By Jordan Katz
- Francis and Claire visit the Kremlin in one of the more fascinating episodes of show.
- The reason for the visit is two-fold: Francis and Petrov intend to negotiate on the Jordan Valley and make actual political progress, something that failed spectacularly when Petrov made his way to Oval Office. Additionally, the President and First Lady are there to free an American political prisoner, Michael Corrigan.
- The negotiations between Petrov and Francis are pleasantly successful and they appear to be making political strides in their relationship. It probably helps that Petrov in this episode doesn’t even once try to kiss Claire or attempt to hit on her.
- The real point of intrigue in this episode is Claire and Michael Corrigan. Corrigan is an American in Russian prison. He’s imprisoned for protesting Russia’s barbaric anti-gay laws. Corrigan has increasingly become a major story in America for the past few episodes, which would be expected of an American in a Russian prison for protesting a law virtually every American thinks is horribly unjust. As part of the deal to have Russia free Corrigan, he must read a statement. The statement includes him apologizing for breaking Russia’s laws and is entirely a political move. Corrigan isn’t expected to mean a word of it, he just has to say it as part of the politics involved. However, he absolutely refuses. Claire spends several hours trying to convince him to do so, but he simply will not budge. Corrigan is an activist who is firm in what he believes in and isn’t willing to compromise. He is both brave and too stubborn for his own good.
- Corrigan’s refusal to read his statement puts everything Francis and Petrov have achieved in the Kremlin on hold. Petrov is frustrated but reveals something very meaningful and something we can only hope is true of his real life counterpart. Petrov himself doesn’t support the anti-gay laws in his country. He finds them just as disgusting and barbaric as the rest of the western world. But people in his country do because of Russia’s religion and tradition. You suddenly find yourself sympathizing for the Russian president, knowing that the world of politics has put in a tough situation.
- Corrigan hangs himself. He decided that he would rather die than make it seem like he even came close to supporting Russia’s homophobia. Claire, Francis and Petrov are all stunned by this, knowing that the plan was to bring him back home to his husband and his home country. The three of them then have to do a press conference. Claire goes first and delivers some run of the mill political remarks. Claire then has a change of heart and decides to reveal the full truth of what happened. She reveals to everyone that Corrigan committed suicide because he didn’t want to be seen as supporting the homophobic laws. She then goes to insult the Russian government in their own building, ending her remarks with “Shame on you, Mr. President”. The move is courageous from Claire but simply not something a politician should do in that situation. Claire throws away political progress on behalf of just one man. On Air Force One afterwards, Claire and Francis argue about it and you just get the sense that this isn’t any argument. It could be the start of their marriage seriously falling apart. We’ll see.
- This episode is one that was focused as much on the character themselves as their actions.
- In the aftermath of Claire’s behavior in Russia, there’s clear frustration between herself and Francis. They get into a heated argument in the Oval Office, wondering how their marriage has become like everyone else’s. They are no longer a team according to Francis. However, the bickering and fighting seems to come to a happy ending, as they return to their hometown of Gaffney, SC to renew their marriage vows.
- For the past couple episodes, Francis had a book author follow him around so he can get a book written on America Works. The author is getting frustrated with Francis, as he feels that Francis is hardly being honest with him. Towards the end of the episode, Francis finally begins to be truly honest with the author. He reveals how he felt he didn’t really deserve Claire when they first got married. It’s nice to see Francis speak so humbly of himself and so endearingly of his wife.
- Francis visits the memorial of Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt. Francis plans to get rid of FDR’s 80-year-old Social Security program, so he figures he might as well show some respect to the man whose policies he disagreed with. It’s a nice and touching moment for Francis.
- The Orsay/Rachel/Stamper thing is still slowly but surely making progress towards. Orsay informs Stamper that Rachel is now in Santa Fe, but not anymore than that. It still feels like every time Orsay is on the screen it is taking away time from anything happening with the Underwoods, but they clearly wouldn’t put this much time into this storyline if it isn’t going to lead to a major development soon enough. Right now it’s just trudging through this, waiting for the exciting thing to happen.
- Outkast once said “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.” This probably applies to this episode.
- Francis using FEMA funds for America Works has so far been a good idea. It’s created jobs in Washington and has given the program positive PR. The FEMA funds haven’t really been needed to be spent on what FEMA normally spends it on: natural disasters. However, that’s about to change, as a hurricane looks like it’s about to hit the East Coast hard. This creates an issue for Francis, as the budget can’t support America Works and prevent a hurricane. Congress sees this as an opportunity to end America Works once and for all. They present a bill which will provide sufficient funding for FEMA, but only if Francis agrees to never again use FEMA funds for America Works. Francis gives it a lot of consideration, but ultimately sings the bill. It’s an incredibly tough decision for Francis. America Works was going to be his legacy and now it’s dead before it really had a chance to reach it’s full potential. Worst of all for Francis is that the hurricane never actually amounts to anything.
