Apologies for the delay this week, fellow hangers-on! Though I kind of like the idea of dispersing the TV show recaps throughout the week a little more. Now we just need someone to volunteer to cover Nashville and Scandal, and everyone’s fantasy Thursday & Friday coverage will become a reality! Just think about it.
It’s bottle-episode time on House of Cards, sort of! It’s no being stuck in the underground meth lab or the meth RV or the SCDP offices at night or whatever, but we ARE dealing with a sequestration storyline of sorts, which is nice because I fully expect this recap to actually be shorter than normal, what with the reduced amount of scene whiplash to be endured. Oh, I’m just joshin’! That was just a joke! This episode, like any other, bombards the viewer with a relentless barrage of scene changes, don’t worry! The great HOC tradition of being a little hard to follow sometimes lives on! Whew, what a relief! That was a close one!
So this episode opens with Remy and Frank delivering some handy exposition by way of a very stilted conversation that is heavily laced with past resentment and general passive aggressiveness. (Passive aggression? Northern Aggression? Northern Exposure! Love that show!) They quote Churchill to each other, so… enough said.
But we do learn that the “state” of the “Union” isn’t super great right now. There’s even talk about a government shutdown as a result of last episode’s contentious Senate vote on Frank’s “Let’s Both Parties Raise the Retirement Age Together Act” (official bill title, probably), or “Franktitlement” (official bill nickname, definitely), as it’s likely known in the press and Fox News. Get it? Because Fox News isn’t journalism I AM ON FIRE! So anyway, it’s all a mad dash for Frank to get the bill passed in the House now. Will he succeed?
Remy got Frank two votes already, which surprises everyone. Is Remy helping out because Raymond feels bad about being a big ol’ jerk in the last episode? Hahaha, Remy practically says in Frank’s face, no, it’s because Raymond wants this small-time government shit to be resolved as soon as possible because China! Of course it’s always about China with that guy. Long story short, Remy is on our side in this episode. Frank even suggests that he team up with Jackie while she tries to scare up some more votes, which is definitely a very natural way to get those two characters to spend more story-time together.
Frank in the meantime will work on Donald Blythe, who is the guy that got screwed over last season with the whole Education Bill debacle. Yeah, I don’t remember the specifics either. To sum up: Donald is not a fan of Frank, and it is very unlikely that he’ll support Franktitlement. The House vote is in exactly 2 hours and 17 minutes, and Frank is worried. He also insists on borrowing his old office from Jackie for the day. Hmmm.
Back at the Underwood townhouse, the B plot kicks into gear: Claire is getting prepped by Connor — remember Connor? Yeah, he’s on her staff now — for her and Frank’s upcoming CNN interview, their first as Second Family, and one in which their lack of family is likely to be brought up.
“Ashleigh, as in real-life CNN personality Ashleigh Banfield, will ask you why you don’t have kids,” says Connor. “Bring it, bitch!” says Claire, basically, but she has a look like maybe she’s not as confident about it as she appears.
Meanwhile, at C plot headquarters, Gavin is coaching Lucas on how to hack into a data center, and it once again seems comically easy on this show for a layperson to do what is surely a very complicated computer thing IRL.
“You just slide this little USB drive into the server, and I’ll handle the rest,” says the character named Gavin Orsay, looking totally trustworthy and not at all like a Bond villain.
I rest my case.
“Why don’t you just do it yourself?” Lucas finally asks. Yes, yes, yes! Good fucking question! I knew there was some journalistic instinct left in that grief-addled, justice-obsessed, largely useless brain of yours, Lucas! But wait, what’s that? All it takes for you to once again blindly go along with your own downfall is some bullshit rationalization about how Gavin’s mere presence would sound too much of an alarm at a place like that? OK, cool, just making sure we’re all on the same page as to your naivete (from the French for “really fucking dumb”)!
There’s also a really funny part where Lucas asks if the whole thing could really be that simple, and Gavin goes, “Well, your part is. The code is actually really complex.” Hahaha, get a load of Zuckerberg over here! Hey Gavin, how’s about you maybe do the guy whose life you’re about to permanently fuck up a favor and cool it with the humblebrags?
Then again I guess it does add a tinge of authenticity to this whole cover story. Maybe Julian Assange himself is in the FBI’s clutches and we just go about our lives every day not having any idea, just blindly trusting that he’s out there in Sweden or wherever, giving talks to SXSW attendees via Skype. I’m not trying to start something, but the woooooooooooaaaaaaaaarld neeeeeeeeds to kneeeeeoooooooooow, right, guys? Hahahaha JKJKJKJK! JK, NSA, if you’re reading this!
Later on, Gavin meets with his new handler, Special Agent Green, undoubtedly fresh from last episode’s promotion, and it’s very sad because clearly Gavin feels bad for what he is doing to Lucas, but he is little more than a prisoner himself, just trudging along, helping the FBI entrap and catch bad guys. He asks Green how much longer he will have to do this, and Green doesn’t say, but I’m guessing it’s probably at least until he reaches the about-to-be-raised age of retirement. Poor Gavin.
Back at the Capitol, Frank is courting Donald’s vote (along with all the other folks he puppeteers) to no avail, while a clueless intern opens an envelope full of white powder and has nary a reaction to it:
Nancy, Frank’s old assistant/Jackie’s current assistant, shows up and basically tells everyone who still has a shot at reaching old age to lock themselves up in an office, while we can only assume that She of the Tainted Garments and Limbs will sit glued to that chair until either the hazmat-suited specialists clear the threat or she drops dead on the spot.
So now Frank is stuck in his office with Donald, and I am not 100% sure whether or not this was his plan all along. Both men call their wives to let them know of the quarantine, and it turns out that Donald’s wife suffers from Alzheimer’s, which, judging by the look on Frank’s face (and the fact that he tells us straight out), he intends to fully exploit.
