Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chapter 18 Season 2 – House of Cards Episode Summary 2.5

Vice President Frank Underwood in Spotsylvania
House of Cards Chapter 18 Synopsis: The White House enlists Vice President Francis Underwood as its envoy in the back-channel negotiations with China’s emissary, Xander Feng, and uses the anniversary of the Overland Campaign in Spotsylvania as cover.  Frank wreaks havoc in the negotiations deliberately relaying false demands from the Chinese causing the President’s bridge project to fall through.  Meanwhile, a man named Seth Grayson unearths Claire’s abortion records and extorts a job in the Vice President’s staff in exchange for his silence.

House of Cards Chapter 18 Recap: Vice President Frank Underwood honors the 150th anniversary of the Overland Campaign with his presence beginning in the reenactment of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House where General Grant met General Lee for the first time.  Frank, a native of the South, takes no pride in the Confederacy, but his honoring one of the last battles leading to its fall is filled with irony.  He takes no pleasure in attending the event and addresses the crowd with a short and banal speech.Continue reading...

Frank Underwood begins his research of Xander Feng, Raymond Tusk’s business partner on the Rare Earth Refinery whose net worth exceeds that of Tusk.  Feng’s deep family connections to the Party built through his grandfather’s service and friendship with Mao Tse-tung gave way for his success in the telecom industry that secured his wealth.  He meets with Feng in his hotel room to discuss business proposals that will truly mend the conflict between China and the US following the failed Joint Commission talks.  Their negotiations occur in parallel with the trade summit in Washington where State Secretary Cathy Durant creates an appearance of reconciliation with China.  Feng begins the back channel dialogue with China’s grant to Clayton West of a 40-year lease on the Mei Mei Rare Earth Elements Refinery.  Frank hints of the indefinite awarding of the lease to Clayton West, Tusk’s nuclear energy company, with an argument that the lease must go to the highest bidder for appearances sake.  Feng is certain that Tusk will outbid any competitors.  They move on to President Garret Walker’s priority-one item, the construction of a bridge over the Long Island Sound from Port Jefferson to Milford sanctioned by the Committee on Foreign Investment in exchange for a 25-year toll-taking contract.  Frank believed Feng funding the bridge to be a done deal, but Feng brings up the issue of the currency manipulation suit the US filed against China in the World Trade Organization.  Contrary to the expected demand, Feng and his associates would like the US to pursue the lawsuit.  Feng’s alliance managed to convince their conservative counterparts to accept a free-floating currency for China that requires the exchange rate to be determined by the market without central bank intervention.  The change to an open currency could free up interest rates and reduce inflation in China to the benefit of entrepreneurs such as Feng and Tusk.  China, however, prefers to receive the WTO ruling to conceal their conformity with a US sanctioned mandate.

Frank, however, decides to go against Feng’s demand and instructs Doug Stamper to inform Durant that China requires the abandonment of the WTO suit before discussing the bridge.  He suspects the unusual demand to pursue the lawsuit as an agenda serving Feng and Tusk, but not Beijing.  Frank worries that Feng and Tusk is using Washington to force Beijing into agreement, which may jeopardize trade summit negotiations.  He supposes that the Standing Committee remains divided despite Feng garnering support for his cause.  They are to leak the Administration’s decision to drop the lawsuit as soon as Durant presents it in the summit.

Claire Underwood would like to let the interest surrounding her rape die down without action from her part, but Connor Ellis worries that the press will uncover her dishonesty given that the rape that supposedly led to her abortion happened five years before the abortion.  Claire is not concerned and assures Connor that she and her husband ensured that no medical records on her abortion exist.  Only the doctor who performed the abortion was present and he already passed away.  Nevertheless, Connor believes that silence after a serious accusation, one that has become the center of attention, is a mistake in public relations.  Claire remains adamant with her decision leaving Connor to acquiesce and leave for Spotsylvania.  Connor becomes the person chosen to leak news of the Administration’s decision to drop the WTO suit.  Doug was to disclose the information, but decided to relegate the task to Claire’s Communications Director in order to distance Frank from the leak.  He speaks to Ayla Sayyad about information he claims to have received from a Chinese businessman with ties to the Standing Committee who is doing back-channel negotiations with the US.  The Wall Street Telegraph reports the news of the U.S. dropping the WTO suit without naming Feng as the source, but the articles in Hong Kong do.  Ayla confronts Connor after learning of the identity of his supposed source as Xander Feng.  She questions him about China’s decision to use the wealthy, corrupt businessman as their back-channel emissary noting that the man is one offense away from obtaining a death sentence in China.  Connor, however, intimates of only having assumed the role of messenger.  Meanwhile, Feng learns of Frank’s betrayal, but patiently waits for him to reach out to him.

