This piece was originally published on February 12, 2015. But that’s even more impressive considering its prescience, no?
Yesterday, while I was in therapy of all goddamn places, Netflix released the 3rd season of House of Cards two weeks early. At first it seemed like it might have been a publicity ploy, but the streaming service later claimed a glitch in their system caused the show’s unexpected airdate, not some Beyonce-level marketing scheme. Reading the barrage of emails and texts and tweets asking if I’d watched the episode and how we planned to review the whole season with the bumped up timeline, I understood for a moment how Frank Underwood might feel in the exact same situation. I even bought a fedora and fake glasses to go push attractive 20-somethings in front the F train, just to feel in control again.
Instead, I tried to channel my energy, as I often do, into an intense case of FOMO about missing out on catching an early glimpse of the season. (Why? Because I don’t like being happy, obviously.) So I decided to write some of the imagined first episode out in my head. But…I guess it’s not a real *spoiler alert* to admit that I’m not the most politically aware person working at a newspaper these days. I find news very, very stressful, and like a child, I stay awake at night hoping that if I think about international arms/child trafficking/ terrorism/ drought/ebola….then I’ll somehow save myself from having to experience it other than in a fictional format.
As it turns out, not knowing a lot about politics was not an ish at all. Like, I pretty much nailed it. I’d be surprised if this doesn’t get the whole opening scene of the third season, verbatim. So, settle in with your favorite BBQ and enjoy…
House of Cards 3×01: ShellSharked
EXT: White House steps (Ed note: there are steps right? Can some Google Image Search and confirm?) A crowd of excited journalists jostle each other and mouth the word “watermelon” while gesticulating to the podium on steps (?) of WH.
Journalist 1: I can’t believe it…only yesterday it was Vice President Underwood, and now he is the FOMOTUS. POMITUS. POMOFOMO. Did I get that right?
Journalist 2: (Going with it)…and the day before that he was the majority whip of the…I want to say Senate? Or, no, definitely Congress. That’s the house of representatives and you can remember those two go together because of the portmanteau “Congrepresentatives.”
Journalist 1: Yeah, a congressman, or at least something where it is straight illegal for a lobbyist to punch you in the nose. Like that is what people do to sharks, not someone in the…uh…judicial?…no…legislative system.
OFF-SCREEN Voice: Did I hear someone discuss sharks for rhetorical effect?!
Cut to: White House doors crashing open, and there stands Frank Underwood, the president of the United States. He is wearing something presidential, like a suit or a tuxedo. He turns and winks to the camera, mouthing the word “watermelon.”
(Behind FRANK is Claire Underwood, wearing something tasteful but icy. What did Elsa wear during “Let it Go?” This should be exactly like that, but in a pantsuit.)
FRANK: Now now, gentleman…and ladies…lets get one thing straight. I am your new President for the next three…ish?…years…maybe 2.5. And while I am president, I have only one rule. (He starts up with that ring banging shit.) I. MAKE. THE. METAPHORS. AND SIMILES. ALL SOMEWHAT LABORED COMPARISONS–be they analogies, fables, parables, wordplay of any sort, they are now the exclusive right of the executive branch of government…
Journalist 1: (to self, scribbling note) right! Executive branch!
FRANK: …Comprising of myself, the First Lady, and your new Vice President….THE FIRST LADY.
(Audience gasps, as Claire rips off her Elsa outfit–but like, in a very self-possessed way, to reveal an even BETTER tailored pantsuit. She also changed her footwear from heels to flats or vice-versa.)
Journalist 2: President Underwood! You can’t install your wife as a sock puppet VP! It’s unheard of! It’s unconstitutional! It would be like….(realizes too late his mistake)
FRANK: What? what it would be like, Mr…
Journalist 2: Seacrest, sir. Ryan Seacrest.
FRANK: (Turns towards camera) Not even the titular bunny, carrying his basket come Spring, would be able to hide as many Easter Eggs.
