We know, we know. You're done with politics. But politics, my friend, is not done with you.
The past several months have already given us Brexit, President Donald Trump, and that Macron-Le Pen nail biter. Think your nerves can handle two Underwoods on the same ticket?
Season 4 of House of Cards ended with Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) becoming husband Frank's (Kevin Spacey) running mate in the upcoming presidential election against suave but hotheaded Republican Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman). Wright has joked that our real-life POTUS has taken "all of our good ideas," making the Netflix drama's far-fetched plots seem a little less, well, far-fetched.
But while golden showers are on par with bodyguard threesomes, and Russian interference looms both in fiction and reality, House of Cards can still be counted on to deliver some seriously mind-blowing drama. Let's not forget that both F.U. and White House chief of staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) are murderers who have narrowly avoided being killed themselves. The first lady is sleeping with another man, all the while plotting how to spin a terrorist attack on U.S. soil into votes. Pretty sure none of that's in James Comey's receipts, but, hey, ya never know.
Grab some popcorn and set those breaking news alerts to silent — one bonkers administration at a time, folks.
The televised beheading of American James Miller by ICO terrorists is having a huge impact on the upcoming election, which is now just two weeks away. As promised, vice president hopeful Claire (Robin Wright) is using terror to drum up votes, filming a PSA that encourages citizens to rat each other out. Forget MAGA: Underwood-Underwood 2016's campaign slogan appears to be, "If you see something, say something."
What Frank (Kevin Spacey) — who, possibly in a nod to Obama's greying locks, has gone full Anderson Cooper — sees is a Congressional hearing threatening to investigate him over the salacious details in Tom Hammerschmidt's exposé for the Washington Herald. What he says is that they're all cowardly dirtbags for focusing on him when the country is reeling from a terrorist act; he demands that Congress declare war against the ICO terrorist organization. "I will not yield!" he bellows on the Congress floor over and over.
A news bulletin from Ann Curry explains that one of the domestic terrorists behind Miller's death was killed in an FBI raid, but another, Joshua Masterson, remains at large. Plenty of people are blaming Frank, too, including angry protestors burning effigies of the president, a bitter Conway (Joel Kinnaman), and Miller's grieving young daughter. "You killed my father," she tells Frank during her father's funeral service. "You're the reason he died." Frank moves to comfort her, and she uses the opportunity to tell him that she hopes he dies and that Claire becomes president. Be careful what you wish for, girl.
Now that the funeral is over, it's time for both parties to use Miller's death for their own political gains. Frank's plan is to push Congress to make a declaration of war, whipping Americans (and, more importantly, voters) into a fearful frenzy. In a total Trump move, he also insists on the tightening of visa restrictions and an intense no-fly list. Secretary of State Catherine Durant (Jayne Atkinson), ever the voice of reason, balks, calling it "unprecedented." Or is that "unpresidented"?
During an appearance on Charlie Rose with the first lady, Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver) rightly accuses Frank of using the possibility of war to distract everyone from the charges raised in his big article. The journalist is still very much on POTUS' tail, hiring a young style reporter with great social skills to join his investigate team.
Will Conway likewise wants to shift the story from terrorism to Frank's crimes. Though the military vet isn't opposed to war, he doesn't want it to work in his opponent's favor. In addition to putting out his own fires — running mate General Brockhart (Colm Feore) needs to toe the line, while his wife Hannah (Dominique McElligott) has been expressing sympathy for the at-large Masterson's mother — he recruits right-leaning Democratic congressman Alex Romero (James Martinez) to join the declaration of war committee and sway the vote.
Claire's big plan is to "dial up the terror." She arranges a meeting with Masterson's mother, accusing the woman of raising a monster and offering to play her the video footage of her son beheading James Miller. Mrs. Masterson is driven to tears. When she's approached by reporters after the meeting, she's visibly distraught, and asks her son to turn himself in. It's just the sound-bite Claire wanted.
For her next trick, Claire pays a visit to a burnt-down convenience store in North Carolina. There's no reason to think that this is anything but run-of-the-mill arson, but the first lady spins it so that it's all presented as yet another example of terrorism on U.S. soil. Someone's clearly onto her bullshit, because a man shouts "War whore!" and then splashes black paint all over her nice khaki suit. Oh, and in case you were wondering, she's still sleeping with Tom Yates (Paul Sparks), even though he steals her stuff and helps himself to the White House kitchen.
There's been a lot of talk about FBI raids targeting Joshua Masterson. News breaks that agents are closing in on the terrorist in Virginia — or "Virgina," as Ann Curry's dodgy chyron puts it — but it's a dead-end. That's because (surprise!) Frank and Assistant FBI Director Nathan Green (Jeremy Holm) have had him in a cell this whole time.
"Did you think I didn't already have him, that I would have left him out there somewhere?" Frank asks the audience, breaking the fourth wall. "And I thought you knew me."
Yep. We should have known. The bruised and battered criminal won't give up any ICO intel, but does hock up a big wad of spit the president's way. Frank tells a reluctant Green to "get rid of the asset," and the next scene shows POTUS announcing in a press conference that Masterson was unfortunately killed in a manhunt. He helpfully adds that domestic terrorism is still running rampant, and that Congress really needs to get on that declaration of war.
He may want to rethink that. Democratic Minority Leader Bob Birch (Larry Pine) informs Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) that Congress plans to use the war committee to investigate Frank. They're looking for Remy Danton and Jackie Sharp to testify, and, frankly, so are we.
The net may also be closing in on Aidan MacAllen (Damian Young), the hack-happy data scientist who has, as he notes, been doing "some illegal things" for the Underwoods. He's convinced that the NSA is onto him; old pal LeAnn Harvey (Neve Campbell) convinces him to hack into the NSA's system. He agrees, and finds a way to backdoor into social media, which might prove useful at A. winning the election, and B. saving his and LeAnn's butts.
Frank's call to James Miller's widow doesn't go as planned; he expects her to thank him for taking out her husband's killer. She tells him to get lost and to take Miller's name out of his mouth. His ego is bruised, but Claire knows just the thing to cheer him up. She takes him out to the front of the White House, where countless supporters are holding "We are all Jim Miller" signs. For Frank, it's a reminder that his fear propaganda is working. He shakes hands and works his way down the line — miraculously, nobody shoots him — telling each person, "You have nothing to be afraid of."
He turns to the camera to address us, the audience. "You have nothing to be afraid of." Riiiiight.
It’s Halloween! Seth Grayson (Derek Cecil) doesn’t like candy corn, and there’s nothing more terrifying than a campaign video in which Frank’s face morphs into Claire’s. Telling, no?
Still not scared? Consider Claire’s visit to New York City, where she’s promoting a range of gas masks for people to wear in the event of a chemical attack. Welp. She runs into Ken Caswell, an old schoolmate of Frank’s, who has bad news: Tim Corbet, the classmate with whom Frank had a youthful fling, has gone missing after a trip on the Arkansas River, and is feared dead. Ken’s own life might hang in the balance, too, judging by the way Claire reacts to his suggestions that Frank and Tim had a (wink, wink) special relationship. She shuts him down and admonishes him for having a big mouth. We’re guessing Claire would sooner push Ken onto some subway tracks than have a gay sex scandal break out a week before the election.
