The double edged sword that Frank unsheathed in the previous episode is beginning to cut into him. Special Prosecutor Dunbar has found out certain irregularities that Frank would prefer that she didn’t and it falls to Team Underwood to cover everything up. Luckily for Frank, obfuscation, misdirection and bare-faced bluffs are second nature to him but it is becoming increasingly clear that Frank is playing with fire and some of his clothes are beginning to get singed. The episode redirects its focus to the other stories in this tale; Claire’s Bill breathes its last but more than Claire herself, it is poor Megan who suffers, just another discarded pawn in Claire’s political manoeuvres. Meanwhile, Doug has been compromised both personally and professionally – his obsession with Rachel Posner is making it almost impossible for him to do his job properly, something that Frank has noticed and expressed concern about, while professionally, Doug has become the weakest link in Frank’s team and the focal point of the corruption investigation. Likewise, Remy Danton too must find some balance between his personal and professional sides as his unwillingness to sell Jacky Sharp out lowers his standing with Raymond Tusk. Finally, Frank’s relationship with the President is becoming strained as well as every one of Frank’s suggestions have been engineered to compromise Garrett Walker, rather than reinforce him and it seems like Walker is only just becoming aware of it.
One of the more troublesome aspects of the plot this season has been that various elements have been very intricately linked and it makes it difficult to keep the subtleties of the story straight, especially over a longer period of time. The exact nature of the crime that the President and his administration are accused of has become fuzzy over time and while the audience understands that the gist of it involves corruption and such, the specifics have become both irrelevant and unclear. In this episode, Frank finds himself vulnerable to Dunbar’s careful, methodical probing and sure enough, she is able to uncover Doug’s deployment to meet Daniel Lannigan. That Frank and Doug are able to blow smoke in her eyes and hide beneath the mountain of data that Dunbar has to look through should come as no surprise by now – this is what they do and more so than any other aspect of political life, this is where Frank shines. Yet, the process of fighting through the shaky moments means that we get two pieces of interesting character development. After Frank questions Doug’s commitment and loyalty to the cause, Doug is forced to take action and reassess the way his life has been playing out over the past few months. He admits that Rachel is a negative element in his life – not because of anything she has done, but rather because of what she represents. Doug puts it best himself when he admits that he has an extremely unhealthy, almost addictive relationship with her, comparing it to his equally destructive relationship with alcohol. Doug deleting her number is a step forward, as is his much needed reconciliation with Seth. Unfortunately, Doug relapses on his drug of choice by the episode’s end and his reaction to seeing Rachel having sex with her room-mate appears to be a mixture of heartbreak, anger and shock.
Things are getting hot and heavy in the Underwood household as well, but there is a little heavier build-up towards it. Claire’s championing of the sexual assault Bill sputters to an end despite its strong start – Jacky dealt it the first blow by withdrawing but Claire’s scandals didn’t help matters one bit and by this episode, political support for the Bill is absolutely dead, with even Claire’s BFF, the First Lady, withdrawing her support. None of this should have surprised Claire, who is easily savvy enough to understand that the world will not forget her past as fast as she wishes it would. The sad part about the Bill’s death isn’t just that it was a genuinely important piece of legislation that was killed for purely political instead of practical reasons but rather that it leaves Megan in an incredibly bad position. She given up her military career by openly denouncing her superiors and badmouthing the military’s practices but she will have absolutely nothing to show for her courage in coming forward. Even on a personal front, she has overcome her veritable host of issues to speak publicly against the violence against women in the military, going so far as to give interviews and champion for the cause on a personal level. The cruel thing is that Claire, who kept pushing her to do so, promising to support her as she did so, is the one who pulls the rug from out under her. Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to blame Claire entirely, but there is no doubt that Megan is the one who will suffer the most from it. Claire knows this and hence she turns to a bottle of red for solace and a solution. She finds both in the arms of Edward Meechum, who has featured prominently in recent episodes and since his introduction last season, has gone on to become as trusted a confidant of the Underwoods as Doug Stamper. The three-way attraction between the Underwoods and their bodyguard and driver is hard to explain really, especially from Meechum’s perspective. Meechum has always seemed like a loyal, dedicated but decidedly platonic friend of the Underwoods and it was strange to see raw lust between them.
If Doug was struggling to find a balance between his personal and professional lives, the dilemma is much more explicit for Remy Danton. He confronts Jacky and asks her to deliver the final blow to Frank but if there is one thing that Jacky has been throughout the season, it is unwaveringly independent. As she tells Remy in no uncertain terms, she is no one’s puppet – not Frank Underwood’s, not Raymond Tusk’s and certainly not Remy Danton’s. That Remy would consider going so far as to threaten her with political death after knowing how hard she is fighting to keep her seat just goes to highlight the wave the two of them approached their relationship. The separation between their personal and professional relationships has always been very clear in Remy’s mind but in Jacky’s mind, rightly, the two are not and could never have been, completely independent of each other; Remy can’t expect to screw Jacky over in her run for office and still expect her to believe that he cares deeply for her professionally. It seems that their romantic run is definitely dead as of this episode, however, even if Remy did the decent thing and protected her from Raymond’s increasingly desperate ploys. Raymond is no man’s fool though; it seems very likely that he knows that Remy is hiding something from him and if Remy knows that Raymond knows, then it would go a long way in explaining Remy’s attempt at rebuilding the bridge between him and Frank. Frank won’t take him back just yet, not after everything Remy has done but should Remy pick a side firmly and deliver his current boss to Frank, perhaps he can convince Frank to let him back into the fold.
So, where do we go from here? With two episodes left, there is just about enough time for a final confrontation between Frank and Raymond. It seems that while both are a little worse for wear as they expend their resources in this fight, neither was really played their respective aces. Even with the aces deployed, there are a great number of wildcards in play as well – Remy’s questionable loyalties, Jacky’s defiant independence and the President’s own diminishing faith in his second in command.