Correction: We all fall down, except Frank Underwood, who will be the only human keeping the cockroaches company after the apocalypse. And those cockroaches will quickly learn to do his bidding, or else.
Chapter 8 of House of Cards ends with Frank apparently foiled, while Chapter 9 pushes things even further when Frank’s nearest and dearest begin to rebel against him — though like a barbecue-loving cat, Rep. Underwood obviously ends up landing on his feet. We’ll see if he can keep that perch in season 1’s last three episodes, which may or may not feature the death of a major character.
The first of these two hours immediately brings back the forward momentum that was missing from Chapter 7 as Russo travels to Pennsylvania, where he’s campaigning and focusing heavily on the watershed bill that he and Claire have dreamed up. The bill will help to restore some of the jobs lost when the shipyard closed, but getting it passed will be an uphill battle — some congresspeople are worried about voting yes because evil natural gas conglomerate SanCorp will support their campaigns only if the bill dies, while the Democratic Party’s more liberal wing is worried it doesn’t do enough to help the environment.
But before Russo can worry about the bill’s passage, he has to deal with a more immediate problem: Vice President Matthews, a former PA governor who does more harm than good when he joins Peter’s bus tour. Matthews is sort of like Bill Clinton during his wife’s ’08 primary campaign — he steals focus, openly contradicts things that Russo says, gives speeches that go on way too long, and at one point blows the congressman off so that he can get a sandwich. A conversation with Frank, naturally, gets Russo back on the right course and gives him the balls to stand up to the Veep. That’s enough for Peter to win Matthews’s respect. Peter Russo’s problems are so easily solved! (Just kidding. Wait for Chapter 9.)
Back at the ranch — a.k.a. Capitol Hill — Frank is busily securing votes for the bill and punishing Zoe for daring to think she has the right to end their sexual relationship. As usual, things end up going his way. Underwood baldly threatens two liberal congressmen into voting “yea” before sending Claire in to ensure their cooperation, then takes great pleasure in screwing Zoe once she decides it’s better to be a whore with a great story than a journalist of integrity with nothing to write about. Frank also lets her know that the bill will pass by two votes. Victory is his…
…except it isn’t. Those two key votes actually prevent the bill from passing — and though Frank doesn’t know it yet, the fault lies solely with Claire. She’s angry at Frank because he’s prioritizing his own work over hers, and she’s also told lobbyist Remy that she’ll kill the watershed bill in exchange for SanCorp doing the CWI a favor. So she slyly tells the men Frank bullied that it won’t be the end of the world if the bill fails; subsequently, they vote “nay.”
Naturally, Frank is furious when he discovers his wife’s treachery — especially since Zoe’s the one who tells him what his wife did. Claire responds by up and leaving D.C., taking refuge in Photographer Adam’s enormous, gorgeous New York apartment, and dirty dancing with one of her lover’s hot female artist friends. Take that, Francis.
Adding insult to injury, Zoe is threatening to break the story of Claire killing the bill unless Frank can give her some better scoop. And as the cherry on top of Frank’s sh– sundae, Russo threatens to publicly admit how he helped Frank destroy that disgraced ex-Secretary of State candidate way back at the beginning of the series — unless Frank can figure out a way to bring more jobs to Pennsylvania. And that, my friends, is the straw that breaks the southern snake’s back.
Frank kills two birds with one stone by persuading Russo to attend a gala, where prostitute Rachel is waiting to tempt the barely reformed addict with booze and sex. Though he valiantly rebuffs her advances at first, Peter eventually gives in… despite me repeatedly yelling, “No! No!! RUSSO! STOP IT!” at my computer screen.
Watching this storyline play out is like seeing a train wreck happen in slow motion — especially when a still-drunk Russo wakes up the next morning and completely embarrasses himself during an important radio interview. Frank tips Zoe off about Russo’s disastrous appearance. Before long, the story’s everywhere — and Peter’s candidacy is effectively kaput. In the midst of all this, Frank also manages to do a major favor for presidential Chief of Staff Linda, which will probably be important during season 1’s home stretch.
There are just a few threads left dangling at the end of the episode. One, Frank doesn’t quite seem to know what to do about the Claire situation. And two, after realizing that he’s destroyed everything he’s been working towards for the past six months, Russo disappears. Why do I have a bad feeling that he’s going to turn up floating in a bathtub somewhere before the season ends?