House of Cards nearly collapsed under the weight of being ludicrous in this episode (Chapter 16). While I did appreciate the continued jousting going on between Frank Underwood and Raymond Tusk, I didn’t much care for the Senatorial One-Upsmanship where Frank, and his advisers outplayed the Republicans on the field of parliamentary procedure.
Having Senators carried in while manacled and handcuffed just didn’t create the kind of tension that this show is noted for. But that was the end game. The runup with Frank dueling with Key Republican senators like Hector Mendes, Donald Blythe, and Curtis Haas was kind of fun as we get to see Frank in his finest cooking mode. But a fight over entitlements and retirement age adjustments is far from scintillating.
However, there was a very key aside made by Frank just before the opening credits rolled.
The cult of Tusk. Membership one. That one disciple just happens to be the most powerful man in the free world… for now.
As you know, or at least have thought of, Frank is aiming for greater proximity to the Presidential ear. Likely to be fine tuned, and tweaked, with the Presidency itself as the ultimate goal.
Meanwhile some newly born sub-stories come into focus:
1) Claire Underwood is about to hire a pr person, one Connor Ellis.
2) Claire Underwood notices how close the President and Christina (who worked with Peter Russo) seem to be. Cozy and intimate are the terms used by Frank and Claire as they discuss it. Neither Claire nor Frank believe that there’s anything going on.
3) Lucas Goodwin makes contact with the super hackers
4) Lucas approaches Janine Skorsky, who has moved to Ithaca, NY and is teaching. She declines his entreaties, but some how, I don’t think this is the last we will see of her.
Soon, actually somewhere slightly past the 31 minute mark, we get another key aside by Frank:
Tusk is blocking my way. Goodwin at my heels. There can be no false steps now. The higher up the mountain, the more treacherous the path.
5) Frank’s Doberman, otherwise known to us as Doug Stamper, is keeping close tabs on Rachel Posner, the prostitute that kept company with the victimized and deceased Congressman, Peter Russo. I’m not sure why Stamper, or Frank, have not suggested that Posner go away permanently rather than being stashed in a Maryland suburb working at a call center.
Meanwhile back at the Senate – a theatrical farce breaks out. Doors opening and closing, Democratic Senators rushing in, as other Republican Senators vacate their seats rushing out, so a quorum cannot be reached.
But with some parliamentarian magic – Senators are arrested by the Sergeant-At-Arms, handcuffed, and dragged in, as they howl their protestations. Frank calls for a vote on the bill, HR 934, now that a quorum has been reached. The voting starts, and Curtis Haas calls for an amendment – only that’s against the rules as the roll call vote is already in progress. Game and Set to Frank.
Lucas has jumped through enough technical hoops and has finally gained access to the hacker’s sanctum sanctorum. It is serious business, as he says, we’re not fucking around’. The exception to that is that the hacker has a pet guinea pig named Cashew. Lucas is now on a new path that isn’t a yellow brick road, and clearly, though he is in the hands of a kind of wizard, they’re not heading for Emerald City.
As the show closes, President Walker is giving a speech announcing that the entitlements and other reforms have passed the Senate. The remaining hurdle is the House. As the President concludes, those present stand and applaud. Birch whispers in Frank’s ear that he’s ready to support the bill’s passage and Jackie as WHIP.
Then Frank gives us another potent aside as he stands behind the President:
I used to be at the edge of the frame, now I am only three feet away.
Okay, this was an episode that was close to being the worst of the series, but this is House of Cards, and so, even when we get a weak episode, it is not the same as bad television.
Frank had to withstand a strong rebuke by President Walker, but his answer was ‘There’s no problem if it is resolved before it becomes one‘. I think what this episode lacked was a realistic approach to the doings of the country’s legislative body. I’m sure that there has been, is, and will ever be bitter infighting. But arresting and handcuffing Senators did seem a tad farcical. Yet, Frank, in his own words, he ‘is on a dangerous path’, and his success and failures that await us seem to promise a great deal. And I’ll be tuned in watching.