Well, that’s one way to handle a scandal.
The hostage thing is moving along. Claire is negotiating with the imprisoned head of ICO to see if he can use his influence to get the release of the Millers. Setting up the conversation is done in such a way to make Conway look bad and to secure the release of two of the three hostages. Of course, terrorists can’t be trusted so it doesn’t quite work, but Frank promises there will be a much larger scale war in the Middle East if any of the hostages is killed. The cabin that the feds find isn’t even the right one.
Mostly, this is going according to plan for Frank. But then something else happens.
Tom Hammerschmidt comes to the White House. And he can’t be intimidated. He can’t be tricked. He doesn’t fall for any of Frank’s blatant lies. All he cares about is the truth. The story is already scheduled for his newspaper’s online edition. He’s just looking for Frank’s comment on how he connived his way into the Oval Office. Frank won’t say anything on the record unless Hammerschmidt goes along with Frank’s version of things. And that doesn’t happen. Hammerschmidt has quotes from Remy, Jackie, Walker, and some timelines that makes everything suspicious, and that’s enough for a story.
This is the sort of thing that could, weeks before an election, sink Frank’s whole presidency. Is there a way out of it? Claire has an idea, and making it Claire’s idea reminds the home viewer just how complicit she is in everything that’s happened.
They need to distract people. They need people scared. They need a war.
And those terrorist wannabes will be more than happy to play their part by executing the last of the Millers.
So, the news comes out. Durant is scared for her own career. Tom Yates knows Claire is lying to him when she denies it. Doug is loyal to Frank no matter what because that’s all there is to Doug Stamper. Conway isn’t sure how to react to it.
Frank’s reaction? Go on TV and announce an escalation on the War on Terror against ICO. Keep the people panicked and chaotic, promise there will be deaths of soldiers in a necessary conflict, and that will get people off the whole corruption thing.
I’ve belabored the Shakespeare comparison before, but one of the things Shakespeare did was show chaos and death follow a country when the wrong man is king. War? Domestic terrorists? Yeah, that works for that.
So, as the White House briefing room, featuring many of the show’s regular characters including campaign people who wouldn’t normally be in there, watch Mr. Miller get his throat slit, everyone in the room reacts with terror and disgust, looking away…aside from Frank and Claire sitting at the head of the table. Both Underwoods address the home audience (a first for Claire). They tell us the truth of things. The Underwoods don’t feel terror.
They cause it.
No one ever said House of Cards was a subtle show.