Doug Stamper arrives in Feng’s house to discuss the dropping of the WTO lawsuit.  He notes of China’s declaration of victory over the decision and reveals the Administration’s suspicion of the legitimacy of his request.  Feng is already displeased of the Vice President sending his Chief of Staff to represent him in his meeting.  He vilifies Stamper and taunts the alcoholic with an Old Fashioned he made using a rare and fine 1926 Macallan that cost forty-thousand dollars a bottle.  Stamper ends the teasing by smashing the glass to the floor.  He gains Feng’s acknowledgement and obtains his message to the Vice President.  Feng refuses funding the construction of the Port Jefferson Bridge unless the lawsuit is reintroduced.  He gives assurance in managing the members of the Standing Committee protesting the WTO suit adding that the majority wants reform.  Feng, however, sends his warning of bypassing the Vice President altogether if he refuses to cooperate.  Stamper delivers Feng’s message to Frank and offers to inform the President, but Frank forbids him from doing so.  Frank intends to fuel the wrath of the President.  He instructs Stamper to have the State Secretary resurface the bridge project in order to ascertain Feng’s bluff.

Frank resumes his obligation as Vice President of the United States and attends a tour of the battleground including the Bloody Angle where 15,000 Union-Confederate soldiers lost their lives on the half a mile wide battlefield.  The organizers of the event surprise him with an introduction to his ancestor, Corporal Augustus Elijah Underwood of the 12th Regiment of McGowan Brigade.  A fact Frank Underwood is unaware.  Corporal Underwood was only twenty-four years of age and a father of a two-year old son he never met when he died in the Battle of Spotsylvania.  The story of his great-great-great-grandfather as told by the actor captivates Frank Underwood causing him to delay the rest of the tour for a more detailed chronicle of his ancestor’s death.  Corporal Underwood tells of the attack that occurred in the middle of the night.  The scarcity of weapons left him unarmed, but his courage did not falter despite the enemy’s advantage.  He attacks a Yankee with his bare hands and bites him fiercely to the bone.  Regrettably, the enemy overpowers him and bashes his head with a rock.  He was buried in a mass grave without a headstone.

Claire Underwood and the head of the Women’s Caucus, House Representative Elaine Brooks, have lunch with First Lady Tricia Walker in the hope of gaining the support of the First Lady in their fight against sexual assault.  This after the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff refused to meet with Claire.  He, however, agreed to send the Director to speak in his behalf.  Congresswoman Brooks claims of the Joint Chiefs’ uncooperative attitude towards her appeals regarding sexual assault, but the Joint Chiefs refute her accusations.  The Director belies their uncooperativeness with assertions of established measures and procedures created to bring offenders to justice.  He, however, belligerently makes it clear that civilian jurisdiction on crimes committed by the military will never materialize.  The arrival of the First Lady disrupts his contention.  Claire Underwood deliberately scheduled a different time for the First Lady in order to startle the Joint Chiefs with her arrival and presence.  Having accepted the impossibility of civilian jurisdiction over military offenses, Claire proposes allowing civilian oversight on military courts.  This too incenses the Director of the Joint Chiefs and indignantly dismisses the suggestion.  The First Lady senses the uniformed officer’s averseness to accept recommendations from civilians and interjects of her husband’s role as Commander-in-Chief despite his civilian status.  She urges the Director to consider the recommendations from Claire and Congresswoman Brooks allowing Claire to bring up the atrociousness of the military’s sexual assault prevention literature that advises submission to an assault.

Lucas Goodwin continues his education in hacking and practices stealthily plugging the thumb drive into a server.  Gavin Orsay also known as HEROnymous Bot attempts to dissuade Lucas from enacting a federal crime, but Lucas is determined to push through with it.  Lucas finds his experience as a crime beat writer sufficient for the undertaking.  He equates it to his expose of the DC drug ring that involved corrupt police officers.  Gavin warns him about the severity of taking on the FBI, but receives insult for the crimes he did anonymously.  The unstable hacker goes into a tirade of the punishment his friends received at the hands of the FBI for their attempt to expose government surveillance, corruption, and other conspiracies.  Gavin sees himself as a soldier.  He tries one last time to deter Lucas from committing the crime.  Regrettably, Lucas believes the unlawful retrieval of Zoe Barnes’ phone records is his last option.  Agent Nathan Green barges in Gavin’s apartment after Lucas had left.  The FBI agent chastises the hacker for attempting to dissuade the journalist from committing the crime.  The ruthless agent envious of the luxury afforded his prisoner takes his aggression on Gavin’s pet guinea pig, Cashew.  He establishes his authority as Gavin’s master and treats him like a dog.

Lucas meets with the uncharacteristically nervous and seemingly reluctant Gavin.  He convinces the hacker to hand him the thumb drive confident of their plan’s success.  Lucas later attends the tour of the data center that includes a tour of the highly secure area that houses the servers.  Aware of Lucas’ desire to see the servers in close proximity, the guide enthusiastically permits him access inside the caged servers allowing Lucas to plug in the thumb drive.  The FBI working undercover as the tour guide and his colleagues arrest Lucas Goodwin.

