Review: House of Cards Season 3 Episodes 7-9

Looking for earlier episodes? See 1-3 here or 4-6 here and join the discussion!

Back again, for the penultimate review of season 3 of House of Cards on Netflix. This may be the most uneven of the show’s seasons thus far, throwing in odd plot twists that are acted beautifully and somehow managing to be convincing despite being more outlandish than Frank’s America Works plan itself. (As always, watch out for spoilers below.)

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Episode 7

Frank and Claire are in a church, renewing their vows. Claire’s hair is a deep, chocolate brown. The press is there, including Kate from the Wall-Street-Whatsit, and Tom Yates, the Handsome Novelist. They flirt a little bit in the press van. This is probably going somewhere, but I don’t like it.

The timeline in this episode is a bit wonky, dipping back and forth between the vow renewal and the weeks leading up to it. There are Tibetan monks in the White House, engaged in the Sand Mandala—a beautiful ritual of painstakingly creating an artwork from colored sand and then destroying it.

It’s a fairly obvious metaphor, but what makes it work without being over the top is that it’s a clever way of marking the time that ticks by during the episode. And when Frank and Claire realize that the monks have been working on the Sand Mandala for weeks and they haven’t even discussed it, we know things are still broken for the Underwoods.

But back a bit. The country is happy with Claire Underwood’s outburst at Petrov. American public opinion on FLOTUS is high. But it’s all underscored by trouble between Frank and Claire. He’s upset by her outburst, and she’s shutting him out. When Frank brings Tom Yates up for a drink, she chastises them for making too much noise.

And Tom Yates asks Frank why he and Claire sleep in separate bedrooms. Frank tries to deny, at first, that anything is terribly wrong. But finally he caves, says that he and Claire just can’t get past this fight. And Tom, in return, reveals something–he only wrote some of Scorpio, his most-famous-and-apparently-quite-fabulous-first-novel. Dear, dear, this is headed down a strange pathway.

Anyway, in the middle of all this, it’s apparently time for the official portrait of the president and first lady. She told Frank she’d smile in the portrait, but it’s not much of a smile, only a small glimmer. Frank, who is almost scowling, thinks that Claire flinched when he touched her shoulder. Maybe she did.

Later, Frank explodes at Claire during a cabinet meeting, before continuing the argument privately. And something important happens when Frank reaches for a cigarette. This has always been a vice they’ve shared, the smoking. And it’s always been a part of their relationship that I found—as close to sweet as Claire and Frank Underwood get. Frank doesn’t share this secret smoke with Claire—he steps toward the door, blocking her way.

Frank and Claire end up resolving their differences in a series of mostly diplomatic arrangements–moving forward with AmWorks, authorizing money for Claire’s plan to get the peacekeeping resolution passed, a new hair color.

We end mostly where we started. Frank and Claire are together and presenting themselves as more in love than ever. Tom is writing a book, but it’s difficult to tell why, and difficult to say what it will really be about. Stamper is still looking for Rachel.

But there are cracks. Frank and Claire, it is clear, are presenting this front. They aren’t really happier than ever. Even if Frank leaves a picture of the Sand Mandala on Claire’s bed with a note “Nothing is forever–except us,” and even Claire’s hair is back to the color it was when they met, things are not the same.

SandMandala

Episode 8

Oh, this episode. Maybe it’s having been and still being in the area where Hurricane Katrina happened. Maybe it’s just the writing. But the Hurricane Episode fell a bit flat for me.

Remember, Frank raided the coffers of the disaster relief funds a few episodes ago, including the FEMA plan. Now there’s a hurricane a’comin, and it’s threatening 12 states. Spaghetti plots say it’s going to come up the eastern seaboard and might cause billions of dollars in damage. Congress will replace this fund—but only if Frank agrees not to raid it again.

Naturally, Frank is reluctant to sign an agreement that would, he feels, kill the America Works program. He and the cabinet work to scrape together funds to match those offered, but he knows he’ll likely have to sign the bill.

Kate and Tom Yates are sleeping together. That’s a little weird, all things considered, but oh well. And Kate has written a scathing piece using the hurricane as a metaphor for Frank’s mercurial way of governing.

