House of Cards 3×12 & 3×13: Without me, you are nothing

claire underwood

In the previous three episodes, we saw Claire lose her ambassadorship because Viktor Petrov said so. Tom tried fruitlessly to dig deeper into the inner workings of Claire and Frank’s marriage. Frank screwed over Jackie in the debate, she dropped out and endorsed Heather Dunbar, and Remy quit forever. Let’s see how these chapters end.


3×12, ‘Chapter 38’:

It is 100% clear which of the Underwoods should be running for President. Everybody loves Claire, and she’s doing a great job of letting them think she loves the attention. But she has zero control over her life anymore: she’s the face of a Presidential campaign she can never win, she lost the position of ambassador because of pettiness aimed at Frank, and she can’t even choose the color of her own hair. The Ice Queen plays it cool, but anyone (except, apparently, Frank) can see her tension and disenchantment rising.

Heather Dunbar meets with Robert, the Supreme Court Justice with Alzheimer’s, and he essentially begs her to take his position. He seems sharp, except for how he forgets Heather’s name. Heather can’t take his position, though, because she’s ‘meant to be President of the United States.’ Yes you ARE, Heather Dunbar! I believe in you!

Tom the Author is whining because Frank and Claire don’t appreciate his art. He’s convinced himself that the story of their marriage is one that must be told, but he seems to be forgetting that this is their life and isn’t his story to tell. He was hired as a lackey and he failed at it. Frank threatens Tom saying that if he moves forward, Frank will leak the information about the ‘the authorship of your first book.’ So much for a loving, hand-caressing friendship. Tom whines to Kate about it, but Kate is a grown-up and tells him to get over it. So he dumps her. Good riddance, little one.



Doug is being sad and angry, his only two emotions. He gets a call from Heather, who asks for the journal with proof of Claire’s abortion to use against Frank. She goes from refusing to hand Jackie a position in her cabinet to attempting to ruin the reputation of an innocent woman in an effort to destroy the enemy. So, there it is. She’s evil now. Well done, House of Cards. Heather meets with Frank in the same place he met with Viktor Petrov, and he gets murdery again: ‘She goes after Claire and I’ll slit her f***ing throat in broad daylight.’ No, you won’t Frank. Because you’re running for President and you can’t. Empty promises, as usual.

Claire is doing her Face of the Election thing and meets with a housewife who admits that she thinks about murdering her baby sometimes. Claire is clearly weirded out. I feel bad for the housewife. She talks about being sleep-deprived and probably hasn’t talked to another person besides her abusive husband in months. Here’s Claire, asking her about her life to get her to change her mind about Frank, who isn’t even there. The woman spills her guts and seems embarrassed. Claire leaves in a hurry, and I think she realizes that she and the housewife aren’t so different. Claire feels taken for granted, lonely, and trapped in her situation. She admitted to thinking of her marriage as ‘a suicide flirting with a bridge’s edge’ when she was about to pass out (and thanks for making sure she’ll never forget that, Tom). This woman begged Claire to understand that she’s not serious about wanting to kill her child so she can be free and that she’d never do it. Would Claire ever ‘kill’ her marriage so she can be free? Their encounter ends with the woman calling Claire a good listener and saying, ‘I wish you were running for President.’ So do a lot of people, it seems. Except for Frank.

When Claire gets the call from Frank about the journal, we see that this is Claire’s biggest fear come true. She tells Frank to fix it, no matter what it takes. It’s a good thing Doug is a manipulative psycho, because he never gave it to Dunbar and instead lights it on fire in front of Frank to prove his loyalty. Or you could have just destroyed it when you said you would to prove your loyalty, but whatever. Frank hires him back anyway. Because Doug ‘just lit $2 million on fire,’ he’s made it clear that he and Frank are cut from the same cloth: they value power over money, and loyalty is everything, no matter who you have to screw over to prove it.



Claire is irate when she finds out Frank hired Doug without consulting her. He just threatened to make Claire’s nightmare come true! She has every right to be upset. That threat wasn’t about Frank, it was about her, and she didn’t get a say in who’s hired for a campaign that needs her. She admits that ‘we’ve been lying for a long time’ to each other. I think Claire’s the one doing the lying, to herself and to Frank, while Frank has been blissfully oblivious in his selfishness.


