House of Cards 2.13: Hail to the Cheat

Goodness gracious, we’re finally here! The end of the road! The are literally no more… CARDS left in the deck! The… HOUSE has been built, and it is PRECARIOUS, let me tell you!

We open on the Judiciary Committee asking Linda Vasquez a bunch of questions about Garrett’s many impeachable offenses, like alleged money laundering and Xanax popping (?!), which she skillfully evades by being all “IDK guys, I don’t work for that guy anymore,” but not before mentioning that she and Vice President Underwood sure had their differences of opinion back in the day. Frank, meanwhile, is a guest on 60 Minutes and definitely laying it on a little thick with his “President Walker is completely innocent” act. It’s almost like he WANTS it to come across as an act! Morley Safer is not having it and points out that it wouldn’t be the worst thing for Frank if Walker were found guilty and impeached.

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Back at the White House, Garrett and Linda are actively working toward taking down Frank. Garrett’s idea is to intercept Raymond before giving his testimony and get him to tell the truth about the money laundering and Frank’s knowledge of it for quite some time. In exchange, he’ll offer Raymond a full pardon. Linda is uncomfortable with the legal ambiguity of it all but quickly plays ball when Garrett assures her he will also give her her job back after everything returns to normal. That was easy!

OK, not so fast, because over at Camp Veep, they are anticipating this very move! Frank decides to messenger over a cryptic package containing a literal peach and a ticket to Madame Butterfly, which arrives at Raymond’s during the exact half-hour that Linda is also there, pitching him her plan! I mean, what are the odds of that?!

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For her part, Jackie is hard at work rustling up those democratic impeachment votes. First order of business, getting none other than noted Frank-hater Donald Blythe on board for impeachment as an alternative to losing their democratic majority in the House. Turns out, Jackie didn’t even need to ply him with tea and crumpets, because Donald is already on board if it means protecting the party majority, which… no. Besides Gullible Garrett himself, this guy is pretty much the only honest politician we’ve seen on this show, and yet he has no visible qualms about betraying the president? Not buying it!

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Meanwhile, Claire gets a middle-of-the-night phone call alerting her that Megan tried to Virginia Woolf herself by going for a nighttime stroll in the lake. Claire rushes over, it isn’t clear why, maybe she feels some responsibility for dragging Megan into her plans, and a heavily lithium-ed Megan basically confirms that all of this is Claire’s fault, which is definitely a stretch? Megan also mentions that people are calling her a lot of ugly names on the phone and internet, but it’s like, has Megan never been on the internet before this? Haterz gonna hate, Megan! Surely there are a lot more folks out there who think she is a hero for speaking out! Claire obviously did use Megan for her own agenda, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that she is responsible for Megan’s deteriorating mental health. But she definitely leaves there looking like she probably knows she pushed a delicate young woman over the line from Unstableville into Crazytown.

As she gets home, she calls Tricia to let her know about Megan and to apologize for suggesting she and Garrett go to marriage counseling; she never would have said anything if she knew it would land them in such trouble. Sure, Claire. Tricia just tells her it wasn’t her fault and that she is a “good person” for going to see Megan. Then Claire indulges in a roughly three-second cry before tamping it down and getting right back on with the plan to usurp the White House. Just think of the remodel Claire Underwood has in store for that place!

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Later, it’s time for the much-anticipated, I’m sure, secret underground opera meeting between Raymond and Frank. In exchange for a favorable testimony, Frank matches Garrett’s promise of giving Raymond a pardon once he becomes president and throws in repaired relations with China, too, because we all remember what a hard-on Raymond has for building shit over there. Under normal circumstances, Raymond would have turned on Garrett in a flash when presented with this offer, but we are only 20 minutes into the episode, so he tells Frank to go fuck himself instead. “When you’re in that box barely bigger than a coffin,” he says, “remember how beautiful the music was tonight.” Then Frank retorts that Puccini is too depressing and walks away from Raymond humming “Hail to the Chief.” Raymond wins the meeting but Frank wins the LOLs!

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Back home, Claire can sense that Frank isn’t confident about which way Raymond’s testimony will go and she isn’t buying his assurances this time. The only way to be safe, Frank says, is if Garrett calls off Raymond personally. Then Claire goes full Lady Macbeth on Frank and demands he do something drastic to bring Garrett back onto their side. “Seduce him, give him your heart,” she says. “Cut it out and put it in his fucking hands.” Claire, out!

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Spurred by her words, Francis decides to dust off the antique Underwood typewriter and craft a moving letter to the president, complete with a full admission of coveting the presidency for himself and a tragic childhood story of having walked in on his father with a shotgun in his mouth at 13, all the while assuring Garrett of his undying loyalty. He encloses also a signed confession for the money laundering, which fully exonerates Garrett, and instructs him to “use it if he must.” That should have tipped Walker off right there, because NOBODY would risk conviction and imprisonment in the name of friendship or patriotism. Come on!

