When Lucas' theories about the Underwoods are revealed to the media, Doug goes into damage control while Claire takes control of Donald Blythe
Credit: Netflix

Considering the dramatic stakes of the previous episode, it makes sense that “Chapter 44” would pick up with Frank. He’s still on the brink of death, and he’s starting to have vivid hallucinations. He’s seeing the Civil War reenactor he took a photo with standing in his hospital room, pointing a gun at him and shooting him. Frank has no idea what’s going on, his brain still lingering on the traumatic shooting.

Outside of the hospital, Doug is in full-on panic mode. That panic is exacerbated when FBI agent Nathan Green comes to him with the evidence from Lucas Goodwin’s apartment. He left behind what’s essentially a suicide note that details all of his findings and suspicions about the Underwoods, including Frank’s affair with Zoe, Doug’s murder of Rachel, and the murder of Peter Russo. It’s explosive stuff, and Doug needs to keep it quiet. Finally, House of Cards has some stakes again!

Things aren’t looking so good for Frank in terms of his health. It turns out that he needs a full liver transplant if he’s to have any hope of living. He’s put on the first priority transplant list, but there’s still going to be a wait. It could take some time before they even know whether they have a donor, never mind if the surgery will be a success.

In the meantime, Claire is fully inserting herself into a power position by slyly offering Donald Blythe continuous counsel. She even offers to listen in on his call with Petrov to discuss the placement of Milkin in China and send him notes during the conversation if he gets flustered. Because this is Donald Blythe and he’s in over his head and completely naïve, he goes along with the plan.

During the call, Petrov tries to intimidate Blythe, but Claire guides him to fire back. He plays along with Petrov’s ridiculous plan right up until Petrov is ready to refuse working with him. Then, Claire tells Blythe to say that the Russian President better get used to negotiating with him because there’s a chance that Frank won’t live. It’s bold, but it works. Petrov agrees to look over Blythe’s plan on compromising with China.

When Claire sees Doug later, she plays dumb about the whole thing. She realizes that the news of Frank will get out, so she offers to hold a press conference and fill the media in on the President’s health. Of course, this is all part of her larger plan, but what is that plan exactly? It sure looks like she’s making herself look like an acting President, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, Doug has to deal with yet another problem. Green tells Doug that it was Seth who leaked the reenactor photo, forcing Doug to ask Seth to resign. Knowing Doug, he’d rather murder Seth, but that would be bad for business right now, so he’ll settle for a resignation.

NEXT: Return of the Tusk

While all of this is happening, Dunbar is also worrying about her campaign. She’s ready to get things going again, to keep her campaign rolling even as Frank lays in the hospital. She can’t afford to slow down, especially considering that Frank is getting a lot of sympathy support. Still, she’s worried about her meeting with Lucas Goodwin from before the shooting. Cynthia says that she took care of the one security guard who saw them together, but can’t assure her that it’s enough.

Meanwhile, the reveal of Lucas’ letter, the details of which Claire denounces during her speech on the status of Frank’s health, has led journalist Kate Baldwin to dig a little deeper into his theories. She approaches old editor Tom Hammerschmidt to discuss the details, this coming after the FBI looked through some of his notes and questioned him about Lucas’ theories. Tom tells Kate to leave the whole thing alone, that the claims are unsubstantiated. It looks like he has a change of heart by the end of the episode though, as the next day, when a newspaper with Lucas’ face on it is delivered to his front door, he starts going through the old notes the FBI returned.

Back at the White House, Seth isn’t going down without a fight. He tells Doug that he could bring down Dunbar’s campaign, but that he wants to keep his job. Doug agrees and that sets a plan in motion. Seth reveals that Dunbar met face-to-face with Lucas, and that brings the FBI to her doorstep, splashing her name across headlines in the media and striking a significant blow to her popularity. Later, Doug makes sure Seth stays loyal to him in the weirdest way possible, basically by threatening to suffocate him with a glass cup. Yes, you read that right.

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As for Claire’s China plan — let’s be honest, it’s not Blythe’s — she blackmails Remy into coming back to work for her by having Leann show him the pictures of him and Jackie. Claire wants him to bring in Raymond Tusk as well, which he manages to do after some blackmail of his own. The result: Blythe, Tusk, Remy, and Claire discuss using Tusk’s connections to create a partnership between American and Chinese energy companies. Surely the Russians will have no issue with that.

The episode ends with everything falling apart for Frank and his closest allies. Doug is eager to donate his liver, but the doctor tells him he can’t for a number of reasons. Doug is feeling helpless; Claire is controlling Blythe, and he’s being left out of the loop on just about every decision Blythe is making. As the episode comes to a close, Frank seems to be slipping away, his eyes fluttering and a heart monitor screeching in the background.

Episode Recaps

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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