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

Meechum returns to Murky Towers just as Claire drops her wine glass. He steps in to help her clean up and immediately cuts himself because there is more light at the bottom of the Marinara Trench than in the Underwoods’ kitchen. Claire goes to get some bandages.

Frank, Doug, and Seth confer in Frank’s office, which he keeps exactly as dark as his kitchen. I guess it’s his way of staying mentally in touch with Claire? Doug says he’ll issue a statement saying he acted on his own and will take full responsibility; he can handle it. Seth goes to print it out. Doug found Remy. Frank gives him one paltry “You’ve done good work” and leaves. Doug picks up his new phone, then scrolls through the R section of his computer contacts. He picks up Fritz’s card and leaves.

Back in the dim, pea-soup light of Murky Towers, Claire tenderly bandages Ed Meechum’s hand. He tries to leave, and Claire offers him some wine. He is off-duty, after all. Ed’s too shy to try their good wine—good instincts, Ed; it’s bloodwine—but he does agree to a little bourbon. Claire measures him up, then goes to get it. Ed dimly realizes that he now knows how rabbits feel, but he can’t think why he knows it or what he should do.

Remy sits in a darkened church. Jesus Christ, what time is it? Is it day or night or what? Has there been an eclipse all day? Has the billowing smoke of Tusk’s factories blotted out the sun? I THINK it is day, because the stained-glass windows are showing and then apparently COMPLETELY STOPPING some light, but I just have no idea anymore. We’ll call it night.

Frank fumbles his way down the aisle, bonking and caroming between the pews, until he finally just uses his dragon powers and finds Remy by sonar and sits down one pew behind him. Well, close enough.

Remy and Frank quote Winston Churchill and the back of Remy’s watch: “To improve is to change. To perfect is to change often.” Remy is on paid leave from Tusk and wants some career options. He’s not actually offering to help Frank, but he’s offering to pull punches. He’ll hurt enough to look like he’s fighting, but he won’t work to break the Underwoods. And then he’ll jump to whoever wins the fight. Remy is a practical man, but ick.

Frank immediately guesses that this is about Jackie. Remy deflects, saying that this is about his future, and Jackie’s not a part of that. Let’s hope not. Frank gives the watch back to Remy as a token of good faith.

Frank tells us that he knows Remy is protecting Jackie. And that Remy has made the disastrous error of not realizing how deeply she has pissed the Underwoods off. Oh, crap. I’d type “RUN, JACKIE, RUN,” but I don’t think that’s in her nature.

Someone, completely in silhouette, takes a moment of stress and dry-swallows a pill. Let’s assume it’s President Walker and call it a day.

Ed Meechum and Claire are laughing in the Underwood kitchen, having done some sturdy work on the bourbon. Frank walks in, takes a drink, and checks Meechum’s still-bleeding hand. Claire disappears to get a new bandage while Frank calms Meechum, then checks his hand with a little more care than is strictly necessary.

Claire floats in to see how Frank is doing with his gift. She hands him the bandage and Frank tends to Ed’s hand, gentle but teasing. Claire spots Meechum’s hand resting on Frank’s and send a quick telepathic message. She bends to kiss Meechum’s hand, then leans back to let Ed kiss her throat as Frank moves in to kiss Claire. When the Underwoods finally break their kiss, Meechum hesitates, and then kisses Frank.

I believe the Underwoods have found an outlet for their stress.

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This scene captures so much of what I love about House of Cards. Not just the way it deals so matter-of-factly with sexual fluidity, though that is definitely a big thing. I saw so many pieces after the first season suggesting that Frank was “really” gay after the episode where he goes back to his alma mater, as though he was giving Zoe all that enthusiastic head just for the cardio. In fact, Frank’s sexuality is just another proof that you cannot understand the Underwoods in binary. People make their most disastrous mistakes in assuming that they know what Frank and Claire are, that they are definitely one thing and definitely not another, when in fact much of their power lies in their ability to shapeshift.

You can’t even really say that Frank and Claire are evil—some of the worst things Claire has done are in the service of her water project, or of getting her anti-assault bill passed. “Good and Evil” is just one possible axis that the Underwoods fly right above.

But what I love even more about this scene and this show is that it rewards paying attention. Back in my first recap, I joked that Ed and Doug both have crushes on Frank because of tiny nuances in their dialogue and the way they played it. But of course that wasn’t just an odd moment or a bit of playfulness on the show’s part. Doug does have an unhealthy relationship with Frank, and Ed did, whether he knew it or not, have a crush on Frank. And paying attention to the little touches of information dropped in here and there pay off hugely now, a full ten episodes later.

And throughout the show, one of the other great strengths of the Underwoods is that they pay attention. Claire watches Ed’s loyalty and his just-too-enthusiastic service until she knows he’s ready to be groomed and seduced. Frank notes that President Walker pays attention to Christina’s ideas and passes that tiny needle of information to Claire, who uses it to loosen just enough mortar in just the right spot to send their marriage crashing down. And throughout the process they tap and nudge, checking in with each other with just a glance. The Underwoods don’t just get ahead because they’re more ruthless. They get ahead because they notice more, and tuck it away in their dragon hoards until it’s time to use it.

Oh, shit. Doug didn’t call a sponsor after all. He just showed up at the Depression Arms. He’s about to knock when he hears the sounds of extremely enthusiastic Bible study.

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To be clear here: Doug does not use his key to get in and then hear the sounds of ladysex through the bedroom door. Doug can hear the sounds of womanly congress right through the front door. That is some shoddy construction, Depression Arms management. Or some astonishingly heavy breathing. Maybe it’s hay fever season?

Doug walks around to a window and Jesus Christ, ladies, really? With the blinds open? In your ground-floor apartment? This isn’t Pretty Little Liars. That said, everyone but Doug seems to be having a very pleasant evening, so what the hell.

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Morning at Murky Towers. The Underwoods, having shaken the rust off and shed their old skins, feel refreshed and renewed, stretching happily. You can tell they feel especially good because they’re actually letting some sun in.

Frank solicitously inquires as to Claire’s head after all that bourbon, and says he himself slept like a baby. “Good,” says Claire. “You needed that.” This is what true dragonlove looks like. Think about that the next time you just make your significant other dinner.

Back in the Halls of Justice, one of Dunbar’s underlings finds the trap that the Underwoods laid so carefully and then covered with such a deliberately paltry layer of leaves: One address keeps popping up in the President’s travel logs.

Frank steps out of Murky Towers and into the sunshine, the protesters just a dull noise in the background, barely even flies. He greets Ed Meechum with formality—good on you, Meechum, for keeping it together—and then steps into his Vice Presidential car and zooms away.

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The Underwoods’ fortunes are turning. They have fed on others and now they can fly again. We’ll see how high next week.

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