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Gay Ol' Moscow
An imprisoned gay rights activist drives a wedge between the American and Russian presidents before jackhammering open the Underwoods' marriage.
"Start From The Beginning"
Name: Thomas Yates. Age: 40s Occupation: Novelist/Burgeoning Frank Underwood biographer. Goal: To find out THE TRUTH behind the Frank and write a TRUE book about THE TRUTH; to escape the shadow of his first novel, Scorpio, based on the story of a hustler "friend" of his. Sample Dialogue: "I didn't turn tricks. I just waited in the hotel lobby in case he got into trouble."
Everyone Is Going to Moscow!
The Underwoods are flying to Mother Russia to meet with President Petrov about...stuff. A bunch of stuff, actually.
Diplomatic Mission FAQ
Q: What kinda stuff, you may ask?
A: The Jordan Valley deal, and the missile defense scale-back they almost agreed to during Petrov's visit to the White House.
Q: Anything else?
A: There's this whole thing about American gay rights activist Michael Corrigan being imprisoned by Petrov for speaking out against Russia's laws. But that's, like, minor shit. Probably won't be an issue.
Q: Is there anything fun to do on the way?
A: Well, it's Air Force One, so I'm assuming there's bowling or a holodeck or something, but you can also stare significantly at the northern lights as Frank and Claire do.
Q: Are the lights a metaphor for anything?
Spin Off Idea
Main Cast: Cyber-terrorist-turned-antique spoon shop owner Gavin Orsay; the girl he attempted to hack IRL in order to uncover the location of her ex-lover so an unstable ex-chief of staff can murder her, but ended falling in love with (a.k.a. Lisa Williams).
New Characters to be added: Former black market mustard gas salesman and current head of the The Fellowship, Pastor Mitch Farmer; a precocious seven-year-old named Phoebe who teaches life lessons; Cashew, the long-haired guinea pig that Gavin loves/talks to when he needs to dump exposition on the audience
Sample episode plot: The whole town is busy with preparations for the fall festival, but a mysterious cyber-hacking buddy from Gavin's past shows up asking for his help breaking into Taco Bell's mainframe and revealing their "meat product" recipe to the world. Will Gavin be able to help topple a major corporation AND get his muffins to the bake sale on time?
Working For The Enemy
Doug is now working full-time for Heather, taking breaks from his physical rehab to give her pointers on dealing with various Congressmen and their aides. Until pretty rehab trainer lady tells him to hang up and get back to leg crunches. (That's an exercise, right?)
Place Of Interest
It's Cold And Barren, But It's Home!
While Frank irons out global trade deals and whatnot with Petrov, Claire is tasked with prepping Michael Corrigan for his public apology and release. They meet in Michael's cell with a handful of diplomats from both sides observing. Claire hands him the apology that's been agreed upon by the two countries, but he's unable to read it without his glasses, which were destroyed during his arrest. When the Russian head of the prison pipes up to say that Michael's been offered a new pair of glasses, Michael tells Claire that he refused their offer, since the Russian prisoners aren't offered the same courtesies. Claire reads it to him. It's unambiguous in Michael's admission of guilt for "exposing minors to non-traditional sexual attitudes." Convincing an activist as fierce as Michael to -- not only apologize to Petrov -- but thank him for freeing him was always going to be a difficult proposition, and Michael predictably refuses.
Claire asks the officers to leave them alone so that she can work her ferocious shoulder-pad charm on the gay. Before they go, Claire asks the prison official to remove the bug that's almost certainly hidden in the cell, so Michael will be more forthcoming during their talk. Smart lady.
This Whole Gay Business
Situation: Presidents Underwood and Petrov iron out agreements for the Jordan Valley plan, missile defense reduction, and other such issues that world leaders discuss while snacking on scones.
What makes it awkward? A Russian official interrupts the meeting to inform Petrov that Claire is meeting with Michael Corrigan alone and has had the bug in his cell removed.