3×13, ‘Chapter 39’:

Poor Rachel. I genuinely wanted Doug to just drop it and leave her alone. She was an innocent who got caught up in the lives of psychotic, powerful men. I wanted her to find a way to secretly reconnect with Lisa, so they could live happily ever after as beautiful lesbians in the mountains of Oregon or whatever – with Cashew, too! I had hope for her – and for Doug! – when he angrily succumbed to his weakness for her and let her go. But NOPE. No one lives happily in the House of Cards Universe. Doug doubles back and (presumably) runs her over with his rapey van, and we cut to a haunting shot of her ear peeking out from under the dirt as he buries her in a grave in the middle of the desert. Then he goes back to the White House and Frank asks if he’s okay like he knows this thing was really hard for him. How sweet. Except that he didn’t actually have to do it at all. No one would have known. Rachel was smart enough to disappear and never talk about this again – she changed her entire identity! Was this to prove his loyalty to Frank even more? Was this the last inkling of humanity left in Doug, buried with Rachel in the desert? Does this solidify that Frank and Doug are all each of them has now? WHO EVEN ARE YOU AS A PERSON, DOUG STAMPER? I’m still upset about it. Rest in peace, Rachel. And screw you, Doug.



That being said, I’m glad that whole storyline is over. Can we get to the important part now? Hint: It’s Claire. Despite being the only thing people like about the Underwoods, Claire is not happy. She realizes – or, at least, finally admits to herself and Frank, as I believe she’s known this for a long time – that everything they do is for Frank and his rise to power. She’s the woman behind the man, except she’s the one the people want. We see the return of the rowing machine, which is probably symbolism for Claire’s ambition being comparable to Frank’s, or something.

Claire brings Tom back into the picture (ugh) so he can remind her that she said she used the word ‘hate’ to describe how she feels about her and Frank’s need for each other. She asks if he thinks she and Frank are equals and wants to prove that they’re more than what he wrote. She says he can ask her anything. He does, she gives him a non-answer, and he has a point when he says ‘It’s tiresome: constantly swinging a sledgehammer at the façade just to get a glimpse through the cracks.’ I feel you, bro. This entire season has centered around Frank and Claire’s marriage, with an emphasis on how Claire feels about it, and we don’t know them much better than at the beginning of the season. But then he says, ‘I’d rather imagine who you might be than who you actually are.’ Is that what we’re supposed to be doing? Imagining how they feel about each other while they hide behind their poker faces? We see short glimpses into Frank in his asides to the camera, but they’re mostly there to illustrate when he’s enraged or annoyed. We don’t get real substance there anymore.

Things take a dark turn down domestic violence road when Frank loses it about Claire’s unhappiness – for daring to feel that that the White House and First Lady aren’t enough, that Frank himself isn’t enough – and he squeezes her face in his hands while growling and ordering her to be on the plane tomorrow. He says,

‘When we lose because of you, there will be nothing. No plan, no future. We will only be has-beens…without me, you are nothing. You’re right. This office has one chair, and you have always known that, from the very beginning. And if you now can’t stomach that, well then I’m a fool for having married you in the first place.’

The next day, Claire tells Frank she’s not going but he dismisses her. She says, ‘I’m leaving you’ and we see her walk away as Frank fades into the background.



So what’s gonna happen to the gang next season? I believe Claire and Frank will stay together somehow because they need each other. Claire may run as VP and slowly weed him out of the Presidency the way Frank did with Walker. Either way, I really hope we learn more about the inner workings of Claire in season 4. We know that she’s ambitious and independent, but what does she want? Does she even want to be President at all? I think we’ve established that Frank is a selfish sociopath, but maybe we’ll see him go through a personality shift to keep Claire, who I believe he does genuinely care about. But can he really change or would it just be another façade? Are Doug and Frank going to fall in love now? Will Doug ever smile?

Unfortunately, this is Netflix, so we have to wait an entire year to find out, but I’m sure there will be plenty of theories and sexually creative fanfiction to sustain us.

Victoria Fisher

Victoria Fisher

is a freelance writer and glitter connoisseur based out of her Adventure Time onesie in Michigan. She frequently apologizes to her husband for watching ahead without him in whatever TV show she’s unreasonably obsessing over. She’s lost a lot of husbands this way. Give her money to write stuff for you here or read about feelings on her blog.

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