Monday, January 23, 2012

[H]ouse, M.D. Episode 8x09 "Better Half"

Folks, I had a really great piece written, then I hit a wrong key and lost it all, even the draft I'd saved. So instead of trying to recreate the goodness, I'm just going to be brief here. Now let me just preface this by saying when I say "I'm just going to be brief" it's not actually brief in the sense you're thinking of. My "brief" is still only slightly shorter than a thesis. :)

The dislikes:

I miss the puzzle normally associated with the POTW. There wasn't this big mystery or build up to it. In addition there's usually some underlying personal issue that contributes to the illness. House prides himself in the theory that everybody lies is generally at he root of his patients illnesses, but not this time.

Foreman's obnoxiousness and attempts to one-up House are annoying. Foreman once said he didn't want to be like House, which is odd because he is like House and as Cuddy once said, he's House-light. Foreman misses the puzzles, he's not cut out to be an Administrator. I really liked him better as part of the team. I was just telling someone the other day about some of Foreman's best moments which include attempting to one-up House in "Mirror Mirror" and what I thought was an awesome performance in "House Training" where I actually cried at the end as he hugged his mother.

Who wants to see more of Chase's humanity? I like Chase but enough already. We've been teased with a Chase-centric episode. Could I be more unexcited? It's House's humanity I want to see!

Park. Adams.  Some say the actresses are underused. I say they shouldn't be used at all. What is the point of having them there? Park and Adams add no new dimensions to this show.  This is how I see them. First, Park is an extremely intelligent young woman raised in a very strict household. She craves friendship but is socially inept and has a hard time making friends. She's boring with a very dry sense of humor. As to Adams, I see her as straight-laced, moral, and feeling guilt over being born with a silver spoon in her mouth, which is by the way in House-land a very crappy reason to do want to be a doctor. Nothing worse than trying to do good out of a feeling of guilt. You do good because you want to not because you have to. That was one of the differences between Adams and Cameron. Like Park, she doesn't add anything to the development of House's character or the show. If she's supposed to be his conscience, it's not working, that's been done, her name was Cameron, and of course there's Wilson, who seems to be less of House's conscience as he's drawn into the dark side. In all honesty, Adams and Park feel like mere placeholders. 

Finally, House and Wilson's games. Is it a bit overdone? Has the common-sense, down-to-earth Wilson suddenly succumbed to the dark side?  With Cuddy gone they've got to make this friendship even more meaningful but there's no replacement for House's other half. Both Wilson and Cuddy offered something important to House's character and now Wilson has to fill both roles which isn't working. Note that the House-Wilson antics in this episode are also listed below in my likes!

The likes:

House and Wilson. Those two are so good together. The scene with the cigars was hilarious. Also early on the bet in the cafeteria--who didn't think that House would find a way to circumvent the rules without forfeiting the bet?  We know it's not all about the money, that was evident when House burned that bill. It was about the game. House once again established his intellectual superiority by solving the puzzle without breaking the rules of the game. With Cuddy out of the picture the only person he can sparr with is Wilson, but it's not sparring, it's frat-boy antics. Wilson is really all House has left and TPTB have to make to in Lisa's absence but Wilson can't be to House what Cuddy was to him and we still feel the loss.

That part about  Park having banged thirty guys in college--saying that she lived next door to a Jewish fraternity--was that supposed to be funny? Hey, even Jewish guys have standards! What I did like about this part was that House actually was interested enough to want to know more about it! No doubt an effort to use it against her later on. We know that House loves digging up dirt on his team. This piece was just handed to him on a silver platter by Park herself. Poor girl, she'll learn eventually.

