“House of Cards” recap (2.1): Find the Links

A woman leaps out of her car to confront Gillian as she is walking home with her eco-friendly canvas bags. (Nice touch, props department.) Gillian doesn’t know the woman, but she knows her husband, David Applebaum… And has known him in the Biblical sense as well. Goddamn, Claire. That was some fast diming out. Mrs. Applebaum offers to show the pregnant Gillian pictures of her children, the ones that she had with her husband first. Gillian says she’s sorry, that it was a mistake, that David doesn’t even know she’s pregnant. Guess which three arguments Mrs. Applebaum does not wish to hear today.

After making sure Gillian is good and humiliated in front of the neighbors, Mrs. Applebaum departs with “Use a condom the next time you fuck somebody’s husband.” Well played, Mrs. Applebaum. Let’s hope that Dr. Applebaum is in for an equal helping.

Reporter meeting! Our intrepid investigators, shrouded in gloom and shadows, are aware that Underwood is moving faster than they are. Zoe’s reduced to maybe staking out Rachel’s P.O. box, while Lucas is waiting on the police report for Russo’s “suicide.”

Zoe has a text from an unknown number suggesting a meeting Monday at 3 pm; she picks the spot. I cannot wait for the Pretty Little Liars crossover episode they’re clearly teasing here. Lucas says it’s obviously a set-up, and Zoe says she can handle Underwood, and maybe she’ll learn something, and oh, such a nice day here in D.C., shame to waste it and after all, she gets to pick the spot.

Lucas counsels against this plan some more and Zoe vaults right onto the back of the elephant in the middle of the room, grabs its ears, and says “I’m not going to fuck him, just talk to him.” Lucas is aware of the odds of that statement being false, even if Zoe isn’t, and Janine is so skeeved out she has to head to the john for some discreet purging.

White House Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez is interviewing Christina for a hell job where there’s no life and a workload that three people can’t handle and a good chance she’ll get fired in the first month and P.S. darts come shooting out of the walls sometimes, we’re not sure why, can’t get that fixed, and Christina is all “I’ve been singlehandedly running my dead boyfriend’s Congressional district. Bring it on.”

Darkness. Real, complete, pitch-black darkness. The show has achieved its true vision. A door opens into the darkness, and it’s Doug looking for Rachel. Rachel has a very big kitchen knife, she wants her waitressing job back, and she doesn’t feel like leaving today, thanks.

Doug pulls the old hurting-her-while-claiming-to-be-her-only-protector game favored by abusive creeps everywhere, wrenches the knife away, and tells Rachel to start packing. Yikes.

Ah, the Underwood kitchen. Claire says she’ll cook Frank a nice birthday dinner at home, no fuss, no gifts, definitely no cake. What could be better?

Back in his office, Frank turns down an immediate increased security detail because he’s not the Vice President yet and he’ll have no privacy once the confirmation happens and P.S. he may need to fuck a reporter and murder a former sex worker, or, you know, maybe just some light skullduggery; he likes to keep his options open.

Frank also refuses to move into the Vice President’s house in the Naval Observatory, and instead demands glass-proofing and lasers and magic Dick Cheney Google Earth blocking for his own personal townhouse. Dear god, what have they got hidden in that townhouse that they don’t want to dig up? Doug, who is everywhere, always, says he’ll contact the Secret Service directly about the plans. Oh, and one more thing: Frank wants his driver Ed Meechum assigned to his security detail. Secret Service dude’s last nerve has just been strummed and he starts in on the accelerated training and Jesus Christ, the paperwork, but Frank does that very calm thing where he says one polite sentence and the argument is suddenly over and his opponent’s feet have somehow swiveled around backwards and are marching him out the door before he can even object.

Frank gets a text that says “Rock Creek Park” and nothing else, so I guess he and Zoe will just wander around all 1,700 acres until they catch each other’s scent.

Lucas paces around a dimly lit room with the air of a man who knows the woman he loves may soon be either getting kidnapped or climaxing in a rocky creek. Lucas gets his autopsy report, but his contact is not helping with Russo’s magical disappearing arrest record, and the contact is double not helping with a cover-up that members of Congress are in on, on account of he is done with handing over stuff that can get him fired or killed, so take a hike.

Lucas texts Zoe that Russo was found dead on the passenger side of his car, which is an excellent passive-aggressive cockblocking attempt, so ten points to Lucas.

