House of Cards: S2E5 “Chapter 18”

6.3 Overall Score
Story : 7/10
Acting: 6/10
Anticipation: 6/10

Boring but necessary to set overall plot in motion

Confusing back-channeling plot | irrelevant details |A bit of a boring episode | Why Spotsylvania?

This Chinese business –Raymond Tusk business is well, Chinese to me.

Sorry for the bad pun, I just have no idea what’s going on. On one hand, I’m expecting a kink-ridden sex-scandal plot because of that whole autoerotic asphyxiation opening sequence, but in reality, it has little to do with anything else. I guess “House of Cards” decided it was the point in the season to spice things up a bit, but I’m sad Raymond isn’t involved with Xander Feng outside of strictly business.

This episode was complicated, and that makes it easy for us to get annoyed and lose patience. Thank goodness “House of Cards” spreads their tedious episodes throughout the season, because if they were lumped together in the middle, this would be a very different show, critically.

So Xander Feng is tied up, suffocating with a plastic back over his head while a male* and female prostitute go to town on him, when suddenly we’re flung into Spotsylvania, Va., where Frank is attending a Civil War reenactment – fun on all sides.

Frank is there to give a speech – a really short one – and then he goes about his day, dealing with the Chinese. Later, he takes a tour of the grounds when some dude who never breaks character comes out of nowhere and tells him he’s his great-great grandpappy. Frank is a little creeped out (as we all are when Daniel fucking Day Lewis here doesn’t break character and have a normal chat.) This whole surreal environment mirrors my generally lost feeling this episode, but like Frank, I just have to go with it.

Frank uses his ancestor to have a private moment and get away from the cameras. He tells his great-great-grandfather that he can leave so Xander Feng can emerge from his hiding place.

What does Feng want?

I’ll do my best to simplify the issue, which was murkily explained earlier in the episode. All we know so far is

  • Feng is a Chinese telecom billionaire.
  • Feng and Raymond Tusk are business associates through the Rare Earth Refinery.
  • Raymond has a reason for dipping his hand into diplomacy and Frank sees this opportunity for back-channeling as a way to “loosen his grip on the president.”
  • Feng wants to make sure Raymond Tusk is put on the project and would rather not have the refinery up for bidding, even if Raymond will outbid any competitors.
  • President Walker is relying on the Chinese for a bridge over Long Island Sound in exchange for a 25-year toll contract.
  • The World Trade Organization sued the Chinese in a currency manipulation suit. Feng doesn’t want the America to drop the suit. He wants it to seem that America Forced the Chinese out, not that they gave in.
  • Frank lies and tells the President that Feng won’t talk until the drop the suit. He’s doing this because he knows Feng and Raymond are playing their own interests, which may be different from Beijing’s.

So back at night with Feng and Frank in the forest, Feng confronts the vice president about the leak dropping the suit, which went against everything they talked about. Frank says that he won’t submit to him and Raymond, especially if they’re working on their own behalf. He sends Feng to tell Raymond that the president and him are not his puppets. At the end of the day, Frank wins by bringing up a common theme in this season. No matter how much money his enemies have (Raymond, Feng, Remy Danton, etc.), it’s no mach to the power he possesses in the Executive branch.

The entire plot line is just beginning here and was difficult to understand because of all the extraneous elements – Spotsylvania, method actor grandpa, Civil War, fetishes. I imagine I didn’t pay much attention to it in the first place because it didn’t take over the majority of the episode. Equal to Frank’s plot this episode was Claire’s. After revealing that she was a victim of rape in last episode’s TV interview, she seized the opportunity to turn her revelation into public policy. She will soon draft a bill to reform military practices in similar cases of rape. The bill would pull back the blinds on the military’s hush-hush way of handling with things by turning these cases to civilian courts instead of having the military practice self-discipline. Claire recruits the first lady to join her cause for more strategic reasons than having this bill be taken seriously.

Finally, I guess it’s least important even though I’d like to see it be more important, Lucas is being trained by his hacker-for-hire to put a chip in a Very Important Room Full of Servers. When the moment finally comes to do the job, Lucas inadequately tries but gets caught by the very same guys who gave him the tour, who just so happen to be with the FBI. So Lucas is looking at life in prison, which is exactly where Frank back-channeled him.

*Didn’t that male prostitute look A LOT like Lucas for the 2 seconds he was on screen?



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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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