'House of Cards' recap, Season 2, Episode 2

For The Baltimore Sun

"One heartbeat away from the presidency and not a single vote cast in my name. Democracy is so overrated." -- Frank Underwood

As Chapter 15 opens, Frank is getting dressed and watching Rachel Maddow's show. Maddow takes a dig at his nomination, calling him a placeholder. 

Frank and Claire's home resembles a construction site, as crews go to work on making sure that the residence is secure enough to house a vice president. While this is going on, guests arrive to watch Frank take his oath of office. After, Frank meets with Webb and Buchwalter, the two on-paper candidates for his old job as majority whip. They're infighting and well on their way to destroying each other, just as Frank planned.
 
Doug gets word from Christina that Tusk is in town, a piece of information that Frank finds useful. He quickly arranges a meeting between Catherine Durant, Tusk, the president and himself. 

We see Lucas at a police station, begging a detective to reopen the investigation into Zoe's death. He pleads with the detective to subpoena her phone records, intimating that there they would be able to link Frank to her death. The detective dismisses Lucas without really hearing him out, at first. 

"It can't be an accident," Lucas says of Zoe's death, which is enough to convince the detective to show him the surveillance footage of Zoe's encounter with the train. "You can watch it a million times, but this case is closed," the detective says. 

In their meeting, Tusk is outlining for Durant how he thinks her upcoming talks with China should go, giving orders as to what issues to avoid. Coincidentally, those issues are ones that might jettison some of Tusk's business dealings in that country. Frank placates Tusk in the meeting, much to Durant's chagrin, but he does so only to set Tusk up for a fall down the road. Durant promises to go lightly on the issue of cyber warfare, which is one of Tusk's major concerns. 

Later, in a private meeting with Durant, Frank urges her to "unintentionally" break her promise, and to press China on that matter. "Cathy, if you don't like how the table is set, turn over the table," Frank tells her. 

Elsewhere, Jackie begins wheeling and dealing in her effort to become majority whip, and Claire learns that she will soon run into a marine general that she has a past with at a ceremony. 

Durant takes Frank's advice and in doing so, upsets the Chinese delegation, who walk out on their talks. Later, at the ceremony, Linda Vasquez tells Frank that Durant overstepped her bounds and needs to publicly apologize for upsetting China. 

We learn that one of the generals that Frank is supposed to pin a medal on in the ceremony, General McGinnis, sexually assaulted Claire when they were freshman classmates at Harvard. Frank is outraged when Claire tells him this, and he threatens to walk out on the ceremony. Ultimately, though, Frank goes through with it. 

At the Herald, Lucas meets with Tom Hammerschmidt. Tom is content, if not happy, in his new life as a would-be novelist. Tom knows that Lucas called him there for a purpose, and Lucas reveals that he wants to look into Frank. Tom listens to Lucas as he outlines his case against Frank, but he isn't buying it. "Grief demands an answer, but sometimes there isn't one," he tells Lucas. 

Frank and Claire arrive home after the ceremony. Claire goes to bed, while Frank looks for ways to distract himself. He wants to play his video game, but the Internet connection for it wasn't secure, so it had to be disabled. I don't think he's missing out on much. He wants to have a puff on his electronic cigarette in his yard, alone, but the Secret Service needs to be there. 

Eventually, Frank goes to bed, but Claire is still awake. She details what happened to her, and tells Frank that he needs to move past it, as she has."You'll still feel the hate in the morning. You'll use that. But not on him," she tells him. 

President Walker meets with Frank and Durant, and Durant explains what happened in the talks with China. After she leaves, Walker calls Tusk and the three of them confer on what the next step should be. Tusk and Frank suggest that Walker issue an apology, himself, directly. Walker reluctantly agrees, which pleases Tusk. 

After the call ends, Frank privately tells Walker that perhaps an apology is not the way to go after all. Boy, this guy. He's slippery, even if he's right. The president tells Frank that he'll let him know when he decides which route to take.

Elsewhere, Webb and Buchwalter begin to see that they're being played against each other and start to formulate a plot to undermine Frank's dealings. As a result, Jackie will be forced to choose between politically destroying an old family friend and, previously, her closest political ally, by revealing that he had an illegitimate daughter, or abandoning her aspirations. Frank tells her that she knows what she has to do. And, so, she does it. 

Back at the Herald, a reporter introduces Lucas to the Deep Web, which will serve him well down the road as he continues to investigate Frank on his own. 

Walker ultimately decides not to back down from what Durant said, much to Frank's delight. Tusk calls Frank and interrogates him. He accuses Frank of manipulating Walker, but Frank plays dumb. Frank tells Tusk that they should support Walker in the decision he made.

There's a showdown coming between these two. Could Tusk be Frank's first truly worthy adversary?

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