When we last left Frank Underwood, his morning ribs at Freddy’s were a little bit sweeter because of the newsprint he got to wipe his fingers on. Donald Blythe’s “far left of center” education draft has reached the public eye. And, as the Speaker of the House puts it over the morning coffee, Vazquez must be “shitting herself while Walker is shitting himself then shoveling his shit on her shit.” Needless to say, the Dems feel “the republicans are going to shove this up our ass.”
Before Underwood takes any of those related meetings however, Doug Stamper has something for his guy. If you think Underwood comes off as villainously efficient, it took only a few days for Stamper to find the dirt on Secretary of State-to-be Michael Kern. And as he’ll admit, “guy’s a unicorn, he pisses rainbows.” It’s a Williams college newspaper from the late 1970s with Kern as the editor-in-chief. Underwood dismisses it (whatever it is at this point) as “thin.” Around 9:06 a.m., Vazquez finally calls.
Underwood already has young policy makers writing draft number two when Blythe eventually comes into the office. Underwood drops a martyr act straight from Shakespeare—he’ll take blame for the leak, “Get me John King from CNN on the line,” offering to hand the lead off to a deputy to keep Blythe on board. But of course Blythe caves, he’s not a wheeler and dealer but Underwood has the gut to work through this mess. Blythe offers to resign to keep the bill alive—fulfilling his destiny—and throws his weighted support behind Underwood to manage it.
With the first item off his to-do list complete, Underwood arranges a meet with Zoe Barnes to kickstart his next task. The Williams Register gets another moment in the spotlight… Kern lead an an editorial with questionable Middle Eastern politics—anti-Carter stuff about Israeli troops “illegally occupying the West Bank.” Barnes is skeptical but she takes it to her editors., who naturally share in the skepticism. But Barnes knows the value of a scoop, albeit it a questionable one, and she plays the 21st-century journalist card by saying she might as well just post on some anonymous blog then tweet it. Needless to say, her editors will talk it over.
Cut to Underwood’s office, he and Stamper glue to the TV set. George Stephanopoulos is interviewing Senator Kern (D-CO) and the latter mentions the Middle East while explaining his idea of “trickle-down economics.” Luckily, the Washington Herald gave George an advanced edition of an article ready for tomorrow’s front page. Bullseye.
There’s no time for celebrations however, this is an ember that needs to be fed. Stamper managed to locate an old member of Kern’s college editorial board, one who happens to be a burnout, anti-government extremist. It’s too risky to even send Stamper down to visit, but they have a lackey in their pocket: one Peter Russo.
Russo gets the call as he’s settling in for a quiet evening and, after a mission briefing from Stamper at some D.C. diner, he’s off. Russo heads down to the Berkshires find this guy in the trailer park, armed only with a bottle of whiskey and his own pension for a little afternoon fun. Whether or not it’s intentional doesn’t matter, but Russo is the perfect man for this job. He’s willing to sip on something neat, ignore the half naked woman on the couch and focus on nut job, political cog Roy Kepeniak. Russo sits on a bong by accident to almost freak out Kepeniak, but it’s all right. He reaches into his pocket for some powder. “I’ll keep your secret if you keep mine.” He’s not a congressman, just a drinking buddy.
While he’s taking care of business down south, Stamper finishes cleaning up for Underwood’s newest toy. He seeks out the call girl from last week’s episode and arranges an understanding—$10,000 for her silence. (And although he didn’t seem like the type, he empties what’s in his pocket in the sleaziest way possible: “Open your mouth. [Inserts cash] That last little bit is for me. [Prepare to insert something else].”
Russo is overserved, but Kepeniak sadly sobers him up with the truth. He wrote the editorial entirely on his own, Kern had no input. Why let a little bit of information ruin a good time though. “Freebird” plays in the background as Kepeniak spews more of his ideaologies. Russo finally breaches the subject of tossing Kern under the bus, whether right or wrong. The politicking annoys Kepeniak, so he calls his drunk pal a corporate sellout.
“Can a corporate sellout roll a joint like this?”
“If I go about this, how would I go about it precisely”
Russo offers a light. The ember is gaining firepower.
By the time he’s back in Washington, the damage is done. Barnes has Kepeniak on the record linking Kern to the editorial, Kern is trying to save face through press conferences but Jordanian diplomats are calling him racist. Underwood is already moving on, he calls Durant to tell her be ready. Next he plants the Durant appointment rumor to Barnes to fuel early media speculation. It leads to talking head and poll support, so by the time Underwood meets with Vazquez it’s a mere informal formality. He’s there to meet about education, but provides subtle affirmation for the Durant choice—she’s experienced, someone who can communicate across the aisle, and it shows the administration Is above partisan politics because she campaigned hard against Walker.
Donald Blythe 0, Frank Underwood 1.
Michael Kern 0, Frank Underwood 1.
Vazquez and Walker, whether or not they realize it… 0
Claire Underwood continues with her organizational expansion, asking her office manager conduct the exit meetings for 18 employees. And when Claire sits down for the debrief of those meetings… the office manager gets let go too. “I’ll gladly offer you a recommendation.” “For what, bagging groceries?” She delivers a stump speech to the remaining employees about moving forward immediately after, emphasizing that her door is always open for questions.
The scene sets up a karma closer near the end of the episode, as Claire goes for a cup of coffee only to encounter an older woman unable to work the register. Aging is a bitch and in DC it’s tough to reenter the game when you’re out. Maybe that’s why she insisted earlier that Frank start using a rowing machine she buys and places in the basement. (A little American Beauty-esque, eh?)
Zoe Barnes gets accused of “fucking” politics from the Herald’s White House correspondent, Jeanine. How else can you explain some rookie grabbing all the big scoops? The education bill, Kern’s editorial, the Durant nomination. Barnes merely brushes it off. She hasn’t had sex with anyone and she needs to head to the main office to film her first TV remote spot.
Albeit briefly, we meet Remy Denton, oil lobbyist and former staffer for Underwood. He comes by early to remind Underwood of some promises he needs to keep, promises with “billions on the line.” Hmm.
Poor Russo, his wacko mission must be kept discrete so Christina is left in the dark about his unexpected exit at night into the next day. To make matters worse, he arrives back to the office still under that work stress (Read: high and drunk from that trailer time).
As a reminder, these are “recaps” not “reviews.” See the editor’s note on the Episode 1 recap, reviews will come in groups of three. In the meantime, what do you think of our second hour? Comment below or send a line.