“House of Cards” recap (2.3): The Temptation of Rachel


Back at Murky Towers, Clair is playing Silent Washington Housewife while Frank holds court with some ranking Democrats. Frank pitches selling out The Olds as progress, assures his Democratic cronies that Mendoza will work with them, and then promises that his neck will be out on the chopping block just like theirs. Claire jokes that Frank hates the sight of blood, which I guess is technically true: he used carbon monoxide with Peter Russo, a train-sized blunt object with Zoe, and, oh, yes, he strangled that dog back in season one. Delicate sensibilities, truly. Everyone toasts the idea that’s going to get someone ruined.

Lucas is breaking the shit out of his laptop with his crazy typing, or maybe it’s the part where he’s inviting hackers into his life and accusing high government officials of conspiracy and murder. The screen goes crazy in a way that real computer screens don’t, and then suddenly fills with compromising ladypics and then Zoe’s face. Lucas waves off the IT guy and says everything’s cool. An unsolicited instant message opens up on Lucas’s screen that says “Relax… Breathe…Surrender…” because what everyone wants is Zen advice from highly caffeinated strangers who have been coding for 36 straight hours.

Next the instant message says “I can get you what you want, darling.” and it all happens in a big red font that no grownup would use, ever, but we’ll assume that the hacker is 12 and move forward.

Oh, good lord, how do you manage to have a meeting where EVERYONE’S face is in shadow? Frank is talking entitlements and savings and is already selling out people to age 68 and Curtis Haas, the Tea Party douche at the table, won’t accept unless it’s an immediate change instead of five  years from now. Frank sends everyone off with platitudes, then stays back to confer with Mendoza to make sure Curtis can’t filibuster the bill. They agree that the passage of the amendment will constitute the passage of the bill. Frank out. Do you ever wish our actual politicians were this good at the quick and ruthless dealing?

Lucas waits alone in the Very Sad Diner,  then gets a package from a messenger who has a picture of him. Kidnap note letters on a Post-It say “TuRN Me ON LovER” (Punctuate, ransom note people! Take pride in your craft!”) and Lucas dutifully turns on an iPad to find… Sort of an animated Hieronymous Bosch parrot with a deep voice modulator. I love you, House of Cards. I know I don’t tell you that enough, but I do.

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The Parrot is a Mysterious Hacker who doesn’t want to say who he is. OK, maybe he’s more of a starling, but he’s a parrot in my heart. The Parrot asks Lucas if he’s law enforcement, then makes him thumbprint an agreement, probably something to do with suet and cuttlebones. The Parrot tells Lucas he’s suuuper hacking through a bunch of different countries, so don’t worry. Oh, and P.S. he needs the two-step verification codes for The Herald’s internal servers. What could go wrong?

Lucas is supposed to memorize and destroy everything—in that order!—and he heads out.

OK, it’s seriously skeeving me out how this show is going along with the Orwellian (or, really, Frank Luntzian) practice of saying “entitlement reform” when you really mean “gutting Social Security for no real reason other than the fact that today’s conservatives hate taxes more than they hate old people starving.” I mean, yes, it’s totally what Underwood would do in this context, but Jesus, House of Cards, run a little disclaimer or something.

Frank is close to a deal. He’s talking to Tusk, who is in St. Louis, which we know because Tusk is on his roof and there’s the arch, right in the background. Poor St. Louis with everybody focusing on that arch. Not a day goes by without that city saying “My eyes are UP HERE.”

Anyway, Tusk is apparently into bird feeding and birdwatching. (Real ones, not animated.) (One assumes.) Tusk says they have a green light from the President and Frank says he’s on a handshake with getting his amendment and bill passed, but it’s not rock-solid. Curtis Haas is of course the final hurdle and Tusk worries that they’re cutting it close. Frank pushes hard to get the new retirement age into the State of the Union address. Tusk thinks it’s dangerous to put specifics in, but Frank guarantees that the House will pass the Senate version of the bill. Tusk says he’ll talk to President Walker and broods in front of his bird feeder. Please, PLEASE let carrier pigeon notes happen on this show. I don’t ask for much.