Zoe, busy covering acre 1,587 in the park, notes that this doesn’t really prove anything, then gotta-gos Lucas because Frank’s car is pulling up. Frank asks Zoe to delete her entire cell phone history with him, and she’s all “Dude, I’m not the one looking at jail time.”

Frank tries to sell Zoe on how he was just trying to help everyone and then oops! Vice President! Zoe isn’t having it, and she whips out the dead-man-in-the-passenger-seat information on him. Frank says Russo was probably just having second thoughts and trying to get out of the car, and if there was even a hint of foul play, wouldn’t the police be all over it? Zoe brings up Russo’s disappearing DUI, and keeps asking questions. Frank says that, yes, he got his buddy Peter Russo out of a DUI jam, and OK, maybe he sent Russo to talk to Kapeniak, and OK, fine, maybe one little turn of one little key in one little ignition, but why, oh, WHY wouldn’t a good reporter just trust him?

Frank also points out that if Zoe can just overlook a few teensy murderyish things, she’ll have a direct line to insider information to the Oval Office, so how about a new start and a clean slate, eh? And that is the moment where you can see Zoe’s ambition uncoil up her spine like a Kundalini serpent, and it keeps uncoiling until it can reach her ear and start whispering rationalizations and possible Pulitzer Prizes into it.

Oh, holy crap. Claire is in a doctor’s office talking about blood and hormone tests for her and her husband, and then moving on to genetic testing for them both. Just a little thing she hasn’t mentioned to Frank yet, no big.

Claire mentions that she’s also been doing some Internet research and the doctor gets exactly as irritated as your doctor does when you say that, but they talk about post-40s pregnancies and drugs that can help keep the placenta nourished and stable. The doctor says that’s putting the cart way before the horse, but if you look carefully at Claire’s eyes there aren’t carts or horses in there. Instead there are sleek black cars that you never hear coming, not until they’re right up behind you, and then it’s too late.

Back home, Claire turns off the light fixtures that cast no light and joins Frank in bed. Frank says he’s fully prepared, and has been for some time. Claire says she knows he’ll do what’s best. Which thing? WHICH THING?!

Reporter meeting in the Very Dark Diner. Janine wants to push forward, Lucas wants to step back, and Zoe wants to get the hell out of this diner for some thinking. She knows it’s full of bad ideas, but that serpent just won’t stop whispering.

Frank is back at his rib place, rejoicing in how extra-tasty this latest batch is. Freddy admits that he tried a new butcher: one who illegally slow-bleeds his hogs. Freddy — who has dealt with the cutting and preparing of meat for decades — doesn’t think he’ll go back because a glimpse of that process was too horrific. The pigs scream as they smell death coming and then go through ten minutes of excruciating pain. Freddy prefers a quick, humane kill. No warning: Just a shovel to the base of the skull and no screaming. Frank thinks on that.

Back in the halls of Congress, Frank claims he wants the best man to win the Whip position and won’t endorse anyone. The President’s advisor knows Frank is never on the sidelines, but doesn’t feel the need to inquire beyond that. Good instincts, sir.

Zoe gets a text asking for a fresh start. Janine, in the background, sees her rushing off and absolutely does not trust what’s happening. Good instincts, ma’am.

Gillian rushes in to Claire’s CWI office to confront her. Gillian’s insurance coverage just got canceled, even though it was supposed to continue for a year under her severance package. Claire thinks it is sweetly amusing that Gillian believes that she, as Gillian’s former employer, would lift a finger to rectify the situation, things being what they are.

Gillian mentions that she needs medications to keep her pregnancy healthy, as Claire damn well knows, what with her little chat with the doctor and her peek into Gillian’s HMO records and all.

Holy. Shit. Claire tacitly acknowledges forging Gillian’s signature on a consent form to release private medical information, and then for good measure drops Mrs. Applebaum’s name just to give Gillian a taste of the life-ruining that is in store.

Gillian says this will all come up when they go to court, and Claire notes that court will be six months from now, and Gillian is due in four. And then Claire Underwood says, out loud to another human being:

“I am willing to let your child wither and die inside you if that’s what’s required.”

Grendel’s mother, y’all. Do not go in that cave.

hoc_2.1.3Photo by Nathaniel Bell. Image courtesy of Netflix

Claire cheers things up with hey, no one really wants this, it’s just the way things have to be… Unless Gillian is willing to accept a little bargain. Claire suggest that Gillian takes over CWI. Claire resigns, and Gillian runs the whole thing, no strings attached. Gillian clarifies, “No strings?” and Claire confirms: No strings. RUN, GILLIAN, RUN.

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