"Welcome back." -- Frank Underwood

As Chapter 14 begins, Doug confronts Frank as he and Claire return from a jog, telling him that Zoe and Janine are on to him. Frank promises to handle Zoe. Frank goes to the smoking nook to enjoy a cigarette, but finds the box empty. Claire admonishes him that with his birthday upcoming, Francis should take even better care of himself.

"And we can't have a vice president who smokes," she says. I get jokes, Claire. Meechum tells Doug that he's bought Frank some cuff links for his birthday. Doug does not approve. 

Frank meets with Jackie Sharp, a California congresswoman, and his hand-picked would-be successor as majority whip. Jackie is a war veteran, and a popular incumbent, and someone that Frank thinks he can use. He offers her ammunition should she choose to seek his old position, and she seems receptive. Frank meets with the president and lays the groundwork for his plan. 

"This is safe, Zoe. I'm not him," Lucas tells Zoe, after she emotionally shuts down during a sexual encounter. Later, on their way to work, Zoe tells Lucas that she needs to confront Rachel again. Claire tracks down the wife of the doctor that fathered Gillian's unborn child, and alerts her as to Gillian's whereabouts. A nasty confrontation ensues, rattling Gillian. 

Elsewhere, Doug finds Rachel at her waitress job and orders her to quit and prepare to leave town. Zoe arrives a  short time later, but she's too late.

Doug tells Frank that he's going to move Rachel to Joppa. Joppa? Joppa!

They need her away from the Slugline crew, but they still need to keep tabs on her, after all. Doug gives Frank a burner phone for his birthday. I kind of need, er, want a burner phone. Frank texts Zoe and asks for a meeting. 

Later that evening, Doug goes to Rachel's apartment to spirit her away to Joppa. Rachel greets him with a knife the size of your car, and orders him to leave. She isn't going anywhere, she says, and threatens to kill him. "Go ahead," Doug says, calling her bluff. She hesitates, and Doug grabs the knife away from her. Rachel folds, and Doug orders her to pack her things. 

Frank is handling some business at his office, namely making sure that Meechum will be assigned to his security detail once he's confirmed as vice president, when Zoe texts to confirm their meeting place. Lucas, meanwhile, uses a contact in the police department to secure a copy of the report on Peter Russo's death. The report notes only that Russo was found in the passenger seat of his vehicle, a fact that Lucas relays to Zoe. 

Zoe confronts Frank with that fact, which Frank deems inaccurate. Zoe presses and Frank continues to lie, denying any involvement in Russo's demise. When Zoe continues to question him, Frank bristles, warning her that their connection could still prove fruitful down the line. "Don't step out of the sunlight for no reason," he tells her. "Let's start this new chapter with a clean slate."

Claire visits with her fertility doctor, still very much in the planning phase, but she is considering undergoing treatments. Frank has a meal at Freddy's, where Freddy details how this new butcher that he's been working with kills his hogs, slowly and inhumanely. This all hits a little too close to home for Frank. Or does it actually inspire him to handle something swiftly and humanely?

Gillian confronts Claire after she learns that the health insurance that was part of her severance package has been canceled. Claire casually intimates that she sent the scorned wife of her child's father to see her earlier, and tells her that she's willing to continue withholding her insurance form her.

"I'm willing to let your child wither and die inside you if that's what's required," she tells her. Well.

Claire offers to settle their differences, and even to leave Gillian in charge of the CWI, presumably providing that she drops the lawsuit. Later, Claire alerts the doctor that she won't be pursuing any further fertility tests or treatment. 

Zoe meets Frank at a Metro station, and agrees that they should have a fresh start. Frank, by the way, is dressed as The Bookworm from the 1960s Batman show.

Zoe can't seem to help herself, though, and asks Frank more questions about Russo's death and his connection to Rachel. Frank continues to be evasive, and Zoe continues to press and call him Francis. That's a touch I like in this show. 

Zoe tells Frank that she just wants to be sure that she hadn't played some part in a murder. Frank turns to walk away. When Zoe follows, Frank turns back and pushes her directly into the path of an oncoming train. This guy sure doesn't mess around, does he?

Frank returns home after committing a homicide, to find Claire, waiting for him with a birthday cake, with one candle on top. Frank uses his hand to quickly snuff out the flame. It's symbolic, see? 

Lucas goes to see Janine, who is packing, looking to get out of town. Copies of the compromising photos that Frank took of Zoe for insurance purposes somehow found their way to Janine's mailbox, meaning that Janine clearly isn't safe. "He's got power, he's got a lot to lose, and right now, he is winning," she says of Frank. 

Frank meets with Jackie Sharp the next day, to see if she'll take him up on his offer. She asks why he chose her, and he details how in her military career, she killed fearlessly, even though she knew there would be collateral damage, because she always followed orders.

"Have you ever killed anyone?" she asks. Frank waits a beat too long to answer that question, before continuing to extol Jackie's "ruthless pragmatism."

With his loose ends mostly tied up, we see Frank going about his business in Washington and riding in the car with Meechum, who delivers him his cuff links. Frank seems quite pleased with them, and he turns to address us. I love when he breaks the fourth wall. 

Frank likens Zoe to a harmless kitten that grew up to be a dangerous cat. "For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy," he tells us. "There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted."

"Welcome back."

The closing shot of the episode is of Frank's new cuff links: a letter "F", and a letter "U".
Get it?

Want to chat about the Season 2 premiere? Join Join Sun TV critic David Zurawik and Sun editors oat noon Monday to talk it out.