Review: House of Cards Season 3, Episodes 10-13

And here we are, sadly, at the end of another season of House of Cards, and it’s been a bit of a perplexing one, full of intrigue, Russian diplomats, and Kevin Spacey’s confusing but charming accent.

(Psst—There will be spoilers here for ze end of ze season. Haven’t finished yet? Check out reviews of episodes 1-3, 4-6, or 7-9.)

Episode 10

This was one of the weaker episodes for me, partly because you could just feel heaviness in the writing, clunkiness in threads coming together to set us up for the end of the season.

Frank’s campaign is in trouble, especially after the debacle that sent the Jordan Valley into crisis. At a town hall along the campaign trail, Frank answers questions—or sort of. Most of the questions are things he can’t or won’t answer. Remy suggests screening future questions, and I’m wondering why as many politically savvy folks as this with a sitting president in a disastrous situation weren’t already doing that.

Back home, Frank gets a Message. Tim called. Anyone remember Tim? If you’ve seen season 1, you do–Tim is Frank’s former lover. And Frank panics when he returns Tim’s phone-call and is told that Tom Yates called to ask for an interview.

Oh hell.

Elsewhere, Frank continues to lose his head. The Jordan Valley situation is escalating, and Petrov announces that he will violate the Israeli no-fly zone in his personal plane. For some reason, Frank decides that’s a fantastic idea and decides to follow.

Claire, of course, warns against this. But Frank ignores her and suits up in Kevlar and a helmet. This is all The Most Ridiculous Thing because no sitting US president in modern times would have a tiny convoy in a superbly dangerous region of the world, protected by a Kevlar, a helmet, and about 3 armored vehicles.

Anyway, once he’s in Petrov’s bunker, the two start to negotiate. Frank agrees to scale back missile defense. Petrov has a difficult condition, though: Claire’s removal as UN ambassador. There’s this sort-of masterful moment when Petrov adds another layer to things by calling into question the Russian involvement in the bombing. Perhaps, Petrov suggests, they played Claire, and in doing so, played Frank.

When he returns home, Frank delivers the bad news to Claire. And then there’s Yates to deal with. The two have a few drinks together. They gaze a little-bit longingly at one another. They talk. Frank reaches for Yates’s hand. But then he sends him home.

Claire, meanwhile, is not only no longer UN ambassador, but is with a team of UN advisers who have news: the public likes Claire’s hair better blond. And so blond she will be, despite herself.

Across town, Doug is finding something new, something he hasn’t had before, with his brother’s family—family of his own. He seems happy playing with his nieces. He and his brother seem on more even footing than before.

Gavin, meanwhile, fesses up to Lisa: he doesn’t have AIDS, and his name isn’t Max. He’s leaving town, though. She should be safe, but if she ever gets in trouble, she should call—and he gives her Doug’s number. He also leaves a guinea pig with her—pretty sure that’s Cashew.)


Episode 11

Claire is back to the role as FLOTUS, even if she’s not quite back to the role of adoring wife. One of the things that has marked season 3 is the growing gulf between Frank and Claire, and we get quite a bit of emphasis on that in this episode. At a fund-raiser, the women question how they can trust Frank; Claire assures them that even were they not married, she’d trust Frank. I get the feeling that’s really the opposite of what’s true, though.

Frank, Jackie, and Heather are readying for a debate between presidential candidates that will air on CNN. Frank wants Jackie to go after Dunbar for the wealth she was born into and for sending her children to private school. But Jackie now has step-kids, and they’re in private school, too. She’s not sure about the tactic. (And it doesn’t make much sense, honestly.)

She plans a covert meeting with Heather Dunbar. “I want to endorse you” is the message—but only if you’re willing to give me something I want in return. A Cabinet position, perhaps. But Heather Dunbar isn’t willing to play that game, and Jackie isn’t prepared to leave Frank’s side without a guarantee, so all is as it was.

And then it’s time for the debate. Claire is watching from a campaign office full of Underwood supporters. Yates is with her. Jackie, Heather, and Frank are onstage. As planned, Jackie hits Heather Dunbar hard about her background and where she sends her kids to school.

When the debate turns to Claire’s appointment as UN ambassador and the recent mess in the Jordan Valley, Claire doesn’t want to watch anymore. She leaves. The debate turns back to the kids, specifically that Heather’s kids are in boarding school—“maybe you didn’t want to raise them yourself” Jackie tells Heather. A collective gasp, and we know Jackie’s done. “Jackie, don’t your kids to go private school, too?” This from Frank.

Across town, Doug gets a message from Gavin–Rachel is still alive, and he’ll tell Doug where she is after he gets Gavin’s friend out of prison. I can’t help but think that this is a Bad Move for Gavin.

