From where we left off last time Frank Underwood had finally made it right into the middle of the television frame as Vice President of the United States. But I’m sure viewers’ doubt he will rest at that stop. There is plenty more games of cat and mouse for Frank Underwood and steely eyed wife, Claire Underwood, to win.
In fact, Claire finds herself in the spotlight this time. A scheduled exclusive television interview with the Underwood’s is altered slightly when Frank is trapped at the United States Capitol. White powder is found in the mail and so Frank is stuck. Claire has to do the interview alone. Their still fresh-faced communications director, Connor Ellis, reminds Claire to give the usual answer when questioned for not having children. This interviewer however will not let it rest and Claire admits she had an abortion. Meanwhile, Lucas Goodwin is still in turmoil over the murder of Zoe Barnes. We get a chance to see him interact more with Gavin Orsay, the hacker who will inevitably bring Lucas to his doom. The tension of Gavin’s leash being yanked by the feds is getting tighter and tighter.
Naturally, there is great controversy about Claire’s abortion. Though the abortion took place while they were on a campaign trail, five years after Claire was sexually assaulted, she spins it as if the child was a result of General McGinnis’s doing. Claire rockets herself further into a mix of lies but manages to keep her wits about her. It even attracts the attention of a private, who was sexually assaulted by General McGinnis in the marines. Claire convinces her to reveal her name, Private Megan Hennesy, and go on air. The three women; Claire, Megan and the interviewer share a deep discussion and Frank arrives just in time to see his wife dominating what could’ve been a tragic embarrassment. The white powder was a false alarm and so was Frank’s nervousness for Claire. At the end of the day, their faith in each other is revisisted. They share a cigarette and Frank sings Claire a song. The moment is elegant and wonderful, shadowed in what is not there: Their ability for deceit.
If “Chapter 17” was about mistakes they made in the past “Chapter 18” focuses in even further back on Frank’s ancestral past. During an ongoing Civil War Memorial, his ancestor, Augustus Underwood, greets Frank. Augustus died fighting for the south. The reenactor is morbidly convincing in his portrayal and Frank takes a liking to him. Meanwhile, in the present day, Frank tries to put a stronghold over back trading negotiations for a bridge project with Raymond Tusk and his business associate, Xander Feng from China. Feng is a strange breed of businessman caught between the throes of tradition and the freedom of future economies. He is slow and icy like a snake in his dealings, bizarre in his sexual encounters and ultimately a threat to Frank.
Claire has to deal with a snake of her own. Seth Grayson, played by Derek Cecil, does his own digging and finds evidence that Claire’s abortion was five years after General McGinnis assaulted her. He extorts her into hiring him and setting up a new job for Connor that he simply can’t refuse. This definitely ruffles Claire’s feathers. Frank has more success in driving a wedge between Raymond Tusk and President Walker. Feng, on the other hand, is not at all pleased. In a hallowed moment he meets with Frank at the place where Augustus Underwood died. Feng reminds him “there is no sacred ground for the conquered” and spits at Frank’s feet.
Lucas Goodwin is also conquered in the end. But we also get to see more of the hacker, Gavin’s, character. Gavin does try to warn Lucas he is making a mistake. As a response the feds visit his house. Though no harm is done the menacing mood grips the screen. Gavin barks like a dog and demands “Is that what you want?” To no avail, Lucas goes through with the attempt to hack into government information. He is instantly arrested as the set-up sting goes off without a hitch. Feng, Claire, Gavin and Lucas all have to kowtow to defeat. Only Frank Underwood stands tall at the final memorial ceremony. He buries his class ring in the dirt, calling on the reenactor of Augustus to do the ceremonial dig.
There is a great deal of symbolism that hangs on this ring. It is mentioned earlier how his father always told him to bang his knuckles, to toughen his hands for a fight. It seems now he has to continue his fight barehanded. Just as Augustus Underwood fought barehanded before he died. With the ring now gone Frank acknowledges burying the battles of his past. Perhaps he reflects on the murders of Peter Russo and Zoe Barnes, just as his ancestor murdered and was murdered. Now he has to stand tall drawing on his own strength if he wants to conquer unlike his ancestors who did not.
“Chapter 19” brings the resurface of Rachel who is settling into the fellowship she has found. It is her salvation, not religiously per say, but somewhere she can pretend she isn’t hiding. Doug Stamper does not appreciate her growing friendship with Lisa, a social worker from the fellowship. So begins a strange affair where Stamper needs Rachel to read to him, as he mother once did. Lucas calls on Tom Hammerschmidt to research on the outside. Lucas is now in state prison, and this environment is taking his toll. Ultimately, Janine and Tom both tell him it’s over. The truth won’t be revealed.
Commitments are light for Frank. He needs to throw a pitch at a baseball game, but has had bad luck in the past. He once hit himself in the head. Before he has a chance to throw the pitch, his continual clash with Raymond Tusk actually serves for him as a good thing. In spite, Raymond cuts the power grid at the baseball match in order to force himself back to the table with the president. Less serious misdealings are going in the white house too. Remy Danton fins himself falling for Jacquiline Sharpe. As a mechanism, perhaps, to protect herself, Jacqui stonewalls him insisting outside of the bedroom it is business and business only.
As this chapter draws to a close the viewers’ relationship with Lucas ends. He has lost. Frank is victorious. Tension remains between Frank and Raymond. They both have fallen out of the good graces of the president. Tension between Jacqui and Remy takes a romantic turn. But, the last image we are left with is the recurring silhouettes of Rachel and Doug. Their tension hangs on a taut rope that is both sexual and menacing.
House of Cards airs weekly on Showcase.