While the Underwoods work to establish a running mate for Frank, they also have to deal with the return of Thomas Yates
Credit: David Giesbrecht/Netflix

Things are definitely starting to heat up on House of Cards now that Will Conway knows exactly the type of political game the Underwoods play. He may have underestimated them at first, showing some of that arrogance Frank calls him out on, but now he’s fighting back strategically, looking at the bigger picture and hoping to take the Underwoods down.

That’s made immediately clear when the episode opens on the Conways having a meeting with Thomas Yates, the author who followed the Underwoods around last season in the hopes of writing a book about them. Their proposal is simple: they want Yates to publish his book before the election if it makes the Underwoods look bad. In exchange, Hannah offers him connections, the cover of Vanity Fair, and a number of high-profile media pieces to get his name out there. Essentially, they’ll make his book an instant bestseller.

Back at the White House, Frank has approached Sen. Dean Austin about being his running mate. Austin is approved by the Democratic leadership, namely because he’s a known supporter of the NRA, balancing of the anti-gun views of the Underwoods. Frank isn’t too enthused about him, giving a middle finger right to the camera to get his feelings across clearly, but it’s clear Austin is just a pawn in something bigger, so Frank gives him the offer: if he stands behind Claire’s gun bill, he becomes the running mate.

Austin accepts, and Frank brings him into a meeting to discuss further details. At that exact time, Claire strategically walks reporter Kate Baldwin by the meeting so that she can see Austin in the room with Frank. The Democratic leadership say they don’t want news of Austin getting out just yet, but clearly the Underwoods have other plans.

Meanwhile, Claire’s gun bill is moving ahead strongly. They’ve secured data from Aidan, who gets a fun little moment of crazy shirtless dancing in this episode — you do you, Adian — and are using it to set up robocalls recorded by Claire that urge citizens and members of Congress to pass the gun bill that would require background checks on all firearms purchases. As usual, Claire delivers quite the performance.

As for Yates, he’s smart enough to know not to commit to the Conways right away. Instead, he brings an excerpt of the book to Doug Stamper and tells him that he wants a meeting with the Underwoods. He gives Doug one week to set it up, otherwise he publishes the book with the help of the Conways. I really liked Yates as a character last season, so I’m glad he’s back and muddying the waters for everybody.

When Frank reads the excerpt he knows that he and Claire have to get Yates on their side, but he also admires the man a bit. Both Frank and Claire admit that he’s perceptive, and both say they felt like he truly “saw” them during the time they all spent together. Getting Yates on their side is about more than blocking the publication of the book; it’s about getting another like-minded person on their side.

NEXT: Officer Tom

While the Underwoods are focused on Conway, another threat to their power is emerging. Tom is getting more and more curious about Lucas’ theories, and that leads him to start digging into everything. He talks to Zoe Barnes’ dad, who doesn’t give him much other than a vague sense that the two were estranged. Then he goes to her old neighborhood and asks around about Frank, but nobody seems to have seen him there. Tom finally thinks he’s out of luck when a pizza shop employee says he never saw Frank there. Then, the employee points at the TV and says that he did see “that guy” a lot, that he’d always come in for coffee. That guy is Edward Meechum, and it sends Tom for a loop. He knows he’s on to something.

Meanwhile, after Austin delivers a speech in support of Claire’s gun bill, Julia, the NRA representative, comes to the White House and threatens him. They’ve given him $20 million over the years and they’re not happy about him becoming Frank’s running mate while also supporting Claire’s bill. It’s exactly what the Underwoods wanted. From there, Claire offers up a deal to Julia: Claire will make sure the bill doesn’t pass in the Senate if Julia can convince Austin to pull out as running mate. That way it looks like the Underwoods gave the Democrats’ suggestion a shot while setting the stage for their own choice.

That choice is Catherine Durant. She’s a likable leader with a solid past, and Frank thinks she’d be perfect for the spot. The Democratic leadership likes the idea, but Frank takes it a step further. He wants to make it look like the Democratic Party is choosing Frank’s running mate for him. As the leadership points out, that’ll create a media circus, but that’s exactly Frank’s point.

The reason he wants all the media attention is because Conway has pulled a sneaky move. He’s finally convinced General Brockhart to resign by offering to bring him in as his running mate. With Yates agreeing to work with the Underwoods so that he can have an actual ending to his book — and really, because he kind of likes the Underwoods — the Conways use that vacant Vanity Fair cover to give Kate Baldwin an exclusive interview with Brockhart. Considering that no active member of the military is allowed to speak with the media, it’s huge that Kate gets the first crack at him when he resigns, and it gives Conway a great running mate with immediate good press.

When the Underwood team realizes what Conway is doing it throws them for a loop, with Doug blaming Leann for the failed plan to keep Brockhart in office. Still, the Underwoods have Yates and the upcoming media frenzy surely to be cause by Frank announcing that the Democratic Party will openly select his running mate, but the move certainly puts Conway in a good position.

As the episode comes to a close though, it’s not Conway painted as a threat but rather Tom. He’s combing through Edward Meechum’s travel reports and working on setting up some sort of timeline from 2013. If Tom gets anywhere it could be explosive. The Conways might be the most immediate threat to the Underwoods, but Tom is playing the long game, and he’s starting to make some significant moves.

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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