Credit: David Giesbrecht/Netflix
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I’m at a loss to explain the flashbacks to Claire’s childhood this season. “Chapter 70” begins with yet another one. This time around, she’s outside a school smoking. It’s nighttime, and she’s all alone. Then, someone comes running outside shouting for her. Apparently, she’s meant to be part of the school play, but she’s skipped out on her part for the sweet release and rebellion of a cigarette. Despite the friend’s pleas to come back inside and perform, Claire takes off her costume, hands it to the friend, and runs into the night. What any of this means, or what any of these flashbacks are meant to tell us about Claire, is beyond me. They’re snippets of Claire being “formed,” I guess, but they’re surface level insights at best.

Thankfully, the flashbacks are minimal, and “Chapter 70” thrusts us right back into Claire’s controversial presidency. Things have only gotten worse since Cathy’s memorial service. Claire has been holed up in the residence for three straight weeks, refusing to leave. The press is speculating that she’s depressed — a photo of a pained, teary-eyed Claire, mascara all over her face, accompanies the cable news diagnosis — and Bill Shepherd is going on TV to give a rare interview, which allows him to tear down the president and the deal with Russia, which he sees as “just another tax” on American business.

Claire hasn’t been totally MIA though. She had enough time to pardon Doug Stamper, a little bit of information that’s easy to miss because the episode just moves past it real quick after spending so much time talking about it early on. Anyways, with Claire putting on her act, weeping in the White House and telling Mark that she’s just not up to leaving, the Shepherds are in panic mode. They meet with Mark to discuss their options. In between coughs that prove his illness is getting worse, Bill suggests using the 25th Amendment, which would allow them to remove Claire from office. He says the language about the president being “unfit” is vague enough that Claire’s breakdown would certainly allow them to remove her. Mark isn’t thrilled about making such a drastic, historic move, but as usual, he’ll do whatever the Shepherds ask him to do.

Here’s the thing though: Claire has anticipated these moves. She knew they’d use the 25th on her, which means she’s more than a few steps ahead of them. She just has to be patient, because she knows Bill Shepherd is getting impatient. Sure enough, during a poker game with Mark and a bunch of other old white dudes with too much power and ego, they all discuss how essential it is to remove Claire from office. All they need to do is draft a letter and get the House and Senate on board, something that Mark seems confident he can get done.

Meanwhile, Doug is not only still curious about Cathy’s death, asking her husband all sorts of personal questions, but he wants to know about Frank’s will. So, he tracks down his shrink and quietly sits in his dark, remote cabin until he returns. He scares the hell out of him, and then punches him in the face, demanding to know what was in the will. The shrink caves in no time, saying that while he doesn’t have the will anymore, Frank “left him everything.” You know Doug is just so damn happy that Frank did that. Now though, he’s absolutely against Claire. He does tell her he thinks that Cathy Durant is still alive, but there’s no way he’s not going to come after her in these last few episodes. (Recap continues on next page)

While Tom Hammerschmidt gets some more information about Rachel Posner, including her name change and the fact that she was talking with Doug, Mark meets with Claire in an attempt to get her to resign. Of course, she’s not doing that, but she keeps playing this role of the “emotional woman.” As she says, that’s been America’s worst fear about having a woman in the White House, that they’d be too emotional for the job. Now, she’s using that to her advantage. She meets with Duncan in an attempt to get her own plan rolling, sowing some discord in that family. “Ask your mother where you come from,” she says, and when he does, Annette immediately avoids the conversation and goes to the plan she didn’t want to use before, which is releasing information about Claire’s abortions.

Namely, Claire had one at 16 weeks, and Annette orders Melody Cruz to create a segment about it. It should be an absolute bombshell, but Claire’s prepared. She’s starting to make her own moves because she knows the 25th Amendment is coming. The sequence of events and who’s involved with the first move is a little unclear, but it looks like Claire has Nasser kidnap Jane Davis and take her to Saudi Arabia, which sends the Shepherds and Mark into a panic about what she knows and who she’ll tell. Davis may be in on it too, but again, it’s a bit unclear.

Anyway, as Janine makes some headway on digging into the shady operations within the Shepherds’ app — her source says he has emails too, ones that detail their bad business practices that led to the plant explosion — Claire calls Nasser, who hands the phone to Jane. “Don’t you just want to come home?” she says before ordering Jane to tell her when the 25th Amendment is about to happen. She needs to time everything perfectly.

Claire does exactly that. Not only does she concoct a whole story about how Yates died in the hands of the Russians and Mark Usher covered it up, which was part of her deal with Petrov, she also manages to get rid of every single person in her cabinet that was looking to get rid of her. Just as the letter is signed and set to be delivered, Claire walks into the meeting, takes the letter, and fires everybody. She offers Mark a chance to resign because of his “cover-up,” but he refuses, and thus begins a lengthy process of getting out of Claire’s lie.

Still, Claire has some problems trailing her. Cathy Durant is still out there, and there’s a video of her accusing Claire Underwood of, well, everything terrible she’s done. Then there’s the abortion story. Annette shows up at the Oval Office to personally see Claire’s face when she tells her Cruz’s segment is set to run the next day. But Claire isn’t fazed. In fact, she tells Annette to go ahead and run it. “But before you go, I want to show you something,” she says, leading Annette down the hall to the same room where her cabinet was planning to remove her from office. Claire opens the door and reveals her new cabinet, and it’s all women. Every single person in there is not only a woman but presumably loyal to Claire. Does that mean Annette won’t run the segment? Does it mean even if she does nothing will happen to Claire? Who knows, but right now Claire Underwood is the one in control, and the Shepherds are the ones running out of moves.

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House of Cards

Ballots, betrayal, and barbecue combine in Netflix’s original drama, which stars Kevin Spacey as cunning congressman Frank Underwood and Robin Wright as his equally ruthless Lady Macbeth. Based on a 1990 BBC serial of the same name.

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