I pray to myself, for myself: but did I pray for the bill to pass?
February 19, 2013 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Just finished watching "House of Cards" and there's one thing I don't get... (more details, and almost certainly spoilers, inside)

My husband and I just finished watching all 13 episodes of House of Cards in about a week - jeers to waiting for Season Two! There's one thing I don't get about Season One, though: was the fact that the Watershed Redevelopment bill didn't pass all part of Underwood's master plan, or was that a twist he did not anticipate? And if he didn't anticipate it, what role would the bill's passage have played in what he was trying to accomplish?

The way it played out to the viewer, it really seemed that Francis was taken by surprise it didn't pass - he seemed blindsided by what Claire did and genuinely angry. We never got a fourth-wall moment with him revealing he asked her to get involved knowing she'd work against what he ostensibly wanted. If the two votes came in yes and things went the other way - which presumably would have made Russo a stronger candidate for governor - would Francis' road toward the Vice Presidency nomination have played out differently? Or would the entrapment situation to knock Russo off the wagon still had happened, just with him having further to fall?
posted by handful of rain to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The only point to promoting Russo was so Russo could be made to self-destruct later, leaving no plausible candidate except the Vice President.

I assume Seasons Two is about Frank trying to destroy the President so he can step up from VP.

The politics of HOC can be a bit farfetched, though, and doesn't always make sense. I understand it in a more mythical sense, born of its Richard III DNA.
posted by musofire at 9:39 AM on February 19, 2013

First, this question should have a spoiler warning.

Russo would have been seduced by the hooker regardless of whether his watershed bill passed or not. This would have led to his downfall via drugs and alcohol, paving the way for the VP to run for the governorship of PA. Which would, in turn, allow Francis to become VP.

The watershed bill is incidental.
posted by dfriedman at 9:39 AM on February 19, 2013

The bigger they are, the harder they fall. My take was that Francis did want the Watershed bill to pass, because that would make Peter a much stronger candidate, and his eventual downfall would be that much more dramatic and make bigger news -- that in turn makes it more of a crisis for the Oval Office and a bigger opportunity for the VP.
posted by payoto at 9:42 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

dfriedman - I have spoilers in the tags and in the question as it appears on the front page. If there's another way to warn I'm not familiar with it. If there's something the mods want to adjust that would be fine with me.
posted by handful of rain at 9:45 AM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I had the same thoughts as payoto. I believe there was some conversation between Frank and Stamper that alluded to having to speed things along, also (but I can't be sure, I am not near a tv).
posted by troika at 10:03 AM on February 19, 2013

My sense is the same as others - having the bill pass would've strengthened Frank's argument that he can get the house to do what he wants, creating an even greater incentive to promote him to VP.

They still take down Russo and the VP can campaign on the fact that the democrats added thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania and the VP was there on the campaign trail with Russo while he did it.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 10:08 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I thought Frank was more upset over the fact that things didn't go according to his plan than that the bill didn't pass. That was just an inconvenience.
posted by shesbookish at 10:09 AM on February 19, 2013

I took it as an opportunity to demonstrate that Claire isn't necessarily Frank's puppet, more than anything.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:13 AM on February 19, 2013

all part of Underwood's master plan, or was that a twist he did not anticipate?

I agree that he did want the bill to pass, but one of the things that is so engaging about this show is the chess metaphor. Like a chess master, Underwood didn't let an unexpected move derail him, he just pushed on with a different strategy to achieve the goal. He is just so amorally unflappable that it's enthralling to watch. That does make it a little difficult to to read whether something is going according to his plan or against it.
posted by The Deej at 10:19 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just watched the end of the season - after the bill failed and Russo started to threaten to come clean about the role he played in Kemp's downfall, Frank and Stamper had a conversation about how they'd have to speed things along. Their original plan was to have him fall apart closer to the end of the campaign so there would be even less time to have an alternate candidate for governor.

He did want the bill to pass - this makes his choice of Russo look like a better, more viable one, and makes Frank himself look good.

He obviously doesn't really care about the watershed so he just had to adjust his plans when things didn't work out the way he wanted, but it was about Frank losing control of everyone in his life.
posted by SoftRain at 10:31 AM on February 19, 2013

Have you seen the British House of Cards? Francis Urquhart and Francis Underwood do not have the same plot, but they have the same themes and strategies, including supporting an addict only to yank the floor out from under him.
posted by heatherann at 12:26 PM on February 19, 2013

As many people above have pointed out, Frank's original plan was to have the watershed bill pass. I was watching episode 10 closely yesterday trying to answer this very question, and there is a scene at the beginning where Frank confronts Claire in her office. He says:
There was a timetable here, Claire. We needed strong momentum right until the last minute.
This shows that his plan was to have Russo self-destruct at the last minute.
posted by Idle Curiosity at 12:47 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, there really needed to be a chance of Russo winning (before his crash and burn) for the VP to step in.

Not strictly germane, but I keep pushing the Ian Richardson version, and I'll do it again. I thought that the US version might have been the better one... until it ended, without... well, I'll stop there.
posted by supercres at 1:12 PM on February 19, 2013

Agreeing with everyone else that Frank is terrifyingly skilled not only at hatching these plans, but remaining flexible enough to adapt to unexpected events like the Bill failing, and finding a way to achieve his goals under all circumstances.

Don't forget that the original Plan was to be nominated Secretary of State, presumably so he could maneuver himself onto the ticket for the President-Elect's second term, setting up a future Presidential run himself (or some other scheme for the oval office). I can't decide whether he had plans for Russo and the VP from the start, or whether the entire series was an improvised scheme to continue his rise to the presidency on the original timetable despite bypassing the SS position. I like to think that he cooked it all up during the first episode.
posted by ceribus peribus at 1:30 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just to elaborate on earlier answers, Frank indeed wanted the bill to pass. His goal is for the self-destruction to happen within a month of the election, so that the president would not have time to vet alternate candidates for the VP position.

As a result of the accelerated timetable, he has to improvise himself through a vetting process whose outcome he cannot entirely control.
posted by psycheslamp at 3:47 PM on February 19, 2013

Psycheslamp has it. If the bill had passed, they could have "destroyed" Russo closer to the election and made the whole thing a lot more rushed, making Frank a much more obvious choice. He also probably would have preferred to not have "had" to kill Russo, which was a result of the "messy" way they handled his destruction.
posted by lunasol at 3:59 PM on February 20, 2013

lunasol, I also think he killed Russo because of Russo saying, after Francis got him out of jail, that he wanted to come clean the next day. Francis asked him something to the effect of, can we discuss how you can come clean without it affecting everyone else involved? Are you willing to have the conversation? But it turns out that Francis didn't want to have a conversation at all, he just felt he needed to take Russo out before he went public with everything.
posted by Cybria at 6:09 AM on March 1, 2013

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