'House of Cards' Season 5, Episode 5 recap: Make way for Claire

For The Baltimore Sun

Don’t stand in the way of Claire Underwood — let’s recap Episode 5 of this season of “House of Cards.”

MAJOR PLOT POINTS

Time jump! We're now nine weeks post-election, and two states have refused to certify their election results, leaving the executive branch without a leader. The new president will be chosen by a vote in the House, with the next vice president chosen by the Senate, as Frank kindly man-splains to us.

While Frank entertains a guest, a re-enactor who we first met years ago, Claire is briefed by LeAnn on which senators she'll need to work the hardest to persuade to vote for her. Yates is completely oblivious that Claire might have more important things to worry about than his feelings at the moment, and throws a minor tantrum, desperate for her attention. Claire suggests that he spend some time away from her, and sets out to influence some senators.

Conway is engaging in some arm-wringing of his own, working the phones in an effort to round up votes. Hannah is worried about him, though, and it appears that he is receiving virtual reality therapy for some psychological issue. Mark Usher, Conway's top adviser, warns Hannah that word of this issue must not leak out.

At The Washington Herald, Tom Hammerschmidt talks with Rachel's friend Lisa, who urges him to speak to Stamper in an effort to find out what happened to her friend. Sean Jeffries, the enterprising reporter working under Tom, sneaks into Tom’s office to take photos of his notes, perhaps working his own angle on the effort to bring down the Underwoods.

While Sean informs Seth of Lisa's visit, LeAnn finally hears from Aidan, the hacker who has gone AWOL. He tells her to have all the federal agencies looking for him to stand down, or else he'll start leaking damaging information about the Underwoods to the press.

Frank focuses his efforts of persuasion on Alex Romero, a rising congressional star in his party. He strong-arms the younger politician into whipping up votes in three key states, counting on Romero's party loyalty, and offering him a seat at the proverbial grownups table in exchange. Romero fails, or refuses, to wrangle Frank's votes, and he enlists Stamper to sure up those states for him.

Claire, meanwhile, splits her focus between calling senators and having Yates' driver spy on him while he's on a date. Later, in a meeting with key senators, Claire addresses the possibility of a split ticket, and allows the senators to believe that she would be amenable to serving as Conway's vice president if that's the way the votes fall. This is probably meant to sow a seed of doubt in our minds as to whether Claire will remain loyal to Frank, regardless of the circumstances.

The effort to gather the necessary votes continues, but Stamper is unable to secure Frank his votes either, leaving the president to question his loyalty and commitment. Stamper is taking heat from all sides. LeAnn informs him of the situation with Aidan, and warns him that any potential leaks could incriminate both of them, as well as the president.

The Underwoods' plan continues to crumble, as Donald Blythe informs Claire that he won't block a planned filibuster in the Senate, delaying the vote. Claire dresses him down, in perhaps one final power play, delivering one of the more memorable moments of the season to this point.

Claire succeeds, and ultimately wins the Senate vote. With the House still caucusing, the vice president will serve as acting president, until their vote takes place.

Claire Underwood is the president of the United States.

BEST LINE

"But then, there's no elegance in modern politics. It's mostly hell." — Frank

MOST EVIL MOMENT

Claire invoking Donald Blythe's deceased wife in her effort to knock him down a peg was harsh, especially for someone who always carefully chooses her words.

BIGGEST SHOCKER

President Claire Underwood.

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