Political exile can be a funny thing. When Garrett Walker effectively banished Frank from his inner circle, he must have thought that he was done with the Vice-President who had so insidiously undermined for so very long, that Frank would be barred from any further political influence. In a display of short-sightedness that has become his personal brand, Walker failed to realize that Frank’s exile doesn’t mean that Walker himself has gained any political capital but instead that Walker has effectively removed his last chances of holding on to any political weaponry. With all of Walker’s friends removed from office or disillusioned with him thanks to Frank’s efforts, the President finds himself being battered from all sides but the confrontation with Frank didn’t slow the scheming second in command down at all – instead, it liberated him. Every aspect of Walker’s life is being hammered. His marriage is being torn apart in the media, his foreign policy is being rewritten by his State Department and as of this episode, it looks like impeachment is being considered by both parties. Frank has played this all almost perfectly but it has not come easily – Claire has had to finally take the last step and throw Megan Hennessey under the bus and let her own Bill wither and die. Meanwhile, Rachel continues to suffer indirectly as Doug continues his descent into an abusive psychopath. He is yet unaware of the firestorm brewing in the hacker Gavin who is finally off his leash.
The battle between Claire and Jacky was as fascinating as it was fierce. As uncomfortable as it was to see Megan who brutally outclassed by the more eloquent and confident Jacky, it also seemed like Jacky was no longer holding herself back and we saw the same flashes of her killer instinct that kept the various Congressmen toeing the party line earlier in the season. Claire’s willingness to throw her child, the sexual assault bill, under the bus for the sake currying political favour with Jacky is yet another example of Claire sacrificing her goals and objectives for Frank but not really receiving anything in return. Last season, it was the Clean Water Act that had to be sacrificed in favour of Frank getting the Vice-Presidency, but it doesn’t seem Claire has in any way benefited from her sacrifices. In fact, the emotional strain that both decisions placed on her arguably indicate that it is just the opposite – she has suffered for Frank’s sake without getting anything back. Still, there is no denying that it is extremely effective; had Claire continued to fight Jacky, there was absolutely no chance that Jacky would even entertain a thought of allying herself with the Underwoods again and without Jacky there was a chance that the articles of impeachment would never have been considered, and we can’t have that now, can we?
Speaking of impeachment, it seems that Walker has begun to realise that one way or another, his time in the Oval Office is coming to an end. There are only so many scandals that he can endure and even if he isn’t impeached, it is highly unlikely that he will be running for re-election in 2016. The trouble is, Garett Walker is just no match for Frank Underwood when it comes to politicking. Walker has more charm and charisma than Frank, obviously, but he is just not cut-throat enough to actually touch Frank. So while Frank continues to do exactly what he has done throughout the series and undermine Walker behind his back, Walker removing him from his inner circle effectively means that Frank has one less person to worry about. Yes, it means he will have made a powerful enemy, but with the barrage of new issues and accusations flying Walker’s way, it would be a miracle if Walker finds the time and energy to take Frank down. First, China makes its move and reacts exactly as predicted to Xander Feng being granted immunity which prompts Walker to put that national security fire out. Yet, before that issue was even fully addressed, accusations of witness coaching and evidence tampering emerge and soon Walker must deal with impeachment. He can still hurt Frank in a big way, but it will require him to shake all these distracting elements off and focus on that as his primary agenda.
With the season finale next week, it will be interesting to see how two of the final wildcards will play out – Remy has now been cut out from Team Tusk after his duplicity was discovered but it is yet unclear whether he will return to Frank tail tucked between his legs or if he will try to redeem himself in Raymond’s eyes. All evidence points to the former but that means that he could bring with him some much needed ammunition, enough for Frank to put Raymond on his ass once and for all. Meanwhile, the more volatile of the wildcards, Gavin Orsay has finally slipped free of his collar and intends very much to bite his erstwhile captors, as soon as possible. Orsay doesn’t have anything on Underwood directly but with Doug behaving the way he has been, it seems like he would be the most profitable pressure point for Gavin to push.