House of Cards Recap: One Nation, Underwood

House of Cards

Chapter 56
Season 5 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating *****
Robin Wright as Claire Underwood. Photo: David Giesbrecht/Netflix

It’s looking like a victory for the Conways, but don’t let Doug hear you utter such blasphemy. “Shut up or you’re fired,” he growls to the poor underling who dares to state the obvious aloud. For Doug will not let the sun set on an Underwood loss; he will launch himself into space and hold Earth in place with his bare hands before he allows our measly globe to spin on its axis, plunging America into the darkness, an Underwood defeat haunting our dreams.

Doug is also doubting Leann, who I realize now is a striking brunette and this worries me greatly. “DO NOT HAVE SEX WITH DOUG,” I yell at my screen, but who knows if she will heed my warning. Meanwhile, the Conways jinx their lead by having celebratory sex. Everyone is making interesting and/or poor sex-related decisions, which one of the most realistic things about this deeply absurd program.

In the situation room (where Claire is present, yet again, for no apparent reason and with zero explanation as to how she got the clearance to participate), we find out that Frank instigated a raid on Mohammad’s place in Knoxville. They found bomb-making goodies, but alas, no Mohammad. Cathy reacts to this news by sort of preemptively retiring, but Frank is unfazed. “As if she could ever get under my skin,” he tells us, before going off on this weird tangent about how everyone at the after party will have sweaty hands (it’s November in Washington! It’ll probably be quite brisk) and would rather see his body riddled with bullets than watch Conway win the election.

Patricia from the DNC pulls Claire aside to encourage her to think four years down the line. Tom looks on with dead eyes. Claire shakes his hand, because they are in public and she is not a complete and utter moron. “Oh, so we’re shaking hands today?” Tom asks. Jesus, Tom. SHE IS MARRIED TO THE PRESIDENT. Did you honestly think you’d be able to jam your tongue down her throat in the middle of the goddamn hallway? How old is Tom, anyway? His behavior puts him at about 14. He hands her a victory speech with “there’s still time” written in pencil on the back; later, when she confronts him about it, as he obviously hoped she would, he’s all, “I don’t even know what that means.” Then he floats the not-at-all-tempting fantasy of running away with him to some cabin with broken windows in Maine. Claire, not being a 22-year-old dope, is underwhelmed by this romantic offer to be whisked away by a fake novelist to a busted-up getaway with no Wi-Fi. Tom is that guy from the tenth grade whose AIM away messages were always cryptic song lyrics in neon green text on a black background.

At the Underwood party, which is more of a pregame at this point, Sean the style writer is trying to make nice with Seth. His come-on: “You look like you’ve been chewed up and shit out twice today.” How sweet! Also, I like Sean’s pocket square. As for his colleague, Herald Tom is being a total curmudgeon about deigning to appear on CNN — which, yeah, I get it — but he is such a parody of a Real Journalist who finds everything but grimy investigations a frivolous waste of time. In real life, Tom would be live tweeting this “losers’ party.” Later, when the maybe-ICO attack goes down in Tennessee, Tom’s spidey sense tells him that all is not what it seems. I hope he and Sean break this story open soon because watching them circle and circle and circle and never land on anything is wearing me out.

I think we’re supposed to believe that everything that follows in this episode is unfolding just as the Underwoods planned, which is annoying on a few counts, not least of which because it’s more interesting if they don’t just get everything they want all of the time. (They’re basically the anti–Selina Meyer in this department.) Plus, the whole thing is so convoluted: They are both engaging in strategic voter suppression — I know I’ve said this a few times, but they are Democrats, if they worked to have higher turnout they’d be more likely to win and they wouldn’t have to go through this whole ridiculous and illegal process, which is yet another reason why this show would make more sense if Frank were a Republican — and putting on what they think is a convincing front of encouraging people to not tremble in the face of a (Frank-orchestrated) “terrorist” act of violence at one of these consolidating voting centers in Tennessee.

Not sure how all of you reacted to this turn of events, but if there an act of terrorism in the United States on Election Day, and if said act were at a polling place, I feel like the obvious course of action would be to close polls on Tuesday and allow everyone who wasn’t able to vote the opportunity to vote the following day. Maybe I’m under-thinking it, but this doesn’t seem super complicated to me.

But this is House of Cards, so instead we get a whole episode of Doug, Leann, and the Underwoods making scary phone calls to swing-state governors, even as everyone who knows better — the FBI director, those K-9 puppers who only bark when provoked and actually sit when they find a bomb — insists that this is an outrage. In spite of all the Underwoods’ complicated machinations, this fictional election plays out just like the real elections always do: It all comes down to Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Doug strong-arms poor Aidan into using his NSA access to fabricate some “terrorist chatter,” which in turn forces the Ohio governor to close, what do you know, three Republican-heavy polling places. Frank calls Will to concede and congratulate him, but when it turns out at least six states aren’t certifying their results, everything is up in the air again. Hannah Conway attempts to be cute about her waking nightmare: “Never a dull moment in this country!”

Frank has a headache and so do I. He and Claire keep talking to each other in these obnoxious, grandiose sentences, as if they are the only people who have ever run for office and no one else could possibly understand America — a country that Frank seems to barely comprehend — the way that they do. I know this is the premise upon which the entire series is based, but why does Frank even want to be president? He could have so much power in so many other ways, and he wouldn’t have to run for anything, navigate those pesky checks and balances, or be responsible for a nation whose citizens he clearly gives zero fucks about.

Instead of realizing, upon reflection, that he’s not really cut out for public service, Frank ticks off the years ahead in four-year increments, imagining some impossible Underwood monarchy that goes all the way through 2036. “One nation, Underwood.” Is the Underwood grand plan to abolish term limits and live in the White House for all of eternity?

House of Cards Recap: One Nation, Underwood