Previously on House of Cards, ‘Chapter 36’
Officially done with her position as Ambassador, Claire is back on the campaign trail and is addressing a group of ladies-who-lunch. When they question whether or not Frank truly cares about people, Claire praises her husband, “Francis Underwood is a good man. He’s dedicated and generous.” I wonder how much of this crap she actually believes. Yates is still trying to get an interview with her but she’s not ready, yet.
Frank and Jackie meet aboard Air Force Once to discuss their debate strategy. Jackie has reservations about the talking points she’s been asked to use. Attacking Dunbar’s lack of experience is all well and good, but criticizing her for sending her children to private school feels hypocritical. Jackie’s stepchildren receive the same type of education, after all. Calling Dunbar sexist just feels wrong. Frank reminds Jackie that she needs to be the pitbull so he can remain presidential. The promise of a set of keys to the White House is enough to get Jackie back on board. Or was it?
A few hours before the debate in Iowa, Jackie arranges a secret meeting with Dunbar. She wants to endorse Dunbar and work together to bring Frank down. Jackie knows her support is valuable as she can offer Dunbar the necessary points to take the lead in the polls. Dunbar realizes that Frank offered Jackie a place on his ticket, but Jackie doesn’t expect the same from this situation. Instead she suggests appointment as the Secretary of Defense, given her war record. Dunbar won’t offer cabinet positions this early in the game however and though she plans to win, it won’t be Jackie’s way. Unfortunately for Jackie, the only thing this encounter accomplished was letting Dunbar know that she and Frank are connected.
The Democratic nomination debate starts in standard fashion with the opponents highlighting their own platforms while taking small jabs at one another. Things get fiery pretty quickly, however, when Dunbar, on the subject of experience, brings into question Frank’s appointment of Claire to the UN. Sticking with the devil she knows, Jackie calls Dunbar’s comment sexist and questions her advocacy for women in general. Frank stays quiet while the two women battle but it’s clear, and disturbing, that he’s enjoying every minute of it.
Things continue to heat up between Dunbar and Jackie when the latter discusses how her economic plan would focus on closing the gender pay-gap and wonders how Dunbar plans to balance the scales while she sends her children to private school. Dunbar is taken aback by the comment, but she keeps her cool and turns the tables on Jackie. Dunbar accuses her of being sexist by bringing her children into the debate in an attempt to paint her as a bad mother. “Would you have come after my kids if I were a man?” The real offense however comes from Frank when he throws Jackie under the bus by revealing that her stepchildren also attend private school. Jackie fumbles over her words and can’t recover from the President’s blow. It’s unfortunate because Jackie made some good points, but she’s counting on the wrong people.
Back at the White House, Jackie confronts Frank. He’s pleased with how the debate went, noting that he had to hit her hard so Dunbar wouldn’t. Jackie isn’t happy with their relationship, with the leash Frank has on her. She’s sick of doing his tricks. Frank gets all up in her face and reminds her that this is not a partnership of equals, if she wants to be his Vice President then she better damn well do what he says. I admire Jackie for staying so calm. Had it been me, I would have punched that fucker right in the face, or cried.
Freddy and Frank are sharing a smoke break when Remy interrupts. He’s visibly upset with how Frank has treated Jackie and has come there on her behalf. He thinks Frank should take Jackie’s ideas more seriously. Thank goodness for Freddy because he calms the tension between Frank and Remy just as it reaches the tipping point. When Frank is pulled away for a phone call, Freddy tells Remy there’s no sense in blaming a snake for having fangs.
Frank is losing allies though. Jackie makes a televised announcement that she’s pulling out of the race and hopes that her supporters will join her in backing Dunbar. At the same moment, Remy hands his pin over to Seth and leaves the White House.
While donating blood, essentially just a photo-op for the campaign, Claire finally allows Yates to speak with her. No time is spared in pointing out the obvious, “You think Francis feeds off me?”
“You are literally giving your blood.”
She’s resistant and indirect with his questions, as usual, until she begins to feel lightheaded. Claire reveals that her marriage is basically on permanent probation and that every seven years it’s up for review. We know they just celebrated 28 years together, which seems suggestive that things are about to be better or worse than ever for their marriage. Before she passes out, Claire admits that it’s not the campaigning she hates, but her dependency on the relationship.
Yates informs Frank about what happened, the least he could do after standing idly by while Claire spilled her secrets. Frank wants her to see a doctor, but Yates thinks she needs her husband. Frank warns Yates not to interfere but he’s obviously affected by the unwelcome advice. He cancels the next day’s events and flies to New Hampshire to surprise Claire. While reading to a group of children, she notices Frank in the crowd and smiles. I have to believe that she’s merely keeping up appearances. Between her confession to Yates and how disgusted she looked as she was used as a pawn in the debate game, I’m far from convinced that she’s content with Frank.
Doug is still watching that surveillance feed from Santa Fe when all of the phones in his house start to ring. There’s like 6 phones that ring. He must have got the bulk pack at Costco. When he answers one of them it’s Orsay on the other end, and guess what? Rachel is alive. Doug’s computer starts flashing through dozens of recent pictures of her. Orsay admits that he’s known Rachel’s whereabouts for some time now but had to use the lie about her death to accelerate his passport unlocking. Now he’s using her current location as leverage; he wants Doug to help get his hacker friend out of the charges he’s facing.
Enraged, Doug smashes the laptop, throws it and his bulk pack of phones into the sink, and turns on the tap. He storms out of his apartment and towards the main door, but halfway down the stairs he stops himself. This is where Gary finds him later that day. Doug tells his brother that he wanted to drink but stopped himself from going any further. He had to stay on those steps so he could prove to Gary that he can get sober. Poor Doug, he so desperately seeks approval from others and not from within. Upstairs, Doug tells Gary a half-truth (quarter-truth?) about why he threw the electronics in the sink. A girl left him, which made him start drinking again, and then he couldn’t stop checking emails and texts. He needed it to stop.
On the night of the debate, Doug chooses to spend his last evening with Gary, not watching Frank. Gary’s departure the following morning marks 60 days of sobriety for Doug. Sixty days which have been more important to him than the last 14 years of his life. It’s nice to see Doug end things on a good note with his brother; he needs something positive in his life. There’s no way he won’t pursue this whole Rachel business, but I don’t see him playing Orsay’s game. Doug has friends in beneficial places and I think he’ll figure out a way to Rachel on his own terms. I’m still worried for him though, finding Rachel could be the bad news that’s just around the corner, of which I speculated about in the previous chapter’s recap.