Frank Underwood knows he’s in for a fight on the Watershed Bill. The vote is looming. He’s talking with influential Democrats in the office and people are visibly shaky, voicing plenty of concerns. But Frank’s skeptical so he asks the question… how many people have been approached by San Corp already?
[The. Entire. Room.]
Campaign re-election funds may be on the line, but Underwood reminds them Russo’s gubernatorial campaign in PA is too (and by proxy, a future Democratic White House). Russo is set to leave for the campaign road with Matthews in PA, but he’s available to stump in anyone’s district if they need vote support. Meeting adjourned.
Before leaving, Russo has a quick meeting with Underwood. Apparently Matthews hasn’t been studying the bill talking points, but Underwood insists it’ll be fine. “People just want to see him be folksy.” Russo’s kids spill Underwood’s coffee, prompting the realization they need to move or be late for school. Russo and Christina can’t take them forever (they’re already running late and can’t miss the first campaign event). Nancy has office work to do, Underwood hates kids… but Claire volunteers.
Meanwhile, a fake Fox News anchor sets up the stakes for the vote: “Peter Russo honestly have the gall to lecture us on the purity of our rivers when he’s been polluting himself for years?”
Underwood’s next meeting is an unsurprising one—Remy. He expresses what Frank already knows, San Corp is not happy about this. Underwood admits in a soliloquy that he can’t compete with San Corp’s financial fire power on this one, so he’ll need to resort to other means. And as far as taking on Remy head-on, now is not the time.
Underwood received a text from Zoe earlier in the day, but we see him playing video games next (FPS-titles are clearly his favorite destresser). He tells Claire he loves her and appears to just be in for the night. Looks like he’s been stood up in favor of Thai with Jeanine in-office.
Next day they finally meet up at a museum. Zoe tells Underwood about Jeanine’s report—the bill is for the campaign, to appease the PA workers—and asks for a report. It’s a quick, blunt meeting though. Zoe gets through business quickly then brings up last night. She doesn’t apologize for skipping out, rather suggests “I think we should end it… we have a really good working relationship, I don’t want to complicate that.” Underwood insists he doesn’t punish people for making adult decisions, but his tone is decidedly Underwood-ian. “We’ve served each others’ purpose. She wants to be adult? Let her see how she can fly once she leaves the nest…”
Underwood gets a call from Russo. Matthews doesn’t want to be a team player, he’s sabotaging the whole thing and Russo wants to ask him to leave. Not the best idea. Underwood suggests simply approaching him. “Be firm and stand tall to him, he’ll respect that at least.” There are bigger fish for Underwood to fry, Matthews catfighting with Russo will have to resolve itself.
For more side issues, Underwood goes home to destress but runs into another mess. Claire reveals her issue with the non-profit and Sudan, and Underwood mentions Catherine Durant—a route Claire already tried. She mentions Remy could potentially be of service and Underwood immediately says “no.” Claire helped Underwood with his issues… but clearly he believes this is not the same situation. “I don’t think you want to go hat in hand to someone who used to work for you…” and Underwood snaps. He screams at her about the situation, catches himself, calms down, and then asks her to talk with senators on the fence about the Watershed Bill! Claire begrudgingly agrees to it… Underwood’s next move is meeting with the two politicians and frightening them about what’s going to happen. The meeting is set for tomorrow—Abrams and Vanderberg with Claire.
Underwood’s next meeting is with Walker and Linda. He’s begging to get one statement from the Oval Office to scare up the last bit of support, but they can’t based on their current rocky relationship with oil and gas. Instead Walker offers him Linda (against her expressed desires) for the day to drum up direct support with various senators. We see Linda trying to rearrange the schedule—she was originally supposed to fly to Stanford to help convince the provost to get into Stanford after his initial rejection. Underwood immediately sees the opportunity. He sends Linda away, says it’s their little secret.
The Abrams-Vanderberg meeting goes as you’d expect post-Underwoods fight. Underwood himself is under the impression they’re definite yes votes, and tells Stamper as such when he arrives at the office to strategize a bit more. He gets a call from Zoe during the trip, but stonewalls her. Won’t give a firm vote count but merely insists “it’ll be close.”
Later that evening, she texts. He tells Claire he has to run out to whip one last voter. Immediately after Zoe and Underwood finish their “business,” it comes out: “What’s the vote count?” They go on to air everything out. She attacks him about being twice her age. “Why do you need this? You don’t seem to get any pleasure out of it, I certainly don’t.” She mentions she could be faking it the entire time. “A wiseman once said everything in life is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power.” Zoe insists she’s fine to play the whore, “now pay me.” Underwood tells her they expect to win by two votes. He’s fine with the now meaningless setup. “You don’t risk losing a working girl so you can cuddle after.”
