House Of Cards Recap: Chapter 26, Hail To The Thief

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ep261Photo: 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 25 here.

After nearly 11 hours of House of Cards and at least the same number of bourbons, all I could think about was a scene from the 1996 buddy comedy My Fellow Americans, in which Jack Lemmon and James Garner play rival ex-presidents in the style of Grumpy Old Men, and Lemmon's character reveals that he made up lyrics to the tune of the presidential anthem: "Hail to the chief / He's the chief, and he needs hailing."

Anyway, Frank's in the home stretch of his long and improbable plan to make the Oval Office his own. Impeachment proceedings are well underway for President Walker, and former White House Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez has come to his defense. One of the congressmen on the House Judiciary Committee makes a big fuss about how Walker — "a man who has his finger on the button" — took a little bit of Xanax here and there. (Oh, please. It's not like he's sucking down meow meows with a whiskey chaser and thumbing the switch on his Dr. Strangelove doomsday device.)

Meanwhile, Frank's on 60 Minutes with Morley Safer, who might be 82 years old but can still skewer his interview subject like a strapping youngster. The V.P. vehemently defends the President, but Morley gives him a rheumy, skeptical eyeballing and points out that the road to the presidency has now been cleared for him. Frank deflects, even though it's clear that his scheme has been exposed.

Back in the Oval Office, Walker and Linda collude against Frank. Walker's learning the dirty tricks now — how did he even get elected without them? — and suggests that they convince Tusk to tell the truth in order to pin everything on Frank. In exchange, Walker will offer Tusk a pardon. (This cannot possibly be legal.) The Pres. asks Linda (in that 'not actually asking' way) to talk to Tusk since she's no longer tied to the administration. And, he hints that she can get her job back if she does.

Claire's awoken by a phone call with the news that Megan walked into a lake. Ever the almost-first-lady, Claire goes to visit Megan at home and finds her tranq'd out on lithium and in a generally scary mental space. We're supposed to blame Claire for this, but I'm not sure I can. A watered-down version of the bill — but still, a bill — will pass. Claire put a serial rapist on trial and, with Megan's help, gave the issue of sexual assault in the military a public face. Sure, Megan feels betrayed about the bill, but if one setback can cause her to completely spiral out of control, there is more at issue than simply Claire's cut-throat strategizing.

That doesn't mean Claire is a total monster. She calls Tricia to report on Megan's condition, and Tricia tells her about the fallout from the scandal — that her children are embarrassed. Claire apologizes, and it's actually genuine. "You're a good person," Tricia tells her, and Claire breaks down in tears — but only for a second. (Never regret, remember?)
ep262Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Linda meets with Tusk and lays out Walker's offer. But, they're interrupted by the delivery of a package containing tickets to Madame Butterfly and a peach, Frank's ominous calling card — he predicted Walker's play and wants to beat him to the punch. Later, he meets Tusk in the bowels of the theater and presents his offer, which Tusk refuses.

Without Tusk, Frank is running out of options. All he can do is write a letter to Walker on his ancient Underwood typewriter, admitting that he would like the presidency for himself, because he's a true patriot, and who wouldn't? Point being: He serves and supports the president. He blames his humble upbringing for his covetousness. He gets dark as hell as recalls how he found his father with a shotgun in his mouth, and how he wished he'd pulled the trigger. He includes a signed confession that he urges the President to use in order to save himself. Walker's torn on whether or not to believe him. And, he tells Frank to whip votes to prove his allegiance, and then he calls off the deal with Tusk.

Meanwhile, Frank woos Michael Kern, who he secretly undermined when he was nominated for the Secretary of State appointment, under the guise of asking for his help fighting the impeachment. Instead, he's strategically shoring up the Senate for the impeachment trial, ensuring that Walker has no chance in either house.

Remy offers to give testimony to Dunbar — which Tusk hears about — but then he doesn't show up for the meeting. This is all designed to put pressure on Tusk, who realizes that he'll need to sell out the President. In front of the House Judiciary Committee, Tusk keeps pleading the fifth until he suddenly bursts out, "He knew." And, it's bye-bye to Walker.

Elsewhere, Agent Green has met with Gavin and offered him a place on the FBI's cyber-terrorism task force. (Uh, no?) Instead, Gavin demands to meet with Doug. He knows about Rachel and he wants protection by the White House from the FBI, so he proposes a deal.

Doug, however, doesn't like loose strings. He lets himself in to Rachel's apartment in the middle of the night and drags her out of bed into his car. She, of course, is both terrified and pissed. At a red light, Rachel jumps out and heads into the woods, and Doug follows her on foot. Then, she murders him with a rock and steals his car. And, I don't really feel bad for Doug here.

Back on the Hill, the House Judiciary Committee votes to take the articles of impeachment directly to the House floor for a vote, and it's all over for Walker. No vote's necessary, let alone a trial. Claire and Frank arrive in Camp David and Walker returns Frank's to him, which he promptly tosses in a fire.

Walker resigns with grace in front of the White House press corps, including Ayla Sayyad, who is there in hip, new eyewear. Frank is sworn in as President, and just about immediately defuses the situation between China and Japan by rescinding Feng's asylum and sending him back home, where he'll be executed.

Is there a better way to kick off a presidency than with a gross human rights violation and a firing squad? Maybe, but I can't think of one.

That reminds me: I almost forgot that James Garner's character also revealed his lyrics in My Fellow Americans, and they're practically tailor-made for President Underwood: "Hail to the chief / If you don't I'll have to kill you / I am the chief / So, you better watch your step, you bastards."