Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pardon the Interruption: House 6.4 - Instant Karma

Overall: 4.7 6.2

Two sins were committed in this episode that I can't forgive in my rating of it. First, it was insanely boring with nary a chuckle to be found. House didn't even bring the funny and that's a rare and painful thing. Second, it was a cop out unless they find some way to bring the Dibala case back again. Chase committed murder and with the help of House and Foreman, got off scott free. That's not just morally dubious...that's BORING TELEVISION. :)

In the interests of not revising history blindly, I am leaving my previous comments up for the time being and adding edits in red. House 6.5 did a lot to revise my thinking about the value of House 6.4, which, while still not a very good episode, now appears to have been significantly less undirected than I thought. This will teach me not to be so impatient with the writers in the future.

cut for spoilers

Plot Synopsis:

A billionaire energy tycoon brings his dying son to Princeton to see House - who has not yet received his medical license and thus is still not cleared to lead the team. He nevertheless runs all of the DDx's as they track from bowel obstruction to brain cancer to arteritis to Dogot's disease looking for an explanation for a bizarre constellation of symptoms from fever to dural adema to increased intracranial pressure and seizures to papules on the skin. When they settle on a terminal diagnosis (Dogot's Disease), the tycoon becomes irrational and bankrupts himself intentionally to improve his standing with the God's of fate and give his son a chance to live, whereupon he immediately has a massive heart attack. It seems like more bad luck, but the heart attack leads to a much more treatable diagnosis of Primary Antiphospholipid Syndrome. The father feels vindicated for his choice to screw thousands of people out of their investment capital on a whim. House cashes in with a short sale on stock for his company.

Meanwhile, Cuddy has asked Foreman to run an M&M conference on Debala and Foreman, knowing that Chase faked a lab test, insists that he be is 100% covered or he'll out Chase to the committee. When they discover an inconsistency in "Debala's" cholesterol level, Chase spends the rest of the episode trying to find a convenient explanation for the apparent oddity, reaching a point of panic where he very nearly confesses his crime to Cuddy but is conveniently interrupted. House, upon discovering Chase's actions, digs up evidence that Debala was on high doses of cholesterol lowering medication prior to being admitted, thus saving the day for Chase and Foreman.

A minor side plot involving Thirteen attempting to get away on vacation and being stopped by House (who deflects blame away form himself because he can't admit that he wants her on his team) fills up the rest of this episode. Wilson takes credit for hacking her e-mail to protect House. Thirteen eventually does leave for some far off port of call, much to House and Wilson's dismay.

Writing: 3.5 6.0

A House episode without drama, high comedy, or plots that move any major ongoing storyline forward in any way I'd care about? How disappointing...and we were on such a great roll there to start the year! This episode is, as my sister put it, a "middle of the trilogy book" can pretty much skip watching it and not feel like you missed anything. I'm mildly annoyed that House seems to be back-slipping into bad behaviors and old beliefs and this episode certainly didn't do anything to advance his ongoing recovery.

OK, after having watched House 6.5, I can drop one of my original charges against this episode - maybe even two of them. It was still uninteresting and slow, which is bad writing when compared to other House episodes, but there were elements of the story that moved character arcs forward in necessary ways - particularly Chase's escape from the law, which allowed him to focus not on damage control, but on the hurt in his own heart over his crime, which now seems entirely necessary. I am also less bothered by some of House's shenanigans in this episode...his struggle to view the world in a healthier way SHOULDN'T come easily and I think perhaps seeing him behave like old-House, while personally frustrating, does make those moments where we see him do something that is obviously progress more rewarding to the viewer.

Acting: 8.0

Nothing wrong with any of the acting really, aside from the patient and his father, who I thought were both pretty darned flat. In fact Jesse Spencer did a pretty darned convincing job with his Debala side plot. The only moment of suspense in the entire episode was his scene with Cuddy where he nearly confessed...I was REALLY hoping he would take responsibility for his actions but the writers deus ex machina'd their way out of it and I slammed my fist on my computer desk in frustration.

