House of Cards: Chapter 30
March 4, 2015 7:59 AM - Season 3, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Claire bypasses Russia at the U.N. Frank tries to outmaneuver a political challenger and ends up facing a higher power.

aka the one where House of Cards does its own take on The West Wing's 'Two Cathedrals'

The episode starts with the Supreme Court hearing the drone strike case mentioned in episode 2. The attack occurred during President Walker's term in which Mr. Mahmoud's family was killed and Mahmoud himself lost both of his lower legs. Solicitor General Heather Dunbar admits the government's culpability but explains that the strike successfully targeted a terrorist and that Mahmoud's family was unfortunate collateral damage. Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Jacobs (the one with Alzheimers) loses his train of thought during the hearing.

Frank learns via Jackie that the Democratic leadership wants Dunbar as their 2016 candidate. In an attempt to end Dunbar's potential campaign before it even starts, Frank offers her a spot on the Supreme Court. After some "I need your answer now so we can settle this before the election" pressure, she accepts. However, this means Frank now has to convince Jacobs to retire when he had just persuaded Jacobs to remain back in episode one.

At the U.N., Russia vetoes bringing peacekeeping troops into the Jordan Valley and Claire begins to work on gathering votes for the override. As possible retaliation, gay rights activist Michael Corrigan is arrested during a protest in Russia.

Frank privately apologizes to Mahmoud, but Mahmoud does not accept. After Mahmoud experiences some phantom pain, Frank tries again, explaining the burdens and the duty of being President ("What I can't be is indecisive.") Mahmoud accuses Frank of looking for forgiveness and states he will not absolve him.

This leads to a moment of conscience when Frank meets with Justice Jacobs and discovers Jacobs doesn't plan on retiring now. ("Must I destroy this man? No. I won't.") A more forceful argument seems sinister when Frank raises the possibility of the Alzheimers' diagnosis being leaked and thus bringing doubt to Jacobs' legal decisions.

Ayla and Seth discuss the lack of press access regarding America Works. During a press conference about Corrigan, Ayla pressures Frank on questions regarding his stance on gay rights and why Corrigan's husband hasn't been contacted yet. In response, Seth lifts the moratorium for the rest of the press corps in exchange for Ayla's press credential.

Gavin almost gets caught in his search for Rachel and tells Doug that someone is going to have to get close to Lisa in order to get more information in order to narrow the search. He begins going to Lisa's support group/fellowship thing calling himself Max and sharing about his 'breakup'.

Dunbar publically announces her campaign for President and later reveals to Frank that 1) she was already approached by Birch to run, 2) she is close friends with Jacobs and already knew about the Alzheimers, and 3) Frank's threat to Jacobs was the deciding factor. She asks, "Is this how you live with yourself? By rationalizing the obscene into the palatable?" She is later approached by Doug for a job.

When Frank wonders to Claire why he even showed mercy to Jacobs and whether it was due to Mahmoud and his first funeral at Arlington Cemetery, she tells him to stop doubting and to move on. "I can't indulge that." He meets with Bishop Eddis later that night at a church to discuss justice, the idea of kill or be killed, and how to love those who are trying to kill you. Frank admits understanding Old Testament God "ruling through fear", but not New Testament Jesus.

Eddis responds: There's no such thing as absolute power for us, except on the receiving end. Using fear will get you nowhere. It's not your job to determine what's just. It's not your place to choose the version of God you like best. It's not your duty to serve this country alone, and it better not be the goal to simply serve yourself. You serve the Lord. And through him, you serve others. Two rules: Love God. Love each other. Period. You weren't chosen, Mr. President. (gestures to Jesus) Only he was.

