“House of Cards” recap (2.11): Things You Can Kiss

Frank arrives at Murky Towers to a gentle whooshing sound, which he is used to. But it’s not Claire spinning straw into gold this time, and it’s not Claire effortlessly whipping the tendons out of the legs of her rivals. No, this time it’s something unusual: Claire using the rowing machine. She’s burning off energy because she can’t go running given the current death-threat situation. Meechum helped her carry the rowing machine up to their bedroom. Frank seems just the teeniest bit jealous. Claire reminds him that Meechum is her human shield, so chill out.

Then Claire turns serious and asks how bad it all is. Spoiler: Real bad. That picture of Doug at the casino is going to be hard to get around. Frank says he’s going to have to tell the truth… selectively. Frank starts to leave and Claire stops him because she can tell that he’s scared. Frank turns back around because you do not turn your back on Claire when she has sensed your vulnerability. You put a sturdy iron collar around your neck and you edge away from her while holding at least a broadsword.

Frank puffs up his neck crest to look bigger and says “500 meters at 139. That was my best. Shoot for that,” because he knows that Claire will be unable to resist beating him. Speaking your fitness stats to a dragon is like scattering grain in front of a vampire; they have to deal with it immediately. Claire tucks in.

The next day, Megan rides in a state car past thousands of angry anti-abortion protesters outside of Murky Towers. Oh, no, she’s going to get eaten. Megan disingenuously asks if she can take off her heels and Claire knows this is going to be too easy. She asks for Megan’s help: She needs a public face who isn’t in the middle of abortion and infidelity scandals. Megan tries just a tiny moment of “Why Me?” Good luck with that.

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Doug brings Seth in to begrudgingly tell him he’s doing a good job, and they need to be a team now to protect the Vice President. Rachel is not Doug’s only disturbing relationship. Doug needs Seth to find Remy and help him sift 10 years of Frank’s travel logs, looking for anything that could hurt them. Um, maybe watch the murdery parts there, Doug.

Doug scrolls through his phone and deletes Rachel’s contact information. Then he yanks the SIM card and crushes the phone. Can Nancy order him a new one? Thanks.

Back at Gavin’s lair, a new little warning signal is of sudden interest. Looks like someone’s tracking just halted. For now.

In the Oval Office, Frank has started his selective truth-telling campaign, claiming that he sent Doug down to the casino because of a gut feeling that something was shady. The President is so pissed at the spectre of impeachable offenses that he’s actually buying Frank’s story of conducting independent investigations from his Mystery Machine. Frank says he was concerned about laws and midterms and protecting the President. Walker doesn’t want to encourage deeper investigation.

Say, Frank has a totally spontaneous idea: He’ll turn over all of his travel logs as a gesture of good faith and cooperation. Maybe the President should too! Walker is not crazy about that, since those travel logs will show his marriage counseling sessions. Frank tells us he should be worried, then turns to the President and says he shouldn’t. Heh.

Jackie Sharp walks into a lobby… where Remy is waiting. It takes him about three sentences to start threatening her about revealing what she did to Havemeyer while she’s in the middle of a tough race.

Which would be really effective if Jackie Sharp gave one single rat butt. She is made of ice and gumption and she does not care for being threatened. Hey, Remy—remember that part where she killed a bunch of people?

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Remy tries to get her to set up a meeting with Frank, on the books, then perjure herself and shank him with the special prosecutor.

Jackie isn’t knuckling under to Frank’s threats, and she sure as hell isn’t knuckling under to Remy’s. She’d much rather set the whole woods on fire: Jackie tells Romy go ahead and tell whomever he wants about Havemeyer. She and Freddy may be the only people on this show who owns what they do. I love her. Jackie doesn’t even bother with feeling disgusted—either for Remy for his sleazitude or with herself for dallying with him. She just closes up and walks away. Eyes forward.

Doug and Frank confab in the early morning light. The President is turning over everything, including the visits to the shady marriage counselor. A great big bomb, right in the middle of everything. Frank’s travel records are clean —Doug and Seth would stake their lives on it. (And Doug, at least, knows how literal that turn of phrase is with the Underwoods.) Doug swallows a sliver of pride and praises the statement Seth prepared. They’re going to blast it out and beat Dunbar to the punch. Doug heads off to shower and tells Seth to take a nap.

Megan does the interview on her own. She talks about how hard it was to testify in front of General McGinnis. She’s nervous. And the reporter knows that she’s had a history of mental and emotional issues since her attack. Megan spins that well, talking about what being assaulted by one of your own can do to you. She says McGinnis didn’t only betray her; he betrayed his country by depriving it of a good Marine. The reporter switches tack to Claire’s assault bill, noting that fellow veteran Jackie Sharp opposes it. Megan says Sharp is betraying her country too. Uh-oh.

Frank walks to meet Ms. Dunbar—HOW DID THEY MAKE THE CAPITOL SO DARK??—and is confident and raring to go. Uh-oh.

Tusk meets Remy while he’s in mid-haircut. Tusk gets a mostly good rundown of their plotting, but Remy says he can’t get anything good on Sharp. Which, hmm, is not strictly true. Tusk won’t take no for an answer. He wants Frank attacked on multiple fronts, and that’s got to include a high-profile Congressperson, and that means Sharp. Remy could not look more disgusted with himself or Tusk.

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD, EVERYBODY STOP SAYING “BACKCHANNEL.” Sorry. I just never appreciated all the words that have synonyms before. We’re back at Frank’s testimony and Dunbar has had enough of this bulldander. She says she knows Feng was money laundering and it’s just a matter of lining up the proof now. So did Frank know, or what? Oh, his stars and garters, no! Why, he’d sooner feed shoo-fly pie to an old hound dog. Frank says he did “sense that something was awry,” which is priceless, and thus sent Junior Crime Dog Doug to investigate.

Frank says he takes full responsibility for his staff’s behavior. Doug says he found bupkus during his extensive investigation of that one waitress. And poor Frank—well, how could you have expected Frank to go to one of the numerous potential proper authorities when he just didn’t know if his allegations had any basis in fact? Frank says he was “misguided,” and takes personal responsibility for, um, mistakes.

Dunbar is no dummy; she suspects she’s getting a highly edited version of the truth, if one can even call it that. And that’s when Frank whips it out. No, no: his travel log. So Dunbar can see every single meeting, except for maybe that last one with Zoe and one or two others. Dunbar is still skeptical, but she has to accept this and she hates it so much.

Oh, dear. Megan is telling Claire how great she did as she gets more manic and press-hungry by the second. Claire wonders whether it’s nerves and allergy medicine or, you know, maybe crystal meth. Megan has the loudest spill of pills in the world and Claire, gliding in to help out, realizes just how many meds Megan is on. Claire scoots her out the door and then sits quietly with a glass of wine, sending swirling tendrils of smoke ahead into infinite possible futures, calculating and recalculating odds.

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Frank steps into the crowd of reporters like he is secretly banging their moms, telling them he had a great interview with Ms. Dunbar. Doug is immediately on the horn with Seth, telling him to send out that press statement.

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