Previously on House of Cards, ‘Chapter 32’
Tibetan Monks – on a cultural exchange – are present throughout the episode, shown creating a Sand Mandala: a Buddhist tradition where a picture is created with colored sand and then ritualistically dismantled. The purpose of which is to symbolize the fleeting and impermanent nature of life and all things. Obviously this is something the Underwoods are coping with in both their professional and personal lives, but I think there may be something more there. The very fact that the destruction of the mandala was juxtaposed with scenes from the Underwoods’ vow renewals, tells me this relationship is going to meet its end very soon.
Speaking of their renewals, part of the episode takes place in Gaffney during and after the ceremony, one month after the trip to Russia. We see all the highlights, the “I do’s” and the kiss, but then Claire is off somewhere while Frank stays to show Yates the places he grew up. His childhood home, now an empty field, sparks conversations of his parents. His first home with Claire causes secrets to come out, for both men. We learn Yates didn’t write his first novel, not the first half anyways. But more importantly, Frank never thought he deserved Claire and that without her, there would be no White House. A quick aside – just how exactly are the personal stories of the president, relevant to a book about America Works? The link between his upbringing and the program is shaky at best.
Somewhere between the trips to Russia and Gaffney, Yates and Frank spend an evening drinking in the private quarters of the White House. After being shuffled off to the study by an unimpressed Claire, Yates inquires about the Underwood’s marriage – he heard them yelling on the plane. Frank saves face at first, saying things are just fine. Ultimately he reveals while they rarely argue, this fight keeps getting worse. They’ve said things to each other you just can’t take back. Recognizing Frank thinks he’s said too much, Yates reassures him he’s not interested in salaciousness. If Yates hadn’t been making eyes at reporter Kate Baldwin so much during this episode, I might just believe him. Something tells me Frank has allowed Yates to get a little too close.
Back in present day, bipartisanship is working both for and against Frank. His America Works program has reduced unemployment by over 1/3, causing Republican and Democratic representatives to voice their support. While a bill to amend the Stafford Act, introduced by the Republicans, is also drawing the same levels of backing. Amidst all this news, the Underwoods are preparing for a photo for their presidential portrait. Frank places his hand on Claire’s shoulder, only to pull back immediately, believing she recoiled from his touch. Which she may have, even if only in the slightest. Claire is instructed by the photographer to smile a bit more, she does, but Frank remains emotionless.
Tensions continue to rise during a cabinet meeting, where Claire discusses another wall the UN peacekeeping resolution has hit. One that Russia may be behind. Frank singles Claire out, shaming her for bringing an idea to the table he deems as ill conceived. She confronts him about it later, feeling his attitude in the meeting and the late nights with Yates are punishment for her actions in Russia. She’s done her best to forget about their argument on the plane, but wonders if Frank would like her to resign. She reminds him they are a team, but Frank doesn’t agree, at least not right now.
Frank takes a trip to the FDR memorial and notices the statues of Franklin and Eleanor are apart from one another, separated by a wall. This causes Frank to reflect on his own life, viewing the two statues from a middle ground. The symbolism manages to be powerful, even if it is a little on the nose. This moment of contemplation seems to soften Frank; he resolves to approve the USAID funds Claire asked for earlier.
He shares his FDR memorial experience with her, and she tells him of the hour she spent watching the monks, wishing he were there with her. Together they decide something must be done to mend their relationship. Step one: Claire colors her hair dark, how it was when she first met Frank. May I just say, no thank you? Robin Wright is beautiful with any look, but I’m not down with the idea of her getting back to her roots. She needs to plow forward and leave Frank in the dust.
We discover that after the vow renewals, Claire was on her way to speak with Israeli Ambassador, Eliana Caspi. She’s learned of their involvement in blocking the peacekeeping resolution, yet again, and gets right up in her face about it. It’s time for Israel to act like the ally they claim to be, Claire says. Support the resolution, or else. Caspi feels sorry for Claire; she does her husband’s dirty work and insinuates he’ll abandon her when things get tough. Just as he did when she spoke up to Petrov. Claire stands up for Frank, but I think it was less of a gesture for her husband and more about her not willing to back down from Caspi.
When Frank returns from Gaffney, he’s disappointed to have missed the completed Sand Mandala and requests Meechum obtain him a photo. He leaves a framed copy for Claire on her bed with a note, “Nothing is forever, except us.” Then, for the first time in months, the Underwoods sleep in the same bed. I’m not expecting a long second honeymoon though; this is just the calm before the storm.
Getting close to Lisa proved worthwhile. Orsay has found Rachel in Santa Fe and obtained a photo of her crossing an intersection. Doug wants a link to the camera’s surveillance so he can keep watch. Orsay wants details on the unlocking of his passport, but Doug’s not budging on their deal. He wants Rachel’s exact location or no dice on the passport. Later, when Doug is on the phone with Dunbar, he’s watching the surveillance feed and thinks he sees Rachel. The ringing in his ears reaches a deafening tone, only to subside when he realizes it’s not her.
Doug’s physical therapist, we’ll call her Rachel 2.0, is leaving for Seattle and she invites him to her going away party. He’s completely out of place amongst the crowd of young, unfamiliar faces. Though Doug is ready to say goodbye and get the hell out there, Rachel 2.0 entices him to stay with a cute little dance. Doug ends up staying until everyone leaves and helps her clean up, the gentlemanly thing to do. She’s far more interested in his ungentlemanly side. The next morning as Doug lies with Rachel 2.0, he actually seems content for the first time in months.