Previously on House of Cards, ‘Chapter 33’
The writings of Thomas Yates and Kate Baldwin, delivered as voice-overs, served as a framing device for the episode. Yates’ work, a prologue for the America Works book, offers a positive outlook on Frank – how he sees the impossible as possible. Baldwin’s words are much less favorable. She’s working on a piece that compares Frank to the looming hurricane Faith and describes the President as a tyrant.
His internal struggle with the decision of whether or not to sign the bill that would replenish the disaster relief funds, while simultaneously killing his America Works program, is emphasized through these voice-overs.
There’s no new information presented about Frank via these narrations. We know his career has been full of unilateral moves and that he will often attempt things no one else would think twice about. There was a missed opportunity here to offer an extra layer of insight into Frank, which would have made the voice-overs much more impactful. Still, the opposing views add a necessary tension to Frank’s decision-making process, and sets up an interesting relationship ahead for Baldwin and Yates. House of Cards may have slightly lost its edge on subtlety, but manages to keep its symbolism effective and worthwhile.
There was always a chance a natural disaster would strike, especially after Frank successfully reallocated FEMA’s funds for his jobs program. That’s how TV works! Hurricane Faith has the eastern seaboard in her sights and could cause major devastation in several states. Bob Birch and Henry Mitchell (Hector Mendoza’s replacement) present Frank with a bill that will allow congress to restock the DRF, but under the condition that no more FEMA funds can be used for America Works. The bill will pass in ten days, with or without a signature.
In a cabinet meeting, Frank wants to know who among his team believes he should sign the bill. Not wanting to end up like that guy from the first episode who no one remembers now, everyone stays quiet. In a show of solidarity, Claire raises her hand so that the others might feel more comfortable. It works. We don’t see much else from the First Lady in this episode. We do learn the peacekeeping resolution has finally passed and that even Russia will be sending troops. Something Frank gives Claire full credit for. “It’s the one good notch we have on our belt since we moved into the White House.” Much to my dismay, her and Frank do seem to be back on the same team. But surely with Claire still having the most successes.
Under Doug’s counsel, Dunbar meets with Jackie to discuss suspending their campaigns during the hurricane. Dunbar will be heading east to provide aid and instead of fundraising for herself, she’ll ask her supporters donate to the relief effort. She asks Jackie to do the same. Jackie is skeptical at first; this move will make Dunbar look favorable and it will hurt Jackie’s campaign fundraising just as it was getting started. In the end, Dunbar is successful by appealing to Jackie’s new role as stepmother to her husband’s children. “What if they needed help and didn’t have it?”
It’s unclear whether Doug concocted this entire plan, or if it was just his idea to tell Jackie about it. What is clear though is Doug wants Frank to know. He relays the information of the meeting to Seth and insists he tell Frank whom it came from. Remy is the one to tell Frank but evidently, Seth failed to reveal the true source. Frank is furious and chastises Remy for not keeping better tabs on Jackie. Frank and Remy have a heated argument, where Remy comes out on top. He reminds the President that right now, only he and Seth are in his corner. Nicely done, Remy.
The Chief of Staff isn’t the only person to stand up to Frank that day. When confronted about her meeting with Dunbar, Jackie holds her own. Frank is pissed, mostly because of how it affects his campaign, but he tells her that he’s concerned about their campaign. She warns Frank that if he doesn’t sign the hurricane relief bill, they won’t have a campaign to worry about.
Both voice-overs come to a close, with Yates concluding his prologue for Frank, and Kate presenting her piece to her editor. Frank can’t resist a good story about himself. He loves the work, but is perplexed by Yates’ complete omission of America Works. Yates is only interested in telling the story of the man, not the idea the man had. Kate’s work however, is getting pushback. The Telegraph can’t take such an editorial stance. They can print it as an analysis piece, if she can get a quote from someone, even remotely, associated with the administration. She has an idea of who that source could be.
Kate invites Yates out to a bar. She wants a quote but he’s not talking. They end up having a few drinks and spending the night together. It’s hard to tell whether or not Kate is playing him; they have great chemistry and would work well as a genuine couple. I must admit I’m impressed with Yates’ loyalty, thus far. There may have been a hint at his eventual betrayal, when Meechum warns him not fuck with Frank. This could just be a jealousy on Meechum’s behalf though. He seems a bit sidelined lately, not getting any more of that Meechum in the middle action from last season.
After learning that Freddy’s job would be in danger from the America Works defunding, Frank has him brought to the White House. DeShawn, Freddy’s grandson, accompanies him and Frank proves himself to be surprisingly competent when dealing with children. Frank offers Freddy a job in the kitchen, but Freddy would prefer grounds keeping. America does work when you know the President.
Frank signs the bill and then takes a nap. As you do when preparing for a major natural disaster. Unsurprisingly, the hurricane’s trajectory changes and passes right by, headed for Bermuda. Frank is desperate to find a way to pull back on the bill, but it’s already been logged and the funds appropriated. America Works is finished, for now.
With the hurricane no longer a threat, Kate thinks her piece is also finished. Ok, I get it, it had a hurricane theme, but it also had a lot of very important points about the President that the American public has a right to read about. So I don’t know Kate, how about finding a new theme?
Even though it cost him the funding for his jobs program, the hurricane’s absence may actually work in Frank’s favor. The combination of reducing unemployment and having to sacrifice further gains by signing the bill, gives him some leverage. He’s going to announce his campaign for presidency and believes Yates’ book will be more important now than ever. Frank sees Yates was right to tell the story of the man and not the idea. Even if that man is barely truthful because, “imagination is its own form of courage.”