House of Cards: Chapter 39
March 24, 2015 9:27 AM - Season 3, Episode 13 - Subscribe

In the midst of the Iowa caucuses, Frank and Claire must confront hard truths about each other.

At the end of the season, who gets what they want?

We finally see what Rachel's been up to. She calls herself Lisa! She lives in a boarding house in Santa Fe. She gets paid under the table but she's saving up for a new identity, a car, and a place somewhere quiet. But thanks to a vicious beatdown of Gavin, Doug knows where she is. And meticulously begins to plan her death.

Frank presses Claire for clarity about the "we've been lying to each other" bombshell but she changes her mind and tells him nothing is wrong and that it's not worth talking about. She hears the words "together" and "cooperation" in the campaign but when she tries to assert herself in the bedroom ("I want you to fuck me, Francis...I want you to look at me. Look at me while you do it."), he ultimately stops and sends her away. Away from the bedroom and the campaign and back to DC.

When Claire tries to go for a run, she's told that it'll highlight the fact that she's not in Iowa. Later that night, Frank asks Claire to physically be by his side no matter the result. She agrees. He tries to bring up what happened but she stops him. Claire then has Tom brought in so she could find out what she said in New Hampshire before she passed out. She learns how she hates how much she needs Frank. She tries to get him to say whether he thinks they're equals but he refuses.

The day of the Iowa caucus, she decides to postpone her flight and not answer any of Frank's calls.

Doug finally kidnaps Rachel. She does everything she can to survive, using that voice of hers. She tells him how glad she is he's alive, how she's going to stay quiet and how she's being punished already. She tells him he's a good man and that he's not a killer. And besides, Rachel's dead, baby, all he'd do is snuff out Cassie Lockhart. And for a few moments, it looks like it works. He gives her water and sets her free.

And then he runs her down with his van and buries her.

Frank wins the Iowa caucus and flies back to confront Claire in the Oval Office. He finds her sitting in his chair. And Claire finds her voice. She tells him that she used to think they were equals making each other stronger but it's really about making Frank stronger. She hates how he makes the decisions and that she needs his help and she feels weak and small and how she doesn't feel like herself. And Frank doesn't get it. He tells her that she is nothing without him and pulls out one of his verbal tantrums. He says she knew what she was getting into and it's too late to back out now so she will be the First Lady and 'vomit on your own time'.

The next morning, Claire tells Frank she's leaving him and walks away.
posted by zix (35 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I feel like the rest of the season established Doug as Creeper Supreme and everything he does in this last episode is really not necessary. The whole kidnap sequence is really, really, really drawn out. It was very hard to watch. The fake out at the end when he lets Rachel go and then changes his mind I kind of saw coming but didn’t think the writers would actually take that kind of cheap shot. It was overly grim dark. Basically, it took what I considered a pretty boring season and turned it into something contemptible.

I felt like S3 had some interesting territory, a sitting but unelected president doesn’t have support from his own party in the primaries and decides to run anyway. An international crisis. etc. Instead it spent much of its time on… people cheating on spouses. Creeper Doug and his bourbon needle. Clair and Frank on the rocks.

This series is at it’s best exploring the fantasy of congress actually getting shit done. It needs to get back to that.
posted by hellojed at 10:27 AM on March 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Oh Doug, you took up so much time, making the kidnapping sooooooo drawn out just seems to put a point on this. Doug is there to Fill Time.
posted by The Whelk at 11:29 AM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Doug is there to Fill Time.

Back in my day when they wanted to fill time, they spent 2 episodes having the character charge up their supersayian level, and we liked it that way.
posted by hellojed at 11:36 AM on March 24, 2015

There needed to be a murder this season. Having Doug take so. damn. long. to kill Rachel was so very unnecessary.

I really, really, really loved the final shot. Frank, realizing that he's managed to push away everyone, even the woman who has given up the most to be on his team, desperately trying to call her back... Claire! Cut to black.

