House of Cards recap: Episodes 3 and 4: Are You All In?

The plot thickens, leading to one doozy of a concluding scene
Ep. 03 | Aired Feb 2, 2013

MASTER OF HIS DOMAIN Ballots. Betrayal. Barbecue.

Patrick Harbron/Netflix

Netflix’s new political thriller House of Cards is designed for binge-viewing, which makes it great for consumers who enjoy watching TV at their own pace — and less great for writers accustomed to dissecting shows hour by hour and week by week. By now, some of you have likely watched House‘s whole 13-episode first season already; others are halfway done, or a few episodes in, or waiting to blow through the entire thing in one marathon viewing session. So what’s a recapper to do?

Since Ken Tucker already covered the first two episodes of the series in his initial review, we’re going to dive right in and discuss the rest of the series two episodes at a time. If nothing else, this pair of episodes does seem a good place to pause and take stock of the series thus far — especially given the second hour’s doozy of an ending.

Naturally, Kevin Spacey’s ruthless congressman Frank Underwood spends these two episodes getting himself in and out of sticky situations. Only one of those situations involves a “Peachoid” water tower accidentally designed to resemble a giant butt, a regional curiosity I was tickled to learn actually exists. In episode 3, Frank travels back home to sunny Gaffney, S.C. — where everything is “just a little bit sicker” — to squash a pesky county administrator who’s trying to use a local tragedy as fodder for an Underwood takedown.

Of course, the plan doesn’t end up working — Frank’s political acumen and a stirring, completely insincere sermon are enough to smooth things over, and the Whip ends up getting back to D.C. in time to keep his education bill from tanking. And then he spends episode 4 playing an elaborate game of congressional chess, manipulating everyone from the Speaker of the House on down just because he can. Everything’s comin’ up white tulips!

Meanwhile, hungry reporter Zoe (Kate Mara) is riding high on the news that the Washington Herald‘s owner loves her work — even if the junior staffer won’t reveal her secret source. The paper’s editor, Tom, isn’t quite as taken with Zoe — especially after she bashes the paper’s outmoded ideas on Starting Point. (And blows Frank a kiss. Eww.) He tries to reign her in by first treating her like a petulant child (“No TV for a month”), then offering to promote her to White House Correspondent.

NEXT: That, of course, isn't good enough for Zoe

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