HOUSE: Ignorance is Bliss - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

HOUSE: Ignorance is Bliss

November 25, 2009 by  

Following last week’s rant/recap of “Teamwork,” I took a step back to think about how I want to approach each installment of House. The discussion generated by that episode was incredibly thoughtful, and really spoke to the passion that the show’s audience invests into each week’s story. There is a disconnect between what brought many viewers to the show years ago and the creative team’s current philosophy. Cameron is gone. Foreteen is back in the forefront. House is showing signs of his pre-Mayfield self. Since I have always been focused on celebrating the best of this show’s elite cast & crew, what is a writer to do?

Luckily, the performances in “Ignorance is Bliss” solved my dilemma for me. Though it may not have appeased my inner fears about the overall direction of the show, it was one of Season Six’s best. By fusing an intriguing patient story, a welcome string of humorous asides, and a meaningful story for Dr. Taub, I found most of “Ignorance is Bliss” to be top notch television.

James Sidas was the most compelling patient of Season Six, armed with a lush history and a genuine sense of conflict. Actor Esteban Powell, most recently featured on A&E’s “The Cleaner,” held his own against House’s impressive cast, particularly in describing the anguish he felt over his own marriage. James’ method of self-medicating, ingesting cough syrup in order to slow his brain down to average level, was a strong contribution by writer David Hoselton. Rather than frame James as a mutant with dueling personalities, Hoselton forced the patient take ownership of his poor behavior toward wife Dara. If this were “Grey’s Anatomy”, James would have emerged from brain surgery with no memory of his wife, and the audience would be left wondering who to be angry at for the weeping wife’s pain. Kudos to the House team for forcing that issue into the open.

More significantly, the patient’s struggle to balance rare genius with genuine satisfaction echoed House’s challenges throughout Season Six. After emerging from Mayfield not a changed man, but a man willing to make changes, Dr. House returned to the theme of redemption in this episode. Hugh Laurie was given two stories to tell in this hour, one medical, one personal. In the workplace, Laurie was absolute gold. After years of hearing jokes about Omar Epps’ striking resemblance to Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin, it brought a wide smile to my face to hear House mention it aloud. House also took genuine responsibility for mocking Chase’s marital problems, first by ignoring Cuddy’s attempts to intervene, then by acknowledging his misstep to Chase face-to-face.

Unfortunately, House’s personal story was muddled in contradictory facial expressions and demonstrations of his older, crueler habits. Hugh Laurie and Lisa Edelstein’s on-screen chemistry is best when they are verbally jousting, rather than gazing adoringly. Since I am not on the Huddy bandwagon, I could have done without House’s plot to destroy Cuddy’s relationship with Lucas. One of the lessons of Mayfield, accented by this week’s patient, is that the need to have intimate relationships must often take priority over the need to assert one’s intellectual dominance. I did not care for the cat and mouse game played by House & Cuddy over Thanksgiving dinner, House’s drunken visit to Lucas’ apartment, or the fake breakup. In particular, Edelstein’s body language echoed the themes of a Judy Blume book, not a mature dramatic series. The less said about Huddy from me, the better. I have a feeling some of you will be commenting about this with great zeal!

Finally, Dr. Taub made his full-time return to Princeton Plainsboro, and I never realized how much I missed him! Peter Jacobson is not a Hollywood heartthrob. As a result, I have always identified more with his interpersonal stress than I might with, say, Olivia Wilde’s challenges in finding a suitable boyfriend, girlfriend, or both for Thirteen. Though he may have been overlooked in past years, this could be a coming of age season for the conflicted plastic surgeon. Of all the dialogue written for this episode, Taub’s conversations with his wife about going back to work with House rang truest. Real relationships that stand the tests of time, disappointment, even betrayal, begin with healthy lines of communication. Taub’s little white lie, that he was the one to punch House out, was less of a fabrication than it was a love letter to his wife.

There is more to discuss, and your feedback is the highlight of covering this show for me, so let’s jump in!

What are your thoughts on the first post-Cameron episode? Were you upset that Cuddy sent House on a wild turkey chase? How did the parallels between the patient and House strike you? Are we headed for a meltdown from Chase, or do you think Cameron’s memory will slowly fade away?

The floor is yours…

Aside from writing about House and Parks & Recreation, Erik has become addicted to Top Chef, The Next Iron Chef, and most other shows with the word “Chef” in the title. Please forward any recipes for Chef Boyardee to his Twitter handle (@FreelanceErik).


13 Responses to “HOUSE: Ignorance is Bliss”

  1. julie on November 25th, 2009 9:31 am

    Will we be reading your thoughts on how House jumped the shark last night? Starting with last week’s show? House not kicking Chase’s ass (literally and metaphorically) after Chase punched him out?

    And what about this supposed “lost love” of House and Cuddy? The writers are again creating a backstory that never existed. I never had the impression that either was in love with the other. Is there a plot line where Cuddy was in love with House and he rejected her? O.K., he got her that desk, but that was to make up for being such a jerk about Cuddy trying to get pregnant. I only remember a flirtation, a kiss…? And how they both pushed each other away at the first sign of real emotion.

