One Nation, Underwood: The State of Play

Jennifer Curley by Jennifer Curley

A Curley Company Stakeholder Map for House of Cards

The long-awaited season five of House of Cards premieres Tuesday, May 30th. As a public affairs firm in our nation’s capital, we like many others are avid fans of the binge-worthy Netflix series. With such a complex political landscape at play, we needed to catch up on where everything stood at the end of season four.

In anticipation of the season five premiere, we did what we do for so many of our clients: we mapped out the stakeholders who matter most to Frank’s success. We plotted them along two axes: their potential influence on Frank and their political power in Washington. A critical tool for all PR pros, this map helps us understand who Frank should keep a watchful eye on as he fights to hold his position atop the political food chain.

This stakeholder map helped us re-familiarize ourselves with Frank Underwood’s world just in time for the season five premiere.  Hopefully it does the same for you. Happy bingeing!

The Map

Curley Company House of Cards Stakeholder Map


The Players

Claire Underwood

“I love that woman. I love her more than sharks love blood.”

Claire UnderwoodThey say all’s fair in love and war…but what about politics? Claire has been by Frank’s side from the beginning – a partner who often put her husband’s ambitions ahead of her own – until now. In season four, we saw Claire go after what she wants in a big way. They say behind every great man is an even greater woman. So how long will Claire be willing to play second fiddle?

Remy Danton

“Friends make the worst enemies.”

Remy DantonNever sleep on Remy: it’s clear he has political ambitions of his own, and he was willing to risk everything to expose Frank. As he and Jackie Sharp look for a way to repair their reputations, Remy’s hoping his carefully crafted connections have earned him the political capital to survive his recent scandals.

Thomas Yates

“After all, we are nothing more or less than what we choose to reveal.”

Tom YatesTo postpone Tom publishing a book about the sordid details of Frank and Claire’s rocky relationship, Claire offers him a speech writing job at The White House. The deal buys the Underwoods enough time to survive the election, and the proximity brings Claire closer to Tom. Frank encourages the relationship to appease Claire, but is it worth keeping this enemy closer?

Tom Hammerschmidt, Kate Baldwin, & Margaret Tilden

“There’s no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth.”

Tom Hammerschmidt

Kate BaldwinMargaret TildenThe freedom of the press has been the thorn in Frank’s side from the beginning. With a media whose only loyalty is to the facts, Frank’s darkest secrets are at risk of being brought to light. Armed with sources that exposed Frank’s web of deceit, how far are they willing to go to uncover the deadly truth?

Zoe Barnes

“For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted.”

Zoe BarnesZoe tried to hunt, but she got hunted. When she got too close to figuring out Frank’s connection to Peter Russo’s death Zoe went from former flame to foe in five seconds flat. Though she wields no political power from beyond the grave, Zoe frequently haunts Frank’s dreams. Could she turn out to be the achilles heel on his ruthless rise to the top?

Peter Russo

“There are two kinds of pain. The sort of pain that makes you strong, or useless pain. The sort of pain that’s only suffering. I have no patience for useless things.”

Peter RussoFrank thought he had the upper hand over Peter Russo when he manipulated him for political leverage, but quickly learned that Russo couldn’t take the heat. When he turned into a liability Frank couldn’t afford, Frank orchestrated his murder. Peter’s death was the catalyst for all of Frank’s subsequent foul play, which begs the question: Could Peter still be Frank’s undoing from six feet under?

Lucas Goodwin & Rachel Posner

“The best thing about human beings is that they stack so neatly.”

Lucas GoodwinRachel PosnerThe lies keep getting bigger – and the body count higher. Lucas and Rachel may be dead, but their stories are far from buried.


Elizabeth Hale

“There’s nothing like a death in the family to separate the wheat from the bullsh*t.”

Elizabeth HaleHer wealth once provided the seed funding to catapult Frank to power, but it’s her death that may have given Claire the sympathy card she needed to solidify her spot on the ticket.


Freddy Hayes

“The only problem with common sense is that it’s so common.”

Freddy HayesWhen Freddy’s dark past comes to light, he becomes an unintentional casualty of Frank’s rise to the top. In a rare display of empathy, Frank tries to atone by offering Freddy a job in the White House.  The friendship comes to an abrupt end when Freddy realizes Frank sees him as “just the help.” As the only friend of Frank’s without political ambitions, Freddy’s power lies not in his position, but in his potential to expose Frank’s secrets.