Back at the White House, Frank is doing his darndest to make Election Day his bitch. He’s invited the nation’s governors, including New York’s very own Will Conway, to D.C. to convince them to create large-scale voting centers patrolled by the National Guard to keep voters safe. This is especially crucial in five swing states: Nevada, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Stamper tells those governors’ aides that they’ve received threats, hence the need for “safe” voting centers. They accuse him of trying to suppress Republican voter turnout but pipe down when Stamper offers favors to sweeten the deal.
The governor of Pennsylvania happens to be Jim Matthews, Garrett Walker’s former vice president who got conned into stepping down by then-whip Frank, who replaced him. Matthews is due to testify before the committee investigating Frank. In exchange for an EPA “swag heap” that’ll create jobs in his state, he’ll stay mum. Sure enough, he has little to say when Congressman Romero interrogates him about Raymond Tusk and Frank’s role in his resignation.
Seth and Stamper are also trying to put pressure on other committee members. Seth uses a sex tape involving one Congressman’s female staffer, Bridget, as blackmail material, but he’s got an even better offer. In exchange for immunity and anonymity, he’ll testify not about Frank, but about Stamper, a.k.a. the guy who almost killed him with a drinking glass last season. Between that and his jolly drinking session with Herald reporter Sean Jeffries, who is secretly working for Hammerschmidt, Seth is prime to spring a leak. Unfortunately, Bridget reports back that he can’t expect to keep his testimony private.
Speaking of leaks, Tom Yates is in the dog house when he tells a reporter friend that he’s Claire’s “mouthpiece.” Nobody wants people thinking about what Claire and Tom might be doing, but the pressures of being in a top-secret relationship with the first lady are getting to the speechwriter. The two make up and fall into bed, but Tom becomes aggressive. No means no, man.
Frank takes a beat to mourn Tim. He tells Claire that she’s the only person he’s ever truly loved, but privately, he nearly breaks down when thinking about his old friend and former lover.
There’s little time for reflection, however. It’s time to amp up the terror once again. Thanks to Aidan MacAllan’s hacking, everyone’s phones and internet signals start screwing up, triggering travel delays and even a train derailment. Frank announces that it was all a cyber attack from ICO and reiterates his demand that Congress declare war. The ruse convinces the governor of Ohio to agree to have troops sent to his state.
The fear-mongering is too much for Conway. After telling off General Brockhart for continually bringing up his military record (hmmm… what’s that about?), the Republican candidate tries to take his children trick-or-treating just as troops roll up. Conway loses it as the cameras roll, blasting Frank for demanding war and letting expletives fly.
Watching at home with their his-and-hers jack o’lanterns (oh, the nightmares), Frank and Claire celebrate their opponent’s meltdown with a nightcap.
Election Day is probably the last day some of us would like to relive. But here we are.
With one day to go before the polls open, Will Conway has a new campaign manager (Campbell Scott’s cooly confident Mark Usher) and a gimmick: He’s staying up for 24 hours to take calls from voters in a live-streamed feed for Pollyhop. Unfortunately, all anyone wants to ask him about is the one thing he’s reluctant to discuss: his heroic rescue of a fellow soldier, Captain Craig Squire.
Given that Squire is just about the only military vet who isn’t gushing about Conway in a new campaign ad, the Underwood campaign suspects there’s more to the story. LeAnn goes to Texas to pressure Squire himself to call and confront Conway; Conway is taken aback and acts cagey, but manages to end the call without any bombshells being revealed. Squire’s brother refuses LeAnn’s pleas to call back.
The 24-hour Q&A session makes Conway seem “accessible” and “modern,” Tom Yates makes the mistake of observing to Claire. She takes this to mean that Frank is old, and therefore, she too is old. “He’s only a couple years older than me, you know?” she reminds her lover.
It’s hard to consider Frank a spring chicken as he sips tea, fights off a bad cough, and shakes hands with other old white men. Later, when Frank refers to Conway as “Sir Lancelot,” Tom objects to the nickname, failing to register that it’s probably not a great idea to bring up the man who cuckolded King Arthur when you’re shagging the president’s wife.
While Frank and Claire are busy attending rallies, Doug Stamper is giving Pennsylvania governor Jim Matthews an earful about breaking his promise to Frank; he has not deployed troops or created centralized voting centers. Matthews responds by telling Stamper that Frank, and, by extension, Doug, are going to lose and they will be poof, out.
Doug’s in a murderous mood, and it doesn’t help when he returns to the White House and gets scolded by Frank for being too pushy. He tries to cheer himself up by having terrible sex with Anthony Moretti’s widow (and you thought your booty calls were bad). When that bombs, he goes to a bar, orders a drink, and contemplates breaking his sobriety before fleeing without taking a sip. Um, we’re proud?
He’s not the only one oozing desperation. Secretary of State Catherine Durant, last seen trying to plot a coup with Donald Blythe of all people, feebly offers to arrest an innocent man simply because he shares a name with an ICO terrorist. Frank resorts to creepily watching Claire sleep with Tom in her bed. They discuss his fears about the polls. Then they discuss Tom’s nocturnal behavior. Totally standard.
It’s nearing 6 a.m. Frank, still unable to sleep and presumably bored of watching his wife’s lover toss and turn, decides to call into Conway’s live-streamed Q&A. He offers to let Conway ask him one question. Conway takes the bait and asks why Frank stepped in before he could secure the release of James Miller, the American man beheaded by domestic ICO terrorists.
Frank warms to the topic as Claire crawls into his bed. The terrorists would take advantage of Conway, he tells his opponent, obliquely referencing the guilt and shame he must feel about what happened overseas with Squire. He succeeds in getting under Conway’s skin.
Now it’s Election Day, and someone’s hung up the Trump-approved gold curtains. The Underwoods vote, then head home to take part in their Election Day tradition: watching Double Indemnity, a classic film noir about a couple who resort to murder to get their way. It’s also the film that was playing when they had their first kiss. Now would be the perfect time to bust out that eye emoji.
Their movie date is spoiled by bad news: The polling numbers are really low. Like, probably-losing-to-Conway low. Doug retreats to the Oval Office to carve his initials into the underside of a desk drawer. Frank gets testy and snaps at Claire’s mention at the mere thought of losing.
Moments later, the film is nearing its conclusion.
“You know what this means, don’t you?” Claire asks her husband as Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck’s images flicker in the background.
“This is our house,” Frank responds. “We are not leaving.”
The last line we hear is courtesy of MacMurray, who is warning Stanwyck that she’s about to take a “one-way trip and the last stop is the cemetery.” Foreshadowing?
This episode begins with the ending of a film, and ends with the beginning of Frank and Claire’s nefarious plot to create “one nation… Underwood.” So catchy, so chilling.
