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HOUSE: Saviors

April 14, 2009 by  

Last week, I predicted that Dr. Kutner’s unexpected suicide would force his colleagues to move forward and tackle big decisions in their personal and professional lives. Though the show’s producers were criticized for orchestrating Kal Penn’s exit from the show in a somewhat illogical fashion, their first chance to reset the ensemble cast in the post-Kutner world was a success. With a phenomenal script from Thomas L. Moran and Eli Attie to guide them, the House team offered up a slew of strong performances, delivered a legitimately shocking return, and gathered momentum toward the season finale.

Dr. Allison Cameron has been MIA for most of Season Five, as House’s newest proteges took her screen time, in addition to her seat in the conference room. In Cameron’s absence, the audience was treated to a heavy dose of Thirteen, a narrative of Dr. Taub’s mid-life crisis, and an extended introduction to the quirky ways of Private Investigator Lucas Douglas (remember him?). Though the newer cast members have performed admirably, it has been the audience’s loss to have Jennifer Morrison missing from our TV screens. This week, the wisdom behind the song, “Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til It’s Gone,” was substantiated by an incredible performance.

Tonight, Jennifer Morrison auditioned for the role of prime time television star, and she nailed it! Cameron’s story was rich with emotional heft and critical confrontations, and it was a treat to watch Morrison navigate every twist and turn. As the hour unfolded, I could not piece together Cameron’s motivation for sticking with the mystery patient. With questions rattled at her from all sides, House’s favorite ER doc held onto her secret. Was the patient connected to Cameron through family or circumstance? Did Cuddy’s inquisition reveal a long-lasting feeling for House that Cameron could never shake? These possibilities, along with a host of others, were plausible enough to consider, and made the ultimate revelation about Chase’s ring all the more powerful.

Another key element of House returned in this chapter, and it had nothing to do with a cast member. Humor has always been an integral part of this program, and I was delighted by a number of clever one-liners and scenes this week. First, Taub and Foreman’s back and forth about the patient’s motivation for being an activist was great stuff, and should calm the nerves of anyone who thought Kutner’s comedic contributions would be missed sorely in his absence. Next, the battle between Gregory House and the Zone Diet led to the fantastic line, “Who eats kale?”, which ought to have been cathartic to people like me who cannot afford to shop at Whole Foods. Finally, it is a simple equation: House + Clinic Patients = Laughs! The good doctor’s diagnosis of a wife’s Jacuzzi-induced infection was well-executed, particularly in guest star Parisa Fakhri’s facial expressions as her extracurricular activities were revealed.

Before we get to Amber’s reappearance, her former fiancé deserves kudos as well. Robert Sean Leonard was a quiet hero in this episode by providing laughs through his psychological diet warfare against House, and continuing to counsel his best friend through the grieving process. Has anyone on television ever been so delighted to have someone scream at him, “You manipulative bitch!” Who else but Wilson would have had the ammunition to rebuff House’s assertions that he was feeling better, simply by noticing that Kutner’s five function “Secret Santa” watch was adorning House’s wrist? Leonard and Laurie continue to astound me, and their relationship is the backbone of this show.

Fittingly, I saved Amber’s shocking appearance in House’s apartment for last, because it took place at the absolute last minute. Immediately preceding this jaw dropping cliffhanger, director Matthew Penn was waltzing us through a lovely closing sequence, filled with the joy that filtered from Chase and Cameron’s engagement. Most notably, the shots of House and Wilson in the cafeteria, smiles beaming as they devoured a sugary treat, appeared to be a sweet segue into House’s performance with his piano and harmonica. Hugh Laurie’s expression certainly betrayed the upbeat feeling, and the return of the “Cutthroat Bitch” opened up a myriad of possibilities. Whether Amber’s image was a product of stress, insomnia, or other side effect, House appears to be headed down a strange psychological path.

In my opinion, this was the best written episode of House’s fifth season. With a mix of rich character development, unexpected plot points, and a sense of humor about itself, this story ought to be a fan favorite for years to come.

What are your thoughts on Jennifer Morrison’s performance? Just one week after the loss of Kutner, did you enjoy the lighter tone of the episode? Were you surprised by Chase & Cameron’s engagement? How do you feel about the increased screen time for the House & Wilson bromance? Did anyone see the reappearance of Amber coming? I’m looking forward to reading your comments!

How does Erik combat writer’s block? He indulges in Adam Carolla’s new daily podcast at and reads Bill Simmons’ columns on The GMMR House and Parks & Recreation dude is an active participant in the economic recession, and is still reeling from the excitement of being in the front row at his first Bruce Springsteen concert in Denver.


