The "Downton Abbey" Christmas specials are a funny thing.
First of all, they're billed as the season finale in America, when, in the U.K., they really aren't. Instead they, you guessed it, air on Christmas day.
As a consequence, many of the penultimate season episodes comes across as finales in America.
In the next-to-last episodes, there are often cliffhangers (ex from this season: Anna's arrest or, in Season 2, Bates arrested for his ex-wife's death) or pleasant plot resolutions (Mary discovering that she can now have children in Season 3).
The Christmas special can sometimes feel like an afterthought — pleasant enough at best, anticlimactic at worst.
This year's season finale/Christmas Special was a bit of both — meandering through the first hour or so, but triumphant in the final 30 minutes.
But there were -- and sorry to be cheesy about this -- quite a few heartwarming moments. And, sorry to be even more cheesy, there were a few moments that gave me the most British-related warm...Read more
Rachel is alive, working under the table at a grocery store in New Mexico, living in a boarding house, just trying to survive, and I have little doubt that Doug is about to show up and put an end to that soon.
Cool music in the opening scene, though.
Speaking of Doug, he's on a plane to Venezuela to talk to Gavin about Rachel. I love Jimmi Simpson, but I never want to see Gavin on "House of Cards" again.
So there's Gavin, on his houseboat, doing Gavin stuff, when Doug breaks in and starts beating him with a cane. Gavin gives him what he has on Rachel, and promises that he has the right location.
"I found you once. I can find you again," Doug says. "If this information is wrong, you die."
The Underwoods unravel
Claire brings up to Frank that they've been lying to each other for too long, but pulls back before elaborating. Everything is wearing on her, though. The years of lies and backstabbing and lies. Did I mention lies?
Draining Claire even more, is having to campaign with this man...Read more
Heather Dunbar is doing well in the polls in Iowa, and Frank has his hands full, so his team insists on giving Claire a bigger role at campaign events.
She agrees, of course, but if she's so more well-liked than Frank, why isn't she the candidate?
Heather Dunbar is a candidate, at least for now. Despite being the front-runner in the Iowa caucuses, Justice Jacobs meets with her and asks her to take his place on the Supreme Court. It's time, he tells her, and even if she wins the primary, the Republicans will tear her apart in the general election.
"His motivations were atrocious, yes, but his logic was sound," Jacobs says of Frank. "...I am meant to be president of the United States," Heather says. She's all-in.
"You were wonderful today. They just adore you," Frank tells Claire later. But they're back to separate bedrooms, again. At least while staying the night in Iowa.
"Together, they rule an empire without heirs. Legacy is their only child," reads the first chapter of...Read more
Gavin calls Doug on all of his phones, telling him that Rachel is still alive, because why can't this storyline just end?
Gavin sends Doug some images that he's captured the last few months and says he knows exactly where Rachel is and he always has. He promises to tell him where, if he gets Gavin's friend the same hall pass that he got him.
Doug snaps and smashes his computer in the sink, throwing his phones in, too.
He stops himself on his way out to buy some alcohol. Has Doug finally gotten over Rachel?
A pit bull and a president
Frank and Jackie go over their strategy for the upcoming debate with Heather Dunbar. Jackie feels uncomfortable with trying to paint Heather as sexist, and also disagrees with Frank's suggestion that they make her kids attending private school a focal point.
Jackie's step-kids go to private school, after all. Frank is persuasive, though, and Jackie comes around. "I'll play the pit bull, Mr. President," she says.
But whose side is Jackie on? She meets with...Read more
Frank's campaign continues in Iowa, but the only topic that interests participants in town hall meetings there is the Jordan Valley.
Frank doesn't want to do the town halls if he's only going to face questions he can't answer, so he'll continue to campaign there but only do his stump speech. He asks Remy to work on getting the upcoming debate there postponed, as well.
Claire is dealing with the chaos in the Jordan Valley as well, meeting with representatives from Israel, Palestine and Jordan. She is pushing for an end to Israeli and Palestinian violence there, and wants Russia to draw down some of their troops there as well.
Israel institutes a no-fly zone over the region, threatening to shoot down any Russian aircraft that would enter the airspace, even supply planes, meaning that this situation is coming to a boil.
"Keep your no-fly zone," President Petrov says, addressing Israel. "I will be flying through it, nevertheless. Shoot me down, if you wish, because nothing can stop me from...Read more
Frank's campaign is underway in Iowa. Tom and Kate Baldwin are there as well, but they're spending their time in cheap motels, getting to know each other in the biblical sense, while Frank stumps.
Frank is speaking to an assembly when Claire interrupts, telling him that eight Russian troops have been killed in the Jordan Valley. This is crucial because the Russians had just finally gotten on board with the peacekeeping mission and now their troops are dying there. This is trouble.
Gavin meets with Doug, and he has some bad news. He's found a Jane Doe dead in Tucson whose prints match Rachel's. Doug calls Seth, and leaves him a voice mail, demanding to speak to Frank. After, he falls off the wagon and almost gets into a fight in a bar.
Russia's troops were killed by an IED, but Russian investigators won't allow U.N. representatives near the blast site to investigate it themselves. Frank speaks to Petrov on the phone, attempting to smooth things over. "Let's show...