Frank Underwood and Linda Vazquez sit with President Walker in a formal VP vetting meeting. Unfortunately, it might as well be only these three people in the room—the female candidate at hand (Tabatha) is a bit of a stiff. It’s a short discussion filled with one words answers and forced smiles. She leaves and the real meeting begins.
Walker’s frustrated at the list of candidates Vazquez and Underwood have put together. Whether it was intentional or not given the last discussion between those two, the President is sick of candidates who make sense “on paper.” Matthews is clearly going to win PA and he needs a viable candidate ASAP. Vazquez and Underwood leave the meeting and confirm their strategy—he should be open to anything at this point.
After telling Claire the previous evening that the chances are better than 50/50, Underwood gets some bad news at the office the next morning. He’s waiting outside of Walker’s and Vazquez comes out—the President wants to nominate Raymond Tusk, billionaire businessman. Underwood pleads with Vazquez—it’ll alienate voters in a struggling economy, did she even bring up Underwood? (“No, never had the chance to”)—but he’s summoned inside. The President gives Underwood this news, and Underwood plays along—”It’s a bold, creative decision.” Walker says the two never really met, had their first real conversation last night. However, Tusk is reluctant and Walker wants to send someone to convince him it’s a good idea. Underwood volunteers.
His first call is to Claire. “It’s good we were prepared for anything, I have to fly to St. Louis tonight.”
Next, Zoe shows up to talk about Russo. The rumor is Underwood strongarmed the congressman into letting the shipyard close, so of course he denies it. It’s dismissed as politics as usual. He knows it’s Janine—her colleague at Slugline—who’s pressed and asks, but Zoe denies that she has any knowledge about this relationship.
Before he leaves to meet Tusk, Underwood meets quickly with Stamper for intel on Tusk. The businessman seems truly clean, so Stamper wonders if they misplayed things with Vazquez. Maybe she told the President, and he’s sending Underwood out of town so they can vet true VP candidates without him meddling. Underwood is not convinced and believes Vazquez is in with them too deep. He’ll take the trip and sniff it out for himself, but he leaves Stamper with the homework to deal with the increasingly nosy Janine.
Underwood arrives in St. Louis to the humble home of Raymond Tusk, he’s staying at the Tusk household and gets greeted by Mrs. Tusk as Raymond is an “early-riser.” Underwood gets startled in the middle of the night, however, but some noise and finds Tusk cooking bacon in the middle of the night downstairs. Big time US politicians potentially, first meeting in their PJs.
Tusk demonstrates knowledge of Underwood quickly—he mentioned the water is filtered so Ms. Underwood would approve, he notes Underwood always taps the table twice upon leaving and that his father was a peach farmer. However, Tusk needs to take a business call from China, he excuses himself and suggests a proper meeting the next morning at his office.
It’s straight business in the morning. “I know you’re a busy man, let’s cut to the chase—the President sincerely wants you to become the Vice-President.” Underwood begins trying to get into the convincing part, but Tusk has to keep fielding phone calls—he’s got eight reps at meetings across the globe, he tells them to ask yea or no questions so he can arrange it all. Underwood tries asking about the VP slot in a similar manner, but the phone rings. They’ll try this meeting again out of the office in about a half hour. Underwood is unsure why, but he knows Tusk is intentionally deflecting the convo.
Next up, it’s birdwatching time. Underwood wonders if Tusk’s nuclear background is why he’s hesitant—the President hasn’t supported that openly. But Tusk realizes it’s just savvy politics. People aren’t anti-nuclear because of their emotions however (he knows it’s the cleanest option at the moment), and Tusk goes into a little idiom about decisions based on emotion not being decisions—they’re simply instincts. Not how he operates.
Over dinner, they finally get to talking. The Tusks keep giving Underwood a hard time—nitpicking his use of individual words, pressing for straighter information. It ends up with Tusk asking point blank, “Should I do it, yes or no?” Underwood deflects a bunch, even avoiding “would you take the job, assuming it’s offered?” Tusk admires Underwood’s own ability to dodge as he’s been doing, the two agree to leave business for tomorrow and eat dinner for now.
Stamper calls that night with two bits of info. Janine approached Christina—no worries, Stamper has it—and Walker lied a bit about his relationship with Tusk. According to their researcher, they’ve done business together and they’ve met several times throughout the years. So why is Walker playing Underwood? He decides it’s time to approach Tusk about it.
Underwood isn’t vetting Tusk, it’s the other way around. Tusk even recommended Walker earlier, when Underwood wasn’t given the secretary of state. Tusk admits it was a mistake as Underwood looks formidable—Kern, the teacher’s strike, Matthews. That efficiency is valuable to Tusk and could be for Walker. But Tusk, as Underwood certainly knows, wants something in return for his recommendation. “I’ve sat too many times on your end of the table, to not find it ironic to be on this side.”