In Iowa, Heather Dunbar is campaigning pretty hard. She’s promising to raise the minimum wage, and she’s gaining traction in the race. Doug suggests she set up a meeting with Jackie Sharp about what to do when the storm makes landfall, whether or not they will campaign.

They agree to suspend campaigns and help with recovery efforts if the storm makes landfall. Doug is standing just outside the door, and he calls Grayson. He gives him a message for the president–Heather Dunbar and Jackie Sharp just met. Didn’t think Doug had entirely left the Underwoods…

Somehow or other, the resolution passes the U.N. It happens off-screen, and that’s a bit irritating for something that has occupied such a large part of the story this season. Claire wonders whether it’s a good idea to celebrate while the country is preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Faith, but Frank eschews her doubts.

Back in the offices the next day, Frank is upsetting everyone. He doesn’t want Jackie to suspend her campaign, but she stands her ground. She reminds him that if he doesn’t sign the bill for FEMA funding, there won’t be a campaign. Remy is also upset, mostly due to Frank’s treatment of Jackie. It’s clear that Remy still loves Jackie, and it has been for most of the season. I think she still loves him, too, and that she’ll find the quick wedding for political purposes is going to make her unhappy.

Frank has Meechum track down Freddy. He tells him that they’re shutting down AmWorks, but he offers Freddy a job at the White House. Freddy accepts—but he doesn’t want to work in the kitchen anymore. He wants to be outside. And so Freddy becomes a White House gardener.

After talking with Tom, Frank decides to sign the bill. He goes to bed, asking to be woken up when the storm makes landfall.

But it never does, of course.

Without the storm making landfall, the article Kate wrote about Frank doesn’t work. And there’s no way to overturn the bill that Frank signed. He decides that the time is right to announce his candidacy for president and to run on a platform based on AmWorks.

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Episode 9

Frank is in Iowa, campaigning with his new “A Vote for Underwood is a Vote for America Works” slogan. In the middle of a rousing speech, Grayson hands the phone to Claire. She looks shaken–and then we see why.

“Eight Russian troops killed in the Jordan Valley,” she writes. She calmly places the note in front of Frank; he reads it, then quickly wraps up his speech.

Later, we find out that the troops were killed by an IED blast. We also learn that Russian investigators are on the ground in the Jordan Valley and won’t let anyone else near the blast site. The whole thing is a mess, and the tension between the countries, and their leaders, is at a breaking point.Frank and Petrov speak over the phone, but Petrov won’t budge.

Across town, Gavin and Doug meet. Gavin claims that he’s found a Jane Doe in Tucson whose fingerprints match Rachel’s. It just doesn’t feel right, but Doug is convinced. He falls off the wagon, and he falls hard, almost getting into a fight in a bar and then coming home to vomit in the middle of the house. Oh, Doug, no.

Claire speaks with the Russian ambassador, who hints that Petrov might’ve staged the attack but won’t say more or go public with the information. Frank uses this information to authorize a covert mission to send in American investigators to gather intelligence to prove that Russia caused the problem. I don’t think this is going to end well for anyone.

And oh, Remy. He’s driving a potential campaign contributor to the airport, trying to covertly (that seems to be the word of the day) put him on a plane after Kate noticed his presence on Air Force One and questioned its legality.

The contributor is rude, and Remy seems to be having an internal crisis about his position at the White House. That crisis is brought full circle when he’s stopped on his way back and has no ID. The incident escalates so that Remly ends up in the back of a police car and has to be released by a supervising lieutenant, and Remy is clearly even more in crisis. He goes to Jackie’s house, apologizes for intruding, then kisses her. Oh Remy, Remy.

Doug, meanwhile, has made his way to the Oval Office to report Rachel’s death. He also admits that he’s drunk, that he’s been working for Dunbar on Frank’s behalf, and that he needs help.

There’s a moment when Frank cradles Doug’s head, when it’s clear how much he cares for Doug. It’s even more clear that Frank really does give a damn when he calls Heather Dunbar and berates her for hiring Doug when he was still recovering, then threatens to put her in her “fucking grave” if she ever endangers Doug again.

And then we’re back to the Situation Room. The operation in Jordan Valley is underway.

And then it goes awry.