- The premature death of America Works gives Francis all the incentive he needs to decide that he will indeed by running in 2016. While he may have said earlier this season he wasn’t running, that was really just a political move more than anything else. Now that he has proven that America Works works, he feels confident in his chances to be successful in running. This timing also coincides with both Dunbar and Sharp announcing that they’ve suspended their campaigns.
- Freddy makes his second appearance this season in one of the show’s happier moments this season. He got a job as a dishwasher through America Works and Francis finds out and invites him to the White House. He offers him a job in the White House kitchen, but Freddy declines. Instead, he wants to a groundskeeper, which Francis happily obliges him in.
- It’s relatively minor now, but Senator Mendoza is no longer in Congress. He seemed like the clear cut favorite for the Republican nominee but he appears to have been forced to resign due to some shady financial business. Watch for that to become more notable as the show gets closer to the election.
- The situation in the Jordan Valley has reached it’s breaking point. Eight Russian soldiers are killed by a blast and Russia won’t let the UN investigate the area, which is comforting to exactly no one. Claire speaks with the Russian UN ambassador, who hints at the fact that Russia might’ve killed the soldiers themselves to cause chaos in the region. Based on this information, Francis sends Navy SEALS into the area. However one is shot and three others are severely injured and the mission is a failure. It’s Claire’s worst fears, as the peacekeeping plan in the Jordan Valley has been her main focus in her time at UN.
- It appears to the Orsay/Stamper/Rachel thing has reached it’s conclusion, and it’s not a very pleasant one: Rachel is dead. Stamper loved Rachel and he doesn’t hearing that she has died very well. He begins to drink even more than what he was already doing because the person he loved the most is now dead. Stamper meets with Francis and reveals everything that has happened to him recently. In a particularly poignant moment, Stamper puts his head on Francis’ knee.
- There’s also two incidents of particular intrigue with Remy. First, Remy is pulled over by a cop. When Remy doesn’t have his license and registration, Remy is forced to step out of the car. The cop and another officer then begin to get hostile and the situation escalates. Eventually the two cops’ superiors has to step in and apologize for what happens to Remy. For Remy it’s a reminder that even if he’s the President’s Chief of Staff, he’s not exempt from racism. Remy then goes to Jackie to talk about what happened to him. During their conversation, Remy and Jackie kiss, even though Jackie is married. They dated in season 2 and this moment showed that there are clearly still some feelings between the two. With Jackie trying to maintain her decoy campaign, she can hardly afford for it to end prematurely with something like an affair leaking.
- With basically all hell breaking loose in the Jordan Valley, Israel has decided to institute a no-fly zone. The USA doesn’t approval of the idea. Russia and Petrov simply don’t care and Petrov announces he will fly to Jordan Valley, daring Israel to shoot down the plane of the Russian president. It’s the kind of thing that seems right up Petrov’s alley. He’s incredibly confident and fears nothing.
- Francis is inspired by the idea and decides to do the same. He feels the best way to resolve to the conflict is talking to Petrov man-to-man, president-to-president. He wants the Russians to vacate the region and this is the best way to do it. Before he heads off to the Middle East, he has to tell Claire that all her work on the peacekeeping resolution is going to thrown away in order to reach an actual solution to the problem. Claire is understandably frustrated.
- Francis and Petrov meet face-to-face for the third time this episode and this one is in the least glamorous location, in the middle of the dessert in a military building. Francis agrees to everything agreed to at the Kremlin before Claire publically humiliated Petrov. However, Petrov brings up something new in the negotiations: Claire has to stop being UN Ambassador. Petrov points out that Francis can’t make clear judgements when the UN Ambassador is also the person he lies down in bed with. Petrov is completely right in making his point. Francis’ decisions are made more difficult because of who Claire is. It brings up an important conflict in many people’s lives: the conflict between your significant other and your job. Francis has let love affect his work and Petrov is the one who points it out. Claire wasn’t really qualified for the job and Francis went around the Senate to get her into office.
- Claire ultimately does resign. It is a huge sacrifice for Claire. She loses all of her work she put in with her time at UN and loses her job along with it. But she is willing to make that sacrifice because it is what must be done for Francis to be re-elected.