House of Cards
I prayer-hand-emojied for some ghosts from Frank’s past to haunt his spooky hallucinations and, just one episode later, my prayers have been answered. Hello again, Peter Russo! Stellar seeing you, Zoe Barnes!
As is the HoC way, these dream sequences are more about mood than plot, going all-in on that beautiful-dark-twisted-sex-fantasy thing without expressing to us, really, if this is just residue floating around Frank’s subconscious or if — it couldn’t be! — Frank feels something akin to guilt for all the blood he’s spilled. Everyone gets to make out and also do weird, ominous face-nuzzling. Still can’t top the extreme discomfort of the creepiest HoC sex scene of all time — “Happy Father’s Day,” shudder — but points for effort and art direction! The sound is so crisp, too. Love Peter Russo stealing Frank’s signature double-knock.
But I’m getting ahead of myself: It is my duty, as recapper, to keep you apprised of this boring bailout deal that America is striking with Russia and China, the latter participant getting our drilling technology to sweeten the deal. (The government attitude about this? They’re close to hacking it anyway so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.)
If there is a take-home from “Chapter 45,” it is this: The truth will not set you free. The truth will screw you over. Every single time.
Cathy reminds Claire of one of my all-time favorite HoC scenes: that time these two formidable ladies played beer pong together. Cathy, military expert, then starts dropping truth bombs. “You’re taking advantage of the situation to assert authority you don’t have the right to assert,” she says. Even though Cathy is basically signing her own death certificate by daring to point out the obvious, I’m glad she does it. Cathy tries to convince Donald that Claire joining her at the G7 Summit will “undermine my authority” as secretary of State. Donald, who has been doodling “Donald + Claire 4ever” in hearts on the backs of all his notebooks, ignores Cathy and does just what Claire tells him to do.
Claire also calls Remy to talk about Jackie, which leads to a heart-wrenching conversation between the only couple in this entire show that I believe in. Remy, thankfully, tells Jackie what’s going on, but now they can’t be together and the one glimmer of hotel-happiness we had in this pitch-black alternate reality is gone. Later, Jackie and Claire have a very tense conversation in which Jackie asks the rhetorical question, “Do you plan on hanging this over my head every time I try to oppose you?” Claire is all, “If you never ever disagree with me on anything and you do exactly what I say, everything will be swell.” Jackie does not look pleased.
Heather is dedicated to the truth; Cynthia suggests that the truth could be that Heather didn’t even see Lucas. But Heather isn’t interested in lying under oath. Cynthia’s logic is fascinating to me. She cares about the law, therefore, she should be president … but the only way to become president is to, just this once, disregard the law.
Doug swings by the Secretary of Health and Human Services office in the hopes that she can provide a very inhuman health service: He wants her to modify the donor list to get Frank to the top. Frank is currently No. 2. Even though the secretary assures Doug that Frank’s “chances are very good” and dude No. 1 is “hours away from dying,” Doug responds, “Then let him die.” “It’s not just the law,” she says, and then, because apparently she knows nothing about Doug and still doesn’t realize who she is dealing with, “It’s the ethics.” “Then change your ethics,” Doug says. He threatens to force her and anyone who follows suit into resignation. For Doug will slay a thousand dragons, Doug will murder every single soul in this country who dares to need a liver at the same moment as Frank, his one and only.
Honestly, I am not sure how I feel about the scene in which Danny, a teenage boy we’ve never met and will never see again, smashes the glass door of a cabinet to get his hands on a family gun and commits suicide. His liver is suddenly available for Frank, who, what do you know, is now at the top of the donor list. But do we need to see this disturbing, gratuitous sequence? We don’t really need to know where the liver comes from — it’s irrelevant. And we could have gotten that information another way, too; a doctor could have mentioned it while wheeling Frank into surgery. That scene is all shock with no real value.
What I do love, however, is the sound mixing on this show. For example: Claire leaves a statement for Seth while she is en route to the G7, so he can justify her decision to not stay in D.C. while Frank is in surgery. As Seth gives the statement, we hear her voice coming out of his mouth, reminding us that Seth is just a puppet who has to do whatever Claire tells him to do.
Heather makes the interesting choice to roll up to her deposition without a lawyer. She also says the video can be made available to the media. “I have nothing to hide.” Hoo boy. After (kind of) confessing to meeting Lucas, she turns her statement into a weapon aimed at the Underwood campaign: “This is an act of political sabotage,” she says. “All this proves is that I’m honest. Unlike a president who would use the DOJ, to target me.” She also says that it doesn’t matter whether Frank lives or dies. Way harsh, Tai. “He is morally corrupt and he has corrupted the institution that supports him.” Doug watches, with a Martin Shkreli–esque smug smirk on his face as he says, “She’s done.”
About Petrov and Claire: It’s always good to get her in a room with someone whom she can’t just steamroll. They have an intense dynamic — they hate and admire each other, maybe in equal measure, and Claire can’t seem to decide if she is turned on or disgusted by Petrov’s attraction to her — so I was hoping for more from their latest interaction. The back-and-forth was building toward something better. Claire has no place at this meeting; she shouldn’t even be at the G7, let alone at private rendezvous with heads of state where she acts like the elected official she obviously isn’t. I felt like giving Claire a win here was a violation of the internal logic of the show: Petrov would not lose this fight, certainly not to Claire.
“You’re an amateur, Claire,” he says. “What would you be without your husband? Nothing. A pretty face. So, yes, play the president if you like.” I loved this line. People have been saying this to Claire, in one way or another, since she tried for the U.N. gig. They’re all correct. I thought Petrov would be the only one to pierce her self-delusion. But, nope! Claire says Petrov “will take whatever we shove down your throat.” Alas, he does.
Frank wakes up after surgery. Doug is there, for he has not rested, he has not even gotten a glass of water with which to suffocate another human being, since the operation began. Frank holds up his hand to Doug’s face; Doug orgasms on the spot. “I want to get out of this place as soon as possible,” Frank says, and visions of a villa on the French Riviera flicker across an old-timey movie screen in Doug’s mind, before he brings himself back to Earth and escorts Frank to the White House.
Frank calls Claire. She screens him. That’s the way to put those “Is the Underwood marriage on the rocks?” rumors to rest!
The HHS secretary emails Doug a photo of the man who died because Frank bumped him from the top of the liver list: “Father of two. Husband. I wanted you to see his face. The family he left behind.” Doug just tells her to delete it.
Claire and Frank see each other for the first time since before the shooting — which is also the first time since she threatened him with divorce. He looks so feeble now; his hair is so white. “Are you in a lot of pain?” she asks, which could mean anything. “Nothing I can’t handle.” He tries to walk by himself, but stumbles and needs to grab Claire’s arm again. Could this be … symbolic?
After telling Claire that he’ll approve her “good plan,” he says, “Stay with me. It’s us against them. Always. Otherwise, what’s the goddamn point?” Claire says she can’t come back and be First Lady. Frank gives her some vague assurance that it won’t be “that.” He continues: “I said you were nothing, in the Oval, without me. It’s the other way around.” Well, at least he’s finally seeing reason. A slowed-down version of the HoC theme song plays in the background.
Claire, dressed in white, escorts Frank into the cabinet meeting. He signs the plan and everyone claps. Crisis averted, for now.