Chapter 17 opens with some verbal jousting between Frank and Remy Danton, who has been lobbying on Tusk's behalf.
Tusk has tasked Remy to help wrangle members of the House to vote for Frank's grand bill that passed the Senate in Chapter 16. Tusk seems to be trying to play Frank. That never works.
Frank sends Jackie to work with Remy on rounding up the fifteen additional votes that they'll need, while he sets off to persuade his old frenemy Donald Blythe.
Claire is preparing for an interview with Asleigh Banfield, going over the questions she'll face with Connor, the guy she hired to handle media relations for her and her her husband. Connor warns her that she'll face questions as to why she and Frank are childless, before slyly working in a compliment on her appearance. Oh, I don't trust this guy.
"I don't hold grudges, Frank. I just don't negotiate with people who are fundamentally deceptive," Blythe tells Frank as their meeting begins. Frank tries to massage Blythe's ego, but he'll have none of that.
While Frank continues to work on Blythe at his old office, a staffer opens a piece of mail that contains a suspicious white powder. The office building is placed on quarantine, forcing Frank to be locked in a room with Blythe while the security threat is dealt with. "If we're lucky, it'll be anthrax and I won't live long enough to see the bill fail," Frank quips to Claire in a phone call.
"I should have thought of this before. Appeal to the heart, not the brain," Frank tells us as he finds an opening to get through to Blythe. His wife is fighting Alzheimer's, and while still often lucid, she is losing her faculties. Frank plies Blythe with alcohol and digs his heels in. He seems to be using increased funding for Alzheimer's research as a bargaining chip, which Blythe sees and strikes down immediately.
Lucas meets with his hacker contact, Gavin, who cooks up a plot to help get him some information on Frank. The plan involves placing a small device inside a server that Lucas will need to gain access to. Lucas tries to leave to return to The Herald to cover the security scare, but Gavin won't allow him to leave until after he's walked him through everything he intends to do. If Gavin is going to go down, eventually, he plans to take Lucas with him.
Claire's interview begins, and we get some insight into the upbringing and early years of this powerful woman. We learn that she comes from a wealthy Texas family, a fact that Banfield seems to want to emphasize.
Claire says that her most vivid childhood memory came form a visit to Dealey Plaza, where President Kennedy was killed. I was there a couple of years ago, and boy is that the strangest landmark of all time. There's a giant "x" painted in the street on the spot where the president was shot, but traffic just rolls on through, all day. That struck me as strangely disrespectful.
Claire relates how angry and sad she was when her father took her to that place as a young girl. "Don't be sad, sweetheart," her father told her. "He made the world a better place, but sometimes, that comes at a price."
Jackie and Remy continue to wrangle votes, even as the security scare has the Capitol on lockdown. Jackie has convinced about half of the voters that she'll need, but is struggling to get more. Remy coaches her on how to wheel and deal, as Frank would have. Jackie is her own person, though, and uses a more blunt approach than her predecessor would have.
"We're two very independent people who have chosen to live our lives together," Claire tells Banfield, when she insinuates that Claire has somehow put herself on the back burner in an effort to help her husband in his career. Claire bristles at any notion that their marriage is in any way a calculated business arrangement. "I support him. He supports me."
Banfield's interview turns to the question of children, and Claire deftly handles the questions as she had been prepared to, until Banfield turns up the heat and directly asks Claire whether or not she had ever been pregnant. Claire reveals that she had been, once, and that she had an abortion, a fact that she states will jeopardize her husband's political career.
During a break in the interview, Connor tries to convince Claire to shut down the rest of the interview, but she won't take his advice. When the interview continues, Claire tells Banfield about when she was sexually assaulted, by General McGinnis, in college.
She names McGinnis as her attacker, which will undoubtedly set off a firestorm.
The quarantine at the Capitol is lifted, and Frank runs out to confer with Jackie. They're still four votes short, and they'll need to perform a last-second miracle and persuade Blythe, or else his bill will fail and the government will shut down. Jackie goes to Blythe and asks him to convince four of his people to vote with her, and that she'll work with him in the future, in return. She tells him that she isn't Frank.
Another woman that was victimized by McGinnis calls the news network conducting Claire's interview and shares her story. The network can't run with it unless she reveals her name, however, which she isn't willing to do, at first. Claire ultimately convinces the woman to go public.
Gavin meets with a shadowy government figure in a parking lot, the security liaison who Doug enlisted to help bring down Lucas. The liason threatens Gavin, but commends him on doing fine work with Lucas. They aren't ready to strike on Lucas yet, but the soon will be.
Frank and Claire are sitting in their smoking nook, puffing on an electronic cigarette, before Frank pulls out a real one. Claire congratulates him on his legislative win, and asks him to sing her something. He sings a few lines from "Pretty Polly" for his wife.
"Oh Polly, Pretty Polly, would you take me unkind
Polly, Pretty Polly, would you take me unkind
Let me set beside you and tell you my mind
Well my mind is to marry and never to part
My mind is to marry and never to part
The first time I saw you it wounded my heart
Oh Polly Pretty Polly come go along with me
Polly Pretty Polly come go along with me
Before we get married some pleasures to see"