Edward Meechum

“You can’t purchase loyalty.”

Edward MeechumMeechum’s loyalty was literally the death of him when he took a bullet for Frank in season three. Frank valued his loyalty for its rarity, and his death was a tragic inconvenience – but not one Frank orchestrated. This is one ghost who won’t be haunting Frank from beyond the grave.

Seth Grayson

“Shake with your left hand, but hold a rock in your right.”

Seth GraysonSeth has been both a loyal defender and a powerful enemy depending on the day. He may not have the president’s ear, but he has two of his own, and he’s used them to eavesdrop when it suits him. After his failed attempt as a double agent, Seth had no choice but to fall in line with Frank. If he tries to sink the ship, he’ll go down with it.

Donald Blythe

“There are two types of Vice Presidents: doormats and matadors.”

Donald Blythe


Which type of VP is Donald Blythe? We’ll let you decide.


Heather Dunbar

“The road to power is paved with hypocrisy, and casualties.”

Heather DunbarOnce a principled political opponent, even Heather Dunbar considered stooping to Frank’s level to beat him at his own game during the Democratic presidential primary. In the end, Heather was forced to drop out of the race, leaving Frank as the only remaining Democratic nominee. It appears Heather no longer poses much of a threat, but never underestimate the power of a solicitor general scorned.

Doug Stamper

“Proximity to power deludes some into thinking they wield it.”

Doug StamperDoug knows where all the bodies are buried…he’s buried a few himself. He knows enough to be dangerous, but lucky for Frank, Doug’s loyalty appears to know no bounds. Frank’s secrets are safe…for now.


LeAnn Harvey

“From this moment on you are a rock. You absorb nothing, you say nothing, and nothing breaks you.”

LeAnn HarveyIn a short time, LeAnn quickly became Claire’s closest confidant. LeAnn’s fierce loyalty to Claire is concerning enough, but her sharp political prowess makes her downright dangerous.


Cathy Durant  

After a dog’s bitten you, you either put it to sleep, or you put a muzzle on it. I’ve chosen a muzzle… for now.”

Cathy DurantPoor Cathy Durant. She tried to defy Frank to gain political power, only to end up back where she started. Not only is she stuck in Frank’s cabinet, but his fear tactics have turned her into his pawn. Now Frank assumes he can leverage her political power for his personal gain.


Jackie Sharp

“I have zero tolerance for betrayal, which they will soon indelibly learn.”

Jackie SharpAfter jumping ship and endorsing Heather Dunbar for President, Jackie went from friend to foe. Sick of Frank’s threats to expose her and Remy’s affair, Jackie comes clean about the relationship and goes on the record to unmask his manipulative politicking. No longer beholden to her secret, will Jackie return to put the final nail in his coffin?

Raymond Tusk

“Money is the Mcmansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who doesn’t see the difference.”

Raymond TuskTusk has the connections and the capital, which elevates his role in the Washington power dynamic. This often puts him at odds with Frank. In a city where money talks, who will come out on top?


Bob Birch

“Congress is a game of chess, and you must never let your opponent see your pieces.”

Bob BirchBob Birch may be on the same side of the political aisle, but he’s no friend to Frank. If Bob had his way, Frank would never have sought reelection at all. He’s a powerful man on the Hill who still holds sway with Democrats in the House, but will that be that enough to take down the master manipulator?

Will and Hannah Conway

“Democracy is so overrated.”

Will ConwayHannah Conway

As Frank said himself, if Will were a democrat he’d be the next JFK. He has the family, the charm, good looks, and a respected military background to boot. Letting his ego get the best of him, Will falls into a trap set by Frank, risking his candidacy. However, the tables turn when the media uncovers Frank’s corrupt dealings. Can Will leverage that for an Underwood defeat?

Frank Underwood

“We don’t submit to terror. We make the terror.”

Frank UnderwoodBehind the scenes, Frank has always relied on creating chaos to rise up the ranks. Now, he’s resorted to the same fear tactics to manipulate the American public. He doesn’t care if you like him, but he’ll make sure you need him. Frank, a true narcissist, is his own best friend and worst enemy. Will he be his own undoing?