“House of Cards” recap (2.6): Prickly Heat

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Poor, sad Rachel comes home from her soul-sucking telephone job. She ices her neck and tries to get a little relief from the air conditioner. Hello, authentic D.C.-area weather! Rachel takes a look at her power bill and her life manages to get a tiny bit worse. She snaps the unit off and grabs the whole ice cube tray instead.

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Frank is listening to Tusk bitch at him over the speakerphone again, this time about an energy crisis. Tusk is wearing his safari hat to go birding, which must be a difficult hobby when you spend your quiet woodland time yelling into your phone. Tusk is currently yelling about samarium, which is a rare earth element used in air conditioners, while Frank brushes aside fault for negotiations with Feng breaking down.

Tusk whines that the President doesn’t like his advice so much anymore. Frank claims to be in the same boat even as he is inwardly butt-dancing around the room at this statement. Tusk asks Frank to work with him and talk to the President, and Frank says he’ll try, but no guarantees. Frank hangs up and tells us that Tusk is on the ropes, and now is the time to hit him with a combination. Oh, just put a bullet in him already. I love this show, but I’m wearying of the monster-international-negotiations-to-bring-down-Tusk plotline.

Big Meeting! Secretary of State Durant says there’s no way the Chinese will lower the price of samarium while they know they have our whole country by its very sweaty nards. Walker is big on his Getting Tough role playing lately, and suggests offering the Chinese a great big gift basket of nothing. Frank advises against “going soft” because he knows how much of politics is just thinly-veiled dick-swinging.

Frank suggests cutting the Chinese out and buying samarium from a third party and then stockpiling it. Looks like it’s time to piss off Pakistan, a nuclear power, by buying nuclear materials from India, a nuclear power, in order to deliberately piss off China, a nuclear power. What could go wrong?

Oh, Lucas. He’s in an orange prison jumpsuit refusing to take a plea, and goodness, does he ever need to take a trip over to Orange is the New Black for some of Sophia’s hairdressing magic. And also some sense-talking from Yoga Jones or the Sister, because Lucas is refusing to take a plea; he wants to go to trial so he can shout accusations about Frank in open court on the public record.

The government lawyer—who is kind of an awesome bad-ass even though we aren’t really meant to be rooting for her—points out that the many nude photos of Zoe that showed up in Lucas’s place could be taken as evidence that Lucas was (is) obsessed with Zoe, which… OK, is not actually far off, except for the part where he’s right.

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Agent Green takes notes on the session, because he is a creep. Bad-ass offers a deal—just a quick seven years in prison—and Lucas’s lawyer asks for the cameras to be turned off while they discuss it.

Claire and the First Lady are meeting about the military assault problem and Christina walks in to touch base on President Walker’s schedule. It takes Claire almost no time to seize the opportunity and poison the well, making sure to mention that Christina slept with her last boss, but, hey, if that very attractive young assistant is good at her job, that’s all that matters, right?

A hairline flaw starts at the corner of the First Lady’s mouth and spreads crackling through her body like a fracture on an iced-over pond, undermining her marriage in just a few quick seconds. Claire is all fairness and concerned smiles. It’s one hell of an efficient scene—Claire drives a spike into Tricia’s decades-long marriage in about 30 seconds. Well played, both actresses. That was great.

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Lucas’s lawyer is having the worst day (so far) of his career, stuck with a very guilty client who thinks he’s on the side of the angels and would like nothing more than to further incriminate himself. Lucas’s lawyer begs him to take the deal, but Lucas demands to talk to Tom Hammerschmidt before he’ll take anything.

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