Kim Dickens as Kate Baldwin.
The Underwoods win Ohio and America is theirs! Mazel tov? I was very intrigued by the possibility of a Conway presidency with Claire as VP and all the double-crossing and unexpected ally-creating that would have led to, but instead Frank is the president and Claire is the vice-president and all is right in the Underwoods’ universe, if nowhere else.
Conway can barely keep it together when he needs to concede, and naturally is offended by the non-offer of Transportation secretary which, as he says, is “what you give to Congressmen from nowhere.” Well, Conway, what do you give to guys who are never going to be president of the United States? Hannah tells her husband she can’t stand by his side during his concession speech. Good for you, Hannah!
Claire and Frank take a moment in the Oval to bask in their victory, although Frank isn’t doing much basking. “Everything gets easier from now on,” Claire assures him, which I’m pretty sure is not at all accurate! It’s not like how the hardest part of Harvard is getting in and once you do that they just give you A’s until you graduate. The hardest part of the presidency is the part where you have to be the president.
The cabinet resigns and then is immediately reinstated — we see great theatrical tearing-up of the resignation letters, a nice touch — and Frank starts talking about everyone’s favorite meaningless demarcation in the land: the first 100 days. Frank’s vision is ostensibly to unite our deeply divided nation, though who knows if that matters to him at all. I do wonder: Now that he has the presidency, what does he want to do with it? Does he have a real idea of how the country should be run, what problems need addressing? He seems more like the power-for-power’s-sake type.
Doug’s whisper-growling has reached a comically low, hushed volume. I am amazed that no one has addressed it to his face. Can everyone really hear him just fine? It’s not even a Batvoice; it’s how I sound when I have a hangover on a Sunday and the existential dread of the impending work week seeps into my vocal cords. Anyway, he’s one of a handful of lackeys in the Underwood inner circle who are discovering that this brave new order might jeopardize their status. Doug is feeling all edgy about the inclusion of Mark Usher and Alex Romero, especially since the former gets the coveted title of special assistant to the president. No one else gets to be special to the president except for Doug! (Not sure what Claire was getting at when she asked him why he wasn’t in the room for Jim Miller’s beheading, but I think/hope we’ll find out soon.)
Meanwhile, LeAnn is on the outs — it has to “look real,” but also, it is real — because of how everything went down with Aidan. Poor Aidan is a “special guest” in Russia much in the way Kimmy Schmidt was a special guest in Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne’s bunker. She manages to be part of getting him out of Russia and to the Jordanian embassy in Paris, but by the end of the episode, his future is still uncertain. Frank wants him back in the States, but Jane says it’s better for this — whatever this is — to not happen on American soil. Plus, we don’t know how many of his secrets are known by Petrov.
Jane has found herself with the VP’s ear, and how she climbed so high so fast is still a question mark. She does get two of my favorite lines of the episode, though: She declines Claire’s invitation to the inauguration by saying, “Oh no, I can’t. Something terrible always happens when I go to a party.” I should start RSVP-ing to inconvenient bridal showers that way. She also says, “Tom Yates has quite a reputation” in a salacious way that I enjoyed very much. Frank knows about Tom’s little briefing-room tryst, by the way, and he is not pleased. No one is allowed to cheat on Claire except for Frank, who in a plot twist literally all of us saw coming, hooks up with Eric the “personal trainer.” (Yet another plotline lifted from Veep.) But more on that in a minute.
Kate Baldwin — a reporter who, you may recall, was sleeping with Tom in season three — goes to Russia for an attempted but ultimately aborted interview with Aidan. Before she takes off, she meets up with Tom and they gaze at each other in front of a fireplace and she tells him that he looks “tired in a not-sexy way.”
If these recaps came with sound effects, you would have heard a very loud “Are you fucking kidding me with this Tom shit?!” when that Kate and Tom scene ended and a Claire and Tom scene began. NO ONE CARES ABOUT TOM OR HIS DAINTY-BIRD ROMANTIC AND LUSTY FEELINGS. ALL OF THIS TIME COULD BE USED TO SOLVE THE 6 TRILLION MURDERS THAT WOULD KNOCK DOWN THE PROVERBIAL HOUSE OF CARDS AROUND WHICH THIS ENTIRE SERIES IS CONSTRUCTED, JESUS, MARY, AND ZOE BARNES.
Anyway, Tom wants to retire as Claire’s speechwriter, and Claire is all, “You’ll need to have a reason to be here,” so I figure they’ll make him her special assistant or some such thing.
Inauguration Day arrives, and with it a one-two punch of impeccably tailored and tough-yet-elegant all-white outfits on Claire. Her hair is also impeccable, of course. In the midst of his swearing in, Frank reminds us that, lo those many episodes ago, all he wanted was to be secretary of State. This is America’s fault. Though Frank promised Alex Romero (and, sort of by extension, Mark) that he would accommodate his request to mention boosting Medicaid early in the speech, he does just the opposite. He references AmWorks (ugh, remember how terrible AmWorks was?) and says he’ll be cutting back on programs like that: “We have to learn to live without entitlements because we are not an entitled people.” I apologize for repeating myself, but I can’t let a line like that pass by without stating again, for the record, that this show should have just made Frank a Republican because he is so obviously not a Democrat and there’s no reason to pretend otherwise.
“There is no neutrality,” Frank explains to Mark. “I expect total loyalty or you are an enemy.” Is that supposed to be news to anyone? That’s like Cookie Monster having a real talk with Elmo and saying, “You may not know this, but me love cookies. Me no want vegetables. Also, me monster.”
Frank takes Eric to his secret spiral staircase, where Eric boldly goes in for some erotic neck-sniffing, to which Frank responds with some erotic asphyxiation — okay, I take that back, it’s really just regular asphyxiation. At this point, I wondered if maybe he would just kill Eric, because why not? But then they make out. Congratulations, Mr. President. Post-tryst, Frank goes to that painting behind which, I’m fairly certain, is Meechum’s hand turkey. Frank’s hand hovers above the canvas for a second, and then he joins Claire.
Really the only thing Frank has to worry about is that Romero, who is NOT happy with how the inauguration went down, is going to reopen the “declaration of war committee,” which means digging into Frank’s alleged crimes.
Over at the slowest investigative operation in the history of mystery solving, Tom has security footage from the Cathedral Heights Metro from the night of Zoe’s death. Angela correctly states that the dude on the screen looks like “just another white guy waiting for the train,” even though Tom thinks it’s Doug. During one of what must be a ton of follow-up calls from Tom, Zoe’s dad says he just can’t handle these calls anymore and I think, “Oh God, I will die a withering, ancient soul before Tom gets his paws on a clue that helps solve at least one of these freaking homicides.” But Mr. Barnes has a change of heart. He shows up at Tom’s office with one of those prepaid flip phones, which he found in Zoe’s things. He also talks about how Fathers’ Day was the last day he talked to her — uh, yeah man, we all remember that.
The episode ends with a gorgeous shot of Frank and Claire leaning on the Resolute desk together. They look at each other and then at us. And there’s a lot of space between them.