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These Master Debaters Make A Mess All Over The Place
Frank fights fiercely for the state of Iowa but neglects the state of his marriage yet again.
Claire Sells It (Her Soul)
What's the occasion? Claire is campaigning for Frank at some fancy white lady group where they all wears sashes and speak lovingly about their husbands.
What are the refreshments? Small, triangular cucumber sandwiches and scones on silver display stands, just like stereotypical depictions of society women in '90s movies led me to believe.
Whose big public scene will everyone be talking about tomorrow? This lady, who politely interrupts Claire's gushing to air her skepticism of Frank.
The Debate B-Team
What's the game? Mock debate in preparation Frank's first real bout with Heather and Jackie.
Who's playing? VP Blythe as Senator Jackie Sharp and Solicitor General Heather Dunbar, and President Frank Underwood as himself.
What's at stake? I don’t know, the 5% of voters who are influenced by that fist-pointing thing that politicians do when they want to convey resoluteness.
Who wins? Not America, because this is probably an accurate depiction of how presidential debates shake out in this country. No one cares about discussing specific issues, and thousands of dollars of research are spent on determining how well the word "vision" polls with white women aged 35-49.
Least Shocking Revelation Ever
Alert Type: Deceased Not So Deceased Alert.
Issue: Rachel's alive! Gavin, a theatrical hacker if ever there was one, calls, texts, Skypes, and faxes Doug at the same time to get his attention and then flashes a bunch of pictures on Doug's laptop of Rachel walking around Santa Fe. The death certificate of the mutilated woman that Gavin showed Doug did not belong to Rachel, which duh. I don’t care how drunk Doug's been lately, that unquestioning acceptance of Gavin's story was a lazy shortcut for this show.
Complicating Factors: Gavin is now safely out of the country, having had his passport lock lifted by Doug, but before he tells Doug Rachel's exact location, he wants him to get his buddy the same deal with the FBI that he got for him. This is Gavin's hacker buddy, obviously:
Resolution: When Gavin hangs up, Doug hurls his phone against the wall, douses his laptop in the sink, and marches out of his house.
Spoiler: Doug gets halfway down the stairs of his building where he stops. WILL DOUG GO UP OR DOWN THE STAIRS???
It Makes Sense If The President Says So!
Before flying off to Iowa, Jackie meets with Frank aboard AF1 to discuss their strategy for the big debate.No doubt she'll bring up Claire's recess appointment where I can't take the bait, so I leave that entirely to you.That was one of the things I was hoping to discuss.Oh, you don't want to call her sexist.The argument doesn't hold.It does hold! She says that Claire was unqualified, you say she wouldn't say that about a man with the same CV.I'm not sure that's true, and calling another woman sexist when there's a man on the stage--And who better than you to call her out on what she's done for women -- which is absolutely nothing -- whereas [looks down at cheat sheet] gender equality legislation is one of your hallmarks.But it could hurt me more than it hurts her.I thought we had a deal. You were gonna play pit bull while I played presidential. Will you get a little bloody? Sure, but that's what people want in their debates. And then you and I, together, bury her. You drop out next week, endorse me, and the race is over.
But the biggest issue Jackie has with their game plan is the decision to bring up Heather's kids. In addition to painting her as inexperienced, Frank wants to drive home the point that Heather was born wealthy, the heiress to an armored car dynasty. What better way to drive home the point that she's out of touch than by mentioning her kids go to private school.She wants to trumpet an equal playing field, than why does she send her kids to private school? That is a clear and simple argument that everyone can get their head around, and it doesn’t hurt that [looks down at cheat sheet] Iowa's biggest employer is the public school system.Alan sends his kids to private school.But, they're not your kids.They're my stepkids and that makes me a hypocrite.Is that what you're concerned about? Being a hypocrite? Trust me, they'll understand the minute they step foot into the White House. Jackie, I really shouldn't have to convince you to do what's necessary to get a set of keys.
We Couldn't Have Met At, Like, A Ramada?
Who called the meeting? Jackie.
What's it about? Jackie's had it to here with Frank and his abuse. Knowing that, when she drops out, her endorsement will heavily influence whom her small but significant voting bloc will turn to, Jackie decides to offer Heather her backing -- in exchange for a cabinet position, preferably Secretary of Defense.
How'd it go? Not great for Jackie. Not only does she let Heather know that she's been a shill for Frank with the promise that he'd put her on the ticket, but Heather refuses to entertain the idea of selling off a cabinet position.
