We begin in bliss: Look at Tom and Kate, happy coupling in hotels across the country, chasing the Underwood campaign trail while skipping all the events. Kate has been divorced twice and has a daughter in college, but Tom doesn’t care. He has no expectations. “I never have of anyone. You shouldn’t either.” Ugh, Tom is such a Cool Guy.
Speaking of guys trying to be cool: Why is Frank campaigning in a leather jacket? It’s not even motorcycle-style — why bother? Also, not sure how “nothing” is going to go over as a rallying cry. Frank is doing the whole “I met a woman named Gloria” thing when Claire slips him a note: eight Russians killed in the Jordan Valley. God bless Iowa, let’s get the hell out of dodge.
The Russians aren’t letting anyone into the blast site. They turned away help from the U.N. Is your spidey sense tingling? Like maybe the Russians did this to themselves? Congratulations, a thing you and I could determine in .02 seconds takes Frank, Claire, and the highest military intelligence in our great nation more than half of the episode to discover! Seth tells a flack how quickly things could escalate and tells him to “say the opposite! Flip it around and put a happy face on it.” In the future, all press briefings will be conducted entirely via emoji.
Is Frank on to Tom’s extracurricular activities with Kate? On Air Force One, he gives Frank that “where you been, brah” look and then Tom goes and makes loverboy eyes at Kate, so that secret is going to be out soon. Frank meets with Harlan, who says such engaging colloquialisms as “You’re holding onto that table like a stripper’s tits.” Can’t wait to see more of this charming fella! But Frank can’t actually meet with this man he should not be meeting with anyway because it’s against the rules to campaign on Air Force One because Petrov is finally returning his calls.
Petrov tells Frank he thinks Frank deliberately put the Russians in harm’s way. I am just realizing that Petrov looks like Voldemort circa Sorcerer’s Stone. Frank actually plays the “don’t let the terrorists win” card, which I thought was one of those sincere things time has turned ironic, like “never forget.” Petrov then HANGS UP on Frank. I know we’re in the middle of an international incident here but still: Rude.
Claire meets Alexi in the only room at the U.N. that no one bugged; this is disturbing and reassuring simultaneously, that everyone could agree on one space in the entire freaking building dedicated to global cooperation that wouldn’t be monitored by all these nations who can’t stop spying on each other. They have to back-channel, Claire says. “You can’t let this devolve into something nobody can control.” “Well, maybe that was the objective. The president never wanted the peacekeeping mission.” It was a plan! It was a plan all along. Claire implores Alexi to go public, but he fears for his life. “I have a family.”
In the Situation Room, Claire reports her findings. People find it hard to believe. Getting men to the blast site will take at least 12 hours, and the odds of success are only 50-50. Frank asks Claire “Are you certain?” She is.
Frank talks to the press, but he won’t call on Kate, so Kate, that sneaky genius, tells Stephanie to raise her hand on Kate’s behalf so Kate can ask about Harlan Trout. Frank pretends to be easy-breezy about it — “Now, does anybody else have a question they asked somebody else to ask me?” — but he knows Kate is onto something.
The U.S. mission to get intel from the blast site gets “compromised”: three wounded, one killed. In the morning, Frank finds out that Russia leaked footage of the firefight to Israel. Petrov gets on the line, just long enough for Frank to say (in disbelief, admiration, or both?) “You killed your own men, Victor.” But Petrov, still holding tight to these perceived humiliations Frank makes him suffer, doesn’t cave. Israeli forces enter the Jordan Valley. Frank writes to the dead soldier’s family to tell them their son was killed in a training mission.
Gavin meets with Doug in the diner again, and Gavin has news. The news comes with particularly graphic photos of a Jane Doe whose body was found in a ditch outside Tucson. The fingerprints match, blah blah whatever, it’s Rachel, and if you think, “maybe Doug will handle this information in a rational way, without imploding and destroying what little is left of his life,” ding ding ding, you are … wrong, 100 percent wrong, because Doug does not just fall off the wagon. Doug hurls himself off a speeding wagon into a pit of awfulness. Doug leaves a message for Frank, through Seth, that I thought was “my mark died” but later find out it was “my mom died,” which is a nifty secret code they have for Rachel since Doug’s mom has been dead for years. Then he gets wasted and violently plays this Chuckie Cheese–style mini-basketball-hoop-shooting game that, for some reason, is in this dive bar. He is loud and belligerent and pathetic.
He retreats, as we know he must, to the Sadness Cave. He vomits on the floor of his kitchen. Then he goes to get a glass of wate— oh, no, I take it back, he’s getting more booze. Good call, Doug. Hair of the vomit-dog. He keeps watching the surveillance footage of the crossroads where Rachel will never walk again, and then OH NO HE THROWS THE DRINK ON THE LAPTOP. Doug! Liquid damage is not covered by Apple’s warranty! The people at the Genius Bar will not take pity on you.
Doug makes his way to the White House the next day, still hammered, and throws the Rachel Files down on the table. Frank asks, again, “Are you certain?” Then he asks if Doug did it. Doug says no, and it’s hard to tell if Frank is disappointed by this information or not. He cannot believe Doug would bring this folder here. Doug drunkenly tells Frank what we have suspected for a while: He was working for Dunbar but “it was for you. To see how close I could get … To prove that I was still useful.”
Frank says they’ll figure something out. And Doug says, “I’m not Peter Russo. I won’t go like he did.” Frank replies: “No, you won’t. You’re going to get better, Doug. I promise you that.” Is this Frank slyly promising not to murder Doug, or is he just placating his inconveniently intoxicated friend? Doug puts his head on Frank’s knee like a little boy. Frank looks utterly repulsed by this display of weakness.
Frank gives Heather a call, leveraging Doug’s flame-out to make Heather feel like hell. He tells her that if she “endangers” Doug again, “I swear to God I will put you in your fucking grave.” Boy, I hope that was a secure line. Hard to tell if Heather is rattled or is already on to the next one: When she hangs up the phone, she gets back to a meeting with Harlan.
In other supporting character updates: Remy snaps at Jackie and apologizes immediately because look at that face, he is still so in love with her. Jackie tells him how marriage is, squeezing lemon juice on a paper cut in his heart, and Remy can only tell her that he’s happy Alan is such a stand-up husband. Remy can’t remember the last time he had a home-cooked meal. We gotta get Remy a girl.
Later, he drives Harlan to the airport; Harlan calls Remy a chauffeur, because Harlan is a dick and probably at least a medium amount of racist. Remy gets pulled over, probably for speeding but the cop never says. He left his wallet at work and, in a turn of events I’m sure will shock you, is greeted with unnecessary force and a pat-down and the whole nine yards of policing, until a higher-up comes to apologize for the “misunderstanding.” Remy goes to Jackie’s building to see her in the lobby. “I tried to tell the guy who I was, and he didn’t believe me. I don’t know — I didn’t believe me.” He kisses her, and even though it’s the wrong thing to do, it is actually really sweet, and Jackie doesn’t even seem that mad about it. “You still mean a lot to me,” she says. “I am there for you, as your friend.”