HOUSE: Family Practice
February 8, 2011 by Erik Wilkinson
Sibling rivalries erupt over a litany of factors beyond our control. Basketball tryouts change brothers into playground rivals. The affection of a mutual crush melts the bonds of sisterhood. Professional successes that should be celebrated become bragging rights in the 3-D version of the game of life.
Lisa Cuddy’s struggle to find common ground with her mother, featured on this week’s HOUSE, is a byproduct of the most challenging type of sibling competition. Who among a generation of offspring is treated as the chosen one, the golden child? It is a game that follows no rules, and the victor’s reward is the scorn of their loved ones.
Cuddy was eviscerated by a single quote from her Mom, and the fallout associated with Candice Bergen’s stern delivery was overpowering:
“I love you both, but I like her more than you.”
There are wounds that can be treated with a bandage, and others that require medical attention. If you are blessed/cursed with siblings, NO ONE could remedy the damage that comes from hearing your parent declare you the runner-up in a family contest for Mr/Miss Congeniality. A wounded Cuddy made a series of mistakes in the aftermath of Arlene’s hurtful assertion, and it took House to point her in the right direction.
I have been critical of Lisa Edelstein’s approach to Cuddy this season, particularly in scenes with Hugh Laurie where she appears either relieved or prematurely panicked. This week, Ms. Edelstein wore the burdens of her mother’s behavior brilliantly, and showed how to love someone who does not understand how to validate you in return. The episode built to a strong crescendo, as Cuddy refused to allow her mother to die in the hands of polite doctors, and insisted that Arlene be saved by Princeton Plainsboro’s finest (if a tad insensitive) team.
Hugh Laurie’s fans have already taken to Twitter in declaring “Family Practice” his finest performance of Season 7. House has become a credible romantic partner for Cuddy, and Laurie’s commitment to maintaining his character’s brittle filter and unyieldingly high expectations are keys to that evolution. Cuddy was failing to be either a doctor or a daughter to Arlene, and House called her out, just as he would Foreman or Taub if they fell down on the job. House is growing more committed to the people in his life, but he remains steadfast in his belief in brains. When his girlfriend stopped using her intellect and succumbed to her frailties, House hit the brakes and refocused her. That is a huge step in the Huddy relationship, but a course of action that is 100% Gregory House.
The “B” plot of this episode, featuring Taub’s attempts to fashion a working relationship with his brother-in-law, showed a different side to the bonds between siblings. With financial pressures mounting and a marriage ending, Chris Taub could have easily turned the other cheek to a questionable mark on a child’s head CT. Instead, he behaved just like his boss would, damning the consequences to his bank account and his nose. It is possible that viewers are seeing the beginning of a new Dr. Taub, a guy who can reach greatness as a physician, even if his predilictions for nurses never subside. Kudos to Jennifer Crystal Foley for her layered performance as Rachel Taub, a woman who understands the foibles of her soon-to-be ex, but cares enough to keep him from hitting rock bottom.
Martha M. Masters is the ultimate golden child, but the young genius has gained significant traction with her colleagues. I have enjoyed every beat of Amber Tamblyn’s performances this season, and “Family Practice” was no exception. Masters is principled, brave, and stubbornly self-righteous when the moment requires. House & Cuddy both recognize her immense potential, as hinted when House said, “It’s not her office yet,” while kicking his girlfriend out of the room to threaten his protege. Olivia Wilde’s absence from HOUSE is noticeable in the lack of worthwhile storylines for Foreman, but I would be happy to trade the come-hither looks of Thirteen for the “What are you doing?” perspective of Masters. If writing about a medical show can give you a God complex, than I demand Amber Tamblyn be made a series regular next season! (Cue the appropriate volume of ominous music, signifying my powers as the great and powerful Oz)
There is more to discuss about Candice Bergen’s return, along with Paula Marshall’s debut as Cuddy’s sister, so let’s get the conversation rolling!
What were your thoughts on Arlene’s patient storyline? Did the mention of her artificial hip spoil her diagnosis for you later? How did the Huddy scenes impact your view of their relationship? Were there enough light moments in the show for fans of House’s one-liners? Are you growing more or less interested in Thirteen’s inevitable return?
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