As much as I think Claire was being a little unfair to Frank this episode: "Something's bothering me" "What's wrong?" "Oh... nothing". "Here, let me try to coerce you into a sex act that I know will make you uncomfortable and get pissed off when it doesn't go my way," I do think that her leaving (at least for now) is the perfect cap on a season whose theme has turned out to be Frank Underwood Burns All His Bridges.

What worries me is how the writers will "fix" things for Season 4. Nobody watches HoC just for Frank, and to have Frank and Claire be truly on opposite sides would be a little to much like Scandal. But, to have Claire go back to Frank after the way he has treated her would diminish her character in ways that I think would make the Frank/Claire dynamic much less interesting to watch.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:26 PM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Funny thing, I actually had the notion that Doug was driving Rachel out to the desert so she could kill him. He's realized how much he is addicted to her, so one of them has to go, and he doesn't want her to die. That would have been interesting, at least, and I think unexpected. Boy was I disappointed.

Also I may have actually cheered when Claire said "I'm leaving you, Frank."

S4 should be interesting. I get that the exigencies of US-style television means they're going to just bang it til' the wheels fall off, and it's going to be fascinating to see Claire use Frank the way he's used her. She's always had her eye on the bigger picture; it seems to me that he wants power and shifts with the winds while she's much better at the long-term planning and noticing ramifications of actions.

Maybe S4E01 is him losing the election... to Heather Dunbar and Claire Underwood. And it's worth noticing that all the campaign signage just says UNDERWOOD 2016. Doesn't specify which one. (I know just last name is common on political signs; it's also rare that the spouse of a candidate could do the job and might take it just because.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:25 PM on March 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

The president's chief of staff. Kidnapped a woman. Drove get into the desert. And killed her.


I know his position hadn't been announced yet, but that doesn't make it any less ridiculous.
posted by meese at 3:39 PM on March 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

Yeah there's that too. Doesn't matter that Doug's position hadn't yet been announced--once he's back, no fucking way in any hell is Underwood letting him out of the WH while he's fighting in the primaries.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:53 PM on March 24, 2015

This season was pretty awful. At the end of season 2, we were left thinking Doug was dead. Then this season, surprise! Not only is Doug not dead, but get to spend half of each episode watching him mope and plot while barely ever interacting with the prime characters. And for what? A gratuitously drawn-out murder of another character who could also just as well have disappeared after season 2. It's just completely unsatisfying, storywise. I wish they'd left Doug dead and spent the screen time expanding on Kim Dickens's reporter character, who was woefully underdeveloped.
posted by oulipian at 4:00 PM on March 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

I had a desperate hope that Rachel would skip town just before Doug arrived, and that he would be creepily watching the same intersection in real life, as she is on a bus, disappearing into the fabric of society. But build was too slow, too awful for it to be anything else.

Such lazy writing.

Claire's walking out on Frank felt like a minor "hells yes" in the aftermath of watching Rachel's body get buried in the NM desert.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:06 PM on March 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

Frustrating that the Claire-Frank dynamic for the whole second half of the season was founded on the writers deciding it would be unfeasible for either of them to acknowledge to the other that Claire wants to eventually be president herself.

Alternate-world plotting: as a last-ditch effort to keep Claire from revealing something that would sink his presidency (or, later, leaving completely), Frank promises to make her his running mate (or, if earlier in the season, schemes to make her his vice president sooner). Then Frank becomes paranoid that Claire is plotting to do to him what he did to everyone who stood ahead of him in line to the throne.
posted by nobody at 5:37 AM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

A problem with releasing all the episodes at once is that I watched episodes 6 and 7 and this last one a few days apart. So the reconciliation and renewing their vows in episode 7 doesn't make a lot of sense if she's going to leave him just a little while later. It will also feel like a waste if we spend most of season 4 having them make the exact same realization that they work better as a team.

Claire screwed up time and again this season but they made her magic on the campaign trail. So they could very well be putting them head to head in the primaries.

