Frank Underwood is in his element—schmoozing and charming a crowd at what appears to be some party. This could easily be what Claire dreamed of in episode five, some lavish DC fundraiser. But details quickly reveal themselves, people in uniform, a picture of young Frank, talk of “my name being on something…”
A soliloquy paints the full picture: Underwood is back at the Citadel, his alma mater, after they came knocking for a donation. We have a weekend to celebrate the dedication of the Francis J. Underwood Library.
Sure, there’s business to be reminded of. Remy is in attendance (SanCorp has money here too, donating to the Underwood library) and he stops Underwood briefly to ask about Claire turning down the company’s money or Russo (and his watershed bill) gaining steam in Pennsylvania. Underwood reminds him this is a weekend to leave that behind. After all, he should enjoy himself—it’s Remy’s first trip to the capital not as an Underwood aide.
Underwood seems genuinely happy to be back on campus and take part in this ceremony. But when the university planner approaches him he does have once concern. Underwood asks if his guest list was received, the planner confirms and just shrugs if someone is missing. Underwood appears a bit disappointing but he can’t stay down for long, he’s got a speech to give at this opening cocktail party.
“I left this campus with fond memories…”
All of sudden, a quartet—well, a trio—is walking towards the stage singing “Dixie.” “I got your damn e-mail,” the planner notes, and Underwood walks toward to embrace the group and take his rightful harmony part. They embrace, shift gears into the “Marine’s Hymn” and this weekend is officially underway.
We see Underwood and his group closing down the place, reminiscing over old inside jokes (“WHO WANTS STEAK FOR DINNER?” Umm..). Claire comes to say good night and ask they all take care of Frank. “They’ll have grounds for impeachment when we get done with him”—a college hyjinx episode looms.
The tenor sits behind with Frank catching up as the other two quartet members (bass and baritone I assume, Underwood seems like the Tenor 2) go off to fetch some booze. “You really didn’t think we were coming?” he asks Underwood. “We wouldn’t miss it for the world.” They note Francis will be better for the library, Frank is more for bumper stickers—even though Claire is the only one who ever calls him that.
With the old library set to get demolished, the first great idea from the Citadel’s barbershop boys is to sneak into it after hours. Apparently, they’ve done this before and it’s a pretty quick entry process. The next time we cut back to the boys, they’re sneaking around in some deep catacombs of the place. There’s a reason however—the group finally finds an etching they made on the wall from way back in the day. “Riflemen: Phil Langdon, Frank Underwood, Tim Corbett, Ken Caswell.” An oddly emotional moment amid their boozy chaos, and Underwood wordlessly prompts them into a rendition of “Shenandoah” complete with the chilling, echo-y acoustics.
The ol’ boys weekend continues in the main portion of the library next. They are races using the book carts, and giant ceiling candle fixtures are waiting to be pushed around. With the amount of booze in their systems, and everyone’s college metabolism far behind, the group does eventually tucker out. We see Frank and Phil (tenor), doing push-ups to end the night before falling flat to their backs. (He’s a rafting company owner so Phil clearly wins here.)
What happens next may very well be the most surprising scene in the entirety of House of Cards. Underwood mentions his heart is beating like crazy, Phil puts his hand over it to get a sense, then comments about his own adrenaline. They start reminiscing. “Do you think this place made us?” Underwood asks. “I don’t know, but I do know I always thought you’d be the guy with your name on something.” Underwood says the library is a sham, a simple money grab by multiple parties. He elaborates.
“This library doesn’t matter, but I want to think this place did.”
“I think it meant a lot to us then.”
“…and what about us?”
“Honestly, I haven’t even thought about that much, it was a long time ago.”
“We were so close.”
“More than brothers.”
“C’mon we were kids Frank, we messed around a couple times.”
“I was so drawn to you”
“I could always make you laugh.”
“How did we lose touch?”
“You went to law school, I joined the army. You ran for congress, I went to Colorado. Thirty year go by, I have children who were older than were back then. Do you have anyone Frank?”
“I have Claire.”
“I have from time to time. If I want someone, I want them. It’s attraction.”
“Made me happy to make you happy, Frank. Didn’t see any harm in it.”
“You know why I love rafting? When you’re on the water, it’s all your thinking about. Everything is in the moment, I don’t really have time to think about the past.”
“You meant something to me, I believe that.”
And with that, Underwood stands up, finishes the bottle and throws it. He’s going to be ill, and Phil recommends sitting down again. The two of them fall asleep on, leaning on each other against a library fixture.
The next morning they say nothing really. Underwood wakes up to the sound of cadets marching, notes it’s almost 7 and they need to get moving. The group hits the mess hall, Underwood takes a coffee to his room in order to sleep before his speech that afternoon. The ceremony goes well—the Rifleman are in attendance, Claire joins Underwood on stage, etc. But Underwood abandons his initial draft of a speech at the last minute. We know how improvising went for him last time, but today won’t end up on YouTube.
“Most of you young cadets probably don’t know who I am… but I don’t blame you. When I was your age, I didn’t care much for what men in gray hair did or what they had to say. I wish… I could describe…
Harmony. That’s the word that’s stuck in my mind. Harmony. It’s not about what’s lasting or permanent, it’s about individual voices coming together, for a moment. That moment lasts… the length of a breath. That’s what I think about my time here.”
The ceremony ends and everyone prepares to go there separate ways. The rifleman say a goodbye, Phil offers to have Underwood out for rafting sometime. But at the end he takes one last look at this library and prepares to head back to his car, asking Stamper the status of Russo’s campaign on his way there. The Citadel is but a moment on the path of Frank Underwood. Phil is, and was on this trip, but another moment. It’s not permanent, but clearly these things mean something to Frank Underwood. What it is however, he may never open enough for others to find out. He’s too busy in the meantime.
This is largely an episode about homecomings. Underwood goes to South Carolina while Peter Russo heads back to PA. He wants to reconnect with his mom and hometown buddy Paul before this governor thing, theoretically to have them on his side for emotional and professional reasons.
Russo’s house finally shows us the grass roots guy the DNC poses him as—it’s modest, abandoned (his mother is in a nursing facility). He gets a surprise visit from Christina during the trip to boost his spirits and reinvigorate his feelings on pushing through with all this. She gets to meet Mom, who seems to care much more about that (she cracks the great “So, you’re fucking my son?” joke) than she does Russo’s politics or her own situation (light is out in her room, air conditioner won’t turn down, etc.).
Russo heads to talk to his constituents at a high school gym press conference, and it’s kind of a brutal. “When we voted for you, we didn’t think it was a vote for nails in our coffin,” as one woman put it. The whole place ends up walking out on him, frustrated that the number of jobs he’s promising to even begin to match the ones lost from the shipyard closing.
But Russo is starting to believe in himself with the governor thing (Christina’s re-emergence certainly helps). He goes to Paul’s home to appeal to him personally. They scuffle on the living room floor and bicker at each other, but in the end Russo makes the truest plea: he’s the only chance they got. We see Paul help Russo organize another speech but in a much less crowded, more fitting bar where Russo paints them the reality. No one in Washington cares about this area except him—so he’s the only shot. It’ll take time, but it won’t even get started without their support.
Claire is the only other one with any action in this episode. Remy makes what appears to be a pass at her after the Citadel ceremony, offering her a drink in his room. But she politely declines and finishes the night alone while Frank is off with his buddies. She does however, find time for a bubble bath and a long phone call with her photographer pal Adam…