Doug and LeAnn are called into the Oval as Team Underwood panics about the dismal polls. Doug is fighting with LeAnn and threatening to fire gossipy staffers. Tom Hammerschmidt is predicting an Underwood loss and regaling Seth with tales of meeting “the last Mrs. Hammerschmidt drowning tequila shots at the Bob Dole Ballroom.” Team Conway, meanwhile, is having celebratory afternoon sex.
Nothing like some Underwood scheming to kill the mood. Stage one of Frank’s plan to turn the election tide is to fake a terrorist threat in the Republican stronghold of Tennessee. He tells the Tennessee governor that Muhammed Kalabi, a Syrian-born ICO terrorist, is in Knoxville. (Catherine Durant, who was the one who mentioned the existence of a different, innocent Muhammed Kalabi in the previous episode, can’t even pretend her bullshit detector isn’t going off at full-blast. Frank tries to appease her with a job extension.)
All hell breaks loose in Tennessee. Frank and Claire do everything to give the impression that they want voters to get out and perform their civic duty. Meanwhile, Counterterrorism Director Nathan Green (guess he got a promotion after the Joshua Masterson killing) is working behind the scenes to persuade the governor that a terrorist incident is imminent. Conway aide Mark Usher tells the Republican governor that voting should be undisturbed, but it’s all for nought. The governor calls for a curfew and the voting centers are shut down. Conway is furious.
The election focus now moves to Pennsylvania and Ohio, both of which Conway needs to win. He picks up the former, prompting Frank to concede the election in a call to Conway. “You think I learned nothing from Al Gore?” he notes to the camera as he and the projected winner have a cordial chat.
Conway’s celebration is short-lived. It’s time for stage two.
Doug has threatened LeAnn’s pal Aidan MacAllan into creating fake “credible intel” to make it look like Ohio voting centers are also being targeted by terrorists. Doug then badgers the governor, who happens to be losing his own election, into following Tennessee’s lead by suspending voting. Coincidentally (wink), all those key states — Nevada, Illinois, New Jersey, etc., with Hawaii as a bonus — Frank discussed earlier in the season are refusing to verify their voting results. Lawsuits are being filed left and right. Frank, who has yet to publicly concede, still has a shot.
Of course he does. The episode ends with a flashback to Frank and Claire’s conversation, where they agree to do whatever it takes to win. This was all part of the plan, and it’s working beautifully.
“Not my president! Not my president! Not my president!” Is this Netflix, or your Twitter feed?
It’s now nine weeks after the election, so here’s a little update and a history lesson from (Not My) President Frank Underwood: Tennessee and Ohio never certified their votes, so neither he nor Conway got an electoral majority. So there’s no president, the Supreme Court is down a justice, and citizens are worried that the government will grind to a halt.
What happens in a case like this? Thanks to a similar stalemate between Thomas Jefferson and a pre-Hamilton Aaron Burr, we have the 12th Amendment. Under its terms, the House is now in charge of choosing a president. The Senate chooses the vice president. If there’s a tie, it all comes down to a coin toss.
But don’t you worry. You-know-who has a plan, of course.
“Meet your new daddy,” Frank grins. Same as the old daddy.
Everyone is now trying to woo senators and representatives, though Conway seems to be spending most of his time lashing out at his wife, smashing children’s toys, and muttering “I’m president.” He’s also doing some sort of high-tech VR therapy for PTSD, which Mark Usher would definitely like to keep under wraps.
Frank tries to bully/tempt Conway loyalist Congressman Romero into getting him votes in exchange for a “better seat at the table.” Romero agrees, but comes back empty-handed; his Democratic colleagues would rather have Conway than Frank. A disgusted POTUS tells the congressman to study every detail of the Oval Office, because he’ll never see the insides of it again. Burn.
While Frank takes a break to geek out over his toy soldiers with Eric Rawlings — he’s the guy Frank spied in the crowd at his Gettysburg rally, and also the Civil War reenactor who fed him a lot of bullshit about his ancestor Augustus Underwood — Claire takes a stab at getting her own votes. Her approval rating is higher than her husband’s, but two female senators tell her that they see a vote for her as a vote for Frank. Even though neither party wants a split ticket, Claire lets the women think that she’s open to running the country with Conway, if necessary.
Squabbling siblings Doug and LeAnn are also dispatched to get out the vote. Doug’s coming up empty in more ways than one; his sex with the Widow Moretti is so bad he’s reduced to asking her exactly how her late husband pleasured her. Is this sex-positive, or next-level creepy given Doug is responsible for the man’s death? “Do you think the dead judge us?” Yes, sir.
LeAnn is more preoccupied with Aidan MacAllan’s disappearance; there’s no trace of him. The hacker finally calls and warns her that if the FBI and CIA don’t stop trying to hunt him down, he’ll start leaking intel about the Underwoods. It sounds like Aidan has pretty much signed his own death warrant, forcing a desperate LeAnn to seek help from an unlikely source: Doug.
Doug, still licking his wounds after being scolded by Frank for not securing a vote that LeAnn got, isn’t in the mood for favors. Is Aidan on a kill list, she wants to know. There is no kill list, he responds, playing us all for fools. LeAnn reminds him that Aidan has intel that would also implicate him, so it’s in his best interest to start being useful.
That threat, arguments with Frank, and bad sex may be the least of Doug’s worries. Lisa Williams (Kate Lyn Sheil) has resurfaced in Tom Hammerschmidt’s office. She’s disoriented and unkempt, but is insistent that Doug Stamper is the same man who used a fake name and hung around her girlfriend Rachel Posner. We know that Doug killed Rachel, but a desperate Lisa is holding out hope. She wants Hammerschmidt to ask Doug about Rachel’s disappearance, but the journalist is reluctant to get involved.
He does take notes, which new hire Sean Jeffries sees when he pops in to snoop. Sean then goes to the White House to tell Seth, certainly no friend of Doug’s, about Lisa’s allegations. Remember when Seth was sneaky and good at digging up dirt, and not just a hotter version of Sean Spicer?
If you’re wondering why I haven’t addressed Tom Yates much, it’s because every episode, my notes are more or less the same: NEEDY. Once again he’s getting under Claire’s feet. She’s annoyed that he’s written “invasive” short stories inspired by her and her mother, and banishes him from the kingdom. He goes all the way to New York, where, his driver tattles to Claire, he’s having dinner with an older woman. She asks the driver to send her video footage of the date (receipts!), but Tom’s back in her bed by episode’s end.
There’s just one last drama before the voting begins. Vice president Donald Blythe (Reed Birney) is stalling the Senate vote and not pushing through the anti-filibuster measure Claire wants. Her shot at being chosen VP is under threat by Republicans, and this damp wash towel of a politician is placating her with patronizing comments about trying again in four years. Oh, hell no.
Claire lets it rip, calling him a “bumbling idiot” who won’t shut up about his “dumb dead wife.”