Frank also screwed up almost every interaction this season. He also talked to the camera a lot less. It might be that they are trying to make the show feel less gimmicky. But without him explaining his rationalization for say, blowing up at Dunbar or throwing Jackie Sharp under the bus, it makes me think there is no good explanation for his actions. They are having people turn against him to make him the underdog, even if it means he has to act like an irrational blowhard to get there.
posted by Gary at 6:38 AM on March 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I had an idea last night.

Claire takes a Senate seat in the election. Frank wins the Presidency. She spends the rest of the season systematically destroying him.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:42 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Gary, I thought the vow renewal/breakup was a keen observation on how some couples actually do this -- have a vow renewal then split up within about two years. I thought Heidi Klum and Seal did this for example (could be wrong) -- I've definitely noticed it happen before. The vow renewal seems like, in some cases, a last attempt to work things out and give things the proper attention, and then in some cases people just realize they can't actually save the marriage.
posted by onlyconnect at 4:17 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

I wondered whether the vow renewal thing was them being performative at the public and at each other. Or perhaps more accurately, it was Claire doing so--she, more than Frank, is world-class at saying two things at once.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:57 AM on March 26, 2015

I think we were supposed to see the vow renewal as a sort of last ditch effort, but I don't think it really worked. The problem is how that episode was framed: the vow renewal is introduced through time-jumping, making us see all of their fighting and reconnecting as leading up to that moment. It makes the vow renewal feel less desperate and more earned; it makes the whole event feel like the final conclusion of a rancorous chapter of their marriage, rather than just one more piece of their ongoing troubles.
posted by meese at 8:59 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

this was disappointing given how good s1 & s2 were.

perhaps its a massive troll from the writers: what do we owe you - NOTHING!
posted by lalochezia at 8:02 PM on March 26, 2015

I have never understood Claire as she is written, but this season I REALLY don't understand her.

She was as complicit and sort-of-evil as Frank in seasons 1 and 2, using her charity organization to funnel money to Frank, allowing him to have affairs so long as he kept things quiet and out of her sphere, bullying Frank to be stronger, appeasing Frank's homosexuality by courting a three-way with Meese, threatening a pregnant woman with lack of health care to get her own way -- Claire seemed every bit as Machiavellian as Frank in the first two seasons, maybe even moreso.

Now in Season 3 she suddenly has a crisis of conscience leading her decide to insult the Russian leader on international TV instead of smile politely and allow an important diplomatic deal to go through, and then suddenly another one leading to leave her sitting-president husband in the middle of a presidential election? Who is this woman and where was she during Seasons 1 and 2?
posted by onlyconnect at 7:50 AM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm going to have to rewatch the episodes leading up to that again, but I think that the cracks were already starting to show in the marriage and she's already realizing what a sham it all is, what a wall ornament she is as First Lady.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:38 AM on March 27, 2015

appeasing Frank's homosexuality by courting a three-way

Bisexuality. Claire is not a beard.

Did the writers change this season? What a sad slump.
posted by heatherann at 5:32 AM on March 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Bisexuality. Claire is not a beard.

Are you sure? In the first episode (or second, I don't recall), Zoe Barnes goes to the Underwood Residence and offers to work for Frank. After she leaves, there is this exchange:

Claire: Does that ever work?
Frank: What?
Claire: A pushup bra and a short skirt? (or something like that)
Frank: I wouldn't know.

I wasn't sure how to read that at first, but after three seasons, I'm not so sure Frank is bisexual. Not that that really matters too much, but its an observation.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 10:23 PM on March 30, 2015

You could argue that it was all a Machiavellian scheme, but don't think that Frank needed to sleep with Zoe quite so many times in season 1 in order for her to be as useful to him as she was. He also likes porn that involves women, and had sex with Claire on camera at least once. There are also Claire's pregnancies, but those could have been due to affairs, I guess.

I mean, there is nothing wrong with him being homosexual, but given the dearth of openly (to the audience) bisexual characters in my TV diet I think he's a much more interesting character when read as closer to the center of the Kinsey scale.
posted by sparklemotion at 5:17 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

Frank: I wouldn't know.

He was doing that thing people do when their partners point out someone hurling themselves at them, and reassuring--if somewhat dishonestly--the partner that eyes are primarily on them.

