Previously on House of Cards, ‘Chapter 28’
It’s not very often that I find myself sympathizing with the Underwoods. Sure, I root for them, simply because I want to see more and more of their antics, but it’s a hard sell to get me to care for them. Viktor Petrov however, made it hard for me not to. His blatant disrespect for Claire had the biggest effect on me. From his comment to Frank about her finding an artist to shack up with in Russia, to his implication that Frank was pimping her out, and the extremely inappropriate kiss he forced on her – which, let’s face it, was essentially a sexual assault – I was surprised by how long the Underwoods kept their composure.
Frank is preparing to welcome the Russian president, but the protestors chanting outside the White House overshadow his arrival; a nice bit of foreshadowing for the outcome of the summit. Frank has invited Petrov to discuss a plan for peace in the Middle East, which involves placing troops in the Jordan Valley. Petrov is not at all interested; he turns down Frank’s proposal before they even sit down to talk. Frank tries to soften Petrov with a gift, a specially crafted surfboard, but he fails. The Russian president has no interest in this plan because peace will not benefit Russia, and he has nothing to gain by working with America. Reeking of desperation, Frank wants to know if Petrov could have anything, what would it be? Petrov will sleep on it.
Claire, now a UN Ambassador, joins Catherine to meet with Palestinian and Israeli leaders and discuss the peace plans. It’s clear she’s not being taken seriously in this new role; she’s being seen only as First Lady. Everyone is referring to Frank as her husband not the president, something she puts a stop to immediately, complete with her signature ice-cold glare. Claire is concerned the added attention she’s getting from being the First Lady and the Ambassador is leaving Cathy feeling sidelined – not threatened, but minimized in her role. Claire encourages Frank to include her in their discussions so their relationship stays on good terms.
The state dinner starts on an interesting note. After both Frank and Petrov give a short speech, Pussy Riot takes the opportunity to say a few words themselves. They make a damning statement about their president’s human rights violations, pour out their champagne on the table, and walk out in protest. It was fucking awesome.
Petrov has brought with him several bottles of $750K vodka. He forces the attendees to do shot after shot, asking both the VP and Claire to make speeches. The VP fumbles over his words, but Claire manages to turn hers into an insult towards Petrov. Every shot felt like Petrov’s attempt at some twisted punishment, and was an obvious ploy to weaken Frank’s defenses.
After dinner, Frank sings for the party. Petrov, not wanting to be upstaged, also takes the opportunity to sing. It was a Russian song, so for all they knew he was just saying, “screw America”, over and over. Then there’s the aforementioned forced kiss, which is made incredibly awkward from the crowd’s silence, but perhaps even worse when everyone applauds. Frank’s had enough and the party is over. He takes Petrov to a creepy back stairwell to enjoy some Cuban cigars and fantasizes about throwing him off the staircase and burning his body. That would start a world war though so, no go. They discuss Petrov’s terms for accepting Frank’s proposal, but they can’t come to an agreement. Petrov gives Frank a final fuck you, by grinding his cigar butt into the wall.
Claire invites Cathy for a nightcap. They get to talking and it comes out that Cathy is a beer pong champion so Claire orders her entourage to grab them some ping pong balls. Claire loses, perhaps on purpose, but their game was enough to soften Cathy. Claire admits she doesn’t believe they can trust Petrov and wonders what other options they might have. Cathy reveals there may be a way to go around Russia’s veto. Though I’m well aware some part of this is just Claire manipulating Cathy, I really enjoyed their chemistry together. It was a strikingly human moment for this show. I do think it’s strange they didn’t seem as drunk as they should have been. I would have loved to see them get a little crazier than beer pong.
The next morning, Frank appeals to Petrov once more. He’ll agree to some of his terms, but he won’t make it public. Again, they cannot make a deal and Frank decides to pull the plug on the joint press conference they were meant to have. Instead, Frank has a solo conference where he praises Pussy Riot for standing up to Petrov the way they did. He says it has inspired him to stand up to Petrov as well. He wants to move forward with the peace plans, with or without him. It could be due to these strange sympathetic feelings I’m having for the Underwoods at the moment, but I was actually heartened by Frank’s words. I loved the statement he sent by siding with Pussy Riot. I’m probably being conned, but I’ll take these few moments of Underwood sympathizing and run with them. Frank then meets with Claire and Cathy to discuss their next move.
Elsewhere in Washington, Doug meets with a congressman about a job offer. He’s offered the position of Special Advisor at a salary of $220K a year. This raises a red flag for Doug. He only ever made $173K at the White House, so he knows this is way too much money to offer – something’s up. Later when Seth pays him a visit he confronts him about the interview, asking if it was him or Frank that set it up. Doug makes it clear he’s not interested and he’s ready to go back to work whenever the president needs him. There’s a small exchange between Seth and Frank about this later, but it’s not made explicitly clear whether or not they were in fact behind this.
Doug also meets with Gavin Orsay, who is likely feeling added pressure in his position at the FBI after being probed for names and information earlier that day. Gavin is willing to find an exact address for Rachel if Doug can get him away from the FBI and out of the country. There’s a short scene where Gavin is using facial recognition software to locate Rachel, but it seems he’s made it look like someone else has done the search.
There was no egg imagery in this episode and nothing that would point to Claire being pregnant. I’m going to put Black Egg Watch 2015 on the backburner and focus on Claire’s rise to power. While Frank failed miserably to use his typical powers of persuasion on Petrov, Claire made her closer connection with Cathy look effortless. Granted, Cathy is a much easier person to get along with, but it’s still a win for Claire. It’s the ladies’ plan that prevails in the end after all, not Frank’s.