Succession season 1, episode 4 recap: ‘Sad Sack Wasp Trap’


Episode 4 of HBO’s Sucession has a quirky title, but it fits perfectly for our quirky clan of sociopaths, the Roys.  Can they behave at a charity gala?

A normal person would wonder: What exactly is a “sad sack wasp trap”? It’s what the Roy’s call their charity gala, the RECNY. Regarding the actual name, the “REC” stands for Roy Endowment Creative, and the “NY” for New York.

For the made-up name, it stems from the Roy’s view that receivers of charity are “sad sacks” — inept, blundering people — whose plight is used to attract money from White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs).

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It’s definitely an insight into the Roy’s mentality, even when they’re being charitable. Also, the term’s repeated use suggests it’s probably not just a joke. It’s probably the Roy’s reality and an insight into how such people think — at least according to Succession‘s writers.

Endless Sociopathic, Socio-Economic Ladder Climbing

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Throughout Succession, it’s clear the Roys are almost incapable of genuine warmth. Almost everything they do is at someone else’s expense, and deliberately.

So, as Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) struggles to erase the Roy empire’s’ multi-billion dollar debt, he’s bad-mouthed for it. His father Logan (Brian Cox) calls him down, and everyone belittles him for “playing boss.”

Almost everything’s a mean-spirited game, and other people’s feelings don’t matter. This even occurs in subtler forms. In a less-than-romantic moment, Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) laments his female companion’s presence in his bathroom, because he doesn’t want to hold in a fart.

Normally this might be lighthearted banter, but in Roman’s case, you really get a sense of his irritation. The words aren’t spoken, but Roman seems to say, “Okay, we did our thing, but why are you still here? Can’t you see I’m busy doing anything that doesn’t involve you?”

It’s also very clear that Roman hates Frank (Peter Friedman) — Logan’s mentor, who’s been assigned to “babysit” Roman, the Chief Operating Officer. Roman doesn’t mince words. He comes right out and says “The weasel prevails,”calls Frank pathetic, and just hates him.

Apparently, though, Roman’s not alone. At the start of the season, Logan Roy himself had fired Frank, with both almost shrugging off the betrayal (essentially what it was).

Shiv’s Predicament

This episode introduces new scandals, and new issues of viewers to ponder. For example, Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook) is a political strategist, who apparently must deal with some absurd issues.

Not long before the ball, she’s forced to address a client’s husband’s leaked photo of — as the episode calls it — a “very private part of his body.”

It’s a reflection of media issues prominent in our age. In this case, how compromising should a compromising photo be? Should a person’s career be utterly destroyed over such a thing?

Of course, Shiv’s response isn’t really to ask questions, but to take action. She urges her family’s network to retract the story, arguing that it’s bad for democracy. Their rationalization for the story, of course, is that everyone else is running it.

Still, few people seem to ask why it’s being run, or if such scandals should matter more than, say, public policy issues and the value of related institutions themselves.

Welcome to the Death Pit – New and Improved Corporate Scandals!

Of course, Waystar Royco is still in trouble, and will likely never be free of it. Logan begrudges his son for selling part of the company, even though it saved it from ruin.

Rather than thanking Kendall, or at least saying, “I don’t like what you did, but I know why you did it,” Logan verbally undermines him.

He also calls Stewie (Arian Moayed), the man who bought into Royco, a schmuck, then proceeds into Kendall’s office and urinates on his carpet — like a dog marking his territory.

So, even though Kendall says he’s in charge “legally and effectively,” it’s apparent that Logan has other plans. It may not be like Roman says, that their dad simply “needs to learn where to go pee-pee and poo-poo.”

Meanwhile, Shiv’s fiancé, Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) has a private conversation with his cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) about a major business scandal — part of what Tom calls “the death pit.”

The head of the company’s cruise line extended contracts to hired dancers for sexual favors, and Royco gave them hush money. This promises to become a giant, glorious mess.

Let’s Have a Ball!

The Sad Sack Wasp Trap threatens to be a giant calamity. As Kendall himself says, he just wants the company to not seem nuts. It’s also clear that, in his mind, his father represents the old ways, while he represents the future.

In fact, when his father returns to work, Kendall compares it to a dinosaur’s “one last roar at the meteor before it wipes him out.” He also tells Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) that anything could come out of Logan’s mouth: “Drool, antisemitism,…[a] string of silk handkerchiefs tied together.” He doesn’t want to take those chances.

Meanwhile, Tom harasses Greg on numerous occasions. At first, it’s just to be mean — jokingly calling Greg “Mr. Bond” due to his tuxedo, and asking if he’d be seated in the basement or the dumpsters.

However, at some point, Tom learns that the cruise line sex scandal’s beginning to leak. He immediately blames Greg for squealing about it and feels increased pressure to host a press conference to address the issue.

Then, as a not-unexpected twist, we learn that Kendall isn’t speaking after all. Instead, his dear old dad will address the gala. When he does, he announces that he’s back and better than ever. Of course, what he really means is he’ll be worse than ever, and he’ll surely bring out the worst in Roman, too, who is already kissing up to his dad.

Finally, this episode gives more attention to Connor Roy (Alan Ruck), who lacks social grace, seems awkward everywhere he goes and freaks out over fork placement and cold butter at the ball. As underdeveloped as he is now, one wonders what role this character will play in the future.

Next: Succession season 1, episode 5 recap

Whatever it is, these are some of the “wildcard” characters that make shows like “Succession” worthwhile. Then again, all of Succession‘s characters are wildcards…so anything could happen, right?

What do you think? Was this a great episode of Succession? Let us know in the comments!