How is order restored? At first, Petrov just says that Claire "values her privacy," but when he later learns that she's asked to revise Michael's apology, he accuses the Underwoods of deception. Frank assures him that, though Michael will require coaxing, there's no way they're going to let this insignificant homosexual foil the plans of the two most powerful men in the world.
While Frank tries to keep the summit from falling apart, Claire continues to work on Michael.Let me ask you something: would you read that statement if you were me?Yes, I would.You'd thank a man who says you're dangerous to children?You don't have to mean it; you just have to say it.
Michael tells Claire about the hunger strike he engaged in when he was first arrested: he only lasted six days, while his Russian friend, Sergei -- someone who actually has to live in the country he's risking his life to change -- lasted twenty-six days. They eventually force-fed him, but it was too late. He died, and now no one will know his name; and yet, everyone back home knows Michael's story. He feels like the worst sin he could commit against his friend's memory would be to surrender their fight.But back home you can share Sergei's story.That doesn't do anything for him or the others.We will drag you out. You don't have any power over that.But the one thing I do have power over is not making that statement.Okay, what if I can get them to change the line about "non-traditional sexual attitudes." That's what bothers you most, right?You can't parse this. It's all or nothing.That's not how politics work.But it's how revolution works!
Fight! Fight! Fight!
What About My Husband?
Since the Russians refuse to budge on the statement, Claire's next move is to pull at Michael's heartstrings. She tells him that she's been in contact with his husband, Jon, and that she had promised him Michael would call him from Air Force One on their way home. Michael's a fiery revolutionary, though, and won't be distracted by appeals to his emotions. He calls Jon weak, and tells Claire that if Jon were in Michael's shoes, Jon would have given the statement immediately. Claire calls Michael selfish, but Michael holds strong: he tells Claire that if she can stand to deal with her own husband's selfishness, Jon can get over himself too.
When the Russian officer returns, Claire tells him that she won't leave the cell until Michael agrees to come with her, even if it takes all night.
Winner: For now: stalemate.
"Can't You Just, Like, Promise Him Céline Dion Tickets Or Something?"
Frank takes a break from his meeting with Petrov to call Claire and figure out what the fuck is going on. Claire tries to convince Frank to get Petrov to drop the statement until she realizes that they're on Russian soil and their phones have probably been hacked anyway; so, she addresses Petrov directly in the middle of their call to tell him that, while she's advocating for him, things would go a lot smoother if he didn’t force Michael to publicly apologize.
From the desk of
You don't have HIV! But I think you knew that already.
Seize the day! Treat yo' self to a Netflix binge and order a calzone, or go out and find some people to have hot, protected fuck times with. Definitely don't lie to someone about being HIV-positive so that she'll trust you more and maybe give up the location of her ex-lover so you can have her murdered.
Buy more condoms
Read these here pamphlets that will tell you not to use Craigslist or visit bathhouses
Find your goddamn guinea pig, already!
It's Okay For Me To Suppress Gay People Because One Of Them Is Related To Me
Who called the meeting? Frank.
What's it about? Since Michael isn't budging, Frank tells Petrov he's willing to apologize to Russia on Michael's behalf. Perhaps a statement from the president of the United States would carry more weight than one read by a man whom most Russians view as a criminal.
How'd it go? Petrov isn't as anti-gay in private as you'd think for a man who's enacted so many gay propaganda laws. He even has a gay nephew whom he loves like a son! But being so pro-gay in public would hurt him politically in a nation that clings to its bibles and borscht. Petrov believes that if Michael isn’t held accountable for his actions, conservative Russians will overthrow him. So, no, Frank cannot act as Michael's daddy and apologize on his behalf.
On The Menu
What's On The Menu In The Gulag?
Since the First Lady is staying in Michael's cell, the Russians prepare a halfway decent meal for them. What do these fast friends munch on while they chat?
Beef Stroganov: Claire and Michael dig into tender Russian beef chunks and egg noodles while Michael tells the story of meeting his then-uncharismatic husband at a community organizing meeting about recycling.
