Previously on House of Cards, Chapter 29
Devotion, sacrifice, and justice evoked through religious imagery played a central role in this episode. The bottom line though, is that Frank Underwood is losing his game. He’s become transparent and almost everyone can smell his bullshit. Old allies may be turning against him, and even Claire seems to be distancing herself. When Frank looks to Claire for reassurance she simply doesn’t have the time for his whiny self.
Following a funeral for fallen soldiers, the president learns from Jackie that Heather Dunbar is the DNC’s pick for presidential candidate. Wanting to sideline her, he offers Dunbar as a replacement for Justice Jacobs in the Supreme Court. She accepts the offer, but when Frank meets with Jacobs, he learns he’s decided to stay at work until he is absolutely unable to. Frank masks a threat under concern for Jacobs’ condition, for what might happen to him if this was leaked to the press, that it could lead to the erasure of his entire career. Jacobs sees right through this and asks Frank what his ulterior motives are. Ultimately Jacobs agrees to speak with his family about the decision, but it’s obvious he feels uneasy about their meeting.
Heather, perhaps only a day or so after her meeting with Frank, announces her candidacy for 2016. Frank is infuriated and requests to meet with her immediately. Heather reveals she is close with Jacobs and she knew all along about the Alzheimer’s. Once she discovered Frank had threatened Jacobs, she had to accept the offer from the DNC to run. Frank attempts to prove he only cares about Jacobs’ health, but Heather knows better. In my favorite line of dialogue this season, so far, Heather asks Frank, “Is this how you live with yourself? Rationalizing the obscene into the palatable?” Drop the mic, girl.
Even Doug Stamper recognizes her as a worthy opponent to Frank. He approaches Heather about becoming part of her team. There is a chance, however, Doug will use this to get back into Frank’s circle, but I really hope not. Doug is no angel, but after everything he’s done for the Underwoods he certainly doesn’t deserve to be cast aside like he has been.
Frank meets personally with Kaseem Mahmoud, the man who was maimed by a drone strike president Walker ordered, to apologize. Mahmoud, rightfully so, does not accept. He suffers briefly from phantom pains, which actually has an effect on Frank, though only momentarily of course. Mahmoud quotes the Quran and Frank, who had been studying the book earlier, fires back with his own. Unimpressed with Frank, Mahmoud gets right in his face and says there will be no forgiveness; he won’t allow the president to sleep any easier.
Michael Corrigan, an American LGBT activist, has been imprisoned in Russia. This is definitely retaliation for Claire’s attempt to circumvent Russia’s veto to the proposed peace plan in the UN. Though Frank releases a statement claiming this is a matter of free speech, Ayla Sayyad – yet another person not taking any of Frank’s shit – believes he is dodging the real issue: gay rights. She pushes him at a press conference to assert his stance, and he acknowledges his administration believes gay people have rights. It’s interesting, though not at all surprising, that Frank’s stance on this hadn’t been made clear before. As an audience we know he is bisexual, but as we also know, if something doesn’t benefit him politically he isn’t interested. Seth, feeling personally responsible, has Ayla’s White House credentials revoked for the way she hounded the president.
Seeking to understand justice, Frank visits a church to speak with the Bishop who delivered the eulogy at the soldiers’ funeral. They discuss how both manmade laws and those handed down from God, are completely open to interpretation. The Bishop warns Frank you can’t use fear to rule, and what’s most important is to love God and to love one another. Frank asks for a moment alone and once he is, he tells a statue of Jesus that if it’s love he’s selling, he ain’t buying it. As we saw in the premiere, Frank loves an opportunity to desecrate something with his bodily fluids, so he spits on the statue’s face. Perhaps realizing his DNA would be on that face, he reaches up to wipe it away and the entire statue comes crashing to the ground. There’s a couple of ways to interpret this – and probably more I didn’t think of. It could be directly symbolic of Frank’s eventual fall from power, with Jesus representing Frank. Or, it could be a sign everything he touches is crumbling before him. It’s bad news either way.
Gavin Orsay continues his search for Rachel and comes close to being caught. He meets with Doug to ask for more specific information about her, but Doug doesn’t know much. Gavin has also been reading emails and texts from Lisa, Rachel’s former girlfriend. He wants to approach her in person to see if he can obtain anything more useful. He finds her at what appears to be either an AA or NA meeting and introduces himself. She gives very little away though; it’s going to take some time for Gavin to get close.
We didn’t see much of the First Lady but what we did get was more confirmation of her rising power. While her husband was once again unable to gain control, Claire stayed firm in her commitment to the peace resolution and stood up to the Russian Ambassador on more than one occasion.
When Frank meets with Justice Jacobs, there’s a moment where Frank addresses the audience and it would seem as though Jacobs can hear him. Frank wonders aloud if he must destroy this man and Jacobs says, “Excuse me?” I can’t remember a time when this has happened before, the broken fourth wall being broken. For a moment it was humorous; haven’t we all wondered what the people around Frank must think while he goes off into his monologues? But then it was uncomfortable, distracting, and it pulled me out of the scene. Unless this has some larger meaning, perhaps a subtle nod at how Frank is losing his grip and power, then I hope we don’t see it again.