House Of Cards Recap: Chapter 15, Whip Smart

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ep151PHOTO: 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 for the next 12 days. Catch the recap for chapter 14 here.

We don't get many glimpses into how the general public views the Walker administration or its minions, but this episode of House of Cards opens with a bit of a reality check on the highly unlikely scenario in which a member of the Congressional leadership just becomes Vice President overnight. (Think about it: If Joe Biden stepped down and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy — or, for that matter, Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer — took his seat, most of America would have absolutely no idea what's going on.) Who better to cast a dismissive eyebrow than Rachel Maddow, who calls Frank "nothing more than a placeholder" until the next election? Maybe Bill O'Reilly wasn't available.

Frank probably couldn't care less if he were a household name, though — the vice presidency is about the immediate power he now holds, not political ideals or a platform. In fact, he's openly disdainful of the democratic process. His house is a wreck and being retrofitted for security because he was too stubborn to move to the United States Naval Observatory. And, oddly, he opts to hold his private swearing-in ceremony there, too. "Not a single vote cast in my name — democracy is so overrated," he says, as the Founding Fathers spin in their graves fast enough to generate electricity.

Frank's move to the White House has, of course, left a vacancy in congress. Despite the fact that he's secretly angling to get Jackie Sharp to take his seat, congressmen Wes Buchwalter and Howard Webb are still the frontrunners, and they just happen to hate each other — a fact that Frank will definitely exploit.

Doing so, however, requires cracking a few more eggs than usual. It turns out that Jackie's congressional patron, Ted Havemeyer, has a bit of secret, as congressmen often do: He knocked up his maid some years back, and has a secret disabled child whom Jackie checks in on because he can't. She puts on a convincing act for Ted, initially pretending to have no interest in the whip's race, but he offers to bankroll her by buying some votes in her favor.

Buchwalter learns that Jackie's gunning for the whip seat, but refuses to talk to her because of bad blood with Havemeyer. Webb tells him that he should drop out of the race in order to dwarf any support Jackie's drumming up. Jackie and Havemeyer then scheme to get Buchwalter to do the same thing, but to get him to funnel his votes toward Jackie instead of Webb.

Problem is, Buchwalter doesn't want what Jackie's offering. Instead, he wants Havemeyer politically dead, and that means blowing up his spot vis-à-vis his illegitimate daughter. She hems and haws about it for about five minutes, and then rolls right over, because she is an ice-cold, A+ student of the Frank Underwood School of Screwing People Over. "I hate myself for it," she tells Havemeyer, "but I'll get over it." Gold star for Jackie!
ep152PHOTO: COURTESY OF NETFLIX.
Over in the White House, things are about to get a little awkward with China. Raymond Tusk, the Midwestern billionaire who speaks in riddles (and also Chinese) and apparently controls a number of President Walker's puppet strings, is in town, advising Walker on how to steer the trade talks with the Chinese. Frank's not keen on Tusk's outsized influence on the West Wing, and schemes to use the talks to cut him down a peg.

It helps that Secretary of State Catherine Durant, who Frank maneuvered into place last season, isn't a very good secretary at all. (This whole administration is a little too manipulable.) Tusk thinks they should limit the talks to economic interests, but Durant wants to accuse the Chinese of corporate espionage and cyber warfare, which is always a good way to kick off a diplomatic discussion. Frank initially sides with Tusk, but secretly convinces Durant to bring up cyber attacks in the first round of talks, defying her promise of a soft touch to the President. The Chinese, unsurprisingly, are pissed.

As is President Walker. Frank goes back to playing the field, privately agreeing with Tusk that the White House needs to apologize to the Chinese and resume talks. As soon as Tusk is off the phone, however, Frank switches gears again, and tells the President to back up Durant because the Chinese respect steadfastness. (China strong?) Of course, Frank knows that will only anger the Chinese more, throwing a massive wrench into bilateral trade talks that impact the global economy just so that he can make life difficult for one man who seems like an annoyance more than a real threat.

Just imagine what Frank is planning to do to the Marine who assaulted Claire when she was a college freshman. (Or, as the Marine puts it: "We dated — for about five minutes." Eek.) Claire begs Frank not to make a scene at a ceremony where he's being honored as a new general, and he reluctantly goes through the motions without killing the guy — yet.

Meanwhile, Lucas is slowly unraveling as he investigates Zoe's death. He goes to the police station and watches a video of her murder, frame by frame. (It's messy.) Lucas thinks the cops can just pull Zoe's phone records from her carrier to try and connect her to Frank, but the detective in charge apparently hasn't heard of the Patriot Act. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a warrant for phone data?" Har har.

Not satisfied, Lucas has one of his reporters explain the dark side of the Internet to him. That night, he logs on to the Deep Web, searching a shadowy forum for a hacker to crack Frank's phone records. His nickname? DataCrusader.

Oh, brother.