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'House of Cards' Season 4, Episode 3 recap: Chapter 42

Hide all your political dirty laundry, frame a co-worker for your evil deeds and prepare for your significant other to betray you. Let's talk about Chapter 42, shall we?

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Claire and LeAnn conspire to derail Frank's presidential campaign before Claire formulates a plan to save it and secure her political future. Elsewhere, Seth continues to leak damaging information on Frank to the Dunbar campaign, and Frank is so busy in dealing with all of this that he suggests invading Russia not with the military, but with "fear." Somewhere, Dr. Carson nods his head in agreement. Also, Lucas Goodwin does things that make me question why he is still in our lives.

Episode recap

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Remember the last time we saw Frank Underwood in a church? You know, with the spitting on the Jesus statue and such? In this episode, we see a very different man: A humble Frank, who has returned to a local church in his hometown of Gaffney, South Carolina, to court African-American voters in his bid to win the state's presidential primary the next day. The speech ends with resounding applause.

As Claire prepares to fly to South Carolina to meet Frank and campaign for him, she tells her mother that she will come and go from the ranch as she pleases, and we learn that Mrs. Hale has given in to her daughter's demand for money.

Sun TV Critic David Zurawik talks about season 4 of the Netflix series House of Cards. (Baltimore Sun video)

And Claire needs that cash to pay off Orren Chase. She sends LeAnn to meet with him, and after LeAnn acquires a compromising photo of Frank's father from a safe deposit box, sets Chase up with the cash he'll need to hang a billboard with the photo on it in Gaffney. When LeAnn takes the photo, she leaves a pair of Claire's earrings in the box, so that when he retrieves it for himself, Frank will have no doubts as to who ruined his chances of winning his home state.

The billboard appears the next day, showing a photo of Frank's father standing next to a member of the Ku Klux Klan. In the wake of the scandal, the Davis family agrees to stop stumping for Frank.

"Those sort of symbols matter," Celia tells Frank. "When we stop getting beaten and shot, you'll have my goodwill, Mr. President," Doris adds. Cicely Tyson was great here, and I would expect her to be remembered come Emmy Awards season.

Frank sends Meechum to shake down Chase, and manages to get Gene Clancy, Gaffney's mayor, to speak on his behalf, but he is still left reeling from the billboard. Frank speaks from the church again to try to do damage control. Oh, I could write symphonies about Kevin Spacey's hair situation in this scene.

Seth watches Frank's speech on television and responds by sending a photo of Frank from years earlier, standing next to a war re-enactor wearing a confederate uniform, to Dunbar's chief of staff. When pressed on how the White House photo was leaked, Seth suggests that Meechum was behind it. Frank looks deeply, very deeply, into Meechum's eyes, and decides that he wasn't behind it.

After seeing the first six episodes of Season 4 of "House of Cards," I can tell you there are three scenes that blew me away. A week after seeing them, they are still rattling around in my brain.

Frank investigates the safe deposit box for himself, and finds Claire's earrings there. "I knew it, but I didn't want to believe it," he tells us. Claire appears and says "It's only a wound. It's not fatal. Please sit down. We need to talk."

She lays out that Frank has never lost a race, and that she has always been by his side for those victories. "You don't have a viable running mate," she says. "You need me, Francis." She says that her approval ratings are higher than his, and that despite never having held an elected office, that she should be his running mate. "You can't win without me," she says. "You don't deserve it," Frank says.

Says Claire: "I can be a part of your campaign, or I can end it." After costing him his home state, I think she makes a strong case for herself. The plot thickens!

In economic subplot news, Frank makes a call to Catherine Durant, who is advising him on the economic crisis in Russia. Frank's mind is elsewhere, and despite seeing long lines for fuel stretching through his hometown, and warnings that gas prices might soon reach seven dollars a gallon, Frank decides to play hardball with Russia. "We need to respond to strength with strength," he says, while visions of Claire stabbing him with a shard of broken mirror dance in his head. This is where he proposes invading Russia "with fear", which is only the craziest thing I've heard since Super Tuesday because I skipped watching the debate the other night. For the rest of the episode, whenever Durant calls, Frank is too busy to talk to her, which seems like strange leadership.

Elsewhere, Lucas Goodwin happens upon a newspaper while cleaning out a rental car at his new job. He sees that Heather Dunbar is coming to town, and devises a plan to meet with her and offer her what he knows about Frank's dark past. After exchanging sex for free use of a car, he meets with Dunbar and her chief of staff, only to be dismissed and turned away as a potentially dangerous, loose-cannon, ex-convict. (Which he is.)

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