HOUSE: Remorse - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

HOUSE: Remorse

January 27, 2010 by  

The truth is rarely presented in large doses. For many of us, the process of “coming clean” can be a long and dirty process. Even if our intentions are to be transparent, the fears of disappointing loved ones or colleagues can keep our lips sealed for far too long. Though movies or television shows rely on the melodrama of courtroom confessions and the shock value of a twist ending, real life is plodding in comparison.

This week’s House dealt brilliantly with the topic of honesty. With three separate storylines having significant impact on Dr. House and his team, the halls of Princeton Plainsboro were brimming with authentic conflict and emotional resonance.

The mystery patient of the week, Valerie, injected a new energy into Olivia Wilde’s performance as Thirteen. Played by Beau Garrett, Wilde’s co-star in the upcoming Tron sequel, Valerie presented an interesting twist on the modern psychopath. Instead of going the Law & Order: SVU route, with the patient looking left and right for her next victim, writer Peter Blake forged a far more imposing threat. Valerie savaged the emotions of the people in her life, rather than their flesh. The exchanges between her and Thirteen were captivating. Olivia Wilde has been roundly criticized for being an aesthetically pleasing actress without authentic credentials. Watching her fire away at Valerie, refusing to be manipulated by a woman who knows no other tactics, was a high water mark for Thirteen in Season Six. Valerie and Thirteen were ideal foils for one another, and it was appropriate that Thirteen was at Valerie’s side as the patient regained the ability to feel.

As the diagnostic team struggled with Valerie’s confounding psyche, House was being hounded by an unpleasant visitor from his past. Veteran TV actor Ray Abruzzo, best known for his role as Little Carmine on The Sopranos, reentered House’s world as Lorenzo Wibberly, a medical school classmate who fell on hard times. I am thrilled at the notion that the creative team has decided to acknowledge that House spent time at Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital in the season premiere. Recent episodes have been lax with progress or follow-up from his time in treatment, so Wibberly’s introduction as a person whom House had wronged was timely. House’s initial conversations with his old classmate were painful to watch, clearly inspiring the title of the episode. By all measures, Wibberly had lived the life of Mickey Rourke’s character in The Wrestler, battered by life and reduced to a minimum wage existence at a grocery store.

I was shocked when the truth emerged, and Wibberly confessed that his own failings, not House’s paper switch, had put him on the path to financial ruin. At episodes’ end, as House decided to ignore the circumstances and simply do right by another person, it was a legitimate breakthrough for Gregory House. He wasn’t keeping score or engaging in a zero-sum game. In many respects, the Wibberly storyline was more significant for House than any lingering gaze at Cuddy or bonding moment with Wilson. He is a changed man. Will we see more changes during the rest of the season?

Finally, Foreman and Thirteen appear to be headed back together, and I think their affection is being crafted in an authentic manner. For all the people who rejected their relationship last season, they may enjoy a different approach to Foreteen. Rather than being tossed together as the “romantically uninvolved” pieces of the casting puzzle, fulfilling some type of relationship quota on hour-long drama, these two are now ex-lovers who harbor feelings that are coming through convincingly. Without the absurd flirting in the MRI room or contrived bonds over an experimental drug cocktail, the two doctors appear to truly care, especially Omar Epps, who brought a level of sincerity to his scenes with Wilde this week. Am I simply being optimistic in hoping that the fanbase will embrace a second try for these two? I hope not.

I look forward to discussing this episode with all of you, and reading your thoughts on an episode with an above-average number of twists for the House audience.

Which story grabbed most of your attention? Did anyone see the twist coming with House’s old classmate? What did you think of Olivia Wilde’s performance? Where does this episode fit amongst Season Six’s best or worst? Comment early and often!

After writing about good television programs, I am searching for a new favorite “bad TV” show. With Jersey Shore’s season behind us, my free time must be absorbed by something mindless and DVR-worthy. Tweet your suggestions to me @FreelanceErik


10 Responses to “HOUSE: Remorse”

  1. John on January 27th, 2010 8:03 pm

    This was a good, but odd episode for me. Normally I am appalled at House and okay with the others’ actions (the murder of the dictator being any exception to the okay statement).

