Contains spoilers -- do not read unless you've seen House Of Cards Season 1, Episode 7
The beginning of this House Of Cards episode is brilliant. We witness the set-up of the Oval Office for a political ceremony, cut with scenes from the set-up of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Both are fundamentally the same: placing of chairs (in straight lines vs. a circle), refreshments (water vs. coffee), and the slow filtering in of attendees, both willing and non-willing. It's interesting to think of politics as a vice, or something you can't shake. Our Frank is an unabashed politics addict. (To quote Intervention: "Frank, your addiction has affected these people's lives negatively in the following ways...")
At the ceremony and throughout this episode, we're brought closer to the vice-president, Jim Matthews, a spineless, rather pathetic man who cares more about where he'll appear on camera than the actual issues at hand. It's funny watching Frank watching him, since we're fully aware of how much Frank is running things, and how inconsequential Jim is. Interesting, too, how close Frank is in position to the President in terms of camera marks. Little tape Xs never meant so much before, did they?
Frank gets a presidential pen, which seems to be the big prize at this ceremony despite all the over-the-top pageantry. (To compare, the gift given at AA meetings is life, a much more serious prize.) Jim doesn't get a pen, and he spends the episode whining about it like a little boy: "I didn't get my pen." As if there aren't more important things going on.
Speaking of which, Zoe and Frank haven't seen each other in three weeks (not sure what's going on there), Stamper receives a blackmailing letter from that hooker (Rachel) he bribed to keep quiet about Peter, and Claire has started up a project at CWI (the Delaware watershed bill) for Peter, at Frank's insistence. So Frank's (and Claire's, but who's counting) basement is reverted into a campaign center for Peter, as he prepares to run for Pennsylvania governor, replacing Jim, who vacated the seat to become VP.
Poor Peter has to go through the ringer as well. Let's not forget this man is just about the most sinful, vice-laden man of all time, and he's trying to enter big-game politics. Secrets become explosive if not handled carefully, so Frank enlists someone to quiz the living shit out of Peter about every single bad thing he's ever done. Hookers, drugs, sexually transmitted infections, the whole nine. Peter loses it and exasperatingly leaves the room, and Frank has to talk him down (yet again) and convince him to stay in the game. Of course, he acquiesces.
After this cleansing confessional, it's almost as if Peter achieves a higher clarity. After going AWOL post-AA meeting, people frantically try to find him. Frank cleverly enlists former girlfriend Christina to get Peter back in the fold and on track, so he hires her on as Peter's deputy campaign manager -- to give him "something he really cares about." Peter starts getting sponsors for the CWI project, he and Christina get back together (ill-advised, Peter, ill-advised!) and the campaign train starts moving -- figuratively, I mean.
The potential campaign ruiner, the hooker Rachel, is conveniently set up with housing by Stamper, who finds her a place to live in a friend's basement room. Of course, that friend works within the government, so it's only a matter of time before this blows up in everyone's faces -- Frank, Peter and Stamper. Not smart. If I were Stamper, I probably would have given her a ton of money to just get the hell out of Dodge. But that's just me.
Across town, our intrepid reporter Zoe is calling Frank non-stop and wondering why he hasn't contacted her (and for the record, we never get an explanation from Frank, except for the knowledge we have from last episode that Zoe is "work" to him). And, as usual, she only hears from him when he needs something. In this instance, he wants her to write a profile about Peter. Since her writing integrity is pretty much all she has at this point, she balks, and instead gets her former senior editor drunk and convinces her to write it. We know that Peter lies throughout the interview, since we've seen him answer the vice squad's questions before. The piece is fluff.
Perhaps as a reward (for himself), or perhaps to gather more intel, Frank ventures over to Zoe's apartment. He witnesses a former colleague of Zoe's try to kiss her in front of her place, and what's that look on Frank's face? Is it jealousy? Is it fear of losing his source? In any case, he shows up at her doorstep unannounced and cracks open a bottle of wine with his presidential pen. (It means so much to him, doesn't it?) In one of the series' weirder scenes, Zoe calls her father while Frank takes off her pants and starts performing oral sex. Uncomfortable and nasty, for all of us! Thanks, Netflix, for grossing us out! Truly awkward.
Poor Claire is left standing in front of the fridge to combat her oncoming menopause and hot flashes, and has taken up origami. Something is definitely simmering here, and it's only a matter of time before Claire snaps.
The closing shot of the episode is a spider in a cup, trying to work its way out (a nice bookend, if not a bit too on-point). Will it get out? My Spidey sense says yes, it will, and Frank will be the one getting bitten.
Best Frank Quote: "Generosity is its own form of power."
You can stream House Of Cards at any time on Netflix.