“You have a legacy of nothing,” she seethes.
And how does one respond to that? By pointing out to Claire Underwood that her initials form half of a not-very-nice slur. We’re assuming that defiant look she shoots the camera at the end of the episode is intended for him.
The vote goes down, but neither Conway nor Frank have received a majority. The vice president will serve as acting president in the meantime. And just who is that vice president? Well…
Whoop! It’s Claire. The first lady is now Madame Acting President, having triumphed over General Brockhart in the Senate’s vote for vice president. (And yes, Governor Conway is very peeved about it all.)
Even though she shrugs it all off as a temporary title, Claire looks pretty damn pleased to be handed the nuclear launch codes. Anyone else willing to bet she’s the first POTUS to slip into the Oval to pore over secret documents while wearing a fetching white silk robe?
She’s not the only one enjoying a little power trip; nearly every character is jockeying for position and trying to get the upper hand. Even Tom’s boinking of a White House tour guide in the press room seems like a calculated play to punish Claire for not indulging his need for attention.
With another House vote looming, Frank has just days to get in congressional ducks in a row. An expected ally, Congressman Rasmussin, refuses to give him his vote. Congressman Romero, meanwhile, approaches Doug with an offer to help getting the reportedly on-the-fence Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on board. Doug assumes Romero is helping because he wants to be Minority Whip; we later learn that it was a fishing expedition. Romero, in cahoots with Conway aide Mark Usher, simply wanted to gauge how desperate the Underwood admin is.
The answer is: very. Claire doesn’t think Frank will win a House vote. Terry Womack’s (Curtiss Cook) CBC is threatening to throw an increasingly volatile Conway their support, making an Underwood victory unlikely. They call a meeting and invite Conway to join them. He agrees, but balks when they make him wait. Worse, he’s dismissive and patronizing, focusing on Black crime and trotting out the “I want to help you help yourselves” line. He then insults everyone by accusing them of “propping up the status quo,” and storms out.
Conway’s about to blow. On the plane ride back, he threatens to fire Usher. Usher won’t be bullied, so Conway moves on the pilots. He brags about his flying experience in the military and suggests they let him have a turn at the controls. The captain and his co-pilot refuse; it’s against the rules.
“I’m going to be the president and you’re going to flip me those motherfucking controls,” he snaps.
Hannah yanks him out of the cockpit and tries to calm him down. It’s Usher who finally stops the meltdown.
“Sit down and try to act like an adult, or at least the next president of the United States,” Usher orders. Conway sits.
It’s understandable that Usher is a little nervous about a Conway presidency. Even though General Brockhart lost the Senate vote to Claire, Usher is adamant about having him as vice president; Conway simply can’t do it alone.
The Underwoods might have a solution. They convince congressional leaders to give the power back to the people. Instead of a House vote, Tennessee and Ohio will have a re-vote to name a president. The speaker of the House will only put agree to this if both parties agree to add an amendment stating that Claire will step down as vice president if she and Frank lose. Conway, who thinks he can simply banish Claire to minor official tasks, responds to this by angrily threatening to make the speaker’s life hell.
Usher is thus forced to try other channels. He pays a visit to Frank and Claire in the Oval Office. They admit that the CBC meeting was a ruse to buy them more time. Though Frank thinks it’s a bad idea, Claire agrees to Usher’s suggestion that both parties run on a full ticket during the Tennessee and Ohio re-vote; it’s once again Underwood-Underwood and Conway-Brockhart. Claire will step down after the re-vote. They also agree to Usher’s Supreme Court pick.
Rasmussin, who stuck his neck out by rejecting Frank, is furious. He wails to Romero that he’s got no power now that the House isn’t voting on the presidency. Romero assures him that Conway will win, but, watching the Republican candidate sway and swoop as he undergoes his VR therapy for PTSD, that seems increasingly unlikely.
So, there’s that drama. We haven’t even touched on Lisa Williams and Aidan MacAllan yet.
Having heard Lisa’s name from Sean, Seth decides to do a little digging. He casually asks Doug if he knows who Lisa Williams is — a Herald reporter was asking, he explains. Doug says no, then leaves the office minutes later. Seth helps himself to a little snoop and discovers that there are lots of calls to one Anthony Moretti. Seth then finds Anthony Moretti’s memorial page for his foundation.
Sean, meanwhile, asks to pursue the Lisa case, but gets shut down. Hammerschmidt writes it off as a conspiracy theory, and wants Sean to focus on linking the arrest of the wrong Muhammed Kalabi (remember that?) to the Underwood campaign.
Sean meets with Lisa anyway. She interrupts their conversation about Rachel Posner to meet a “friend.” Turns out it’s a drug dealer, and Sean finds Lisa slumped over on a toilet after shooting up heroin. He tosses her lit cigarette so she won’t burn herself, but doesn’t get help. Instead, he steals her photos of Rachel and splits. We don’t feel too bad for him, then, when Hammerschmidt cans his ass.
Hammerschmidt finally follows up on the Rachel lead himself by recreating one of the more terrifying scenes from Silence of the Lambs. Zoe Barnes’ father lets him raid the storage facility stockpiled with his late daughter’s old notes. Hammerschmidt finds an arrest sheet for Rachel. He does that old detective’s pencil trick and finds a note linking Doug Stamper and Rachel Posner. Ta-da.
Meanwhile, Aidan has carried out his threat to leak intel that damages the Underwoods. Wikileaks now has a report proving that the burnt-down convenience store Claire had pitched as a terrorist attack was merely the victim of a gas leak, something the FBI knew before the first lady’s photo opp. LeAnn’s fears intensify when she and Doug find out that Aidan’s being held for ransom in Jakarta. Before he can pony up, however, Doug loses contact with the kidnappers. He has no choice but to tell the Underwoods about the situation.
But it’s Russian president Petrov who breaks the big news. Petrov, who is squabbling with Claire and Catherine Durant over his country’s violation of an Antarctican treaty, reveals that he has Aidan in his custody. It was Petrov who orchestrated the leaks, and now he’s using the hacker to basically blackmail Claire into letting Russia explore oil in Antarctica. Everyone’s blindsided and Durant is told to return to D.C.
Total Putin power move. Is it bad that we’re more worried about Aidan than we are the Underwoods?
Despite assuring Claire that the two of them were “in sync” at the end of episode 6, Frank and the acting president sure are busy butting heads. He thinks she’s given Usher too much control and suggests she’s in over her head. She tells him to “grow up.” This is not what “in sync” looks like, y’all.
Funny how all these major international incidents happen when Claire’s in office. She and Frank find themselves in the situation room, where Chairman of Joint Chiefs Braegher (Julian Gamble) and Director of National Intelligence Morrison (Mercedes Herrero) inform everyone that Akhmed Al Ahmadi, brother to ICO terrorist Yusuf, has been spotted in Damascus. Should they take him out now, or wait and try to dig up more intel about ICO? Frank votes to act now; Claire agrees.