21 Responses to “HOUSE: Saviors”

  1. Janice on April 14th, 2009 7:47 pm

    I agree that Jennifer Morrison gave a great performance last night, but I think you’ve made an oversight in not mentioning Jesse Spencer’s performance as well. It took two actors to make those scenes have the emotional impact they did. Jesse Spencer nailed it through the whole episode–the hesitant trust, the emtionally heavy frustration, the heartbreak, the hope, the resolution. Spencer and Morrison showed what a huge mistake sidelining them has been. I hope the people in charge of House take notice because they need to get those treasures out of hiding and use them. Both are so much better than their replacements have been.

  2. EC on April 14th, 2009 7:47 pm

    I agree that Jennifer Morrison gave a great performance last night, but I think you’ve made an oversight in not mentioning Jesse Spencer’s performance as well. It took two actors to make those scenes have the emotional impact they did. Jesse Spencer nailed it through the whole episode–the hesitant trust, the emtionally heavy frustration, the heartbreak, the hope, the resolution. Spencer and Morrison showed what a huge mistake sidelining them has been. I hope the people in charge of House take notice because they need to get those treasures out of hiding and use them. Both are so much better than their replacements have been.

  3. tw111 on April 14th, 2009 8:12 pm

    Do Not GO There! (With Amber, I mean…)… haven’t we suffered enough with the Return of Denny? Seriously, not you too, House….. it’ll end up a mess……

  4. Grace on April 15th, 2009 1:49 am

    Who’s Denny??
    Anyway, I enjoyed this episode very much. Wilson and House play off each other SO WELL. I am in heaven when those two are on the screen.
    Kuddos to Jen and Jesse for their great performances. It was SO GOOD to have them back. The less 13, Foreman, Taub, and Foreteen, the better I like it.
    And HUGH LAURIE is ALWAY AMAZING to me. The piano AND harmonica? YES!
    What I didn’t care for was the POTW…..pretty boring stuff.
    And clinic duty was not up to par….not that funny or interesting.
    Overall though, the episode gets 8.5 Vicodins IMHO. 🙂

  5. Erik on April 15th, 2009 3:02 am

    Janice/EC: I apologize for not including Jesse Spencer’s performance in my review. Dr. Chase was an integral part of many of this week’s best scenes, and Spencer held up his end in every instance. My goal with each of these recaps is to highlight the three or four key elements that made the story sink or swim. In this case, I was taken aback by how much range Jennifer Morrison showed while bouncing off so many talented actors. Here’s hoping that next week’s episode (no spoilers here) will provide an outlet for Mr. Spencer to receive the lion’s share of praise on GMMR. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. Erik on April 15th, 2009 3:08 am

    tw111: There is something to your theory about bringing characters back from the dead. Denny Duquette’s reappearance on Grey’s Anatomy received overwhelmingly poor reviews, both in the blogosphere and from casual fans of the program. We need to trust that Katie Jacobs and David Shore will not turn Amber into an anchor that will derail a smooth ride to the end of Season Five. Remember, Grey’s showrunner Shonda Rhimes wrote Britney Spears’ horrendous movie “Crossroads,” so there was precedent for her to make poor creative decisions. Give the story another week to play out before you get anxious.

  7. Erik on April 15th, 2009 3:14 am

    Grace: Thanks for joining the conversation! Saviors was a banner episode for fans who prefer the original House team to the recent additions. That being said, I thought the entire cast performed well as a unit, which is a far cry from earlier episodes that seemed to split the group into two distinct factions.

    We may have to start a petition to mandate one episode per season with this format: 2 segments of House & Wilson verbally jousting in the cafeteria, 3 segments of House treating patients in the clinic with no life-threatening symptoms, and a final segment of Piano and Harmonica from TV’s most eclectic talent.

  8. geebs on April 16th, 2009 10:11 pm

    Took me 3 days to get to the episode.

    I will take back my comments on the previous post about a seemingly bad decision of Kutner’s exit, though I still stand by the inappropriate treatment.

    Cameron’s back and so Chase gets screen time too (wondered how their roles are tied up?). I thought the primary goal of the episode was to lighten it up a bit. And they brought in the best of the best. Chase, Cameron, Wilson, Clinic patients, all played well to soothe the viewers.

    Now, you should believe when I say my jaw dropped when I saw her on the screen. I don’t know what’s gonna happen I might get a wee bit tempted to watch the previews of the next episodes (floating around on the net).

    Couldn’t ask for a better come-back though!

  9. Jee on April 16th, 2009 11:46 pm

    I have to agree with you completely; it has been the audience’s loss of not seeing enough of Jennifer Morrison for the past season or two.

    As I was watching the episode I immediately remembered why I always liked her. She nailed it in last nights episode; from her facial expressions to her tone – when she told House that she ‘never wanted to dump Chase,’ her face and (sad) tone just said it all. I have to applaud her for such a wonderful performance last night and it is such a shame that they never use her great talent to such use on the show.