Message: 2.5 4.5

At best we're caught in no-man's land now, ethically. After "The Tyrant" I at least felt like Chase was rightfully repenting for his crime and feeling the shame of it. We took a giant step backward on the Christian front here. Add to that the return of House's arrogant atheist streak (albeit in a subdued form compared to 5th season House) and I'm starting to wonder whether my hopes for House discovering something more meaningful than pure intellectualism are fading. Oh and one other thing...the actions of the tycoon aren't just mind-numbingly stupid (and difficult to believe, BTW...another failing of the writers), they're immoral. He didn't just bankrupt himself...he probably bankrupted at least ten thousand other people, cost thousands more their jobs and torpedoed his son's chances of living with the privileges of wealth. Unlike a liberal, I see being rich as a GOOD thing...and being poor as an inherently BAD one. And this clown intentionally screwed himself, his family, and thousands of other people over without hesitation because he didn't like his son's prognosis. It's outrageous.

All of my charges regarding the bizarre actions of our tycoon Randall an ardent capitalist, I can't watch selfish, destructive behavior like that and not get pissed off. But I will drop my accusations regarding the morality of letting Chase get away with his crime and my concerns about House's recovery halting. For now...the episode's chief moral failing is that House didn't rip Randall a new orifice. A moral, caring House should have read him the riot act...not gone on eTrade and profited from a man's ridiculously selfish delusion.


  1. Damn! You beat me to the punch! My rating would've been a little higher, but not by that much.

    I agree that this episode is pretty boring. Here's the summation in my review:

    So – is this episode a necessary continuation of House’s post-Mayfield character development and a serviceable bridge to the inevitable reckoning regarding Dibala? Absolutely – but it fails rise above its utility. As noted above, the patient-of-the-week plot is lacking in the human interest element, and the dialogue – almost always this show’s best feature – is somehow divested of its usual sparkle and zip. That I could find no funny or profound bits to highlight in this review is a bad sign.

    Now to my responses to some of your comments:

    Chase committed murder and with the help of House and Foreman, got off scott free.

    Oh, this is definitely not the end. Ausiello - the big source for House-related rumors - reports that Dibala will be rattling through the show for a little while yet. I've heard nothing regarding potential legal ramifications, granted, but is there a personal reckoning? Oh, yes!

    That Chase did not confess in this episode did not strike me as false; it would've struck me as false if he had, actually, as Chase, remember, has a history of looking out for numero uno even while feeling like a heel about it. I think in this, we have to be patient and allow the guilt - which is still clearly evident here - to fester. That's the only organic course the writers can take.

    Add to that the return of House's arrogant atheist streak (albeit in a subdued form compared to 5th season House) and I'm starting to wonder whether my hopes for House discovering something more meaningful than pure intellectualism are fading.

    Again, here, I think patience should be our mantra. Just as Chase's basic decency is not going conquer his fear of prison and the loss of his license right away, House is not going to suddenly become a theist (nor is he going to flip to being perfectly well-adjusted, by the way). What I wrote in my review in progress regarding House's reaction to Randall was this:

    On the other hand, his distinctly subdued reaction to Roy Randall’s decision to bankrupt himself is a hugely positive change. Before Mayfield, House certainly would’ve been more vociferous in his derision and mockery; here – after Mayfield – he’s not exactly complimentary, but he also minds his own business. Right now, this is realistically the best we can hope for.

    I am, however, in complete agreement with your comments on Randall:

    By all rights, Randall should've been bombarded at the end with calls from angry employees and stockholders. When you are rich, you have the unique capacity to lift other people up with you; you also have a unique responsibility to those self-same people once you do. Randall abdicated that responsibility for, yes, a selfish reason. Shame on him.

  2. Perhaps I'm suffering from a failure of patience...I was not, however, expecting House to magically turn into a Christian or Chase to magically grow ethics. :) What annoyed me about Chase's lack of a confession was that the writers found a cheap way to get out of it. If he'd never gone into Cuddy's office intending to confess, it wouldn't have bothered me that he didn't confess. It annoyed me that they built some suspense just to screw with the audience and then came up with a cop-out exit ('re oh my that's convenient timing!).

    In the real world, our Tycoon Randall would probably have been shot and killed before he had the chance to party over pizza with his son. Not that I am saying the shooter would have had any right to do that...but in the real world, billionaires are responsible for too many people to get away with doing what Randall did. ANOTHER cop out. The episode is full of cop out and equivocations...and's not interesting enough for me to forgive the writers for taking the easy way out over and over again.