'House of Cards' recap: Russia's return

For The Baltimore Sun

We knew it was only a matter of time before Russia was back in the mix. Let’s recap Episode 6 of this season of “House of Cards.”

MAJOR PLOT POINTS

Claire's acting presidency is off to a challenging start, as Russian forces, directed by President Petrov, take an American research facility in Antarctica by force. With the American political system in disarray, Petrov aims to take full advantage of the situation. Claire and Frank warn him that his aggression won't be taken lightly, but they have quite the full plate oat the moment.

Frank still needs to whip up some votes in the House to reclaim his presidency, and focuses his efforts on Congressman Rasmussen. Rasmussen tells Frank that the game is over and that he has lost, but Frank assures him that he will reconsider that position shortly.

With Frank is away, Claire asks LeAnn to lay out what Frank's clearest path back to power looks like. LeAnn tells her that a full revote in the two contested states of Tennessee and Ohio is Frank's best play, rather than proceeding with the vote in the House. She also tells Claire that such a revote might not be the best thing for Claire's political future, again placing doubt in our minds as to whether Claire will remain loyal to Frank.

While Stamper enlists Romero to try to persuade some members of the Congressional Black Caucus (of which he is not a member), LeAnn opens an email from Aidan, linking to a story he leaked to WikiLeaks, detailing how the alleged attack on the convenience store before the election was no such thing. Seth goes to Stamper to sign off on a public statement on the leak and, hoping to catch him off guard, asks if he knows Lisa Williams. Doug denies that he does, and hurries out of the office, leaving Seth behind to check his call history.

As Frank works on his physical fitness with his new trainer, Eric the re-enactor, Claire convinces him to take a meeting to consider pursuing the re-vote option. It goes against Frank's instinct, and what he knows, which is working Congress, but he agrees.

Conway's health continues to be an issue as well, as his character has transformed into a seething rage monster, barely able to hold it together.

Usher, Conway’s adviser, convinces him that he should take a meeting with the CBC in an effort to loosen Frank's grip on that voting block. Hannah, meanwhile, suggests that they cancel their scheduled events the next day, trying to preserve what's left of her husband's sanity. Her efforts fail, Conway loses his temper in the CBC meeting, and his own instability might be his undoing, rather than Claire and Frank. That fact is further underscored as he has a meltdown on his private plane, demanding to be allowed to take the controls, and threatening to fire Usher on the tarmac once they land.

LeAnn and Stamper's lives become more complicated when a kidnapper sends them a photo of Aidan, demanding a ransom for his release. Stamper isn't able to get in touch with the kidnappers, and the situation is about to blow up in his face.

Things are about to become even more complex for Doug, as Seth digs into his relationship with Mrs. Moretti, and Sean meets with Lisa, continuing to pursue his connection to her. Tom isn't pleased when he learns of Sean's meeting, and kicks him off his team for going through his notes. He follows up the connection on his own, though, and finds a paper in a Barnes family storage locker with both Rachel and Stamper's names on it. It's just enough to keep chasing down the lead.

Cathy Durant visits Petrov and promises to announce sanctions against Russia, provided he doesn't withdraw his troops. The Underwoods double up on that position, and order Petrov to deal with Cathy. Petrov declines, though, and announces that he will remain in Antarctica and that he will keep whatever oil his country finds there. And to strengthen his play, he reveals to the Underwoods that he has a valuable asset in his office, one who Stamper was willing to pay a healthy ransom to secure: Aidan.

While they are being held over a barrel in that international diplomacy situation, Claire and Frank have better luck domestically. They secure a meeting with Usher, and secure his assurance that the revote measure will pass in the House. Claire is certain that this is the right tact to pursue to ensure that Frank remains in the White House, while Frank is less sure. The potential disconnect between the Underwoods looms as a key story element going forward.

BEST LINE

"You Americans certainly have a lot of presidents these days." — Petrov

BIGGEST SHOCKER

The reveal that Petrov has Aidan in his custody was a clever twist that I didn't see coming.

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