House of Cards Series 3 Review: Chapter 36

Series 3 Episode 10 – Frank makes a choice, Claire doesn't

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“Sometimes I think the presidency is the illusion of choice.”

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It’s a running theme this series. The gay rights activist Michael Corrigan committed suicide because he was “left no other choice”. Earlier Frank was spotted playing The Stanley Parable –a superb meta-video game all about free-will and predestination that you should play right now. But does it ring true?

After last episode’s Jordan Valley disaster and an Israeli invasion, Frank feels he has no choice but to go and meet Petrov on the ground, even though it’s a borderline insane action to take. It’s the equivalent of Ronald Reagan standing on top of the Berlin Wall and singing The Russians Love Their Children Too.

Petrov takes every opportunity to humiliate the President. In his flak jacket and helmet, Frank looks like a child in swimming armbands next to the lanky ex-KGB man, and you half expect negotiations to end in an armwrestle. Or a kiss.

As a final insult, Petrov demands that Claire lose her job as ambassador, purely to twist the knife in Frank’s side. Frank feels he has no option –other than walking away– and Claire has no real say in the matter.

Later, Underwood has a tender moment with Tom. The biographer describes how the men he slept with –the men who paid to sleep with him– used to tell him their life stories. The discussion is only marginally more erotically charged than the Jordan Valley meeting, but Frank chooses not to take it any further.

Even Doug chooses to change his life, getting sober, abandoning his neat freak ways and asking his brother’s family to come stay. Rather than take orders from Francis (known as Frank) he’s jumped on by his niece Francesca (known as Frankie). Oh well, it’s an improvement.

Ultimately it’s Claire who is the most railroaded by proceedings. She starts off as an ambassador to the UN, and ends picking her own hairstyle from a catalogue. (10 points if you can spot the Hilary Clinton-esque hairstyle on the table.)

She likes it dark, but a bunch of strangers in Iowa prefer it blonde, so blonde it is. These things must be done for the good of her husband’s campaign. There’s no other option, not really, anyway.

Of course she will stick by her husband. What choice does she have?


The Quotable Underwood

Frank: “This is diplomacy. Sometimes it comes down to two men in a room.”

Petrov: “Sometimes we must be ruthless with those we hate. And sometimes we must be ruthless with those we love.”

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Tom: “You go from turning tricks to being on the bestseller list before you can legally drink, it messes with your head.”