Contains spoilers -- do not read unless you've seen House Of Cards Season 1, Episode 6
You know when a TV show tries to convey an issue via a metaphor, and sometimes it's subtle, but at other times it has all the covertness of a heavy brick hurtling through the air? Well, in this episode, House of Cards uses a very literal representation of what it's trying to communicate. In this case, yes, it's a brick, and it's smashing through Frank's window.
OK, so it all ends up being an elaborate ruse by Frank (which, c'mon, really?!), but it's nonetheless effective in displaying what this show is all about. It's brute force masking the machinations and scheming underneath; both will get you what you want, but one is a lot less messy. And while Frank usually chooses the cleaner option, in this case he has to get down and dirty to end the teacher's strike, which we learn has now stretched on for a month.
Most of this episode is dedicated to the Frank vs. Spinella plotline. Frank still wants that collective bargaining addendum added to the bill, and Spinella doesn't want any reform. His ultimate goal is to keep the teachers happy. So the two continually butt heads, until Frank takes things into his own ... er ... somebody else's hand.
When the brick flies through his window, Frank has an excuse to play the "too much violence" card, stating that the teachers and the teacher's union are taking things too far, behaving irrationally for their cause. He then uses Zoe to get the message out there in the media (with the term "disorganized labor"), and it, of course, spreads like wildfire. For the time being, Frank succeeds at making people believe that the teachers are radicals, out for blood and not thinking of the children.
Spinella and Frank agree to have a debate on CNN, and we think it'll be an easy victory for Frank. We've seen him play with words before. But in a very unwise move, he brings Claire with him to the studio to support him, and in an even stupider move, he uses her as a mechanism by saying she can't live her life normally since the brick incident. Claire, ever-stoic, stands there like a statue, not daring to move. Spinella uses this to his advantage and completely screws Frank with it -- Frank stumbles, and starts reciting vowels nonsensically. He bites it, and he bites it huge. He even becomes a viral YouTube sensation! Hilarious.
After a week of humiliation, even in the halls of The Pentagon, Frank eventually meets again with Spinella, insults him to the point where Spinella becomes violent, and gets punched in the face. He then blackmails Spinella into ending the strike. All the subtlety of a brick, no? Frank has sunk low now to achieve his agenda.
In other news, Peter is back! Seems all of Frank's blunt manipulation on that front worked, too. Peter has now been sober for a month (coincidentally as long as the teacher's strike), and wants to run for Governor of Pennsylvania. Frank is elated, and tells Claire that she must enlist him at CWI for some project so that he can a) create jobs and b) make it look like he knows what he's doing. For the second time in this episode, Frank uses Claire to his own ends, just like he uses Zoe and Peter.
The B-plotline helps us understand that Claire is a simmering pot of rage and resentment. While she realizes that she can't necessarily and/or easily combat Frank on his own terms, she can take that misery she experiences and spread it out to others. We saw it with the firings in the first few episodes, and we see it again here when Claire goes to visit their former security man, Steve, who's on his deathbed with pancreatic cancer.
Steve confesses to Claire that he's always been in love with her, and that he hates Frank. Now this is a very sick, gaunt man, confessing a secret on his deathbed. Wouldn't the appropriate response be to quietly nod, excuse yourself and never speak of it again? Not Claire. She does the harshest thing imaginable -- she reaches up his hospital gown, grabs his (probably non-functioning) penis and pulls, hard. She hisses, "Now you know my secret." And now so do we. Underneath that statuesque demeanor is a force to be reckoned with, one who might ultimately bring down Frank and his ... sigh ... house of cards.
Best Frank Quote: "When you make someone Secretary of State, they owe you for life."
You can stream House Of Cards at any time on Netflix.
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Original UK Series: "Hell's Kitchen" The thread that ties these two together is Gordon Ramsay. Without his acerbic, curse-laden diatribes, this show would not work on either continent. There's something almost cathartic about watching "Hell's Kitchen," which might be why it works so well -- you instantly feel better about your own cooking, and you can release a bit of anger every time Ramsay yells at one of the contestants.
Original UK Series: "Shameless" Showtime's American adaptation of "Shameless" has worked for a few reasons. Most importantly, its central story of a dysfunctional family struggling to make ends meet resonated with audiences during the recession. The show also hit home runs with its casting: William H. Macy plays a great drunk, and Emmy Rossum has emerged as the show's tough, sexy breakout star.
Original UK Series: "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" There are a two very simple reasons "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" took off in the US. Number one: Every single American TV viewer would like to be a millionaire. Number two: Regis Philbin and his monochromatic shirt/tie combinations were awesome.
Original UK Series: "The Office" Ricky Gervais' British sitcom "The Office" premiered in 2001 and followed the employees of the fictional Wernham Hogg Paper Company. Though it only lasted two seasons in the UK, it lives on in the US. The American version starred Steve Carell and made him a highly-coveted film actor, and did the same for John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer and more of its stars. Now going into its ninth season, the dry humor and mockumentary-style series about the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company employees set the tone for many more comedies to come (i.e. "Modern Family").
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Original UK Series: "The Inbetweeners" Though time will tell if the MTV adaptation will be able to rival the cult appeal of the original, the first three episodes of the new comedy prove just as charming as the British show, albeit in distinctly American ways. British humor may be dry and acerbic, but the new cast has undeniable chemistry and comic timing, and it will be interesting to see where the show goes when it starts utilizing its original material, rather than the six episodes it based on the UK series.
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