'House of Cards' Season 2, episode 5: 'Little John' makes things hard for Raymond Tusk
Where we are:
The dealings with China continue, as Raymond Tusk's business partner, Mr. Feng, tells Frank he is going to hold the building of a Long Island Sound bridge hostage until the administration agrees to aggressively pursue the World Trade Organization lawsuit against China for currency manipulation.
You see, Feng realizes that free-flowing currency is inevitable, but he wants to be able to look as if the U.S. forced it upon China, not that China gave in. He also fails to mention that it will personally help his business dealings to the tune of millions of dollars, but Frank is no dummy.
In fact, Frank is so concerned about what pursuing this lawsuit will do to the summit they're having with China (since a lot of the delegates want the lawsuit dropped) that he stands up to Feng. Of course, that's just his story for the president. It's certainly not without merit, but his real reason for doing this is to keep knocking Tusk down a peg at every opportunity.
Honestly, the season is kind of losing us at this point. Either the issue at hand or Frank's machinations (and preferably both) have to be compelling. In this case, neither are. The Chinese business/currency/cyber-terrorism plots are just not interesting. Could they be? Maybe, maybe not -- but they aren't being presented that way here.
That wouldn't be a problem if we were enjoying watching Frank run his schemes around Raymond Tusk. But we aren't. Tusk hasn't been established as enough of a villain for us to enjoy this. It's also wildly disappointing that he's not being written as more of a match for Frank. They got a good actor to go toe-to-toe with Frank, both of them moving the chess pieces around, trying to move their shared king (the president) into the best position.
But that's not what's happening. Tusk keeps looking more and more like a sad old fool, especially when he gets all maudlin about the president hanging up on him. What are you, 12? Did your girlfriend just hang up on you? Please.
The White House-Underwood stuff needs to find its spark, and fast, because it doesn't say a lot when we'd rather watch an hour made up of a combination of what's going on with Claire and Jimmi Simpson as the guinea pig-loving hacker.
Turning to those two plots, Claire has a new man in her life in the form of Seth Grayson. He's after Connor's job as her communications director (we thought Connor was her chief of staff, but he says "com director"). Anyway, Grayson tracks down the wife of Claire's deceased abortion doctor and gets his hands on the doctor's journal, which has evidence in it to contradict her story.
Instead of outing her or asking for money, Grayson wants a job. He says Claire can hire him as "help" for Connor, but Connor will hate working with him and eventually leave when a job offer just happens to come his way (one that Grayson will arrange, of course).
It's quite tense waiting for the other shoe to drop with Claire's plotline since the CNN interview. As all of this is happening behind the scenes, publicly she's meeting with Congresswoman Brooks and the first lady so that they can can pursue sexual assault in the military as a platform issue.
Finally, Lucas gets taken down. Gavin tries to warn him off without getting too explicit, which causes the Secret Service liaison to threaten Cashew (we thought he was just going to crush Cashew. Just for the threat, we hope that guy dies). But the Cashew threat keeps Gavin in line, and he sends Lucas into the sting operation, where he is arrested by a group of federal agents. Poor, sweet, dumb Lucas.
There's also this side plot of Frank being at a Civil War re-enactment center ground-breaking, where he meets a man who plays his great-great-great-grandfather Augustus Underwood, who was killed at the Bloody Angle battle during the Civil War. It gets to Frank (and is mildly interesting for the viewers), as he buries his class ring at the ground-breaking site.
Frank: "Avoid wars you can't win and never raise your flag for an asinine cause like slavery."
Frank: "In Gaffney, we had our own brand of diplomacy. Shake with your right hand, but hold a rock in your left."
Frank: "The most you can buy is influence. But I wield constitutional authority."