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Everything You Need to Know About House of Cards Before You Binge-Watch Season 4

Photograph by David Giesbrecht/Netflix.

It’s been three years since Frank Underwood began disrupting our lives with his political mind games in Netflix’s House of Cards. Though Season 3 wasn’t as drama-laden as we had hoped (no one got pushed under a Metro car), it was a much-needed series of character development (and moral degradation) to get to where the Underwoods & Co. are today. Here’s what you need to know:

Frank Underwood

Now that Frank has forced himself into the Oval Office, it’s easy sailing until the upcoming presidential election, right? Not so much. Frank has been inaugurated into major conflict, both abroad and at home. His main adversary? Russian President Viktor Petrov. The two world leaders have different ideas when it comes to settling the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and neither are budging, even after the Underwoods entertain Petrov at the White House, and Frank’s wife sacrifices her dignity and cozies up to the Russian president.

And while Frank deals with the aftermath of Petrov’s visit, Frank is also facing an unexpected rival: Heather Dunbar, who told Frank she didn’t want to run for President, and then–surprise!–is now running against Frank’s bid for reelection. Frank persuades Jackie Sharp, the House Deputy Minority Whip, to join the race and take support away from Dunbar and take the pressure off of Frank. But after a brutal debate later in the season, Jackie drops out of the race, and decides to endorse Dunbar. Ouch.

Claire Underwood

Frank’s new title is creating a rift in his relationship with Claire, his wife and supposed partner-in-crime to become the most powerful people in the world. Conflicts abroad and with the 2016 presidential race have made Frank see the “I” in team, so Claire pursues a political career beyond being first lady. She lobbies to be a US ambassador for the United Nations, but is denied after a heated argument with the Senate committee responsible for reviewing her nomination. But Frank gives her a recess appointment anyway (#FirstLadyPerks).

Claire’s position is short-lived, though, after a mission to Russia to release LGBT activist Michael Corrigan from prison. Frank and Petrov further discuss solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but until an agreement is made, Petrov refuses to release Corrigan. Claire vows to stay with Corrigan in prison until he is released, but after resting for a few hours, Claire wakes up to find that Corrigan hanged himself in his cell. At this point, Frank and Petrov have finally struck a deal, but Claire, shocked by Corrigan’s suicide, sabotages the following press conference and shares her distaste with Russian law and politics. Petrov calls off the agreement unless Claire is sacked from her position as US ambassador–Frank doesn’t think twice about agreeing to those terms.

Claire, hurt and disgusted after the events in Russia, re-evaluates her relationship with Frank. After a candid conversation with Frank’s biographer Thomas Yates, she decides to leave her husband and the White House on the day of the Iowa caucus.

Jackie Sharp

The presidential race has forced Jackie into making tough decisions regarding her love life. While running her presidential campaign, she is pressured into marrying her boyfriend, cardiovascular surgeon Alan Cooke, and becoming a step-mother to his two children, all to show off a family-friendly image. When she drops out of the race, she realizes she still has feeling for Remy Danton and the two go back to having an affair. Apparently true love can withstand the trials and tribulations of a presidential race after all.

Doug Stamper

Doug is on a long, long road to recovery in Season 3. After suffering a serious blow to the head and trying to regain his health, Doug deals with his sobriety (or lack thereof) and getting back to work with Frank. But feeling unwanted at the White House, he leaves to help the enemy, Heather Dunbar, with her presidential campaign, which includes taking down the Underwoods–or so Doug had us believe. He was actually misinforming Dunbar as a way to earn back his slot as Frank’s Chief of Staff.

And while Doug was proving himself as Frank’s only right-hand man (really, what was Frank thinking making Remy the Chief of Staff in Doug’s absence?), he became obsessed with tracking down Rachel Posner, the sex worker he’s been protecting after her involvement in Peter Russo’s downfall. Doug receives orders from Frank to tie up all loose ends surrounding the death of Peter Russo. That means getting rid of Rachel–for good. With the help of hacker Gavin Orsay, Doug tracks Rachel down, kidnaps her, lets her go because he loves her, realizes he can’t let her go, and then comes back to murder her and dump her body in the desert. This here marks the total moral decay of Doug Stamper. Frank Underwood’s outdone himself.

Rachel Posner


Go to Netflix to watch a Season 3 recap and start watching Season 4.

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