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Frank Plays Games Of Love And War But It's Claire Who Loses
Old friends resurface (of both the human and animal variety) and Frank is forced to choose between his loyalties and his future.
Get The Look: The "I'm Just Like You" Presidential Candidate Leather Jacket
This is the second time we've seen Frank wearing this jacket while at a campaign event. It says to the Iowa voter, "I am a powerful man, and I want to look rugged, but sometimes I get chilly." Frank's analysts probably held twenty-four focus groups on that jacket alone. Unfortunately for Frank, it does not protect him from well-meaning town hall attendees who want to know why the Jordan Valley business has been such a mess.
No, You Started It!
Alert Type: International Discord Alert.
Issue: Since the Russian-instigated firefight in the Jordan Valley, Israel has sent in six thousand troops, Palestine is launching mortar attacks, Jordan is dealing with Palestinian refugees, and Russia is still refusing to leave.
Complicating Factors: On top of all that, Israel is considering establishing a no-fly zone for Russian supply planes.
Resolution: Claire moderates a meeting with the Israeli, Palestinian Jordanian ambassadors. Shockingly, they do not all immediately agree to move past centuries of hostilities and stage a Middle Eastern version of Hands Across America. Eliana, the Israeli ambassador, at least commits to a third reduction in troops if Palestine cuts it with the shelling. After the meeting, Claire asks Eliana to hang back to talk about the no-fly zone. She assures Claire that Israel is willing to shoot down one of Russia's planes if any enter the restricted area.
Spoiler: International politics is hard!
Love, Hate & Everything In Between
All Work And Then Some Talk About How They Used To Play
Remy goes to Jackie's office to tell her it's been decided that she should ask for a delay of the televised debate among her, Heather, and Frank. Frank wants to take care of the Jordan Valley before facing off against Heather and being forced to answer uncomfortable questions. And then he's all, "That's enough about work, let's talk about how sad I am that we're not together." He apologizes for kissing her and promises it won't happen again. Expect three to four more scenes like this before the season is up.
That Quote"I've loved people before and I've learned to let them go."- Remy, staving off his romantic rekindling with Jackie for another three episodes -
Tim Corbet, Frank's old chorus buddy at the Sentinel -- and the man with whom he "experimented" throughout their college years -- called to let Frank know that Tom had contacted him for information on Frank for the book. He's willing to talk to Tom, but wanted to check with Frank before he did. Frank tells him that the book has nothing to do with the Sentinel, so it'd be better if he didn't. Their conversation is familiar and warm, and Frank looks crestfallen when he hangs up on the man who, in a perfect world, might have been in Claire's shoes.
Smoke In Your Eyes
The Scene: After his call with Tim, Frank sneaks one of his secret cigarettes. While he's blowing the smoke into the stove vent to erase his tracks, Claire walks in to inform him that Israel has just enacted the no-fly zone.
The Symbol: The next morning, Frank greets the press corps with a deep, phlegmy cough.
The Meaning: What Frank is hiding will kill him.
In their fancy kitchen, Jackie and Dr. Alan watch the news, chop up some pomegranates, and discuss Jackie's future.This Jordan Valley thing's a mess. He's in big trouble. And then there's the whole AmWorks thing. All the baggage from last year.You're having doubts?I don’t know. Maybe.That sounds serious.If there's an ideal time to walk away, this is it.Then what?Focus on Congress.Yeah but you want more than that.I can spend more time with you and the kids.Well, I don’t want a wife who's miserable because she turned her back on the White House. Look, the thing about surgery is once you're in, you're in. There's a bleeding heart in front of you. Someone's life. There's no room for doubt. So not matter what goes wrong -- a blood clot or a hemorrhage -- you deal with it. You don't get to walk away.But this isn't life or death.For you it is.
Frank Is Going to the Jordan Valley!
Q: Why is Frank going?
A: Because Petrov is making a show of breaking Israel's no-fly zone, and Frank thinks they can negotiate a deal, "two men in a room," before Israel freaks out and sends in even more troops.
Q: What is he planning on offering Petrov?
A: The elimination of America's missile defense system in Poland, which Petrov has been seeking since he first met Frank at the White House; and an end to the U.N. peacekeeping initiative, which Petrov has always opposed because it establishes U.S. troops relatively close to the Balkan states.
Q: Does anyone think this is a good idea, besides Frank?