The troops are turned on. Everyone listens as the American troops encounter gunfire. The mission is aborted. One American is dead, three are wounded.

When Petrov calls later, he says he’s told Israel that it was American troops who entered the Jordan Valley. Israel deploys troops.

The world is a mess.

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Join me tomorrow as I review the final 4 episodes of the season!

Review: House of Cards Season 3, Episodes 4-6

Aaaaaaaaaand we’re back this afternoon for another three-episode review of Netflix House of Cards Season 3. If you’d like to see episodes 1-3, check here, and as always, watch out for spoilers!

Episode 4

My husband is now convinced that Frank Underwood is Satan himself, or at least the writers’ incarnation of him. I am almost convinced.

But first, let’s back up a bit. We need to talk about Heather Dunbar, the solicitor general, because we her argument to the Supreme Court, and that means that She Is Important To the Plot.

We saw Dunbar a bit already. She prosecuted Walker, apparently. And she’s working on a case in which a drone strike killed and injured civilians, and she’s been given permission to declassify some aspects of the incident to achieve the state’s desired result in court. In the Supreme Court she defends the actions of the state, and when asked why she prosecuted Walker but defends this action of Underwood, she lays it down to presidential authority–you can “prosecute presidents but not the presidency.”

Meanwhile,  Remy and Jackie have figured out that Dunbar is Important to the Plot, too. They show up at Arlington (just after a funeral that Frank has attended) to tell Frank to be wary of Dunbar. She’s from a wealthy family, very wealthy, and she’s ambitious. They think she’s about to run for president.

Yeeeees. Frank needs a formidable adversary.

But Frank doesn’t think so, of course. He’d rather make Heather another offer, and so he does. One of the Supreme Court justices tried to retire earlier in the year to spend more time with his family after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but Frank would not accept his resignation. Anyway, he figures now Justice Jacob can retire and Heather Dunbar can become a Supreme Court justice. She accepts, but I can’t help thinking something is fishy.

Now Frank must meet with one of the survivors of the drone strike who is suing the administration. He tries to justify his actions, to assure the survivors of their necessity, but there is of course no satisfaction for losing one’s family and one’s legs in a drone strike. And Frank is told as much before the survivor leaves, angry and hurt.

AmWorks (Frank’s semi-adorable pet name for his America Works Program), is also in trouble. Republicans aren’t going to let it pass, of course. Ayla, a reporter who has been badgering Seth Grayson for more information, pushes Frank too hard in a press conference. She questions his views on gay rights, throwing out implications about an American citizen who has been taken prisoner in Russia after a Russian gay rights protest. Of course, the actions get Ayla removed from the White House after a bit of politics between Grayson and the Correspondents Association. It’s not terribly surprising, even if it’s a bit cowardly, that a reporter who hit that hard might be asked to hand in credentials.

Oh, and there’s Doug, still searching for Rachel. Gavin (guinea pig hacker guy) is pressing him for a passport in return for the work he’s been doing. But Doug wants him to do more. Gavin finds Rachel’s former roommate/lover, Lisa, at an AA meeting and strikes up a conversation with her. I want the doe eyed girl to run away, but she doesn’t, of course.They never do.

And things are still getting worse for Frank. Jacobs no longer wants to give up his spot as a Supreme Court Justice. Frank pressures him, but Jacobs is honest with Dunbar about the pressure. Cut to a news conference and Heather Dunbar announcing her candidacy for president. (Hooray!)

Doug approaches Dunbar, asking for a job. He’s tired of being shut away from the Underwoods. At least he says so. Somehow I doubt this is really a turn of loyalty, and so does Dunbar, who in any case isn’t eager to align herself with Doug’s brand of politics.

It’s about this time that a very despondent Frank has the priest from the Arlington funeral dragged out of bed and brought to speak with him in church. When the priest walks out of the room, Frank sidles up to the crucifix at the front of the church and talks to Jesus.

For a moment, anyway. Then he spits on the crucifix (cut to me, covering my mouth; it’s funny what shocks us). And when he tries to wipe away the spit, he knocks down the crucifix, and it shatters (cut to me, covering my mouth and laughing; it’s funny what’s funny). Frank picks up a piece of Jesus—the ear—and walks away muttering about having Jesus’ ear. Cut to me laughing so hard my stomach hurts.

