At the Democratic National Convention, the Underwoods think they have everything under control, but not everything is as it seems
Credit: David Giesbrecht/Netflix

For the last few episodes it was starting to look like Claire and Frank were going to get everything they’ve ever wanted with little or no resistance. They’d stayed ahead of the Conways at every turn and seemed to be in complete command of the people within their own party. “Chapter 48” changes all of that, forcing the Underwoods to scramble as the season rolls on.

“Chapter 48” revolves entirely around the Democratic National Convention, which Frank has turned into a media circus by declaring an open nomination for the vice presidency. That means that the collective Democratic party will choose Frank’s running mate. Of course, the Underwoods have their own plans. They’re publicly pushing for Secretary of State Catherine Durant to get the nomination, while pulling some strings behind closed doors in order to get support moving for Claire, including offering Cathy’s old job to a head of state who can swing some votes Claire’s way.

It’s a pretty genius plan if they manage to pull it off. Claire plays the part perfectly. At the DNC in Atlanta she’s saying all the right things, telling reporters that she fully supports Durant and that her attention is on her gun control bill, which was just passed by the House.

The first hint we get that Claire is moving towards being Frank’s running mate comes from Donald Blythe. He tells a reporter, off the record, that while he’s publicly supporting Durant, he believes that Claire would make the best VP, as it was her who really closed the deal with Petrov and the Russians. It’s a sly statement that builds up Claire’s legitimacy while also making Durant look passive.

For a while it’s looking like Durant is the clear favorite, pulling away from the pack with each new state ballot. That is, until Texas declares all 237 of their votes for Claire, pushing her immediately into the running. The media writes the vote off as Claire getting a little home-state love, but there’s more to it than that. Celia and Doris were paid off, leading to the sudden surge of votes for Claire.

With Claire gaining some serious numbers and the media starting to take hold of the story, Frank decides that it would be best for him to prepare Cathy for the possibility of losing the nomination. When Frank meets with her he plays dumb, saying he’s never even considered Claire for the position, and that surely nothing will come after the Texas vote.

Cathy is surprisingly relaxed about the whole thing. She even goes so far as to tell Frank that she thinks Claire would make a wonderful VP, and that if she should gain the nomination, everyone should throw their support behind her. Considering the way the episode ends, I wonder if Cathy knows at this point what’s happening, if she understands that her opportunity is slipping away.

NEXT: Conning his way to the top

With Claire’s numbers rising, Yates manages to see right through the plan. Frank insists that he’s never considered Claire for VP, but Yates isn’t dumb, so he goes right at Frank. He’s not mad, but he’s the new speechwriter and he believes that if Claire does win the nomination, she’s going to need “the speech to end all speeches” if the public is going to get behind the idea of the first lady being the VP. So, you know, he’d like to get a start on that, Frank!

Meanwhile, Doug is starting to crack. He’s harboring some serious guilt about bumping Anthony Moretti from the donor list, masochistically perusing photos on his Memorial Fund website. On top of that, he still doesn’t trust Leann and he’s getting more and more frustrated with Seth because he hasn’t found any dirt on her. That leads to Seth telling Leann about Doug’s hatred. He says that if Leann can just give him a little something — nothing too incriminating — that maybe they can both keep their jobs.

With the DNC dominating the news cycle, Conway decides he needs to make a move, so he, along with Brockhart, head to Atlanta and park themselves outside the convention, urging the president to handle the immediate threat of ICO. Conway thinks he has the coverage won until Frank invites him to have a face-to-face, private meeting inside the DNC.

The meeting is all for show but it does allow House of Cards to get these two foes in the same room, and it makes for a glorious scene. The two verbally spar, bond over video games, and generally get a feeling for one another. You can tell that they both respect each other’s game, but are also trying to find a way to gain the upper hand.

As it turns out, Will does have a plan; or at least he knows someone with a plan. He takes a private phone call in the bathroom, and despite Frank’s best efforts to get it tracked — Leann shuts down such a crazy idea — is allowed his privacy. Then, the two watch the next ballot together, the one that’s supposed to push Claire into position for the nomination.

Everything is going as planned, with both Cathy and Claire getting votes, but Claire gaining. Things go off the rails when Louisiana steps up though. They cast all their votes for president for Catherine Durant. Everybody pauses, assuming he must mean the votes are for the vice presidency, not the presidency. Nope, we all heard right the first time. Louisiana says that the nomination for Democratic leader should be open, as well as the spot for VP. When that idea is shut down, Louisiana casts all of their votes for Cathy, completely messing with the Underwoods’ plan.

Will stands there with a smug look on his face, but says that it wasn’t his plan. In fact, it was Cathy’s; he just had to take the call. It’s a bold move, but an understandable one. The Underwoods were trying to use Cathy, and now she’s turned the tables on them. That sends Claire back to Texas to regroup and prepare for a solid run at the VP position. On the plane she practices her speech with Yates, and there’s the hint of something more intimate there. Things are changing for the Underwoods, and after “Chapter 48,” they’re surely starting to scramble.

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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