    House’s romance in the nuthouse was so much more sweet and real and natural than this ridicuous, unbelieveable Huddy story. Bring Cameron back – she and Chase can struggle through a real crisis in their marriage and it can survive. I don’t believe she would give up so easily.

    Kill off Foreman and 13 in a bus crash. Taub is the only interesting Fellow right now. Add a brilliant funny doctor to the mix. Give House a new love interest. Please, please give Wilson something to do besides encouraging House to get with Cuddy. Wilson needs another wife, or another Amber. Hey, what about Cameron and Wilson? Somebody please resuscitate this show or it will die on the operating table.

  2. PT on November 25th, 2009 12:00 pm

    I agree with you Erik and Julie, not a huge fan of Huddy actually and I totally agree that I enjoyed the House and Mayfield chick much better, it seemed much more real and not so “soap opera/greys anatomy- esque”. I hope they resolve this one soon or just bring another love interest for House.

    Not sure how they will resolve the whole Chase/Cameron thing, it seems unlikely to me that he would still want to be on the team. I do have a feeling we’ll be seeing a very moody Chase for awhile, which is a bummer.

  3. bertas on November 25th, 2009 1:24 pm

    Well… after catching up on the 2 episodes I have missed unfortunately the time has come for me and House to part ways. I cannot pretend I like it anymore and I just can’t for the life of me find one legitimate reason to watch.

    I am extremely fond of Hugh Laurie and while I always knew him for his comedic talent when House started I was really chuffed for him – it was demanding dramatic role and he showed off what he can do as an actor. When I was watching last night’s episode and his exchanges with Cuddy, his plotting etc it was a) uncomfortable (and not in a good way) and b) a bit sad to see this great actor trying to deliver something that was so badly written. On the positive side I did enjoy his scenes with Chase.

    I also have big problems with what they are doing with Wilson’s character (I think you have pointed that out in your last recap Erik) and I can’t watch that either. And just a brief mention (I don’t want to go off topic) but I totally agree with what majority of you have written about Morrison’s departure and last week’s episode – it was that bad.

    As I have said here before – this is not some dramatic decision to stop watching because I’m a shipper of some sort and the story didn’t go the way I wanted it to. Far from it.

    I loved the show and watched it from the beginning, discussed it with my friends (way back when there were actual things to discuss), the lot. It is a pale, very pale shadow of what it used to be. And while I was all for change that really didn’t happen. IMO it is threading water at the moment.

    So next week no House for me. Maybe we need a time out 🙂 Maybe I’ll get intrigued again. Of course I’ll pop on here because I love Erik’s recaps and I love the discussions, don’t know if I’ll have anything constructive to say but I do like to read all of you too much to give it up 🙂

  4. John on November 25th, 2009 1:57 pm

    I hesitate to post because one more me too doesn’t add much.

    I can’t fathom anyone pushing for a House/Anyone pairing, unless they hate the “Anyone”. House may be marginally better post Mayfield, but he is still a highly destructive person.

    The medically mysteries are never the center of the show. That story always follows the same story arc and no one can possibly guess the ultimate disease.

    It is House’s story that is the center of the show and that causes a problem. If he becomes at least partly socialized, so that he is not toxic to all who are around him, then the show ends. If he doesn’t show significant improvement, then watching his repeated attacks on everyone becomes unpleasant to watch. I don’t know how TPTB can strike a balance.

  5. Kate on November 25th, 2009 2:40 pm

    I have stopped watching the show but I enjoy your recaps so much that I dropped by to see what you have written. (Cameron’s last episode was mine too because I’ve lost interest in the other characters except for Wilson and too often all he does is talk about House/Cuddy.)

    I agree with you about Taub being a good character, much more so than Thirteen or even Foreman at this stage. I think that’s because Peter Jacobson is such a good actor that he can make us care about someone who isn’t physically as attractive or magnetic, and also because he’s so good at delivering zingers. At this point, my House dream team would be Cameron, Chase and Taub partly because I find them the most interesting and complex of the characters and partly because they have the most variety and hence provide the best dramatic opportunities and contrast with House.

    As you said, the less said about Huddy the better. I never was a fan of Judy Blume even when I was a teenager and I find their behaviour even more immature in two people in their forties.

    As Julie said, having Cameron come back to deal with her marriage in an adult and realistic manner would be more interesting but I doubt it will happen. Chase may have an episode or two of loss to highlight Jesse’s Spencer’s acting but I have a feeling that Cameron will quickly fade from the House landscape if for no other reason than the producers want the audience to forget she ever existed on the show, that she provided an ethical balance to House, contrasted with Thirteen or ever had feelings for House or he for her. If it was a mistake getting rid of her (and I think it was a very big one), the writers will want her forgotten even faster.