Mrs. Susan Marbury receives Mr. White of Planned Parenthood in her house to discuss the naming of a fund after her deceased husband in honor of his work.  Mr. White claims that the delicate matter he would like to ascertain warrants an in-person meeting.  He asks Mrs. Marbury if her husband performed any illegal abortions and aggressively pursues this line of questioning with inquiries about the identities of the patients.  Mr. White mentions Claire Underwood by name.  Mrs. Marbury denies her husband ever performing an abortion on Claire Underwood, but Mr. White claims to know that he did.  The livid Mrs. Marbury ends their meeting, but Mr. White is undeterred and reveals his real name, Seth Grayson.  Seth apprises Mrs. Marbury of his deception and claims to have been working for Claire Underwood to ensure that her secret remains buried and Dr. Marbury’s reputation untarnished.  He convinces Mrs. Marbury of his good intentions and manages to sway her into giving him her husband’s journal.  The journal contains an entry of the abortion he performed on Claire Underwood twenty-five years ago.

Claire Underwood meets with Seth Grayson after claiming to have unearthed records of her abortion in August 1986, years after her sexual assault.  Seth has come to demand a job, arguing that her current Communications Director failed to destroy evidence of her transgression.  He asserts having shown loyalty by presenting her the damning evidence instead of selling it for considerable profit to the newspapers.  Moreover, he recommends keeping Connor to avoid consequences of his abrupt termination.  He is quite certain that Connor will eventually resent working with him and will decide to accept the job he had secretly arranged for him.  Claire worries that Connor will go to the press with the truth she revealed to him and remains reluctant in acceding to Seth’s demand.  She distrusts Seth Grayson, a man whose qualifications exceed the job he desires, but Francis advises to accede to his demand.  Francis believes that Connor will remain silent about Claire’s secrets with an amicable departure.  He argues of wanting to work with a distrustful but effective staff than a reckless one.

An irate President Walker orders a conference call with him, Frank, Tusk, and Durant after Feng rejected financing the bridge due to Frank’s deceitfulness.  Tusk insists that Feng had complained of Frank’s relaying the opposite of his demands, but Frank vehemently refutes the accusation.  He presents his suspicion of Feng working for his personal gain and not China’s.  Moreover, he insinuates of Tusk’s collusion.  The President, however, wants nothing but to ensure the success of his infrastructure program through the construction of the Port Jefferson Bridge using only foreign investment to guarantee deficit reduction.  He forbids both Frank and Tusk from contacting Feng until the revival of the bridge deal.  He, instead, instructs Durant to take over.

Frank continues his duty as Vice President of the United States and visits the encampment of the Overland Campaign reenactment.  He finds the actor playing his grandfather playing the fiddle and asks him to show him the exact spot where his grandfather died.  Claiming to pay respects to his ancestors, the Vice President manages to evade his entourage allowing him to meet with Feng, willfully disobeying the President’s order.  Frank wants Feng to inform Tusk that he and the President are not his puppets.  Feng threatens him with the finality of his withdrawal from financing the bridge, but Frank could not care less.  Tusk complains to the President of Frank’s disobedience forgetting that his knowledge of Frank’s conversation with Feng implied his own insubordination.  Frank advises the President to walk out of the summit and to refuse to negotiate with China, an advice Tusk warns the President against taking.  Sensing the futility of the conference call, the President steps in and admits his two errors.  He recognizes now that he erred in accepting Tusk’s recommended Chinese emissary and making Frank his envoy.  President Garrett Walker pulls out of the negotiations with China due to Frank’s failure as the back-channel emissary.  Frank had successfully steered the President to take the action he desired him to make.  Later, he resumes his duty and attends the groundbreaking of the Overland Campaign Visitor Center where he gives his grandfather the honor to break the earth.  Frank then asks for a moment of silence in remembrance of the dead.  He buries his ring in the broken earth.

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2 Pennies for your thoughts:

Byung Hun Yoo said...

"The change to an open currency could free up interest rates and reduce inflation in China to the benefit of entrepreneurs such as Feng and Tusk."

I don't understand the macroeconomics behind this. How exactly does reducing inflation benefit entrepreneurs? and how is open currency related to interest rates change?

Comprehensive Episode Guides said...

Thanks for your comment, Byung Hun Yoo. It is refreshing to read one that's not only about the acting, character or the plot of a TV show.

To answer your question, reducing inflation usually involves increasing interest rates, because it's the simplest and easiest way to do so. When interest rates rise, the demand for the currency also increases. In relation to House of Cards, Feng and Tusk who is selling energy in China will benefit, because they will be paid in Chinese Yuan whose value will rise given the higher interest rate. The value of money can rise freely in a free-floating currency that depends on the market without central bank intervention. That is, in a free-floating/open currency the central bank will not be allowed to enact arbitrary measures to keep the Chinese Yuan low.