In most senses, this was a breather chapter. We take a step back from the plot developments of the last couple of episodes and instead, the primary plot concerning Frank and his master plan hibernates for a bit while we instead get small little peaks of who Francis Underwood was before he became Frank. There are a couple of minor plot developments, which could plausibly spiral out of control into major plot developments but for now everything is going according to plan. Given the relative stasis on the plot front, I’ll be using this time to take a look at what this episode tells us about the character of Frank Underwood while in the Russo part of the plot, we’ll look at how far our little Petey has come from his days slugging it out on the streets of the City of Brotherly Love.
The few plot developments we do get come to us via Remy Dalton, who we haven’t seen since Claire turned down his offer of $1.5million, and Peter Russo who is back in Philadelphia to regain the support he threw away by closing the shipyards and other military facilities. The plot development with Remy is fairly minor – Sancorp, which seems to have its hands in everyone’s pockets, is unhappy with Russo and his platform but Frank dismisses the matter for the moment. Still, Remy and Frank have had some tension between them before but they have yet to openly clash and duke it out. I believe Remy was also there for Claire, to see if she could be turned if it should come to a fight between Remy and Frank though her refusal of his offer previously and in this episode seems to indicate that for now, at least, she’s quite happy being on Frank’s side. Peter Russo is acting more and more like a Governor, but it seems that to win the respect of Philadelphia, you have to stop the DC act and remind them of who you really are. Russo didn’t have much lucky when he organized a more formal DC style seminar with them but get them in a bar and show them that you’re not this far-removed politicians with lofty ambitions and suddenly, unbelievable as it may seem, they would forgive the way you fucked them over in the past.
The topic of greatest interest to me though is Frank. So far, the version of Frank that we’ve seen has been relentlessly focus, determined to make his mark on the institution he’s devoted his life to and while we see the odd moments of affection between him and Claire, it feels like we haven’t seen the kind of genuine warmth that Frank displays to his old high school buddies. It’s possible that I’m just misreading it right now but there’s this carefreeness to Frank’s behaviour in the overwhelming majority of this episode that just really sells it. The revelation that Frank isn’t totally straight oddly enough doesn’t surprise me – I don’t know if we’ve been told this before, or if it’s been insinuated but the fact that he was drawn to his friend seemed to fit right into what we know of his character. You will note though that he speaks much more fondly of his friend than we’ve ever heard him talk about Claire. It was touching but combined with the way that Adam was prodding at the Underwood’s childlessness and the way Remy was insinuating that Claire might not be as averse to spending a night with him as one might think, I think this new little titbit answers a fair number of questions.
Claire must have known if not at the time of their marriage then at least in the many years since and the fact that she hasn’t gotten a divorce indicates that there’s something holding this marriage (or is the term alliance, that I’ve used before, more accurate?) together. Does she really love him as much as she says? Well, the incident with the cancer-stricken bodyguard Steve last episode indicates, that her reasons for loving Frank are just the practised answers she gives people when they ask. I believe that the answer is much more obvious; she is attracted to power and in Frank she sees a man who is capable of moving mountains out of his way. Think about it – from the rural nothingness of Gaffney to the Sentinel to Harvard Law to the United States Congress, that’s quite a resume right there, all the more impressive for its humble beginnings. Yet, after all that warmth and affection and reminiscing, Frank is able to just flip a switch and within seconds it’s back to work and business as usual. Normally, I would think it was all an act, a ruse to lead people into believing that he is a man who’s loyal to his roots (when in fact, he heaps a fair bit of disdain on his alma mater) and is just keeping up appearances. His final glance at his old school was filled with nostalgia and there was no obligation on his part to waste away a night getting wasted for either of those purposes – there is some real love for the Sentinel in Frank’s frozen heart but at the end of the day, business is business and while Francis Underwood can have such whimsical moments of nostalgia, the Congressman Frank Underwood has no time to spare on such things.