****some mild spoilers ahead****
The 4th episode of House of Cards second season was much more of a concentrated episode. All of the most important and more serious activity was loaded into just two main segments and two lesser sections. Believe it or not, even though a white powder was sent in a package to the Democratic section of the Capitol Building, which would result in a full-scale quarantine of the Capitol, that was only for background.
Of course, one outcome of the quarantine was that Frank Underwood was trapped in an office with Donald Blythe, who announced within seconds of shaking hands with Frank, that he would not side with Frank on the pending HR934, the entitlements bill, and that he wouldn’t change his mind – no matter what. The other was that Frank would not be able to get home for the Ashleigh Banford interview that was set up by the Underwood’s new flack – Connor Ellis.
Back at the Underwood home, Claire was prepping for the interview with Ashleigh Banfield. Banfield is a real life TV Journalist who works for CNN. She’s sort of the Barbara Walters of this era. And today, as I write this, Banfield is dealing with having received death threats on Twitter for her views on the Michael Dunn murder trial in Jacksonville.
But not to mix fact and fiction, the Claire Underwood/Ashleigh Banfield interview is one of the two major, two person dramas that will play out before our eyes. The other being the battle of wills, feelings, and votes between Donald Blythe and Frank.
There’s a major difference – Claire’s interview was a choice that she made when she agreed to do the interview. On the other hand, Frank and Blythe didn’t have a choice – after all a quarantine is a quarantine. They were in the right place at the wrong time.
As the quarantine worked it self through the prescribed protocols, Frank and Donald were soon moments way from coming to blows.
But with Ashleigh directing the course of the interview, Claire would eventually reach a the place known as The Great Reveal. Claire would tell Ashleigh, and a sizeable portion of the American public why she and Frank were childless, and that she was once pregnant, and that she terminated the pregnancy by an elective abortion. She would further reveal that the pregnancy was the result of a sexual assault when she was in college.
This scene was a great example of Robin Wright’s acting skills. There is value in not just what she says, or how she says it. Watch carefully for the expressions, the pauses, even when she needs a break. We can offer Wright a lot of kudos for this scene. And if she was playing Banford, then she is just as great at manipulation as Frank Underwood himself.
Ashleigh probed even deeper, and before long, Claire would reveal the name of the rapist , the newly commissioned General Dalton McGuinness. Of course this was explosive news to the American public – Claire stated that Frank’s career could now be in jeopardy, that she expected to not only be reviled and have her faith questioned, but there also could be death threats.
Ashleigh stated that they would have to take a break, as the network would have to contact McGuinness for a response. While that was happening, another woman phoned in – a soldier once under Guinness command, to tell that she had been raped by him too.
This was truly powerful television.
Meanwhile, Frank and Donald watched the interview on television. Watch carefully as Frank cannot stay seated as Claire begins to reveal the circumstances (the who) of the event that resulted in her abortion. While not quite edge of the seat for us, but for Frank, as he realized that a family secret was now public knowledge – it certainly was beyond edge of the seat as he rose to a standing position eyes glued to the screen.
While Frank and Donald never did reach an agreement, they ultimately did get to a place of accord. Donald would say that Frank’s wife was a brave woman.
Also coming into play in this episode was Jackie Sharp whose star is in rapid ascension. Partly because of her own skills in negotiating for votes, and to a lesser degree, some first hand advice from Remy Danton.
Also in play is Lucas Goodwin and the hacker Gavin Orsay. I hope you remember the talk that Doug Stamper had with the FBI’s Executive Liaison after a meeting in Linda’s Office. Doug suggested that they go after the hackers, and he also told Frank that he had Lucas on his plate. Connecting the dots – Lucas meets with Gavin, then Gavin has a secret meet with some one in a rooftop parking lot.
From the gist of the conversation, we learn that Gavin is likely in trouble, and has been forced to work for an unnamed agency. The target is Lucas. While the person who Gavin is now going to have to report to stayed mostly in the shadows – we did get a good look at his prominent nose. This was so obviously lighted in such away that one couldn’t miss that nose. I doubt that was an accident. We’ve been clued to remember that nose.
Of course this just adds to the fun. When and if we see this G-Man again, we will immediately recognize him, even if we don’t know his name.
While this episode might not appeal to everyone because of the compressed story lines, it was well done. The story lines about General Dalton McGuinness, about Jackie Sharp, and now Gavin Orsay are now in full flight. We may get an uptick on the screen time of President Walker, Gavin Orsay, Remy Danton and Jackie Sharp in the coming chapters.
I’ve now watched seven episodes and this is the 4th one I’ve written about, so stayed tuned.