Husband is now firmly assured that Frank is the writers’ incarnation of Satan. I just want to watch…

Episode4

Episode 5

Jackie and Frank are discussing their plan for the election. Jackie is running but will drop out, and when she does, Frank will give her a place on the ticket. Makes sense, I suppose. She’s there as a distraction and to pull in votes that she’ll bring with her as VP nominee.

There’s also Heather Dunbar to contend with. She’s not sure yet if she wants to hire Doug, and her main adviser isn’t either. What Dunbar is certain of is that she wants to run to the left of Frank. She’ll play up her stance on gay rights (and I’m struggling a little with this part, because I’m not quite sure where/why Frank’s stance on gay rights became negative; it almost doesn’t make sense, given his prior trysts) and use the imprisonment of Corrigan, the American citizen jailed in Russia, as a way onto the platform.

Ah, yes, and I’m sure we’ll all wondering about AmWorks, too. Part of the federal coffers that Frank has to raid for his AmWorks plan are disaster relief funds. The head of Homeland Security gets fired in the midst of this because of his objection to Frank’s ideas. No one else dares to object, of course.

Ayla’s replacement at the White House shows up in the form of Kate, and she’s a welcome introduction. Kate’s good at figuring things out. She’s gutsy and quick-witted, and I don’t doubt for a moment that she’ll be more difficult to contend with than Ayla. She quickly finds the fired Chief of Homeland Security and breaks the story. Frank is furious, of course.

And Claire is having trouble at the UN. Her inexperience is showing, and the settlement she’d almost negotiated to circumvent Russian objections and put a peace-keeping mission in place in the Jordan Valley begins to fall through. Frank agrees to put in troops without passing it through Congress.

Then there’s this weird moment in the bathroom, when Claire invites the Russian ambassador in with her as she readies to leave. She informs him, while she’s peeing (what’s with the peeing this season?!), that he’s been out-maneuvered.

And Doug is Up to Something. He gives Dunbar Claire’s old journal, which would prove that her abortion was not after a rape and that she lied during a televised interview. It’s damning evidence to have on a first lady, and it’s dirty business. Dunbar says she would never use such information against another woman. But I don’t think we’ve seen the last of that journal.

Frank, meanwhile, has hired Thomas Yates, a quite-brilliant-and-beautifully-handsome novelist to write the story of AmWorks. I foresee Frank having another sexual adventure with this one. And AmWorks is starting in Washington. There’s Freddy in the line, oh Freddy, another that I hoped would be back this season. I just wish it weren’t under such circumstances.

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Episode 6

First, a bit about Doug and Gavin, and then off to Russia. Gavin is still pretending to be Max, a former alcoholic and junkie, at local AA meetings, to get Lisa to open up about Rachel. He pretends to have recently lost a lover (ugh); he pretends to be HIV positive (UGH). She takes him under her wing and begins to talk about Rachel. And Doug is still flirting with his physical therapist, who looks a bit like Rachel and pays attention to politics.

Now for the Underwoods.

Frank and Claire have gone to Russia to try and smooth things over with Petrov and secure the release of Michael Corrigan. Claire goes to the prison cell to speak with Michael Corriganwhile Frank goes to Petrov’s office.

The assumption is, of course, that Frank will have a much more difficult time convincing Petrov to allow Corrigan to leave than Claire will have convincing Corrigan to do what is necessary to leave. But when what is necessary turns out to be Corrigan reading a statement of apology and the other 27 people who were arrested staying in jail, Corrigan refuses.

(Nevermind that the other 27 people are Russian citizens over whom Claire has no jurisdiction. And while I understand the reluctance to apologize, to say some of what was written on that page, is that worth staying in prison in a foreign land? Is it worth dying for)?

Claire refuses to leave the cell without Michael and asks that she be able to speak to him privately, with no electronic bugs. They talk about their respective marriages, and for the dozenth time at least this season, we’re aware that there’s trouble between Claire and Frank. Real trouble.

When the bug is removed from the cell, Petrov becomes even more distrustful of the Underwoods. And let’s be clear–none of this is because of what he believes. Petrov admits to Frank that he knows the law is barbaric, but the law is to preserve tradition, and therefore he will uphold it.