A: No one, especially not Claire. She pleads with him not to throw away the plan she's worked on since they came into office, but Frank is determined to solve the issue in a way that will make him look like a badass (think W in pilot drag under the "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner) and will win him political points in Iowa.
Q: But doesn't Frank respect Claire's opinions?
A: "I respect your opinion, Claire, I just don’t agree with it this time." Well.
Plot Lightning Round
Claire calls up Moryakov to see if there's anything that can be accomplished diplomatically, but he informs her that he's been recalled as ambassador, though he won't elaborate as to why. Guess that's a no.
On her way down to the War Room, Claire passes Meechum and Tom heading up. She pulls Meechum aside to ask what he's doing there, but not aside enough to prevent Tom from hovering over them and listening in. Claire's basically like, "Yeah, that was meant for you, bruh."
One nap later, Tom is chased out of the White House by Meechum since Frank is busy working out the finer points of the deal he'll offer to Petrov.
But not before he can run into Claire one more time. This time their meeting is a slightly less hostile. She asks how the book is coming along, and he tells her that he feels roadblocked by one particular void in Frank's story: her. All Frank will say about Claire is that "there wouldn’t be a White House without her" and that he loves her dearly but won't add anything else. He'd like to schedule some time to interview her. Claire's like, "Who? Me?" and blushes like a delicate rose. JK! She'll get back to him on that.
The next day, while Frank's preparing to leave, VP Blyth tells him that he's prepared to take over the presidency if something tragic happens to him. Frank thanks him but is secretly like
As if America would be in any worse hand with Donald than with your megalomaniac cowboy ass, Frank.
Claire swallows her pride and tells Frank that he's just doing what he thinks is best, and no one can blame him for that. Secretly, she's probably excited to walk around their suite in nothing but her birthday suit and prominent clavicle
Aboard AF1, the joint chiefs tell Frank that the site of his meeting with Petrov will not be blast-proof. He'll need to wear his Kevlar vest at all times. Frank's half Porky Pig nerves and half Daffy Duck unwarranted tenacity.
At a White House press briefing on Frank's trip, Kate plays the voice of everyone's inner cynic and suggests that Frank's only pulling this stunt to pull himself up in the polls. Seth is basically like, "Shut up, you weren't supposed to tell anyone that!"
The Stampers Come To Town!
Who's causing a family crisis? Doug. Doug's always causing some kind of crisis.
How? By falling off the wagon so hard his brother has to come to D.C. to take care of him.
Which relatives have a problem with it? Nobody! Greg is a standup guy and more than willing to exhaust all his vacation time and be away from his family to take care of his bitter hermit of a brother. Doug is even inspired by his brother's goodness to invite Greg's whole family to stay the weekend. And Greg's wife -- who has never even met Doug -- is just as pleasant and excited to be there as Greg! What happened to Doug to make him so much less huggable than his brother?
Who's an unlikely ally? Franke Stamper -- as played by Michael Kelly's actual daughter, Franke -- whose childish glee and early morning tissue ball fights put a smile on Doug's ceaselessly joyless face.
Spoiler: Greg tries to convince Doug that he needs to find another reason to live besides Frank Underwood. He probably doesn't succeed.
I'll Hit You Where It Hurts: Right In The Claire
Who called the meeting? Frank. Or Petrov, since he got there first. Doesn't really matter, but I bet they'll each make themselves the meeting caller when they tell the story in the future.
What's it about? Frank wants Petrov out of the Jordan Valley. Petrov wants an end to the U.N. peacekeeping mission there. Petrov also wants the Poland missile defense scale back that's been promised to him in the past. Easy, right?
How'd it go? Not great, Bob. Frank is initially pee-pants excited to play out this posturing macho fantasy of hammering out the fate of the world in a bunker with the second most powerful man in the free world, but Petrov soon reveals that he's not just playing war games. He wants something from Frank that will hurt, and he's not talking about some measly missile defense programs. Petrov tells Frank that the only way he's going home with what he wants is if he dumps Claire as U.N. ambassador. Petrov sees her as unqualified for the position (even though most evidence points to Claire being perfectly serviceable at her job) and thinks that she's a distraction for Frank. This probably stems back to the time she called him a hateful homophobe after Michael Corrigan's death.
