Thankfully, Russo elects not to take Frank’s fatal bait. By Chapter 6, which takes place nearly a month later, we learn that he’s been sober since that night at the Underwood place — and that he’s ready to put himself into the gubernatorial race.
Before Frank can worry about that, he’ll have to figure out how to end the teachers’ strike that began last episode. Union leader Marty Spinella is furious at the congressman for lying about the final version of his all-important education bill — and after more than three weeks, he and his comrades aren’t backing down. The protest is now starting to escalate into violence; as the episode opens, someone throws a brick through the Underwoods’ front window. Marty denies responsibility, but the court of public opinion seems in Frank’s favor… until the opponents agree to debate each other on CNN.
The appearance is an unmitigated disaster for Frank. He doesn’t just screw up — he fails spectacularly, tanking after a bit of wordplay totally gets away from him (“There is no ‘U’ and ‘I’ in ‘education.’ Of course, the letters ‘U’ and ‘I’ are in the word ‘education.’ But education with a capital E? You know what I’m talking about”). The flub instantly goes viral, making Frank a public laughing stock and destroying his chances of coming out of the protest victorious…
… until he and his chief of staff get wind of a fortunate tragedy. A third grader has been shot and killed; Frank gets Zoe to tweet about the accident, adding, “Should have been in school. Spinella to blame?” That’s enough to get Frank a one-0n-one meeting with Spinella. There, the congressman reveals that he engineered the brick being thrown through his own window, taunts Marty with a pitch-black version of Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen’s “Know how I know you’re gay?” routine, and otherwise provokes the union leader so expertly that Spinella ends up punching Frank in the face — thus playing right into Underwood’s hands. Assaulting a congressman is a felony; Frank won’t press charges as long as the strike ends.
As the episode concludes, Frank and Claire smoke and scheme. She’s just come back from seeing her husband’s old bodyguard, who’s dying of cancer. After the poor guy confessed that he’s in love with her but hates her husband, Claire responded with a monologue that reveals why she married Frank: In short, he both understands and mirrors the darkness inside her. Zoe Barnes better watch her back.