One of the strangest parts of “House of Cards” is just when you think you’ve seen the last of a truly unnecessarily character, they’re suddenly thrust into a major storyline. It goes the other way, too: The people you expect to stick around forever are unexpectedly murdered by a psychopath vice president.
That’s right, in Episode 3, we’ve got Rachel (the prostitute with Rep. Peter Russo the night he was murdered) and Christina (Russo’s former girlfriend/staffer) back in the mix. Not only are they not going away – when, let’s face it, they could have both easily been written off – they look like they could play big roles this season.
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But first, the token political storyline – and buckle up, because if the words “quorum call” get your pulse racing, this is definitely the episode for you. The State of the Union is approaching and President Walker is practicing his speech in front of his team, railing that the Republicans will force a government shutdown if they demand entitlement reform (a new retirement age). The president pauses when he gets to the part in his speech about “spending freeze” and how “the frostbite will be on [Republican] hands.” Frank Underwood’s advises him that the people in flyover states love ridiculous metaphors, but the president is not convinced. Christina, now inexplicably in the president’s inner circle, throws out new wordplay and the president likes it. This will be a mildly important fact later.
Anyway, Frank wants to prove how he’s the Best Vice President Ever. So he’s determined to win over the Republicans with his charm (or something) and get them to agree to a new entitlement reform bill, but one that will also make both parties and the president happy and avoid a shutdown. Sound impossible? Indeed, and the president’s BFF/special adviser Raymond Tusk doesn’t buy it.
During a secret meeting, Frank tells Tusk he has a plan that will totally work, just trust him, and all Tusk needs to do is get the president on board. Tusk growls that he’ll do his best, and if anything goes wrong, Frank will get all the blame. Frank smiles tightly and tells the audience that in the Cult of Tusk, there is only one disciple — but unfortunately, he’s the president, and “just happens to be the most powerful man in the free world. For now.” To punctuate his declaration, Frank angrily bites a baby carrot in the most dramatic display of vegetable consumption in TV history.
Frank then sets out on a complex plan that introduces the new villain, Sen. Curtis Haas, a Tea Party favorite that the Internet has decided is a Ted Cruz stand-in. Although Frank gets Senate Majority Leader Hector Mendoza set with his plan, Haas plays tough, insisting that he’ll stay true to his constituents and won’t take any deal Frank’s offering. After some master negotiating, Frank gets Haas to shake hands on an amendment that involves a new retirement age at 68, and early retirement at 64, which will save millions over the years. Plus, they’ll all win points for bipartisanship just in time for the State of the Union. Haas, rocking a spectacularly coiffed hair helmet, reluctantly agrees, and Mendoza guarantees it will pass in the Senate.
Except, wait, everything falls apart when Haas goes back on his word. Now, Frank has to convince enough people to switch sides and vote his way on the new amendment. After digging up an obscure parliament rule, Frank races to the Senate chamber and makes them quickly read the names during the quorum call to speed things up. The Republicans immediately start streaming out, so there won’t be a quorum, but then Frank uses that obscure rule to demand that all Republicans must return to the chambers or be arrested. Frank convinces Mendoza to stand up to Haas, and Mendoza and enough Republicans are dragged back in handcuffs to resume the quorum and vote on the amendment. It passes, and a seriously mad Haas is informed that he won’t be able to filibuster because of more fine print rules that Haas forgot about.
Frank wins again! The president boasts about the new historic amendment in the State of the Union (with Frank right on TV by his side). Except Frank can now officially put Raymond Tusk on the “enemies” list. When everything started melting down, President Walker claimed Tusk said that Frank “bullied” him into the plan of the new entitlement reform bill. Frank told the president to have faith. “Whatever faith I have is quickly evaporating,” the president warned him. Later, Tusk pretends he was on Frank’s side all along. Frank knows better and tells Tusk he knows he was being two-faced, but hey, it’s politics right? Plus, he assures him, “It’s okay, Raymond – Jesus forgives you.”
Meanwhile, Frank is too preoccupied to deal with another threatening situation: Washington Herald editor Lucas is still focusing all his energy on proving Frank murdered his girlfriend, Zoe. After an unsuccessful attempt to harass Christina on the street for more details on Russo’s death, Lucas makes contact on the sketchy “deep web” part of the Internet with someone who claims to be a hacker wanted by the FBI and can help Lucas obtain deleted phone records. Lucas loses all sense of reason, and to gain the hacker’s trust, provides him with fingerprints, his full name, and access to the Herald’s internal servers. That will end well. How about handing over your social security and credit card numbers, too? (Never mind, the hacker obviously already has them.)
After a second unsuccessful attempt to get former Herald co-worker Janine to help (she’s now an English professor at her hometown in Ithaca and has no plans to return to D.C., thank you very much), Lucas meets with the hacker. He lives in a pitch-black hacker cave that has multiple TV screens and buzzing computers. The hacker also has a guinea pig named Cashew, in case you were wondering. As Lucas gets closer to his goal, he may also be walking into a trap, as Frank’s right-hand man, Stamper, has already identified Lucas as the guy on the deep web who’s going around saying that Frank Underwood is a murderer.
Stamper is causing trouble elsewhere, too. We’re taken back to the world of Rachel, the former prostitute who Stamper banished to Joppa, Md., for knowing too much about Russo’s death. Rachel’s leading a rather miserable life working at a call center, and has taken to dialing her estranged mother only to quickly hang up. Lucky for Rachel, her spirits are temporarily lifted when she meets a nice girl on the bus named Lisa, who hands her a pamphlet for a religious group. Rachel declines, but later, Stamper shows up to repeatedly remind her not to talk to anyone or go anywhere, because she could be in danger if anyone finds out who she is. His bossy demands and general creepiness drive Rachel out of her dingy apartment into the religious group, where she’s greeted with friendly faces and lively music. Her new pal Lisa is thrilled to see her.
So while Rachel gets a big storyline update, it’s possible that Christina will as well, as she catches the attention of Claire Underwood. Claire is in the middle of interviewing press secretaries, and finds a promising candidate in Connor Ellis, who went all the way to Frank’s hometown in South Carolina to do research on the couple before his interview. Connor’s plan? If Claire and Frank want to stay under the radar in the press, they need to stage a joint interview where they remind everyone how they’re a totally committed, normal, boring couple. While Claire’s mulling this, she catches a glimpse of the president walking very closely with Christina in a hallway. She later brings it up to Frank, who looks intrigued. “They did seem cozy at the prep session,” he muses. File this away for later.
And one last disturbing detail to remember: Rep. Jackie Sharp, who went over to the dark side in Episode 2, bundles up in a disguise and heads to the local tattoo parlor to continue getting some very painful ink flowers on the side of her body. She already had a bad day. After leaking information about her former congressman friend Ted’s secret daughter, Emily, to the press, Emily’s mother calls, furious and hurt because the media is harassing poor Emily every day. Jackie looks devastated – but she’s chosen the evil path, and there’s nothing she can do about it.
Three Things to Say in Conversation to Make It Seem Like You Actually Watched This Episode:
What are the odds that hacker is really working for Frank Underwood?
Could the Senate Republicans have been arrested in real life?
Something is definitely going on with that new press guy.