In the fifth and sixth episodes of House of Cards, the series’s plot begins to thicken like the glaze on Freddy’s ribs. These hours give us more insight into the Underwoods’ twisted marriage, show a turning point for poor Peter Russo, and present something we never could have seen coming — Frank faltering in a very public way.
The biggest curveball thrown by Chapter 5′s first scenes isn’t the fact that Frank and Zoe’s relationship has become sexual — it’s that Claire both knows and doesn’t care that her husband is cheating on her. Frank says he’s only involved with the cub reporter because “she can be controlled;” he also tells his wife that he’ll end things with the other woman the moment she asks. These two have clearly done this dance before — they’re like the Graysons on Revenge, except they don’t actively despise each other.
Speaking of Zoe: After quitting the Herald, she sets off to join the staff of Slugline, an up-and-coming political news site where everyone writes exactly what they want all the time and never has to worry about being edited. Also, their offices don’t have any chairs. (Chairs are so over! The future’s all about the floor!) It’s a veritable wonderland for the young muckraker — and when Zoe hears that her old editor got fired for not retaining her at the paper, she should be even more pleased with herself.
Things are not going quite so well in Peter Russo’s neck of the woods. In Chapter 4, he had to sit back and allow a shipyard in his district to be closed as a consequence of Frank’s wheeling and dealing. The fallout from that moment is really doing a number on him psychologically — and is driving his self-destructive behavior to new heights. After getting wasted, he decides it would be a good idea to head to Frank’s house and beat the crap out of him.
Of course, Peter doesn’t have the stones to follow through on that impulse. Frank invites him inside, feeds him, and asks him to get into a fresh bath. Then Underwood drops a bomb: He wants to tell the DNC that Peter would be a good candidate for governor of Pennsylvania. In his present state, though, he’s no good to anyone. “The hot water will open up your capillaries. The aspirin you just took will make your blood thinner. It’s up to you, Peter,” Frank says, taking out a razor and putting it on the bathtub. “Oh, and if you do decide to take the coward’s way out, cut along the tracks, not across them. That’s a rookie mistake.” Then he leaves the room. Daaaaamn.
NEXT: So, did Russo do it?