House: No More Mr. Nice Guy
Tonight's episode of House made me wish it was 1995 and I was still living in the freshmen dorms at Trenton State College. If I were back in college, I would be able to wander out to the hallway right now and start a philosophical conversation about what is more important: your happiness or your health? I mean after all, bra, what's the point of being healthy if you're unable to enjoy it? I could then go on to question whether the color blue was the same for me as it is for everyone else. Deeeeeeeeep.
Well, I don't have a freshmen dorm at my disposal, but I do have TV Squad. Epiphanies, philosophy, and syphilis after the jump...
The first image we saw tonight -- after a two-and-a-half month strike-induced break -- was, uh, a picket line. The nurses at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital are on strike, which gives us both the patient of the week and a nice little nod in the direction of the writer's strike. Jeff, a husband of one of the striking nurses, collapses (natch), and we're off and running.
Our guy is discovered by House in the severely under-staffed emergency room. Unlike anyone who's ever been to an emergency room ever, Jeff is not angry at having to wait. Indeed, even though he's been there through two meals and has yet to be seen (he's low priority), he's still smiling and pleasant. And not, as House points out, fake-smiling and fake-pleasant: he actually feels that way. In House's world-view niceness is a symptom. He takes the case (even though no one on the team believes that there's a case to take).
As the team reluctantly investigates Jeff's case of MisterRogersitis, House is confronting the sad fact that Wilson is no longer completely his anymore. Amber (Cut-throat Bitch? She's both, but which do you guys prefer for these reviewcaps?) is sinking her claws ever more deeply into House's best friend and, worse, she seems up to the task of deflecting House's usual manipulations. It's gotten so bad that House is actually hanging out with Chase.
House is driven to ask for custody rights. Amber and he fight over Wilson and when they can't resolve the issue, they take it up with Cuddy. She's annoyed -- House, as usual, is wasting her time and performance reviews are due -- but she ultimately issues a ruling: House gets Wednesdays and every other weekend.
I thought the House-Wilson-Amber triangle was funny, especially when Amber and House fought like a divorced couple during pick-up and drop-off times. At first I flashed back to Bye Bye Love and its McDonald parking lot. Then, though, sadly, I began to flash back to Chasing Amy; specifically, the scene in which Holden tells Amy and Banky that the only way to resolve their awkward, weird, three-way relationship is to, well, have a three way.
I wasn't a fan of that movie and I'm not sure I'm a fan of the direction House is taking with this particular plot line. The problem is that House, Wilson, and Amber are all too smart not to be self-aware: they know how ridiculous the situation is, even as they're engaging in it. While I might accept House and Wilson's psychological evaluation of each other as part of the give-and-take of their relationship, I don't know just yet if it works with a third party being involved. I'm hedging here because I like Amber a lot -- she's a good foil for House -- but the tug-of-war over Wilson looks to be not only getting old, but getting creepy.
The team settles on syphilis as a possible cause of Jeff's niceness. As a side note to this from someone who has gown up in a world where venereal disease kills people: What!? The worst our grandparents had to worry about if they messed around with the wrong person is that they got nice and happy? I was totally born in the wrong generation.
Kutner's exploration of Jeff's possible syphilis leads him to make the following logical leap: if niceness is symptomatic of a disease, then the opposite must hold true as well. Meanness must come from the same place! If Jeff is sick, then so is House. It's a ridiculous premise and I'm sure you were all thinking the same thing I was: there's no possible way that a mid-season episode would take the main character's defining characteristic and explain it away so... blandly. It would be like Meathead discovering that Archie Bunker's racism was caused by a bump to the head and that all they needed to do to undo the damage was bump him in the same spot.
That was, of course, until they tested an old sample of House's blood and it proved positive for syphilis. Credit the writing staff and the twisty path of past House seasons that for about ten minutes there I was actually fooled into thinking that we might have gotten to the bottom of this whole House Dilemma.
As always, I'm an idiot. House had planted a false sample with the knowledge that, at some point, the team would find it and test it. Why? Because this is the kind of thing that House does.
That said, the false positive allowed for two things:
1. An interesting discussion on the nature of genius. It goes something like this: House is miserable because of [reason x]. The team finds a solution for [reason x] and House is no longer miserable. BUT, if that misery is the fulcrum on which his genius turns, are they doing House a service or a disservice by removing it? Kinda makes you wish you had an apple bong right about now doesn't it?
This is not the first time House has explored this topic (and I'm sure it'll be brought up every other episode until the ninth season when House finally learns to be nice thanks to his buddy, the Great Gazoo), but it was interesting seeing how each member of the team dealt with the possibility that the penicillin they gave House might have destroyed his genius.
Further, the episode gives us something to talk about: if you were a miserable genius, would you exchange your genius for happiness? As someone who is generally pretty miserable with no genius save the ability to make family members angry at holidays, I would gladly take a little more misery in my life if it meant I could suddenly count cards Rain Man style or humiliate uptight Harvard d-bags, Will Hunting style. What about you?
2. After Amber gives up the secret of House's phony bloodwork (which she got from Wilson, despite his promise not to tell), Kutner gets the kind of epiphany usually saved for House himself. If it was possible that House's bloodwork was a false positive, it's also possible the same is true for Jeff. A quick test for a parasitic disease called "chagas" shows that it's present, which causes encephalitis which means... blah blah blah medical jargon. The end result is that Jeff is going to be okay, if a little different in demeanor. How different we can only guess at, but you can assume that his hot nurse wife is none too thrilled that the best part of her husband might have just been killed off with the parasites causing his other problems.
As a fat man with his own hot wife, I found that last part particularly disturbing. Ahh, House, this is why "you don't care."
Tonight's episode was a good one, made better by the fact that its return was so welcome. I'm not sure it would rank better than average had it aired in a regular season, though. It was overstuffed and oddly paced. I'll put it down to cobwebs, however, with the show being gone for so long. I'm expecting a return to form next week.
-- Is it me or is Kutner becoming the break-out of the new team? Maybe they're just giving Kal Penn all the good lines because of how well Harold and Kumar was tracking when they filmed this.
-- "31?" "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought that either way was good with you."
-- "I didn't invite you to be nice. I invited you because bowling isn't one of the two things that guys do by themselves." "What's the second thing?" "...Other hand." Is that the funniest masturbation joke of the week or does someone else have another nomination?
-- I'm definitely feeling like the cast is starting to get unwieldy. The pre-strike episodes seemed to handle it pretty well, but tonight's break-room scene felt about as natural as Chrissy's calls from Fresno to Jack and Janet at the end of Suzanne Somers's run on Three's Company. I think we're either due for some major cast-trimming or the acknowledgment that everyone can't appear in every episode.
-- Speaking to that: notice that I didn't mention much about the staff performance reviews in the main review. Since it felt like it was tacked on to the episode (mainly to give Omar Epps something to do other than wear a suit and look flustered), I didn't see how to easily integrate it to the reviewcap. Please, if I'm missing something, let me know in the comments: was that subplot necessary tonight?
-- "Come over to the poopy side."
-- Did Cameron sleep with House? If so, when? This is a huge development, and not just because I'm a pervert who likes to really think about those kinds of things (but also, yes, because I'm a pervert too). Speculate in the comments!