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Review: ‘House of Cards’ Season 3 Episode 12 ‘Chapter 38’ Edges Toward the Brink

Review: 'House of Cards' Season 3 Episode 12 'Chapter 38' Edges Toward the Brink

EPISODE 11 REVIEW: ‘House of Cards’ Season 3 Episode 11 ‘Chapter 37’ Debates Perceptions

Morning Briefing:

Remy left. Jackie switched sides. Yates is…messed up. Now Claire is on the fence? If anything, the events in Season 3 of “House of Cards” should clearly illustrate to Frank that he’s gone down the wrong rabbit hole for far too long. Of course, the biggest event of “Chapter 38” was Doug Stamper’s return to the political fold. Called off the bench by a desperate Heather Dunbar, Doug proved his loyalty to the Underwoods by burning the file she desired in front of Frank (though, shouldn’t that have set off some fire alarms in the West Wing?). 

Doug’s return at Frank’s low point sends a troubling message, though. “You’ve been fallen down for the past year, too, and you need someone to pick you up this time,” Doug says to the President when trying to win his job back. If we’re to believe Frank is at less than peak strength without his new chief of staff, then we also have to believe Frank isn’t quite evil enough on his own. If anyone on “House of Cards” is more heartless than Frank, it’s Doug, despite his recent heart-to-heart with his brother. Will his return mark an upswing for the Underwood campaign, or is it really Claire that needs to be satisfied for Team Underwood to be at full force?

Breaking the Fourth Wall

Frank’s two direct-to-camera addresses were both about the same thing: the journal. First, after Heather threatens Claire, he tells us how he’d “slit her throat” for exposing his wife’s secrets. Later, he tells Dunbar to “go fuck yourself” and then turns to the camera to say, “Christ, that felt good.” The idea Frank only speaks to the camera at peak emotional moments is intriguing — as Frank does tend to clam up when a lot is on his mind — but both exclamations are so obvious they’re irrelevant, no matter what longer theory they support.

Binge and You’ll Miss It

At the end of “Chapter 35,” the closing shot was used to elevate the importance of Frank’s letter to a family whose son died in the Jordan Valley. Of course, President Underwood said it was a training exercise, signing his name to a lie. Now Kate Baldwin has found out about it, and despite everyone’s assumption the matter will blow over, its scant appearance in “Chapter 38’s” final minutes did not indicate the relevance it most likely carries. This matter is not over. In fact, it may take up all of Doug’s particular set of skills to overcome.

Made for Daytime: Jackie and Remy’s Reunion

After watching 12 episodes of “House of Cards” Season 3 in sometimes-agonizing detail, I feel safe saying not once — not one time — did I ever feel Jackie and Remy would get back together. Jackie seemed perfectly happy with her husband, and Remy’s pining for her was never rewarded — until now. In an awkward exchange, Jackie goes to Remy in an attempt to retrieve information on Claire Underwood. Remy claims not to have anything on her, and Jackie seems to take “no” for an answer. Instead, she settles for sleeping with Remy, breaking her marriage vows and clouding his head.

Of course, the simplest way to read this scenario is that Jackie’s using sex to get information out of Remy. If so, the scene is certainly more purposeful than read without manipulation, but it’s nonetheless shoddy. Between the wooden acting and uninspired dialogue, Jackie and Remy’s reunion is far less intriguing than it should be. We’ll find out more next week (or not), but the couple deserved better no matter what’s to come.

Ready for Primetime: Yates’ Breakdown

I gotta say, I was completely taken off guard by Yates’ mental state in “Chapter 38.” Gone is the relaxed, observant and intensely seductive persona, and in its place is a shaking shell of a man, yearning for approval of a job well done. Of course, that approval will never come from Frank or Kate, both of whom spurned his work rather bluntly.

Yates seems like the kind of guy who will burn himself to the ground to get his story out, so I won’t be surprised if the book lands online somewhere in the season finale. Considering the lack of deaths in Season 3, I also won’t be surprised if Yates is kept from coming back for Season 4. That book can’t help Frank, and he’s going to be at a fever pitch after his conversation with Claire. 

Legacy Quote:

“We’ve been lying for a long time, Francis. To each other.”

The Underwood marriage was a thing of beauty through the first two seasons. Not really an open relationship, but certainly open to some extent, Frank and Claire seemed to have a deeper understanding of one another than any other couple on television (short of the perfect couple, Eric and Tami Taylor on “Friday Night Lights”). Season 3 saw the fracturing of that relationship — repeatedly — and with little explanation for why other than current events. Now, as we near the end, secrets are starting to spill out.

First, it was the “seven years” pact Claire mentioned before passing out in “Chapter 37.” Now, she says she’s questioning “the whole thing” in regards to Frank’s campaign. Her run-in with a woman only describable as the world’s worst mother couldn’t have helped, especially when she said she wished Claire was the one running for office. We’ve all had the same wish, but to hear it from a woman so impolite, angry and unfaithful had to be hard for Claire.

What, exactly, have Frank and Claire been lying to each other about? Their love? Their relationship? Their politics? All of the above? No easy answers seem apparent for a couple so closely connected in years past. This final hour is more than a defining one for the series — which is on shaky ground after this season, at least as a “prestige drama” — it will hopefully help define this marriage, as well.

Grade: B-

READ MORE: ‘House of Cards’ Creator Beau Willimon Gets Political About Season 4

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