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House of Cards: Chapter Five

“Friends make the worst enemies.”

I started the review of the last episode by asking who Frank really is. I still can’t answer that question, but the question I can now answer is who Claire is. She is not someone with whom I would want to spend a great deal of time.

The early morning exchange between Claire and Frank was astonishing and a real insight into not only the marriage, but the woman involved. Obviously not the first time that Frank has slept with someone else, Claire doesn’t seem to mind. The only thing that concerns her is what “the reporter” will able to do for them. Frank is obviously on the back foot and begins to remind her that he will end it whenever she wants. “I know, Frank,” she says with one of the coldest smiles I have ever seen. Of course, this now explains why she called Adam the next night, but begs the question of why she didn’t sleep with him.

While Frank holds all the power in public, Claire holds it all in the marriage. The night after Frank sleeps with Zoe, Claire is cold and harsh towards him. Frank approaches her with contrition and shame, reminding her that she agreed to give up Remy’s money. Her response is barely civil. The next day, when the gala falls apart at the last minute, Frank literally drops everything and pulls a lot of strings to make it happen. Of course, the gala is a huge success and Claire now has $750,000 to play with. Happy again, she allows Frank to kiss her on the way home.

There is something about Claire that the men who love her simply can’t get over. She knows it and she uses it. Not only did she manipulate Frank throughout this episode, she is also playing games with Adam. Calling him; apologizing for calling him; telling him they need to talk; asking him to stay at the party. Yet, Adam turns up at the party; he can’t stay away from her.

Marty Spinella is an interesting guy. Not at all intimidated by Frank, he is going after him all guns blazing. The scenes at the gala were hilarious. Marty, on the side of the angels, trying to get the media to report on Congress’ intent to do away with the teachers’ unions. Frank, hardly on the side of the angels, certainly knows how to play to the media and to the crowd. He manages to take Marty’s legs out from under him, with no small help from Claire who is also very good in the glare of a television camera.

Poor Peter doesn’t get any respect from anyone. His girlfriend/assistant has left without a backward glance (although, something tells me we have not seen the last of Christina); the DNC Chair dismisses him outright; the shipbuilders union is beyond furious. At least his kids still love him. Peter’s meeting with Capra from the Navy Yard was sad. Unable to look the man in the eyes, Peter looks throughout as though he is just this side of collapse. I find it interesting that, at his lowest moment, Peter goes back to what got him into this situation in the first place; cocaine and alcohol.

The email that we watch Peter type broke my heart. I believe he truly does want to be a good man; he has just completely lost his way. The fact that he couldn’t put into words why the Navy Yard is being closed was brilliantly done. Peter can’t articulate what the reason is because to write it would be to admit it.

Although Frank is only helping Peter to further his own aims, if Peter gets sober, that can’t possibly be a bad thing. While the scene at Frank’s house was difficult to watch and I felt for Peter, he did need the kick that Frank gave him. Isn’t it interesting, however, that Frank literally strips him bare before lashing out at him.

Now that Frank’s relationship with Zoe has become sexual, the creepy factor has increased exponentially as has his control over her. She is asking him for career advice; he responds by steering her in the direction he wants her to go and then dropping her phone into a glass of water. By destroying her phone and her contact list, he is, in effect, telling her that the only contact she needs is him.

She does stand up to him at one point, but then hands the power right back to him by allowing him to photograph her in the nude. That entire scene made me want to throw something at her. She is helping him to possess her. The last time we see her, she is writing her piece. She has spun it for Frank, but she is alone on the subway, not in the limo with her lover.

Trump Cards:

-- I wonder if #GoZoe ever trended. Unsurprisingly, Tom has lost his job.

-- Does anyone else think those photos of Zoe will get out eventually?

-- The man from the Navy Yard is called Paul Capra. I guess there had to be one Capra in a show based in Washington.

-- Doug has certainly learned some life lessons from his boss. That poor hotel manager never stood a chance.

-- What a wonderful shot as Peter walked into his office drunk as the lights went on one by one. A metaphor for the fact that, right now, there is nowhere for Peter to hide.

-- The email Peter responds to is from Susan George. My guess is that this is an homage to the political activist who speaks out frequently against organizations like the World Bank.

-- Extraordinarily icky that both Frank and Claire’s outside interests were at the gala. Frank watched his wife with a face full of jealousy. Claire made a point of putting Zoe firmly in her place, but in the nicest possible way.

Speaking Frankly:

Frank: “A rare example of someone whose head is in the game instead of up their backside. Competence is such an exotic bird in these woods that I appreciate it whenever I see it.”

Claire: “Well, you seem like a very ambitious young woman. I like that.”
Zoe: “Doing my best.”

Peter in an email: “I am a good person, or at least I try to be.”

Frank: “I’m the only person who believes in you, Peter, but maybe that’s one too many.”

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.


  1. Chris,

    I enjoy reading your reviews. I haven't commented because I watched this whole series quickly and now I can't distinguish between episodes well enough to avoid spoilers. This new model makes it hard for reviewers and people who comment to discuss the show in the normal manner. Your reviews are really good, though, as usual. I will keep reading to see how you react to each new development throughout the season.

  2. Frank said he hadn't heard of the website that offered Zoe the job she later took, but Claire later says he reads it. Interesting...Claire can go to hell, in general, but I can't help but be impressed with the ease and speed she set up the gala.

  3. UPDATE: The director for this episode was Joel Schumacher of whom I have never been a fan. Listening to him on this commentary did not change my opinion.

    The interesting thing to listen to is his point of view. It is all about himself. Yes, he praises the writing; yes, he praises the acting. Otherwise, all the good choices and all the "brilliant" things that happen in this episode were his choices.

    OK, then.

  4. In spite of how cold and manipulative they are, I couldn't help but enjoy the way Frank and Claire turned that defeat at the hotel and the protest into a victory. They're something else.

    I felt terrible for Russo. I honestly don't know if Frank cared if Russo killed himself or not.


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