SPOILER ALERT: This recap contains spoilers for Season 4, Episode 5 of “Succession,” now streaming on HBO Max.
It’s a new era at Waystar Royco, as newly branded co-CEOs Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) convene in their late father’s office to strategize for a meeting with Norwegian tech billionaire Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård).
Wary of their positions post-GoJo merger — and perhaps genuinely concerned about the Roy kids’ ability to execute the deal — Gerri (J. Smith Cameron), Karl (David Rasche) and Frank (Peter Friedman) make their unwanted advice extra available, while Shiv (Sarah Snook) is conspicuously missing from the war room.
Throughout the episode it becomes increasingly clear that Shiv, who agreed to vote in favor of her brothers taking the company reins after they promised to give her equal say, is finding herself on the outside of the inner circle, despite Ken and Rome’s (initially) honest intentions.
But the siblings are never really honest with each other. Even at the start of the season, with the Roy kids teamed against Logan (Brian Cox), Kendall withheld information that Matsson might back out of the deal as Roman privately drifted back into his father’s orbit. Now, Kendall has made a private arrangement with Hugo (Fisher Stevens) to plant negative stories about Logan in the press to bolster his and Roman’s credibility as co-CEOs — a PR strategy that previously made Roman bristle. It seemed like Logan’s shocking death in Episode 3 paved the way for a promising alliance between Kendall, Roman and Shiv, but the wheels of this tricycle are starting to fall off.
When the Roy kids and Waystar senior leadership land in Norway to renegotiate the terms of the GoJo merger, they come face to face with their Nordic counterparts at an ambushed brunch buffet. Sure, they’re younger and fitter, but, as Gerri points out, they’re European and therefore don’t hold a candle to the American capitalism-hardened, raised-by-wolves Waystar warriors. Still, the tension is high when the top brass discusses the low employee retention rate of Matsson’s last acquisition. Blood is in the water.
Matsson arrives and sequesters Kendall and Roman in a conference room overlooking a stunning vista. They get right into it: Ken and Rome think Waystar is worth more than Matsson’s previous offer of $144 per share, but pointing out the stock drop post-Logan’s death, the GoJo CEO contests he went to the checkout lane during a sale but ended up with a higher price. Plus, he wants to rope ATN (Waystar’s Fox News-like TV channel) back into the deal after Logan declared it not for sale. For the whole operation, Matsson is willing to pay $187 per share, a number that the Waystar executive team is quite pleased with. While Roman is uneasy to sell their dad’s prized possession, Shiv suggests that an old sweater would be a “less racist” keepsake.
Everything seems to be OK in Waystarland until Kendall has a wild idea: What if they blew up the deal entirely? Kendall, who has dreamed of leading his dad’s company since Episode 1 of “Succession,” clearly wants his turn to steer the ship — and disagrees with Matsson’s vision for Waystar, which he calls a “parts shop” in an awkward earlier conversation. Roman, on the other hand, can’t let go of the fact that the GoJo chief made him and his siblings fly halfway across the world just two days after their dad’s death.
So Kendall and Roman decide to sabotage the GoJo deal without consulting Shiv, who is off on a solo mission with Matsson, who lets her in on a creepy little secret. He was sleeping with GoJo’s head of communications, a young woman named Ebba, but he gave her the ick after sending her half a liter of his blood, weekly — first as a joke, then not as a joke, then again as a joke. Shiv advises him to multiply whatever he’s paying her by 10, as once the merger goes through, the American press will be all over him. Matsson says he likes Shiv — she can take a joke, and she’s just like her dad. It’s Buttering Up a Roy Child 101.
But the next day, things go awry between the boys, who are talking shop on a mountaintop. When Matsson realizes Kendall and Roman are “trying to Scooby-Doo” him by screwing the deal, Roman lets his emotions get the best of him and admits the truth: they hate Matsson and they’ll do whatever it takes to prevent him from taking over Waystar, even if it costs them both hundreds of millions of dollars. Realizing he may have just committed an SEC violation, Roman backpedals, calling his disclosure a “negotiating tactic.” But now it’s officially a battle of egos.
On the plane ride home, Matsson calls Frank and ups the offer to $192 per share. Everyone is elated except for Kendall and Roman, of whom Matsson asks Shiv to send him a photo. He wants to see their reactions.
While Shiv thinks her maneuvering helped spike the offer, it’s more likely a result of Matsson’s spite for her brothers. Only now that Kendall and Roman refuse to sell to him, the GoJo CEO is interested in paying a premium price for this “parts shop.” With a hostile takeover looming above, Matsson is flirting with the same move Kendall tried in Season 1 to acquire Waystar.
Drunk on misplaced power, Shiv seems more attracted to Tom than ever, giving him permission to fire ATN boss Cyd (Jeannie Berlin). Full of sexual tension, their interaction comes after a strange fight in Norway in which Tom calls Shiv’s earlobes “thick” and “chewy like barnacle meat,” and Shiv tells Tom he’s narrow-framed like a “spelunker.”
As Waystar’s senior leadership celebrate the offer, the vibe harshens when Gerri obtains a leaked “kill list” of top executives Matsson plans to fire. Gerri, Tom and Karolina (Dagmara Domińczyk) are safe, but Ray (Patch Darragh), Mark (Zack Robidas), Hugo, Frank and Karl are on the chopping block.
Until next week on “Survivor”…
From Variety US