“House of Cards” recap (2.2): Let’s you and him fight

 
 

Frank unpacks into his new office while Durant watches and chats. Frank doesn’t like the influence Tusk is wielding. It’s interesting that Durant is taking Frank’s advice so much to heart here, since he just sided against her in the meeting. She must be familiar with his backhanded negotiating style.

Frank is offended that Tusk has so much sway over foreign policy, and warns that he’s going to push back against the cyberwarfare. Durant calls Frank out on the fact that he agreed with Tusk during the meeting; Frank claims that Tusk would have pushed harder if he felt like they were ganging up. He really is a genius at playing every side while covering his own ass.

Frank says they need to remove the possibility of Tusk changing the President’s mind by getting cyberwarfare on the Joint Commission agenda as a hard item, not with a soft touch.

(Yes, I know. I KNOW: Blah blah blah Get to the murdering and sexing and permanent psychological breaking, already. Look, sometimes they have to set things up so we know why the Underwoods are breaking people. Otherwise you might as well have Frank just run around Washington with a meat axe.) (Which, yes, would make an excellent summer series; perhaps they’ll take it under advisement.)

Anyway, Durant says that putting a hard-line item about cyberwarfare in this round of talks after she just promised not to will royally piss off the President, and Frank’s all, “What if it looked like an accident?” Trust me, ma’am, he’s good at making things look like an accident.

Frank says that if you don’t like how a table is set, turn over the table. Which is something I fantasized about doing every single shift of my table-waiting career, so I really can’t argue with his logic. I also recommend turning over the table if some dingus calls you over like a dog in the middle of a busy brunch shift to ask if his eggs really look over hard to you.

Chez Underwood, Frank is sitting on the floor working on his laptop and smoking a vapor cigarette. Claire doesn’t want to go to the ceremony tomorrow night, and Frank is too preoccupied to notice that something is wrong. For chrissakes, Frank, you should be on red alert if she raises an eyebrow too high. Claire agrees to go, then brushes the issue aside and notes that they should turn that room into a proper office.

KABLAM! A meeting just got interesting somewhere. The doors burst open from the Joint Commission Talks, which the Chinese have just stormed out of. Suddenly the U.S. is refusing to talk about any other issues until cyberwarfare is on the table. Golly, how did that happen?

Lucas is getting scolded for whiffing on the Joint Commission talks—he didn’t have any reporters over there because they are usually more boring than watching snails play televised golf, as evidenced by, um, some of the setup we needed to get us here. Lucas’s managing editor asks if he’s all right, perhaps because Lucas is all gaunt and stubbly and hollow-eyed and not being careful about wearing different clothes every day and stuff.

Congressman Buchwalter is at Frank’s office, wondering if he knew that Jackie Sharp is running for Whip. Frank, who never stops unpacking, says this is the first he’s heard of it. Buchwalter accurately theorizes that Jackie is using proxies to spread dirt about both the major contenders in the race, but fails to realize that said dirt has been delivered by the freighterload to Jackie by his current confidant. Jackie is up to 20 commitments and counting, and the old boys are getting nervous. Buchwalter knows that Jackie is getting bankrolled by the grandfatherly Ted Havemeyer—and thus won’t work with her or him on principle. Havemeyer financed Buchwalter’s primary opponent when he ran for Senate, and Buchwalter is cuddling that old political grudge like a favorite teddy bear.

Durant is in a sea of cameras, claiming that the U.S. won’t back down from such an important issue, but they’re working on how to get talks going again. She slams her car door in time to avoid a question on just what she told her delegation to say.

At the dinner before the medal ceremony, Frank soothes Vasquez, saying that Durant couldn’t throw her own people under the bus after her delegation said the wrong thing. Vasquez is hoping to distance the President and get the Secretary of State to issue an apology, but it sounds like Frank has other options up his sleeve. (STAY WITH THIS. I PROMISE WE WILL GET TO MORE TANGIBLE MAYHEM.)