Frank tries to offer Petrov a relief program for his African allies to distribute as he sees fit, but Petrov claims to be "not so easily bought by a few billion dollars." Then, he drops the bomb. He knew about Moryakov convincing Claire that he had ordered the IED that killed his own soldiers, because he was the one who ordered him to tell her. Claire was duped by Moryakov, and the consequences were one dead American soldier and chaos in the Jordan Valley. Petrov tells Frank a story from his time serving in Afghanistan about killing an enemy combatant and sending his head back to his village tied to the ass of a donkey. He tells Frank that he sees the same merciless drive for power within him that he possesses. He's not wrong.
That Quote"You are ruthless like me. Sometimes we must be ruthless with those who hate us, and sometimes we must be ruthless with those we love."- Viktor Petrov -
I'm Not The Troubled Man You Thought I Was. I'm A Totally Different Troubled Man!
Situation: I guess this is as good a time as any to check in on Gavin, right? Now that Doug's lifted the hold on his passport, he's free to flee the FBI, so he stops by to say goodbye to Lisa.
What makes it awkward? Lisa totally thought Gavin's name was Max. She also thought he was HIV-positive. She also thought he was just a nice, normal boy who came to the Fellowship after a desperate Google search, and not a superhacker being blackmailed by the U.S. government. I wonder where she got that idea.
How is order restored? Gavin leaves. Lisa presumably goes on with her life, confused as to why she keeps befriending people who are being blackmailed by the government.
Wrap It Up
Obviously, there's no "I'm so relieved you're safe" moment between the Underwoods when Frank returns to the White House. Claire's waiting on the couch when he walks in, anxious as shit thanks to Frank's refusal to answer her calls on the way back from the Jordan Valley. He quickly tells her that Petrov demanded a "diplomatic change at the U.N.," and Claire's smart enough to realize that's bullshit-speak for "you're out of a job." She's bitter -- not quite as aggressive as "I never should have made you president," but still aiming to wound with guilt. She tells him, "I told you going there was a mistake," and he counters with the Corrigan incident, suggesting she ought not play the blame game.
But it's the revelation that Moryakov played her that convinces Claire to resign. After Claire consents to be demoted back down to First Lady, Frank whispers an utterly unconvincing "I wish it didn't have to come to this." He offers her the consolation prize of pretending to agree that he shouldn't have gone, but Claire's eye twitches betray her new wariness for her husband.
Afterward, Frank texts Tom to come over, which can only mean one thing: booty call! Or he feels like baring his soul to the one man who he feels understands him. Or both!
Frank pours them some 4 AM bourbon and then sits next to Tom on the same tiny couch, even though there's another couch on the other side of the table, so you know stuff's about to get sexy. He asks Tom why he contacted Tim, and Tom says that he wanted to know more about his formative years. "Formative for you, maybe," Frank replies. "All I learned was how to march and shoot a gun."
Tim says that Frank could have used military school, considering his formative years were spent jumping from bed to bed and john to john. Yep, he lied to Frank about being the one who wrote his first book, Scorpio, a story of a young hustler. He recounts his first foray into hooking, for an overweight married man who simply wanted to be held and talk about his dead daughter. It was then that he became addicted to other men's stories -- especially those of powerful men.
Tom says that he's Frank's friend, and that Frank can tell him anything -- and then settles his hand on Frank's. "Are we friends?" Frank asks as he slowly caresses his biographer's hands. He tells Tom that Claire's hurting worse than he is, so Tom places Frank's hand over his own heart to let him know that "everybody's hurting." Thankfully, I'm saved from writing House Of Cards erotica, as their intimate hand-holding and a brief chin rub is as far as Frank is willing to go.
And if the almost gay stuff wasn't a big enough shock for you, guess who shows up in the very next scene!
IT'S CASHEW! Where have you been, my mop-haired beauty? This season has not been the same without you. Lisa discovers his cage, which Gavin dropped off on her porch. I guess carrying a rare guinea pig through Customs would be an unnecessary risk for a man fleeing the country.
The morning after her firing, Claire is asked by Frank's campaign manager to choose a new hairstyle. The blonde plays well with Iowa voters. Go figure. Claire is reticent, but willing to do what has to be done to serve her new/old role of First Lady. And then she embraces her figurehead position and sits quietly while Frank runs the country, occasionally looking up from her needlepoint to ask if anyone in the Situation Room would like a scone. Because that's what blondes do!