What’s more terrifying than a person in power with no ideology? Someone with no North Star or guiding principle to reign in their sense of justice, honour, and responsibility? Obviously there is no real-life example in current American politics, but let’s all imagine there is an administration that bows only to itself. In Chapter 64, on the eve of the series finale, we see those surrounding the Underwood administration bending to the will of Claire and Frank, with some even laying down on their swords — whether they want to or not.
Take The Fall
“You need to take a fall.” —Frank “No Literally Though” Underwood
Frank’s done with trying to corral and push Cathy Durant into the direction he needs her to go when it comes to her testimony in the upcoming investigation. So Frank uses a literal push to incapacitate her. Of course, he ensures it’s in a spot where the cameras won’t pick it up, and he double checks she’s out cold before he calls for help.
With Cathy out of the way, the Underwoods are set to ensure that all involved in the Kalabi kerfuffle are in line: Leann is brought back into the fold and coached on her testimony, which she is more than happy to do; Gavin Greene is told to tell a lie about explosive residue on a key board, though he is not happy about at all; and Doug, poor Doug, is instructed that he will testify that it was he who pushed Zoe Barnes off the subway tracks into the business end of the metro.
Tom Hammerschmidt is given this intel by way of a phone call with a disguised voice. Poor Hammy’s dog never gets the love he deserves with Tom working all the goddamn time, but the work isn’t what it used to be, as he tells Sean’s GF, who went all Drake on her by using her fingerprint to unlock her phone while she slept to read a planted email detailing that the burner phone found at Zoe Barnes’ apartment would be able to be hacked by “new technology” in order to implicated Frank in her death. We find out that said tech does not exist, but is rather a way to shake up the POTUS. However, Frank and Claire are two steps ahead, with a loyal scapegoat at the ready.
“I’ve done something unforgivable.” — Doug “Understater” Stamper
Doug, poor Doug, accepts the deal without much reservation, although it’s revealed HE is the one sending the birthday cards with the leaked information. What are his motivations for this? Perhaps to exact revenge on Claire and Frank, who’ve been questioning his loyalty all fucking season? One thing that doesn’t add up: the phone call to Hammerschmidt was made BEFORE Doug was presented with the idea of taking the fall — so he’s not acting alone in his speaking to the press.
He does do some talking with Leann, the first person he confesses to about his killing of Barnes. His guilt is real, because it’s not the death of Zoe he reflects on, but rather his beloved Rachel. Like Leann points out, Doug is too loyal to the Underwoods, which will surely be his undoing. But methinks it’s the blood on his hands from Rachel dearest that pushes him into a place where he would be happy to be punished. “I deserve this,” he says with his balding head bowed.
Doug also warns Leann to not keep the information given to her by Mac to her breast. She thinks it’s a bargaining chip, but it’s not. More than anything, it’s a way for the Underwoods to justify destroying her. Jane’s on the case though. She’s got the gun Mac was murdered with, which just so happens to be the one Leann gave to him for protection.
Protecting power at all costs has always been the Underwood way.
“I’ve always been a sucker for what people tell themselves about themselves.” — Tom “Curious Cat” Yates
That power is under threat when a jilted lover leaves his full manuscript for Claire to read. The redacted sections are filled with offensive allusion, and this simply will not do. Frank’s a huge dick to Claire about her confessions to her concubine, asking, “How can you be so stupid. To fall in love.” Claire Hale Underwood is not stupid, and as she says in a foreshadowing statement, “I said I’ll take care of it.”
Gelsemium is a shrub found in North America and Asia. It contains a highly toxic alkaloid that causes vision loss and respiratory failure almost immediately after contact. As Jane points out to Claire when she gives her the bottle, it’s for medicinal purposes only with a max dosage of two drops in order to correct a headache or migraine.
The biggest headache of all proves to be Tom’s unrelenting obsession with Claire and writing about her monstrous and murderous escapades. She knows he doesn’t want money, or fame. He wants her, to live in a quaint seaside cottage where they can live happily ever after. But this is Claire we’re talking about here. She wants absolute power. And so our dark lady does what she must and spikes his drink with the toxic mixture and watches him die while he is still INSIDE OF HER. Like the Greenland the delirious Tom wants to visit one day, this bitch is cold and remote.
And so thus does the Lady Claire wash her hands.
Guilty As Charged
“Welcome to the death of the age of reason. There is no right or wrong, not anymore. There’s only being in or out.” — Frank “All In” Underwood
Despite Mark and Claire’s warnings, Frank decides to testify, giving away his Executive Privilege. As per the man’s flare for drama, his opening statement begins with a banger, “I’m guilty.” Not to the charges at hand, but to playing the game that all present at the hearing are part and parcel to.
And aren’t we all? The slogans. The strong man. The man of action. Isn’t this what we all want? Isn’t this what the political theatre has come down to?
It would seem Frank has counted himself out by tendering his resignation right there on the floor. Seemingly in act of disgust for it all, but we know better, don’t we?
Outside the Oval
Smoking Section — I absolutely love the chemistry between Jane and Mark. They’ve both been around the block and might actually be the smartest players in the game. Their little head a tete while chewing nicotine gum is my favourite exchange so far:
“You were much more interesting when you smoked.”
“No I wasn’t.”
Just Watching — So Mark DOES have something on Alex Ramero. It looks like he might have been part of a gang rape of a girl back in college (OF COURSE THIS DOESN’T RUIN HIS CAREER) and his defence is that he was “just watching.” (LIKE THIS IS ONLY MARGINALLY BETTER GUYS).
Moral Obligation — The Syrian crisis is a backdrop in this season. Real life parallels are drawn between a dictator who will gas his own people in a place that very well may be the most violent place on earth. Between all the personal murders and dirty tricks it’s one of the most depressing parts of the show, that a humanitarian crisis can be treated as nothing more than a political bargaining chip. We see a guilty moment when Jane cannot look at the baby she holds. Does she have a conscience? I mean, relatively speaking of course.