Ah, relationships: Always twisted. That goes double for “House of Cards” where everyone seems to secretly hate each other no matter how much they’re in love. Episode 7 was on the slow side of plot development (finally), so as we reach the halfway point, here’s a rundown on each duo that’s driving this crazy show.
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President Walker and VP Frank Underwood
Well look who are best of friends! Frank’s plan of driving the president away from adviser Raymond Tusk is finally paying off, as the president has no time for Tusk’s tantrums (all caused by Frank) and has finally cut ties with his former pal. Plus, the president and Frank can bond because they’re both under attack: Specifically, attack ads from a group that calls itself “Friends for a Better America,” shelling out $25 million for scary black and white commercials that blast the Walker administration (calling out Jackie, Frank, etc.) for being inexperienced, out of touch, destroying the economy and America’s relationship with China. China, you say? Doesn’t … Raymond Tusk have lots of ties to China?
Frank is the only one who puts two and two together. After realizing that the money is coming from a casino in Kansas City frequently visited by Xander Feng (the Chinese billionaire Frank became enemies with in episode 5), a light bulb goes off in Frank’s head. Tusk lives in St. Louis, which is close to Kansas City, so he must be in collusion with the owner of the casino, Daniel Lanagin, to funnel money (via Feng) into Super PACs funding the attack ads.
Oh good, Daniel Lanagin, another shifty new character? Like it isn’t hard enough to keep track of everyone else? Nevermind him for now, let’s look at the trajectory of the president and Frank through this episode. The president, understandably mad that these attack ads are coming right before the midterms, which could cause a Republican majority in the House, lashes out at Frank for, honestly, a well-deserved verbal beatdown. He calls out Frank for messing up pretty much everything so far in his short stint as vice president, and scrambling from fire to fire instead of preventing them. (Little does he know Frank is causing them.)
Frank takes it in stride. “If you need a punching bag, I will stand there and take the punches as I have done time and time again,” he says, but notes he would much rather get back to work.
“YOU’RE OUT OF LINE, FRANK!” the obviously thin-skinned president screams.
“Dismiss me or keep swinging, Mr. President,” Frank says coolly.
Cut to later, when President Walker finds an actual punching bag with a bow in the Oval Office. The card reads: “This one doesn’t have a loud mouth like me. – Frank.” The president obviously doesn’t get gifts often because he’s delighted by this. The duo later becomes closer buddies during a late-night stroll in the West Wing, gazing at paintings and mulling over how lonely it is being so rich and powerful. Then, the wives plan a date night at the Underwood house, where the president is in wonderment at Frank’s newest hobby (painting toy soldiers).
Something tells us this won’t last long though: Frank has a couple very unpleasant conversations and doesn’t let the president in on either of them. First, with Tusk, who takes great joy in dancing around the fact that he’s funding ads that could destroy the administration. “You cannot bully your way back to table Raymond,” Frank seethes. “Best of luck keeping your majority in the House,” Tusk tells him sweetly. “I know how much it means to you.”
Later, Frank confronts casino owner Daniel Lanagin about switching sides away from Tusk, and Lanagin declines: he doesn’t care about having direct access to the White House by teaming up with Frank; he enjoys Tusk’s billions and billions of dollars too much. (Daniel Lanagin, we don’t know you or why you’re suddenly essential to this story, but we think you make wise decisions.)
Claire Underwood and Tricia Walker
Speaking of that date night, Claire has succeeded in her quest to torpedo the Walkers’ marriage. She successfully planted a seed that White House aide Christina is after the president: What do they do on all those long plane trips together anyway, hmmm? The first lady is a wreck on the way to the Underwood house for dinner, and asks her husband to fire Christina. The president scoffs at her, and she’s visibly distraught. Now Claire can scratch “destroy the marriage of the one couple with technically more power than Frank and I” off what’s surely a large to-do list.
Doug Stamper and Rachel
It’s a weird day on “House of Cards” when Doug Stamper turns down not one but two prostitutes, but that’s exactly what happens when he travels to Beijing on a fact-finding mission for Frank to ask Xander Feng to please stop funding the Republican attack ads. Feng sends some extracurricular enjoyment to Stamper’s hotel room, who turns it down. Earlier, when doing a similar espionage mission in the Kansas City casino, he hooks up with a casino waitress just so she can tell him after they sleep together, “You were thinking of someone else.”
Obviously, this is all so we can know that Doug isn’t just the creep who is basically keeping a former hooker hostage in an apartment in Joppa, Md. – he loves her. That’s why he’s not letting her move away even though everyone has forgotten about the Russo/Zoe murders at this point. Great, we feel so much better.
(Oh and for those keeping track at home, Feng tells Stamper that if Frank can get that Long Island Sound bridge deal to go through, he’ll consider stopping his funding to Frank’s opponents. That probably makes sense in some world.)
Remy Danton and Jackie Sharp
These two lovebirds hopped into bed last episode and are continuing their casual fling – until Remy decides to put a stop to this one-night stand business. What, the power lobbyist and majority whip aren’t a good match? No, it turns out, Remy just cares too much. Sure, he flirts with the ladies; but he doesn’t sleep with someone unless he really cares about them. Sorry, Jackie, he’s a one-woman kind of guy, and he doesn’t to deal with your booty calls anymore.
Later, when Jackie is up to some scheming of her own involving Claire’s bill about sexual assault in the armed forces (Jackie apparently doesn’t want it to go through?), she dials up Remy, and then quickly hangs up. It is difficult to remain interested in their high school shenanigans.
Seth Grayson and Connor Ellis
Don’t remember those names? Seth: New Underwood press rep who conned his way into the job by finding the one shred of evidence that Claire’s abortion story that doesn’t add up. He’s also been hired by Remy to wreak havoc on the Underwoods, but has apparently decided to switch sides and work for Frank. Because he likes power more than money? Anyway, he insists that Connor (the first press rep) be fired: Well, technically he instructs Remy to find him a high-paying job he can’t refuse. Seth may be a sociopath, but he still has a conscience.
And updates on some other random characters:
Freddy of Freddy’s BBQ
Nice perk of owning the vice president’s go-to diner: Freddy gets a positive profile in the Baltimore Sun that sends business through the roof (and offers of opening a franchise) and gets to cater dinner at the Underwood-Walker date night. Nice to see Freddy getting a moment in the sun.
The newest “House of Cards” political reporter is starting to catch on that there’s something funny going on between Raymond Tusk’s relationship with the president and Xander Feng. Uh oh – stay alert in Metro stations, Ayla.