So after last episode’s big throw down between Frank and Claire, you probably expected to see a ton more arguing as fallout right? Not so. We start “Chapter 33” with a flash forward of the Underwoods renewing their marriage vows and Claire with… brown hair?! Not gonna lie, I was already spoiled for this, but I wasn’t prepared. The rest of the episode jumps back and forth between timelines, of what happened just after the Underwoods returned from Russia, and what happened after the vow renewal. Claire’s hair color is how we keep track of the timelines, so that’s how I’m going to organize this recap.
Claire is being praised in the media for taking a stand against Petrov (though Claire is quick to point out that there are a lot of others who are unhappy with her as well.) She assures Frank that she will get the peacekeeping resolution passed in the U.N. Later they take a photograph together so they can have a presidential painting done, but the tension between them is very obvious — Claire even flinches back from Frank when he touches her shoulder.
With Claire continuing to distance herself from Frank, he and Tom hang out one night drinking and playing The Stanley Parable. Frank opens up about his marriage issues. Those issues begin to bleed into their work, as a cabinet meeting about what to do about the Jordan Valley turns into Frank and Claire fighting.
“You remember what you said to me on the plane? You should have never made me President. You think you made me.”
“No I don’t. I think we’re a team, actually.”
“Well we’re not a team at the moment.”
Gavin comes to Doug with some real information this time: Rachel was in Santa Fe around three weeks ago. She could still be there, but Gavin advises against doing anything that could spook her. Doug still wants an exact location before getting the lock on Gavin’s passport removed. In the meantime, Doug continues working with Heather Dunbar, and goes to his cute physical therapist’s going away party where they have sex before she leaves for Seattle.
Frank has a press conference highlighting the success of “America Works” in D.C. and his intentions of ending Social Security to help fund “AmWorks” around the nation. Frank goes to Roosevelt’s memorial to honor the man’s legacy, and while there notices that Eleanor and Franklin were buried alone with a wall to separate them. Claire, meanwhile, watches the Tibetan monks in the White House making a beautiful sand mandala. They come to the same conclusions: they’re better when they’re together.
Kate Baldwin and Tom Yates are being friendly, which gives me hope for a Zoe/Janine/Lucas-esque partnership of writers taking the Underwoods down, one scathing book and/or article at a time. After the vow renewal, Claire heads back home as Frank shows Tom around Gaffney. John, Michael’s husband, is shown having a friendly relationship with Claire as he sends her flowers to congratulate her on her renewals, and Claire has a lot of interview requests about Michael and is set to be a keynote speaker at one of GLAAD’s ceremonies.
When the two timelines finally converge, we’re treated to Frank’s reaction to Claire’s newly dyed hair. Scenes from Frank and Claire’s vow renewals are cut with scenes of the sand mandala being dismantled by the monks.
The jump back to Frank and Tom discussing the book reveals that Tom didn’t write his first book, the one he’s most praised for, by himself; one of his friends wrote the first half before he committed suicide. The friend asked Tom to destroy it before he died, but Tom finished it instead and published it under his own name. Tom divulging this to Frank seems to convince him to tell the truth about his marriage with Claire.
“I’ve always, from day one, been ashamed she said yes when I asked her to marry me. I didn’t think I deserved her. I can tell you this though, there would have been no White House without Claire. I was half the man before I met her.”
With Frank’s approval (and doesn’t it always come to that, Claire having to get everything she wants approved by her husband first) Claire Gets Shit Done by forcing Israel to back her peacekeeping resolution. She goes home to find a framed picture of the sand mandala, along with a note saying “Nothing is forever, except us.” She goes to sleep with Frank in his bedroom for the first time in ages.
I think I’ve been spoiled with the action of the last two episodes; this one seemed draggingly slow to me. I appreciated the close-up on Frank and Claire’s marriage — especially since I don’t believe for a second that their renewed vows and rejuvenated relationship is going to last and am treating this like the calm before the storm — but all the introspection was kind of boring.