Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
I'm watching the entire second season of Netflix's original political melodrama House of Cards instead of spending my weekend interacting with actual humans, and posting one recap per day. Catch the recap for chapter 19 here.
By now, the plot hasn't so much thickened as it has emulsified the Underwoods' well-oiled political machinations with the water-logged subplots of Tricia, Rachel, Jackie, et al. That is to say, this show is like mayonnaise: I want to spread it on everything, but it doesn't always work.
This episode opens with a not-entirely over-the-top attack ad targeting the party leadership with menacing cracks of cartoon thunder and ominous voiceover. Someone's been dropping millions of dollars into the opposition's super-PACs ahead of the midterm elections. Frank suspects that Tusk has been secretly and indirectly funding the Republicans by funneling his contributions through Daniel Lanigan's Missouri casino, which then gives donations to the super-PACs.
Tusk's enmity, however, is all Frank's doing. Walker knows this, and is quickly losing faith in Frank who, as he puts it, is constantly "scrambling from fire to fire." At least Frank's fires have meaning in his grand, Machiavellian plan. Walker's just a poor president.
In order to re-endear himself, Frank buys Walker a punching bag, which is apparently enough to win him over. They sip whiskey and Walker gives Frank a lesson on the White House's art collection, notably Childe Hassam's The Avenue in the Rain. (Buy it now for $45!) The two most powerful men in America then stare at a wall and try to feel what Truman felt when he decided to instantly incinerate hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in August 1945. They feel nothing, and they laugh.
Elsewhere, Remy and Jackie continue their sexy-hot affair in his porn-star penthouse, but Jackie can't commit. And, strangely, she can't commit to Claire's sexual assault bill, either. "We're trying to curtail rape, for God's sake," says a fellow congresswoman. Right?
Despite that, Claire continues to make progress with the bill, but flacks Seth and Connor start butting heads over the publicity plan. We also find out that Seth's a double agent — he rendezvouses with Remy and discusses Claire's abortion, but he tells him that everything checks out when it in fact does not. Triple agent! He then meets with Frank and discloses his relationship with Remy, offering to watch the VP's "blind spots." Seth has Remy arrange a cushy job for Connor in the private sector "with lots of money." (Hi, can I get one of those, too?) Connor resigns and Claire couldn't care less.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
The Underwoods decide to invite POTUS and FLOTUS over for a not-so-friendly meal. "What should we serve the Walkers?" asks Claire. Frank doesn't look up: "Cyanide." Instead, they have Freddy serve his famous ribs — for which he may be getting a franchise deal — while Tricia and her husband bicker and make everything awkward. (Cyanide would've been so much easier.)
Frank gets Walker drunk as Tricia prattles on about her marital problems to Claire. Am I alone in thinking that she needs to find her stones and prioritize her incredible political influence over the totally baseless suspicions that her husband is diddling his assistant? (First Lady? More like Worst Lady, amirite?)
Of course, Claire only stokes this whiny fire in order to sow more discord, even though she herself would never get caught up in something as petty as infidelity when there is power to be grabbed and throats to be slit. Open marriages: They work for political opportunists.
Meanwhile, Doug's at Lanigans — staking out what, exactly? Does he expect to see Tusk just hand over $25 million in front of the sportsbook? The only thing he snares is a busty, ex-alcoholic waitress who who rubs dirty panties on his face as he pumps her (heh) for information on the casino. It pays off: She tells him that Lanigan's regularly hosts big groups of Chinese big-wigs who spend millions at a time — again, in Missouri. Doug digs deeper and finds that Feng owns the plane they fly in on.
It's been Tusk all along; not only has he laundered his campaign contributions through the Chinese and into Lanigan's casino in order to fund the Republicans, he did the same for the Democrats for years. He's the one responsible for the Democrats' majority in the House and crucial for their success in the future.
Doug flies to Beijing and shows up unannounced at Feng's highly Chinese villa. At first, Feng won't admit to the connection between him and Tusk and Lanigan, so he invites Doug to stay the night and has a team of concubines pay him a sexy late-night visit. He refuses them, however, and stares painfully at a painting of an old man fishing. (It's a metaphor.) The next morning, Feng offers to stop the flow of Tusk's money to Lanigan's if the Long Island bridge project that was cancelled during Frank's back-channeling is put back on the table.
Frank invites Lanigan to his house to discuss the super-PAC money. Frank drops that he has influence on the Bureau of Indian Affairs and can influence federal gambling legislation, but Lanigan's not biting. "You're gonna have to show up with more than beads."