Plot A was the POTW case, while there was no great puzzle and it kinda bored me,  I felt bad for the wife who had been married only a few months when her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She gave up a lot to take care of him.  As to plot B, the clinic patient, House may have been right about that case in that there was a medical reason for the perceived asexuality, albeit it wasn't on the part of the patient but her husband, however House, being the misanthropic son of a bitch that he is who doesn't believe in happiness or true love would have been thrilled if he could have proven the reason it didn't bother the wife was because she was getting it elsewhere, which actually wasn't the case at all. She lied about being asexual herself because she loved her husband. We can be sure House was annoyed by that heartfelt act of sacrifice.

Foreman finally figuring out that he can't continue to try and reign House in by threatening a return to jail. He should know better than anyone that House works better unconstrained by the same rules that apply to everyone else. House needs to be free of this constraint even if it costs him. It could very well backfire on Foreman in the future. Who knows what crazy stunt House will pull because Foreman has loosened the reigns? But the thing is that Foreman is not a very good boss for House, we've seen him as his supervisor a handful of times over the years and it never worked and it's never going to work. Cuddy was really the only person who could reign House in but she knew just when and how to do it.

Foreman's epiphany won him the right to claim he solved the case but in the end he knows House is the better diagnostician and I think it shows. Foreman clearly misses diagnostics and while I dislike that he gave it up to be hospital administrator, I like that he can't give up the puzzles so easily. He's torn and he should be. He once said he didn't want to be like House but he respects the hell out of the man.  I recall in Season 4 when House was testing the fellowship candidates and Cuddy appointed Foreman back on the team to keep an eye on things, Foreman proved himself (again) to House and impressed House so much that as they walked out of the hospital together, House complimented Foreman. Remember that? I loved that scene. Foreman has a fragile ego, House knows that, and he knows when to compliment a job well done. There's never been a doubt that he respects Foreman as a doctor but he has just never respected him as an administrator or boss. Why? Because Foreman was never good at that. He did however respect Cuddy as an administrator because she was damn good at it.

Taub was absent last night. I didn't even miss him.

Speaking of Taub, I laughed my ass off at House's comment about Taub being in his backpack. By the way this and the comment about Foreman's vests were both ad libs by Hugh Laurie!

And this comment: “You mean you think they’re..?” asks Park doing this weird hand gesture that made no sense whatsoever. To which Chase replies, “If they’re having sex, they probably use their genitals." LOVED THAT ONE!

Foreman being called on the carpet by a donor for his administration of the hospital. No shocker as we've been doing it all season.

The parallels between the clinic patient and the POTW. Both women lying to their husbands (albeit by omission). Which lie was the worse one? Lying about a secret relationship or lying that you are asexual because your husband is and you love him enough that you don't care about that.

House calling Foreman "Dr. Blackenschmirtz" "Black Pawn" and "Cuddy Dark". Come on, that's no worse than my personal favorite "Blackpoleon Blackaparte". Hey, if House went through one complete episode without making a racist or sexist remark I think I'd keep over.

All in all, parts of the episode were great, but overall I thought it was weak. I'm sorry, I'm still comparing these episodes to past seasons and I really can't help it.  *Sigh* Something is still missing.  House, our hero, our protagonist, needs his foil! It's not Foreman and it can't be Wilson. Wilson is House's sidekick, he's the nice charming guy that helps bring out House's humanity every now and then. He doesn't have the personality to be House's nemesis, he wasn't designed for it in the first place. Foreman is like House, he's no adversary because House doesn't consider him his equal or his rival. Think of it this way, House is modeled after Holmes. Holmes's sidekick was Watson but his nemesis was Moriarty. Who was House's Moriarty? Cuddy. House considered Cuddy a very worthy adversary, she could go toe to toe with him every step of the way, without fearing him and without backing down. House respected it. He loved it. He reveled in it.  I told you when Lisa Edelstein left the show that without both Wilson and Cuddy (the sidekick and the foil) to balance House, it would feel as if something were missing and I'm right. Something is still missing. You can't just take Foreman's character and try to reshape him into Cuddy. Not. Going. To. Happen.

