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Metaphorical Monks Invade The White House
While Frank and Claire try to glue their marriage back together, a cultural exchange brings artsy monks to their front door.
Love, Hate & Everything In Between
In Gaffney, Frank and Claire (the latter of whom is now sporting a sick brunette do) renew their wedding vows in front of a packed audience...
...of this one photographer. What's going on here? After the Underwoods seal their marriage with a kiss (gross), we cut to one month earlier, when Frank was still pissed at Claire for sabotaging his deal with Petrov by standing up for Michael Corrigan's memory.
Back at the White House, in the kitchen of silent judgement, Claire tells Frank that she'll ensure they pass the peacekeeping resolution in the U.N. General Assembly so that her moment of compassion won't entirely derail his mission to bring peace to the Middle East (or whatever it is he's hoping to accomplish). Frank shrugs it off and tells Claire that all she needs to be worried about is the shoot the next day for their presidential portrait. Claire's deadpan response: "I'll be smiling. Will you?"
We'll Just Be Over Here, Representing Your Deteriorating Marriage
The Scene: Frank and Meechum are on their way to fuck somewhere probably when they pass four monks leaning over a table, diligently working.
The Symbol: The sand mandala the monks are creating. It's a Buddhist Tibetan ritual for monks to create these intricate pieces of sand art for healing purposes. The monks are visiting thanks to a cultural exchange program and will be in the White House working on their mandala for the next month, so we're able to track time in the episode based on how far along the mandala is. I wonder who Tibet got in exchange. Joey Chestnut is probably sitting in a monastery shoving hot dogs down his gullet.
The Meaning: Like the Underwood marriage, the mandala is a meticulously-constructed façade that only remains intact if those working on it are devoted to putting in the work.
A Novel Romance
Lingering outside the church in Gaffney while Frank and Claire exchange vows, newspaper maven Kate Baldwin sidles up to Tom Yates to take a gander at his notepad.Don't worry, your handwriting's atrocious. I couldn't read a thing.I'm Tom.I know. Kate Baldwin.I know.Gold stars for us, it only took two months riding on the same plane to introduce ourselves.Maybe I'm shy.Oh, no you're not, you just don't mingle with the peasants.One of us is a peasant. I think it's me.
And thus, the most literary of romances begins.
Try Harder For The Wedding Photos
"Do We Really Have To Talk About Our Relationship?"
Situation: Frank stops by Claire's room to check on the status of the Jordan Valley peacekeeping initiative. The only thing standing in their way is a "poison pill amendment," introduced by the African bloc, that would allow them absolute control of their troops while in the Jordan Valley. Claire suspects Russia of putting Zimbabwe, the head of the African bloc, up to it.
What makes it awkward? Frank has other things on his mind besides the Jordan Valley deal -- specifically, why Claire "recoiled" when he touched her shoulder during their photo shoot.
How is order restored? Claire slowly removes her bomb-ass hipster glasses and tells Frank he's reading too much into a muscle spasm that probably didn't even happen. In other words: stop being such a pussy, Frank.
Place Of Interest
Welcome To Gaffney!
With Claire on her way back to D.C. (no re-honeymoon, I guess), Frank has Tom tag along with him so that he can reminisce about his childhood in Gaffney and come up with some AmWorks-appropriate anecdotes for the book. Of course, Frank doesn't take him through the town square where there are [shudder] people, but instead to an empty quarry, where he can look down into the infinite abyss and declare himself king of his garbage hometown.
Much to Tom's chagrin, Frank's only interested in shallow stories that don’t really reveal anything about himself. Tom only wants that REAL SHIT, and tells Frank as much when Frank dodges a question about whether he loved his father. In the months he's been hanging around Frank, Tom feels as if there's only been one time when he actually pulled something REAL out of him....
Don't Wake Mommy
What's the game? Some complicated first-person puzzle game.
