House of Cards Season 3, Chapter 32 Summary – The Russian Debacle
This episode opens with Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), discussing his life with Thomas Yates (Paul Sparks). Thomas has been tasked with writing the President’s American Works autobiography. When Thomas pries into President Underwood’s job at the Sentinel, Frank defers to to Thomas’ previous controversial book, Scorpio. “The book is not about me,” states Thomas. Frank continues to dig asking if the book was truly about his friend. Thomas reveals Scorpio was based on his friend but changed the main character’s demise to AIDS, because “suicide is too selfish.”
The scene changes to Gavin Orsay (Jimmi Simpson), who under the pseudonym Max, has purposely befriended Lisa Williams (Kate Lyn Sheil). While doing charity work together, he pretends to have AIDS in hopes of gathering information for Doug Stamper on Rachel Posner’s whereabouts. Lisa should know, as she was the former love of Rachel before Rachel went into hiding. The recognizance works, as Lisa reveals that Rachel might be in New Mexico. This is just enough intelligence for Gavin to hack into the FBI’s database of cameras and find Rachel.
Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel) talks with Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) about her future cabinet commitments on her Presidential campaign. His advice continues to pay off. Doug continues his physical therapy and shows a slight interest into his female coach.
The Underwoods pose for picture with Russian President, Viktor Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen), as he agrees to releasing Michael Corrigan. Through negotiations, the presidents have drafted a statement they want Michael to read as part of the terms of his prison release. Claire goes personally to Michael’s cell to reveal the good news. However, Michael won’t make such a statement in defense of gay rights. In a bold attempt to help Michael reconsider, Claire asks for a private moment with Michael in his jail cell. She goes further asking the Russian guard to remove the jail’s bugging device. The guard unhappily honors her request.
Despite cohesion, Michael does not back down. Claire joins his protest and also refuses to leave his cell. She learns about Michael’s history on becoming a gay rights activist. Claire further learns that despite his efforts on gay marriage, his own marriage is shallow comparing it to Mrs. Underwood’s.
It just seems wrong, to fight this hard for marriage equality and then get divorced. It’s bad for business.
Viktor is furious that Michael won’t agree to the statement and that Claire is not persuading him. He puts all the progress and agreements on the line for President Underwood. Working tirelessly through the entire night, Frank gets Viktor to agree to a statement he will make, without a public statement from Michael.
Unfortunately, Michael hangs himself with Claire’s scarf when she finally falls asleep. Even with this development, the agreement between Viktor and Frank holds. They will make a mutual public press conference to announce an agreement and give public condolences. At the press conference, Claire torpedoes during her remarks and reveals that Michael’s death is a really about changing the gay laws in Russia.
Back on Air Force One, we learn that the Russian negotiations have completely failed. The episode closes with Frank and Claire having a serious argument on the plane about courage. Frank shouts…
Fred Campos’ Thoughts on the Episode
This episode has a theme that is expressed in every segment. Are marriage gay rights worth dying for? With Thomas’ comment on his Scorpio book, to Gavin’s pretending to have AIDS, the show circles the theme from many angles. Are marriage rights all they are cracked up to be? Probably not, as Michael reveals to Claire in their private moments about divorce.
But causes are bigger than individuals and require huge sacrifices to get heard. This show constantly addresses, what small hills are courageous, and what bigger mountains are worth dying for. The balance is never clear. Sometimes you fight. Sometimes you compromise. The decision to do either is difficult at best.
I don’t clearly understand Gavin’s extreme measures to find information for Doug. Is it worth it just for a cleared passport? He is clearly very good at manipulating social circles and people. A quality I have not found among the “super hackers” I know. I am also not clear on Doug’s loyalty. Is he going to faithfully work for Heather Dunbar or a secret agent for the President? Will the Underwoods hold it together? Will Frank dig out, as the house of cards falls?
These questions keep me watching more. Is this what the Underwoods expect? Frank ends with, “I should not have made you Ambassador.” To which Claire retorts, “I shouldn’t have made you President.” Ouch!
Like life, it never quite like you expect, but rather only what you fight for.
Four Stars for Chapter 32.
Images from Netflix.com House of Cards.