House of Cards recap: 'Chapter 62'
While Tom's investigation leads him to Doug Stamper, the War Committee causes problems for the Underwoods
Just because the election is over doesn’t mean the Underwoods are suddenly sitting pretty. In fact, the end of the election signals a rise in a number of other conflicts facing the president and vice president. The most immediate threat comes in the form of the recently revived Declaration of War Committee. Originally meant to be a committee that would debate potential military action when Frank threatened such a move at the beginning of the season, it’s now, thanks to Congressman Romero and his grudge with the Underwoods, a committee dedicated to investigating past crimes from both Frank and Claire.
“Chapter 62” begins with news that the committee is negotiating with Jackie Sharp in order to get her to testify. It’s one of the first big names to threaten the Underwoods’ deniability, as she, along with Frank and Claire, engaged in trading legislation for campaign funds. Usher doesn’t see any way out of this, or really the pestering of the committee in general, without appeasing Romero. He’s the thorn in their side, vigilant in his vengeance. So, despite Doug’s protests, Frank agrees to make Romero the party Whip.
The only problem? Romero isn’t interested anymore. Sure, at one point or another he would have settled for that deal, but now he feels he has the upper hand. He’s no longer looking to negotiate. Usher tries other tactics, like advising Romero to draw out the investigation because it would “make a name for himself,” but the Congressman is having none of it. He’s putting everything he can into the committee right now, and it would seem there’s no swaying him away from his goal of locking up the president.
Of course, there are other threats besides the committee. The biggest is still Aidan MacAllan. Claire and Jane meet here to discuss what they can do about Aidan; namely, Claire and Frank want him back in the U.S. and under their custody. Jane isn’t too enthused about that though. She’d prefer to keep him at the Jordanian embassy until they know what he may have told Petrov.
Thus begins the episode’s most tedious story line. While the unpredictability of Aidan MacAllan has been interesting here and there, he’s been a rather listless character after he did the Underwoods’ dirty work with the NSA. Add to that a number of convoluted motivations from Jane, Claire, and Frank, and one creepy kiss from Leann — kissing your mom’s ex is pretty strange — and suddenly MacAllan’s story isn’t as interesting as it could have been.
The problem is that Aidan’s importance to the overall story, and his threat to the Underwoods, is never really allowed room to play out. Aidan hasn’t felt like much of a threat all season, meaning the urgency with which the Underwoods look to silence him doesn’t carry much of an impact.
Still, “Chapter 61” sees Aidan wind up dead, and that raises some interesting questions. Is any of his incriminating evidence out there? He does seem to send Leann an encrypted file. Did Aidan kill himself with the gun Leann gave him, or did someone else do the job? The final shot of the episode sees Jane Davis shredding Aidan’s file, which would certainly suggest some foul play. Finally, is Leann safe? She’s wrapped up in all of this too, and if Aidan is dead, she should be looking over her shoulder at all times.
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So, you’ve got a committee looking into the past, potentially criminal actions of the Underwoods, and a dead hacker who maybe still has some evidence somewhere about tampering with the election. As if that’s not enough for the president and vice president to deal with, the walls are closing in elsewhere too. Namely, Tom Hammerschmidt is really starting to put the pieces together when it comes to Rachel Posner’s murder, and Sean Jeffries continues to dig into the Moretti story.
The common denominator here is Doug Stamper. He’s always been the steady hand of the administration, the captain steering the ship powered by the Underwoods and their insatiable need for control over everything. Now though, he may be the loose end that leads to their downfall. Not only is Seth listening to Jeffries’ story about the president forcing former Secretary of Health and Human Services to bump him to the top of the donor list, but Doug can’t escape Tom’s story.
When ADCT Greene tells Doug that Lisa Williams is by no means a threat, Doug nearly loses it. Where Greene doesn’t see anyone damaging to the administration, Doug sees someone who’s potentially helping Tom figure out what happened to Rachel. What’s interesting is that Tom’s investigation is forcing a change in the dynamic between Doug and the Underwoods.
Doug has always been transparent with the Underwoods. He’s always been on their level, privy to all their plans and integral to every single move they make. Now though, he seems to be hiding things from them. He hasn’t mentioned Tom’s investigation, despite the fact that Tom is showing up before a committee hearing and asking to sit down with him at some point to ask some questions about Lisa. Doug tries to feign ignorance, but Tom knows he’s in the position of power now. He’s willing to bide his time and let Doug feel the squeeze.
While big things like potential murder charges are certainly looming, the thing the Underwoods have to worry about right now is the committee. After Jackie is eventually convinced to plead the fifth, the committee turns its attention to former President Garrett Walker. Apparently, he’s ready to testify; considering what he knows about Frank and how he stole the presidency, it would be a huge blow to the Underwoods.
Romero offers to leave Walker out of it and to step down from the committee himself if Frank resigns as President, but that’s obviously not going to happen. In fact, Usher believes he and the Underwoods have the upper hand. He says Walker will plead the fifth because he’s not going to betray his party and that Romero will end up looking like a fool.
For once though, Usher and the Underwoods are wrong, and things don’t go their way. While Claire advises Frank to not meet with Walker before his testimony, he just can’t help himself. He chats with Walker and condescendingly mentions how admirable it is that he’s willing to put party before any personal vendetta. It’s in that moment that, one can assume, Walker decides he’s had enough. So, when his testimony begins and his lawyer says he’ll be pleading the fifth, Walker interrupts and instead begins to answer Romero’s questions. He says he was witness to the exchange of legislation for finances from China, and that it was all Frank Underwood’s idea.
It would appear that, with only a few episodes left in the season, we’re headed towards a few different showdowns. There’s the committee vs. Frank, Doug vs. Tom, and perhaps most interestingly, Claire vs. Frank. Sure, they’ve been a team all along, but now that Frank is back to being president he’s treating Claire like nothing more than an advisor. “I make the decisions,” he states before spending the whole episode ignoring her advice. With Jane Davis pushing Claire to make a decision about her future and implying that she should be the president now and not in four years, it looks like the greatest threat to Frank Underwood might not be the committee, but rather his own wife.