At this point in the season, I think the shine's come off a bit. Maybe the cynicism of the show is getting to me, or maybe I'm actually learning to be more cynical because of it. (I did not think this was possible for me.) But I find myself getting impatient with the characters, especially the ones who aren't directly contributing to my satisfaction via compelling storylines. "I have no patience for useless things," Frank snarled in the very first episode. I get it.
First, there's Rachel, still miserable. The country's facing a heat wave on top of an energy crisis, but she's too broke to run her A/C constantly. At least she's smiling as she and her new lady friend, Lisa, make eyes at each other during a late-night daycare session at the fellowship. (I understand that a church group might not do background checks on its new members before trusting them with its children, but it's a good thing Rachel's a good-hearted ex-hooker and not, like, a Jerry Blank ex-hooker.) Alas, Doug shows up and spoils her sapphic fun, and this endless yo-yo of fulfilled life to friendless emptiness is getting repetitive.
Claire's also on some new inexplicable mission to sow marital discord between the President and the First Lady, Tricia Walker. She meets with Christina, who we've barely glimpsed this season. (What happened to her? After Peter Russo died, she helmed his office and ran his district in lieu of a replacement. She had the makings of a formidable character rising up the ranks, but she's been swallowed into the background as a presidential aide.) Claire tells her to be overly friendly to Tricia, but Claire's already suggested to FLOTUS that Christina's nothing but a scheming floozy. "I just have a thing about women who sleep with their bosses," she tells Tricia. What about married women who sleep with their ex-boyfriends? Zing.
In other subplot news, Remy and Jackie hit the town to knock back vodka sodas like undergrads, and — surprise, surprise — they end up knocking boots, too. The next morning, hungover and a little coldly, Jackie wonders why he didn't go home with their hot waitress instead. Remy's such a smoothie: "She works for tips; you run Congress."
But, with business cut off from the Chinese, Tusk can't get approval for a rare-earth refinery that he plans to build with Xander "Choke Me" Feng, so he gets the nuclear energy lobby to turn its back on the proposed subsidy. In response, Frank tells the President to build an anti-trust clause into the emergency energy bill to break up Tusk's hold on the market.
Tusk calls their bluff and plans to challenge the bill in court. Frank counters by suggesting an investigation into Tusk's books by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but Tusk doesn't care — the Eastern seaboard will be wracked by brownouts before a hearing could even be called. He's literally holding the energy market hostage.
Later, Frank's scheduled to throw the first pitch at an Orioles game, but the lights cut out as he steps to the mound. It's all Tusk's doing, and he digs the knife in deeper, telling the President that he'll also need to take some of his nuclear reactors offline for "scheduled maintenance," worsening the energy crisis.
At a secret meeting at Freddy's rib shack, Frank tells Tusk that the government will take control of his plants by executive order, citing Woodrow Wilson's nationalization of the railroads as a precedent. "You may have all the money," says Frank, "but I have all the men with guns." Tusk decides to take the subsidy instead.
Elsewhere, Lucas is well-screwed, as he should be. In between having blood spat on his face by fellow inmates, he asks his former editor Tom Hammerschmidt to continue the investigation he started. Tom agrees, but cautions Lucas that his story will be as unbiased as any other, and that Lucas might not like what he writes.
Doug and his FBI contacts know this, of course, so Frank invites Tom for a face-to-face at the White House. Tom asks him point blank, "Did you kill Zoe Barnes?" Frank won't answer, but that still doesn't give Tom's story any ammunition. That's probably because Lucas never had a shred of evidence actually linking Frank to any wrongdoing. Tom's article (which I freeze-framed to read) includes the telling line: "When asked why a high-level government official would discuss felonies over text message, Goodwin could not offer an explanation." For realz.
Meanwhile, the Feds have shown up at Janine's house in Ithaca, threatening her with formal charges if she doesn't sign a statement discrediting Lucas. Defeated, she visits Lucas in prison and tells him to take the plea bargain offered to him. "I'm not guilty," he spits.
Janine looks at him sympathetically. "You are."