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)