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Zoe Marie Barnes was a Washington, D.C.-based journalist and the former Deuteragonist in the series. She was contracted by Frank Underwood to serve as a "mouth-piece" for his schemes involving media attention and started an affair with him.


The Herald's metro beat

Nervous, young, ambitious, with some naiveté, upstart reporter Barnes was desperate to advance her stature within the Washington Herald newsroom. Directing all her charm, sexuality, youthful energy, and social skills towards securing journalistic sources in the D.C. political establishment, she had been hoping to obtain information that would lead to bigger stories and better professional prospects.

Deeply dissatisfied about being stuck on Herald's metropolitan pages, filing stories such as the local fireman marrying the meter maid and new jogging paths in Rock Creek Park, Barnes was constantly on the lookout for an opportunity that could propel her into the realm of journalistic credibility.

Making a deal with Underwood

The occurrence that set in motion a chain of events, which would eventually lead to her professional break, came about quite unexpectedly one night at the opera in early January 2013 where she was on a date with a congressional staffer. While entering the opera house, an older gentleman standing outside couldn't resist a quick passing glance at young Zoe's backside in her tight-fitting dress — a moment captured by one of the photographers snapping away.

Upon returning home, Barnes received an e-mail from a colleague containing the photo (that evidently got posted online in the meantime) along with a snide comment "If you want 'em to take you seriously, maybe wear more than a g-string?". Not knowing the identity of the man looking at her derrière in the photo, she looked him up, realizing he's a Democratic congressman from South Carolina, Frank Underwood, who's also the House Majority Whip.

Barnes then found out where he lives and decided to came to his door, managing to get him to let her in based on their opera photo that she showed him.

When she first started submitting reports based on Underwood's leaked info, she began to alienate her coworkers at the Herald with her rogue and mildly arrogant attitude, and unintentionally steals Janine Skorsky's position as White House Correspondent. She eventually leaves the Herald due to a conflict with her superior and joins Slugline. She finally teams up with Skorsky after both had left the Herald; despite their professional competition, they respect each other's work ethic and have the same goals in mind. Both end up at Slugline and together they unearth the hidden details regarding Russo's DUI cover-up and his death.


The train about to collide with and kill Zoe.

With the help of Skorsky and Lucas Goodwin, Zoe tries to uncover the truth behind the death of Peter Russo. While Russo's death was officially ruled a suicide, the team of journalists correctly suspected that the Congressman's death involved foul play and that Underwood was involved. Underwood requests a clandestine meeting with her and prior to their meeting, she learns some crucial details that suggest Russo was murdered; he was found on the passenger side of the car in which he was presumed to be alone, killing himself via carbon monoxide. At a public park, Barnes meets with the newly appointed Vice President and is coerced to drop her suspicions idiocy and start anew, stating that her connection to a powerful figure would be increasingly valuable to her own gain. When she asks Underwood about Russo being found on the passenger side, he quickly deflects her suspicions. Underwood admits to covering up Russo's DUI, but claims that the cover-up is the extent of his involvement and that his death was without question a suicide. By the end of their meeting, the embattled journalist is clearly leaning toward teaming with Francis again due to the fact that he is now in a much more powerful position and that her investigation is an uphill battle.

As Zoe and her team continue to dig for information, she appears to doubt her own suspicions and brings up details that stand in the way of Underwood's involvement. She swiftly leaves the meeting and expresses a desire to be alone, or more importantly, isolate herself from Skorsky and Goodwin.

Francis asks to meet Barnes once again at a train station. While the meeting place is far more public, Francis is in disguise and hides behind a fenced structure. There, Zoe and Francis agree on the "fresh start" and she deletes all past text messages and contact information. Still, she continues to inquire about Russo's death and reveals her knowledge of some key details, including Rachel Posner. Francis now knows that despite their "fresh start," Zoe's in-depth knowledge of a number of details is a threat; he lures Zoe into running after him and waits for her to turn the corner. To Zoe's surprise, Francis is there waiting for her, and he pushes the helpless Zoe in front of an oncoming train. The calculated locale of the murder as well as the deleted contact information ensure that the death appears to be an accident.

Given the location of the final meeting, it is possible that Francis had intended to kill Zoe all along and that he only arranged the meeting to ensure that his contact info and text messages were wiped out from her phone.

Hallucination Appearance

Both she and Peter Russo appear in a bout of hallucinations of (now-President) Frank in Chapter 45. During one of them, Frank and Zoe are groping each other on the couch when Peter appears at the Resolute desk. Then, both she and Peter proceed to entrap and attack Frank both violently and sexually. Simply interpreted, the hallucinations can be described as a clear visualization of Underwood's underlying guilt and impending downfall.

Behind the Scenes


Season 1
"Chapter 1" "Chapter 2" "Chapter 3" "Chapter 4" "Chapter 5"
"Chapter 6" "Chapter 7" "Chapter 8" "Chapter 9" "Chapter 10"
"Chapter 11" "Chapter 12" "Chapter 13"
Season 2
"Chapter 14" "Chapter 15" "Chapter 16" "Chapter 17" "Chapter 18"
"Chapter 19" "Chapter 20" "Chapter 21" "Chapter 22" "Chapter 23"
"Chapter 24" "Chapter 25" "Chapter 26"
Season 4
"Chapter 40" "Chapter 41" "Chapter 42" "Chapter 43" "Chapter 44"
"Chapter 45" "Chapter 46" "Chapter 47" "Chapter 48" "Chapter 49"
"Chapter 50" "Chapter 51" "Chapter 52"


  • Although Zoe is absent in Chapter 8, Kate Mara's voice is heard because she provides the "Previously on House of Cards" phrase for the episode.
  • Her star sign was Gemini.