Finally, it’s vote time. Everyone is here: Matthews, Linda, CWI, Russo, etc. Each is celebrating his or her small victories: the Matthews’ bump on the road, Linda’s success at Stanford. Fake C-SPAN is on. With thirty seconds left in the count, everyone is voting along party lines… until two Democrats vote against. Uh oh. “HR 4913 is defeated.”
“Such a shame, all of that hard work,” Claire quips. Underwood’s response?
“I want to know who lied.”
This episode really utilizes the bill as its main character, so we get Underwood’s pursuit of it as the primary view. However, there are a number of secondary acts being juggled, all with a significant level of importance:
Claire takes the Russo kids to school and has to hear their sad tales: bullying at the hands of other kids due to their father’s struggles, a desire that he would step away from politics all together. Hmmm..
Claire gets some bad news at the non-profit later in the day. Tons of equipment and supplies are tied up in the Sudan and the government has issued a ban on official relations with the company. Catherine Durant can’t do a damn thing despite owing them a favor. This leads to the screaming match at home… which leads to Claire visiting Remy behind her husband’s back. San Corp can help. Claire offers the use of her organization in their press materials as well as given San Corp an eco-friendly recognition, but that’s not enough for Remy. “Kill the Watershed Bill.” “But CWI supported it publicly.” “What you do publicly is your concern.”
Claire meets with Abrams and Vanderberg and confuses the hell out of them. “Aren’t you supporting the bill?” they ask. Claire tells them that Underwood would want them to vote with their conscience, before confirming with him that he can count on two yes votes.
Finally, Claire brings up the good news about CWI and Sudan to Jillian. Jillian will finally get to do the in-person, developing area work she desires… but she declines. It catches Claire off guard, but then Jillian admits it’s because she can’t travel for very long. She’s 12-weeks pregnant, with a man she met while doing Doctors Beyond Borders back in the day.
Russo offers NYT an exclusive interview over lunch in Allentown. “Your opponent has linked your inactivity to a fondness for single malts.” Fields it without an issue, ends the response with “…and I preferred vodka to scotch, get your facts straight.” Russo handles everything well in fact. Is this bill just a pass to go to governor’s school? Why has it taken Matthews so long to endorse you? “If I didn’t think you were such a liability to yourself, I might like you,” the reporter quips at the end. “If your circulation was as high as the WSJ, I might like you back.”
We get to see a Russo/Matthews press event early with Matthews hijacks the entire thing. It’s as if he’s running for Governor, out there trading quips about the local areas. Russo eventually gets the nerve to approach Matthews after talking to Underwood. The meeting goes surprisingly well—they air their grievances. Matthews feels under-appreciated by the entire party but also doesn’t believe in Russo at all, wonders why he wasn’t consulted. But Russo notes Matthews’ own slow political rise, the work he had to put in to earn the public’s trust—and he’s willing to do the same for Matthews’ approval. The next time they’re out on a tour stop, Matthews is out there telling stories of his past political struggles (including only winning on his third try for the office) and tying them in with Russo’s campaign. Russo takes the stage and looks like a legitimate contender for once, finally matching the man behind the scenes.
Zoe is listening to Jeanine pitch her story on Russo’s bill—this is the first bill he’s sponsored in six years, if it fails his campaign goes down—but she feigns interest, pretends not to be sold. She texts Underwood immediately to say she’s got info about a story being written and wonders if there’s a vote count to share. But, as noted above, she ultimately sticks it out for Thai with Jeanine in office. Why? Because Jeanine revealed her own past of sleeping around for sources—White House pages, congressman, etc. Ultimately though, it got her stonewalled. She needed to stop or risk becoming known only as a quick fix.
Stamper gets a note from Nancy about the Rachel (the one-time Russo whore) losing her job, she’s beat up about it. Stamper takes a quick meal with her to hear the story… and it’s bad. She was working at a restaurant where she refused to be sexually harassed by her boss, resulting in her getting let go. Naturally, Stamper doesn’t take this lying down. He heads to the restaurant, gets the manager out by claiming fly on his steak and then subtly unleashes on him. He threatens to report illegal workers, illegally in the country family members. The manager all of a sudden is perfectly willing to discuss Rachel’s employment status. We see her waiting tables later on in the episode.