Doug oozes in and warns that Lucas knows too much and must have been working with Zoe. Doug says Frank should stay focused on juggling politicians and Doug will take care of Lucas. Lucas, I fear you have a tiny apartment, some Indian food, and awkward forced romance in your near future.

In a fancy glass-enclosed classroom with an old-school chalkboard, Janine is teaching journalism. Lucas shows up to watch in the creepiest possible manner. Way to build faith in your projects, Lucas. Lucas tries to sell Janine on how everything’s going to be cool now that they have The Parrot, and she brings up the possibility that this is just some teenager hacking from his parents’ basement for lulz.

Lucas says that The Parrot is a sophisticated, long-wanted hacker known as—whoa!—Heironymous Bosch, and your faithful recapper does a little victory dance around the living room.

Janine is not interested in Lucas’s plan to get them both murdered. Lucas tries to tell her she doesn’t belong teaching in Ithaca, but Janine has a family she wants to be near and a life to lead. She tells Lucas she’s sorry he lost Zoe and that the world sucks so bad, but she’s choosing to stay alive for the people who need her. Lucas is disappointed in Janine’s selfishness for not jumping into his obsession with him.

Curtis Haas walks into a meeting room that only has Underwood and Mendoza in it. Frank says he’s sorry for putting Curtis on the spot and making him admit that he’s the Tea Party’s bitch during that last meeting. Haas doesn’t want his constituents to think that the Democrats got another win over him. Frank and Mendoza offer—ick—a provision that the issue can’t even be revisited for ten years without a supermajority. Evil doesn’t always show up looking swanky in its murdering trenchcoat: Usually it shows up in the little details.

HoC 8Photo by Nathaniel Bell. Image courtesy of Netflix

Anyway, Curtis Haas gets a ton of cuts that he wants and his win. He also wants 15 years before revisitation. And immediately gets it. And then Curtis demands that if the House fails to pass the bill after all this, Frank goes on record blaming his own party for the gridlock. Frank smiles like he just snagged the last slice of pizza and says they have a deal.

OK, that’s some impressive anti-hero plotting. It’s easy to let yourself deliciously follow some guy who’s murdering other people and won’t ever come near you, but if you’re a viewer in the U.S., Frank just sold out your retirement for the long game of his personal agenda. How’s that feel?

Rachel is on the Night Bus of Despair, drowning out the noise of her difficult life with her earbuds. A random woman behind her asks Rachel what she’s listening to and asks if she can hear a little, promising that her ears are clean. Ew. The woman loves Rachel’s sad music and empathizes over a long day. The stranger asks if Rachel ever talks to strangers, then hands Rachel a Jesus pamphlet. She also hands Rachel some I’m Into You eyes, but Rachel’s not into either right now.

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Jackie Sharp is defending Frank’s bill to Bob Birch, the Speaker of the House. He’s pissed that Frank is sending something back from the Senate that bears no resemblance to what the House was working on, and that Jackie and Frank have such a strong alliance. He storms out with a pissed-guy “Ladies.” Jackie gets a call from Catalina Rodruiguez and immediately asks for some privacy. Catalina is the mother of Congressman Havemeyer’s daughter Emily. She’s known Jackie for years—and knows that Jackie has to be the one who sicced the press on her and her daughter. And now she’d like to know when she and her daughter will have privacy again. Jackie tries to deflect and get chatty, but Catalina hangs up on her. Jackie takes a moment to taste the bile she’s been spreading.

Breakfast at Murky Towers! Claire and Frank are talking about their new potential media handler and how thorough he is. This is the second time that old interview that Frank and Claire did together has come up. Hmm.

Claire would also like to know if Frank has noticed anything weird between Christina and President Walker. She says they seem intimate. Frank is on it immediately.

Hoc 10Photo by Nathaniel Bell. Image courtesy of Netflix

Doug bursts in with the news that Haas has cold feet and the Republicans are backing out of the deal. Frank rushes out as Doug dematerializes back to the fifteen other locations he needs to be in all at once.

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