The acting president heads off to a meeting with Secretary Durant and Jane Davis, played by new cast member Patricia Clarkson. Davis is deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade, but her time in the Oval is cut short when agents burst in and whisk the women off to an underground bunker. Frank, Doug, National Security Advisor Cafferty (Susan Pourfar), and Braegher join them, while Seth and LeAnn are left behind to fear for their lives.
A truck carrying radioactive material has gone missing. According to Counterterrorism Director Green, a “dirty bomb” could take out a 30-mile radius. Tensions soon start to run high over whether or not to evacuate the metropolitan area, with Braegher and Cafferty giving Frank major attitude.
Davis confides in her old pal Durant that she might be able to get some intel, provided she can get a secure line. Claire and Doug instantly sniff her out as suspicious. Is this neurotic persona all an act? How did she get this level of security clearance? Who is she talking to?
Davis tells Claire that nobody will be catching Al Ahmadi before the election, suggesting it’s not in anyone’s interest to help the Underwoods. Claire relays this to Frank, telling him she thinks Davis could help them secure a capture. Frank worries that if they evacuate, they’ll be perceived as being weak. It’s all just a little too convenient to be trapped in this bunker so close to the election.
His suspicions increase when Doug plays him a tape that will prove damning for the Conway campaign: General Brockhart was caught on a hot mic saying that he’d refuse to carry out Frank’s orders; rather, he’d “put him out of his misery.” The insubordination hurts his military credibility.
An incensed Frank demands to be let out of the bunker, taking out a presidential bust on his way out. He confronts Morrison and she doesn’t deny that the whole “dirty bomb” scare may have been a hoax. Generals Braegher and Brockhart are old pals, you see. Frank orders her to stop this “attempted coup.”
And just like that, the missing truck is miraculously found. It was just parked in the wrong place this whole time. Seth tells the press it was just a drill, while Claire demands General Braegher resign. She also sets up a meeting to discuss Al Ahmadi with Davis, whom Frank accurately pegs as “attractive and terrifying.”
The Brockhart tape and recognition that the terrorist threat was all a bluff finally give the Underwoods the upper hand against Mark Usher. Once again they’re a united front, if you ignore the fact that Frank has surveillance photos of Tom having sex with the White House tour guide.
It’s LeAnn and Doug’s turn to sweat. The former presses Durant to help her get Aidan released, to no avail. Claire clearly blames her for the whole situation, too.
Over at the Herald, Hammerschmidt discovers that Doug’s carjacking was just 15 minutes away from Rachel Posner’s last known address. Her old landlord confirms that Doug paid the rent.
Finally, ousted reporter Sean Jeffries meets with Laura Moretti (Wendy Moniz) to discuss her husband’s death. She mentions this to Doug, and he asks for Sean’s name.
Run, Sean. Run.
What in the name of Gilead is this? When Frank mentioned meeting with Mark Usher during some Northern California men’s retreat, he glossed over the Handmaid’s Tale dress code. Ugh. Rich men and their whims.
Now that the election hinges on just the re-vote in Ohio, Frank is planning to woo the nation’s most powerful men to help secure that state and maybe chow down on some bull’s testicles in the process. It’s a tough crowd: In addition to Usher, there’s General Brockhart; sworn enemy Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney), who wastes no time mentioning having steaks in Ohio with the general, making it clear where his loyalties lie; and Pollyhop CEO/Conway pal Benjamin Grant. Officially there’s to be no talk of politics or business, but Usher sums it up succinctly: “Fuck Ohio — this is the real campaign.”
When he’s not trading barbs with Brockhart and Tusk, Frank gets useful intel. Conway wasn’t invited, and there won’t be a presidential debate. Usher is clearly more invested in Brockhart than Conway now. Frank contemplates having Doug sabotage a deal between Tusk and Grant, but comes up with a better idea. When the youthful Grant shows off their new technology, which captures and stores a person’s memories and personality quirks onto a smartphone, Frank mocks the idea. His speech about being a salesman who knows the American people gets under Brockhart’s skin, and makes Tusk seem out of touch. It also gives Grant something to think about.
Frank runs into a tipsy and unhappy Grant on his way out of the retreat. Grant hates working with Tusk, and knows that Conway’s campaign is finished. He slips Frank a fob with footage of his friend’s airplane meltdown; it’s a game-changer.
With Frank away, Claire’s in charge (sans her husband’s interference) at the White House. She’s woken up in the middle of the night to deal with a crisis: A Russian vessel is sinking, and needs help. Durant suspects the Russians were looking for oil, and notes that Petrov has denied the whole affair, which means he’s hiding something on board. Petrov confirms that he doesn’t want the Americans to intervene, even if it means Russians will die. As an insurance policy, he threatens Claire with releasing Aidan’s intel about the voting disruption in Ohio.
Claire’s instinct is to keep Petrov happy, but the situation gets more complicated when it threatens to derail an important trade deal she’s making with Jane Davis and the Chinese trade minister. They tell her that an American is on board, and if Claire doesn’t order a rescue, China will back out of the deal. Claire is suspicious. What does China get out of this? Can Jane Davis be trusted?
She confirms that an American researcher for oil companies, Thad Peterson, is indeed on board the sinking ship. Still, she digs her heels in, wary of pissing off Petrov. Ultimately, she forces China to agree to a higher tariff. It’s made to look like Chinese, not American, soldiers were behind the rescue of the 112 people on board; Thad Peterson was unaccounted for. She lets the ship sink, keeping Petrov’s secret safe. He still refuses to give up Aidan.
Claire later presses Davis to get the real story. The Russians and Chinese were trying to hide a top-secret technology, Davis explains. Thad Peterson was the technology.
In other news, Claire and Tom are in love, Hammerschmidt just received a tape of Zoe Barnes’ Metro platform, and Usher has switched sides.
Though Frank is armed with Conway’s damning plane footage, he thinks it’s almost too easy to release it right away. And so, upon his return to the White House, he and Claire invite Mark Usher over for a chat and a job offer.
“Claire and I are willing to do anything and we know that you are no different,” Frank tells him, after breaking the news about the Conway tape.
Usher knows which way the wind is blowing. He agrees to work behind the scenes to sabotage Conway’s campaign. The Underwoods will release the Conway and Brockhart tapes slowly and strategically. Victory is certain. For once, Doug is delighted.
Sure enough, Frank is once again POTUS after releasing the recordings and declaring victory in Ohio. It’s Conway’s turn to make a concession call, but all the governor can manage are some choice four-letter words.
It’s time for some reshuffling. LeAnn basically gets the heave-ho thanks to her involvement with Aidan. Much to Doug’s chagrin, Mark Usher is now a special advisor. Frank makes a big show of having his cabinet members sign their letters of resignation, only to rip them up and welcome them back. Look closely and you’ll notice that Catherine Durant’s letter stays on the table.
