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'House of Cards' recap, Season 2, Episode 5

In the strangest opening sequence in show history, we begin Chapter 18 with shots of a threesome involving erotic asphyxiation, and a Civil War reenactment happening in some nearby woods.

How do you think that story pitch went? Did the writer pull random ideas out of a hat? Frank is on hand to witness the reenactment, and he is not impressed. We learn that one of the participants in the threesome was a Mr. Feng, a Chinese billionaire, who is in town to meet with Frank. 

While Frank and Doug do research on Feng, Claire meets with her staff to go over her schedule. She tells Connor that although her abortion was unrelated to her sexual assault, there were no medical records, or any way to disprove that, and that her story would be that the two were linked.

Feng is something of an unofficial mouthpiece for his government, and in meeting with him, Frank is also serving in a far less formal capacity. While Catherine Durant handles official talks with China, Frank is dealing through back channels.

Feng is a business associate of Raymond Tusk, and seems to have as much influence on writing Chinese policy as Tusk does in the United States. Frank finds Feng to be someone that he can work with, but remains wary of the man. He seems to think that Feng and Tusk might be working together to out themselves over at the expense of their respective governments. 

Lucas is practicing for his field operation at Gavin's place, when Gavin gets testy with him. I'm beginning to think that maybe this Deep Web hacker guy who is acting as a double agent and has a pet guinea pig named Cashew might not be wrapped too tight. Just a hunch.

My Uncle Bill says I'm a good judge of character, so, anyway. Doug alerts Frank that they're just a step away from nabbing Lucas. "This needs to be clean, Doug. One fall of the axe," Frank reminds him. 

Later, Claire visits with the first lady and asks her to consider joining her as an advocate for those who have survived sexual assaults. Meanwhile, a man named Seth Grayson tracks down the wife of the deceased doctor that performed Claire's abortion, and threatens to expose what her husband did. He claims to be working for the Underwoods, but that claim seems dubious at this point. 

Frank is taken on a walking tour of the old Civil War battlefield, with particular attention being paid to an area called the Bloody Angle. Frank learns that his great-great-great-grandfather died in battle there, which is news to him, as he wasn't aware that any Underwoods had fought in the war. Frank has an intense encounter with the reenactor tasked with portraying his long-dead relative. 

Gavin's handler confronts him and scolds him for not being tough enough with Lucas, earlier. The handler threatens Cashew and makes Gavin sit and bark like a dog. On the surface, this was about showing Gavin who the boss is. In reality, this was some kind of weird sex game, I'm convinced. Gavin is having second thoughts about turning on Lucas. 

Doug meets with Feng, who expresses displeasure that Frank defied one of his demands form their earlier meeting. Feng brags about his wealth and taunts Doug, an alcoholic in recovery, waving a drink in front of his face. Feng orders that the United States reintroduce a WTO lawsuit that it had just dropped, a measure that will aid Feng and Tusk in their business ventures.

"If the vice president fails to cooperate, I will simply bypass him," Feng warns Doug. Frank seems willing to call Feng's bluff, however. "If a bullet comes my way tomorrow, it will not be an accident, and I must be quick to duck," Frank tells us. 

Claire and a congresswoman meet with representatives from the Joint Chiefs, to discuss the possibility of allowing sexual assaults that take place in the military to be prosecuted in civilian courts. The representatives argue that such a measure would "... fundamentally erode the military's ability to self-discipline." 

Can you, with a straight face, consider that argument? There are people who think the way that the fictitious Joint Chiefs did in this scene. Does that scare you as much as it scares me? Also, the fact that in real life America, in 2014, independent prosecutors are not responsible for prosecuting sexual crimes in the military, is absurd. I digress. 

The first lady interrupts the meeting and proves to be a strong ally for Claire, punctuating a few of her key points with the Joint Chiefs, who appear totally incompetent. this was a big win for Claire. 

President Walker confers with Tusk and Frank, concerned with how Frank's talks are going. Tusk accuses Frank of being two-faced with Feng, which, of course, he is, but only so he can get at Tusk. Frank pleads ignorance and tosses some barbs at Tusk. Walker tries to stay above the fray, but tells Frank and Tusk that they both need to stop back-channeling and allow Durant to handle all talks with China. Oh, yeah, that will happen, I'm sure. 

Without missing a beat, Frank tells Doug to set up a meeting with Feng. Doug agrees, but also warns Frank about Seth Grayson and what he might be digging in to. Back in Washington, Grayson meets with Claire. Grayson reveals that he wanted Connor's job, but rather than apply through normal channels, he did the Underwoods a favor by eliminating any link between Claire and the doctor who performed her abortion. 

Claire wonders whether that's the case, or whether Grayson might be trying to extort her. "I'm not extorting you, Mrs. Underwood. I'm just highlighting the difference between a good choice and the right choice,"Grayson tells her. "Here's what I know. It is far easier for you to destroy me than the other way around."

Claire tells him that she'll need to consult with Frank before bringing him on board, but it appears that Grayson will work with Frank, while Connor continues to work with Claire. 

Claire is not without reservations when it comes to Grayson, and she tells Frank that she doesn't think he can be trusted. Frank seems to think that they have no choice but to bring him on board anyway, though. "I'd rather manage someone I don't trust than someone who's reckless," he tells Claire. Okay, usually Frank's word is gospel, but I question the wisdom of that statement. 

Lucas goes to carry out his mission, which is infiltrating a server farm, which he gained access to by pretending to cover a story on cyber terrorism. In reality, he's about to somewhat unwittingly perpetuate an act of cyber terrorism, that could net him life in prison. Lucas does what he had been instructed to do, and was immediately arrested.
 
Frank treks out into the woods to meet with Feng. Frank asks Feng to deliver Tusk a message for him. "The president of the United States and I are not his puppets. Now, you tell him that," Frank says. "Do you know how Grant defeated Lee?" Frank asks Feng. "He had more men. That's all. And he was willing to let them die. It was butchery, not strategy, which won the war," Frank says. "I have the federal government of the United States of America. your money doesn't intimidate me."

Feng spits in disgust and storms away. 

Walker hears that Frank met with Feng and has a conference call with him and Tusk. In the call, it becomes clear that Tusk has also had contact with Feng, which went against Walker's decree that no more back-channeling should take place. Walker decides to pull out of all current talks with China and blames Frank, but also scolds Tusk for disappointing him. Frank may have lost a battle here, but he intends to win a war, a power struggle with Feng and Tusk. 

At a ceremony with reenactors, Frank buries his college ring, close to a spot where his ancestor died, while Doug alerts him that Lucas has been captured. 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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