Tang perform can't cheer him up.

His father's buyout offer and his siblings' disinterest in him are one thing; what puts him entirely over-the-top is realizing that his father has sent his goons to spy on his kids, and the fact that his kids made him a present that he never got. His meltdown reaches its apogee in a pile of presents, meaningless (and undoubtedly pricey) offerings from strangers. He collapses on top of the gifts and starts crying: "Sorry. This is so pathetic. I wish I was home."

He's still a quivering mess when he runs into Roman, Shiv and Connor on his way out, and he complains that GoJo was his idea (to be fair, he was pitching GoJo as the best move for the company earlier in the season, including to Josh Aaronson). "What are you, fucking six? Get lost," Roman retorts. Even worse, He's really upset about the surveillance of his kids, which it turns out Roman knew about. "C'mon of course we are. It's a fucking party game. He's in dad's shit, so we're up in his shit," Roman says. Shiv is disgusted by it.

The episode ends with Kendall cozying up to Naomi like a child that's been awake too long. "I think the party's over, yeah," he says, and I don't think he's just talking about his birthday. His rebellion against his father has fallen on its face; the DOJ case is seemingly done; his siblings don't give a shit about him, his father doesn't want anything to do with him, and he's failed to protect his kids. "Let it fizzle," Naomi says.

Whatever layers of irony he thought were baked into his birthday party were never there—his wounds are on the surface for the entire world to see, and no amount of hashtags or press conferences or Tiny Wu-Tang performances can cover them up now. Honesty is such a lonely word, especially when you don't realize you're being honest.

A photo of Ken and Naomi on Succession

TFW you really don't want to sing Billy Joel

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TFW you really don't want to sing Billy Joel
HBO

10. A Nine Foot Cro-Magnon: Greg isn't going to prison! Even better, he has a crush on Comfrey, the most wonderful girl in the world. Sure, she's likely only going out with him to spite her boss, but a win is a win. Watching him, uh, court her is one of the comedic highlights of the episode.

First, Tom gives him a hard time for even trying: "She's way out of your league man, it's like a haunted scarecrow asking out Jackie Onassis, it's a suicide mission." Greg notes he is "not unaware of the discrepancy in terms of our physical circumstances." We learn that his initial approach is the line, "You're like a fascinating book id like to crack open," which is the most Greg thing I've ever heard.

Then he tries out a hilariously awful southern accent on her ("You're a very fair maiden for such activities, such kind, very even handed maiden"), before he learns that Ken wants her to orchestrate a smear campaign against him. But that's okay, what love story hasn't had to overcome a couple hurdles?

Even Ken's disapproval isn't going to stand in loves way. This is probably the meanest we've ever seen Ken, who is clearly projecting and taking out his frustrations on the least threatening guy in the room. This is a level of cruelty that we have seen from, say, Roman before, but never Kendall: "Jesus dude. Duuuh. You're like the world's biggest fucking parasite. You're a human tape worm. Maybe stop feeding on your own fucking family and try sucking some blood elsewhere...I'm kidding...Or am I?...hahaha I'm not kidding. Am I? Or am I?" (I am a fan of how Greg gently takes his anger out on a digital screen of Kendall.)

But in the end, Comfrey says yes to going on a date with this nine-foot Cro-Magnon, so everything's coming up Greg.

11. "Hi There, Tom Wambsgams, Not Going To Prison": Tom isn't going to prison! He breaks Greg's desk! He smooches Greg's forehead! I'm pretty sure this is the happiest we've ever seen Tom, and after the season he's had, he deserves it. It's kinda sweet, and also, ultimately, an incredibly depressing window into Tom's ultra-comfortable, spiritually vacant lifestyle. "I feel amazing," Tom tells Shiv when they arrive at the party. "My senses are heightened, the air smells sweeter, it's like I can see the poetry in all little mundane things. I'm gonna get so fucked up."

His high doesn't last that long sadly. Shiv is stewing over Roman & Logan, and doesn't seem particularly overjoyed that Tom is off the hook. He doesn't understand why people aren't happier at the party. "You're harshing your own mellow, just calm down," Shiv says helpfully.

Greg is the only person he can really confide in, the only person truly sharing in his joy. And by the end of the episode, even they are not in the same place: "Are you okay?" Greg asks him. "I haven't seen you smile in like six hours." Even the compliment tunnel can't cheer him up; someone says Tom is so full of grace, and he responds, "That's a weird thing to say. Are you being sarcastic?"

As always, Tom unloads his frustrations on the only person who cares about him, complaining that Greg seems happier than him. "It's supposed to be me that's happy, and it's you," Tom complains. "I took the wrong drugs in the wrong order and I can't get out."

12. The Enigmatic Naomi Pierce: After being introduced last season as the Pierce family's parallel to Kendall, Naomi Pierce has turned into a full-time supporting character. Despite the fact that she said she loathed the Roy family for how they treated her in their tabloids, Naomi has seemed pretty comfortable in their orbit as Ken's girlfriend this season. In this episode, we get our longest glance yet at how she and Ken work as a couple—she seems surprisingly patient and supportive of him and his grandiose ideas, even when he rejects her gift of a watch ("I don't want to be a dick, but I have a watch") in the midst of yet another breakdown.

How does Naomi feel about the Roy civil war? Does she take Kendall's woke-ified speeches seriously? Has she maintained sobriety alongside Ken? Do they go to meetings together? We know so much about Kendall, but she seems like an afterthought, and I wish that there were more substance to her character.

