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Theory: What Happened Between Shiv And Matsson During This Week's Succession?

Contains spoilers for "Succession" Season 4 Episode 5 — "Kill List"

It's hard to pin down any alliance or relationship on "Succession." The three warring siblings of the Roy family — Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin) — are, depending on the episode and the moment, at one another's throats or fiercely aligned, and that situation tends to change with very little rhyme or reason. 

In "Kill List," just a few days after their powerful father Logan's (Brian Cox) sudden death, the trio travels to Norway to try and finalize their dad's long-awaited deal with GoJo tech bro Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skärsgard)... and it definitely seems like, compared to her brothers, Shiv is kind of checked out. After Kendall and Roman edged her out of the proceedings and became co-CEOs of Waystar Royco, it makes sense that Shiv would feel totally betrayed, even though both of her brothers promised to keep her in the loop about everything. (To his credit, Roman's first instinct after every development is to bring Shiv into the fold.) Kendall and Roman don't exactly woo Matsson, though, and they're fully ready to sabotage the deal... and then, steathily and without telling her siblings, Shiv sidles up to Matsson and ensures it goes through.

We don't see everything that happens between Shiv and Matsson, but there's a lot left unsaid when it comes to what we do see. So what's Shiv's endgame here? Well, with Matsson in her corner, she can pull one over on her brothers and potentially steal any and all power they have left.

What exactly went down between Shiv and Matsson?

People on "Succession" never announce their intentions out loud in any given moment — partly because it would ruin the characters' endgames and also because the writers behind these characters are far too smart for nonsense like that — and Shiv is no exception. Dealing with Matsson on her own, she takes it in stride that he apparently sent frozen half-liters of blood to his head of communications after their affair ended, basically telling him it wouldn't be difficult to cover up something as innocuous is that. (She does, however, tell him deniability isn't on the table considering that blood is, well, blood.)

So what happened between Matsson and Shiv that's still being left unsaid? Clearly something, based on the very end of the episode. After Kendall and Roman get news from Matsson's camp that he's raising his per-share offer, they're not exactly excited; they didn't want the deal to go through and went so far as to verbally attack the GoJo CEO (or Roman did, anyway). As the Roy family's plane is set to take off, Shiv gets a call from Matsson, who asks for a photo of her brother's dejected faces, and she complies without even hesitating.

Perhaps Matsson was just excited to meet someone who didn't immediately turn their back when he revealed just how gross he is; it's also notable he freely snorts cocaine in front of Shiv, obviously comfortable around her. Has he found a kindred spirit, or is something even bigger going on?

What's going on with Shiv's unborn baby?

The other big secret Shiv's been keeping since the fourth episode of Season 4 is that she's pregnant — with her soon-to-be ex-husband Tom Wambsgans' (Matthew Macfadyen) baby. (That's the assumption, anyway, but this could also be another rug the "Succession" writers yank out from under fans' feet.) So will her pregnancy factor into everything? Is it possible she and Matsson had a tryst in Norway and she'll try and pass the baby off as his? Or is her pregnancy separate from everything to do with Matsson in the end?

There's also a ton of moments that feel a little alarming when you remember that Shiv is pregnant, like when she appears to take the cocaine Matsson offers her, when he hands her a giant glass of scotch, and when she's sipping champagne to celebrate Matsson raising his bid for ATN and Waystar Royco. Snook is a smart actress, though; if you pay attention, she's careful to play these scenes in a way where, when you look closely, she doesn't actually seem to be drinking at all. The reveal that Shiv has been pregnant for quite some time now — in Episode 4, a call from her doctor notes that she's past the first trimester — is going to be a huge "Succession" shake-up, so how she deploys that information will certainly be interesting.

There's a lot more to the scene with Matsson and Shiv than meets the eye

According to a Vanity Fair interview with Andrij Parekh, who directed the episode, there is something going on underneath the surface where Shiv and Matsson are concerned — and a lot of that is based on the immediate bond and trust between the two. As Parekh notes, Matsson sees Shiv as a "straight shooter;" he's a powerful man who's probably rarely, if ever, criticized or told "no," and Shiv is different. By telling him the whole blood-sending gambit was stupid, she gains his trust, and it seems as if she's just quietly joined his inner circle.

Parekh said you're definitely not imagining the tension between them, though. "There's an element of sexual tension between the two characters. We didn't really play that up, but it was there. It's nice to leave that a little bit buried, allowing the audience to read into it instead of making something of it. You allow for the possibility." That said, Parekh knows, as all "Succession" fans do, that showrunner Jesse Armstrong likes to leave breadcrumbs for his fans, and this is a perfect example. "Jesse's not hitting things on the head," he told Vanity Fair. "There's a lot of gray area. That's what makes this show interesting to watch, because everything seems possible."

The final season of "Succession" airs a new episode every Sunday evening on HBO at 9 P.M. EST.