Frank asks for some time alone to pray. He walks up to the statue of Jesus and tells it he doesn't buy the whole love thing and spits on it. In trying to wipe off the spit, the statue falls and shatters. As he walks away with a piece of the statue, he says, "Well, I've got God's ear now."
posted by zix (24 comments total)
Oh, and a wild Meechum appears!
posted by zix at 8:10 AM on March 4, 2015

Just, be on the alert for Meechum's kind of crazy Eve Harrington-esque energy in later scenes. Guy is uh ...committed to his job.
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 AM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hmm, I can see where this is going.

Episode 1: Frank pisses on his father's grave
Episode 4: Frank spits on Jesus's face
Episode 8: Frank farts directly into camera
Episode 13: Frank smashes fourth wall over director's head
posted by oulipian at 8:27 AM on March 4, 2015 [10 favorites]

"If you're doubting yourself, I can't indulge that." I was sitting down when I watched that and I still got weak knees.

I hope that Mr. Motion is ok with polygamist fictional gay marriages. Because Claire Underwood is now my Netflix Wife.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:30 AM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I hate Dunbar. Choosing to run for POTUS when she has a surefire SCOTUS appointment makes her a doofus in my book.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:20 AM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Choosing to run for POTUS when she has a surefire SCOTUS appointment makes her a doofus in my book.

It's an entirely different kind of power, and I won't fault her for wanting the chance at the top job, especially if it keeps Frank out of it.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:30 AM on March 4, 2015

was anyone else as appalled by how bad claire's french accent and just general phrasing was? i imagine they had her speak french to give her that je ne sais quoi to go along with the rest of her style and it was just *wasted*.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 6:43 PM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

I know, right? I speak better French than that having taken French in high school 20 years ago.

Because Claire Underwood is now my Netflix Wife.

Claire has been pretty awesome this season, but watch your back. You never know when she's going to fake an interest in having a baby so she can interpret your medical records and cancel your health insurance to blackmail you into dropping a lawsuit against her. Or she'll sexually assault you when you're in the hospital on your death bed, because you told her that you love her. CU ain't playin'.
posted by donajo at 7:48 PM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think this is the episode where the series started falling off the rails for me. The characters are so focused on power goals that when Frank goes to the church, I kept thinking "What's his play here?" and there wasn't one. And throughout the rest of the season characters do things that aren't in their best interests and instead of being character development, it seems way out of character for them.

Also, Bishop Eddis looks like a certain former Baltimore police commissioner.
posted by hellojed at 8:49 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Choosing to run for POTUS when she has a surefire SCOTUS appointment makes her a doofus in my book.

SCOTUS is restrained power, a bit abstract. POTUS is where you can get your hands dirty, traveling the world and meeting various people.

Be POTUS, then retire and be a SCOTUS.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:43 AM on March 5, 2015

posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:18 AM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

So much for things getting more subtle after last week I guess. Honestly. Spitting in the face of the Jesus statue and then it falls down and breaks. I guess they figured since they couldn't literally come to our homes and hit us over the head with imagery, they'd take it as far as they could go without an enormous CGI budget.
posted by Hoopo at 9:23 AM on March 5, 2015

Be POTUS, then retire and be a SCOTUS.

Worked for William Howard Taft.
posted by Captain_Science at 1:21 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Spitting in the face of the Jesus statue and then it falls down and breaks.

I was actually kind of worried that he'd take the broken Jesus as some horrible omen and it would break his self esteem in a way that even Claire and Meechum *ahem* couldn't fix. The man is just so fragile. Omnipotent Frank might be boring, but broken and pathetic Frank is just too much to bother with.

Anyways -- "I've got God's ear now" was great because I didn't have to deal with Dystopian West Wing Uncle Fluffy anymore.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:54 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I wonder what the drafts of that last scene looked like.

Frank picks up Jesus's head. "Guess that's one way to get ahead!"
Frank picks up Jesus's arms. "Just exercising my God-given right to bear arms!"
Frank picks up Jesus's right foot. "Well, the Almighty and I are getting off on the right foot!"
Frank picks up Jesus's hand, then puts it back. "I never was one for hand-me-downs!"

