House of Cards S02E05: Meet Xander Feng (and Ayla Sayyad)

Episode 5 doesn’t have a cold open. It’s just this, immediately after the credits:

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Don’t worry, guys, it’s just a sex thing! He is completely in control of the situation. And only like, a handful of people have accidentally died this way, so it’s all good. How much longer did David Carradine have left, really? Come on now, you bunch of prudes! (Too soon?)

That safe-sex practitioner is of course Xander Feng, a new character whom we don’t yet know anything about but whose introduction nevertheless does a great job of instantly cementing him as some kind of bored billionaire. I mean, obvvy. You’d have to be, if your idea of a recreational activity is a drug-fueled threesome with two randos who will tie you up and not-quite-asphyxiate you, right? Good luck, all of this guy’s friends, because he must be impossible to shop for!

Elsewhere, a much less wealthy bunch of dudes are reenacting the Battle of Spotsylvania, and Frank is there to lend some White House legitimacy to the whole nerdy thing.

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I’m with you on this one, Frank. This seems pretty silly!

The real reason he’s here, though, is to conduct a back-channel negotiation with our new friend and safe-word afficionado Xander Feng for a proposed bridge over the Long Island Sound. Turns out Xander is Raymond Tusk’s partner in the rare earth refinery project and, like Raymond, holds heavy political sway in his country. Frank naturally tries to sever the partnership by using charm and small talk. He’s like, “You must be so tired after such a long flight from Beijing.” Then Xander says not to worry, he keeps western hours. “My midnight is your midnight.” Hahaha, yeah, it is!

Xander says he doesn’t want the US to drop the currency manipulation suit that has currently been filed in the World Trade Organization, because he wants open currency but he wants it to look to the world like China didn’t willingly back down but was forced to by the evil westerners. Frank suspects this is a plan Xander and Raymond devised together and that the Chinese government might be divided over it, so he and Doug devise to leak to the press that the suit IS being dropped just to see how Xander responds.

Later, Frank meets his great-great-great-grandfather Augustus:

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Back in DC, Claire meets with First Lady Patricia Walker to try to convince her to join forces in advocating on behalf of sexual assault victims in the armed forces, as this seems to be Claire’s new pet project. Patricia is apprehensive because she doesn’t feel like she can adequately speak to this issue because she… hasn’t… had the same… experience. My God, Patricia, buck up. You can say the R-word. Like her husband, she too seems like a dud when it comes to leadership. Claire has to literally say, “You are the First Lady; you can speak about whatever you want.”

Later, a man meets with an old lady. That man is Seth Grayson, and the old lady is the widow of the doctor who performed the contentious abortion on Claire. Seth says he is there on behalf of Claire and just wants to make sure that the media don’t get their hands on anything that might be damaging to the Second Lady. It turns out, the old geezer kept a journal that shows that Claire’s rape and her abortion happened five years apart.

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LOL! See, he probably started it, kept the habit long enough to record Claire’s patient details in it, then was just like, “Nah, I don’t think I’m a journaling kind of guy. Gardening! That’s more my speed.”

The widow eventually gives Seth the journal, and it’s really tense, because who even knows who he his or if he will allow her to live out her retirement years at this point. Thankfully, he does, so I guess we can cross “hitman” off the list.

Meanwhile, Lucas shows Gavin how good he got at practicing his upcoming heist.

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I feel ya, Lucas. That shit is tricky! It’s like, is it this way, is it that other way? Before you can figure it out, the FBI could practically have you down on the floor with its knee against your back, HINT!

In a moment of guilt, Gavin asks Lucas if he’s sure he wants to take on this level of risk. Lucas is all like, “I’ve been in danger before, thanks.”

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Then Gavin yells at him for being naive and arrogant, and it’s awesome, but it doesn’t stop Lucas from getting suuuuuuuper busted anyway.Turns out that was a terrible idea on Gavin’s part because later the crooked FBI handler shows up and does the unthinkable:

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Noooo! Not sweet, furry, creepy little Cashew! Special Agent Green, you are a monster!

Gavin literally kneels down and barks like a dog to prove his obedience to Green and to save his precious, and then Green takes the whole pet/master metaphor way too far: “If you bite my hand, I will put you to sleep.” Hahaha, this dialogue, you guys!

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Meanwhile, Frank’s leaked story reaches Xander, and though his name was never leaked, the press is beginning to speculate that he was the back channel rumored to have dealt with the US.

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Xander is piiiiiiissed, ’cause Frank basically did the opposite of what he asked and now he risks corruption charges on top of everything else. He gives Frank an ultimatum: reintroduce the currency lawsuit or the US bridge project is a no-go.

Later Garrett reprimands Frank long-distance over botching the negotiations, and Raymond totally throws Frank under the bus, but then Frank implies that Xander and Raymond are in cahoots to serve their own interest. Garrett dismisses it as bickering, but the seed is planted. The first nail in the coffin of the Raymond/Garrett bromance is pounded. How am I doing with the figures of speech so far, guys?

