I once thought it was my status as a Washingtonian that made me qualified to recap House of Cards. But now I see that it was not, in fact, years of D.C. living that readied me for this task. It was all the time I spent watching Pretty Little Liars.
An entire episode set a funeral for a character who is STILL ALIVE? Inappropriate conniving and potential canoodling at a wake? Digging up a corpse to remove a ring from the body and place it in the middle of his old bed, through some sort of improbable logistical magic? All I can think is: This has A written all over it. I’m sure HoC has higher aspirations and would rather be named in the same breath as Breaking Bad or The Americans or some such excellent program, but I call it like I see it. And in this version of Washington, all I see is Rosewood.
Fret not, though: That’s a compliment. Because I believe HoC can only be its best self when it stops trying to be some highbrow, almost-accurate depiction of political intrigue and just embraces its true nature as an unhinged soap opera that takes itself very, very seriously.
This hour (I would pay an extra dollar a month for Netflix to cap these episodes at 45 minutes) sees some old faces come back to haunt Claire and Doug, reminding these unlikely partners that their pasts can’t stay buried forever—foreshadowing the fact that Cathy isn’t even in the ground.
Speaking of bodies that aren’t in the ground: Mark slides into Claire’s car to tell her that he really had no choice, re: confronting her with the corpse of a man she poisoned and murdered during sex. She’s already acting like the whole thing never happened. I wonder, as I regularly do: What do all their drivers know? Probably everything! (Earlier this year, I shadowed Lainey Gossip, the greatest gossip in all the internet, and she told me that drivers give the best dirt. Seeing how cavalier these killers are with their backseat banter, this makes perfect sense to me.)
Jane, who wishes Americans weren’t so barbaric about death (she wants the bones to be exhumed and danced with!), has her own visions for how to achieve peace in Syria. Seth is basically the Shepherds’ bitch; he spends the entire episode doing a radio play of everything we’re watching over the phone to his billionaire overlords and getting pouty whenever he is excluded from conversations he has no right to participate in anyway. Mark is the Chidi of HoC—a weak-willed, indecisive man beside a powerhouse blonde who cannot abide his wishy-washy nature. Doug keeps asking questions about the time and place of Cathy’s death, trying to put together a timeline that, obviously, doesn’t line up. Petrov is shamelessly flirting with everyone. I am sort of confused about how he could even be there, but I don’t care enough about the plausibility factor to think about that too much.
Congressman Cole is here because (1) Now that Remy Danton is busy being a movie star, someone had to step in and provide the dashing handsomeness, and (2) This is a schmoozefest and he wants to charm his way into that Speaker of the House slot. Claire offers Doug this neat trajectory: If Cole is VP in 2020 and then president in 2024, Doug can come back to the White House. Doug’s condition is that Claire pardon Frank. Ugh, why does he care about that?
Linda, who you may recall from President Walker’s administration, is here to tell Doug that he’s going to be subpoenaed by the USAG and also to word vomit her regrets at Claire. Namely, she wonders if they hadn’t just given Frank that Secretary of State job he wanted way back then, could all of this—[gestures at the entire series, hours and hours of our lives gone by, piled high with heaps of dead bodies]—have been avoided?
Why is everyone so open with Claire about how they know she does murders? SHE WOULD CLEARLY DO ANOTHER MURDER. It’s not like she ran out of murders.
In other crisis-aversion news, Claire and Jane are trying to stop a war from happening in Syria. Petrov seems fine with a “skirmish” unfolding, but he’s amenable to a more peaceful arrangement, as long as he gets exactly what he wants. Most of this stuff is boring but Petrov does get to shout, “That means CLUSTER FUCK,” which I personally enjoyed very much.
Claire’s helpfully letting it slip that someone else has stolen Tom’s identity and was using his credit cards all across Prague. Kelsey, our skittish press secretary (who also had sex with Tom in the White House that one time! #neverforget) has no poker face and is very upset by this development. Someone gets a rumor swirling about how Tom was having an affair with someone in the White House, and obviously everyone knows it’s Kelsey. She is mortified even as Claire assures her she can keep her job, but not before Mark hisses at her, “This is exactly the kind of thing the White House needs [long pause] to avoid.”
In case you had any doubts, Petrov is there because Claire invited him. They have such crackling chemistry, I was half-expecting them to make out on that bed. Instead they talk about whether or not Claire is a “gangster.” Then they talk about Frank. Again. I am implementing a Bechdel Test sorts for HoC, but the goal is for two characters to talk about anything other than Frank Underwood. Anyway, Claire sets her terms: Nothing from Shepherd Unlimited is allowed in Syria as long as Claire’s in office, but yeah, Petrov can have everything he wants. This reminds me of my question from an earlier recap: Why even is Claire into politics? Is it just for personal issues and score-settling? That’s so basic.
When Claire leaves and Mark asks her where she was, she goes, “Even presidents need to pee, Mark.” Claire’s disdain for Mark is fantastic, I must say. I share it completely, especially when Mark and Seth get in some dumb dick-swinging contest about who is more important. The correct answer is: Neither of you is important.
Meanwhile, Petrov barges right into Jane. Again, I think, Are these two going to kiss?! “Did you get taller?” “Yes.” “So strange, for someone trapped in a Napoleon complex.” “If only your personality matched your looks.” I write, OMG I SHIP, I SHIP RIGHT INTO ONE OF THOSE PORTS PETROV BARGAINED FOR, but then it turns out they just hate each other and not in a sexy way.
Petrov tells Claire he accepts her deal. As they cheek-kiss good-bye, Claire adds in his ear, “Tom Yates. Your government was behind whatever happened to him.” I was waiting for Petrov to be like “…I don’t know her,” because who even was Tom Yates to someone as important as Petrov? Why would some frustrated novelist slash vice presidential sidepiece be relevant to him? But Petrov is cool with it and does not mock Claire for her strategic editing of her dead ex’s legacy.
Oh, Seth also tells Doug about Frank’s real will, the one where he gets “more than those cufflinks.” This fails my Bechdel-Frank Test and so I am bored by it, but Doug seems rattled.
Elsewhere in Washington, Herald Tom and Janine pal around and talk about their virtually fruitless efforts to crack all these Underwood cases. Janine brings up Rachel Posner and I realize I’d almost forgotten about how Doug offed Mrs. Maisel all those seasons ago. As per usual, this storyline moves at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me.
As for the big twist of the hour: CATHY DURANT IS STILL ALIVE. Hence the speedy cremation her brother referred to earlier. She destroys her phone in a pot of boiling water and throws back some much-deserved red wine. And then, SHE LOOKS RIGHT AT US. Hell yes. So: Who knows she’s still alive? What’s her next move?