    Jesse Spencer was great as well! They were equally great – the cafeteria scene, when they broke up? Both were phenomenal. He’s venting out his confusion and she’s trying to fess up, its this complete dynamic that comes out perfectly.

    I have to give them kudos for being so professional with it all. I know that in real life they were engaged, so.. but they truly were incredible in the episode, and im finally happy that they at least have shown that they do reserve the recognition.

  10. Erik on April 17th, 2009 5:46 am

    geebs: I don’t think there is any reason to retract your earlier comments, because they did echo Kate’s view that Kutner’s suicide was an expedient method to facilitate Kal Penn’s exit, but a lazy storytelling device.

    That being said, there did seem to be a little jolt in this episode, as the remaining cast members brought a surge of creative energy to their new assignments. We are both fans of House in the clinic, and those scenes ought to pop up more often.

    Amber’s return, even as a hallucination, could go in a number of directions for House, and I hope we are all satisfied with the result. Unfortunately, the pattern you have complained about all season will keep us from seeing the next episode for 2 weeks. I know that Bones fans have been very patient with all the interruptions to that show this season, but a week between new House installments does tend to dull my excitement for each one.

  11. Erik on April 17th, 2009 5:51 am

    Jee: Welcome to the conversation! I look forward to seeing you back in this forum for the rest of Season Five, and I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.

    I find it amazing that Morrison & Spencer have continued to perform at such a high level for two reasons. First, there must be more pressure to bring your “A” game when your screen time is diminished, and not every actor can overcome that burden. Second, the trials and tribulations of playing out their onscreen romance, while most of the audience is aware of their real life separation, demands absolute professionalism. There isn’t an award for overcoming these obstacles, but if there were, I know who my first two votes would be cast for.

  12. OC_we!rdo on April 18th, 2009 10:56 pm

    I’m a huge lover of House + Clinic Patients. I hope they will include HCP scenes every episode.

    And its really refreshing to see Cameron and Chase again (not a fan of the new set) lol

  13. geebs on April 20th, 2009 12:45 am

    Break??? Again???

  14. Erik on April 21st, 2009 7:56 pm

    Since House was once again preempted this week, in order to allow Bones to air all of its original episodes before the May 14 finale, I want to invite all of our commenters to share their assessment of Season Five thus far.

    *What do you think of the show’s direction this season?

    *What has been your favorite episode?

    *Aside from Hugh Laurie, which cast member has been the MVP of Season Five?

  15. elizabeth on April 22nd, 2009 7:27 pm

    Re: House

    I’m curious if the reappearance of Amber was somehow foreshadowed
    at the very end of “Locked In”, in which House’s vision blurred just as
    the elevator door was closing. After watching that episode (“Locked In”)twice, I did not think it was a fade out. Hmmm….

  16. syphen on April 23rd, 2009 2:19 am

    I think Jennifer did a fantastic job, it’s good to see her particular wit in play after such a long drought. Something about her quiet, almost restrained tone really adds a sense of mystery and suspense to each of her lines. I’m looking forward to see more of her, and the possible exploration of her relationship with House. It’s too powerful an opportunity of drama to ignore, even if they must utilize the tools of hallucination.

  17. Erik on April 23rd, 2009 3:48 am

    Elizabeth: Fantastic callback to the conclusion of “Locked In.” That moment with Wilson, where House appeared to hear his best friend insisting that he would end up alone, felt like a dream sequence to me. Your explanation would support the idea that House’s delusions/insomnia/hallucinations began during that period of time. Thank you so much for adding that insight!

  18. Erik on April 23rd, 2009 4:00 am

    Syphen: The good news is that unlike Grey’s Anatomy, the House team has rarely ventured too far afield creatively. So long as Amber’s reappearance leads to a satisfying storyline for Hugh Laurie to work with, I am eagerly awaiting the results!

  19. Kate on April 24th, 2009 10:47 pm

    I just found this review! 🙂 I totally agree with what a nice change of pace it was… a breath of fresh air in my opinion. I wasn’t exactly thrilled, (to put it mildly ;), about the Chase/Cameron engagement. I’m still holding out hope for House and Cameron. (Whose scenes, by the way, also brought a lot of old-school House back to the ep. Awesome.) I guess we’ll see what happens, though. Anyhow, thanks again for the recap. Good stuff. 🙂

  20. Erik on April 25th, 2009 6:19 am

    Kate: Thanks for taking the time to respond! Season Five has been complicated by inconsistent scheduling, so it is wonderful to continue this discussion during the “down time” triggered by this week’s preemption.