There's an interesting story to be told about a woman who has gone through her own addiction issues, who can understand her partner's uniquely pampered and privileged lifestyle and the pitfalls that come with it, who has decided to stick by his side despite the fact that he's going through a very public nervous breakdown. But ultimately, she hasn't gotten enough (any?) characterization this season.

A photo of Ken and Naomi Pierce on Succession

At least Tiny Wu-Tang have everything ahead of them

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At least Tiny Wu-Tang have everything ahead of them
HBO

13. Rava Roy: Unlike Naomi, at least Rava got out. She has maintained an incredibly civil relationship with Kendall (don't forget, she basically gave him her apartment to use for two episodes), and while she certainly seems to pity him, she is likely one of the only people who really cares about him despite everything.

That doesn't mean there isn't an edge to their conversation: "I just wanted to say hi before, you know, everyone's too high," she notes. Even though she's in a more stable place now with the unseen Gary ("Nice little opposable action figure. Does he have any genitals?" Ken asks), she and Ken still enjoy a flirty, familiar banter.

But it's hard to maintain an entirely friendly facade when kids, and paparazzi, are involved. The pitfalls of being in Ken's orbit are real, even if he isn't totally aware of it. After he tells her he is thinking of getting out of the business, she responds, "It's great actually because maybe they'll stop sending their goons to the park to talk to the nanny about how often you lose your temper with the kids." Kendall is mortified, his birthday bubble has been burst, and we are reminded yet again that there are real consequences to the Roys' ongoing family feud.

14. Comfrey: Her boss is canceling his giant crucifixion stunt last minute, having her call Bruce Springsteen to try to rescue the vibe of the party, and wants her to get him a jet pack that won't be available for at least 48 hours. She has a ton of He-Man lunchboxes in her apartment she needs to resell on eBay, so yeah, I guess the goofy, tall cousin does kinda seem like a fun time right now in comparison.

15. Kendall's Sketchy Friend Reese: "Reese can help you out, like pussy, coke, wristwatches, fuckin' garganelli, he's like a one-man dark web," Kendall tells Lukas about his, ahem, friend Reese. "He's not a good guy. Enjoy."

16. Tiny Wu-Tang: This was their moment! This could have been their big break! But once the whole Billy Joel crucifixion went out the window, clearly there was no place for them. At least they've got it all ahead of them.

17. Whoever Was Supposed To Get Sophie & Iverson's Rabbit-Wrapped Present To Kendall:

A photo of Kendall frantically looking for a gift on Succession

Note the motorcycle in the background

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Note the motorcycle in the background
HBO

Creepiest Tom Innuendo Of The Week: Because he's in such good spirits (initially) due to the whole not-going-to-prison thing, Tom doesn't really say anything terribly inappropriate this week. But the sequence after he learns no one is going to prison is an instant classic Tom and Greg physical comedy: he asks Greg to scooch over a little, then proceeds to topple over his desk, scream, karate kick the air, jump on cabinets, and unleash all his pent up emotions.

"Apologies Greg, I may have gotten a little carried away," he tells Greg. "But I just popped around to say no one is going to jail...The Waystar Two are free." He ends the whole thing by planting a kiss on Greg's forehead.

A photo of Tom celebrating on Succession

I'm an Apeman, I'm an ape Apeman, oh I'm an Apeman

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I'm an Apeman, I'm an ape Apeman, oh I'm an Apeman
HBO
A photo of Greg on Succesion

"Is it real?"

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"Is it real?"
HBO
HBO

Succession-verse Articles Of The Week: The Atlantic looked at the crumbling marriage of Tom & Shiv, a marriage built on "mutual ambition and cold white wine." It's arguably the only "real" long-term romantic relationship on the show, despite the two having half the amount of chemistry as any scene featuring Roman/Gerri or Frank/Karl. "People who have [privilege] would rather be miserable than sacrifice even a fraction of their status," they write. "Tom is caught in the same trap. If his marriage survives, it will be because he has decided that the money is worth the pain."

Over at Vulture, they spoke to actor Alan Ruck about Connor's political ambitions and what the future might hold: "I think at some point, Connor’s going to stop being the family punching bag. It’s been building up for many, many years."

And my favorite article came courtesy of Indiewire, in which they lay out the three "rules" of the game that could make one of the kids worthy of inheriting Logan's company. They are: Don't Bend, Remember Your Priorities (ie, work comes before family), and Shut Up ("Ah yes, the Siobhan Roy special").

Family Members In Absentia: We only see Gerri, Frank and Karl very briefly at the start of the episode; they, along with Karolina, Hugo and other lackeys, were not invited to the party (the only surprising one of those is Frank, for whom Kendall has always had a lot of affection). Stewy, Sandy and Sandi were also no-shows at Kendall's party. Adrien Brody was too busy wearing multiple layers on Long Island to attend (though we know he was invited in episode four). Big Gramps and Roger Pugh would never be invited, nor would they ever attend such a tawdry event. This was yet another episode with no Marcia Roy, and of course Ken's mom Lady Caroline Collingwood wouldn't come across the pond for this. None of the Republicans we met last week (Mencken, Boyer, Stephen Root, etc) are here. Mondale the dog remains locked in a crate somewhere.

Did Anyone Get A Kiss From Daddy This Week? I have no doubt that Roman is due for a hearty pat on the back after he got Matsson to agree to meet with Logan. What's the opposite of a kiss from daddy? I think that's what Shiv got when she learned Tom wasn't going to prison.

Next week on Succession, the Roys head to Tuscany for Lady Caroline's wedding. Until then, watch Sarah Snook, Brian Cox & Matthew MacFadyen talk about the show's memes and themes: