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


Frank Underwood is doodling a bull. He’s pretending to take notes on the President’s trial run of his State of the Union address, but in fact Frank is much more interested in the flank-shading part of his multitasking.

The President uses Christina’s line instead of Frank’s advice and Frank switches to coloring in the bull’s penis as he looks aside to tell us that there are two types of Vice Presidents: Doormats and matadors. Which one do you think Frank intends to be?


Frank calls Industrial Tusk into the next room to talk entitlements and a threatened government freeze—Oh, don’t be silly, show. What kind of irresponsible nutjobs would want to shut down their own government?—and how to get past all the domestic stuff so they can get back to China. Frank suggests what the President just specifically said he wouldn’t stand for: Throwing the Republicans a bone and wearying elderly bones by raising the retirement age. He suggests announcing it as a bipartisan agreement right during the State of the Union.

HOC 2Photo by Nathaniel Bell. Image courtesy of Netflix

Frank says he’ll push it through the Senate and the President will take credit for avoiding a government shutdown. Tusk points out, correctly, that it’s a huge risk, and really embarrassing if it fails. Frank claims all the embarrassment will be on him if it fails. Uh-huh. And he’s also going to get thirty whacks on the wrist from a band of angry pixies.

Tusk says it’ll take some serious softening up, and Frank makes like he’ll do the talking to the President, walking away with intention but reeeeaaal sllllooow, and then his Jedi mind trick kicks in and suddenly Tusk thinks he’d better do the talking to the President himself. And then Tusk strides off to start the process of cutting his own legs off at the knees. Frank assures us that Tusk’s world-spanning powers just peaked, and he’s on his way down. And then he takes a little bite of the meeting snacks, because what is the point of tearing another human being to pieces if you don’t take time to savor it?

Whoa, Frank isn’t wasting any time. In the very next scene, he’s talking to Senate majority leader Hector Mendoza, and immediately offering up a retirement age of 67. Mendoza says it’s going to be a tough sell. We learn that Curtis Haas will want a real win—more than bipartisanship. He’s going to want to see the Democrats suffer. Dude, they’re eating each other alive, what more do you want? Frank just tells Mendoza to get Haas to the table.

Christina Gallagher leaves her new job of helping out around the White House and leaking to Frank’s team and is immediately waylaid by Lucas, who is not doing a terrific job of looking less nuts. He’s been trying to get in touch with her by calling and e-mailing and skywriting and distance drumming and tying notes to pigeons and Christina does not want to hear it. But Lucas thinks she really should, seeing how her boyfriend and his girlfriend were murdered by the same man, who also happens to be the Vice President.

Oh, God, are these two going to bond and get together? Because that’s going to be a tricky wedding story to clink glasses to.

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Christina tells Lucas to knock it off because he’s delusional, and she has a really good point except for the part where he’s right. Lucas tells her that Peter Russo would be alive if it weren’t for Frank Underwood. Christina tells Lucas to hit the bricks and stop calling her or she’ll sic the Secret Service on him.

Hey, speaking of the Secret Service, Vasquez is having a little meeting, just a staff birthday, spy report, and death threat roundup, and they report no high-level threats. Whoopsie.

Doug, however, is omniscient, and he knows about Lucas’s Deep Web forum posts that mention Frank and one or two little murders. Doug tells the FBI dude, Agent Green, to find whoever’s posting and get this conspiracy stuff under control. Green points out that whoever’s posting hasn’t actually committed a crime, and Doug suggests nudging that process along. Then Green plants a bug in Doug’s ear that he’s been stuck as the executive liaison for way too long and holds his nose for a dive into the Deep Web.

Oh, hey, it’s Rachel, stuck in another terrible job, this time as a phone survey caller for a firearm lobby. I really hope Rachel gets some payback in her next life, like she gets to be a princess or game show hostess or something. She’s getting hit on by the creep she’s just called and then realizes she’s got more Google Earth and telephone dialing power than she expected. She calls the Lynchburg Children’s Hospital just long enough to hear her mother’s voice, then hangs up as her supervisor comes over. Oh, poor Rachel’s mom.

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FINALLY we get to Claire. Don’t ever make me wait nine whole minutes again, show. She’s interviewing a strapping young man, Connor, to work as a media handler for the Underwoods. He dangles the possibility of giving them just the right amount of media coverage for an “active” Vice President.

We learn that Claire is a Texan, and that she didn’t fully get rid of her accent—of course she got rid of her accent—until after Frank’s political career was underway.

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(While we’re at it, can we talk about Kevin Spacey’s accent for a minute? I know that some of my Southern friends can’t or won’t watch this show because they despise the accent he’s doing. If you go out on auditions or read casting calls at all, you can tell when someone involved with the production doesn’t know a drawl from a hole in the ground when they call for someone who can do a “Southern” accent. Whereas if you’ve actually spent time in the South or just give a rip about American dialects, you know that there are a million shades of “Southern,” and that someone from North Carolina does not sound like someone from Mississippi, but that someone from Texas might sound somewhat like someone from Tennessee because of their common origins, and that even those generalizations are way too broad because as I said: one million shades of “Southern.”

My friends who object to Spacey’s accent object because he doesn’t really seem to hit one of the known shades, that he sounds like someone who would just infuriatingly put “Southern” on a casting call.

But I submit to you the theory that the meticulous Mr. Spacey knows exactly what he is doing with that accent. That just as Claire Underwood has ground her accent away as she has honed herself into a Sophisticated Washington Lady, so Frank Underwood has deliberately altered his way of speaking too. But instead of stripping away his accent, he has hammered it into the generic, gentlemanly Southern Politician that Northerners expect to hear—something that isn’t real, but will sound right enough on the national stage to slide him by. For more on this theory, see my extended posts on the Deep Dank Web.)

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Photo by Nathaniel Bell. Image courtesy of Netflix

As he finishes up with Claire, we learn (and she learns) that Connor actually went to South Carolina to research the Underwoods, which is either impressively thorough or freaking creepy. There’s such a fine line. Speaking of creepy, I’m pretty sure that if Connor has researched too much into Claire’s past, he’s going to end up in a ditch covered in quicklime, so say hello while you can.

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