Doug Stamper, and why he fascinates me

I took to the A-Z challenge thinking that I would write about things that I like, places that I’d like to be at, stories that fascinate me. So after a recipe, and two food joints I want to tell you about a character who fascinates me. The central characters in most stories get a lot of attention and love. In itself there’s no harm with that, they are the central characters for a reason. However there are times when the supporting characters are awesome on their own. One such character is Doug Stamper from the House of Cards TV series by Netflix.


Doug Stamper is Frank Underwood’s (a central character of the series) Chief of Staff. He is ruthless and efficient as Frank, and seems to lack a conscience quite like the underlying essence of the show. It doesn’t how something needs to be done. What matters is the when and the what. This is why he is an essential man by Frank’s side, part of all his schemes and manipulations. He is more than a henchman, he is fixer, and a failsafe. He deals with situations and people many times, keeping Frank updated so that Frank can do what he has to.

The premise of the series is that Frank has been promised the position of the Secretary of State for his work in securing the election of the President. However once in power, he is passed on as the President feels his need in the Congress instead. Soon Frank and his wife start their covert machinations to gain power, influence and what was to be rightfully theirs. All this with a generous helping of vengeance. Doug doesn’t question any of this, he understands. He accepts this in a very matter of fact manner, as if it is to be the natural progression of things.

He uses coercion and fear as means to get his things done. He is keen at spotting weaknesses of people, and then how to exploit them. Such is the effect of him and his machinations on people that, when approached about it by a member of the press the person chose to let their life and troubled past be out in the papers instead of telling of what Doug got done through them. His machinations go on to the level of setting up people much in advance, only for them to be brought down at the right time, in the right manner for Frank to benefit from it.

While Frank (who routinely breaks the fourth wall to address the viewers) has many wonderful quotes in the series, one quote of Doug’s and his manner of delivering it is very impressionable. He was once an alcoholic where it got so bad that it began to interfere with his life and work. He was one of the few people Frank gave a second chance to, and Frank has been undyingly loyal to him for it. He has remained sober for more than 14 years, but still attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. This was what he said at one such meeting, which he as a sponsor took a recovering alcoholic to.


I’m Doug and I’m an alcoholic. One of the things I do for a living is count. I count votes. Yays, nays, neutrals, abstaining. And I’m good at it. But the most important count I do has nothing to do with work. It’s the number of days since April 4th, 1999. As of this morning that’s 5,185. The bigger that number gets, the more it frightens me because I know all it takes is one drink for that number to go back to zero. Most people see fear as a weakness. It can be. Sometimes for my job I have to put fear in other people. I know that’s not right. But if I’m honest, like the fourth step asks us to be, I have to be ruthless. Because failure is not an option. The same goes for my sobriety. I have to be ruthless with myself. I have to use my fear. It makes me stronger. Like everyone else in this room, I can’t control who I am. But I can control the zero. Fuck the zero.

Michael Kelly, the actor who plays Doug has my respect for his wonderful performance. He really puts the spirit in the portrayal of this character.

Written for Day 4 of the A to Z Challenge

Discussing the Sherlock mini episode: Many happy returns

Sherlock Holmes is a character that is known to many. If you haven’t read of him, then stop right now and go pickup Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes before you come back and read this. I came across the BBC TV Series titled Sherlock, in January 2012. I was reading up on Dr. Who when I saw that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss had created Sherlock, which placed the eponymous character in modern day settings. The last episode of Season 2 was aired in January 2012, and all fans have been waiting eagerly and emotionally for the next season. Season two ends with Sherlock confronting his arch-nemesis Jim Moriarty, and jumping from a building (or the Reichenbach Falls in the original work) to his death. However as we knew, Sherlock had faked it and the reason why Season 3 is so anxiously awaited is because we find out how. Originally Sir Arthur wanted to finish of the story with his death, but he received so much pressure from the fans that he wrote more so that Sherlock would end up faking his death and have a low profile for some time.

