— -- **NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD ON THE SEASON 3 PREMIERE EPISODE OF "HOUSE OF CARDS"**
Frank Underwood is back, in all of his slimy slickness.
The season features Underwood (Kevin Spacey) as the president of the United States, a position the character inherited at the end of Season 2. It opens with Underwood facing low approval ratings and struggling to establish himself in the White House. As always, Underwood’s life is marked by contrasts, with trouble lurking in the shadows of his life.
Here are five key moments from the first episode of Season 3, “Chapter 27.”
The Cemetery Scene
The episode opens on a touching note: Underwood bringing flowers to his father’s grave. It seems touching at the onset, anyway.
“Hey pop, been awhile, hasn’t it?” he says, running his hands across the etched letters.
But Underwood quickly shifts from sensitive to sinister, speaking into the camera as he details his indifference at visiting the cemetery.
“Oh, I wouldn’t be here if I had a choice. But I have to do these sort of things now. Makes me seem more human. And you have to be a little human when you’re the president,” he says, recounting his father’s flaws.
He looks around, making sure the coast is clear before stepping forward.
“I’ll tell you this pop: When they bury me, it won’t be in my backyard. And when they come to pay their respects, they’ll have to wait in line,” he says, before unzipping his pants to urinate on his father’s tombstone.
Doug Stamper Is Still Alive
Near the close of Season 2, Underwood’s chief of staff, Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), was attacked with a brick and left for dead in the woods by Rachel Posner, a woman he had been stalking and surveilling because of her involvement with deceased Rep. Peter Russo.
Stamper is alive, barely, and spends the episode enduring rehabilitation, using his eyes to communicate, blinking to convey feeling -- tight, unsettling shots that reflect Stamper’s inner turmoil.
Stamper struggles with his recovery. At one point, a doctor quizzes him on the color of Rudolph’s nose ... and the president of the United States. He pauses, struggling to grasp the name of his longtime associate.
“Frank Underwood,” he mumbles. He tries to stand.
“I have to get back to work,” he says.
The doctor tries to calm him, but he explodes, slapping her hand away and screaming at her. Stamper’s left frontal cortex was damaged, she explains.
“Your motor skills will be a struggle. Your emotions will be unpredictable. It’s a long road ahead, but we can’t rush it. We’ll do the test later,” she says.
“No. We’ll finish it now,” he responds.
Claire the Manipulator
Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) visits Stamper in the hospital, but the true intentions of her visit quickly emerge.
“Doug, do you recall anything about what happened?” she asks.
“Rachel ... she ... I don’t remember.”
“Yes, you do.”
Stamper stares at the first lady before the story unfolds.
“Carjacking. A man,” Stamper says.
“What sort of man?” she asks.
“That part’s fuzzy.”
“It could be anyone. Any man, then.”
“Yeah. Any man,” he says as Claire nods in approval.
But Posner remains a target.
“Any idea where she is? Because it’s important that we find her,” Claire says.
“I really don’t know. And that’s the truth.”
Colbert Report, Still on the Air
Ah, the “Colbert Report.”
While the Comedy Central show went off the air in December, it survives in “House of Cards.” In “Chapter 27,” Frank Underwood makes an appearance on “Colbert Report” to discuss a jobs initiative called “America Works.”
Stephen Colbert poked fun at the initiative’s name.
“Oh, so it’s a fantasy novel?” Colbert quips.
“This is a fundamentally different look at how to solve the problem of unemployment. It has the size and the scope of the New Deal,” Underwood says.
Underwood goes on to state that both parties want “the same thing.”
“A new president in 2016?” Colbert asks, as the president stews.
The Battle for Respect
The president is down, but he’s not ready to surrender.
Meanwhile, the first lady has ambitions of her own -- to be U.N. ambassador. Frank is wary of how the appointment will appear, and wonders if the appointment could wait. But Claire is adamant.
“I’m almost 50 years old,” Claire says. “I’ve been in the passenger seat for decades. It’s time for me to get behind the wheel. That needs to start now -- before the election, because who knows what will happen? What if you lose?”
Frank simmers at the suggestion that his presidency could be a short one.
“I will not be a placeholder president, Claire. I will win. And I will leave a legacy,” he says.
“You mean we will,” she responds.