Meanwhile, Claire and a congresswoman meet with two guys from the Joint Staff to discuss reforming the military policy on sexual assault prevention. Claire calls for military cases to be tried in civilian court, to which the two military guys object categorically because CHAIN OF MOTHERFUCKING COMMAND. “Fine, how about a civilian oversight, then?” Claire suggests in a very reasonable compromise, I think, but the guys still oppose it. Then, who should show up but PATRICIA, looking confident and authoritative in spite of being “accidentally” late to the meeting. She points out that her husband is a civilian who oversees the military; is HIS point of view valueless to the armed forces just because he is not a member? BURRRRRN! Then she’s like, “Maybe you two should both just shut up and listen to the icy cool blonde lady’s ideas!” Finally they are like, “Yes, ma’am,” but they are NOT happy.

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Later, Seth Grayson shows up at Claire’s office, and TWIST! He is NOT her guy, but he wants to be. He gives her the journal, saying that it should serve as his resume and a show of good faith and, oh yeah, he wants Connor’s job. Claire is worried, because Connor knows a lot of her secrets now because she told them to him for no reason in the last episode, but Seth reassures her that she doesn’t have to fire Connor right away, that the two of them can just work side by side for a while until a better position can be arranged for Connor, at which point he will want to leave just to get away from working alongside Seth, who plans to be very insufferable or something. Oy vey! It’s a bit of a convoluted plan that hinges a little too much on chance, if you ask me, but this is House of Cards, after all, where schemes always go the way they are supposed to, and trains always arrive in the station at the exact right time, so it’s probably fine? As for Claire, she is not convinced, and for good reason.

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In the end, Frank and Claire decide that keeping Seth around is the safest option for now, so congratulations, Seth, you’re hired! Fauxtortion: successful!

Later, under cover of night and a very chic vice presidential windbreaker, Frank has a clandestine meeting with Xander in the woods.

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Xander accuses Frank of sabotaging the negotiations, while Frank makes it clear that he will not allow Xander to use this administration to further his and Raymond’s personal interests. Xander dangles the bridge project in front of Frank one last time, but Frank doesn’t give two poops about the bridge, or so he says, even if the president might blame him for this failure. Xander points out that he and Raymond are very, very rich, to which Frank is like, “Bitch, I am the Number 2 guy in the entire US of A!” Both of them definitely go to bed angry that night.

The next morning, Garrett, Raymond and Frank have a conference call, and even through the phone Garrett’s disappointment — in both men — is palpable. Raymond and Frank bicker some more, until Papa Garrett finally steps in and, in a surprising show of maturity, takes responsibility for this latest failure.

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Garrett decides to pull out of the negotiations, NOT BECAUSE FRANK SUGGESTED IT, he is very quick to add, but because he has no choice after the big shit show that this back-channel has become. In the end, Frank wins by default and Raymond is absolutely stunned that Garrett hung up on him for the first time in 20 years. Told you guys the seed was planted!

Finally, Lucas gets arrested while hacking into the AT&T servers, as per yet another one of Frank’s plans.

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Oh Lucas, it would have been easier to root for you if you were just a little bit smart. Silver lining, though: There is a new journalist on the scene now, and THIS one actually seems competent!

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She’s on the case!

And that was Episode 5. Not the best but not that bad either. Just a regular middle-of-the-road episode. What did everyone think?


About Commentatrix

First-wave millennial.
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16 Responses to House of Cards S02E05: Meet Xander Feng (and Ayla Sayyad)

  1. collin0truckasaurus says:

    I love the screengrabs and speech bubbles most of all!!!

  2. Noooooooooo Cashew! #LeaveCashewAlone

  3. Liz says:

    That first pic is terrifying. Truly. And preventing me from sharing this article on FB cause my mom and aunts will see it and have A LOT of questions. ( actually my mom saw this episode and asked me about this scene and we had to have a very special and uncomfortable chat.)

    Lucas has been busted and it didn’t even feel exciting or risky. It just felt dumb. C’mon Lucas! How are you not smarter than this?!

    Also Cashew is not creepy at all. She is the breakout star of this season! I would not be surprised if she was the central character of next season:

  4. marlasinger says:

    I haven’t watched this show yet and this picture confirms that it will continue to sit in the, “wait to watch until my child is older and out playing with friends,” pile.

  5. pickpocket says:

    Just checking in to make sure I should continue to not watch this show. “If you bite my hand I will put you to sleep.” Yep, looks good! I am so wise and efficient.

    • Commentatrix says:

      That is not even the most egregious example of bizarre figurative speech on the show, but it does have the distinction of being uttered by someone OTHER than Kevin Spacey in a direct address to the audience.

  6. marlasinger says:

    What’s really funny is that I always get the House of Cards and Game of Thrones titles mixed up (3 words with of in the middle?) so I initially thought this was from Game of Thrones. I was like, “Wow – they were doing that back then?” Apparently I was completely willing to suspend my disbelief, as the real question should have been, “Where’d they get the plastic bag?” I kill me.

  7. taoreader says:

    How many pronunciations of “Feng” can there be in one episode? Is it Fing, Fang, Feng, or Fung? Can no one ask the guy how he pronounces his own name?

    If that guy killed Cashew, I was for reals gonna shut this show off for good. #dontkillanimalsontiv

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