Jackie demands to see Frank, angry about his jab at her. He’s imperious, reminds her that they’re not equals. And Jackie says fine. Then we see her on TV. And she’s endorsing Dunbar. Remy, who we’ve already seen struggle with Frank a few times, issues a warning. And then he leaves.

And Yates is with Claire, who is donating blood as part of campaign photo-ops. He asks why she works so hard for Frank, especially after being fired. Claire, for her part, still seems suspicious of Yates’s relationship with Frank. Claire, who is clearly about to pass out, makes a rather important revelation: every 7 years she reevaluates the relationship, like it’s an office—and it IS an office.


Episode 12

Frank and Claire have gotten the first chapter of Yates’s book. It’s not at all about what they thought it would be. The first chapter is all about Frank and Claire, about their relationship. Frank hates it, even if he finds himself agreeing with what’s on the page. Claire just doesn’t seem to know how she feels about it.

Naturally, Frank’s solution to the issue is to fire Yates and insist that he never publish the book. That’s more than ridiculous, and more than a little unenforceable, but Frank reminds Yates of what he knows—the first novel isn’t his.

On the campaign trail, it becomes clear that Frank and Claire are drifting further apart without Frank even being aware that it’s happening. But they’re in separate bedrooms. When Frank speaks warmly to Claire, she is cold.

Dunbar is ahead in the campaign, but only barely—and poll numbers are always expected to off by several points. Dunbar wants something that will guarantee her as the front-runner for the election. And that’s when she remembers the diary that Doug showed her earlier, the one that proves Claire lied about her abortion on TV.

Dunbar meets with Frank in the grubby little stairwell that served as a cigar room for Petrove and him. She tells him that she knows that Claire lied, that she has the journal that will prove it. Dunbar has impressed him—but Frank is a dangerous man to impress. On the way out, we get an aside that he’ll kill her if she harms Claire. We know he means it.

Jackie and Remy are now both officially free of Frank. They’re not free of one another, though, and we’re left wondering what this will mean for Remy, for Jackie, and for Jackie’s still-new family.

Kate and Yates are still sleeping together. He wants Kate to write a story about his book, about Frank’s attempt to suppress it, but Kate won’t. Conflict of interest and whatnot.

Claire, meanwhile, is going door-to-door in Iowa. In one of the most bizarre exchanges of the season, Claire meets a new mother whose politics do not align with Frank’s whose “Underwood 2016” signs in the yard are her husband’s. She goes into the woman’s house, and there’s dialogue about cheating, philandering, abuse—-all the things that Claire is dealing with, too, but without the means to escape that Claire has.

Not long after she leaves the woman’s house, Claire’s phone rings. It’s Frank, telling her that about the journal. He’s already working on a solution. But Claire’s hit a breaking point.

Meechum finds Doug, who has the diary with him. He rips out the page about the abortion and burns it. He wants to come back. But how can Frank trust him? He just burned up $2 million.


Episode 13

Oh, there’s Rachel. She’s in New Mexico, working at a bar and at a supermarket and living in a dormitory/halfway house. She’s “Lisa” now, and she’s just gotten the new paperwork to become, permanently “Cassie Logan.”

But Doug, who is back in the president’s good graces, is looking for Gavin. He finds him in Venezuela and beats Gavin until he reveals Rachel’s location. From there he heads to New Mexico, where he buys a beat up van and then goes to a hardware store and buys everything on a Murder Shopping List: shovel, bleach, duct tape.

In their hotel, Claire demands that Frank be rough with her, that they have sex. She also demands that he look at her. He can’t. He calls and has her a room of her own made up and suggests she go back to Washington.

She does, and then she refuses to join Frank when he calls and wants her to return to Iowa. She refuses to answer his calls. She meets with Yates.

In New Mexico, Doug snatches up Rachel. She pleads to be released, even after he ties her up and throws her in the back of his van. But Doug can’t fail Frank again. He drives the van to a secluded spot in the middle of the desert. It’s beautiful, and lonely. He starts to dig a grave. For a few moments, we think he’ll change his mind. He even does, briefly, as he lets her go. But he can’t do that. She has to die, and the last we see of them for the season is Rachel’s body being buried, Doug shoveling dirt over her face.

Frank beats Dunbar in the Iowa primary. Claire is still in the White House, refusing to come out, and he must give his victory speech alone. He does so at campaign headquarters, saying she isn’t feeling well, and things go relatively well.

But back at home, things go awfully. He throws a tantrum. He wrenches Claire’s face to the side as he articulates the words, slowly and menacingly, “without me you are nothing.”

And that’s it. Claire has had it.

She’s leaving.

And that, folks, is where they leave us.


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…


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.


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.


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


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.


Tune in tomorrow when I review episodes 4-6!