Journalist Kate Baldwin (Kim Dickens) is back to cover the inauguration. Over drinks, LeAnn tells her about Aidan, glossing over the juicy bits. Can she track him down? Kate later meets up with her former lover Tom Yates. He’s not interested in gossiping about the White House, and he doesn’t return her subtle advances. Kate can see that he’s been drinking the Underwood Kool-Aid.
“Where’d you go, Tom Yates?” she asks wistfully.
Tom must sense her disappointment, because he rushes back to tell Claire that he’s done writing her speeches. (Maybe she can hire Frank’s personal trainer Eric? He sure does love some wordplay.) Claire agrees to “transition [him] out” so he can return to real writing.
Jane Davis, whose quirks expand to not being good at parties, tells Claire she’s keen for the new Underwood administration to focus on Antarctica’s oil, Al Ahmadi, and Petrov. She gets her wish: Petrov is back in play. Kate Baldwin has already reached out to the Russian government with an eye to interviewing Aidan. Petrov wants him to do the interview and expose the Underwoods. In exchange, he’ll get his freedom. Or, at least, his passport.
Doug, meanwhile, is busy putting out fires with House reps Terry Womack and Alex Romero. Womack is spending too much money. Romero is gunning for Womack’s gig as Whip. The “future” of the party also wants better seats at the inauguration and a statement in support of Medicare. Doug doesn’t bite but Usher does. He gives the congressman his own seats.
Now we come to the inauguration, and a fourth-wall speech that has absolutely nothing at all to do with our real-life political situation. Not one bit. Let’s hear it, Frank.
“You made this bed, America,” the re-elected POTUS tells the viewing audience. “You voted for me. Are you confused? Are you afraid? Because what you thought you wanted is now here. And there you are, staring back, slackjawed, bewildered, wondering if this is what you actually asked for. This democracy, your democracy, elected me. And if you think getting here was hard, you’re beginning to understand what I’m willing to do to stay.”
Okay. We’re scared.
One thing he’s not willing to do is accommodate Romero’s ego. Frank dangles the Medicare line, but moves on to his real pet passion: unemployment. The congressman reacts by threatening to restart the Declaration of War committee’s investigation into Frank.
After a patdown and a lot of power plays, Kate is ready for her interview with Aidan. She tells him about LeAnn leaving the White House and being the one to push this interview. He freaks out, goes to get air, and uses a borrowed cell phone to call LeAnn, who is dressed for the inauguration ball. He tells her to run, to come to Russia. She says she’s sorry, and we see that Doug is with her. The call is being recorded and agents are standing by to extract him. The interview, obviously, is off.
Claire and Frank are also dressed for the ball. Frank makes an undermining comment about Claire looking very “vice presidential” for the occasion. She heads to the party with Tom; he takes Eric to his secret smoking nook. For a moment it looks like he’s going to choke the man to death for lying about Augustus Underwood’s Civil War background, but they end up having sex. Eric won’t be forming any boy toy clubs with Tom, however. Doug quickly ushers him out of the party.
It’s just one of many tense moments at the party. Durant snubs Frank. Claire asks Doug what he was doing when James Miller was being killed (answer: having sex with Laura Moretti). And Frank sidles up to Tom to warn him about his press room sexcapade. “Don’t cheat on my wife,” he commands.
Hammerschmidt, meanwhile, not only has footage of Zoe Barnes’ death, but also a burner phone discovered by her father. We also learn that Sean Jeffries is dating Hammerschmidt’s assistant.
The next day, LeAnn arrives to learn that she is officially out at the White House. What’s worse, Doug telling her she has something in her teeth, or threatening to call security?
And what of Aidan? Jane Davis claims he’s at the Jordanian embassy in Paris. The Underwoods want him back in the U.S. They also have an imaginative way of looking at things. That election fraud was all LeAnn’s fault, you see.
“It’s hard to know who to trust these days,” Claire muses.
“Isn’t it,” Frank agrees.
This episode was all about tying up loose ends — so, so many loose ends. Let’s break them all down, shall we?
Don’t you just hate it when your boyfriend walks in on you while you’re trying to misplace a body, mob-style? The American oil researcher from Petrov’s sinking Russian ship has resurfaced and he’s a) dead, and b) frostier than a snowman convention. As Tom watches, Claire orders Assistant Director Green (who is sometimes Counterrorism Director Green, we can’t keep track) to lose his remains. As Jane Davis later explains, it would all be very embarrassing for certain foreign interests for poor Mr. Peterson’s frozen form to go public.
Green is a busy guy; Doug also has him getting dirt on Rachel Posner’s girlfriend, Lisa. Doug tracks her down himself, and she’s scared shitless. Despite his efforts to act like a concerned friend, she senses fear and runs away, leaving her bag of groceries behind. Smart girl — dude was about to jab the recovering addict with a needle. Lisa calls Hammerschmidt, who has just learned that Zoe’s burner phone only communicated with one government number, and tells him about the run-in. The journalist later confronts Doug, making it clear he’s really onto him this time.
And if that doesn’t put our murderous chief of staff behind bars, maybe this will: After talking to Meredith Lee, the former secretary of Health and Human Services who got bullied into giving Frank the liver donation earmarked for Anthony Moretti, Sean Jeffries has more or less pieced together the Doug/Moretti connection. He tells Seth, who tells Claire, who… doesn’t do much of anything, really.
Tom is a loose end that has yet to be tied. He and Claire are growing closer — so close, in fact, that she’s blabbed about Frank’s murders — but Frank is annoyed and ready to wipe his hands clean of the writer. Will Claire’s pillow talk force the issue?
Claire’s working closely with Jane Davis, but she’s frustrated that Al Ahmadi remains at large. Davis blames the Aidan situation (more on that later); they can’t act until they know what he’s told Petrov, given Russia’s presence in Syria. But suddenly there’s a breakthrough: Davis tells Frank of a sarin gas attack that will soon occur in the Syrian city of Homs. If they let it happen, Frank has an excellent excuse to send troops to Damascus in response. What’s more, he could use the Declaration of War committee on an actual war and not an investigation into his dodgy dealings.
There’s just teensy problem: Catherine Durant has a conscience. She wants to raise the alarm about the attack before it happens; the Underwoods pull out her resignation letter and basically bully her into following their plan. She agrees, but meets with Davis in private to communicate her panic. Davis pretends to be horrified and says she’ll talk to the Underwoods, those “terrible, terrible people.” She does talk, but only to tell them that Durant isn’t really cut out for this stuff. Is Durant now turning into another loose end?
Jackie Sharp and Remy Danton are back! Unfortunately, it’s in name only. Congressman Romero is chasing them to testify in his rebooted investigation against Frank. If you’re going to make a threat, you may as well see it through.
The plan is to offer Romero the chance to replace Terry Womack as Whip in exchange for dropping the investigation. Romero passes; he’s dead-set on seeing Frank punished. There’s a lot of back and forth here. Frank and Doug suspect Usher of playing both sides, and he is, a little bit. He wants to work with Romero, who has a bright political future, but won’t indulge his demands. Usher tells the congressman he’s got dirt that will implicate him. Romero agrees to behave.
