House of Cards recap: Season 5, Episode 5

It’s been 9 weeks since Election Day, and nobody is sure what’s happening. Well, that’s not entirely true. The House and Senate are on their way to deciding the president and the vice president, respectively, but nobody really knows how it’s all going to play out. There’s chaos everywhere in Washington, as the government deals with an undecided, uncertified vote that’s left everything at a standstill. All of this is established during an opening monologue from Frank, as he muses on the beauty of “flipism,” the idea that major decisions should be decided by the flip of a coin. Frank may tout the benefits of such a philosophy, but there’s no way he’s leaving this vote to chance.

“Chapter 57” suffers from a structure similar to its previous episode; much of the episode is focused on phone calls and meetings. There are plenty of times when House of Cards has made that compelling, but that’s not the case with the last two episodes. This election is dragging on, and it’s killing the momentum the season kicked off with.

There are some interesting stories developing in this episode though, even if the whole arc about Conway and Underwood trying to secure votes in the House is a slog. For instance, Conway begins the episode trying out some VR technology from a friend of his that’s meant to help veterans deal with PTSD. It’s a real-world treatment that’s done a lot of good, but Conway isn’t ready. He seems in denial about his trauma, brought back up again by this election, and it’s threatening to put a wedge into his relationship with Hannah.

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Even more interesting, in a very abstract way, is the scene where Frank meets with Eric, the man who played Augustus Underwood during a reenactment in season 2. The two bond over the president’s replica battlefield before Eric reveals that everything he said about Augustus Underwood was untrue. He just wanted to have a good story when meeting the (then-)vice president. Frank laughs it off, and the two continue to chat about war and elections and the protesters chanting “Not My President” outside the White House gates. Eric tells an apparently true story about Augustus waking up a full 24 hours after being pronounced dead. It’s a strange scene with seemingly little purpose, but in that way, it’s fascinating. It’s so far removed from the rest of the episode that it makes an impact.

Of course, there’s also the connection between the Augustus story and the fact that Frank is trying to bring himself back from the dead. He essentially lost the election, but now he’s trying to sway the House to vote for him. That means Doug and Leann are meeting with every congressman possible in the hopes of convincing them that Frank Underwood is best for the country.

There’s one issue, though, that has the Democratic congressmen worried: a split ticket. In other words, they’re worried that Conway’s position is safe and that the House will certainly vote for him, meaning that if the Senate votes for Claire as VP, there will be a split ticket with one Republican and one Democrat, and everyone believes that’s bad for the country. Unity and clarity are the goals at this point.
(Recap continues on page 2)

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