'House of Cards' Season 2 episode 2: 'Democracy is so overrated'
Where we are:
Raymond Tusk has come back into play, as he meets with the president to discuss Chinese tariffs -- a meeting Frank and Secretary of State Durant crash because Christina (Peter Russo's old flame and campaign manager) now works for the president's chief of staff, Linda Vasquez, and told them about said meeting.
Durant wants to send a message to the Chinese about cyber-security and attacks on the U.S., which Tusk balks at because he can't have anything messing up his business with China. The president initially tells Durant to tread lightly, but when a comment leaks from the negotiations with China that sounds somewhat like an ultimatum, Durant stays strong in her stance.
The president consults with Tusk but then surprisingly sides with Durant and Frank, choosing to stand firm in the face of the Chinese. It's not terribly interesting because let's be honest -- there are flashier things to explore in politics than America's dealings with China. But it's a demonstration that not even Raymond Tusk can compete with Frank's manipulation.
The only specific thing the Chinese cyber-attack talks initiate is that in researching a story, Lucas finds out about the "deep web," which is a real thing that exists outside the show, and feels that it can help him trace texts and calls between Frank and Zoe. Lucas doesn't believe Zoe tripped or jumped in front of the train that killed her and he's bound and determined to prove Frank pushed her. We'll start carving that tombstone now, Lucas: "Always disheveled."
Meanwhile, Frank is also busy trying to get Jackie Sharp into his place as House majority whip. The idea is to get the two frontrunners, Wes Buchwalter and Howard Webb, to run against each other and either split the votes or turn everybody off by their sniping, thereby turning all the votes to bright-eyed, service-record-having Rep. Sharp. It turns out Buchwalter's OK with dropping out and throwing his support behind Webb, in exchange for Howard's seat on the Appropriations Committee.
Jackie needs a bigger carrot to get Buchwalter to drop out and support her. It turns out she has that in old family friend and fellow congressman Ted Havemeyer, who says he'll offer Buchwalter his own chair on Ways & Means.
Except Buchwalter doesn't want that. He wants Havemeyer taken down. Buchwalter is still holding a grudge over Havemeyer beating him 12 years ago in a Senate race. Jackie takes about 30 seconds to say she won't do it, but one talk from Frank later and she's ready to cut her own mother's throat.
So Jackie is going to reveal to the world that Ted has an illegitimate daughter with cerebral palsy, whom he monetarily cares for, despite the fact that Jackie has been his only liaison to the woman and her daughter with Havemeyer and that Jackie cares for them very much. She hates herself for it, but she's going to do it -- giving Havemeyer a day's notice because, you know, she's not a monster.
But speaking of monsters, in the most poignant story of the episode, Claire has to come face-to-face with her college rapist, Dalton McGuinness -- because he's a general being honored at a gala where Frank (as VP) will be pining a service medal to his chest. Claire is understandably shaken upon having to say hello to him, especially since McGuinness disgustingly says they knew each other in college "for about five minutes," and she confesses to Frank who McGuinness is.
Frank knew about the rape but not the identity of the attacker, and he's ready to exact revenge on the spot. But Claire talks him down and Frank smiles and does his duty for the ceremony.
The storyline takes on an interesting twist when you stop to think that Claire said in Season 1 she had three abortions, but when she was talking to Frank about dreaming of their children, she only mentions a boy and a girl. Was her first abortion a product of the rape?
Even if it wasn't, it's more insight into Claire's kind of broken past and also Frank's feelings for his wife, which we sometimes wonder if they're the only thing real about him. Did you notice how he called the president out in one of his audience addresses for going whichever way the wind is blowing, without a hint of irony?
Anyway, as far as Frank's crazy machinations go, it's easy to get behind him finding a way to destroy and then kill his wife's rapist. More power to you, Frank.
Frank: "One heartbeat away from the presidency and not a vote cast in my name. Democracy is so overrated."
Frank: "Cathy, if you don't like how the table is set, turn over the table."
Hammerschmidt: "Hold yourself to the same standards you hold your staff."
Claire: "Every time I think of her, pinned down like that, I strangle her, Francis. So she doesn't strangle me."