‘House of Cards’ Refresher: A Complete Recap of Season 4

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Frank Underwood on ‘House of Cards.’ (Netflix)

House of Cards Season 5 is now streaming on Netflix. Quite a bit went down last season, but it’s easy to forget many of the finer details of Frank Underwood’s complicated exploits, especially if you watched all of Season 4 in a binge over a year ago. If you don’t have time to revisit Season 4 before digging into this new batch of episodes, here’s a look at everything you need to remember about last year’s House of Cards.

The Season Began With Frank & Claire at Odds

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Robin Wright as Claire Underwood on ‘House of Cards.’ (Netflix)

Much of the first half of House of Cards Season 4 was a battle of wits between Frank and Claire Underwood. The previous season had ended with Claire telling Frank that she is leaving him, and so early in Season 4, the press began to ask questions about why Claire was not on the campaign trail with Frank. Meanwhile, Claire was spending time with her mother, Elizabeth Hale, who Claire learns is dying of cancer. Claire hardly seems to care, though, and she spends most of her time putting into place a plan to run for a Congressional seat.

But Claire soon uses her mother’s illness for her own political gain, announcing it to the world so that this can be her excuse for not being on the campaign trail. Frank and Claire subsequently come to an agreement that he won’t try to sabotage her campaign if she attends the upcoming State of the Union.

However, Frank winds up betraying Claire by publicly announcing during the State of the Union that he supports Celia Jones’ bid for the Congressional seat Claire wanted. Obviously, Claire can no longer run for that seat now that her husband, the president of the United States, has just backed someone else.

Claire soon exacts her revenge. She has LeAnn Harvey leak a photo of Frank Underwood’s father with a KKK member, which causes Frank to lose the South Carolina primary. South Carolina, you’ll recall, is Frank’s home state, so this a major blow to his campaign. Claire reveals to Frank that she was behind the leak, telling him that his campaign is in trouble and the only way to fix it is to bring her on as the nominee for vice president. Later in the season, Claire’s mother dies.

Lucas Goodwin Attempted to Kill Frank Underwood

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Sebastian Arcelus as Lucas Goodwin on ‘House of Cards.’ (Netflix)

Meanwhile, Lucas Goodwin, the journalist who worked with Zoe Barnes at the Washington Herald, is let out of prison. He has discovered the truth about Frank Underwood: that he murdered Zoe Barnes. And so during an episode in which Frank is on the campaign trail speaking with voters, the president is suddenly shot by Lucas Goodwin. In the ensuing chaos, Frank’s bodyguard, Edward Meechum, is killed, as is Lucas Goodwin himself.

It is soon revealed that Lucas Goodwin left behind a suicide note explaining everything he discovered and saying that Frank is a murderer. Lucas’ actions inspire reporter Tom Hammerschmidt to look into the allegations, although he doesn’t fully believe them when he starts off on this journey.

As Frank Underwood remains in critical condition in the hospital, Vice President Donald Blythe is sworn in as president. However, it’s Claire Underwood who really steps up to the plate and essentially functions as president while Frank is in the hospital. She has to deal with a situation involving Russia, as a man named Igor Milkin is seeking asylum in the United States after Russian President Viktor Petrov has had several political opponents killed. Claire is able to negotiate with Petrov and strike a deal.

Frank eventually receives a liver transplant and returns to the Oval Office. Frank is impressed with the work Claire did while he was in the hospital, and the two are back together again.

Doug Formed a Relationship With a Widower

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Doug Stamper and Laura Moretti on ‘House of Cards.’ (Netflix)

As usual, Doug Stamper was a bit of a mess last season. The reason that Frank was able to receive a liver transplant when he did was because Stamper intimidated the Secretary of Health and Human Services to bump Frank Underwood up on the liver donor list. Underwood therefore gets a liver before a guy named Tony Moretti, who dies because he was not able to get his transplant.

Stamper feels incredibly guilty that this man died because of him, and so he donates to Tony’s memorial fund. Tony’s widow, Laura, contacts Doug to thank him for the donation, and they end up meeting up for coffee and forming a strange relationship. They hang out a few times after work, with Doug repeatedly asking for details about Tony. This relationship was still ongoing when the season ended, with one of the last scenes of Season 4 being a conversation between Doug and Laura in Doug’s car.

Will Conway Became the Republican Nominee for President

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Frank Underwood speaks with his Republican opponent, Will Conway. (Netflix)

The 2016 election is fast approaching, and Will Conway, the governor of New York, becomes the Republican nominee for president. He’s leading Frank in the polls, but it’s discovered that he is manipulating search engine results to gain an unfair advantage in the election. Rather than deny these accusations, Conway actually holds a live webcast and admits to it. His honesty resonates with voters, and he receives a bump in the polls. Conway’s running mate is Ted Brockhart, a retired general.

Frank Underwood begins to grow nervous, as Will Conway is doing quite well and could very realistically beat him in November.

Frank Made Claire His Running Mate

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Claire Underwood becomes the Democratic nominee for vice president on
‘House of Cards.’ (Netflix)

The day of the Democratic National Convention comes, and Frank Underwood’s running mate must be chosen. Frank declares that it will be an open nomination, meaning anyone can be chosen as the running mate. Frank proposes this so that he can make Claire the nominee without actually having to propose that idea himself. The early favorite to be Frank’s running mate is Catherine Durant, the secretary of state, and in fact this is who the Underwoods publicly support. However, in private, they’re scheming to get Claire on the ticket.

