We’ve been hearing a bit about the arrival of Russian President Viktor Petrov for two episodes now. The plot hasn’t specifically focused on him, but his presence has been lingering in the background. Apparently, America is working on a plan to bring peace to the Middle East that would see some sort of troop presence in the Jordan Valley. Such a proposal relies on the cooperation of Russia; hence the summit that dominates the entire third episode of the season.
Like “Chapter 28,” which largely focused on how the Underwoods were working to get some of their political influence back after a couple of flubs, so too does “Chapter 29” benefit from a narrative focus. By largely confining the episode to the summit and its political and emotional implications, the episode gives us a lot to latch on to. Every now and then, House of Cards dives too far into the backroom dealings of Washington, unnecessarily complicating a story that’s mostly about two people and their desire for power.
The third episode of the season avoids such pitfalls. It gives us time to understand Petrov, and once we realize how sadistic he can be, we’re once again forced to empathize with the Underwoods–like I said in the previous episode’s recap, that’s no small feat.
Petrov arrives at the White House to much fanfare, but most of that is overshadowed by the protests for gay rights outside the gates. The brief shot of the protesters is a nice touch because, for the first time this season, it lets us outside of the White House and gives us the perspective of the citizens. It also serves as a jumping off point for the tension, courtesy of summit guests Pussy Riot, which will inspire Frank to stand up to Petrov in the episode’s closing moments.
For now though, Frank is set on wining and dining with his guest, hopefully winning him over and gaining his support for the proposed peace plan. Any hope that Frank has is stifled quickly by Petrov though. As soon as he exits his car and shakes Underwood’s hand, he lets him know that there’s no way he’ll agree to put such a plan in place.
In a series of talks throughout the episode, Petrov reveals that he wants more than peace in the Middle East. In fact, peace in the Middle East doesn’t do anything for Russia. Thus, he needs more in return from Frank, including a serious reduction in troops in certain locations beneficial to Russia. Frank knows he can’t do such a thing, but he’s eager to please Petrov, especially as Frank’s still trying to make his mark on the leadership of the Democratic party.
Before we’re deep into the summit though, we learn that Claire is now the Ambassador to the United Nations; the recess vote Frank agreed to in the previous episode proved successful. It’s a bit strange that the series just jumps ahead and puts Claire in the position, especially considering so much of the previous episode was focused on Claire campaigning for the spot, only to be denied in the Senate vote. The tension that permeated the previous episode, accentuated by Claire’s ambition and the multiple roadblocks in her way, never really gets a solid payoff. She’s just suddenly in the position.
The same jarring effect is present in Gavin’s story line. The hacker is now working for the F.B.I., but he’s eager to get out. The upper brass there keeps threatening him with arrest if he doesn’t keep giving them information. Doug’s working on getting his travel lock revoked so that he can flee the country, but there’s no guarantee the two will be able to come to terms. Doug wants to know exactly where Rachel is, and if Gavin can give him that, then he’ll work on getting him out of the F.B.I. and out of the country.
NEXT: Petrov gets a little too close to Claire