Tusk won’t tell Underwood what the favor is, however, until Underwood agrees to blindly grant it. Underwood knows Tusk would never do that, so he calls a car service to the airport. Tusk says he’ll tell the President he wants ’til Friday to make up his mind if Underwood can make up his.
Back in DC, he tells Vazquez he’ll take Walker’s meeting to discuss Tusk—still under the guise it’s about Tusk as VP. Underwood and Stamper know they have a week to figure it out and must go after Tusk. Given his dependence on nuclear for money and fortune, that’s the target and… SanCorp is an ally.
Christina has been filling in for Russo’s staff in the wake of his death. We see Russo’s childhood friend Paul visiting her in the office, and… Christina wants him to run for the vacant seat? Paul’s a little surprised she’s ready to talk business this soon after it all went down (about a month ago he reveals) and asks if she’s all right. The political response oozes out of Christina, that there are other deaths and people that need to be looked after going forward.
After Janine approaches her about some Russo questions, she heads to his office to clear it out. It’s the one place where she can finally experience her true emotions about the situation, letting out a private cry.
Janine gets word of Paul’s potential run for Russo’s seat, and she gives him a call to hear more. The questioning escalates and she starts asking about Russo’s peculiar decision to not testify in front of the committee that shut down the plant. “He was being strong armed, someone higher up the food chain.” It’s not much, but his decision to not talk further (“There’s traffic, I got to go”) appears to be enough to spark Janine’s curiosity.
Her next meeting is with Zoe for intel. Janine thinks it was Underwood based on the timing of his involvement with the Russo campaign and Russo’s shipyard mishap. Zoe dismisses it as hearsay, but Janine reveals she knows Underwood is Zoe’s informant. And while she doesn’t want to screw a colleague, she’s not going to quit pressing on the Russo front. Zoe agrees to look at Janine’s notes and talk to Underwood about it.
Before she can really meet up with Zoe again, Janine heads to the hill looking for Christina. When Christina deflects the softball questions, she reveals that sources are telling her Russo was strongarmed into dropping the water bill. Before they can really talk, Stamper slides up to the table. Janine deflects by saying the convo was just about who will take Russo’s seat… and after she leaves Stamper mentions that he’ll take care of anyone asking Christina questions she doesn’t want to answer.
Now it’s time to ask Zoe, she’s not convinced and thinks the Stamper thing is a coincidence. But Janine pushes further—the Womack thing happened near the Kern thing near the Russo thing… and Zoe is the only link. Janine thinks the whack job who dethroned Kern—Kapeniack—might be a potential lead to some truths.
Claire’s day starts with Jillian coming to her with a concern. She got a call from SanCorp’s PR and they want to send a film crew to the Sudan to film the CWI work being done there. Claire agreed to give them that press opportunity, she reveals, in exchange for SanCorp’s help in getting the equipment out of Sudan when the State Department proved unable.
But Claire gets a call from Remy. Jillian isn’t being “cooperative,” in fact she told the film crews to get away directly without Claire’s knowledge. Ms. Underwood clearly has a few meetings ahead, and the Jillian one is happening first. She didn’t come in to the office yet however, a sick day.
Finally, they encounter each other the next day. Jillian said she was promised autonomy, but Claire promised “empowerment.” Jillian is upset at SanCorp’s involvement, but Claire doesn’t care—it’s her organization. She suggests Jillian should take a leave of absence if things aren’t to her liking, and they leave things at that for now.
Zoe, after meeting with Underwood, is going through Janine’s notes at Lucas’s place. She thinks it’s Womack who shut down Russo just hoping to get a favor, but Lucas tells her “almost certain” isn’t the same as “sure.” He asks how she knows and wonders aloud if she’s got a source in Underwood, but Zoe denies it for now.
Later, Lucas finally puts it together. And Zoe, once confronted, admits it. Lucas is upset, but he admits to loving Zoe despite his taste for her professional ethics. Water under the bridge it seems. He takes her to the airport.
We find out Zoe’s trip is to Kapeniak’s. She shows up at the address but it’s a woman who answers. Kapeniak skipped town, but maybe “Echo”—the local stripper he was living with—would know. That makes Zoe’s next stop an easy one. Echo says Kapeniak was a whacko, but she was there when the guy showed up to spark the article, “some guy who said he was a congressman.” Zoe shows a picture of Underwood, but it’s not him—someone taller, bald, better looking. Russo picture next, and that’s it. “They did bourbon, blow, the whole thing was his idea.” Echo won’t go on the record however.
Janine and Zoe meet in a stairwell. They recognize they have to keep pushing but it’s dangerous. “If you weren’t afraid, you wouldn’t be doing your job.” They agree to try and get to Christina, there has to be some missing info that Underwood had on Russo.
Zoe heads to Christina’s and brings up the Kapeniak knowledge. Christina says she doesn’t know about anything strange around the time of the inauguration, theoretically when Russo went to meet Kapeniak. She begins to look at her calendar however, and her eyes widen as the screen fades to black.