Who's playing? Frank, while Tom drinks bourbon and laughs at Frank's futile efforts to beat an unbeatable game.
What's at stake? Nothing, but when the boys get too loud, they wake up Claire, WHO HAS WORK IN THE MORNING.
Who wins? No one wins the game, but since Frank is totes sloshed, Tom succeeds in finally yanking some REAL SHIT out of him. Once in the study and out of earshot of Claire, Tom asks Frank why he and Claire sleep in separate bedrooms. Finally, Frank gets real introspective and tells Tom that, while he and Claire had a perfectly-oiled machine of a marriage in the past, they've been fighting more and more since they moved into the White House. Before he can get too deep into it, though, Frank escorts Tom out and makes him promise not to include any of this "salaciousness" in the book.
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Frank vs. Claire And Her Glasses
At a cabinet-wide meeting, Frank tells his people that they have until the approaching anniversary of the New Deal to reach 50,000 jobs for their AmWorks D.C. trial run. Congress is introducing a bipartisan amendment to the Stafford Act (the one Frank is using to siphon money from FEMA for his own purposes) that would stop AmWorks in its tracks. If he's going to veto the bill, he wants to show the American people what damage he's preventing.
Next on the docket: the Jordan Valley deal. Cathy thinks that Israel is behind the African bloc's poison pill amendment, believing they got cold feet about the whole initiative. When Claire suggests that they counter Israel's HIV-prevention aid package to Zimbabwe with their own package, Frank tells her that giving money to such a corrupt despot as Zimbabwe's president is a terrible idea. When she counters by pointing out that the U.S. always expects a certain amount of graft when they donate money, Frank calls her out in front of the whole class for suggesting such an "amateurish, ill-conceived" notion.
Later that night in the Oval, Claire confronts Frank for what she saw as a personal attack meant only to humble her. She thinks he's punishing her for what she did in Russia and for telling him that she "never should have made [him] president." Claire asks if she should resign, but Frank just lights up a cigarette in response.
Winner: Frank, because he's the president, godamnit!
Plot Lightning Round
Hey, What's Doug Been Up To?
Here's what Doug's been up to! At the Diner of Rachel Updates, Gavin hands Doug photos of Rachel walking around Santa Fe that he captured using the FBI's face-recognition software (and the "data" he "mined" by "IRL hacking" Rachel's ex, Lisa). Doug's so happy he could pee, I'm sure, but all he does is demand her actual address from Gavin before agreeing to lift the lock on Gavin's passport.
Busy contemplating what weird things he's gonna say/do to Rachel when he finds her, Doug's caught off-guard when Sharon (a.k.a. his pretty, Winnie Cooper-lookin' physical therapist) stops by the pool to introduce him to his new therapist; Sharon's moving to Seattle to work at her sister's new center (like, the next day, because moving across the country doesn't take that much prep work), but she'd still like Doug to stop by her goodbye shindig that night. Unfortunately for everybody, we do not get to watch Doug and his new stud therapist splash around in the pool.
Back home, Doug's too distracted watching the footage of Rachel over and over again to focus on his call with Heather, so he decides to take a break from being a misanthropic hermit and attend Sharon's party.
Doug doesn’t like to dance, but that's okay. All he needs to do is stick around after everyone else has left, and then...
Physical therapist ass! It's the eighth best kind of ass!
The next morning, Sharon asks why Doug seemed so sad the night before, so Doug says, "I'm contemplating killing this girl who fucked a congressman that my boss was blackmailing and whom I fell in creepy love with when I watched her have sex through a window. Also, I liked it when she read Dickensian classics to me under duress." JK! He's really like, "Reasons." Sharon doesn't really care because she's leaving in a few hours and will never see his ass again. So, guess what? I don't care either.
And that's what Doug's been up to!
State Of The Underwoods
I Am Not A Crackpot
Dear Mister President, How Much Did You Pay These Rubes To Sell Their Souls On TV? I Am Not A Crackpot!
