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


Here we go, y’all! No “previously on…” because it’s Netflix and the last episode is right there and they know that half the audience has been ignoring work, school, and family obligations to binge-watch, so any review of the last episode only results in people screaming “GET TO THE SEX AND MURDERS!” and everybody’s landlords get all crabby.

It’s an accurately rainy day in Washington and Rachel Maddow is on in a Special East Coast Daylight Edition for Frank Underwood’s swearing in. No, really: Rachel Maddow is on. Hi, Rachel!


As Frank and Claire gussy up, Dr. Maddow notes that Frank Underwood is an uninspiring choice for Vice President, probably just a placeholder until 2016 and a sop to Congress with no real “wow” factor. (RACHEL! YOU HAVE TO LEAVE THE COUNTRY NOW, RIGHT NOW. PACK A BAG, DO NOT ACCEPT TEXTS FROM UNKNOWN NUMBERS, AND DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR TO ANYONE NAMED DOUG.) Frank clicks off the TV.

It’s a private swearing-in at the Underwoods’ townhouse, with a ton of hammering and sawing for all the new security features that the Underwoods will be circumventing. White House Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez chats with Doug Stamper about how Christina is breaking in as a new Presidential assistant. She also can’t believe, when Doug brings it up, how ugly the Whip race has gotten. Gosh, wonder how that happened.

One of the old-guard congressmen in that very horse race,Wes Buchwalter, walks up, impressed with all the construction. He has no interest in talking to his opponent, Howard Webb, whom he accuses of trying to sodomize him. (Metaphorically.) (We think.)

Frank, who was once gunning for Secretary of State, is sworn in as the Vice President, noting to us in an aside that he’s a heartbeat away from the big job and that not a single vote has been cast in his favor. Frank smugs that democracy is overrated. Claire holds the swearing-in Bible and is full of pride. She has the peace of mind of knowing that she is the intricate central knot of plots that curl outward in every direction for a thousand years.

Hoc_2Photo by Nathaniel Bell. Image courtesy of Netflix.

Frank has a conference with Congressmen Webb and Buchwalter, begging them to tone down the war for which he’s been quietly supplying ammunition and land mines to both sides. He asks for civility and a clean fight and, just to be a dick, gets them to shake hands on it.

Doug tells Frank that the President and Vasquez are about to have a meeting about the Joint Commission. Looks like Christina is slipping them useful information every now and then. Frank asks for Secretary of State Catherine Durant on the phone, then asks Claire if he should pop by her new office, but she says it’s not ready. He asks Claire how it feels to be married to the Vice President. She says it’s no different, doubtless because she has always known that this would be the case and the rest was just waiting. What he should really ask her is to whom she is also married, so he can know if he’ll be President or Sultan or what.

Frank claims to be surprised to run into industrialist Raymond Tusk in the White House hallway and introduces Secretary of State Durant and then—One, two, three, presto!—he’s suddenly nudged his way into a big state meeting where no one quite wants him, but he’s not leaving and what can you do?

At the police station, Lucas is insisting that Zoe’s phone records will prove everything and is not really hearing about how hard it is to get phone records, but since his girlfriend got hit by a train like last week, we can excuse him for being a little pushy on that point. The police have no interest in reopening Zoe’s case based on Lucas’s fevered notes, none of which have any solid evidence backing them up.

The detective lets Lucas see the footage of Zoe’s death, which, for crying out loud, Detective, way to make Lucas even less stable. We see security camera footage of Zoe’s body hurling out in front of the train and the detective calmly says “She tripped. …Or jumped,” in a way that suggests we do not exactly have Inspector Javert on the case. The other thing that’s clear is that Frank Underwood already had the security camera angles all thought out when he went to murder Zoe. Holy hell.

Lucas and the detective go through the footage frame by frame, where it actually looks more plausible that she tripped. (If you ask me, she hit the train pretty high last week.) The detective says the only two witnesses were an elderly woman with macular degeneration and the conductor, who said it looked like she fell. The hell it did. Nevertheless, case closed.

Big State Meeting! We’re talking about the Chinese and import tariffs on industrial manufactured goods and export quotas on rare earth elements. I’m not going to lie to you: It’s going to get boring and granular and very trade-meetingy for a bit, but we will muddle through, because we know these things pay off.

The Secretary of State wants to add corporate cyber attacks—specifically, the Chinese not having them happen to the U.S. so much—to the agenda, which Businessman Tusk doesn’t want to mess with right now, because he would prefer to not piss off the Chinese and instead make a bunch more money from them. Hey, welcome to how U.S. foreign and also domestic policy really works.

Frank looks bored out of his tree. But the president asks for his opinion, and even though the Secretary of State (who, let’s remember, has the job that Frank wanted, which is sort of like being the person who gets to hold the sleeping cobra) wants to bring the cyberwarfare issue up as an agenda item make it easier to talk about later, Frank backs Tusk’s assessment that we mustn’t antagonize the Chinese. Especially when there’s money to be made off of them.

HoC_3Photo by Nathaniel Bell. Image courtesy of Netflix.

Frank looks at us when he advises against rocking the boat. Secretary of State Durant says she’ll put cyberwarfare on a suggested agenda with an extremely light touch.

WAKE UP. I know that this show essentially just made you attend a very realistic boringish meeting that you didn’t want to be at, but someone—possibly everyone—in that meeting is going to get shanked later, and you will want to know how and why.

Frank tells us that the President leans whichever way the wind is blowing, and right now Raymond Tusk is the Big Bad Wolf. Mr. Tusk, I recommend avoiding the D.C. public transportation system for a bit.

Congresswoman Jackie Sharp, Frank’s new protege, is at lunch with an older congressman, Ted Havemeyer. They clearly have a friendship that’s way beyond being friendly colleagues. She cheerily gossips for a bit, and then quietly lets him know that she visited his daughter, who is evidently in life care. The Congressman vows to make sure that his daughter and her mother, from whom he seems to be estranged, have enough funds to get by. So Sharp knows Havemeyer’s family as well as or better than he does. But that’s not what he’s there to chat about. He’s heard from another source that Jackie just might be interested in the Whip race. Oh, really?

Jackie waves him off with a feigned humility that would make any Underwood proud. She sweetly brushes off the idea as ridiculous with just the right doses of aw, shucks—forcing him to chase her, the oldest confidence game in the book. The Congressman offers to funnel his own PAC money into the race, line up some votes, and make her an instant contender. Boom.

After lunch, Jackie and her pal text, walk and talk, noting that it was easy as taking candy from a doting father and she only has 111 votes to go. Congressional Galpal is getting the deputy Whip spot, for sure.

Claire and her assistant are looking at résumés and at her schedule—Claire suggests that she needs to be more selective with the events that she does. Her assistant suggests she attend the one where her husband is due to hand out medals to a couple of Marine generals—one of whom, Dalton McGinness, makes Claire stammer for a moment. She says she went to college with him, then calmly asks for a list of all attendees.

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