Journalist 2: Please. I meant no disrespect by my simile.
(Frank turns back to journalists.)
FRANK: (Gravely): Let that be a warning, gentlemen and ladies of the court, that I do not engage in some trifling Wordplay, like Roosevelet or Andrew Jackson or Ben Franklin. This is a Wordwarplay.
Claire: Cool it, Francis. They can’t hear your crazy. Keep that fourth wall bricked up until we get you into the Reagan room. We talked about this.
Journalist 1: Sorry, President Underwood?
FRANK: Yes, the harried woman in the back. I’m going to eat you alive like a python eats his prey…alive. Come forward! State your name!
Journalist 1: Hi, this is Sarah Koenig from the “Serial,” which I know isn’t done on NPR but kind of seems that way? So it’s confusing to everyone, I know. But you can remember me because I’m sponsored by a monkey mailroom. (Quickly) Wait, I mean that’s not a simile. I am literally talking about a mailroom full of disgruntled postal workers of different simian–but equally deserving of our empathy–genus.
Claire: (Puts in headphones, starts jogging in circles while a single tear passes down her cheek for what has become of young women and also her youth? Also, she might be having a hot flash, because she is older than 30 and it’s the only option besides standing next to an open fridge door while the bodyguard, a broken man at this point, dutifully unzips his pants.)
Journalist 1: My question is: How do we define wordplay? Is it instinctual, innate in our biology? Or can you conceive of it as a series of learned language?
Journalist 2: Uh, definitely the second one.
Journalist 1: But does the word “word” mean the same thing to you as it does for me? Think back: can you remember all the different contexts and variations of “word” and “play” that you’ve heard in your life? And how can we ever truly know what words are in play, when there’s so many different versions of what words ARE. A recent study by the dean of psycholinguistics over at Johns Hopkins has said that ALL human language is filtered through personal experience? Like the experience of me being here right now?
FRANK: Young lady, even though you might be more scattered than birdseed in in a towering tornado of babble, you raise an interesting point. We are living in a time where words can sometimes fail us…
Journalist 2: That seems to maybe be the opposite of the problem here?
FRANK: …When certain terms are more likely to be remembered for what has happened in our nation’s bloody and glorious past of the last…eight months-ish? But reconcile we must, with those misdeeds of conduct, that they can be addressed and then healed, like a wound turning into a scab turning into a scar turning into an infection because you forgot to take the antibiotics. And then you are living with a poison inside of you, and that poison has a name: China BridgeGate.
Journalist 2: That’s the name of the poison? From some sort of gangrenous wound? What about when you killed two extremely missable DC power players?
Journalist 1: (breaking her own fourth wall/glass ceiling/journalistic integrity) I asked my producer, Julie Snyder, if he was talking about the ambassador who was really into…shall we say…a certain kind of *nervous chuckle*
Julie Snyder: You mean the guy who liked to have sex with a plastic bag over his head? That’s not the only thing you took away from the second season, right?
Journalist 1: Right! Are you going to bring back Cashew?
Journalist 2: Free Cashew! Free Cashew!
Crowd: Free Cashew! Free Cashew!
Frank: (Holding up hands for silence) You may be after the bar snacks of free guinea pig nuts, but I’m saving my appetite for MUCH juicier fare.
Journalist 1: Ribs, right? Or wait, do you still eat ribs? Who makes you food now? THIS IS LITERALLY THE ONLY THING MY VIEWERS CARE ABOUT.
Frank: I’m speaking–you worthless, sniveling,pathetic excuse for a DC media shitstorm–about Yang. About Raymond Tusk. China.
Journalist 2: Wait, are you still upset that he turned off the lights at your baseball game?
Julie Snyder: President Underwood! Are you aware that your chief of staff has been missing for 24 hours and was last seen chasing a confused bisexual born-again call center operator/prostitute through the woods?
