Education bill drama still weighs heavy on the hill. Even with Blythe’s far left self gone, there are compromises to be made. Marty Spinella, teacher union head, is sitting down in Frank Underwood’s quarters to help bring everything together. But while that debate rages on, Stammer pulls Underwood out to watch a local news report:
“I’ve been saying for years we should tear it down. It’s vulgar, it’s embarrassing to the county. But time and time again Frank Underwood has fought to keep it standing. If it wasn’t for him, the Peachoid would’ve been replaced ages ago. And Jessica Masters would still be alive. The congressman needs to answer for this tragedy.”
A 17-year-old girl ran off the road while texting her boyfriend at night back in Underwood’s hometown of Gaffney, SC. The text: “Doesn’t the Peachoid look like a giant c-word” The local County Administrator Oren has already touched based with the family, ready to run the Underwood smear campaign by taking the family into suing Gaffney (with a messy, public legal battle if it went according to his plan).
“I just hate this small ball crap.”
Underwood begrudgingly leaves the educators and politicians behind and heads south (with new bodyguard Meechum) on the damage mission. It looks bad at first— he tries to work with Oren initially but there’s no love lost. Oren turns down political help—he’s lost to Underwood at some point in Underwood’s 11 terms, but doesn’t want his support for an upcoming race in the fourth— and reminds Underwood about their well-known opposite stances on the water town. (Naturally, the peach farmers wanted it up so Underwood gladly earned their support.)
His next move is to city hall, talking with the Mayor and a few city council members. They’re split on whether or not to let the Masters issue go to court on principle (she was, after all, illegally texting). But as soon as he’s off the education conference line, Underwood can’t let that happen:
“We’ve been dealing with this for a week Frank?”
“So where’s your solution?”
Underwood has a plan almost instantaneously—the city can raise $150,000 for a potential settlement and they’ll also sponsor anti-texting and driving billboards to go up ASAP near the Peachoid. Maybe if it wasn’t lit up at night it’d be less of a distraction… and the city would save almost enough cash on electricity to send a kid to college. That’s enough to get the ball rolling, and Underwood and the mayor look up something about county roads and power lines in the meantime.
The first time Underwood actually encounters the Masters family is at a public vigil sponsored by the neighborhood church. Mrs. Masters mourns, but appreciates the sentiment of her congressman showing up. Mr. Masters isn’t as cordial (Oren has clearly worked with the duo already and, sure enough, he’s nearby to advise ignoring Underwood). Not as easy sailing as he might’ve hoped, but Underwood is never without a plan. He pulls the reverend a side and asks for a favor the morning’s service.
The life of a politician knows odd hours however. Before then, he heads back to his SC home and continues the education conference call. Well, “continues” is a loose term. Those guys are still at odds, but Underwood puts the call on mute to say goodnight to Claire (and learn the origins of his tulips). Even after they hang up his attention isn’t on work, he’s flirtatiously texting Zoe Barnes. Well, it seems innocent enough at first—but Barnes is clearly talented at playing this game. She quickly escalates a “what’s next?” conversation into:
What’s more pressing than me?
You haven’t seen me start.
I can’t imagine.
I bet you can.
I bet you HAVE.
Watch STARTING POINT tomorrow, I’ll blow you a kiss.
(Which, she does.)
Underwood’s deal with reverend gets him a little time at the altar, and he demonstrates the oratory skills that clearly helped him rise in Washington. He frames an old-school passionate sermon around the idea of hate, going so far as to yell “I hate you, god” in front of a South Carolina congregation. He’s able to connect to the parishioners by making them equals, saying they’ve all done this before when feeling soul crushing loss, and two among them are feeling that today. The cherry on top is sharing the death of his own father at the young age of 43, though it’s less tragic that it’s played up to be. “Maybe it’s best he died so young, he was just taking up space—but that doesn’t make for a very powerful eulogy does it?”
It’s simply a matter of time at this point. The Masters come over for lunch, discussions get heated at times—Underwood literally pushes this to the point of asking Mr. Masters, “Do you want me to resign?”—but their convo ends talking about a Furman scholarship in their daughter’s honor.
Damage control done in its most artistic and efficient way. But there’s one last bit of business to take care while at home—kick some dirt on Oren. Along with the mayor, Underwood rolls up to his property and kindly reminds him road guardrails are under county supervision. The car crashed, she wore her seatbelt, but… if there were guardrails the car doesn’t flip three times. “The county administrator didn’t build those guardrails and now she’s dead.” To add salt to the wound, power lines the mayor usually blocks because they fall on Oren’s property… well, this year they can go up if he claims “Eminent Domain.” Oren is speechless, but Underwood doesn’t really want to bury him, merely flex. He says he’ll support Oren in the fourth, keep the fifth, then they can put the Peachoid behind him and call it a day.
Barnes gets trashed by her editor for her growing public persona. It’s a response to her TV appearance where she’s pressed on how the Herald is adapting to the Internet age. She gets scolded like a child, told she’s “no Judy Miller” then given a 30-day TV ban… wish she then asks Underwood about breaking for Dateline.
Claire Underwood recruits a water non-profit hero named Jillian to her organization. Jillian is skeptical at first—she’s been wined and dined before. We discover Sergey and Larry wanted to add her to the Google team but she felt like a trophy for them to brag about to the media. Claire is unphased, she follows up by visiting Jillian at home and telling her she doesn’t want to hire Jillian but rather enable her to achieve. She tops it off by correctly guessing Jillian lacks health insurance and pays for a doctor visit to take care of a cold.
Claire also gets her second weird karmic interaction in as many episodes. While running around D.C., she continues her path through a cemetery—only to have an elderly woman stop her mid stride, yelling she’s disrespectful. Claire later reroute accordingly, but we find her in the cemetery later this episode on a walk. She spots two younger kids making out among the tombstones, but Claire simply smiles and moves along.
Russo seems to have things going well with Christina despite his MIA act in the Berkshires. At dinner, she reveals that she wants to work somewhere else to further legitimize their relationship. She’s offered a Deputy LD position in the speaker’s office and is leaning toward taking it. Russo is supportive at the dinner. But we get them together at his apartment later, and Russo surprises himself by flushing his last bit of cocaine from his toiletries bag down the drain—for her. Before they could to be he has to be honest: he doesn’t want Christina to leave.