It's possible that Frank fucks women only as an expression of power, but deeply unlikely; his asides to the camera are the only times where he's truly honest, and he repeatedly talks about how much he loves Claire. In S304 (I think) he tries to spend the night with Claire in her bedroom, he fucks Zoey way more times than necessary for power, etc. Perhaps even more to the point, S101, the 'mutual admiration society' picture. Gay men don't check out hot girls' asses, generally speaking. Dude's bi.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:34 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sex is incredibly connected to power for Frank, and he is very mated to Claire on a variety of levels. He is vulnerable with her. Look at the intimacy of their smoking sessions in their old apartment. There is a savouring physicality to those scenes. This season, she fucked him back into his power mode. He has been so disoriented by her leaving his bed. This is not a relief to him.

I don't think FU is very sexual in a traditional sense. He is drawn to power play, that is where his sensuality lies. He likes dark secrets, hierarchy, someone he can snuff out or a pact of mutual destruction. When he asked Tom if they were friends, the correct answer was "definitely not," not "we could be." If that is unclear, it is messy and not attractive. It was clear with Zoe. It is clear with Meechum.

Claire plays on his level, which is why he is so drawn to her and why he shows her his belly. She is not a beard. She and his college lover are the only two who have been true mates.
posted by heatherann at 9:50 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

Perhaps even more to the point, S101, the 'mutual admiration society' picture.

Ah, good point.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 7:43 PM on March 31, 2015

I've been rewatching this season, and thinking about it in context of previous seasons, and I think perhaps there really is a Thing the show is trying to say: everyone has a moral event horizon, except Frank.

Remy walks out when Jackie does. Jackie's limit is sexism. Claire's is homophobia in Russia. Doug's... is complex, but it's there. Meachum's is, I think, yet to come.

Everyone has a point beyond which they say "this, and no more." Except for Frank. This is not a thought I have fully explored to its end--there are better brains than mine here who can say whether this makes sense or not.

(And I'm waiting for Claire to slide a stiletto between Frank's ribs oh so smoothly and oh so carefully)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:12 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

. . . she's already realizing what a sham it all is, what a wall ornament she is as First Lady.

Their is a really nicely shot scene; if not in the last episode then leading up to it. She's in her room, sites down and she looks just like she's part of the decor. It may have been a little too on the nose, but I thought it was a nice way to hammer this thought home.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:40 PM on April 10, 2015

But is it really a sham? Claire had virtually no qualifications to be an ambassador, lost her temper during the hearing, and failed to win enough votes in Congress. But she asked Frank for it anyway and he gave it to her.

Then, once she had it, she managed to sleep through a dissident's suicide in a small jail cell, causing a terrible diplomatic kerfluffle, but that wasn't enough, she then decided that her principles (which she has never seemed especially keen to exercise before) required her to go on TV and effectively denounce the Soviet leader that Frank was trying to come to an agreement with. So she's upset that Frank acceded to firing her -- because she's his wife and she thought they were in this together and total equals . . . even though she's never seemed especially involved in influencing or even really even DISCUSSING his policy decisions before.

I'm just confused because to me it seems like her actions come completely out of left field.

One thing that DID ring true for me -- one small thing out of the whole season -- is that she found out from the reporter that Frank considered her to be his equal or even his better half, and that gave her some amount of self-confidence. I agree that when you feel like shit about yourself, it can help to find out the good opinion of someone you respect. BUT I don't think that one discovery supports her reaction of leaving Frank because they're supposed to be equals and they're not. This whole "treat me as an equal" thing seems pretty recent to me since in S1 she seemed to be perfectly happy to use her relief organization illegally to siphon money into Frank's political career; Claire's sudden discovery of principles and ethics just seems like bad writing to me.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:40 AM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think I may have been incorrect about Claire's limits. What really happened in that jail cell was realizing how broken her marriage was. Suddenly discovering principles was the fig leaf she used to screw Frank in front of the world.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:27 PM on April 11, 2015

My visual brain has been hooked all season on the perfect symmetry of so many scenes, whether in the White House, Remy's apartment, or in the landscape. Towards the end of the season, Frank's scenes weren't so symmetrical: he is often off-centre, with nothing to balance him on the other side.

