House of Cards recap: 'Chapter 64'
With threats forming all around them, Frank and Claire take violent action to secure their legacy
Sociopaths can’t help themselves. Try as they might to curb their malicious behavior, they’re consistently drawn back into it when the time is right and they see some personal benefit. They see other people as tools for their own gain, and once those tools become useless and out of date, they’re discarded.
That brings us to the Underwoods. You would think that a committee looking into their past crimes coupled with a journalistic investigation into the murder of Zoe Barnes would have the president and the vice president being extra careful when it comes to their actions, but then again, such caution wouldn’t be in line with the Underwoods. They may be careful enough to always look out for themselves, but that also means they’ve never met a line they won’t cross if, in doing so, they benefit in some way.
Thus, at the top of “Chapter 64,” Frank pushes Catherine Durant down a flight of stairs. She’s useless to Frank now, preparing to testify before the committee and showing no sign of backing down. She’s ready to let the court of public opinion judge her, but Frank doesn’t have time to wait for the public to come to a decision. So, he makes one for her, pushing her down the stairs and forcing a postponement of her hearing until she can recover. Believe it or not, this assault isn’t even the most horrific action undertaken by an Underwood in this episode.
The previous episode posited that the Underwood administration was on its last legs, or rather, that Frank’s time as leader was done. “Chapter 64” goes further and looks at just how calculated this downfall has been. Frank may be pulling some strings of his own, but there are a lot of people working against him. In one of the episode’s more surprising turns, it would seem that Tom Hammerschmidt has been using Sean Jeffries all along. He knew his team member was sleeping with Jeffries, and the two hoped that Jeffries would eventually go through her phone.
Of course, being the needy weirdo that he is, Jeffries creeps through her phone at night and finds an email from Tom talking about the burner phone and how they can trace all of its texts and calls. Jeffries brings that information straight to Frank, letting him know that Tom is closing in on evidence suggesting that he and Doug Stamper killed Zoe Barnes. The truth is that Tom doesn’t have that evidence, but as long as Frank thinks he does, that’s all that matters.
The point of all Tom’s plotting is to make the Underwoods panic, and to perhaps get to Doug Stamper. It works. Frank and Claire, when confronted with a potential murder charge, ask Doug to take the fall and implicate himself in Barnes’ death. Doug doesn’t take the news well — who would have thought? — realizing that he’s going to have to give everything to the Underwoods. He’s always been loyal, but is this too far for him?
It’s unclear at the moment. On the one hand, he seems aghast at the idea of taking the fall for Zoes’ murder. On the other hand, his conversation with Leann, where he says he killed Zoe, feels a lot like he’s accepting punishment for killing Rachel. In his mind, it would seem, he’s a bad guy who killed another person, so what does it matter if he goes down for the murder of Zoe rather than Rachel?
But, there’s more. After the Underwoods tell Doug to implicate himself in Zoe’s murder, he rummages through his desk and pulls out… a number of birthday cards, just like the ones sent to Tom that contained leaks from the White House. Is loyal, faithful Doug the leak? Is he sending everything to Tom? Surely the finale will provide some clarity.
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With Frank seemingly losing all of his support — he’s getting squeezed by the committee, and word is that the Senate won’t be blocking impeachment like he had hoped — now is the time for Claire Underwood to step up and take control. House of Cards has long been teasing the idea of Claire as president, but now things are actually moving in that direction.
Frank knows it, too. When he secretly meets with Jane Davis to talk about the U.S.’s involvement in Syria, something Davis is trying to delay so that Claire can get the “win” after Frank is impeached, the conversation inevitably turns to Claire and the presidency. Davis basically advises Frank to recognize that his days are numbered, suggesting that he should step aside and find a way to leave Claire’s reputation intact. Davis says the same to Mark Usher, convincing him that Claire is the future, not Frank.
Claire seems to have all the support in the world, and even Frank may be coming around to the idea of stepping down in order to give her power, but there’s still one large, looming problem: Tom Yates. He left a manuscript of his book in the house for Claire to find. To her surprise, he kept writing about the Underwoods long after she presumed he’d stopped because of their intimate relationship.
The book, in Claire’s words, makes the Underwoods look like monsters, and as she admits to Frank in so many words, Yates knows about the murders. If the book goes to print, that’s it for the Underwoods. So, Claire does what she has to do (in her mind, anyway). She has Mark set up a meeting in his house with Yates. When she gets there, they each have a drink and talk about the manuscript, with Yates basically blackmailing Claire while also wanting to be with her. Their relationship is kind of complicated. As actor Paul Sparks puts it to EW, Yates wants Claire to choose “bedroom Claire over politician Claire.”
Sure enough, Claire makes her choice. With migraine medicine given to her by Jane, she poisons Yates. The poison kicks in as the two are having one last fireside romp, sending Yates out of the show in appropriate fashion, given his character’s history. It’s truly a delightfully ludicrous death.
That’s not the only death in this episode though, even if the following one is more metaphorical. As “Chapter 64” comes to an end, Frank has agreed to testify before the committee. This being Frank Underwood and all, he uses the opportunity to twist things in his and Claire’s favor. He admonishes the committee for benefiting from the corrupt system while they take Frank to task for doing the very same, all before turning to the camera and lamenting the “death of the age of reason.”
Frank knows that politics is more about theater and perception than it’s ever been, that facts don’t hold sway anymore. (So much for TV drama being escapist!) So, Frank turns the committee into a sideshow attraction, announcing his resignation and causing a flurry of surprise.
Is this truly the end of Frank Underwood as president? Does this clear the way for Claire? Will Tom’s investigation bear more evidence, and will it come from Doug? “Chapter 64” sets up a downfall for the Underwoods, but things are never that easy or predictable on House of Cards.