Love, Hate & Everything In Between
A Childish Decision
Dr. Alan has gotten out of surgery early so he can come support his baby while she gets her face powdered. She tells him that Heather offered her nothing for her support, so she fully intends on going forward with Frank's plan to attack Heather's inexperience and privilege during the debate. Jackie asks whether Alan's (never-to-be-seen) kids are watching the debate, and he says they are. She briefly considers telling him about the scheme to focus on the fact that Heather sends her kids to private school, which would effectively rope Alan's kids into the conversation, but she decides against it. A sign of things to come, perhaps?
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Fight! Fight! Fight!
Disgraced And Debated
Our moderator for tonight's debate is John King, a piece of cauliflower that's been brought to life and enchanted to read the news. Everyone remember to watch CNN or John King will revert back to vegetable form and likely be devoured in Wolf Blitzer's salad.
Frank's intro is broad and phony and his delivery is too hammy by about three slices. Yeah, that's how politics goes, but I can't imagine a real politician delivering Frank's line about the choice to vote for him being "as clear as moonshine" and not inspiring a nationwide eye-roll. The voting populace in HoC seems far more credulous and susceptible to pandering than actual Americans.
(Honestly, other than as a device for blowing up the Underwood marriage, I find the whole election plot to be lackluster. It's the main reason I think this is HoC's weakest season. Frank blackmailing senators and pushing people in front of trains established this show as a political soap opera, but what's so outrageous about two presidential candidates working in cahoots to damage another? Frank in the first two seasons was a nightmare scenario of what could fester in the U.S. government. That Machiavellian conduct is still present in this season with the AmWorks and Jordan Valley stuff, but nothing that Frank's done during his campaign seems so outlandish that Hillary Clinton wouldn't try it at least twice.)
Heather and Jackie's intros are more specific. Heather basically recites Frank's CV as evidence of his unsuitability. Jackie, in turn, directly attacks Heather's wealthy upbringing and lack of experience fighting gender and income inequality. When Jackie says that Heather never had to "work to make a living," it's clear on Heather's face that, despite the shadiness of her meeting with Jackie earlier, she did not expect such low blows so early.
The piece of cauliflower asks Frank about the Jordan Valley (because no other region exists besides the U.S., Russia, and the Middle East in this show), and Frank decides to ignore his question and respond to Heather's accusations of AmWorks's failure. When Heather counters by suggesting that Frank merely wants to avoid talking about his "indefensible foreign affairs" record, Frank bites back, saying that at least he has a record. Heather, as predicted, comes for Frank's appointment of Claire to the U.N. as evidence of his lack of respect for experience, which opens Jackie up to accuse Heather of sexism. Heather refuses to stand down against Jackie's dubious recriminations, but Jackie ends up winning the round anyway when Heather can't name a specific action she's taken to advance the interests of women besides simply being a female Solicitor General. Jackie calls her a mere "symbol" for feminism, touts her own military experience, and basks in the applause of the crowd.
Jackie and Frank pretty much debate as a united force against Heather. When AmWorks is formally brought up by the cauliflower, Jackie writes off her vote against the bill as an "appropriations issue," but defends the legality of Frank's shuffling of FEMA money to fund the program. This leads to a three-way crosstalk that somehow ends with Jackie cutting through the noise to label Heather a hypocrite who says she wants equality for all Americans but sends her own kids to private school. Jackie tiptoes right up to the line of inappropriate before hurtling past it by saying to Heather, "Maybe you didn't want to raise them yourself, so you sent them off to boarding school." Cue audience gasp and Heather death stare.
"You must really want to be president," Heather says to Jackie. Frank realizes that the mood on the room has changed, so he tries to get the debate back on track, but Heather refuses to let the issue go. She pegs Jackie as the real sexist, who hopes to paint Heather as a bad mother -- which would, in turn, influence people not to vote for her. Heather earns the biggest applause break of the night when she calls Jackie "disgusting." This is what prompts Frank to switch gears and throw Jackie under the bus -- hard. "Speaking of hypocrisy, don't your stepkids go to private school?" he asks her. Jackie is caught so off-guard, she stands there with her mouth gaping for about fifteen seconds before she appeals to the cauliflower to move on.
Winner: I'd call it a clear victory for Heather, but George Stephanopoulos and the pundits on fake ABC News give Frank the crown, but not by much. They agree that the female candidates damaged themselves by acting aggressively while Frank "remained presidential." I wonder if Donna Brazile realizes she was paid to basically scream "cat fight!"
