In each Succession season, there’s been an episode in which all the meme-able phrases and salty looks begin to coalesce into something grander than the sum of its delicious parts. That might well be this week’s episode, “Retired Janitors of Idaho.” Shiv (Sarah Snook), Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), and the rest of the Roy entourage assemble around Logan (Brian Cox) for Waystar Royco’s shareholders’ meeting day. Without a deal in hand with Sandy and Stewy (Larry Pine and Arian Moayed), the family could lose control of their company. Logan’s increasingly loopy behavior, accelerating visits to the bathroom (accompanied by potty partner Tom), and refusal to compromise paralyzes his underlings, who are hesitant to oppose the “demented piss-mad King of England,” as Roman (Kieran Culkin) dubs him.
Kendall (Jeremy Strong) babbles about being a change agent. “You should save that for Vanity Fair, bro,” chides Stewy. Meanwhile, Shiv takes the reins. But on top of trying to save the company, she is also dealing with marital problems. Tom admits to tracking her fertility, hoping to impregnate her before he goes off to jail. “I don’t want to be your fucking incubator for when you’re in prison doing chin-ups and reading Knausgaard,” Shiv complains, neatly laying down the perfect pitch for a Tom Wambsgans prison spin-off. (“You’re making it sound horrible and…it’s supposed to be nice,” Tom whimpers.)
Sitting in a New York hotel room overlooking the Hudson River, Snook and Macfadyen talked to V.F.’s Still Watching about Shiv’s ambitions, Tom’s self-sacrifice, and the lines that made them lose it. Listen to the episode above, and find a partial transcript of the interview below.
Vanity Fair: Shiv and Tom’s relationship seems to be on quicksand this season.
Matthew Macfadyen: We picked up right after the scene on the beach in Croatia. And then we go into panic mode, don’t we? I mean, it’s seamless, it just goes straight on. So we haven’t really had time to digest or deal with it. I’m still reeling from the open marriage thing.
Sarah Snook: Yeah, it doesn’t bode well at this point. But I think quicksand is a good descriptive for sure. It does feel like that in a lot of ways. I realized recently that they’ve previously had a long-term strategy for what their relationship is going to be and what their careers and life are gonna look—they’ll get married, and Tom will be at ATN and he’ll move up somehow, and she will be in politics. But then at the beginning of season two, when she was offered the CEO, that blows it all up.
Macfadyen: Also there’s this awful threat of possible jail time hanging over Tom and everything that comes with that. And they’ve talked about having a baby maybe…
Snook: All these normal things marriages have to deal with—jail time and babies.
I love the detail that Tom started tracking Shiv’s periods to see when she’s fertile.
Macfadyen: It’s not creepy!
Snook: It is creepy, though. It is.
How do you not laugh when you’re doing a scene like that?
Snook: It was difficult! There were plenty of times where we were not able to get through it. They didn’t use them but [there were] so many, “fuck you” moments as she was leaving.
Macfadyen: “I’ve been to your sexy window,” I say to you at one point.
Snook: I love: “What are you trying to do, take my basal temperature with your dick?”
Does Shiv have a sense of what she wants, other than Logan’s affection?
Snook: I think she wants success and stability and she wants to win—in terms of the company but also in terms of the competition within the family to appear the most normal and stable. I think part of that was getting married in the first place. And I think the realization is that you’re always going to be a Roy and you’re probably never going to be normal and stable [giggles]. You’re never gonna win at that. So maybe that’s what this season’s about for her as well.