Will Aidan get out of Russia? Let’s recap Episode 9 of this season of “House of Cards.”
MAJOR PLOT POINTS
The Underwoods have secured their spot in the White House, as Frank wins in Ohio. Backed by his dual audio recordings of the opposing ticket, and his new ally Mark Usher, it's four more years of Underwood.
Stamper wastes no time in making his feelings known about Usher, urging Claire and Frank to distance themselves from him. Is this Doug operating in their best interests, or does he see Usher as a threat to his own fixer skill set? Doug also jettisons LeAnn, for botching the Aidan situation. LeAnn turns to Kate Baldwin, her old reporter friend, to try to get word to Aidan.
Baldwin has history with Yates, and the two meet up for drinks. Kate digs as to how Yates is doing, but he isn't offering up much information. This guy has the least expressive face I've ever seen in an actor, and I have no idea what we're supposed to be thinking or feeling with regards to his character. But something Kate says clicks with Yates, who goes to Claire to resign his official position as speechwriter. Claire accepts his decision, but says that they will have to invent a reason for him to remain around the White House, signaling that she wants their romantic relationship to continue.
Stamper has some other waters to navigate as well. Alex Romero is making noise, and the rising party star is becoming increasingly demanding in his dealings with the old guard. He demands a mention in Frank's inaugural address, and wants an increase in Medicare spending as well, which will play well with his constituency. Stamper is eager to maintain the status quo, and bristles at Romero's demands. Stamper takes the requests to Frank, who sides with Doug. Usher, on the other hand, thinks that it would be better to play nice with him, and suggests going along with his wishes. Frank ultimately agrees with Usher in a meeting, perturbing Stamper even further.
But when inauguration day comes, Frank double-crosses Usher and Romero, and vows not to increase Medicare funding, and explains to Usher that Romero's disloyalty to Frank during the election process will not be rewarded. Clearly, Romero is going to be a key enemy of the Underwoods going forward. The question is, will Usher remain loyal to them, or will he hitch his wagon to Romero's ascending profile? Romero reacts to Frank's snub with an assertion that he will encourage Republicans to kick their investigation of the Underwoods back into high gear.
As they prepare for the inaugural ball, the Underwoods initiate an operation to extricate Aidan from Russia. With Jane's help, they think they have a way to get him out without tying it directly to them. Kate's presence in Russia to interview Aidan presents an opportunity, and they intend to capitalize, but some last-minute logistic changes present a potential complication. When they sit for the interview, Kate gives Aidan LeAnn's regards, spooking Aidan. He excuses himself from the interview room, and commandeers a phone to call LeAnn. He urges her to get out of the country, and says if she makes it to Russia, he can protect her. LeAnn apologizes to him, tipping him off that Jane's people are waiting to grab him.
Frank's romantic life has always been complicated as well, and that's on full display as he leads Eric, his trainer, into an empty stairwell. After some tense verbal foreplay, they kiss, and probably more, as the scene fades out. And just when things in the Underwood marriage arrangement can't get any more nontraditional, Frank confronts Yates about his dalliance with the tour guide.
With the ball underway, Frank wanders the halls of the White House, taking stock. Claire runs into Stamper, and asks him where he was when James Miller was beheaded, and why he wasn't there with her and Frank, further scaring Doug as to his job security. Frank tells Claire that the House investigation will be restarted, but suggests that they enjoy their evening, and worry about that later.
Tom Hammerschmidt's investigation marches on, as he reviews security footage from the subway station the night of Zoe's death. Tom suspects foul play, and tries to pry information out of Zoe's dad, who is tired of reliving his daughter's death, and asks Tom to stop calling him. Mr. Barnes relents, though, and pays Tom a visit, handing him a burner phone that he found with Zoe's belongings.
As the episode closes, Claire and Frank consider the makeup of the team around them. With Aidan out of Russia, and soon to be back on American soil, Jane has proven her worth. Usher helped deliver them victory, but his allegiance is unproven. LeAnn is on her way out, but she knows things that can damage them. The Underwoods stand in the Oval Office, pondering whom they can trust.
"We want him to think he's managing us while we're busy managing him." — Frank, to Stamper, on Mark Usher.
"Tom, don't cheat on my wife." — Frank, admonishing Yates.