Claire At The Campaign Center
"I Don't Make My Kids Floss Either. You Wanna Talk About That On National TV?"
Situation: Jackie and Dr. Alan drive home from the debate.
What makes it awkward? Um, Jackie accused people who send their kids to private school of being elitists, on TV, in full view of her stepkids, who go to private school. So, yeah, no one's talking.
How is order restored? Jackie tells Alan that she's going to fly back to D.C. with him, despite the fact that she has events the next day. Jackie knows she fucked up all kinda ways.
The Scene: Claire, who's been avoiding speaking with Tom since she invited him to tag along while she campaigns through New Hampshire, is giving blood. She literally can't get away from Tom now.
The Symbol: Her "carmine" blood.
The Meaning: When Claire asks whether Tom thinks Frank "feeds off" her, Tom points out, "You're literally giving your blood." He asks whether she enjoys campaigning for someone who just fired her, and when he explains how he figured out that Frank had "betrayed" her, Claire realizes how close Frank and Tom have become.
As the blood is drained from Claire, she becomes less and less lucid. She rambles about leaning over a bridge and wanting to pull herself back, and then, clearly having forgotten whom she's speaking to, reveals that she told Frank when he proposed that she would reconsider their marriage every seven years. (Claire told a woman at that white lady party that she and Frank have been married half as long as that lady and her husband -- 55 years -- and if we all put on our algebra hats, we can deduce that the Underwoods are approaching their 28th anniversary and Claire's fourth reevaluation of their marriage.)
Claire drops her orange juice on the floor, but Tom waits to call for a nurse until she passes out. Tom knows this is the one time he'll get to speak to either of the Underwoods without their defenses up. Tom's kind of a dick, right?
Wrap It Up
Jackie comes to the Oval to express her displeasure with Frank's betrayal at the debate, and her discomfort with the dynamic they've established. Suffice it to say, Frank is not pleased at having to placate Jackie and her feelings. He berates her for having the audacity to complain about her position when she knew all along that she was only running in order to attack Heather in Frank's stead. His tirade is brutal and completely silences Jackie. She mumbles something about staying on track with their timeline before practically running out of the room.
Later, Remy attempts to defend his ex-lover's honor to Frank while Frank indulges in a cigarette with Freddy (FREDDY!). Remy's warned Frank before about the way he speaks to subordinates, particularly the way he insists on calling them subordinates. Freddy tries to escape more than once, but Frank insists that he stay and play. The situation is only broken up when a staffer comes in to tell Frank that Claire passed out at the blood drive. After Frank scurries away, Freddy advises Remy not to bother arguing with Frank: "It's like blaming a snake for having fangs." Then, he tells Remy that he's fallen behind on his work because Frank needs company: "At the rib joint, I could always walk back in the kitchen when I got tired of listening to him talk." Freddy's fucking awesome, right?
Frank sits on his desk like a cool teacher and calls Claire, but it's Tom who picks up. Tom tells Frank that Claire doesn't want to speak with him because she's embarrassed. When he brings up her comments about the bridge and "every seven years," Frank freaks out and tells Tom to get his nose the hell out of their marriage.
Doug's been sober for sixty days which means it's time for Gary, Doug's brother and lover of movies in which Gwyneth Paltrow dies from a grotesque virus, to go back home. They share a nice hug and Doug tells him, "The fourteen years I was sober mean nothing compared to these eight weeks with you." Let's assume that Doug stays sober and gets a job as a kindergarten art teacher.
Frank's campaign manager (whose name I refuse to look up) is babbling on about ad buys and "turning twos into ones," whatever that means, when Frank decides that he needs to fly to New Hampshire to be with Claire.
Jackie gets on TV the next day to announce that she's dropping out of the race. But, instead of endorsing Frank as planned, she gives her backing to Heather. Seth, who's watching the announcement at the White House, is all, "Judas bitch," before realizing Remy's also in the room. I'm paraphrasing, but Seth's like, "Sorry, bro. You used to hit that, right?"
Remy doesn’t care about dumb Seth, though, because he's on his way out, too. He hands Seth his Chief of Staff pin and walks out of Frank's like a badass. Somehow, victory disco music does not start playing.
Claire's all better and reading to a group of children when Frank arrives to surprise her. While he watches, Claire asks the kids seated around her whether she should free the cartoon spider trapped in a box in the book. "I shouldn't do anything?" she jokes with them...
...before looking up to see Frank standing there. Her smile fades slowly, and then she realizes