Back in the cell, Michael wants to think about what to do, alone. Claire decides to take a nap. And somehow, her nap turns into the sort of nap that one doesn’t wake from even when someone commits suicide beside one. (HOW?!?) She sleeps through Michael Corrigan hanging himself from the bars of his cell window with her scarf.

Naturally, everyone is scrambling a bit. They’ve come to take home an activist but must return with a corpse. Frank and Petrov come up with a plan to continue the deal, saying that their plan was to release Michael that day. Claire can’t hold her tongue, though, and she lashes out at the law and at Petrov. Publicly. This will not end well.

And then Frank and Claire have a fight. They have THE fight. She made him president. He made her ambassador. It’s a vicious fight that relies on words, and the words, oh, do they sting. They’re murderers. He’s a coward. It’s a delicious implosion 3 season in the making.

And then it’s over.

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Review: House of Cards Season 3, Episodes 1-3

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Netflix released the third season of House of Cards this past Friday, February 27, and, like many others, I spent my weekend binge-watching the series. I’ve been really pleased with this season so far. The series itself has been highly acclaimed since its first season, and though in some ways it mirrors its British predecessor, Francis J. Underwood is a distinctly American monster.

As I make my way through the season, I’ll be blogging about it here at Sourcerer. There’ll be a four-part series this week, with the initial three reviews covering three episodes of the run and the final review covering the last four episodes. And as you might expect, below here, there are spoilers lurking about.

Episode 1

We pick up where we left off last season–Frank Underwood is the President of the United States of America. The season opens with a damning moment at Frank’s father’s grave, wherein Frank pees all over the grave. It’s not subtle at all, this POTUSmessage that the show us sending us about what Frank is willing to do. He is, quite literally, willing to piss on his (fore)father(s).

Well hell’s bells.

And—oh dear—of course some things aren’t going quite as planned. Even the mercurial genius that is Frank Underwood cannot control public opinion, and the public doesn’t like Frank’s methods.

And the show really threw me a bone in this episode–Doug Stamper is back! I was quite sad to think that he’d left the show, that we were losing his character, because there’s something about Doug that I really love. I’ve already lost Peter Russo, whose crash-and-burn I cringed to watch.

Stamper, though, is alive, even if he’s maybe not-quite-well. He wakes from a coma several months after Rachel left him for dead, and his recovery is a painful one to watch, the ringing ears and erratic mood swings and leg pains, all made more difficult by his avoidance of pain medication to keep his sobriety in check.

Naturally, Claire Underwood stops by the hospital to remind Doug of what he shouldn’t be remembering, or at least what he shouldn’t be remembering for the police. He’ll give the cops a fake story about a car-jacking. And when he does, of course they don’t quite buy it.

It’s clear that Doug is more than a little bit disenchanted with the Underwoods now, especially after Frank rather insincerely tells Doug (whose broken arm is in a duct-tape-and-wooden-spoon-splint because he was in such a hurry to be with the president) that he needs to concentrate on getting better. Doug starts himself on a dangerous path, developing some exquisite new torture for himself in the form of squirting alcohol from a syringe into his mouth. His medicine, I suppose.

Frank and Claire, who have begun sleeping in different bedrooms since moving into the White House, are scheming. Claire wants a political career, and she wants it now. She and Frank work toward appointing her as ambassador at the U.N.

I don’t think that’s going to go over well with the others.

Episode 2

Annnnd it doesn’t.

The mostly-Republican, mostly-male, mostly-white Senate committee doesn’t like the idea of FLOTUS also being the U.N. Ambassador. Especially not Frank Underwood’sFLOTUS wife. She is brash and has little political experience–nevermind how brash the men are or that her political experience has been poured into getting Frank elected and in running—then selling—the Clean Water Initiative.

The hearing goes awfully: Claire makes a misstep when she provides the soundbite that “troops are irrelevant” in regards to a Senate member’s badgering. It’s clear that her career will be damaged by the statement, but the question is how much.

And across town, Frank is having trouble with his own damaged career. He wants to redefine the party when he runs in 2016. The leadership wants him out, though. But Frank won’t be a “placeholder president.” He wants to actually be elected, to serve another 4, probably 8, years in the WH.

