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The Ending Of Succession Season 3 Episode 6 Explained

"Succession" Season 3 episode 6, "What It Takes," aired on November 21, 2021. After last week's episode saw the Roys keep control of the Waystar-Royco company by working out a power-sharing arrangement, this week the focus turns to the other major development from that episode: who's going to be the next Republican nominee for President of the United States?

The Roys' involvement in politics has mostly happened offscreen this season. After Kendall (Jeremy Strong) went public with allegations that his father Logan (Brian Cox) was involved in the company's sexual harassment scandal in its cruise line division at the end of Season 2, a Department of Justice investigation has loomed over Waystar-Royco. Earlier this season, Shiv (Sarah Snook) sicced the ATN's biggest star Mark Ravenhead (Zack Robidas) against the sitting president, who's recently decided not to run for a second term. 

This week, the Roys attend a conference in Virginia aptly titled the Future Freedom Summit ("FFS"), where they decide which of three candidates to back: current Vice President Dave Boyer (Reed Birney), Senator Rick Salgado (Yul Vasquez), and conservative firebrand Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk). Oh, and failson Connor Roy (Alan Ruck) thinks he has a shot, too.

As The New York Times pointed out, the title, "What It Takes" is likely borrowed from Richard Ben-Cramer's nonfiction book of the same name about the 1988 presidential race. That book explored the candidacies of two Republican and four Democratic candidates, paying particular attention to the disconnect between the six men's credentials and how they sold themselves to the media. Just like in Ben-Cramer's book, it doesn't really matter who these three candidates are. All that counts is what they can offer ATN — and really, Logan.

Here's how "What It Takes" plays out, and what it might mean going forward.

Meet the three candidates

Logan and the ATN family really want two things from their preferred candidate: for the new administration to reign in Big Tech, which is siphoning off ATN's audience; and for the Department of Justice to ease up on their investigation into ATN. All three of these contenders for the nomination are new to the show, so let's get to know them better.

First up is Vice President Boyer. As he tells Logan in a hotel lobby chat, he's onboard with the idea of restraining the big technology companies. He's less amenable to the idea of hampering the DOJ. When Logan calls him later in the episode and half-seriously suggests that Boyer will have to one day fire the deputy attorney general, whom Logan thinks has a personal vendetta against him, Boyer balks. Worst of all, Boyer has a habit of unconsciously licking his lips, which doesn't make him very camera friendly. He's never a realistic choice, and none of the Roys seriously back him. 

Up next is Salgado. He's an elitist who's tried to reposition himself as a populist. He's also the most policy-oriented of the three choices, and he claims to be interested in fighting for American families. Yet he also has a ruthless side. He approaches Shiv with a proposal: if she convinces her family to back him, he'll help make her CEO, even if he has to get the DOJ to throw Logan in jail.

Finally, there's Mencken. He's an unabashed racist and nativist agitator. He sees ATN and its aging audience as increasingly irrelevant, and he insults Logan to his face. Regardless, Roman (Kieran Culkin) is convinced that Mencken is just what ATN needs to appeal to a younger demographic. Mencken is also the most willing to acquiesce to Logan's requirements. 

Why Logan picks Jeryd Mencken

In the end, Logan goes with Mencken, proving that he doesn't mind being insulted — or backing someone who's actively harmful to the country — as long as his preferred puppet will do what he wants. But Logan's reasons go a little deeper than that. As always with "Succession," it all goes back to family. 

Logan's choice between Mencken and Salgado is really a choice between Roman and Shiv. Roman backs Mencken because he thinks Mencken is ultimately better for the company's bottom line. That's something Logan will always respond to. 

As for Shiv, she might pitch Salgado for noble reasons, but her actual motivations are entirely selfish. Logan might not be fully aware that Shiv has made a deal with Salgado to betray him, but he's already suspicious of his daughter. Fresh in Logan's mind is Shiv's decision in last week's episode to make a side seal with Sandi Berger (Hope Davis) to restructure the Waystar-Royco's board of directors, which she did while Logan was incapacitated due to a UTI. Logan held that against her then, and it looks like he's still doing that now. The fact that he's disregarding Shiv's actual experience as a political consultant is a particularly cruel twist of the knife. 

In the end, Logan picks Mencken for practical reasons — but his reasons are personal, too. It's just as much about favoring Roman and sticking it to Shiv as it is about Waystar-Royco.

Will Tom actually switch sides?

In this week's other major development, Kendall's effort to cooperate with the Department of Justice is losing steam, as the DOJ is focusing its attention more on Kendall himself than on Logan. Kendall decides to fire his lawyer Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan). Then, he heads to Virginia to try to convince Tom (Matthew Macfayden) to come over to his side and testify against Logan. In a clandestine meeting at a diner, Kendall makes his pitch, offering Tom immunity in exchange for his help. In the end, Tom's not responsive. "I've seen you get f—– a lot," he tells Kendall. "I've never seen Logan get f—– once." 

However, it might not be that simple. In the car ride back to the hotel, a closeup shot shows how conflicted Tom really is. We've already seen multiple times this season how ill-suited Tom is for prison life, including during this episode — in an earlier scene at the diner with Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) he tries to stomach the sort of food he'll be served in prison and fails. More importantly, Tom is fully aware that Shiv doesn't much care about what happens to him. 

At this point, Kendall's lifeline might just be too tempting for Tom to pass up. However, there could be another factor that leads him to change his mind: Shiv.  

Is Shiv part of the family or not?

As "What It Takes" ends, Logan wants to take a family photo with their newly anointed candidate Mencken. Shiv tries to refuse but Logan pressures her, asking point-blank if she's part of the family or not. In the end, Shiv caves and appears in the photo as long as she doesn't have to stand next to Mencken.

Throughout Season 3, "Succession" has teased the possibility that someone in Logan's orbit might switch sides and help Kendall. Tom already seems like a likely candidate to flip, based on how conflicted he looked after meeting Kendall at the diner. Could the family photo be the start of Shiv's change of heart? She's seen her ambitions get repeatedly dashed this season. She has to realize that if things keep going as they are, she'll wind up the loser in favor of Roman. If she does, would that push Tom over the edge, too? 

Put it this way: Shiv probably should break ranks and try to take down their father, if for no other reason than it would offer the most hope for her future. All she needs to do is figure out how to break the psychological hold her father's held on her for her lifetime. No big deal. 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).