But in spite of even that perfect talk-to-me-girlfriend face and, like, the thousand scotches Frank plies him with, Donald sees through Frank’s cheap ploy to buy his vote. (There is, however, a moment or two in there, while Donald has a heartbreaking phone conversation with his wife, when Frank appears to be genuinely moved. You know, with emotion. God, I am so confused right now! It’s almost like there might still be a shred of humanity left in Frank Underwood?)
By the time we check in with Claire, who is now going ahead with the interview by herself, my uncertainty about the full extent of the Underwoods’ internal coldness is back! By golly, but the lady positively exudes warmth and approachability, no sarcasmo!
Even Connor looks on from the sidelines with a “My God, she’s magnificent!” look on his smarmy little face:
HE’S the Yellow King, as far as I’m concerned, right, guys?
Ashleigh Banfield lobs a few softballs at Claire, then she gets down to BIDNESS: Why no children? Claire gives her a carefully vague and innocuous answer about career ambition and never the right time and whatnot, but Ashleigh Banfield isn’t having it. Oh, no! Ashleigh Banfield will not rest until she has adequately shamed a bitch! Which… like, sure, there IS a “hidden”reason (or several) why the Underwoods never had kids — Francis despises children, that’s a direct Season 1 paraphrase — but it just makes me mad that this is made into such a big deal, and how indicative it all is of what a big deal it is IRL. When, oh when, will we live in a world where a political wife, nay, a regular woman can just say something like, “I just never felt the pull to be a mother, what’s so great about children anyway, they are tiny selfish monsters and dreamcrushers with terrible taste in music,” and it would just be fine? It’s the goddamn ’90s, after all. Ugh. Sorry, guys. MY issues.
Anyway, so Ashleigh Fucking Banfield WILL. NOT. LET. THIS. GO! “Are you sure you’re not barren?” she practically asks and UGGGGGGGGH! So much angry! I’ve never seen this lady’s show on CNN, but I definitely despise the role of Herself on this made-up television show.
Claire, for her part, is doing her most graceful Princess Buttercup best to steer the conversation away from daytime TV territory, but then Ashleigh Banfield materializes some old smear campaign from like the 1980s that suggested that maybe Claire was pregnant during Frank’s second congressional campaign and had a… you know… rhymes with shmashmortion. Eventually Ashleigh asks Claire point blank if she’s ever terminated a pregnancy, and Claire is basically like, “fuck it, yes, I was pregnant once and I had an abortion and I’m not ashamed of it.” She’s miraculously keeping her signature cool throughout all of it, and It’s actually pretty badass. Then, in yet another twist that makes me think she and Francis for sure orchestrated the anthrax threat at the Capitol, she says she became pregnant as a result of being raped by none other than General Dalton McGinnis from two episodes ago! Wowza! Everyone’s face is like:
Baller move, Claire! Way to take two truths and spin them into one formidable lie! I’m not even thinking about what a monumental thing this is for her, lying on national television and all, because all I want right now is for the rapist McGinnis to BURN. I would also like to know how much of this interview’s unfolding was premeditated.
This would be a really great time for Frank to break into a monologue — TELL US WHAT YOU ARE THINKING, FRANK! — but of course he doesn’t, the bastard, he just silently watches the interview on TV from his possibly self-designed quarantine, and if Frank’s Alzheimer’s gambit didn’t work before, Donald is definitely impressed by Claire’s courage.
The threat is finally declared a false alarm (talcum powder “laced with” flour, which made me LOL, that the guy put it that way), and the guys are finally free to rush to the floor, but Donald is still voting against Franktitlement. C’est la vie, I guess! Frank briefly runs into Jackie, who tells him they are still four votes short and that Donald’s people are their only hope to get the bill passed. But instead of pulling another ace out of his sleeve somehow, Frank rushes home to Claire.
Back home, the interview is still in full swing, and Claire admits to Connor that she lied about some of the details, which seems like a foolish thing to confess to someone she’s known for such a short time, but whatever, she looks very tragic and beautiful doing it.
You do you, Claire, I guess! Maybe Connor isn’t as untrustworthy as every other character he’s played on TV!
Shortly thereafter, Claire gets a boon in Megan Hennessey, a private Marine and another of McGinnis’ assault victims, who agrees to go on the air to talk about it, corroborating Claire’s accusations in a very fortuitous way right now. Megan agrees to come forward using her real name, and just like that, McGinnis’s life is ruined in a matter of minutes.
I almost feel bad for the guy, hahaha just kidding of course I don’t, he is a systematic serial rapist, fuck him!
Meanwhile, back at the Capitol, Jackie employs some unconventional tactics to convince Donald Blythe to vote for Frank’s entitlement package; she wheels in a bunch of case files of real people who will lose various benefits when the freeze sets in. Donald looks remorseful but says he just can’t vote in favor, but he does agree to get four of his people to do so at Jackie’s request. “I am not Frank Underwood,” Jackie says, not for the first time this season, and I have to admit that her methods do lean less toward flattery and exchanging of favors and more toward straight-up shaming motherfuckers.
Whatever works for you, girl! Find your style!
Back at chez Underwood, the interview finally wraps up, Ashleigh Banfield falling all over herself thanking Claire profusely and telling her that the interview is going to “make waves like you never imagined,” to which Claire just looks at her like, “Didn’t I?” and WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING ANYMORE?!
This episode definitely left it all a little ambiguous, and I am not a fan. Later that night:
Certainly SEEMS like a “post-well-executed plan” activity for these two… Either way, once again things worked out well for Francis and Claire. Will these two ever suffer a setback that lasts longer than the episode in which it’s introduced?!