Usher then leaks a story charging that Sharp traded legislation for campaign funds. Her credibility is shot, so she won’t be called to testify. Neither will Seth, who ignore his friend’s Bridget request to talk.
Romero doesn’t have Sharp in his corner, but he does have Garrett Walker, the former president who got embroiled in a career-ending financial scandal thanks to Frank. Everyone panics, but Usher quickly buys off Walker with a fancy chancellorship gig. He agrees to plead the 5th — then talks. Turns out his pre-hearing chat with Frank really rubbed him the wrong way, and now he’s singing like a choirgirl. Frank is screwed.
Nobody, however, is more screwed than our hacker friend. Only Jane Davis seems to know anything about him, apart from what he’s told Petrov. She tells Claire he’s still at the Jordanian embassy. She asks LeAnn if he has a nickname, and when she doesn’t respond, she reveals that she already knows it’s Mac. LeAnn makes some desperate attempts to both find her friend and get her job back, but nothing sticks.
Then one night, he approaches her in a dark parking lot. He won’t say how he got there, or where he’s headed, but he wants her to come. She declines, giving him a big kiss and her handgun. He runs off into the night.
But it’s not a happy ending. Later LeAnn receives an email with an audio file. It’s Aidan telling her that if she’s receiving this, he must be dead. She breaks down, not noticing the security questions that have popped up in order to access the email’s attached files.
We see Aidan’s dead body lying in a hotel room, LeAnn’s gun on the bed and a gunshot wound under his eye. Then we see Jane Davis take his file, and Thad Peterson’s, and feed them into a paper shredder. Ladies and gentleman, we have a new villain.
Have you guys seen Seth’s killer Kellyanne Conway impersonation? It’s great. Just watch his efforts to discredit Garrett Walker while Tom Hammerschmidt gloats about the very really possibility of Frank Underwood getting impeaches. (Good to see Rachel Maddow, by the way.)
Usher, the Underwoods, and Doug are weighing their options after Walker’s damning testimony. The best bet is censure; it’s a blot on his career, of course, but better than impeachment or a criminal trial. Frank is defiant and argues that he’ll get off; Claire insists censure is still the way forward.
In the meantime, Hammerschmidt’s assistant Angela is telling boyfriend Sean Jeffries (soon to get that White House job he told Claire about) that she’s done feeding him info. (Her taste in men is about as good as her taste in beverages. Red Bull before bed?) Hammerschmidt also hasn’t followed up with his questioning of Doug, giving the chief of staff more time to catch up on his reading. He’s in possession of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, and we’ve got $100 that says Madame Defarge is his favorite character.
Hammerschmidt’s too busy for Doug because there’s a leak in the White House. He gets intel about the false Kalabi arrest (and what that means for the vote in Tennessee), but can’t run it without confirmation. Angela leaks the story to Slugline, and the media goes wild.
So, who’s the leak? It’s not Seth, who is finally standing up to Doug and his threats of suffocation. It’s not LeAnn, who is also fielding questions from the FBI about Aidan’s death. They don’t know if it was suicide, because the gun (which we saw in the last episode) is missing.
The leak puts more pressure on Frank. He finally agrees to a censure, but Claire rejects Mark’s suggestion that she distance herself from her husband.
She is, however, distancing herself from Tom. She breaks up with him in the kitchen and tells him to leave. “How do you that? Just turn off like that?” he asks her, moving in closely. But her mind is made up. (Frank also splits with Eric, following a too-familiar profession of love. Rough.)
Surveillance is set up to flush out the White House rat, so to speak. Everyone’s watching everyone. Doug watches Sean calling up Meredith Lee about the Moretti donor story. Frank watches Cathy Durant hang up on Hammerschmidt. Claire watches us watching her, and breaks the fourth well to tell us she’s always known we were there, and that she doesn’t trust our intentions.
Doug finally confesses to Laura Moretti that he stole her husband’s liver. Surprise! She had already figured it out, and has been hate-fucking him this whole time. Doug reacts to this news by kicking her out of his car. He then turns up at LeAnn’s house demanding that she hand over Aidan’s files. For some strange reason this turns her on and they have sex. Plenty of hate-fucking to go around.
Jane Davis is also poking around, spooking Durant from testifying for Romero’s judiciary committee and then calling secret meetings with Claire. Frank notes his wife’s 45-minute absence and grows suspicious.
Another leak emerges, this time exposing the truth behind the voting center closures on Election Day. Frank seems to suspect Durant. He asks her to create a fake paper trail about the Kalabi arrest; she agrees, then flees, then hands in her resignation.
The leak means censure is no longer an option, and Claire really has to play dumb and pretend she had no knowledge of her husband’s dealings. The Underwoods are on shaky ground, but at least Frank has Doug. The loyal aide ‘fesses up about getting him Moretti’s liver. Frank responds by noting that Doug saved his life.
News breaks that Durant will indeed talk to the judiciary committee, and she’s secured immunity to boot. She’s not the leak. The leak is someone with terrible taste in greeting cards — and he or she has just sent The Herald another flash drive. Dun-dun-dun.
Why oh why oh why oh why would Cathy Durant go visit Frank at the White House when she’d already agreed to testify for the judiciary committee? “You need to take a fall,” he tells her when she refuses to back out of her testimony. He means it literally — heaving her down the stairs until she lands in a crumpled ball. At least they’re carpeted?
The fall isn’t fatal, but it does sideline Durant for the foreseeable future, and the judiciary committee is postponed. Frank’s not out of the woods, though. Mark Usher gets a tip that someone is working very hard to sway the Senate vote against Frank. Impeachment is still a huge threat, and it’s impossible to push that many people down a flight of stairs.
“The president is done,” confirms Assistant Director Green, who is outraged that Doug wants him to perjure himself by claiming that Muhammed Kalabi really did have terrorist material. (Doug’s “if it sounds like a fact, it is a fact” is the new “fake news,” by the way.) According to Green, Frank has no support in the FBI. The pressure continues to mount.
Now here’s bad boyfriend and newly minted Deputy Press Secretary Sean Jeffries with a reminder to wear gloves to bed, ladies. He creepily takes his sleeping girlfriend’s thumb and uses it to unlock her phone so he can go through her texts from Tom Hammerschmidt. She wakes up and, we hope, dumps him for good.
Either way, he doesn’t skip a beat. Sean uses his intel to secure an impromptu meeting with Frank, much to his boss Seth’s horror. Sean tells the president that Hammerschmidt has learned that Zoe’s burner was in contact with the White House. They have the data to trace her old calls and texts. (This must have been what the flash drive in the greeting card contained.) Frank seems unsure whether to be outraged or impressed. He tells Sean to keep him aware of any developments.
Frank notifies Claire that Hammerschmidt thinks he and Doug killed Zoe Barnes, which isn’t exactly what Sean told him. No problem: They’ll just get Doug to take the fall. Claire calls Doug at home — sorry, set designers, but not for a million years do I believe he stocks strawberry balsamic vinaigrette in his fridge — to invite him over for dinner the next evening. Time to grab that premium salad dressing and disappear, son.