Potato Knishes: Things get a little heavier with dumplings and Michael's comparisons of his unloving relationship to the one between Frank and Claire. Because he's a wise ol' gay, Michael somehow knows that Claire is unsatisfied in her marriage; but like Michael, who feels like he can't get divorced lest it undermine his authority as a gay marriage advocate, Claire is stuck with her man. You can't get a divorce when you're the First Lady, right?
An apple: A metaphorical apple, but one that Claire insists Michael shove in his mouth to stop from talking shit about her marriage.
That Quote"When I lie to you, you'll never know it, and it will be for a good reason. Michael Corrigan doesn’t fall under that category."- President Underwood to President Petrov -
Very Useful Stats
Number of fucks Gavin gives about this woman he's tricked into thinking he has HIV so she becomes emotionally invested in him
Not a one.
R.I.P. Michael Corrigan
While Claire slept, Michael took her scarf and hung himself with it. Those fibers must be powerful!
Wrap It Up
Frank comforts Claire for about twenty seconds before he and Petrov start banging out the particulars for their statements to the press. Frank and Petrov are of the same mind: tell everyone that Michael was going to be released that day because he had agreed to apologize for his actions, and then transition quickly into their Jordan Valley arrangement.
Claire's defiant neck vein has different ideas, however.
At the press conference, Claire reads her boilerplate statement, sending her love to all of Michael's loved ones while betraying him by saying that he was sorry for the trouble he had caused.
When it comes time to pass off the mic to Frank, though, Claire lets her instincts and emotions take hold of her and speaks the truth: Michael was a brave soldier who was kept in deplorable conditions and was never going to apologize for his actions. She reveals that Michael hung himself with her scarf, and that he had gotten hold of it because she was napping in his cell when it happened.
Then, Claire pulls her coup de grâce. She turns to Petrov and -- in front of the whole world, and just hours after he and her husband had agreed to dozens of different international arrangements -- says, "Shame on you, President Petrov," drops the mic, and walks away. Frank apologizes for his wife ("under a great amount of stress") and only stops short of blaming the whole episode on her menses before following her out. Petrov is left glowering. Best laid plans and all that.
Uncomfortable limo ride! (Side note: Does the presidential limo have a name? Is it Limo Force One? Someone who knows how to use Google, please find out and get back to me.)
Elsewhere, Gavin's using the info he finagled out of Lisa ("She liked New Mexico, I think?") to triangulate her location using FBI face recognition technology. Is this a thing our government can do? Again, Google guy, get at me.
Frank's got no time for you, Tom! Why don't you go write more reviews of twinkly indie tablet games?
Frank's so mad at Claire he literally stands as far away from her as he possibly can. He quickly informs her that the Jordan Valley deal with Petrov (along with every other deal) is off, so she and Catherine should get back on that whole U.N. resolution thing.
Take the hint, buddy: Claire doesn't have time for you either. But she does appreciate your telling her that she did the right thing, and she shall thank you with a slightly less severe glare than usual.
In Frank's Air Force One office, the Underwoods GET INTO IT. Claire tries to explain herself, but Frank doesn't want to hear it. Emotions and empathy have no role in international politics, according to him. Claire must be going soft. She continues to stand up for Michael and defend her decision, but Frank tells her, "He was a coward and I'm glad he's dead. You know what's real courage? Keeping your mouth shut."
It's a really smart decision not to explicitly mention Frank's bisexuality here, even though his internal shame has been hanging over the whole episode. (The stuff at the beginning with Tom and his Scorpio hustler origin story isn't too subtle, but his presence on Air Force One works as a nice bookend for the episode nonetheless.) Instead, Claire responds to Frank by telling him, "We're murderers, Francis," referring to Michael, but mostly to the others they've suffocated/thrown in front of trains to get them to where they are today. "If we can't show some respect for one brave man and still accomplish what we set out to do, I'm disappointed in both of us."
The episode ends with this revealing exchange:
"I never should have made you ambassador."
"I never should have made you president."
HE CAN SEE US!