In his weekly radio address (a thing that our president still does too even though 95% of the people listening to political radio would prefer to ship him back to Kenya), Frank announces his intention to replace Social Security with AmWorks, citing the former as decrepit and useless in 2015. Will this address do any good? Is anyone actually listening?
These two were! On Meet The Press with Chuck Todd (#DavidGregory4Lyfe), Senators Democrat Lady and Republican Dude wax rhapsodic about what good AmWorks has already done for their districts. She's in the president's party, so, fine, but what the fuck is that guy thinking? A Republican going on and on about how much he loves how clean the park by his house is? What in Grover Norquist's ghost (he's dead, right?) is a Republican doing talking about his love of the fucking parks department AND praising an unpopular Democratic president? I'm assuming Frank promised his district free gelato for a year for that endorsement.
Let's Get Stoned
The Scene: As he promised in his radio address, Frank visits the FDR memorial.
The Symbol: Franklin and Eleanor's statues, divided by a large rock wall.
The Meaning: Frank wants to achieve legendary status with his wife, like the Roosevelts did, but not if it means they have to face eternity without one another. That night, the Underwoods make up, and Frank promises to designate as much money as necessary for the Zimbabwean relief fund -- just the way every other loving couple settles their differences!
Get The Look: Retro Claire!
And so, Claire attempts to fix her marriage be reverting back to her (literal) roots. Now if only she could ditch that pajama-stripe top.
Wrap It Up
After a month, the mandala is finally finished, which means it's time to sweep all the sand back into an urn and then dump it in the river. We watch this all take place juxtaposed against the Underwoods' vow renewal, in case it wasn't clear before that these were purely metaphorical monks. In short: nothing, not even an elaborate, immaculate veneer like the Underwood marriage, was designed to last forever.
Frank continues showing Tom around Gaffney, this time taking him to the first home he shared with Claire. Tom asks if it was a happy home, to which Frank quite spectacularly replies, "Oh, please." Tom again tries to get Frank to reveal something REAL about himself, and, when he fails, he decides the only way to get a little is to give a little. He tells Frank that his first book, Scorpio -- the one based on his hustler friend that made him a literary star -- wasn't actually written by Tom, or at least the first half wasn't. Tom's friend died of AIDS with only the first half of his book completed, and Tom thought it was too beautiful to let it die.
Moved by Tom's admission, Frank tells him that he's "always been ashamed" that Claire agreed to marry him, because he doesn’t feel like he deserves her. He credits Claire for his entire political career. I mean, I'd vote for him simply because that beautiful robot deems him a worthy mate. Before Frank can really get into reminiscent mode, though, Meechum cockblocks Tom with their flight itinerary.
Back home, Frank is disappointed to learn that the monks finished their mandala before he got a chance to really look at it. He asks Meechum to score him a copy, and it takes every ounce of restraint in Meechum's body not to jump up and down at being asked to serve Frank in some manner.
With her killer cut leading the way, Claire walks into the Mexican embassy, where Eliana Caspi, the Israeli ambassador, is attending a party. Claire pulls Eliana aside to tell her that the U.S. just doubled Israel's aid package, and Zimbabwe has agreed to pull their amendment from the peacekeeping initiative. Claire advises Eliana to make sure Israel supports the initiative in the General Assembly "like the loyal ally she is," but Eliana has nothing but contempt to offer in return. She tells Claire that she feels bad for her, being forced to "talk tough" in her husband's stead and then face the consequences. Claire summons up her best "fuck you" smile and calls Frank "the bravest and most resolute man I know," before promising that the Jordan Valley deal will succeed.
In her bedroom, Claire finds a present from Frank: a photo of the mandala with a card reading, "Nothing is forever -- except us." Because if there's anything that foreshadows a continued successful marriage, it's a pale imitation of a piece of art that was designed to be destroyed.
But what do I know? Look at how Claire envelops Frank with her Amazon body! Now, that's love.