General McGinniss, the one whose name made Claire, of all the people on this earth, nervous, arrives at the Underwoods’ table. He gives Claire a little side-of-the-head kiss and tries to be dude-charming when says that he and Claire dated for about five minutes at Harvard. Frank has turned back to his dinner companions and is telling the table amusing statistics about South Carolina’s tobacco and marijuana crops when Claire just gets up and leaves. Dude, your wife bleeds liquid nitrogen and she is currently exhibiting emotional distress at a formal government event. GET UP AND SEE WHAT’S GOING ON. Frank gets up to see what’s going on.

Claire—Claire Underwood—is in the bathroom crying. Claire tells Frank that McGinnis is “the one.” He hesitates, and she says “Freshman year,” and suddenly Frank is in a rage, more ferocious than we’ve ever seen him, angrier than when he has actually killed people, and in fact his body language suggests that he’s going straight back out to stab the general to death with his own oyster fork.

Claire stops him, and Frank says there’s no way he’s pinning a medal on that man, but Claire begs him not to make a scene. Frank hurls a lamp against the wall and Claire puts out a single hand to calm him. Admit it: They are crazy, but you envy their unhinged panther love.

Things just got good, y’all.

Back at the Herald, Lucas isn’t doing so well. Tom, an old Herald hand, has come by with a heart full of resentment and some excellent beer. Lucas tells Tom he wants to talk about Frank Underwood.

Frank is presenting honors to these exemplary Marine Corps Generals, one of whom is a woman, and one of whom Frank would like to blind with his own medal. Kevin Spacey actually lets you see the moment when he stops himself from going Full Oedipus on that creep’s ass. Claire applauds with that deep thinking look on her face. General, I think you might soon be wishing you’d simply gotten your eyes poked out.

Tom is maybe not convinced with crazy stubbly stinky Lucas’s wild theories, especially since Lucas still has zero evidence to go with them. Tom tells Lucas to apply the standards that he’d hold his own reporters to… which right now means Lucas should grab himself by the ear and throw himself across the newsroom.

Tom easily guesses that Lucas and Zoe were seeing each other, and understands that grief brings rage with it. He tries to recommend a therapist. This isn’t what Lucas had in mind, and Tom, who can spot someone who isn’t going to be listening to reason, leaves.

The Underwoods return to their Townhouse of Shadows. Frank tries to talk, but Claire is tired and wants to regroup. Frank goes to his video game station that he knows so well and—Whoa!—the Secret Service pops out from their new room off his sanctuary. Frank wants to blow off some steam with online gaming, but the Secret Service had to sever that insecure connection. Frank goes into his yard for a private breath of air (and a smoke) and a Secret Service dude follows right along, because that’s the deal now.

When he comes back upstairs to Claire, she’s cocooned tightly under a blanket, motionless but awake. Claire says she wants to smash things too, that her rage is just as big as Frank’s. Claire says that when McGinness was on top of her, she fought back so hard that she broke his nose, and even that didn’t stop him. She says he shoved the sheets in her mouth. Claire says that every time she thinks of “her” pinned down like that, present-day Claire strangles that past Claire, so the past won’t strangle the present.

Then she tells Frank to go to sleep, but he can’t. So Clair sends him back downstairs, because she is the one who rules their lair, and always will be.

“You’ll still feel the hate in the morning,” Claire tells Frank. “You’ll use that. But not on him.” Claire? Why not? You two are a people-destroying siege engine. Watching the Underwoods break that guy sounds like a highly satisfying season, and I hope we return to that project.

But even if we don’t have that project, we have a new piece of Claire, a new understanding of the fury that she keeps coiled so tightly within her, trained and focused so she can unchain it and send it howling after whomever she chooses at a moment’s notice. It’s not Frank’s earlier rage that shows you how deeply he loves Claire; it’s this moment. Because now we see another layer of how dangerous she is that he has always known is there. The fact that he stays twined with her when he knows her capacity for ruination is the true measure of his insane panther devotion.

Back at the White House, the fan is getting rather battered. Catherine Durant says that her delegates tried to read between the lines and overstepped a bit, and she felt that presenting a strong front was better than backpedaling and losing face. It sounds like a plausible argument, because Frank helped craft it.

