House of Cards recap: 'Chapter 61'
The election is over, and the Underwoods are back in power
You’re never going to believe it, folks, but this election season is finally over. The battle that began last season between Conway/Brockhart and the Underwoods has reached its conclusion, and to the surprise of absolutely nobody, Frank Underwood is once again president. He’s won the single vote in Ohio and, just like that, he’s back in power, one month after him and his team used Aidan MacAllan to mess with the voting process and create chaos within the Electoral College.
If you’re wondering how Will Conway feels about all of this, he’s not doing much to hide it. He makes his concession call to Frank and Claire, and boy is it awkward. He seethes over the phone while barely uttering the word “congratulations,” all while the Underwoods sit on the other end with grins on their faces. They’re reveling in this moment, even as Will hurls a few choice expletives at them. They know they don’t have to worry about him anymore. And just to rub salt in the wound, Frank offers him a position in his cabinet as Transportation Secretary, a gigantic slap in the face to the war hero and former candidate (and, if we’re being honest, rightful president).
It’ll be interesting to see if this is the last moment we get with the Conways. They’re completely unraveling, barely able to get themselves up to deliver a concession speech together. They have no idea what to do now. After the opening scene, the two vanish into thin air, unheard from for the rest of the episode. Hopefully that’s not the last we see of them though, as they’re perfect thorns in the sides of the Underwoods.
With the election in the rearview mirror, it’s time for everything to get back to normal. For Frank and Claire, that means staging a reset of sorts. They take resignation letters from the entire cabinet before ripping them up and hiring them back again. Then the real moves start to happen. Now that the election is over, Frank and Claire are interested in cutting dead weight and anybody that can’t be useful to them anymore.
For instance, Doug wants both Leann and Usher gone. While the president agrees that Leann has likely served her purpose and that her closeness to Aidan MacAllan is a worry, he’s not so sure about pushing Usher out of the administration. He still thinks he’s a useful tool, and a valuable member to have around. Doug, while not explicitly stating it, has his own motives here. He sees Usher as a threat to his influence with the Underwoods. Later, when Frank labels Usher his “special advisor,” Doug can’t help but feel threatened, even if the title is mostly meaningless.
While the administration begins to shore up its members, whittling down the numbers and making sure there’s no potential crises on the horizon, there’s still the problem of Aidan MacAllan. The Underwoods are worried he’s a loose end who could talk at any moment. Leann, on the other hand, is just worried about her friend. So, she meets with journalist Kate Baldwin and asks her to track down MacAllan and do an interview with him.
Everyone’s motivations are a little unclear, but what we know is, Leann believes that if Kate interviews Aidan he’ll be more than happy to tell her Leann had nothing to do with the stolen NSA documents, which could in turn save her job. It’s a long shot, especially considering Aidan is under the control of President Petrov at the moment, but it’s the only option she has.
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Aidan MacAllan isn’t the only threat to the Underwoods post-election, though. Congressman Romero, angered by the Underwoods’ lack of engagement with him, is urging his Republican colleagues to restart the Declaration of War Committee in order to investigate the president and the vice president. Now that the election is over and Frank is once again in power, he’s opened himself back up to potential criminal investigation.
Doug and Usher do what they can to persuade the congressman to side with the Underwoods, and he’s at least open to the idea. All he wants is two seats on the dais at the inauguration and a line in the president’s speech about how he’ll commit to a bump in medicare spending, something that impacts the largely elderly population Romero represents. Doug doesn’t want to give in to those requests, but Usher convinces the president it’s not much.
Of course, nothing is ever that easy with Frank. Despite agreeing to the conditions, Frank does an about-face at the inauguration. After breaking the fourth wall and chastising all the people around him who are sworn enemies of his administration despite their smiles and applause, he tells the gathered audience that he wants to fix healthcare before investing in it. Rather than give specifics, he touts a general plan about creating jobs that will allow people to work for their healthcare, echoing the empty, real world sentiments of President Donald Trump.
After the inauguration, all that’s left for the day is the fancy ball. While Baldwin shows up in Russia for a sit-down interview with MacAllan, and Tom continues to analyze subway footage for signs of foul play in Zoe Barnes’ death, the Underwoods get ready for their celebration. For Claire, that means putting on a gorgeous white gown. For Frank, that apparently means having a kinky fling with his personal trainer Eric in that secret stairway he loves so much. Just to be clear: Frank is making out with (and presumably doing even more with) a man who, when he first met him, was playing an ancestor of Frank’s who died in the Civil War. That’s weird.
Anyway, as the ball gets underway, a few narrative threads play out. First, before Kate can interview Aidan, he calls Leann to check in with her after bribing some Russian kid for his phone. It’s a huge mistake, as Leann’s phone is being tracked and the U.S. government is now ready to bring in Aidan. Is this the last we hear from Aidan? Something tells me there’s a good chance the Underwoods make him disappear, one way or another.
Apparently Leann believes this is enough to save her job, so imagine her surprise when Doug basically tells her she’s still being forced out. That moment is the essence of “Chapter 61”: it’s the Underwoods regaining control. Leann is pushed out, Frank tells Yates to stop “cheating on my wife,” and Aidan is no longer a problem.
But there’s one big problem still looming: Tom’s investigation. Here, Mr. Barnes is initially hesitant to help Tom with any more of the investigation, just wanting to move on from the pain of his daughter’s death. But when Tom mentions he no longer believes Zoe’s death was suicide, Mr. Barnes agrees to help if he can. He hands over a burner phone he found amongst Zoe’s stuff and says she likely used it to call him shortly before she died. He remembers this because they didn’t talk often, and he was surprised to hear from her.
So, while “Chapter 61” sees the Underwoods taking back control of the White House, some threats remain. Will the committee find something incriminating? Will Tom finally figure out Frank killed Zoe? There are only four episodes left in the season, and just as it looks like the Underwoods are in the clear, the walls start closing in again.