House of Cards S2E4 “Chapter 17”

7.3 Overall Score
Story : 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Anticipation: 6/10

Robin Wright's performance as Claire Underwood |Overall a solid, enjoyable hour of TV

Anthrax scare bottle-episode nonsense | Details left to die out |Portrayal of journalists

I’m guessing by this point every one is done with “House of Cards,” and if you’re not, I applaud you on your incredible sense of self-control. I’m a TV addict. I mean, I run a column called Telediction. Netflix shows are both a blessing and a curse to someone like me. They’re total enablers, and I spend hours upon hours glued to my laptop screen, burning my eyeballs – I tell myself it’s for you, but really it’s just as much for me with a show like “House of Cards.” If you have finished this season, at least you can continue living out your political fantasies through a stream of reviews here.

Episode 4 is the point of the season where gears get set in motion. I’d like to think of previous episodes as a form of aggressive flirtation. Aggressive because Zoe died in the first episode, but then they left us to simmer down a bit, bringing in an international business sub-plot and a look into Claire’s past.

As the newly minted Vice President and Second Lady, Claire and Frank have to make a series of appearances and interviews. Francis hates all this, but luckily (for him) an anthrax scare keeps him in his former office with Congressman Donald Blythe, whom Frank is trying to whip to vote for the entitlements bill of last episode. This is more than a little awkward for the quarantined duo aside from having their private conversations broadcasted through the door via walkie-talkie. If you remember in Season One, back when the bill in question was one on education reform, Frank screwed Donald. Now he needs Donald to vote on his side in the House vote to make the White House seem solid, but Donald isn’t buying his niceties.

“I came because you asked me, but don’t mistake that as false hope. If you have other people to lobby you should,” Donald tells Frank.

Ten minutes turns into an entire day when a secretary opens an envelope and releases a mysterious white substance on her and over the desk/floor.

When Claire finds out, she decides to go into the interview solo. She’s never one to rely solely on her husband and feels confident, or at least adept in taking on the CNN interview by herself.

This interview is in all ways intense. Writers really love to play with the journalist archetype on this show, making us all seem like blood hungry, ruthless reporters who throw out risky statements in order to get a good story – but really, it’s just good TV. There’s a ton of worse journalists out there (Hello, “Newsroom.”), so at least we have something to entertain us outside of the political niche. We’ll quickly learn that with Zoe’s death, the journalism angle would be risked, but Lucas seemed to keep the flame alive so far, even if it is for a personal-vengeance subplot.

Anyway, the interview delves into Claire’s past. Ashleigh Banfield grills her on her parent’s money, the possibility of a calculated marriage and eventually motherhood. Claire has all her appropriate answers, but nothing could prepare her for Ashleigh’s bomb: “We’ve heard that answer before.”

Damn, Ashleigh’s insistence on the question of motherhood is not only unnecessarily harsh and off-topic, but rude. What could you possibly get out of this in a real life interview? A woman’s right to choose not to have children is her right, and Ashleigh definitely seems to be framing her questions and shaming Claire for not possessing the “maternal instinct.” The topic segments off into abortion when Ashleigh flat out asks her if she ever had one. Under the harsh lights of the interview and feeling slightly defeated by Ashleigh, Claire sees no other option than to say yes. Robin Wright does a great job here at really getting into the mind of Claire Underwood, showing just a hint of panic and frantic thought-racing as the acceptable time frame to answer a question on live television withers away.

Claire does have that maternal instinct though, but almost surgically, she decides to put her career first. In the first episode of the season, Claire briefly goes to a doctor to get some tests to see if she’s still able to have children, but then cancels the appointment only to never speak of it again. It was nothing but a whisper leading up to this moment, but still a shame that it was forgotten.

Claire admits to having an abortion, rightfully putting Ashleigh in her place, at least I think (but that doesn’t mean Ashleigh quits grilling her on the subject). I thought this was CNN, not Fox News.

“If I said yes, my husband’s political career would be in jeopardy. My faith would be questioned. Likely, my life would be threatened, but I won’t feel ashamed. Yes, I was pregnant and, yes, I had an abortion,” Claire says.

Claire spins this to her own advantage by claiming that her terminated pregnancy was the result of General McGinnis’s sexual assault on her during college. Bullet dodged, but just slightly. She’s now opened up an entire plotline that will take her through the season and test her moral and emotional power (a favorite ground among writers for her character on the show).

While Claire’s interview was the focal point of the episode, there’s still a lot that happened outside. For brevity’s sake, bullet points:

  • Frank tries to get Donald drunk and addresses the audience by telling us he needs to appeal to the heart and not the brain. Pathos not logos of course, for all you nerds. His scheming is deliciously foiled when Donald recognizes that Frank’s trying to use his wife, who has Alzheimer’s, as a bargaining tool to get him to vote on entitlements. The person that finally gets Donald to side with Republicans (and support the Democrats) is Jackie Sharp, who gets him to vote on the bill practically only because she says she’s not Frank.
  • Lucas goes down a dangerous path with his new hacker friend-for-hire, Gavin, who’s setting him up for failure by training him to get into server or some sort and insert a chip. What this has to do with uncovering the Underwood conspiracy theory is beyond me, but again, TV I guess.
  • Frank sends Jackie to whip votes with Lobbyist Remy Danton. They get along great. Hmm hmmm.

All right, that’s all I have for you this time. Check back for Episode 5 in the coming days. As always, we can continue the conversation in the comments section or via Twitter @ClaudiaCMarina. I love talking TV is you haven’t guessed already.

 

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Author: Claudia Marina View all posts by
Journalism student at the University of Florida. Sally Draper is my spirit animal. I love writing about TV and how it affects culture. Occasionally I watch bad TV, but reviews make it better.

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