In the midst of all of this, it’s time to choose the eggs for the White House annual Easter Egg Roll. Claire gets this job, of course, and she has to do it while the votes are being tallied concerning her nomination as ambassador. She is defeated. And I’m never more in awe of Claire Underwood than when she is defeated. She squares her shoulders and addresses the press. She finishes choosing the Easter eggs. And maybe she falls apart, but it’s behind her door, and we don’t see, nor does Frank.

Frank, meanwhile, has come up with an ingenuous way to solve his problem. He’ll announce that he’s not going to run for re-election. He’s already told party leadership that he won’t seek the Democratic nomination. But he addresses the nation this time, cutting entitlements on the same night that he announces he’ll forgo re-election. Clever, clever.

Back at home, Claire urges Frank to appoint her as ambassador during recess. It’s not a totally unprecedented move, but it is an unusual and Machiavellian move. But Frank agrees to appoint her.

Episode 3

And oh, the troubles that is going to trouble.

The Russian president, Petrov, a Putin-like figure in both demeanor and appearance, makes a visit to the White House. Frank makes a pitch for a pact that would put Russian and the U.S. in the middle of the Middle East’s peace agreements.

And if we’re doubting Petrov’s connection to Putin, look no further than the appearance of Masha Alyokhina and Nady Toloknonnikova, members of Pussy Riot who it would seem are feuding with both Petrov and Putin now. When the two Petrovwomen are invited to a White House dinner with Petrov, the dinner naturally falls apart, but Petrov seems the most comfortable of anyone present.

The dinner party turns into a drunken mess after Petrov offers toast after toast with vodka in hand. There’s a moment where Claire is dancing with Petrov, and then he plants a large kiss square on her mouth. It’s a clear message, to Claire and to Frank, about what Petrov is capable of and what he sees Frank as incapable of.

Frank sends everyone home, but holds out hope for Petrov and pulls him aside for a cigar (or two) before leaving. But Petrov won’t budge, and now Frank is furious. He has no more time for diplomacy, and when the two meet again the next day, there is a frigidity between them.

Doug, meanwhile, has employed Gavin to help him find Rachel. And somehow, I don’t think things are going to go as well for Rachel when she’s found again, but I suppose we shall see.

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Tune in tomorrow when I review episodes 4-6!

Preview Time! House of Cards, Anyone?

Stop the presses! Diana binged on the new season of House of Cards over the weekend and she’s decided to publish a short series about it here just as soon as she can get them written. Since Netflix makes the whole season available at once, and it is trending on the Twitters right now, we’ve decided we aren’t going to blog every episode, nor draw it out for a great length of time.

Diana is working on how to organize the posts, and I will fit whatever she comes up with into the schedule as quickly as possible. I’ve wanted to see what this series would do on the blogs for a while. I love it myself, and we’re striking on this one while the iron is hot. Starting tomorrow. Here’s the teaser in the form of a tweet:

David will finish his run on Agent Carter Tuesday, we’ll have the next installment of Will’s Planescape play-through on Wednesday, and of course more Tolkien on Thursday to go along with the House of Cards. Arrow is on a two-week hiatus, so Melissa won’t be around this week 😦 but she will definitely be back.

Other News

If you missed the memo yesterday, I’ve volunteered to help with the setup phase of a Twitter account for #1000Speak, @1000Speak. That’s going well, and if you wrote a post for Feb. 20, it is perfectly acceptable to share it on Twitter again and tag @1000Speak in the Tweet.

Also, we’ve collected some of last year’s Feminist Friday posts into an e-book. The official release date is March 8, to coincide with International Women’s Day. I’m working on the blurb for the download sites today, and once that’s done, Natacha will have everything she needs to finish the editing and publishing work and get the text ready to go.

Contributors and Blogging A to Z guest bloggers: I am planning to get the themed A to Z art into the image library in the next day or two. Once that is done you can load posts at your convenience, but don’t schedule them. Some of our regular features will continue to run in April, so the scheduling is going to be a bit tricky. My suggested post guidelines are in the announcement, and the schedule is broken out by day and author here. If anything comes up and requires changes to the plan, let me know immediately so I can adjust and fill in.

Have a great week!