Taking some pity on our souls, a Christmas special Mini-episode ‘Many Happy Returns’ was released which acts as a prequel to the upcoming Season 3, which will be aired on 1st January 2014. What a wonderful way to celebrate the New Year. You can watch it here:

We start the episode with a monk blessing (?) other monks who are sitting in line before him. He stops at the last monk. Could it be Sherlock?


He takes of the hood of the monk to reveal that it a woman the camera focuses on this monk who has his back to the light, hiding his face in the shadow. We can assume that this is Sherlock Holmes.


Cut to present day, we see that Lestrade is talking of this same incident. We see that he is talking to Anderson who has grown a beard.


Anderson thinks that it is Sherlock who caught the woman, while Lestrade thinks that it wouldn’t take much to find a blonde woman in a group of bald male monks. Anderson asks him of a second incident which took place in New Delhi as he points out the location, which is marked by a red X as a dotted line joins it from another in Tibet. It seems Anderson has been tracking situations which would require Sherlock’s abilities to deduct and solve.


Inspector Prakesh is holding a press conference about he tracked a killer ‘by working out the depth to which the chocolate Flake had sunk into the victim’s ice-cream cone.’ This is clearly Sherlock’s work, and the inspector later asks him in a room why he won’t take credit for it. Sherlock is still with his back to the light but we can make out more of his silhouette.


Anderson and Lestrade discuss it and some other cases Lestrade had worked when Anderson says “He’s out there. He’s hiding. But he can’t stop himself from getting involved. It’s so obviously him, if you know how to spot the signs!” Wow, Anderson isn’t so stupid after all. We must give him more credit than we did before.

He now speaks of the third sighting in Hamburg (calling it the case of the mysterious juror), where it is being discussed in a jury if a certain ‘Trepoff’ is guilty of murdering his wife.While everyone else says not guilty, we see a juror at the end of the table tapping his fingers on the table. He stops when his opinion is asked, and we can see the back of the collar of his coat.


The headlines in the papers is that Trepoff is guilty.


Back to the conversation, we come to know that Anderson lost his job as on account of his theory that Sherlock is still alive. Lestrade leaves the pub to meet an old friend. On connecting the other sightings on the map, Anderson realizes that Sherlock is coming closer to London.


The old friend Lestrade comes to meet is John Watson. He has brought a bunch of old stuff of Sherlock’s, one of which is the uncut recording Sherlock had Lestrade shoot as a video message to John as to why he couldn’t John’s birthday dinner. John pours himself a drink to prepare himself as he plays the disc.


We start with the familiar wall from Baker’s street. This is the first time we see Sherlock clearly. He is talking to Lestrade, and asks Lestrade if he should “Smile and wink. I do that sometimes. I’ve no idea why. People seem to like it – humanises me.” He wonders how John can have a dinner with such friends who obviously (obvious to Sherlock) hate him. He had written an essay on ‘suppressed hatred in close proximity based entirely on his friends’ based on his observation of said friends. John smiles, probably thinking that he isn’t surprised at such behaviour from Sherlock. He goes saying that he knows what to do, to which John comments that “You can stop being dead.” Right on cue, Sherlock goes OK in the video, surprising John and me. We even had the same reaction.


The video continues to play and we see that the message he had left for John was
“Hello John. I’m sorry I’m not there at the moment. I’m very busy. However, many happy returns.”

John pauses the video and gets up to answer the doorbell. Anderson chuckles and comes to the realization that Sherlock is coming back.


Lestrade walks past a man (could it be Sherlock?) reading the paper on the last page of which he reads the headlines ‘The game is back on!’


He smiles wondering if this is a sign of Sherlock actually coming back.


Some one un-pauses the video John was watching, and Sherlock winks and smiles at us. All of this while the Sherlock theme plays in the back. How can you not love Benedict Cumberbatch?


I have watched this episode a bunch of times since I first saw it and grinned through it. This is such a small pity as we wait for the first episode of Season 3, ‘The Empty Hearse’ which comes out of New Year’s.

Credits to the show creators for the screen captures from the video. The transcript by Ariana DeVerve was of great help for the dialogue.