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‘House of Cards’ Season 3 Episode 5 Recap: “Chapter 31”


Though I liked the slower pace of the last few episodes, “Chapter 31” is a lot more like the House of Cards we expect: big chess moves, wily reporters threatening the Underwoods’ reign, grand political schemes, and Frank on the offensive rather than doubting himself. Also: Frank’s video gaming habit makes a return in this episode, and he’s apparently traded in his shooters for indie puzzlers. It’s as adorable as it sounds.

Rejuvenated by Jesus falling on him last episode, Frank continues to push his “America Works” program. He approaches the mayor of the District of Colombia for support (which he is given, enthusiastically) and FEMA to drain their disaster relief funds of a whopping three billion dollars.

Elsewhere, Heather Dunbar is appearing on talk shows with the husband of the gay rights activist who was arrested in Russia. She intends to bring him along as she campaigns for the Democratic nomination, to “keep the pressure up on Moscow,” and to shame Frank for dodging commitment to LGBT rights.

To combat Heather, Frank asks Jackie to announce her candidacy for President and pretend to run in order to split Heather’s attentions. Why do I feel like this is gonna blow up in Frank’s face? Anyway, despite her misgivings, Jackie seems open to the idea and begins discussing it with Remy (I still like them together by the way, and the tension in all their scenes this season is tragic). Jackie starts thinking about getting married to her longterm boyfriend (plus his kids) to give off the appropriate family values vibe.

“I have a certain skill set, Ms. Dunbar. For me, turning over a new leaf is using my skills for the right reasons.”

Doug meanwhile is still pursuing a job with Heather. Heather is rightfully suspicious but when his advice starts paying off, she hires him on, just under the table. Doug then shows Heather the doctor’s journal from season two that he was supposed to destroy — the one that proves Claire lied about her abortion. Well, there goes the “Doug’s really just doing all this to help Frank” theory. Heather is appalled at the idea of using this information, but experience has shown us that people don’t stay idealistic for long. I’m sure this plot point will come up again.

Claire is facing opposition again on her plan to go around Russia’s veto; Israel and Palestine have both withdrawn their support. Claire postpones the vote until she can get a consensus, enlisting Frank’s help to prove that America will be sending peacekeeping troops to the Jordan Valley, while she uses her femininity and a literal pissing contest to intimidate the misogynistic Russian ambassador. Claire is fantastic and I love her.

Frank’s plot to divert FEMA funds to making “AmWorks” succeed in the District of Columbia goes swimmingly, but people in his administration are beginning to fight back — mainly by leaking info to Kate Baldwin, the White House reporter who replaced Ayla, “off the record.” Yup, taking down Frank and his jobs program, one angry ass quote at a time.

“You kicked out a pit bull and you let in a dragon!”

Obviously Frank is not at all happy with Kate’s news articles the next day, nor is he happy with Seth, who was technically responsible for Kate having access to all this info. Since there’s not much he can do about Kate or the articles themselves, Frank starts looking for new ways to sell “AmWorks”… and draws inspiration from the indie puzzler he was playing before, Monument Valley. See, video games can be educational!

Frank hires on acclaimed author Tom Yates, whose video game review of Monument Valley got Francis Underwood of the Shoot-‘Em-Ups to play an indie game, to write a biography on Frank and his “AmWorks” program. “If you can convince me to be a silent princess with just a hundred words, imagine how many millions you can convince with this book.”

As the episode ends, Russian president Victor Petrov invites the Underwoods over to re-discuss partnering up on the Jordan Valley plan, and promises to release the activist. As the camera pans over the long line of people signing up for jobs under Frank’s program, we see Freddy — of Freddy’s BBQ Joint! — standing in line.