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'House of Cards' Season 4, Episode 4 recap: Tracing the lines

Take your time, take in all of the available information before deciding whether or not to carry out the president's wishes and then join me in reacting to Chapter 43, won't you?

The big news

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President Underwood is in critical condition after Lucas Goodwin carried out an assassination attempt. With Donald Blythe serving as acting president, Claire steps in and throws a wrench in Frank's plan for handling the crisis with Russia, and Heather Dunbar decides to see if there was any truth to Lucas Goodwin's claims about Frank's corrupt past.

Episode recap

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Despite all of Seth's polling data showing that Claire would be an unpopular choice for Frank's running mate, the president and Doug order him to come up with a plan to make Claire a good fit. After Seth leaves, Doug and Frank scheme as to how to change Claire's mind. Doug suggests LeAnn. "Question is, how do we co-opt her?" Frank asks.

Frank jets off to a meeting in the situation room on the Russian crisis, but not before stopping to discuss artwork with Meechum. When asked his opinion of a painting, Meechum responds with "I'm not sure." When Frank offers that he hates the work, Meechum responds: "I guess I hate it too."

Frank takes the painting down and orders Meechum to put his hand on the wall, where he traces it with a marker. One last bit of fun for these two. In a different world, I would have enjoyed a Frank/Meechum buddy comedy.

In the meeting, Frank's plan to invade Russia "with fear" is set into motion. The military has arranged to fly Milkin, the Russian traitor, to Estonia, where they will release him to a Russian dissident along with his funds. There, the two will work to buy off Russian military officials, and in Frank's mind, scare Petrov into working with him on economic matters. Frank proceeds with the plan over Catherine Durant's strong objections.

Doug calls LeAnn to talk shop. LeAnn says that if Claire is allowed to have a stronger diplomatic presence in handling the Russian crisis, her choice as Frank's running mate will be a slam dunk. Doug says that he didn't call to be convinced, but to offer her a job as Frank's campaign manager. "We need you. You'll turn this campaign around," he says. Elsewhere, the attorney general fields a call from Dunbar, who asks her to dig into Goodwin's claims about Frank's past.

Seth hears about those claims for himself when he meets with Cynthia, Dunbar's campaign manager. Seth is still mulling over Cynthia's offer to jump ship, even more now that Doug strongly suspects that he is behind the leaks. I wonder how the attorney general Dunbar and Seth all knowing about Goodwin being released from jail might play into future episodes, given what happens later.

LeAnn meets with the president and Doug, and Frank talks about her decision to come aboard and the condition attached to it. "I meant our condition, not yours," LeAnn says, delivering a message from Claire. After she leaves, Frank reads the message. Claire threatens to announce her intentions to divorce him on Super Tuesday if he refuses to go along with her wishes. "We have to stop her," Frank tells Doug.

The president leaves for a rally at a college. A crowd of protesters gathers outside the building where Frank speaks, "I'm gonna go out and embrace that entire crowd," Frank says in his remarks. That sounds unsanitary. And unsafe. After the speech, Frank does just that, shaking hands and talking with protesters.

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"BLAM!"

Gunshots ring out, and Frank falls to the ground. Meechum manages to shoot and kill the lone gunman, but not before suffering a fatal wound himself.

Charles Gibson leads the news coverage of the attempt on Frank's life. I really enjoyed his sign-off when he hosted World News Tonight. Charlie comments on how difficult this must be for the First Lady, and we see Claire delivering the news to her mother. "Do you expect me to console you?" Mrs. Hale asks. "Claire? I hope he dies," she says. Mrs. Hale has absolutely zero chill, as the young people say. Ellen Burstyn is killing it in this role.

With Frank incapacitated, Donald Blythe takes over as acting president, and immediately wilts under the pressure. When briefed on the Russian crisis, Donald throws up his hands, confused. Doug brings Claire in and asks her to coerce Donald into carrying out Frank's plan.

Claire meets with Donald, seeing an opportunity to leverage this situation for her own political benefit. "I've never been a gut sort of guy," Donald says, when asked what his gut is telling him to do. Working together, Donald and Claire decide to have the plane land in China, rather than Estonia. In turning Milkin over to China, tensions between Russia and the U.S. are de-escalated, and China is given some leverage to use in dealing with Petrov.

A suddenly bold Donald Blythe tells the cabinet of "his" decision while Doug simmers.

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I like when Claire flexes her authority. Maybe she should become the vice president. Or the president.


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