House of Cards Season 3, Episode 5 Recap: All Good People Come to an End

Kim Dickens as Kate Baldwin. Photo: David Giesbrecht/Netflix
House of Cards
Episode Title
Chapter 31
Editor’s Rating

Happy Fourth of July! Let’s break down Frank’s AmWorks plan: He’s going to get the mayor of D.C., Barney Hull, to declare a state of emergency in Washington. Is this because of that one time the District experienced an earthquake? Nope, it’s for unemployment. (You may be thinking, But unemployment isn’t — that’s not — why would you ever …? Shh, quiet those logical thoughts. Bask in the insanity that is this latest plot development!) This way, Frank can appropriate funds from FEMA — funds that would otherwise house American citizens who find their homes demolished from tornados, for instance — to employ every single unemployed person in Washington. Should this be successful, it will kick the doors open for AmWorks to become a national program. Frank will bypass Congress until they have no choice but to join in. Or he and a lot of people will die trying.

Arnold Silver, head of FEMA, is stunned at Frank’s suggestion. Frank is excellent at his job and also has a conscience. “You can’t compare unemployment to a cat-four hurricane!” Frank responds to this argument by threatening Arnold’s job.

Heather Dunbar’s campaign is under way. She’s got Michael Corrigan’s husband on her arm at every stop, a telegenic, sympathetic reminder of President Underwood’s inability to get Corrigan out of prison or stand up for LGBT rights. I like Heather, therefore I worry deeply about her. On HOC, all good people must come to an untimely end.

Frank has a plan to wreck Heather: getting Jackie to fake-run for office to divide the women’s vote. Jackie is worried about what this two-step will require of her — first saying Underwood is bad for America, then jumping on his ticket — and also because she has no funding. Frank insists she’ll look like she “saw the light” and Remy says they can “roll some PAC money” her way, because America. Oh, and one more thing: They need Jackie to get married. Fortunately, Jackie’s guy has discussed marriage and already has children (“Two kids, no stretch marks!” gotta love a pragmatist), and Jackie says they’re in love. Later, we see these lovebirds talking about the two most important decisions a person can make: Should they order a pizza, and should they get married? Alan offers to get a pizza and bring it in for her “just like room service.” (My notes, verbatim: “MARRY THAT MAN, JACKIE. MAKE THIS PRINCE YOUR PIZZA-SEX MINION.”) She brings up marriage and he’s like, hey, I already got you a ring, want me to get it from the car? Jackie’s all, Nah I’m good with pizza for now. [Prayer-hands emoji.] I would like to take the opportunity to formally apologize for accidentally calling Alan a government bro. He is a cardiologist, and he seems great. Yet another person I like whom I have to worry about. This show is so stressful.

(This development is also breaking poor Remy’s heart. Tough break, Remy!)

Frank’s Jackie-faux-candidacy plan has a hitch, though. Frank doesn’t know about Doug. Frank has made what may just be the fatal mistake of not taking care of someone who always took care of him. Doug knows all of the Underwoods’ dirty little secrets, and hell hath no fury like a henchman scorned. In a “conversation that never happened,” Doug pitches his services to Heather. She thinks he might be a mole, “but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value.

Kate Baldwin — Kim Dickens, showing off those suffer-no-fools skills she last demonstrated in Gone Girl — is Ayla’s replacement. Bad news for Seth, because she knows she’s untouchable. “Can’t boot two reporters in a row, certainly not two women.” Also, Kate is fantastic at her job: “I’m going to hit twice as hard as she ever did because I can and someone should.” Is HOC trying to make up for the whole “everyone screws their sources” mess that was Zoe and Janine? Whatever the reason, I am just happy to see all these women this season being hypercompetent badasses who refuse to cower to Frank. Kate does her digging and gets the intel she needs from Arnold at FEMA. The result of these efforts? Two above-the-fold bylines in The Wall Street Telegraph. Frank, predictably, is furious with Seth: “You kicked out a pit bull and sent in a dragon!”

Claire runs into some resolution troubles. Looks like trying to get everyone in the U.N. to agree to the resolution all at the same time is like trying to get all your friends to agree to a time and date for happy hour. Just when you think you’ve got it sorted out, somebody flakes, somebody works late, and you have to start all over again. Tell me about it, Claire!

It appears that Claire has lost: Alexi, the Russian ambassador, is a condescending prick when he meets with her, telling her, “I have indulged your enthusiasm long enough … The truth is, you have no business being ambassador anymore than I do being First Lady.” Well, not with that lack of social grace, you don’t.

But Claire, magnificent cheekbone queen of the nation, snags an executive order from her husband, promising the U.S. will send troops on the peacekeeping mission. She smokes a cigarette and real-talks with Frank like old times. She’s sorry about how she’s been sleeping in a separate bed. “I want you to know that I love you,” she says. “I love you as much as ever.” This gives Claire all the ammunition she needs for an amazing meeting she forces Alexi to have with her in a woman’s restroom. She cajoles him into weighing in on her makeup — “Always nice to have a man’s opinion,” she says, which is of course what Claire thinks of male opinions: nice, as in cute but totally unnecessary — and then tells him about the executive order while she is peeing. (What is it with the Underwoods and power-peeing? One more makes a trend!) If Russia tries to send weapons to Iran, she says, “we will shoot the planes out of the sky, the trucks off the road, and the ships out of the water.” Frank will meet with Petrov; Corrigan will be released. Offend Claire Underwood, and she will destroy you while being more attractive than you can ever hope to be.

Heather meets with this guy Joe, whom Doug told her to talk to, and gets some very valuable information about how the U.N. resolution and the Jordan Valley situation is connected to Michael Corrigan’s imprisonment. Joe is hired. She heads to Iowa to win some hearts and minds and have a meeting with Doug in an empty high-school cafeteria. Doug shows her the journal from the doctor who performed Claire’s abortion (one she claimed she had after she was raped but actually had before her rape, which means the baby would have been Frank’s). Heather is, rightfully, horrified that Doug would even suggest publicizing something like this. But Doug, also rightfully, says this is why he needs her. “You need someone who is willing to do the things people like her won’t do,” he says, referring to Heather’s right-hand lady, Cynthia. (He also says, no joke, “I have a certain set of skills.” Sure thing, Liam Neeson.) Doug is in!

Look, is this sort of proof that the time we spent watching Doug slowly suffer has a payoff? You could say so. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t boring. I stand by my initial assessment of the season premiere and of Doug’s Sadness Cave.

A new side plot is brewing: Frank’s all about this new video game, Monument Valley, because he read a beautiful review by a frustrated novelist who wishes people would read his new stuff instead of telling them how one of his older books changed their lives.

As the Fourth of July fireworks fill the sky, the line for the AmWorks tent supposedly stretches from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. For everyone playing along at home, that would mean the line is 2.2 miles long. Seems unlikely that this would be the sign-up method of choice for the average person; wouldn’t AmWorks have a website? didn’t exactly launch without a hitch, but at least Obama didn’t have every uninsured man, woman, and child in Washington stand single-file for 12 hours on the Mall.

Spotted in the crowd: Freddy, the former proprietor of Freddy’s BBQ Joint who, due to his association with Frank, lost everything. Wonder whom he’ll be voting for in 2016.