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'Succession' recap, Season 3, Episode 7: A most unhappy birthday

Kendall (Jeremy Strong) is planning the most ridiculous birthday party in history.
Macall Polay
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Kendall (Jeremy Strong) is planning the most ridiculous birthday party in history.

What happened

In a particularly grim episode, Kendall holds a blowout fortieth birthday party and discovers that the hope he once had that his siblings might take his side against their father is long, long gone. Meanwhile, Roman is close to cementing his position as Favored Child.

Speed rankings

90 MPH: Logan

The stunt Logan pulled a couple of weeks ago after the shareholder meeting — making Kendall wait around under the impression they were going to meet, then leaving — made it pretty clear that the father-son relationship was over. But this week, Logan underscores that he's not the only one cutting Kendall off; Roman is too. Logan sends Roman to the party with a birthday card in which he has actually crossed out "Happy Birthday" and written "CASH OUT AND F*** OFF." The enclosed term sheet offers Kendall more than two billion dollars for his share of the company, but really, Logan is kicking Kendall out of the family for good, officially, full stop.

It should also be noted that if Logan isn't having an affair with Kerry, his somewhat mysterious assistant, his kids certainly think he is. Oh, Logan. Didn't you learn anything from Marcia's reaction to your dalliance with Rhea?

89 MPH: Roman

Between last week's embrace of Mencken and this week's merciless treatment of Kendall and Shiv, Roman is really sinking into his role as the brother who's decided to throw all his cards in, not just to be like Logan, but to be more Logan than Logan is. Not only does he participate in Logan's stunt to cut Kendall off at his own party, but he's also helping Logan cut Shiv out by, it appears, acquiring Kendall's shares. Put that together with the way he defends the surveillance of Kendall's kids — a bridge too far for Shiv — and you see that whatever hesitation Roman ever had about which side he should take, it's entirely gone. He's got his father's favor, and he intends to keep it.

But it's hard to believe Roman is really surprised that Shiv is so angry about Roman getting hold of Kendall's shares. Wouldn't she naturally object? If there's a formal anointing of a favorite child, this would seem to be it. I guess if you're looking for something working in Roman's favor, he does seem reasonably good at dealing with Matsson, even if by pursuing a potential deal in the bathroom for the second episode in a row.

Kendall (Jeremy Strong) wishes he were happier to see Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin).
Macall Polay / HBO
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Kendall (Jeremy Strong) wishes he were happier to see Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin).

80 MPH: Kendall

My pity for Kendall and my distaste for him are both at an all-time high this week. The party is such a monumentally embarrassing endeavor — the spectacle, the pink tunnel, the dumb screens that show fire and show Kendall's picture, the ridiculous things Comfry had to do, like sourcing lunchboxes he didn't even use. But at the same time, he's devastated by his father and siblings cutting him off, even though he's been all bravado all season, going on about how he will come out on top. He relishes what he considers to be teasing his siblings with front-page jokes about their futures, but the fact that they think he is a joke genuinely hurts his feelings. And when he realizes Shiv and Roman only came to look for a business connection, he's wrecked. And of course, he takes it out on his staff and on Greg, whom he calls a parasite and a tapeworm, and on Naomi, whose gift he treats with utterly loathsome indifference. Oh, Kendall. You are so pitiable and also so terrible.

Meanwhile, you might have thought Kendall's rap in Season 2, performed as a tribute to his father, was the most mortifying thing he could come up with as a public spectacle. But no: His plan at his party is to sing Billy Joel's "Honesty" in a tuxedo while flying up to be hung on a cross. (Props to Jeremy Strong for that rehearsal performance, by the way — that's a hard song!) On the one hand, this is a repeat of a story beat from last season, but note how different things are: Kendall is detached from his family now, and he's desperately clinging to Naomi (who is trying to help him and seems to be pro-song, anti-cross as well as pro-"taking the two billion dollars and running"). Perhaps blessedly for Kendall, things go badly enough at the party that he doesn't go through with the display. We are left to imagine this performance, which would have made "L to the OG" look like a model of restraint.

And of course, Kendall's hopelessly broken relationship with Rava and the kids continues to get more broken as he finds himself unable to locate the gift she brought.

70 MPH: Shiv

The thing I find most suspenseful heading into the last couple of episodes of this season is the question of whether the cascading humiliations of Shiv are leading to something significant. She's been disrespected at the office over and over, mistreated by her father, insulted by just about everyone, underestimated at every turn. She's disgusted by Roman's treatment of Kendall — to Shiv, there is acceptable cruelty and unacceptable cruelty — but even more, she's furious that Logan and Roman made a side deal to give Roman Kendall's shares of the company.

Shiv has clearly been taking seriously her efforts to get involved in the company itself — she's the one who sort of lays out the argument for buying GoJo: It's meant to replace Waystar's terrible streaming platform, and get them into other areas like social media and, interestingly, sports betting. She's the one who asks her dad to let her approach Matsson herself at Kendall's party, which of course Roman insinuates himself into.

But the battle lines are extra-clear now, Roman and Logan versus Kendall, with Shiv increasingly ambivalent (and Connor largely disengaged). Might she switch sides and team up with Kendall? Is that where this is going? Is it meaningful that in this episode, she's in a beautiful green dress that matches Kendall's jacket and the jewel-tone green turtleneck he's wearing while prepping for the party?

(Plus, is Roman right that she's disappointed that Tom isn't going to prison? Boy, that's an ugly thing to contemplate!)

60 MPH: Connor

It's hard to say which rich-person behavior is more utterly goofy: Kendall for insisting people take their coats off even if they don't want to, or Connor for insisting on parading around with his coat on his shoulders. But once Connor (and Willa!) join in dumping on Comfry as she tries to navigate the humiliations being heaped on her by Kendall, any sympathy you might have for his desire to keep his coat kind of evaporates.

Greg (Nicholas Braun) and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) are pretty sure they're off the hook this week.
Macall Polay / HBO
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Greg (Nicholas Braun) and Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) are pretty sure they're off the hook this week.

55 MPH: Tom

I have waited all season for everyone who saw the trailer to see the moment when Tom flips the desk. (The initial drop of episodes to critics included these seven. The last two are a mystery.) In the trailer, it looked like anger or fury, but of course: no. It's a celebration of the fact that it looks like Tom and Greg are not going to prison — though keep in mind, this is backchannel communication, and nothing is written in stone yet. And one thing seems to have gone as Tom planned, is that Logan quietly tells him he won't forget that Tom was willing to go to the mat for the family. Tom weirdly shows some actual affection for Greg when he shares the news, and Tom is just a tricky little pup. He doesn't even fully enjoy the compliment tunnel, and he's angry at Greg for being happy!

30 MPH: Greg

Unfortunately for Kendall, he failed to appreciate that Greg, fresh off his (presumed) release from criminal jeopardy, was not in the mood to have Kendall tell him he couldn't ask out Comfry, for reasons not much more convincing than "I said so and I'm desperate to control something." Greg muttering about Kendall and punching his photo in the crotch is a good indicator that Greg's not coming back to Team Kendall.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.