There is a LOT to unpack in this episode, emotions are running high. Relationships are being built up and broken down. Most importantly, decisions are made in the present that will have immense repercussions in the future.
We start with Frank back on the campaign trail in Iowa. He fields questions from concerned citizens (one with a son in the Marines) on the situation in the Jordan Valley. An older woman gets the microphone and directly asks him if the U.S. is behind the covert mission that went wrong. Obviously, President Underwood replies saying that information is classified and could hurt intelligence efforts in the Middle East. The woman presses him again, wondering why anyone is asking questions if he can’t even answer them.
The event rattles Frank, and he acknowledges the campaign has veered off message due to the peacekeeping situation. Remy suggests screening questions at future town halls. (This totally happens in real life, fyi. Sometimes these events are pre-screened or staged.) Just then, Frank gets a phone call from an old friend back in the Sentinel days, Tim. He lets Frank know that Thomas Yates had called him looking for information about the President’s college days. Tim tells Frank he didn’t say anything, he wanted to check with him first. The President thanks Tim and hangs up, then immediately asks for Yates to be brought in. Uh oh, someone has struck a nerve. (Remember, Tim and Frank go back, they had a sort of thing in their college days.)
Meanwhile, the situation in the Jordan Valley becomes bleak. Israel orders a no-fly zone over the area. Petrov goes on Russian television to renounce the decision, declaring he will disobey the order and fly through it personally on his own plane. Frank counters by contending he too will fly to the Jordan Valley. He’ll meet Petrov in the Middle East and settle this once and for all.
Claire is strongly opposed to the whole thing, wanting to work through this diplomatically. She calls the Russian ambassador in a last ditch effort to get him to go public, but to no avail. He’s been recalled back to Moscow, probably because of what he told Claire.
In a rundown concrete bunker, Petrov and Frank meet in the Jordan Valley. The Russian President has some demands in order for them to resolve the situation. First, he wants the U.S. to scale back their missile defense. Secondly… and this condition is non-negotiable: Claire needs to be removed as U.N. ambassador. Whether it’s true or not, he plants seeds of doubts in Frank’s mind over his wife. Petrov insinuates that he and the Russian ambassador played the Underwoods. The Russian President planted that bit of information knowing that Frank would order the covert mission.
President Underwood arrives back in Washington and must deliver the news to Claire. She goads him, saying it was a mistake to go. Frank reveals that Petrov played her. Claire relents, she’ll resign as ambassador. In monumental “this is a bad idea” news, Frank calls Yates in the middle of the night and has him drop by the White House.
As usual, Yates and Frank get drunk together. A super weird, sort of creepy scene unfolds with the two of them talking about their pasts. Frank makes small allusions to his relationship with Tim. Yates finally admits he’s the hustler from his books. The two have this weird, brief hand holding moment but then Frank snaps out of it and tells him he should be getting home. I still think Yates is headed for a giant trainwreck, he’s getting way too close to the Underwood family.
Claire resigns, and goes back to her duties as First Lady. In a humiliating moment, she consults with campaign advises who have conducted a focus session. They learn that voters in Iowa like Claire better with blond hair. She’s reduced to being Frank’s arm-candy again, in a way. The First Lady agrees to go back back to her blond hair.
Catching up with Gavin and Doug, the two seem to have truly gone their separate ways. Gavin shows up at Lisa’s house and confesses his lies. Lisa is hurt and confused, the only thing Gavin offers her is Doug Stamper’s card to call if the FBI shows up. Doug, on the other hand, seems to be making progress back to good health. His brother is taking care of him, his kids and wife visit to cheer him up. We even see Doug smile! Things may actually be looking up at last.
Will Claire be content with resuming First Lady duties? (Spoiler alert: probably not.) Can Doug Stamper get it together and come out of this okay? Leave your thoughts on the episode below.