There are spoilers to be found here, so tread carefully and don't fall afoul of Frank Underwood's tactics.
With Claire Underwood's nomination as Vice Presidential candidate now confirmed, Frank and Claire use Montage Mode to crisscross the country on the campaign trail. But they're still behind in the polls, and now Frank seems to be feeling the effects. He's struggling, ill and pale.
Dr. Krebs (played by James Saito) gives Frank his sought-after opinion: he has to slow it down. Claire offers to pick up the slack, much as Frank wants to keep hard charging. But Claire won't risk his health. At the Oval Office, Frank is chewing out his military advisers, angry at the lack of success in tracking down ICO's leaders. Have they tried Tinder? Frank wants to cut off the serpent's head, but despite wanting to please him and his overused metaphors, the military might of the US is stll not moving quite as quickly as he'd like.
After the meeting, Frank quietly orders Cathy – who feels like she's being railroaded – to talk to the Syrians about working with Russian Special Forces to track down ICO's leaders. It's a win-win plan: America doesn't have to put boots on the ground, and Syria doesn't look like it's directly involved with America. After a quick canine metaphor from Frank about his treatment of Cathy, we're on Claire's plane, where she and Thom are talking speech variants. Thom seems very professional and is handling it, but they're weirdly businesslike given their recent passion.
In Doug's office, he's received a voicemail from Laura Moretti about his donation to her dead husband's memorial fund. She's calling to thank him about the money and invites him to coffee. Yes, here we go, folks... Trouble.
Claire's at a campaign event and Thom asks about the speech. Turns out she's cut some part about love, a chunk she considered too soft. Everyone put money down now on whether this will come up again later.
Tom Hammerschmidt is still digging into Frank's indiscretions and meets Remy behind the now-shuttered Freddy's BBQ joint. And so the nostalgia tour continues. Remy won't go on the record yet, but Tom presses him to talk. Still, Remy eventually gives up some detail: when looking into the who, what, why and how, don't ignore where. Is he auditioning for a job on a kids' learning show? And hey! The conversation is all about sharing...
And if it isn't enough to visit Freddy's old place, now we check in with Freddy himself, who has transferred into the flower shop at the White House. But despite him – ahem – blooming in the department, he's decided to leave the White House. Frank's a little shocked, but after trying to get him to stay, he asks if Freddy will make him. Freddy turns bitter and calls his old boss a motherfucker. Sorry, Motherfucker Mr. President. Wonder if they can change the seal to read that.
Claire and Thom are discussing her latest speech. He wants her to be more honest and real to combat Conway's style and flash, even as Claire's getting a manicure. But once the manicurist is dismissed, the pair talk about their relationship, and end of making out on the couch. But not before Claire admits that the love part of the speech made her uncomfortable. Called it! LeAnn is meeting with Aidan at a jazz club where it sounds like saxophones mating. Claire, according to Aidan's number crunching, isn't having an impact on the voters. They need to do... something. Aidan needs something he can work with.
At a farm, Conway is meeting with Brockhart, and has learned about Frank's plan to have Russian Special Forces help fight ICO. It's yet more evidence that Conway and Frank have more in common than it originally seemed. It's interesting that they're at a dairy farm with cows all around, because they're talking the usual political bull. Tom Hammerschmidt has decided to track down Freddy and wants him to go on the record about it all. But Freddy just gives him a beat down and snarls that he's no snitch. Turns out Freddy's just as good at kicking ribs as cooking them. Conway's giving a speech in the shadow of a CG-looking Mount Rushmore. He's bagging on Frank as per usual, calling him a shoddy president.
On Claire's plane, Thom has come to a decision... He's going to leave. And we're into a mini montage as she heads to more campaign stops and he reaches a hotel in Washington. Claire finally gives the love speech, which starts to move the needle on the campaign.
Frank calls Conway and accuses him of interfering in national security over the Russian issue. If Conway keeps blocking him, Frank will send American troops in and blood will be on Will's hands. But Conway isn't budging. At the Oval, Stamper's still worried that Conway's access might give him information about their domestic surveillance. Remy meets Tom in a bar to talk about the investigation, and sneaky ol' Remy starts to leak information using a drinking game. He's got so much to share that he could end up needing his own new liver if he keeps this up.
In the residence, Frank's exercise is interrupted by a call from Claire. She broaches the fact that Thom has left the campaign. But they don't have to worry about him. Frank advises her to get some rest.
At the Washington Herald, Tom is pitching what he has so far to editor Margaret Tilden (Kathleen Chalfont). He needs her team's support. She offers him old job again if he cracks the story. He doesn't want that, but he does want to build his own team. She mentions security – citing Zoe and Lucas, if not by name – but Tom isn't worried: Frank's not a killer. Riiiiight.
Thom – the writer one – has been summoned to see Frank. He knows about Thom and Claire and far from inviting Thom to meet some cold steel or a fast-moving train. Yates explains the whole deal and assures Frank he wouldn't betray Claire with the book or anything else.
At an Oval office military conference, Frank gives the executive order to find the ICO leaders alive. Shortly after, Frank meets Aidan clandestinely to talk about the surveillance program. Aidan spins some metaphor about a spoon and how he can keep things quiet. But he has the real clincher: Claire's speech about love is something he can work with. Speaking of Claire, she's on the radio talking about her experience and the qualifications that she has that go beyond everything else. And as that's happening, Tom Hammerschmidt is briefing his team of reporters, demanding total secrecy.
In the residence, Frank tells Claire that Thomas Yates should stay on, because he can give her things Frank can't. Claire seems to consider it.
Stamper is looking for his own connection – jeez, Doug, just go on SadWidowsLookingForMadPsychos.com – and meets with Laura Moretti (Wendy Moniz). They're nervous (Stamper's even brought flowers!) but seem to get along. At the residence, Claire summons Thomas and tells him she wants him back. He wants her back too, but... Frank understands. We fade to black, and return to Thom and Claire cuddling on a bed.
Next morning, Claire and Thom arrive in the kitchen to find Frank making breakfast. As a slow, sad, steady version of the theme tune plays, this very weird family sits down to eat...
Much more of a simple, wheels-in-motion episode than those that precede it, Chapter 50 also doesn't satisfy to the same degree. There are certainly pleasures – it's great to see Freddy again, and his dismissive, worn-down attitude to Frank is brought to simmering life by Reg E. Cathy, who knows a thing or two about outbursts. And his confrontation with Tom Hammerschmidt is also worth it. Remy and Tom have a good scene in the bar, but Claire and Frank's wavering over the other Thom just comes across as bland and does very little to move anything along. Of course, we'll have to wait and see how it ends up.
As for Conway, he's largely returned to the background, though he gets in a few sneering shots at Frank during that phone call. But beyond his initial charm offensive and now his revelation that he's just like all the rest, he hasn't really stood out much as a character, despite Joel Kinnaman's best efforts. As for the ICO plot, you get the feeling there's more to play, but with just two episodes left, will it be a sudden run to the finale and not much else? Stay tuned...