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.