In Chapter 57 of House of Cards, a man named Eric comes to visit the White House, and he clearly has a pre-existing relationship with Frank Underwood that viewers are meant to remember from earlier episodes. So who exactly is this guy? Where do we know him from?
All the way back in Chapter 18, Frank Underwood pays a visit to a Civil War reenactment. During the reenactment, he meets a man whose role is to play Corporal Augustus Elijah Underwood, one of Frank’s ancestors.
At first, Frank Underwood is taken aback by this, as he had no idea he had a relative who died in the Civil War. But the Civil War reenactors insist they did their research and found out that there was indeed an Underwood in the Civil War.
The actor playing Corporal Augustus Elijah Underwood, who we will later learn is named Eric, goes on to tell an elaborate story about how Augustus Underwood died: he was an engaged in a battle with a man when the man grabbed a rock and hit him over the head with it, bashing his skull in.
Later, Frank Underwood meets up with Eric again, with Frank trying to get him to break character. But Eric refuses to do so, although he agrees to bring Frank to the spot where Augustus died. Frank seems to connect with him on a deeply personal level, perhaps because both of them wear masks that they refuse to drop.
We later see Eric Rawlings in character as Corporal Augustus Elijah Underwood in a vision Frank Underwood has in Chapter 44, when he is in the hospital following an assassination attempt.
Now, in Chapter 57, Eric returns. He visits the White House and is impressed with Frank Underwood’s Civil War set. However, he reveals that he made up virtually everything about Corporal Augustus Elijah Underwood other than the fact that he died in the Civil War.
“I was meeting Vice President Francis Underwood,” the man says. “I thought he deserved a good story.”
Frank Underwood begins to laugh hysterically, realizing that this story that he invested so much emotional energy into was completely fabricated.
The character of Eric Rawlings is played by actor Malcolm Madera, who has also appeared in shows like Boardwalk Empire.