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HOUSE: The Greater Good

February 3, 2009 by  

What is it about milestones that make people lose perspective? Parents obsess about capturing the perfect image on a son or daughter’s birthday, as if the shots they took at the park a few days earlier cannot reflect that stepping stone of childhood. Young adults equate graduation from high school or college as a transcendent experience, rather than a simple ceremony that recognizes a past body of work. Couples who spend decades forging a life together are often thrown off-course over anniversary plans gone amok. We have all been guilty of raising our expectations to unreachable heights, only to crash and burn when those hopes are dashed by human failure or adverse circumstances.

This installment of House was the series’ 100th opportunity to open the doors of Princeton Plainsboro to the general public. Since so many of its prime time neighbors rely on lazy stunt casting and questionable plot twists to commemorate such events, I was anticipating a few tweaks from writer Sara Hess and director Lesli Linka Glatter. Much to my surprise, the team crafted a standout chapter in the House saga centered around a patient who generated thoughtful conversations for both the cast and the viewing public.

Judith Scott is a distinguished veteran of television dramas from all over your digital cable and satellite tiers. Her IMDB page of guest star credits is longer than Kate Winslet’s Golden Globes acceptance speech, and reflects a brilliant career as a character actor. As Dr. Dana Miller, a noted cancer researcher who stepped away from a life of work to pursue a life of happiness, Ms. Scott anchored this episode through her interactions with Wilson, Foreman, Thirteen, and Taub. In the latter half of the show, while speaking with Wilson, she offers a simple piece of advice that spoke to each of the interwoven plots of the show. “The only wrong thing is to do nothing.” When sharp writing is delivered by an experienced voice, a great deal can be accomplished in mere seconds. In the hands of a lesser actor, Dr. Miller could easily have been perceived as a quitter with irrational pipe dreams. Instead, Ms. Scott allowed the selfish motives of her character to seem purposeful.

For longtime fans of House who appreciate the biting tongue of Hugh Laurie, this week featured a return to form for the good doctor. I notice a little more pep in House’s step when a script offers more barbs to throw at underlings and patients. Here is a small sample of the wit and witticisms of Gregory House:

  • “Just practicing my audition for Clown College”
  • “Thanks for the lesson, Deepak”
  • Ebony and Ivory are joined…near the hip”
  • “Can’t wait to see what you get her for your anniversary”
  • “Get her a pint of cookie dough ice cream and a DVD of Beaches”

As an added bonus to delivering the funny, House brought some nuance back to his dynamics with Cuddy and Foreman. First, the playfulness between House and Cuddy returned, following the Chief of Staff’s recent foray into parenthood. Even if you are not a big Cuddy fan, I think it would be difficult to argue that the character’s core strengths were not on display this week. House desperately needs a strong, sexy, intelligent, and slightly mischievous version of Cuddy to operate at full strength. Lisa Edelstein was a fantastic foil tonight, and I am back in the Huddy camp as a result. Second, Foreman’s struggle to balance his feelings about Thirteen with his professional responsibilities showcased House’s effectiveness as a mentor. Despite the sarcastic impulses at the heart of the character, Hugh Laurie knows when to bring more heart to the surface. Though I have been critical of the rush to bring Foreteen together so quickly, the events of this episode broached that topic with a more thoughtful touch.

Three cheers for the return of Dr. Wilson to relevance! Though Robert Sean Leonard’s screen time is always too infrequent for my tastes, his contributions to this week’s narrative were pivotal in establishing the patient’s broader motivations and shedding light on Wilson’s emotional immobility. Who else could have brought so much depth to the simple act of gazing at a coffee mug? Unlike previous episodes, where we are left to wonder where Wilson drifted in between his all too brief cameos, Wilson’s enhanced role made the entire episode feel more consequential. Quick show of hands: Who would rather see Wilson dissect the House/Cuddy relationship on hospital grounds, rather than make pinch hit appearances in their respective apartments? Put those hands down, as I think the people have spoken.

In my humble opinion, this was the best episode of House since “Birthmarks,” which also featured Dr. Wilson in the “A” plot of the program. Coincidence, I think not…

What are your thoughts about House’s 100th? Did you recognize Judith Scott from her other TV guest spots? Would you like to see Dr. Taub and his wife have children? Who enjoyed seeing Wilson play a more integral part of the story? How did the Foreteen scenes strike you? Was the chemistry between House & Cuddy a step forward? Has anyone checked their milk cartons for pictures of Chase and Cameron? Inquiring minds want to know…

How does Erik combat writer’s block? He indulges in podcasts of the Adam Carolla Radio Show and reads Bill Simmons’ columns on The GMMR House & Survivor scribe is an active participant in the economic recession, and is working on a pamphlet outlining the etiquette of handling Facebook requests from old boyfrien


3 Responses to “HOUSE: The Greater Good”

  1. John on February 3rd, 2009 5:01 pm

    My only complaint with the episode was the absence of Cameron and Chase.

    Wilson was very good.

    I have never really understood Cuddy and still don’t. (As an aside, I have been watching the early West Wing reruns and noticed Edelstein played the call girl who Sam Seaborn hooked up with.)

  2. gbbg on February 3rd, 2009 7:48 pm

    I couldn’t follow the episode well (too much concentrating on eating) and not great quality video (yes, I watch House off the net).
    I am glad I was the only one who felt this episode was weak. Also glad that people found something in it for me to have a relook at it.
    But, your conclusion on foreteen seemed a bit off ‘cos I thought “Foreman, I can see” was the weakest part of the script and that it could threaten the reputation of script being tight.
    Anyway, I totally forgot about the 100th episode thingy, and my questions:

    1. Did House send Wilson to talk to Cuddy (or Wilson invariably ended up talking to her “He is who he is” line)
    2. I need more deeper insight into House’s role in the Foreteen saga.
    3. What was he doing in that locker-room?? Did he pocket something from the locker or put something there?
    4. What was so profound about Dr.Miller’s advise, especially to Taub and Wilson?

    I hope someone can answer them… in detail.

  3. moped_edi on February 3rd, 2009 9:02 pm

    I liked Cuddy sticking it to House. He deserves to be the butt of the joke for a change. The shout-out to Amber was good, too. I still wish they hadn’t killed off her character.

    I didn’t miss Cameron at all. Maybe Chase a little.