House of Cards Recap: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

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Robin Wright as Claire, Neve Campbell as Leann. Photo: David Giesbrecht/Netflix
House of Cards
Episode Title
Chapter 43
Season
4
Episode
4
Editor’s Rating
4/5

The results are in: No one in America thinks it's a good idea for the president and vice-president to be related in any way! Did that news shock you? Yeah, Frank isn't surprised either. The next move from Team Frank is to "co-opt" Leann, even though Doug fears she cannot be controlled.

Let's pause a moment, though, for the scene of Frank and Meechum. Meechum talks in the awkward, dopey-sweet way you did back when you were a seventh-grader with a crush on a suuuuper-cute eighth-grader who you can't even believe is talking to you so you just start blurting out stuff like, "Oh yeah, lockers, I keep a backpack in mine sometimes!"

Frank asks Meechum what he thinks of a painting, which is such a high-pressure question to ask someone (reminds me of the Rothko-as-Rorschach test from Bert's office back at Sterling Cooper). Meechum helpfully says, "It's like the American flag." Aww! Frank says, "No, it's the rebel flag, sinking into oblivion." Meechum's reply: "The colors are nice." I'm serious, I am not paraphrasing; all this grown man offers here is: "The colors are nice." Frank reveals that he hates it so, naturally, Meechum decides to hate it, too. Frank takes it down because it's not such a hot idea to have a Confederate flag on the walls "after everything that happened in South Carolina," which (a) was it ever a good idea to have a Confederate flag hanging up in the White House, and (b) is phrased in such a way that I have to believe this is the series referencing the real-life shooting in Charleston.

Then — again, I am not joking, I am only transcribing, as I must — Frank takes a marker and traces Meechum's hand onto the wall. In other words: He makes a hand turkey. There is a lot of giggling. I'm so glad there's nothing pressing happening, in this America or any other, that this little lovefest can go down in the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Get a room, you two.

The Doug/Seth pissing contest is hilarious. Doug asks if Seth is saying he wants to resign, and his voice is so full of hope, like a thousand tiny doves are carrying his message across the table. And Seth is like, "Why on earth would I stay in this vicious hellscape where we barely govern and everyone hates me?" Doug replies with, "I'm choosing to believe you, but of course, I could change my mind at any time. I am loyal only to one, to Frank, my OTP, my true love, my soul mate, my master, for everything he says I do. My work is thankless but who needs to see, hear, or feel any demonstrable gratitude when you have Francis Underwood nearby, when the possibility exists that he will grace your unworthy shoulder with his golden palm, when he will take your trash hand in his mighty one and give it a shake that turns your garbage fingers into appendages of Valyrian steel."

Leann shows Claire the focus-group tapes, proving what every sentient being already knows — America is not asking for an Underwood-Underwood ticket — and recalls how her dad "really liked" Frank. But in this family, "really liking" someone still gives you the room to say to your daughter, the day she is about to marry him, "Okay, but do you really want to spend forever with this shmuck?" Claire wanted a life without doubt, and Frank is trying to make her doubt herself.

Claire has impeccable handwriting. She gives a note to Leann to hand-deliver to Frank and is interrupted only once, by the sound of her mother killing a lizard. "Watch your step," Elizabeth says, as she breezes in and out of the room. "There's blood on the floor."

The note, which Leann successfully gets to Frank, is a very Underwood-style way of declaring that Claire is threatening to file for divorce. The language is that of a speech, not a letter; it's what Claire would tell the public, not Frank. But Claire and Frank are all about performance, even when it's just the two of them in a room. The threat of a divorce might feel more real to Frank when he can see how Claire would tell the world, rather than how it would feel if she wrote the letter just to him.

Frank gives another boring stump speech. Outside, the crowd is chanting "Blunderwood," so Frank makes the ill-advised decision to go outside and engage with his haters. Because that's where you go to have a thoughtful, productive conversation with people who disagree with you. "I'm here to try to listen to you but maybe make this one at a time," Frank says, which is about as useful as telling a toddler, mid-tantrum, "If you just use your words, I'm sure we could come to a compromise."

Then HOLY GUNSHOTS, IT IS LUCAS! LUCAS, ZOE'S AVENGER, SHOT THE PRESIDENT. 

R.I.P., Lucas, who died while failing to bring down the man he hated and feared. R.I.P., Meechum, who died while saving the man he loved and threesomed.

Best response to this goes to — who else? — Elizabeth Hale, who gives Claire her best blank stare and says, "Do you expect me to console you?" And also, "Claire, I hope he dies." Damn, girl. 

I had kind of forgotten about VP Donald, but he's that education guy whose wife died and is so mashed-potato soft and bland and weak that it wouldn't even take an Underwood to manipulate him. Well, now he's the acting president, and he inherits that very un-chill situation with Russia; Milken is two hours from landing in Estonia. Cathy, sensing an opening to prevent an international catastrophe, urges Donald to turn the plane around. Doug, who is like what Dobby would have been if he'd taken a shining to Draco Malfoy instead of Harry Potter, is aghast that Cathy would point out that Frank could die — even though, obviously, our government has 8 billion protocols for what to do in the event that happens and it's happened before — and he demands they move forward as planned. If Frank were to die, Doug would wear full Victorian mourning garb for the rest of his empty days. Donald, in a very reassuring move, freaks out and asks if he can just have, like, ten minutes to think this through, guys. He's only the vice-president, second in line to the job, it's not as if he's ever given any thought to what he would do if he had to ascend to the presidency.

Doug is so wounded by the fact that doctors won't let him in to see Frank. Claire, naturally, wants to know why security at the event wasn't better, and Doug is all, "Ma'am, as far as threats go, we've been far more occupied with you lately." Which, I know the Underwoods are in a weird place right now, but that is very inappropriate. 

Donald is so pathetic and panicky, I actually died of secondhand embarrassment while watching him, and I will complete the writing of this recap as a ghost. "There's so much I don't know! It's overwhelming! I've never been a guts sort of guy!" He asks Claire, desperately, for advice. She reminds him of a Frank-ism: "If you don't like the way the table is set, then turn over the table." Not only is this terrible advice, but, to bring things back to the Sterling Cooper gang, it is a sad imitation of the Don Draper mantra, "If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation," which is great advice, and catchier to boot.

Infused with the confidence one can only get via an approving, warm look from Claire Underwood, Donald swaggers into the cabinet meeting with a game plan: "Land the plane in China! It's the last thing Petrov is expecting." Wait, is that a legitimate justification for doing something? Because Petrov isn't expecting it? I mean, Petrov probably isn't expecting a lot of things. I bet he'd be totally taken aback by an Edible Arrangement from one Doug Stamper, for instance. But I'm not sure that's a good reason to send him one.

Anyway, the worst part of this announcement is the fact that China is involved. China: Just the word gives me panicky flashbacks to what was the most boring, drawn-out, no-good, very-bad plot in all of House of Cards history. Maybe it's just a little blip and we won't get the return of that bird-watching weirdo and the rest of it, but I have a bad feeling about this. It is a feeling in my gut, and it is crying out noooooooooo.