“House of Cards” recap (2.12): Stacking the Lies

Ooh, we’re diving right in. You know who else is diving right in? Special prosecutor Dunbar, who is already in vaguely untrustworthy marriage counselor Dr. Larkin’s office. Larkin says everything said in that room is under a covenant of confidentiality between him and The Lord, and Dunbar, already silently wondering how hard she’s going to loofah to get all the creep dust off her, says he and the Lord can take a deep breath and cough up anything to do with money laundering, Feng, Tusk, or casinos, so let’s get hawking.

Larkin glibly admits that he was never conducting any real therapy—I knew it!—and says nope, it was all religious work, all the time. Dunbar hates being here so much. I bet she occasionally fantasizes about working in fast food restaurants just for all the people who would give her simple answers to direct questions.

Dunbar uncoils a little bit and points out that the Walkers never attended Larkin’s church, and aren’t even the same denomination. Which is suddenly making Larkin’s claim about being their spiritual advisor seem a little thin. Larkin is not backing down. Go on and look Dunbar in the face and see if she will be either.

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I know we’ve got an embarrassment of riches in terms of great performances on this show, but can we talk about how hard Elizabeth Marvel is rocking it as Heather Dunbar? This could have been a pretty thankless role, and instead she has come in very, very late in the game here and turned her character into an implacable Greek Fury of justice. I love how she shows just how much she hates wrongdoing and how much more than that she hates lying and how much more than that she hates it when she is constrained by the rules from calling people on it. She’s a force of nature that Frank has unleashed who might just tear the whole place down. And I buy every second of it.

Frank enters the Oval Office to find Walker having a moment—and to find that Walker has re-hung the heavy bag that Frank gave him. Walker says that Floyd Mayweather stopped by… And, oh, dear, taught the President enough about the strategy of boxing—the calculating, the setup, the waiting for the right moment to strike—for Walker to finally realize that Frank set him up, but good. Backchanneling, Linda Vasquez, special prosecuting, Tusk, and everything. Oh, my.

…And yet, Walker still manages to be wrong. He says Frank is undercutting him so he can challenge Walker in 2016. He just doesn’t get the Underwoods at all. Frank points out that Vice Presidents don’t challenge sitting Presidents (er, not in elections…), but Walker keeps pulling the thread, keeps unraveling. He’s close enough to the truth to be very pissed off. Walker says he won’t make things worse for himself by asking for Frank’s resignation, but effectively banishes him from meetings—no talking, no showing his face.

“Exiled,” Frank tells us as he leaves Walker’s office. “I’ve managed to isolate the President from everyone, including myself.”

Jackie Sharp reads aloud from Megan Hennesey’s New York Times interview, hearing Claire whispering behind the words. Megan’s accusing Sharp of being brainwashed by the military, and of stopping women from getting justice by opposing Claire’s bill. Wow—we haven’t seen Jackie this pissed off before. She announces that it’s time to beat down Claire. DRAGON FIGHT!

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Meanwhile, at Murky Towers, Claire tries to soothe and confuse Tricia Walker, telling her that Garrett has just “misconstrued” what she and Frank have been up to. Frank listens in as  Claire coos and wheedles to try to enlist Tricia on his behalf, but Tricia’s rabbit senses kick in, and she suddenly knows that Frank must be listening, that she’s in trouble, and she hangs up.

Frank and Claire are in plotting mode, smoking openly and wondering if Tricia told anyone else about the Xanax. Frank says that the doctor/fake counselor won’t leak the information about Xanax unless someone waives his or her privilege, and the Walkers have nothing to gain by waiving their privilege. “But we do,” says Claire. And that’s that.

In the Halls of Power, Frank sends Seth to meet with Tusk and sends Doug to get Dunbar. Time to fight chaos with chaos.

Gavin the Parrot listens to crazy electronic music as he waits for the FBI to arrive. As they cuff him, he asks for Agent Green. He asks calmly, quietly, very sure of himself; letting these lesser agents know that he has information way above their pay grade. One of the cannonfodder agents goes to turn off the music and Gavin directs him to a screen: The access grid to all of AT&T’s data centers. The agents uncuff Gavin with uncommon gentleness. I hope he makes them peel Cashew a couple of grapes.

Frank meets with Secretary of State Durant, trying to get her to give Feng asylum, only no one mentioned to him that today is Everyone Catches on to Frank’s Bullshit Day. Durant knows damn well that Frank wants to knock the President on his ass, and she’s tired of dealing with all this backchanneling damage control nonsense instead of actually making the world a better place. Frank floats the notion that Walker is paranoid and fails, then rolls one hell of a big pair of dice: If Frank undermines the President, wouldn’t Durant and the country both benefit?

Looks like Frank rolled a 7—Durant is on the phone with Feng, undermining the President with a little help from special prosecutor Dunbar, who is really goddamned serious about her job. Feng tries to play it cool since he has temporary asylum in Dubai, but Durant isn’t screwing around today: Between the U.S. and China, his fortune gets frozen and his welcome gets yanked in every country in the world. Unless he’d like to confirm the money laundering scheme. Feng weighs the various pros and cons of being a billionaire playboy versus being a broke fugitive in about .03 nanoseconds and says yup, there was money laundering. Right through that casino.

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Tusk walks into a room full of lawyers. He’s been subpoenaed, and they suggest he show up and answer some questions. His session is in 48 hours. Tusk is not used to this sort of treatment— having to show up and answer things. It rankles.