Frank is running up against problems during his campaign while Claire makes plans of her own
Credit: David Giesbrecht/Netflix

If you were curious about whether or not House Of Cards would still hold onto its high-soap tendencies heading into its fourth season, the opening moments of the season premiere will assure you that while everything has changed for the Underwoods, nothing has changed for the show. Lucas is in prison and helping his cellmate get off by telling him an erotic story from his imagination while Frank is campaigning in New Hampshire and reciting lines like “live free or die!” Oh yeah, House Of Cards is definitely back.

The big question after last season’s finale was where Claire and Frank stand with one another. The answer is clear right away: They’re at odds, and the divide seems to be growing. While Frank is meeting with blue collar workers in New Hampshire and gearing up for a fight with Dunbar, Claire is in Dallas, though the reason for this eludes Frank.

Frank and Claire are by no means intertwined anymore. Frank didn’t even know she was in Dallas, and now he’s left scrambling, along with Doug and Seth, to explain her absence from his campaign to the press. It’s not just the press that’s the problem though; Dunbar can sense that something is up, that Claire wouldn’t be in Texas to set up the primary that early. If Dunbar can find out the true reason for the visit, perhaps she can use it as leverage. After all, everyone on this show loves leverage.

Meanwhile, back in prison, Lucas thinks that his cellmate is innocent. He was convicted of killing a man, but Lucas isn’t so sure he did it. The inmate refuses to really comment on it, mentioning something about Armenian Power in L.A. while insisting that what he did doesn’t matter, that what he said he did is most important, all while some shady figure listens in on their conversation somehow. Either way, by the end of the episode Lucas is out of prison and in witness protection, so it’s unclear how this might affect him going forward.

Both Claire and Frank have some interesting nights away from each other. After his campaign stop, Frank unwinds in his hotel, ordering Meechum to just sit in the room with him because he’s the president and he can do whatever he wants, damn it! If that isn’t weird enough, Frank then has a dream of him and Claire in a vicious brawl involving gut punches, stabbing, and broken mirrors. Fun! Claire, on the other hand, is avoiding her mother (and her mother is avoiding her), who apparently kills small lizards and then leaves them outside her room for the help to clean up. What is up with all these families on House Of Cards?

Eventually, the nature of Claire’s trip to Dallas is revealed. She wants to run for governor, but she believes she needs a political stepping-stone first. Thus, she wants to run for Congress in the 30th, the one potential open spot in this election cycle. That would mean convincing the daughter of longtime Congresswoman Doris Jones to wait two more years to take over, though. Add to that the fact that Claire’s race and wealth may not appeal to the local constituents, and it’s clear that Claire’s going to have a tough sell.

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In order to get her potential Congressional campaign off the ground, Claire meets with Leann (all hail Neve Campbell) in order to discuss some options. When Frank and his people get wind of this, Doug is sent to Dallas to do damage control. He threatens Leann, as does the president. Things only get worse for Claire from there. When she goes to talk to Doris Jones about her election plan, she’s not only met by Doug, who basically derails her whole plan, but Doris herself is also opposed to the idea. Claire tries to use potential federal funding for a Planned Parenthood center that Doris Jones has been planning as leverage, but it doesn’t work. Doris isn’t convinced that Claire could win, which would mean she’d see a Republican take over her spot, which she absolutely doesn’t want.

Eventually, there’s a media leak that suggests the Underwoods are going through some marital strife. Frank is livid and wants to know where the leak came from, and yet Doug can’t find anything. Based on an interaction from earlier, there’s a good chance Seth leaked the information to the “other side,” based on a woman offering him a chief of staff position if Frank should fail to get nominated. Dunbar is by no means out of this race.

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With the need for some sort of public response from the Underwoods growing, Frank takes it upon himself to strong-arm Claire into an appearance. He heads to Dallas and, after a confrontation with Claire’s mother — she absolutely despises Frank — shows Claire medical documents that prove that her mother’s lymphoma is back. Claire had no idea, which is exactly what Frank wanted. Now, he can execute his plan: having Claire say she was in Dallas early to visit with her sick mother. That ensures that Frank’s campaign doesn’t take a hit; in exchange, he agrees to back off of Claire’s potential campaign. Isn’t it nice to see that these two can still work together?

Things aren’t exactly looking up for them by the end of the episode, though. Frank has lost in New Hampshire, giving Dunbar some serious momentum. Plus, there’s a young, charismatic GOP candidate by the name of Conway who’s also polling well, meaning that Frank may soon have even more opposition to his campaign. Still, Claire remains the biggest threat. As her mother says at the end of the episode, while embracing her weeping daughter, “You’ve got to put him in his place.”

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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