    Following Dr. Kutner’s suicide, we had a thoughtful debate in the comments thread about whether House’s creative team had been too hasty in taking some of our favorite characters into new directions. In addition to Kutner’s unexplained demise, we talked about Chase & Cameron’s romance, as well as House’s reaction to Cuddy adopting a child.

    Kal Penn’s decision to join the Obama Administration was a reasonable explanation for creating a “buzzworthy” storyline for his exit. In the other cases, particularly Chase & Cameron’s path to the altar, I think it is fair to say that the audience has been deprived of many pivotal moments that would explain these big decisions. For many, the concept of Chase & Cameron becoming engaged was disappointing, because we had not seen the two of them interact as a couple since Chase gained access to Cameron’s bottom drawer.

    As a fan of House & Cameron’s dynamic, I would be interested in whether your affection (or lack thereof) for Chase & Cameron’s relationship could have been positively influenced by more peeks into their private moments.

  21. Kate on May 13th, 2009 1:10 am

    Erik, to say everything I want in answer your question as to whether I would have been more positively influenced by more peeks into Cameron and Chase’s private moments could take more pages than my thesis so I’ll try the Cliff’s notes version.

    Briefly, the show did too good a job in the first three seasons proving to me why these two people do not match and should not be together. On the surface, they are both young and pretty and doctors but their values are very different. Cameron is obsessive about getting to the right diagnosis (like House is) and will risk her job to do what she feels is right. Chase looks after himself first and will charm in public and then slack off or support a completely different position in private. Cameron is willing to compromise in the best interests of both parties, Chase gives ultimatums and then threatens to leave.

    From her orgasm speech in season 1s Occam’s Razor, which suggested to me that she was out of his league in terms of emotional maturity, to his refusal to join with her and Foreman to fight Vogler and his lack of support when House thought she had messed up the medication in Heavy, to his willingness to meet her sexual rather than emotional needs in Hunting (contrast his behavior to Tom Paris in Star Trek: Voyager when he refused to have sex with B’lana during her pong far even though he loved her because he said she didn’t know what she was saying), to the sniping at each other through the season of season 2, to Chase telling her to her fact that she was right in Sleeping Dogs Lie and then turning around and supporting Foreman and cutting her up behind her back to Chase’s refusal to respect her request to stop the Tuesday reminders at the end of season 3, none of this has said real affection for the other person much less pre-love feelings. All through this, they had problems communicating and Chase often would dismiss what Cameron wanted if he wanted something different.

    The brief bit we saw of them in season 4 reinforced that Chase and Cameron had problems communicating and that Chase still was jealous of Cameron’s feelings for House.

    In season 1, House said that Cameron married her husband not because she loved him but because she needed someone to fix. In season 3, Foreman told her she had married him because she was afraid of commitment and he was going to die soon. Season 5 changed the rules again and Cameron was commitment phobic because she was so hurt when she lost her husband that she feared letting someone new in (something that wasn’t there in season 1 when she wanted a relationship with House). The story changes as the seasons change to support whatever arc they have going at the moment.

    In addition, in season 5 in what we saw of their relationship Cameron and Chase had a lot of problems communicating and Chase continued his unfortunate tendency to be “my way or the doorway” if what they wanted was two different things. Even at the end of Under My Skin, when Cameron was unsure whether the relationship would last permanently, what Chase should have said was “I’m sure enough for the two of us. I trust in us enough that I”m willing to marry you right now even though you are worried about the future.” Instead, he insisted that they wait until she was as sure as he was. It’s not only not accepting her as she is, there’s a strong whiff of passive-aggressive about it.

    I’m a romantic and while this relationship has seemed superficially romantic like a tween romance novel, the deeper underpinnings that tell me that these are two people meant to be together are missing.

    In addition, in season 5 every time the question of their relationship comes up, Cameron is written to look like an indecisive ditz. In The Itch, she was great at medicine but messed up in her dealings with Chase. Big Baby was a wonderful episode for Cameron (David Shore is my favourite House writer) but dealt with her professional abilities and not her relationship with Chase. The next time she showed up in Saviors, it was as a mixed up teenager. The Dead Hubby’s Sperm storyline made little sense but it did confirm her as a ditz. Even back during the FWB days of season 3, when she was Chase’s girlfriend, she didn’t have a single ‘win’ as a doctor, all she did was support Chase as a cheerleader as he got it right. The show appears to be unable to write Cameron both as a competent doctor and in her relationship with Chase. It’s either one or the other and since Cameron is one of my favourite characters on the show, I’d rather have her doing a good job as House’s boss in Big Baby than obsessing about her relationship with Chase and interrupting his surgery to tell him she’s willing to flush the semen as she did in Both Sides Now.

    Sorry for the long reply. I wanted to explain why it’s not a lack of seeing their private moments that puts me against their relationship, it’s seeing it over all five seasons.