I thought maybe it was Claire who provided the balance, but she can be just as dirty as she can. She doesn't balance him, she goes down with him. I think the balance was between his political and personal power. This scene he is the most powerful man in the US (and according to many, in the western world). But he is alone with no support, and it happens throughout the course of the season.

As soon as the Iowa housewife a couple of episodes ago said something about how Claire could be President, I figured she would leave him or somehow find a way to run. There have been a couple of other scenes where it's hinted that she should run, or that she's thinking about it. I'd vote for her.
posted by tracicle at 6:56 AM on July 9, 2015

Well, said it before, saying it again: the final shot will be her sitting down at the desk in the Oval Office--they foreshadowed it in this episode.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:09 AM on July 9, 2015

So I just finished this season. A few episodes ago, I thought about getting an Underwood 2016 t-shirt. When I googled around looking for one, I found a number of Underwood-Underwood 2016 t-shirts. I was SURE that I had just been spoiled, and that Frank was going to name Claire as his running mate.

As silly as that would be, it would have fit right in with this season, and honestly? Probably made more sense than what we got: I love Claire Underwood, but as onlyconnect points out above, she was about as incompetent a UN ambassador as one could be. Being a VP is second-fiddle, sure, but it's also a good way to being the next president.
posted by nushustu at 8:34 PM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

And I'm waiting for Claire to slide a stiletto between Frank's ribs oh so smoothly and oh so carefully

And she'll do it while looking him in the eye the entire time.

I was really hoping Rachel would finally kill Doug! Doug's plot: wasted.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:52 PM on January 25, 2016

I feel like the mid-'00s to the mid-'10s, in American film and television at least, was dominated by the whole "grim/gritty/dark realism" trend, and I think we're really starting to see the limits of that style. HoC season 3 was dark, but it was also just... fucking boring.
posted by duffell at 7:54 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Poor Rachel. She really should have killed Doug.

Bisexuality. Claire is not a beard.

The strange thing is that the Underwoods have never seemed to have sex much. In season one and two when their marriage is good, while they are certainly emotionally intimate and often affectionate with each other, we only see them have sex once, and it's a power play on Claire's part to get Frank back into fighting mode. I suppose if you count the absurd threesome with Meecham, that's twice. This season they're sleeping in separate rooms. There was Zoe, whom Frank banged many times, but then that was also a power play relationship. She was a sort of creature to him, whom he screwed partly in order to tame and control, and then of course he killed her without seemingly a second thought, so she never meant much to him personally. I wouldn't be surprised if Frank really was more gay than bi, and if he can be with women only when they're useful to him politically, because what he really gets off on (other than men) is power.

I'm basically hatewatching this show now, and I want so, so much to see Frank and now Doug to get their comeuppance. It is simply ludicrous that they've managed to kill three people and get away with it. Claire I'm willing to be more lenient towards because she's never killed anyone.
posted by orange swan at 9:52 PM on November 4, 2016

Funny thing, I actually had the notion that Doug was driving Rachel out to the desert so she could kill him. He's realized how much he is addicted to her, so one of them has to go, and he doesn't want her to die. That would have been interesting, at least, and I think unexpected. Boy was I disappointed.

For my part, I was expecting them to both be assassinated by guest star, Mike Ehrmantraut from Better Call Saul - (I think he hung out behind that same piece of scrub). It really wouldn't have been that much more of a plot stretch.

It feels like half the people who are involved in the show's production are great - the ones responsible for casting and set design and camera work. But then... there are the writers - or the people who manage them. They seem absolutely happy to stretch the credibility of the show with events like murders. That is OK if there is some kind of plot payoff - but now we have 3 dead people and their stories seem to have just tapered off with their demise. Fine for a minor character but not for people who were in the limelight.
posted by rongorongo at 6:34 AM on September 4, 2017

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