No rotten fruit-like watertower can spoil what Frank Underwood is really waiting to ripen: education reform. Now back in Washington, Underwood continues his push to be the man behind the successful bill by approaching Speaker of the House Bob Bircher (D). Like any good piece of legislation—there’s disagreement and push back. Underwood gets caught between Bircher and Vazquez. He asks Bircher to compromise and is denied. He asks Vazquez to compromise and is denied. All the running around makes it seem like education reform has a long journey ahead.
But this meeting circuit appears to come to an end when Underwood if faced with Vazquez and President Walker. Walker suggests compromising on a key point of disagreement: collective bargaining for teachers. But Underwood now changes his tune—compromise would make the Oval Office look weak, and that can’t happen on his watch. As we’ve come to expect, Underwood has a plan.
A little later on in the same day, Underwood approaches House Majority Leader David Rasmussen, (D). It feels a little like the Catherine Durant moment from episode one—Underwood has an offer to make about potential future positions. Does Rasmussen ever want to be Speaker? As Underwood sees it, this is a very attainable position—voting out Bircher is a simple matter of numbers. It will take all the Republicans and just thirteen Dems; they already have two right at their lunch table. But Rasmussen isn’t biting.
With or without Rasmussen’s help, Stamper and Underwood devise a plan to undermine Bircher (and his opposition to the education bill). With the Speaker vote, they’d need 11 more votes even with Rasmussen on board. And the quickest way to that? One man who can deliver 10: Terry Womack (D), leader of the black caucus. Underwood wants Womack’s support, and in exchange, he’ll offer a to help keep a base open within Womack’s district. The only issue? It’s too fishy for Underwood himself to publicly or on the record stomp for this. Instead he needs another base up for closure to simply fail to defend itself. Rural Pennsylvania may have just the situation, and it definitely houses the Congressman Underwood can convince to stand down. That takes one simple, sad home visit.
Underwood approaches Womack next. “It’s nice to see someone saddle up a gift horse.” Underwood offers keeping the base open and the opportunity to become the first black Majority Leader. And with the pieces in place, it’s time for Underwood to make his final moves for check mate. He approaches Bircher to tell him about Rasmussen’s scheme to take the Speaker-ship. But, of course, Underwood can help. He won’t participate in the voting scheme if Bircher will appoint Womack after forcing Rasmussen out (“A pretty good legacy, appointing the first black Majority Leader”) and… education. bill. softening. Rasmussen isn’t entirely blindsided when Underwood and Bircher explain how this will all go down—we get early scenes of black caucus members approaching him and quietly affirming their support for “his” Speaker campaign—but in no way did he expect Underwood to pull all the strings so smoothly and subtly. Rasmussen “resigns,” Womack will be in line for a promotion within the House and Underwood is on his way to education glory.
Formal business is done, but Underwood has one more meeting to attend to. A drunk Zoe Barnes calls after walking of the Washington Herald earlier in the day.
“Where are you headed?”
“Me too, are you headed to your home or mine?”
There will be no museums or building exteriors for this meeting, Underwood makes his first appearance in Barnes’ apartment. He quips about if her parents have seen the place, but things quickly get down to the business at hand.
“Do you have a man who cares for you? An older man?”
“But you’ve been with them before?”
“Then you know they hurt you, and after they hurt you, they discard you.”
You can’t hurt me.
“Take your heels off.”
Fades to black.
The first true cliff-hanger moment in the series thus far falls to a very familiar TV trope—will they or won’t they? From what we know of Frank Underwood, if he asks for those heels to be removed, he has a plan in place—albeit, maybe not with the best of intentions.
If not for that final scene (and the assumed fallout it may or may not cause), this hour is the first that could truly be about someone else. Consider:
Barnes has her 30-day no TV ban overruled directly by the Herald’s publisher. Not only is she no longer punished, but her editor gets the memo about Barnes’ rank in the organization. She gets offered the White House correspondent position, Jeanine will be “switched” (not demoted) to Midwest Bureau Chief. Barnes doesn’t shout for joy, however, and asks for one or two days to think it over. She tells Lucas she wants to turn it down, she tells her it’s a position people dream of. She tells Jeanine she doesn’t want it, and is told she’s even dumber than once thought. But when Barnes calls Underwood with the news, his preference is clear. He doesn’t need a White House correspondent, he needs someone who’s available for advice.
Barnes turns it down. Her editor responds, poorly. “You’re fucking unbelievable. I don’t think you appreciate anything. I think you’re a self-entitled little c—. You’re a cunt.” A bit of exposition (“Today, you don’t say things to a person, you say them to 1,000”) and an immediate tweet. She walks out jobless, but at least she’s clearly available for Underwood.
Russo finally seems to really move to the next level with Christina. He has to take the kids unexpectedly, but trusts her in their professional setting enough to allow Christina to takeover a meeting. Russo’s good with his kids even if he had to deal with a divorce at one point, Things are truly positive until Underwood comes knocking. Watching Russo sit through the commission meeting numbly is gut-wrenching (well done from Corey Stoll). That much guilt is enough to wreck what he’s been building. The next time we see Russo he shows up at his apartment—late, unannounced, drunk—after Christina had come by and graciously stayed with the kids while he was MIA. She puts it simply for him. They’re done—professionally, romantically.
The most secondary of the secondary involves Remy Denton showing up to talk partnership between San Corp and CWI with Claire. Remy offers a donation double what was previously on the table and CWI honestly needs it—Claire needs money to fund an upcoming Sudan project proposed by Jillian and the organization’s true showcase. Underwood gets wind of this and insists Claire turn Remy down so that no favors are owed by CWI or his office.
We see Claire is faithful to Underwood in more ways than one. She does turn down San Corp for now, working other channels for funding. She invites over a fellow D.C. power couple that Underwood grabbed extra inauguration tickets for: $. It’s not enough however, CWI will need to host a charity dinner (and Underwood will need to get his political buddies there). As a centerpiece for that event, Claire comes up with the idea to auction off water-related imagery from her famous photographer friend Ada. The two clearly have a past—Adam presses her for dinner, invites her to his hotel later and makes a pass. But Claire rejects his advance, apologies for mixing business with whatever they used to have. She ends the night at the Underwood kitchen window, sharing Frank’s cigarette.
“He’s good. We grabbed a late dinner… he’s staying at the Mandarin.”
“Here.” (Sadly, at this point there was no fade to black for Claire.)