'House of Cards' Season 1 episode 5: A gala BBQ and Russo hits the breaking point
Where we are:
Frank and Marty Spinella, the head of the teachers' union, are at odds over the collective bargaining amendment in the education bill and neither side is budging. In a rather poor-sport move, Spinella contacts the union workers at the Cotesworth Hotel, which is where Claire is having her fundraising gala, and gets the employees to refuse to work for the event.
But that isn't going to keep the Underwoods down. Claire decides to hold the gala picnic-style on the hotel's front steps. They call Freddy to bring ribs and a good time is had by all, even with Spinella's protestors across the street (some of which aren't even teachers).
Over at the Washington Herald, owner Margaret Tilden has to fire Hammerschmidt in the wake of his calling Zoe the c-word, which is juxtaposed with Zoe going to work at Slugline, a cutting-edge political blog whose offices are full of bean bag chairs. Hammerschmidt talks about "hard news" as he gets fired, while Zoe talks about Slugline writers filing stories from their phones. It's a fairly obvious comparison of old-school versus new-school news dissemination and consumption but that doesn't make the point invalid.
Speaking of Zoe, Franks a little nervous about his sexual relationship with Zoe (because if it gets out, he's ruined), so she gives him full-frontal nude pics as collateral. The kind she "wouldn't want [her] father to see." Because Zoe has daddy issues, remember.
Claire also knows about Frank and Zoe and she's OK with it, as long as Zoe offers them something and can be controlled. That's our Claire.
Finally, in the wake of the shipyard closing and Christina leaving him, Peter Russo gets smashed and shows up ranting and drunk at Frank's house. Claire is very kind to him and sets him up in the guest room, but Frank lays down the law: Peter has got to suck it up or he might as well kill himself. Literally, as Frank puts him in the bathtub with a razor blade and advises him to cut lengthwise and not crosswise.
Frank also tells Peter that he's on a shortlist for the Pennsylvania governor's special election (since the former governor is now vice president). It's time for Peter to decide what kind of man he wants to be, so Russo chooses not to kill himself and vows to get clean. Frank wants one month sober and then they'll see where they are.
This is one of our favorite episodes because Frank is not only a master schemer in the face of Spinella, but he's fun and humorous about it. That's the way we enjoy Frank. Claire is also a delight, planning her BBQ and being cool (and slightly menacing) in regards to Zoe.
Plus, Russo decides to get his life together. We're really rooting for this guy, though knowing what's coming for him makes this all the much sadder.
Frank: "Patricia Whitaker, DNC chair. A rare example of someone whose head is in the game instead of up their backside. Competence is such an exotic bird in these woods that I appreciate it whenever I see it."
Frank: "Friends make the worst enemies."