Frank picks up Jesus's ear. "Guess I've got God's ear now!"
posted by oulipian at 2:20 PM on March 5, 2015 [21 favorites]

Frank picks up Jesus's Adam's apple. "That's what you get for sticking your neck out"
posted by sparklemotion at 2:40 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

This season would have been so much better if they had gone with my idea of Doug Stamper as Jason Bourne., but I had no say in the matter, and there you go.
posted by Elmore at 3:23 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is Jacobs the only character (so far, at least) who seemed to have noticed Frank's aside to the camera?

"Must I destroy this man? No. I won't."
posted by neilbert at 6:53 AM on March 6, 2015 [9 favorites]

I wonder what the drafts of that last scene looked like.

"Jesus Christ! Meechum! This isn't what I meant when I asked for some head."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:48 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

The problem that I have with this season is that now that Frank has gotten what he wanted the writers don't seem to know what's motivating him. Before his whole driving force was to get power but now that he's got it, there doesn't really seem to be anything for him to strive for. I'm not really buying that he cares about the whole jobs bill or Mideast Peace or creating a legacy for himself.
posted by octothorpe at 5:58 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

This was so boring. Even the Jesus falling was dull. Noisy, but dull.

Good to see Rawls, though.
posted by minsies at 12:43 PM on March 8, 2015


Guess I've got...God's ear now.

( •_•)>⌐■-■


posted by Cookiebastard at 11:55 AM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

The problem that I have with this season is that now that Frank has gotten what he wanted the writers don't seem to know what's motivating him.

Yes. This. I'm only partway through the season and like.. beyond re-election, Frank has literally no motivation whatsoever. In the British version that worked, because there are no term limits to the PM. And because FU-UK actually did have someone with power to contend with domestically. There's nobody who can challenge FU-US in a power struggle until the election. (I mean unless a proto-FU--e.g. Jackie--does to Frank what he did to the former VP and thence to Walker). If I squint, I can see the show trying to make a point around what truly happens when you get what you want and the struggle is over; you flail, because your life purpose is now complete.

I mean, up until the moment at Camp David, Underwood's motivation was getting to the Oval Office, and he'd pull down anyone to get there and use their bloated corpses as a ladder. Where is he going now? Where could he possibly go? It's pretty well-established that Presidents generally vanish off to the speaking circuit after their terms are over.

Which leads me to why I think the whole Claire-at-the-UN is just a terrible bloody choice on a million different levels:

1) She's already got duties as FLOTUS. Sure they're not legally defined, and yet there's a significant expectation that POTUS-spouse involve themselves in uncontroversial feel-good stuff and is always there to support the President. Sure, that's not really Claire's style, fine, but she has a role to fulfill and if the Underwoods know anything, if we learned anything at all about them in the first two seasons, it's this: they know precisely how much appearances matter. FLOTUS is expected to only put herself on the stage in friendly, nice, politically safe ways, and there's no way in hell Claire doesn't understand how important that is.

2) She has no diplomatic experience whatsoever. She's got great manipulating experience, but again: appearances matter. (and oh God that French was like fingernails on a chalkboard. Mine isn't any better--which is why I don't speak French to people!)

3) The two of them make, for the most part, cold and calculated moves in service of a goal. More importantly, they eschew moves that could hinder those goals. Making her a recess appointment after she'd already been rejected by the Senate is just handing boxes and boxes of live ammunition to their opponents. S1 and S2 Claire would have put the kibosh on that from the get-go.

4) There's never been a single hint that she's been interested in an elected position.

Now, the UN as Frank's endgame makes all kinds of sense. Leave the Presidency and move right to New York as Secretary General. There's a great deal of power to be had there, and enormous opportunities for behind-the-scenes grifting and strongarming. Then Hillary Claire gets herself a Senate seat.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:11 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I kind of like the Heather Dunbar character. She seems like a worthy foe for Frank.
posted by orange swan at 7:47 PM on October 31, 2016

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