This episode did take the number one spot but my belief is that there were two factors. First, the lack of competition. CBS aired a repeat of "How I Met Your Mother" while the other networks ran a variety of unpopular shows. Second, House just came off a long hiatus had something to do with its 19% increase in th ratings. I don't expect that to be the norm. For the record, below are the numbers since the season premiere. I've included the date the episode aired followed by it's rating/share of audience, and number of people who watched.

01/23:   3.1/8   8.2m
11/28:   2.6/6   7.3m
11/21:   2.5/6   7.3m
11/14:   2.5/6   6.7m
11/07:   2.7/6   7.5m
10/31:   2.5/6   6.5m
10/17:   3.1/7   8.4m
10/10:   2.3/6   5.9m
10/03:   3.9/9   9.7m 

The optimal number to shoot for regular season ratings is in the mid 3's range. House hasn't been able to do that since the season premiere Twenty Vicodin. During sweeps week shows strive for at least a 3.5 or higher but House did not achieve that during November's fall sweeps. Maybe in spring?  Who knows?  I will say that when you compare these numbers to House numbers in prior seasons, this season just doesn't hold up.

There are 14 more episodes left this season we know about at least four of them:

1) In next week's episode, "The team treats an underage and homeless female patient but when her symptoms worsen and call for an invasive surgery requiring adult consent, House and Adams argue over whether they should contact social services. The patient confesses that she ran away from home after struggling to take care of her mother, a recovering drug addict. But when her mother appears at her bedside, a more complicated relationship is revealed and the patient's mother must put the past aside and make the best decision for her daughter. Meanwhile, Taub has a difficult time connecting with his infant daughters and House threatens to exploit Foreman's relationship with a married woman."

2) In episode 11 (I'm looking forward to this one) "A violent incident involving a patient has serious consequences for one staff member, House and the team are placed under review by Dr. Walter Cofield, Foreman's former mentor and current Chief of Neurology. As House and each member of his team recount the details of the dramatic and life-threatening incident, Cofield must weigh the team's unconventional brand of collaboration against their ability to save lives."

This episode is supposed to be what Yaitanes calls a "game changer" and we can only wonder what it is. Considering that House's Diagnostics department was created especially for him by Cuddy I can only wonder if PPTH is going to decide that the risks taken by House and the team outweigh the benefits and that it is better to close the department although that wouldn't be the kind of episode you'd air halfway through the season. 

3) The the green-card wife (uggh!) returns shortly for episode 13 in which the Immigration folks have to verify the marriage is not a sham. Though it is, in fact, a sham, House will need to endure a crash course in marriage (no doubt his instructor will be the three time married Wilson) so that he doesn't go to jail for fraud. Can I just say that when I read Kath Lingenfelter's interview about House's "family" (his mom, Wilson, etc) and how the green-card wife is in a sense, a member of that family, even if it is a fake marriage and she's not family in the traditional sense, I wanted to hurl. By the way, what exactly did David Shore mean when he said they were not going to revisit the green-card wife mess? They were going to essentially pretend it never happened by just dropping it and never mentioning it again.

4) Sometime in March, House's mother Blythe (the fabulous Diane Baker!) returns for a visit with her new boyfriend portrayed by actor Billy Connolly and House can't be happy about that. Diane Baker and Billy Connolly? This should be a hoot. House can't complain much about his mother's choice of boyfriends considering in an effort to piss off Cuddy, he married a foreign chick who agreed to clean his apartment in exchange for a marriage of convenience to get a green card. 

House writer Kath Lingenfelter said that the last five episodes are serial, in that they all flow together. A lot of people, me included, were hoping they could find a way to convince Lisa to return and give the series a proper farewell. Whether or not that happens, a lot of us who have followed this show since day one are extremely concerned at what crazy way they plan to end the season, and possibly the series. Funny thing about the series ending, we still don't know if this is it. It's crazy too because they've shot half the episodes for the season and still don't know what's going to happen with the series yet. This is highly unusual!

That's all for today folks. We'll see what happens next week.

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