The President is pissed, but Frank swears that the Secretary of State would never deliberately disobey a Presidential direction. Walker gets Tusk on the speakerphone, and the distaste that washes across Underwood’s face is delightful. Underwood backs Tusk and agrees to an apology… if it comes from the White House. Frank takes a moment to seethe an aside at us over Tusk still using the President’s given name instead of “Mr. President,” then turns back.

Once Tusk is off the line, Frank pretends to change his mind and plays up the need for the perceived strength of the President—and the need for standing one’s ground with the Chinese. We can see the President swaying in the breeze again, tilting and squeaking just a little at this soft but potent change in the wind.

Oh, dear. Congressmen Buchwalter and Webb are in conference, and they’ve figured out that they’re getting played against each other—and maybe even that Sharp is Underwood’s real choice. Webb says one of them needs to drop out and throw all his support to the other to crush the opposition.

Webb offers Buchwalter the Appropriations chairmanship in return for dropping out; Buchwalter doesn’t have a comparable power position to offer up.

Congresswoman Jackie Sharp has a considerably less jolly conference with Ted Havemeyer than the last one. Havemeyer is willing to offer the Ways and Means chairmanship to Buchwalter in return for his support. He thinks it’ll be worth it to have a direct line, through Jackie, to the Speaker of the house.

HoC_4Photo by Nathaniel Bell. Image courtesy of Netflix.

… But Buchwalter isn’t taking Sharp’s deal. He dislikes Sharp, but holy hell, does he ever hate Havemeyer. He wants more than the Ways and Means chair; he wants Havemeyer gone. Not retired: Politically dead. Gone.

Jackie runs to Frank to tell him that Buchwalter won’t budge and she doesn’t have enough to offer Webb. Frank, who has murdered two people because he felt slighted by not being offered the Secretary of State job, tells Sharp how much he despises pettiness.

Oh, hey, remember that daughter that Ted Havemeyer has in life care? Frank does too. Turns out she’s Havemeyer’s illegitimate daughter with his nanny. Frank, in all helpfulness, offers up Ted’s daughter so Sharp can spike him and complete her deal with Buchwalter. Sharp balks, and Frank goes all disappointed schoolmarm on her because she isn’t willing to ruin an old family friend who has helped her for her whole life —not to mention several innocent bystanders—for political gain.

Lucas, trying to pull it together at the paper, is getting a tech briefing on cyberwarfare and, oh, dear, on digging up phone data history. He’s very, very interested to hear about phone data. The tech dude mentions the Deep Web and how you can find anything. Lucas would like to see more.

The President gives a national, televised speech backing the Secretary of State. Frank is happy, but the Chinese are pissed. As China announces that future bilateral trade talks aren’t happening, Tusk, who just had his business interests strangled, is even more pissed. And so he calls a trusted ally: Frank Underwood.

Tusk is not accustomed to the President going against his advice, points out that the President is easily manipulated, and demands that Frank help him fix it. After making it damn clear that he owes Tusk precisely nothing in the way of favors, Frank says he’ll work the back channels. Tusk properly addresses Frank as “Mr. Vice President,” and hangs up.

Time to watch some souls crumble into dust. Jackie is in her dear old friend and protector Havemeyer’s office. She’s doing him the very great service of letting him know she’s ratted him out and will be destroying his career and his family a whole day before the story breaks. She says she hates herself for it… but she’ll get over it. In true Underwood style, she turns this on Ted, lecturing him on his years of estrangement from his daughter and lies to his wife.

Ted now realizes what he has helped unleash, and that it is eating him right now. He demands Jackie look him in the eye while she stabs him, and she totally does. Goddamn. Havemeyer says Jackie will make an excellent Whip.

Claire comes home to Frank, sitting alone in a home that is finally quiet. The two of them panther nuzzle and lick each other’s faces and twine their tails around each other, home.

Lucas, looking outright grey and much, much crazier, surfs the Deep Web, looking for someone to dig up Zoe’s phone records. And he’s not being shy about mentioning the Vice President in his inquiries.

Strap in, everyone. We got through the setup and we are poised for mayhem.

See you next week.

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