OPENING CREDITS: The camera pans lovingly over breadsticks, a line cook sprinkling parsley over linguine in slow motion, customers laughing, and a waiter hustling a platter full of minestrone soups out the kitchen door. The percussion rolls like thunder, the woodwinds climax, the camera swoops upward, and we see the brass plaque: The Olive Garden. Established 1997. General Manager: Frank Underwood.
Interior shot: MANAGER’S OFFICE OF MILWAUKEE, WISC., OLIVE GARDEN.
The office is meticulously organized—behind a particle-board desk, we see FRANK UNDERWOOD: steely, menacing, beholden to no one, wearing a nametag with a Tuscan villa background. Behind are photos of him shaking hands with various luminaries that have graced this particular Olive Garden, including Bethenny Frankel and Tom Green.
His assistant manager, DOUG STAMPER, is agitated, pacing back and forth, while UNDERWOOD calmly eats a breadstick.
UNDERWOOD: Ah hear there has been… shall we say… dissent in the ranks?
STAMPER: (sighs) Yes. Brittany wants Friday off for her sister’s 21st birthday, and Kevin won’t play ball with the linguine supplier.
UNDERWOOD: You know what to do. And whatevuh happens in the hours to come, we nevuh had this conversation.
STAMPER nods—we see the briefest flicker of fear in his eyes, but it is immediately replaced with resolve.
UNDERWOOD looks directly into camera.
UNDERWOOD: You know, in Gaffneh, South Carolahhna, where I’m from, we have a sayin’: A ton of peaches and a dead mule may not feel the same, but if you’ahh deaf, blind, cannot smell, and had never encountered eithah of those objects—well, you wouldn’t know the difference, now would you?
STAMPER: Who are you talking to?
Interior shot: THE FURRY FRIENDS SECOND CHANCE THRIFT SHOP. Executive director/head clerk CLAIRE UNDERWOOD, who looks like every girl that was mean to you in high school, except even skinnier, but still makes you wonder for a second if maybe you could pull off that haircut, is lovingly examining the Precious Moments figurine display case. She touches a big-eyed shepherd and smiles enigmatically to herself. Her cellphone rings.
CLAIRE: Tell me something good, Francis.
UNDERWOOD: (now smoking next to the grease dumpster out back) Ah wish ah could. But Marty won’t budge on the giant peppuh grinder budget… looks like we’ll have to act a little soonah than we planned.
CLAIRE: (blinks rapidly) But Francis, we have the Paws and Purrsonality pancake breakfast next week. There is no way I have time for this.
UNDERWOOD: Just do it, Clairhuhhh. The cats can wait.
CLAIRE: (hissing) Have you ever considered, even for a second, that what I do matters too?
UNDERWOOD: Clairhuhhh, if this goes like I think it will, those cats will have more kibble than they know what to do with.
He hangs up the phone, then flicks his cigarette into the grease dumpster, which erupts in flames. He doesn’t react; this is clearly not his first dumpster grease fire, nor will it be his last. For good measure, he tosses in an unfortunate BUSBOY that happened to overhear the conversation.
UNDERWOOD: (to camera as he strides away) Fear is like mosquitos; hesitation like strep throat. Pay attention to eithuh of them, and you’re liable to end up back where you started. And I do not intend to re-attend elementary school.
BUSBOY: (screaming inside dumpster) WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!?!?!?
CLAIRE, meanwhile, sighs and leans against the display case. We can tell she’s considering having sex with that excruciatingly boring GUY WHO REPRESENTS ARTISTS AND ALSO FREE WILL AND SPONTANEITY again. We hope she doesn’t because he is the worst.
Exterior shot: The Olive Garden parking lot.
ZOE BARNES, the general assignment/small business/sports/arts and life/obituary reporter for www.whatshappeninginMilwaukee.com—small, pert, teeth that seem ideally suited to stripping raw human flesh from bone—jogs to catch up to UNDERWOOD, who is striding out of the alley in the direction of a Home Depot.
ZOE: Manager Underwood! Wait! Zoe Barnes, of www.whatshappeninginMilwaukee.com, and I’d just like a second of your time to—
UNDERWOOD doesn’t break his stride. ZOE fiddles with her phone, then gets ahead of him with a burst of speed.
ZOE: It would seem we’re members of a mutual admiration society.
She holds up her phone to show a photo of UNDERWOOD looking at her ass as she bends over a Skee-Ball table at Chuck E. Cheese.
UNDERWOOD: Always a pleasure to meet a fellow colleague of Mistuh Charles Ellsworth Cheese. How can I help you, Miss Barnes?
ZOE: Let’s make a deal that only a middle-aged male screenwriter with no understanding of journalism could come up with. I’ll have difficult-to-watch, mutually disdainful sex with you, and in return, you’ll text me menu updates, specials, happy-hour times… all of it.
UNDERWOOD: Will we mess around while you’re talking on the telephone with your dying grandmothuh?…
ZOE: (nods) That goes without saying. I may be young and say “Twitter” a lot, but my understanding of how to be completely one-faceted and awful goes well beyond my years.
UNDERWOOD: (smiling) I think we’ll get along just fine, Miss Barnes. (to camera, dropping the smile) Right now, she’s like a kitten. But like all kittens, someday she’ll grow up to be a six-foot spider. And we all know what you do with a six-foot spider.
ZOE: Yes. I am a spider. A sexy, sexual, conniving, social-media mentioning, sexy baby spider! Are you sure you’re ready to crawl into my gross web?
UNDERWOOD: (chuckles) Webs are like mailboxes, Miss Barnes. It’s hard to tell one from the othuh, and during a snowstorm, you just might find your head has become lodged in one. So then the question becomes: Are you a postcard? Or the UPS man?
ZOE is undone by this and rips off her shirt in anticipation. Behind her, a family that until now had been looking forward to some Bottomless Soup and Salad is dismayed.
Interior Shot: UNDERWOOD’s office. CLAIRE, STAMPER, and SOMEONE THAT IT SEEMS LIKE WE SHOULD KNOW BUT DEFINITELY WAS NEVER INTRODUCED are looking smug yet still hungry.
CLAIRE: Oh, Francis—I can’t believe you pulled it off. But you did. God, it’s great that you exist in a universe where everyone and everything in your 217-part plan goes precisely as you predict it will! Except for that one time you were embarrassed for a few minutes. But who can possibly remember that when you are now standing at the edge of what we now know you were angling toward all season! Even though it was never mentioned or even alluded to as an endgame, not even once. But now, in retrospect… no. It still doesn’t make sense.
UNDERWOOD: It doesn’t have to, Claiuhhhh. (to camera) Yes, Olive Garden has been just right… until now. Now, I’m thinking of divesting of pasta… and investing in drawer pulls.
Camera pans toward window, and we see it, shining like a glorious traffic cone: The Home Depot.
UNDERWOOD: We’ve got work to do.
SOME GUY: Wait, the HOME DEPOT? Seriously? I thought this whole time—
End credits roll.