FRANK: (Turns to camera) Sometimes the only way forward is to go backwards with these people. The only history they understand is the one that hasn’t been created yet. (Turns back) I am not here to extend your stay in this great state—uh, or commonwealth thingie–any longer than is strictly necessary. I have just come to announce that I’ll be focusing all our military efforts into capturing this new group of radical terrorists in…
(Cut to Claire, furiously signaling to shut it down. Frank’s phone beeps. It’s a text from Claire, reading: 2 SOON.)
FRANK: (thrown off his game)…and uh, THAT’S why, we’ll be hunting down these despicable lowlives in West Angola. We do NOT negotiate with terrorists, even if…
Journalist 2: Sorry, where?
FRANK: ….Even IF my predecessor felt the needs to personally engage with these savages….
Journalist 1: I think that’s the country from Scandal.
Julie Snyder: Oh, THAT’S the one fact you’re able to keep in your head?
Journalist 1: Oh, suck it, Julie.
(A tremulous, grey shadow takes shape at the bottom of the stairs, resolving herself into the ghost of Zoe Barnes. She’s wearing her Mark Zuckerberg hoodie and chewing at the end of her drawstring.)
Frank: (Surprised) Why Miss Barnes, what ever are you doing here…
Zoe Barnes: (Shrugs, but in a very intense way, while checking her iPhone.) Turns out you needed a boost in your approval ratings, Francis.
Frank: Why, I’ve only been president for half a hare’s hair!
Zoe: No, I mean you’ve got a real relatability issue without me around. Look around you, Frank. Who are people supposed to identify with?
Frank: I am truly, deeply sorry for what transpired between us, Miss Barnes. I was hoping we’d move past this into a successful sexual and working relationship, but then I decided to push you in front of a train in a public location, because of reasons.
Journalist 1: NO SPOILERS!
Julie Snyder: Oh Jesus Christ, Sarah. Do some prep work for once in your life.
Zoe: You know? I was mad for a bit, but it’s turned out to be GREAT for my career. I did a season of American Horror Story! And I’m up for this thing at Veep…but you know, I’m trying to stay out of the insider baseball, prestige drama stuff kind of stuff. I’m really a blogger at heart, and believe that everyone should have a chance to sleep their way into getting their scoops, not relying on some “patriarchal” “institutions” like “journalism.”
Claire: You know Francis, it’s the oddest thing, but I think I miss your young lover. She definitely brought a certain, I don’t even know how I would say this…but a young sensibility? A rejuvenating breath of fresh air, if you want to call it that. I mean, she was half our 18-34 demo.
Frank: My delicious elderberry of the deadliest nightshade in Mordor, you KNOW, we made a promise to ourselves in the beginning of this marriage….
Claire: I know, Francis… (pulls out bag of what she certainly refers to as ‘a cannabis of dubious origin,” lights it like a boss.)
Frank: (Taking the offered joint, considering the proposal.) That this would be an entirely RATINGS FREE HOUSEHOLD. Once you get the scent of Nielsen ratings, my love, it’s like a shark with…a shark with…that food stuff that sharks like….
Journalist 2: Chum.
FRANK: LET ME GET THERE!
Claire: HE’S GOT TO LEARN FOR HIMSELF, SEACREST!
FRANK: As God as my witness, if I believed in any sort of supreme cosmic force, I would know the righteousness that I would feel striking you down and feeding you to the sharks.
Journalist 2: Wait, like….you’ve got actual sharks?
FRANK: (Doesn’t blink. The single take is five minutes long, because Netflix got stupid money.) I thought so. No more questions then? Not about word choice or the proper way to eat a peach? Fine then. (Raps his knuckles twice on the podium. Zoe disappears and Claire is wearing a third business suit, but this one is sort of larger and more of a steel grey than a sparkly beige. She still looks great though.) Gentleman, good day.
(He heads back up–down??–WH steps before turning to audience) And as for you…Welcome back you dumb, dumb suckers. Go fuck yourselves.