'House of Cards' Season 5, Episode 11 recap: The leaks keep coming

For The Baltimore Sun

The Underwoods are reeling, and the hits keep coming. Let’s recap Episode 11 of this season of “House of Cards.”

MAJOR PLOT POINTS

Ex-President Walker's testimony before Congress has left Frank reeling, and distrustful of even Claire. Usher and Claire push Frank to attempt to cut a deal for some sort of censure, rather than face the potential of impeachment. On the other side of the argument, Frank and Stamper maintain that they should press forward without accepting any kind of deal, confident that impeachment won't come to fruition.

To that end, Stamper starts a smear campaign against Walker, beginning with a contact at the Herald. Stamper has ulterior motives for starting with the newspaper, as he knows Tom Hammerschmidt is closing in on him there, and he pries for information about what Tom is working on. Stamper doesn't learn anything new, but we see that Tom has received a flash drive with some leaked information on it from a source inside the administration. The source reveals that the FBI knowingly arrested the wrong man in connection with the incident in Tennessee that Frank cooked up to steal the election. No one is willing to go on the record, though, leaving Tom to plead in vain with the paper's lawyers to let him run the story.

After the Herald turns him down, Tom gives the information to Angela, Sean's girlfriend who also works at the paper, and took Sean's place on Tom's team. He instructs her to leak the story to Slugline, the political blog with far looser editorial standards. The story breaks, sending the White House scrambling. Stamper and Green set up surveillance on every phone and computer of each White House staffer, in an attempt to out the source of the story. With this new mess hitting the fan, Frank agrees to Usher and Claire's position on censure. Usher says that won't be as easy to negotiate now, especially since Romero has abandoned his party, declared himself an independent, and joined the House Judiciary Committee — all part of his quest to bring Frank down.

As paranoia and distrust pervades the White House, Claire asks Yates to leave, capitulating to Frank's wishes. And as the surveillance operation kicks into gear, Stamper pays particularly close attention to Seth and LeAnn, watching them through the cameras on their computers.

Seth calls the head of the organ transplant list, following up after Jeffries' snooping around. Ultimately, he has Stamper's back, telling the woman that he wants to coordinate their response to the inquiry. LeAnn sparks interest when she opens a file received from Aidan, something with such potential impact that it leaves her visibly shaken.

To illustrate just how deep the distrust has gotten, Claire and Stamper turn their proverbial guns on each other. Stamper has Yates followed, which she sees as beyond the scope of their surveillance, and lets Doug know that she's fully aware of his relationship with Laura Moretti, and how it could be a liability to Frank.

With his job threatened, Stamper goes to Laura and confesses to bumping her husband from the donor list, essentially killing him. Laura says that she's known all along, and that she hasn't been with Doug because she likes him, but because she hates him. I've seen some weird breakups, but this has to be near the top of the list.

After his breakup, Stamper pays LeAnn a visit, theoretically to confront her about what Aidan gave her. Things quickly take a sexual turn, and Stamper and LeAnn get to know each other intimately, while Frank listens in through LeAnn's computer. There sure is a lot of complicated sex stuff on this show.

The Underwoods' situation gets even murkier, as Jane pushes Claire to go to war in Syria. She urges Claire to make a move now, while Claire continues to defer to Frank. Jane suggests that she leave herself some distance from Frank, so that her political fate isn't tied with his. Claire knows all of this, of course. But the time is coming when she will need to finally decide whether or not to strike out on her own.

While Claire considers her options, and Frank considers whether he can trust his wife anymore, he calls in Cathy Durant and orders her to fabricate a paper trail, clearing him of the charges made in the Slugline story. Frank questions her loyalty, and perhaps is using this as a test, but he doesn't appear to know that Cathy has made a deal with Romero to testify against him in Congress. Frank has just handed a round of fresh ammunition to his biggest political enemy.

Still reeling, Stamper tells Frank about bumping him on the donor list, and that Claire somehow gained knowledge of that fact. Stamper pledges his loyalty to Frank, and pays lip service to remaining loyal to Claire as well, but these two are united in their current distrust of the First Lady.

As news of Cathy's testimony breaks, another flash drive from the anonymous leaker reaches the offices of the Herald. Who is the mole?

BEST LINE

"You have to go. You need to leave. There's just no place for you here any more." — Claire, informing Tom that he's being kicked out.

BIGGEST SHOCKER

The mole. Cathy Durant turning on Frank is not exactly unexpected, as they have always been uneasy allies of convenience. But the rest of the team surrounding Claire and Frank seems to be loyal. So where is this news coming from?

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