    However, this week it was Thirteen (whom I normally like) I disliked the most, with Wilson second on my dislike list (and I like Wilson also normally).

    Yes, the patient was a psychopathy, but doctors are supposed to treat everyone, without trying to inflict punishment on them. Thirteen for some reason felt it was her duty to use the information she obtained as the patient’s doctor to make her pay for her sins. This season we have had one doctor murder a patient he did like and now another act like one of the Furies in persisting in harrying her patient. I am not saying the patient was nice or good, just that it is not the doctor’s job to punish (or even expose) sins. Wilde was good in the role. (And I didn’t know a Tron sequel was on the way – that is good to know.)

    And what was with Wilson? Yes, it is easier for House to make amends to someone that means little to him than to show he is sorry for someone he cares about, but he was making progress. However, because it wasn’t the progress Wilson wanted he berates House. He can be easier on House when House is an ass, than when he is doing better, but not Wilson’s way.

  2. Joanna on January 28th, 2010 10:15 pm

    I’m going to have to assume that the president of the Olivia Wilde Fan Club hijacked this column and kidnapped Eric, because there is no other explanation for the third paragraph of this review.

  3. Erik on January 29th, 2010 7:13 pm

    John: I always appreciate your take on the show’s creative direction and efforts at character development. There is little doubt that the privacy issue was ignored for the sake of artistic freedom. Without the opportunity to engage with Valerie’s husband, the final scene between those three characters would have carried less emotional weight. Despite the heavy handed devices that paved the way for that scene, I do think that Olivia Wilde played a more consequential role in this episode.

    As for Wilson, I shared your confusion about his selfish response to House’s attempts to make amends with Wibberly. Season Five dealt directly with House’s guilt over Amber’s death, and Wilson’s forgiveness for House’s many foibles. Hopefully, that scene will be forgotten in the writer’s room.

  4. Erik on January 29th, 2010 7:20 pm

    Joanna: Unless I’ve been trapped in the timewarp of the LOST universe, I cannot recall being kidnapped or drugged during the typing of my recap. There is a large segment of longtime House viewers who do not care for Olivia Wilde (or more specifically, the character of Thirteen), and I wrote extensively in my Season Five recaps about the weakness in her onscreen dynamic with Omar Epps as the Foreteen storyline evolved.

    My process for writing about House is very structured. I watch the episode once without interruption, then replay in order to take bullet points down for the recap. This week, I found myself writing down very specific comments about the strength of Ms. Wilde’s acting. She held my attention during those critical scenes with Beau Garrett, and that’s a departure from the norm. I certainly respect and appreciate opinions to the contrary, including yours.

    In order to continue the conversation, which of the story arcs from this episode stood out to you?

  5. Kate on January 30th, 2010 10:36 pm

    I think it’s more than the privacy issues that were thrown out the window for the sake of the drama. How you look at a patient affects how you treat them, as Thirteen has repeatedly shown. (So has Foreman for that matter.) Thirteen judged, stepped outside her professional limits, and was wrong. This is the fourth time that I can recall but quite possibly there are more.

    The question to my mind is really what this show has become. In the early seasons, it was a procedural with dramatic development, that is, that the characters were fundamentally true to real life although exagerrated for the sake of drama. When Cameron said ‘yes’ to the husband in Infidelity asking if he was a jerk because he would rather his wife die than find out she was unfaithful to him, she was speaking from her own husband dying. When Chase sold out House to Vogler, he was dealing from his own abandoment issues. When Wilson slept with Grace, his dying patient, it was from Wilson’s neurosis. These were flawed characters but they were all trying to do the right thing, the professional thing, and recognized when they didn’t.

    Thirteen on the other hand, has repeatedly broken almost every rule in the AMA ethics guidelines but without any real sense that she was doing wrong or being a bad doctor. It’s poor drama but SOP for bad soap opera. You get the dramatic shock without any real sense of understanding or either character or audience learning. Like the House and Cuddy gameplaying, it’s shocking without being logical or elucidating the character.

