There are spoilers in this review. Duh.

I said from the beginning that this season was going to come down to the Underwoods unraveling as a team, and we could see it start early in the season. It’s broken even worse now. There are a lot of vivid moments in this episode. Most of it is spent in only two locations, meaning each of the major scenes were practically bottle episodes. Claire with Michael, the gay protestor who was arrested in Russia, and Frank with Russian leader Petrov. Petrov and Frank left things on a sour note the last time, but now it seems that he’s willing to negotiate. He’s offering a lot of what Frank wanted in the first place, with the understanding that they release Michael and he makes a statement. The statement would apologize and thank Petrov for letting him go, and Michael’s reaction is hell no. He’s not going to read a prepared statement saying what he doesn’t believe.¬†This was a political statement and move by him, he was well aware of what he was doing. The Underwoods have to fight this war on two fronts, but the one they expected to be hard is easy. Instead Claire has the real difficult argument.

Claire’s scenes with Michael are fantastic. It’s almost unnecessary to have the rest, although it does undercut how close they were to peace before this happened. Petrov even says in private that he doesn’t actually care about the law against homosexuality and doesn’t necessarily believe in it himself, but he owed it to the traditional Russians who wanted it. And that one man might not seem like much in a revolution, but considering Russia’s background with revolutions, it’s not that surprising how terrified he might be of one. When Claire realizes that Michael will not leave the cell, she says she won’t leave it until he comes with her. She also insists that they get the bug out of the cell, which unnerves the security there. It makes Petrov angry and paranoid, suspecting the Underwoods are pulling some scheme on him. It’s funny that this is one time when Frank legitimately is not trying to manipulate him. He’s glad that they can actually get work done without manipulation required. It’s karma, Frank. Enjoy that. Claire has an intense conversation with Michael and she tries to persuade him in multiple ways. With threats, with pleas, with logic, with anger. Each one he seems to stubbornly hold steady against.

houseofcards-32-03122015-970x545House of Cards is an interesting show in the way that motivations aren’t simple. Claire wants to do a good job in her role as an ambassador, and pulling this off would be a remarkable achievement. It would prove she was right for the job all along. But Claire has also been the one that questions their morality and choices the most. Sometimes she is hard and will not accept doubts from him, but other times she reflects on them. In this episode she says they’re murderers, and I wonder if this conversation made her think about what they’ve done to get where they are. What Michael was doing now in the name of something he believed in. Michael’s not a martyr though. He’s cold in a lot of ways, admitting he stayed with his husband more because of the message of marriage equality they represent instead of love. And considering he commits suicide using Claire’s scarf, when she is in the room, he’s cruel too. Maybe he did decide this was something worth dying for, a question he asked himself earlier, but while the First Lady is sleeping a few feet away? That’s harsh, man. I guess at that point he really didn’t care though. But Claire cares. Claire cares a lot. She agrees to go ahead with a statement at first, and she’s clearly shellshocked. But her icy exterior is so good it’s not entirely obvious if it’s real or not.

Instead on television she tells the truth about Michael and then says “shame on you” to Petrov. Oh boy. I really have no idea how I feel about this, because on one hand it’s like yeah that guy sucks, on the other this ruined all the peace plans the two nations had together. Her job was to bring peace. She’s meant to be professional, even under emotional duress, and they really thought Claire of all people could be trusted on that. I also believe that she emotionally was hit by what happened. There’s something going on with Claire. She wants to be emotionally connected to something, I think. She wanted the job to give herself more to do. She wanted to help with her non-profit so she felt like she was accomplishing something. And despite whatever iffiness I feel about Michael, he cared strongly about his stance. Passionately. I’m not sure Claire knows how to passionately support any stance. I’m not sure she knows passion anymore. Did she ever? She’s always so calm it’s hard to know, but Frank is certainly passionate, if that comes out arrogant and angry all the time. I always find Claire the most fascinating character on this show, so watching her unravel is curious. Any attempt she would make at explaining herself to Frank he shuts down, so we as an audience don’t get to hear it either. I’d like to hear it articulated. Then there’s the best back and forth ever:

Frank:I should have never made you ambassador.

Claire: I should have never made you President.

BOOM. Ha. Amazing. I do love these two so much, and I like them better as a team, but it’s obvious to see the reasons why they’re struggling so much now. What are they without the other? I think that’s a question that they’re going to start asking themselves, or that Claire is already asking. Is her whole identity wrapped up in Francis? Is this really what she wants? Is the presidency even what they ended up ¬†wanting in the end. I can’t wait to see the aftermath of this.



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