House of Cards Recap: Glass Half-Full

Ellen Burstyn as Elizabeth. Photo: David Giesbrecht/Netflix
House of Cards

House of Cards

Chapter 44 Season 4 Episode 5
Editor's Rating 4 stars

Maybe Kevin Spacey is about to be killed off, and I’ll look like a fool in front of the whole internet for saying this, but Frank is definitely going to survive. And because we know Frank will survive, the drama swirling throughout this episode — his liver’s failure to regenerate and his somehow not-top-spot on the donor list — does not translate to the world outside of the series, where you and I reside.

And with extremely limited exceptions (the series finale of My So-Called Life comes most readily to mind), dream sequences are not the best choice of storytelling device. The symbolism of a dream sequence, as is HoC’s house style, is often clunky as hell or outright meaningless. (Remember those origami birds from season one?) So, Frank hallucinates some Civil War reenactors, while the machinery of modern medicine bleep-bleeps all around him, and that is his arc for the episode. He also hallucinates being on his rowing machine. These scenes are beautifully shot — the sound is fantastic, too — but they add little-to-nothing to the story. Onward to the conscious!

Doug, of course, hears that Frank needs a liver and is like, “KILL ME IF YOU MUST, I SHALL CARVE MY LIVER OUT WITH MY OWN FINGERNAILS.” I could not hold back my laughter when he was late-night Googling about “living liver donations,” and then I laughed even harder when, duh, the doctor reminds Doug that he is a recovering alcoholic and his liver is about as useful as a dried-out hunk of Play-Doh.

Donald is crushing on Claire so hard — hey, no judgment there — and even though her brief foray into international politics went very, very badly, he believes only her guidance can help him through a call with Petrov. She offers to listen in while G-chatting him on the side, like a modern-day Mean Girls. It is with Claire de Bergerac at his virtual side that Donald gets Petrov to drop the “vice” from “Mr. Vice-President.”

Later, Donald tells Claire he was “devastated but relieved” when his wife died. “When my father died, it destroyed me,” Claire said. “But when I think about mother, I feel nothing.” She says she feels the same about Francis. Is she flirting with Donald? Bold choice. “I’d trust you with my goddamn life, Claire,” Donald says. Yikes.

The best element of this episode is the reveal of Lucas’s suicide note. It gives us a long overdue gift: The return to the show’s central issue, which, like Zoe Barnes on the Metro tracks, was hastily abandoned at the beginning of season two. Will anyone connect the dots of these murders, or dig into the death of Peter Russo? Or must we, as I fear, return instead to the insufferable Raymond Tusk, negotiations with China, and the rest of the stuff that I would fast-forward if I were not your valiant recapper, studying every moment of this series so you can spend half the episode checking Instagram?

I am so grateful for the return of Kate and Tom, the competent reporters who are down but not out. I have faith that they will keep investigating all the allegations in Lucas’s note, because if that thread gets dropped again, why are we even watching this show? The one irritating thing about Tom’s conversations with Kate — and with Claire’s statement to the press — is how they all keep relying on this idea that mentally-ill people will “snap,” which is, to use a technical term, not a thing.

Remy is wrenched out of Florida, where we find him waiting in long gas lines (bummer), deciding not to tell Jackie he misses her (sad, but probably the right call), and talking to his parents in French (so adorable, 10/10, would watch an entire episode of these interactions). Blackmailed by Leann, he returns to the White House and — ugh, a thousand times ugh — pulls Raymond Tusk out of the archives and into the Oval Office.

It’s rough days for Heather Dunbar, who has to figure out the correct optics for campaigning against a sitting president in a coma, and Attorney General Martha, who has no choice but to tell Doug about her Lucas-centric conversation with Heather. That will not be good for either of those ladies.

Speaking of people having a rough time, let’s talk about Doug and Seth. Doug invites Seth over to his apartment so they can finally just make out already — oh, nope, sorry. I mean, so Doug can tell Seth that his job is safe for now. Then Doug, very brolike, is all, “Can I get you anything?” and I’m thinking, ricin in the water, but no, Doug goes the route of JAMMING THE GLASS OVER SETH’S MOUTH TO SUFFOCATE HIM. “If I can’t have your loyalty, I will have your obedience. Blink if you understand.”

Doug then uses the same glass to offer Seth some water. In response, Seth utters the truest words ever spoken in this series: “You’re fucked up.” He walks out. I hoped that he would go immediately to the airport (like immediately, do not pass go, do not collect $200) and board a plane to some distant paradise place with no cell service. But, no: Seth is back at work the next day, saying hi to Doug in the hallway like no one just almost-murdered anyone.

Doug might be able to glass-suffocate Seth into submission, but he can’t control Claire. “You’ve forgotten your place, Douglas,” Claire says, reminding us all that using someone’s full name is a great, easy power play. Doug is so sad. Even though he is Frank’s work wife, and he actually loves Frank, Claire is still his real wife and cannot be dethroned.

House of Cards Recap: Glass Half-Full