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House of Cards 2×02 “Chapter 15” Recap

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Francis puts China in the cross-hairs. Claire confronts a painful trauma from her past. Lucas Goodwin presses for the truth.

TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of sexual assault in both the episode and this recap.

Okay guys, I’ve had eight hours to recover from the injustice of poor sweet Zoe Barnes’ murder and am now ready to jump back in the House of Cards saddle. Let’s go!

Frank Underwood and Jackie Sharp

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The Underwoods are getting their townhouse refitted with better security measures as Francis Underwood prepares to be sworn in as Vice President. The private ceremony is short and sweet, and afterwards Frank goes right back to what he does best: manipulating everyone around him. This time he’s focused on getting Webb and Buchwalter, the two frontrunners for his former position as Majority Whip, to destroy each other so Frank’s real protégé Jackie can step up.

Jackie is turning out to be an ambitious and capable character, by the way, with traces of Frank’s people-playing tendencies in how casually she drops hints of her interest in being Whip. I already like her, which considering how much I also liked Zoe and Russo, makes me very nervous for her continuing survival.

Elsewhere in the White House, Frank meets with President Walker, Secretary of State Catherine Durant, and multi-billionaire Raymond Tusk about corporate cyberattacks in China. Cathy wants to gently suggest options at the Joint Commission talks, while Tusk, concerned with his private interests in China, doesn’t want to “rock the boat.” Walker ends up siding with Cathy, but his hesitation annoys Frank, who believes Tusk has way too much influence on the President. And just like that, Frank’s next target is identified. How did I only just now realize this show is basically a less-cheesier Revenge only set in Washington and with a horrible person for a protagonist?

With Cathy’s help, Frank undermines Walker’s “soft touch” order and upsets the Chinese delegation, thereby potentially throwing Tusk’s ventures in China in turmoil. In the aftermath, Frank tries to drive a wedge between Walker and Tusk, stating “The American people voted you as president, not me, not Raymond Tusk.” And Walker does just as Frank predicts, calling out China for not wanting to talk bout the cyberattacks – and infuriating Tusk, who’s beginning to realize he’s lost control of the President.

But as one of Frank’s plan seems to be going well, another starts to fall apart; Webb and Buchwalter have realized that Frank is playing them and that they need to work together to keep themselves from getting screwed over. When Jackie gets wind of this, she and wealthy benefactor Ted Havemeyer try to offer Buchwalter a better deal – but the only deal Buchwalter will accept is Havemeyer’s political death.

Jackie doesn’t want to do it because Ted is like family to her, but with her career on the line, she makes her decision and throws Ted under the bus by leaking the fact that he has an illegitimate daughter. Aww, she’s like a little baby Underwood!

Claire Underwood

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Claire is preparing for her new duties as wife of the Vice President, including attending events and public appearances. One of these appearances is the pinning of stars on Marine generals, one of whom is an old college acquaintance named Dalton McGinnis. Despite obvious discomfort and reluctance, Claire attends the pinning and subsequent dinner anyway. When McGinnis approaches her table, kissing her on the head and joking about dating her once to Frank, Claire abruptly leaves the room.

Frank follows her, sensing something wrong, and Claire shakily tells him that McGinnis raped her in freshman year of college. She stops Frank from storming out and asks him to not make a scene. “He does not deserve a medal,” says a furious Frank, “that man deserves to be taken out and shot.” At Claire’s request, Frank ends up pinning the medal on McGinnis anyway.

When they go home, Claire tells Frank about what McGinnis did to her, and how she has to strangle that part of her and keep it hidden because “the alternative is unlivable.”

Lucas Goodwin

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Lucas is frantically trying to get the police to listen to his concerns, demanding they bring Vice President Underwood in for questioning (the evidence is “circumstantial, yes, but plausible. I know you’ve reopened cases on less,” says Lucas.) The officer responds by showing Lucas a frame by frame security clip of Zoe’s death, saying that it looks like an accident, or perhaps suicide.

Former Chief Editor Tom Hammerschmidt makes his return to the offices of The Washington Herald when he meets with Lucas to discuss Francis Underwood. Looks like Lucas is trying to find more allies in this war against Underwood, but Tom isn’t biting – the story sounds more than a little farfetched, and Tom believes Lucas’ grief over Zoe is clouding his judgement.

Later, while editing one of his reporters’ articles, Lucas is introduced to the darker corners of the Internet – called the Deep Web – and learns more about cyberwarfare. I suspect Lucas is going to be doing a little hacker recruiting in order to get a hold of Underwood’s phone records and prove he knew Zoe.

Rating: B+

Memorable Quotes

Frank: One heartbeat away from the presidency and not a single vote cast in my name. Democracy is so overrated.

Frank: How does it feel to be married to the vice president?
Claire: Exactly the same. Just louder.

Frank: Cathy, if you don’t like how the table is set, turn over the table.

Tom: Grief demands an answer, but sometimes there isn’t one.

Claire: You think I don’t want to smash things? I know what that anger is more than you can imagine. …Every time I think of her, pinned down like that, I strangle her, Francis, so she doesn’t strangle me. I have to. We have to. The alternative is… it’s unlivable.

Claire: You’ll still feel the hate in the morning.

Jackie: Revenge? Really?
Buchwalter: Not revenge. Equity.

Jackie: I hate myself for it. But I’ll get over that. [oh my god she’s terrible I love her]