But Garrett, though not convinced of Frank’s sincerity, does give him a chance to redeem himself by asking him to whip the Senate votes in his favor. “I want results,” Garrett says. “I’ll sing for my supper,” Frank responds. This fucking guy!

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As per Frank’s vision, again, Walker instructs Linda to call off the pardon for Raymond, and just as she is delivering that news, Raymond also gets wind that Remy Danton (newly on Team Underwood) has just volunteered to give testimony to Heather Dunbar, except Remy never shows up, but Raymond doesn’t know that! Thinking Remy will throw him under the bus, Raymond modifies his “pleading the fifth” strategy for the Judiciary Committee just a little bit. “He knew,” he tells the Committee, referring to the president himself.

It’s chaos! It’s madness! The people are calling for the president’s resignation all over the country! Garrett calls Frank, his last remaining ally. Frank encourages him to keep fighting, but Garrett is thinking of his family now. “Maybe I’m finished, Frank,” he says, and I feel very sorry for him in this moment, because he was one of the good guys, and a real Garrett probably wouldn’t have been so dumb where Frank was concerned, but this is TV, where a well-educated and politically savvy dude CAN become president of the goddamn United States while still remaining completely spineless and oblivious to the ill-disguised manipulations of his rivals.

Long story short, Garrett resigns gracefully at Camp David and passes the torch to Frank, all the while having no inkling that Frank has been working the Senate against him this entire time.

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Frank’s immediate first act as president is repairing relations with China by rescinding Xander Feng’s asylum and letting the Chinese government do with him what they would. “You know he’ll be executed,” Cathy Durant says, to which Frank is all like, “Sometimes you must sacrifice the one for the many LOL!” It’s a callous reaction, even for Frank, so I guess the show thought they’d soften the blow by showing us this hilarious image of Feng about to be shipped back to his motherland:

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Meanwhile, Gavin’s demands from last episode aren’t met by the FBI, so he asks to meet with Doug directly. He tells Doug that he wants protection from the White House in return for his silence on the subject of Rachel Posner, not to mention all he knows about Doug’s role in Lucas Goodwin’s conviction. Doug will think about it, but after Gavin leaves, he freaks out and drives straight to Rachel’s, intent on moving her (or perhaps finally killing her?) yet again in the dead of night. However, Rachel’s survival instincts are on red alert, and, as she finds herself alone in a car on a deserted road with a man whose life would be much simpler if she were to disappear, she jumps out at a red light and makes a break for the woods. Doug follows her and tries to coax her back to him with assurances that of course he’d never hurt her, etc., but she jumps out and bludgeons him to death with a rock anyway, then absconds with his car. And that’s the last of Doug! It should be sad; it WOULD be sad if this show had actually spent any time humanizing him in a way even remotely sympathetic.

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Finally, Frank and Claire get the royal treatment from the staff, as they make their way to the Oval Office for the first time as America’s First Family.

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And that’s the end of the season! And what an occasionally exciting but mostly hollow 13 hours of television it all was! Where Season 1’s Peter Russo provided some much-needed soul to an overly cynical show, the lack of a Russo equivalent this season made it feel mostly flat. Also, Season 1’s Frank Underwood and his methods were still enough of a mystery that by the time we figured out what his endgame was, we were genuinely surprised by his capacity for evil, whereas this season his constant successes and lack of meaningful setbacks were all too predictable and boring.

I really hope they reinvent this show somewhat next season, because I don’t think I’ll want to keep watching more of the same boring old stuff. I mean, at least give the guy some recognizable motivation for wanting to be president, even! What’s his ideology? I guess Season 3 could conceivably be all about Frank’s struggle to stay ahead of all the shit that Doug’s murder is sure to dig up. Or perhaps he will simply become overlord of the burgeoning US/China alliance. Yeah, that’s probably it. House of Cards is likely just one big, elaborate prequel to Firefly.

About Commentatrix

First-wave millennial.
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6 Responses to House of Cards 2.13: Hail to the Cheat

  1. So, based purely on your recaps, I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone on this show would be a lot happier if they just turned some damn lights on every once in awhile. Everything is always so dark and murky (like their ~*souls*~)! I get that it’s thematically appropriate, but that’s something that always starts to drive me nuts when I’m watching something.

    • Commentatrix says:

      I actually really love the lighting and photography on this show. Just be glad we didn’t spend that much time in any of Rachel’s apartments. Those were GRIM (like her existence)!

      Speaking of, sometimes Hannibal is so dark that I can’t even tell what’s happening on screen! Stop skimping on light, shows!

  2. Pikitis! (I feel like I had to acknowledge the reference.)

    Thanks for writing these; they’ve been a lot of fun to read!

  3. flanny says:

    The Cheat is to the limit!

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