    Since Thirteen’s own behaviour has been psychopathic/sociopathic a number of times, it was hypocritical for her to yell at the patient (for that I blame the writers). She’s never shown any remorse for drugging House and doing a biopsy on him without anaesthetic, smiling as she did so, never any remorse for not picking up that Stark could not swallow the pill in 97 Seconds without her help because he lacked the muscle ability, or for failing to respond when a patient asks for her help (leading one woman to sleep with her in order to get noticed so she could get help), never for lying to House about her relationship with Foreman or using Cameron to get another job offer when she had no intention of taking it, or back-stabbing her colleagues. The defining characteristic of the psychopathic personality is no sense of guilt for what he or she has done wrong and no sense of empathy to the victims. Thirteen is too close to that to be calling anyone names.

    As for the Thirteen and Foreman’s relationship, I thought they were perfectly matched from the beginning, both of them self-absorbed, judgemental, and convinced that they are superior to everyone around them. I found them, and continue to find them, two fundamentally unpleasant people who I have no interest in whether they are in a relationship or not.

    I’m sorry, Eric, but House now tops my list of bad TV shows.

  6. Kate on January 30th, 2010 11:31 pm

    p.s. This is the second time the show has done Wilson’s Disease. Comparing season one’s Socratic Method to this episode I think really shows how the show has changed.

  7. Give Me My Remote on January 31st, 2010 12:28 am

    It tops your list of bad TV shows? I can only hope that you really don’t watch many other shows. Even with its faults there are a flurry of really horrible shows out there that HOUSE doesn’t even come near.

    But I’m sure it’s a bummer to have a show that you’ve enjoyed let you down.

    I agree with many of your points about Thirteen crossing all kinds of lines. She really had no right interfering with that woman’s persona life. I wish this was the first time that HOUSE crossed that line. The patient/doctor relationship is beyond warped on this show.

  8. Joanna on January 31st, 2010 5:17 pm

    Thank you, Erik, for your reply, which is much more than my snarky comment deserved. I’ll have to admit that my comment was more directed at Thirteen’s actions, rather than Olivia Wilde’s acting, and both John and Kate above have expressed my point of view regarding Thirteen in this episode. Two of my least favorite elements of this new version of House, MD., were present in this episode: excessive Thirteen, and House/Cuddy immaturity, and sometimes it is very hard for me to look beyond that. Since neither element seems to be going away, it’s probably best if I stop watching. Again, thank you for your reply.

  9. Eri on February 3rd, 2010 4:20 pm

    Kate: Thanks for returning to the discussion about House. Quite frankly, there are a number of “familiar favorites” from our conversations that have quit watching the show. Their disappointment with the creative direction of Season 6 was palpable in their comments, and I miss reading their points of view.

    The show remains a ratings success for FOX, due to a large viewing audience that views it in a formulaic, “Law & Order”-type prism of self-containment. Just as weekend couch potatoes might stumble upon a repeat on USA and enjoy Hugh Laurie’s pointed delivery or the mystery patient’s story, House is a show that can be easily digested by a passive observer. For those who look beneath the surface, however, the disjointed “big picture” story arcs seem to have driven some of its most passionate viewers away.

  10. Eri on February 3rd, 2010 4:39 pm

    Joanna: Before I started writing about House for GMMR, I had never seen an episode of the show. Oddly enough, the people in my life who did watch the program NEVER mentioned House & Cuddy’s romance as the reason they tuned in. Much to my surprise, the replies to my initial string of recaps were filled with pro-Huddy or anti-Huddy proclamations. In a message board culture, as mere milli-seconds pass between the completion of a thought and pressing the “submit” button, I suppose that is natural.

    Over the course of two years, we have built a community that thinks about House with more nuance, including brilliant viewers like John, Kate, Bertas, and others. They are enthusiastic about great performances, tight writing, and innovative direction. When stories fail to live up to their expectations, they express their criticisms forcefully.

    I think that your views on Thirteen are emblematic of the creative dropoff that we’ve seen since the “Broken” season premiere. How much is too much of a character that many viewers have never taken to? Do we need to invest more time in a Foreman/Thirteen courtship which was poorly received the first time around?

    Season Six of House has been uneven, though I have chosen to remain optimistic that the sheer talent of the cast & crew will lead us to a creatively satisfying conclusion. Welcome aboard, and enjoy the ride!