Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pardon the Interruption: House 7:14 - Recession Proof

Overall: 9.2

This episode earns a high score mainly on the strength of the ending.

Plot Synopsis: has a basic recap here.

The Skinny:

For the first 35 minutes of this episode, things unfold in a relatively typical manner. We have had many Patients of the Week who have lied to their spouses about their financial situation/job/extramarital affairs/etc., so there's really nothing new there. It's also pretty predictable that House would start right in with the gay jokes the moment Foreman and Taub moved in together. And yes, the food poisoning bit was pretty funny, but it's not as if we haven't had restroom humor on the show before. Again, up until the final minutes, I would've given this episode a score in the neighborhood of 7.5 -- solid, but unremarkable.

At the end, however, the writer really surprises me. I haven't checked, but I'm reasonably sure that the House-is-fine-the-way-he-is crowd blew an aneurysm with that last scene because it completely changes everything for House. Since day one, House has been living by the (false) conceit that happiness and genius do not mix. The Big Question which dominated No Reason, for example, was whether accepting a new treatment for his pain would rob House of his smarts. And let's not forget that House abandoned his (successful!) methadone regimen in The Softer Side the moment he discovered that his patient had simple dehydration and only became sicker when he (the patient) was injected with contrast dye. Oh, yes -- House has always been intellectually interested in happiness. He's studied the happiness of other people like an anthropologist might study the religion of an aboriginal tribe. But wanting it for himself? Putting aside his fear that contentment might interfere with his brilliance? That's utterly new -- and SABR Matt and I both feel it's a very positive development.

In reality, being a "tortured genius" has not actually made House a better doctor. If we were to look at the evidence rationally (one of House's favorite words), I think we'd discover that House's old lifestyle has often hindered his ability to solve his cases. In Que Sera Sera, for example, the POTW's lung cancer is not discovered until House gets into a physical fight with the patient and discovers the patient's fingers are clubbed. If House has bothered to do a thorough physical examination at the very start, he would've discovered the clubbed fingers much earlier. Instead, House stuck to his old routine: mocking the patient's enormous size and treating him like an idiot. Or what about Finding Judas? There, House was so consumed with his desire for Vicodin that a little girl nearly lost her arm -- and by the way, it was Chase who finally solved that case, not House. As far as distractions go, booking a mariachi band to make Cuddy happy is small potatoes compared to the things which have distracted House in the past.

I was initially skeptical about the House/Cuddy relationship in part because I feared that the writers wouldn't actually do anything new with the concept -- that House and Cuddy would just have a fling and then everything would return to status quo ante. So far, to my great delight, I've been proven wrong. I just hope the writers don't decide that a happy House in a mature relationship is "too boring for television." Even healthy relationships can feature plenty of drama.

Writing: 8.5

As I said, this was a 7.5 script until the ending.

Acting: 9.0

It really is a shame that Laurie hasn't gotten his Emmy because I love him unreservedly.

Message: 10.0

I'm very glad to see that House is dropping his more damaging neuroses.

1 comment:

  1. I think it bears noting that I had a *VERY* strong emotional reaction to the end scene. Why? Because the writers are geniuses and because the show has done such a good job making love and hate House and pull desperately for him over the years as he's tormented himself to the brink of death and the depths of every...single...time...the torment has begun with House's genius and his incorrect assumption that this genius would have been impossible if he were happy.

    And I really thought they were about to do it to me again...I really thought, when House was drunk at the bar and Wilson desperately pleaded with him to think about it before he threw his happiness away because of one patient that he was going to walk to Cuddy's place, barge in, act like an ass, and break up with her...all to martyr himself on a false cross of his own making. If they'd done that, I would have flown into an apoplectic rage and probably never watched the show again. Ever.

    But there I was...watching as House banged on Cuddy's door - drunk as a skunk in a funk - and then declaring that his happiness was worth it...worth the risk (!!!!) of losing something he held so dear...the thing that he'd clung to as a REPLACEMENT for his real happiness...the thing he now realizes is HOLLOW compared to real life happiness. I just utterly lost it...wept like a baby for a good minute and a half. Did not expect it at all...and couldn't keep myself from half-screaming, "That's so PERFECT! Thank God!!"

    You know this is an all-time great show when the writers do such a good job stringing you along with little bits of hope and never giving you what you desperately want until...they finally give it to you, and it brings you to your knees to thank God that they finally did. That's just great television...great storytelling...great entertainment.

    The first 35 minutes of the episode are ordinary ON PURPOSE. They wanted us to think this was business as usual. The revelation that House has changed FOREVER can't possibly have been as effective any other way.