Durant does some scheming of her own, contacting Will Conway and getting him involved in a plan in which Louisiana pushes to make the presidency an open nomination too, meaning Durant could actually replace Frank at the top of the ticket. Chaos ensues, with people like Heather Dunbar and Jackie Sharp now getting into the mix and actively trying to undermine Underwood’s candidacy.

This culminates in one of the craziest scenes of the series, in which Frank corners Durant in the Oval Office, essentially admitting in a just-kidding-or-am-I fashion that he is a murderer and will kill her next if she continues her campaign for president. Although he claims to be joking, Durant can tell he’s serious, and so she backs off and throws her support behind Claire Underwood. The ticket is now officially Underwood/Underwood 2016.

The Press Found Out that Conway Interfered in a House Intelligence Committee Decision

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Will Conway on ‘House of Cards.’ (Netflix)

By the end of the season, Will Conway was not in great shape politically. Frank Underwood had been putting together a plan to work with Russia in the fight against ICO, the show’s analogue to ISIS. Conway believes that this might actually be a good idea, but he wants to sabotage the president so that Frank can’t go into the election as the guy who is successfully combating terror.

So Conway pulls some strings behind the scenes to get the House Intelligence Committee to block the president’s proposal. Conway subsequently denies having done so, but in the season finale, the Wall Street Telegraph publishes an article titled “Conway Lied, Intelligence Committee Member Claims,” with the article saying that Conway did indeed interfere in the House Intelligence Committee’s decision on Russian involvement in the fight against ICO. Conway tells the media that he “may have discussed” the Russia plan with members of the committee, but he denies that he issued any orders.

This will likely be a major issue heading into the 2016 election this season.

Frank Was Using Domestic Surveillance to Get Ahead in the Election

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President Frank Underwood on ‘House of Cards.’ (Netflix)

Though this has not yet amounted to much, one ticking bomb that’s just waiting to go off is the Underwood administration’s use of domestic surveillance. In Season 4, we were introduced to a character named Aidan, who works as a data scientist. This is the guy who told the Underwoods that Will Conway was using search engine data to get ahead in the election. In Season 4, the Underwoods took Aidan under their wing. Frank Underwood decided to start using domestic surveillance, which in theory was to help in the war against ICO. In reality, Aidan was to use that data to help the Underwoods in the campaign.

The Underwoods already used this data in Season 4 by getting information on people affected by gun violence so that these people could be targeted for a robocall. They also used Aidan’s data to refine campaign talking points. It appears that Aidan has the ability to tap into the phone call of basically anyone he wants at any time, as Frank in one scene tries to get him to do this to Will Conway. (That does not end up happening, but it established that this is possible.) At the end of the season, the surveillance program is taken over by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, which means Frank’s use of the algorithm may be discovered.

Tom Hammerschmidt Uncovered the Fact that Frank Conspired to Impeach President Walker

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Tom Hammerschmidt sits in the Oval Office on ‘House of Cards.’ (Netflix)

After Lucas’ death, Tom Hammerschmidt begins investigating many of his allegations. He doesn’t think he has anything at first until he finds out that Edward Meechum, Frank’s bodyguard, used to frequent a pizza parlor near Zoe Barnes’ apartment, suggesting that Frank really did have a relationship with Zoe as Lucas had alleged. If that part is true, what else might Lucas have been right about?

Hammerschmidt continues to investigate and eventually gets Remy Danton, Frank’s former chief of staff, to reveal that President Underwood conspired to impeach President Garrett Walker by striking a deal with Raymond Tusk whereby Tusk would perjure himself, lying about Walker’s involvement in a money laundering scheme, in exchange for a pardon.

In the season finale, Tom Hammerschmidt publishes an article in the Herald saying that Frank Underwood conspired to get President Walker impeached so that he could become president himself. The article features on-the-record corroboration from Remy Danton, Jackie Sharp, and President Walker. This send shockwaves through the Underwood administration, with Frank saying that he’s not sure how they can possibly win the election after this. That is, until he comes up with an idea…

Frank Declared War on ICO

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Frank and Claire Underwood in the final scene of ‘House of Cards’ Season 4. (Netflix)

When backed up against the wall by Tom Hammerschmidt’s story, Frank, realizing his political career is about to die, decides to declare total war on ICO. He realizes that this would distract from Hammerschmidt’s story, and a country at war would be more inclined to re-elect the incumbent president.

During the course of the last two episodes, an American family had been kidnapped by ICO, and although the mother and the daughter are saved, the father is executed. In the season’s final scene, everyone in the Situation Room winces in pain as the man is beheaded, but Frank and Claire keep their eyes focused ahead.

“We don’t submit to terror,” Frank says in the episode’s closing moments. “We make the terror.”

This brings us into House of Cards Season 5, in which Frank will fight like hell to save his political career and win the 2016 election. Will he be successful? And is Tom Hammerschmidt close to uncovering the fact that the president is a murderer? We’ll find out during House of Cards‘ fifth season, now available for streaming on Netflix.

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