Here’s a question for this particular episode: does anyone care about Peter Russo’s romantic problems, Zoe’s career problems, or even Claire’s whatever it is with her water charity hiring and that graveyard jogging guilt?
I mean, I know I didn’t.
What happens here is we see how Frank Underwood serves his constituency. Or, more accurately, plays them to keep his job. His hometown of Gaffney, South Carolina has a giant water tower painted ostensibly to look like a peach but in reality looks more like human anatomy that generally don’t see much sunshine. A teenage girl died texting a friend about said water tower by losing control of the car she was driving at the time. Frank’s biggest political opponent back home is making it out to be Frank’s fault for defending the water tower.
To further demonstrate how much Frank Underwood sucks in everything in his orbit on this show, I never really bothered to learn the name of the man trying to derail Frank’s political career back home, so I will be mostly referring to him as “the opponent” here.
Now, Frank is needed in Washington that weekend to oversee the negotiations between the teacher’s unions and the Congress over the president’s education plan (the one Frank “wrote”). Frank can’t handle all that and get his political revenge if he loses his office. That means a trip to Gaffney to calm everything down.
While there, Frank confronts his opponent, and that man won’t back down, even with the offer of a different Congressional seat. The parents are mad at Frank due in part to the opponent riling them. The town doesn’t have enough for a law suit settlement. The peach farmers will stop paying for things if they get the blame. What can Frank do?
He solves it with a trip to church. The girl’s parents are religious, and he can make a good eulogy about why we sometimes want to hate God, and he felt the same way when his own father died unfulfilled at age 43.
Or, as he tells the audience in a side comment, he didn’t much care or even know much about his father, a man who didn’t talk much, didn’t do much, wasn’t spoken kindly of much by his mother or at all by his grandmother…really, Frank’s playing the crowd. The mid-eulogy aside bothered me a bit, since it cut through the rhythm of the speech, but it still was important to show the audience how little Frank actually cares about telling the truth, even in church.
Of course, by that point, Frank has already set plans in motion to assuage the parents, and even to embarrass the rival, a county commissioner. Yeah, it seems the missing guardrails on that patch of highway were the county’s responsibility.
Frank even managed to fake humility, the one thing that wins over voters in Gaffney. The whole episode was like a master’s class in how Frank Underwood manages to keep one political step ahead of just about everybody. Whether he’s that good or just that lucky doesn’t much matter. Watching how he works back home was a nice treat after watching him work Washington’s politicians and press corps. Now he just needs to finish the education bill in two more days.