Previously on House of Cards, Chapter 31
Following the previous chapter’s heavy plot density, it was a welcome and necessary change to have this episode’s slower pace and deeper character focus. The minimalistic settings kept the emphasis on the dialogue and the close quarters between characters within those settings, helped to build the ever-increasing intensity of the negotiations. I have never been more confident in my feelings that Claire will come out on top this season. I’m so over Frank Underwood.
The Underwoods are en route to Russia to finalize their deal with Petrov. A statement has been prepared for Michael Corrigan, which he must read as part of the terms for his release. Though he may hate every word, Claire is confident he will go through with it.
As Claire sits alone gazing at the Northern Lights, Frank discusses his first job with Jonathan Yates. He packaged cannabis for a man people called, Uncle Henry. Frank changes the subject to Yates’ first novel; the main takeaway being Yates believes suicide to be selfish.
All seems well when they arrive at the Kremlin with both Frank and Petrov ready for a fresh start. Claire is escorted to Corrigan’s cell, where she reads him the statement. He immediately refuses. Corrigan isn’t interested in thanking a man who thinks he’s dangerous to children. In fact he has no interest in leaving, until Russia’s barbaric laws are repealed. Claire asks for some privacy and has a guard remove the cell’s bug.
Corrigan tells Claire of his attempted hunger strike. He lasted only 6 days whereas another prisoner, a Russian, died from starvation. There were no stories about this man in the press, but there are stories about Corrigan because he’s American. He’s not prepared to leave behind his fellow protestors just because of the privilege of where he was born.
Claire attempts to appeal to him from a marital angle; what about John, she asks. Corrigan doesn’t play ball. John knows what he signed up for and would understand that for Corrigan to contradict all of his beliefs simply for release, would be selfish. Corrigan is willing to die for his cause. When she learns that without Corrigan’s statement, there will be no deal on any of their other terms, Claire decides to stay in the cell until an agreement can be reached.
Dinner turns into a strange yet revealing session of marriage counseling. Corrigan and John have been together for 21 years but he regrets having made a commitment at such a young age. They rarely have sex and they sleep in separate bedrooms. Sound familiar? They’ve talked about separating, but they feel obligated to stay together because of their positions within the LGBT activist community. It would be bad for business. Though Claire denies it, both Corrigan and the audience can tell that she’s lying when she says she loves Frank now more than ever. It would also be bad for business should the Underwoods separate. Corrigan and John’s relationship as a mirror to Frank and Claire’s was fascinating.
In a final plea to Corrigan, Claire warns him things will only get worse with Petrov if this statement isn’t made. Petrov will go on the offensive, arrest more people, create worse laws. She begs him to make this compromise, they can drag him out of the cell if need be. Corrigan suggests Claire lay down while he takes some time to think.
Frank and Petrov had been discussing and agreeing on their terms with relative ease until it was evident Claire couldn’t get Corrigan on board. Petrov became increasingly paranoid, believing it was Frank’s plan all along to have Corrigan dismiss the statement and embarrass Petrov. Frank offers to make a statement in place of Corrigan, but Petrov isn’t sold.
He plays the I-have-a-gay-friend-card, stating that personally he doesn’t believe in the laws he enforces. It’s for the Russian people who cling to religion and tradition. He fears a revolution if he backs down on Corrigan’s arrest. Frank eventually persuades Petrov to let him make a statement, and they reach an agreement on all terms.
The Russian chief of staff rushes to inform Claire of the new deal, only to find Corrigan has hung himself. Claire is visibly shaken; he used her scarf and the moveable chair was brought into the cell for her.
It was repulsive to see the callous nature in which both Frank and Petrov handled the news. Claire mentions she would like to say a few words about Corrigan at the press conference and they agree to echo the sentiment. But then it’s back to business with the men deciding who will announce what aspect of the new deal they’ve settled on. I guess that’s politics.
At first, Claire gives a highly sanitized version of her meeting with Corrigan but something pushes her to disclose the whole truth to the press. She reveals Corrigan was willing to die for this cause, that he wasn’t interested in lying in order to be released, and he refused to leave Russia until the laws were dismantled. Claire openly blames the ignorance and intolerance from the Russian government as the cause of his death. Finally, Claire turns to Petrov and says, “Shame on you, Mr. President.” I honestly haven’t been that shocked since Zoe Barnes was murdered. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I fucking love Claire Underwood.
On route to the U.S., Frank is livid with Claire. The entire deal with Russia is off the table. Claire tries to explain her actions, but Frank gives no shits. He thinks Corrigan was a coward and that real courage is when you can keep your mouth shut. She thinks they’re murderers, he prefers the term survivors. He regrets making her Ambassador, and she regrets making him President. I may have done a tiny victory dance in my seat after hearing this. Fuck Frank Underwood.
Gavin Orsay, pretending to be Max, gets closer to Lisa. He draws on her sympathies after being tested positive for HIV, a result he faked. She indulges him in his time of need by talking about Rachel, about how they would daydream of places to run off to, New Mexico in particular. This might be just enough to get Orsay a better lead. Jimmi Simpson, the actor portraying Orsay, continues to be the standout in this storyline. Prior to this role I had only seen Simpson in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which made it hard for me to take him seriously. If you’ve seen the show you’ll know what I mean. Watching him, as Orsay, using his brilliant social hacking skills has wiped away any doubts I may have had.
Doug continues to impress Dunbar with his ideas and connections. It remains unclear what his intentions with her are. His intentions with his physical therapist are pretty clear however, there is definitely some sexual energy heating up between them.