Hammerschmidt has a very Cathy Durant approach to personal safety, but he manages to walk his dog, by himself, at night, without getting murdered. He does get a mysterious call, though. It’s a two-fer, offering a tip on Aidan MacAllan and the reveal that Doug Stamper killed Zoe Barnes.
The Underwoods put it plainly to Doug over dinner the next night. “We need you to implicate yourself in the death of Zoe Barnes,” Claire tells him before he’s even had a chance to digest his fish. Doug looks dumbstruck, then asks for a moment and leaves the room. Later, he heads to his office and clears out a stack of TERRIBLE GREETING CARDS from his desk. So… he’s the leak?
Hammerschmidt has this huge story; he just needs to confirm it. It also turns out that Angela, his assistant, has been planting fake scoops for Sean to read. The player got played.
LeAnn already thinks Doug is too “devoted” to Frank, but she has no idea. Doug is sitting on her couch when he (falsely) confesses to killing Zoe Barnes. He’s really confessing to killing Rachel Posner, the guilt of which motivates him to take the blame for Zoe. For his part, Frank is feeding Seth details to tell the committee about Doug.
There’s another issue: Tom has contacted Claire with the news that he’s written a manuscript that reveals some top-secret details. He is officially a loose end.
Usher lets Claire use his home to meet Tom, who confirms that she’s the only person with a copy of the manuscript. "You portrayed us as monsters," she accuses him as he cradles the drink she’s poured him. But she eventually softens, and they end up making love upstairs. He’s telling her she’s good, and that they should go to Greenland, and then he dies. Claire had poisoned his drink. And no, Usher is not happy to find a dead body in his house.
So, Doug has complied by confessing. Seth has complied by ratting out Doug. LeAnn has complied by testifying that Aidan was working alone. Green has complied by lying that Kalabi was justifiably arrested.
One person hasn’t complied, and it’s Jane Davis, who spends most of the episode trying to secure a deal with her Syrian contacts and telling LeAnn that she retrieved her gun from Aidan’s crime scene. Usher tracks her down and accuses her of being the person sabotaging Frank. She admits it. “I don’t want him to be president,” she says, noting that she prefers Claire.
In fairness, she says as much to Frank’s face. Though he could use an awful gang rape story from Romero’s past to get the congressman to back down, Frank decides to give up his executive privilege and testify. Davis is anxious that his testimony doesn’t drag down Claire, too. They make a deal to protect her.
And so when Frank appears before Congress, he doesn’t air any dirty laundry. He calls out his peers, defending his actions because this, friends, is how politics works and they’re all playing the same game. He’s tired of the nonsense, and is handing over his resignation. No impeachment necessary. He's out, on his own terms.
After all that, will Frank Underwood walk away scot-free? As far as the judiciary committee is concerned, yes. Congressman Romero finally backs down when Frank threatens to reveal his involvement in a gang rape in college. No charges will be filed, and the committee will be disbanded.
Now all Frank needs is a full presidential pardon, which may be easier said than done. Claire is incensed about being not being warned about his sudden resignation, and even more so when he reveals that it was no spur-of-the-moment decision.
Nope, Frank’s been planning this all since his face-plant at his Elysian Fields men’s retreat. He’s the leak. He’s the one who has been feeding Hammerschmidt information, with Doug’s help. He’s sabotaged his own presidency.
It’s all about control, and power, the Raymond Tusk kind that isn’t bound by rules and voters. “Real power isn’t about who lives at the White House,” he tells Claire, who will now be the nation’s first female president. “It’s who owns the White House.” He says that he “made” her president so he could sit back and pull her strings — they’re now an unstoppable combo. But could he get that pardon, please?
Since they’re in a confessional mood, Claire responds by admitting to killing Tom. “We’re the same now, you and I,” she later notes.
Time for some White House spring cleaning. Sean Jeffries is in. Seth Grayson is out. So is LeAnn Harvey, despite her negotiations with Jane Davis to be named Claire’s chief of staff. She’s also (foolishly) handed over Aidan’s files in exchange for her gun.
Doug Stamper, obviously, is also done, and almost certainly bound for prison. Tom Hammerschmidt gives him multiple chances to change his story and admit that Frank killed Zoe Barnes, but he’s already fallen on his sword.
His final moments in the White House see him handing his resignation letter to Frank, who invites him to take a souvenir from his office. Doug chooses a presidential letter opener, which should make an excellent shiv.
Back at home with his new ankle bracelet, Doug returns to A Tale of Two Cities, this time in audiobook form. The passage being read aloud is rather telling.
“For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. If my career were of that better kind that there was any opportunity or capacity of sacrifice in it, I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you. Try to hold me in your mind, at some quiet times, as ardent and sincere in this one thing. The time will come, the time will not be long in coming, when new ties will be formed about you — ties that will bind you yet more tenderly and strongly to the home you so adorn — the dearest ties that will ever grace and gladden you.”
Think he cribbed that into his resignation letter?
Frank and Claire are still arguing about what she sees as his betrayal. She finally agrees to issue a pardon, but only when the timing is right. Without it, he won’t resign. He signs his walking papers and she is once again sworn in.
Despite what Connie Chung says, Frank will no longer still be sleeping in the White House. He’s banished to a hotel so that Claire can distance herself and start her presidency on a clean slate. Before he leaves, he retreats to the Oval for one last smoke, using his lit cigarette to burn a hole through a star in the American flag. Not getting the deposit back, man.
Lest you were in any doubt, Jane Davis is definitely not to be trusted. One minute she’s conspiring with Frank, the next she’s telling Claire that she can arrange for Frank’s delicate liver to peace out. How does she sleep at night? By staying in the most blissful-looking hotel ever, apparently.
She’s also manipulated the Syrian situation to her liking; the sarin attack has happened, as planned, and that “line in the sand” has been breached. Davis and Frank nudge Claire into agreeing to send troops. Akhmed Al Ahmadi is taken out, Claire announces in a public address that calls out both Petrov for collaborating with China on illegal oil exploration and sending troops to support the regime, and Congress for not taking action with its Declaration of War committee. She conveniently forgets to mention pardoning Frank. Is she talking about him when she mentions leaders who treat their people like “pawns’?
“If she doesn’t pardon me, I’ll kill her,” Frank seethes. He doesn’t, but we won’t be hearing from Wade Boggs super-fan LeAnn for a while. Her car is mowed down while Frank watches on his laptop. Pretty sure she’s dead.
There’s still more collateral damage to come. A war protester is shot and killed at the White House. Tom Yates’ body is “on ice,” and Usher is wisely leveraging his knowledge of Claire’s crime into the plum role of vice president.
With Usher in a powerful position, Claire will likely need Frank on her side. And yet, she’s rejecting his calls.
She sits in the Oval, fingering the flag that Frank has burnt. She turns to look at the camera, at us.