  6. switchkosterice on November 25th, 2009 3:24 pm

    Agreed that Huddy has become boring at this point. I would still consider myself a Huddy shipper, but I don’t really care when they’re just being boring like now. It seems the medical mysteries are no longer true mysteries, but a question of what circumstances the character has been in. Sure, this has been true throughout the duration of the show, but now that’s all it is. Oh, she ate oysters, and oh, he abuses cough syrup are proving to be lame solutions. Also, attempts at metaphorical similarities between the POTW and the team are becoming obvious and lazy. The writers may claim to not have run out of medical mysteries, but they’ve at least run out of good ways to present them. That said I’d rather have the original team back since I find Taub and 13 sans Kutner to be quite the bore. Looking forward to the Wilson-centric episode though.

  7. niknak on November 25th, 2009 8:28 pm

    Gosh- what a lot of consistent opinion so contradictory to my own.
    I thought it was one of the best episodes yet!
    Having felt anxious recently where they would take a new ‘happy’ house I was relieved to see hi struggle so interestingly with his relationship with Cuddy. I’m not a shipper in any particular direction, but I always felt the chemstry was electric, and part of House’s recovery may be to address that it was not just lust he felt for Cuddy for also love. I like 13 (although she may be beginning to bore me ever-so -slightly now she has come to term with her mortality and her and Foreman can be mundane), and I like Taub and the others also. I would like to see more Chase thoguh, and whilst this team isnt perfect I am prepared to give them time for a dynamic to develop.
    I do perhaps have a unique (and very possibly misguided) take on House’s drunken love proclaimations. I felt they were real, and not scheming or manipulative, but that having exposed his pain he backtracked by pretending he was still that ‘bad’ House, because it was easier than hurting.

    It didn’t matter than the patient metaphor was obvious, it was a very deep and interesting question, and raised a very painful truth in society- it always appeals to me when things arent neatly tied up with a pretty ribbon but instead left a little raw.

    Can’t WAIT for the WIlson ep- he’s been drifting since Amber.

  8. Georgina on November 26th, 2009 5:46 pm

    I always felt that House had more chemistry with Cameron than with Cuddy, it’s a shame that they barely shared the screen in the last two seasons. With Cameron gone, 13 on board, the endless childish relationship between House and Cuddy and Wilson as House’s love counselor I find the show unbearable. Time to say goodbye

  9. Mayka on November 28th, 2009 11:24 am

    Shore said once that he couldn´t write romance and he was right. TPTB could have done something really great with House and Cuddy because the natural chemistry between the actors was amazing. But at this point they have ruined it. And obviously a good writing is as important as a strong chemistry.
    The Mayfield “love story” was in fact more soapy and I couldn´t enjoy this episode because of it. House fell for somebody he would never be attracted in real life. And all the crap going around Lydia´s sister in law was just too much for me: Oh God, she doesn´t talk, oh God I give her a box and now she is talking again. Unbelieveble.
    House and Stacy worked but because it was only an arc.

  10. Householder on November 28th, 2009 12:08 pm

    Erik, your review was infinitely better-written than the last 3 seasons of “House”… I’m not sure how these producers/writers managed to completely cure me of my previous addiction to their show… But they have completely lost me, by systematically removing everything that made the show brilliant in Seasons 1-3. I can barely bring myself to watch the “Huddy-Hilson Show” that they’ve turned “House” into– I’m not sure why they even continue to have the show set in a hospital, since the medical portions of each episode are completely marginalized and instantly forgettable?! I no longer believe that House is a genius or a brilliant doctor, which is essential to watching the show. What medical genius would be spending all of his time trying to get into Cuddy’s pants or trying to lure back employees that they previously fired, instead of actually treating the patients?!

    Many thanks for your excellent and insightful review & all the intelligent feedback that you’ve been receiving though.

  11. Erik on December 2nd, 2009 4:56 am

    julie: In my mind, the “teachable moment” for House’s creative team is to face the hard truths you wrote about. The audience that has loyally followed the staff of Princeton Plainsboro has been stifled by a click of the “reset” button this season, and have been asked to embrace changes that are inconsistent with the direction of previous seasons. I hope that you enjoyed the change of pace provided by the “Wilson” episode.

    PT: I was impressed by your insight into the corner they have backed the Chase character into. For as impressive as Jesse Spencer was in some of the scenes involving DiBala (most notably, his defiant scene in the confessional), I am concerned that he will assume Jennifer Morrison’s role as the “Woe, me” character in the cast. Barring any inappropriate attempts to inject a new woman into Chase’s life, it would be nice to see him turn the frown upside down and get back to being a doctor.

  12. Erik on December 2nd, 2009 5:05 am

    bertas: I do hope that you delayed your retirement from the show by one week, because “Wilson” was the 2nd highest peak in a season full of valleys. If you get the chance, it is worth an hour of your time to enjoy. There was a touch of Huddy nonsense, but Robert Sean Leonard really made the most of his week in the spotlight.

    John: I think your view of House’s ability to have a successful romantic relationship has been spot on for the past two seasons. My enjoyment of the House character comes from his friendship with Wilson and the lighter moments in the clinic or with his team. The post-Mayfield House, which I have lazily titled “House 2.0,” presents exactly the creative challenge you outlined. Hopefully for the audience that sticks around, Katie & David will be open to new ideas.

  13. gbbg on December 9th, 2009 12:25 am

    Apart from the obvious reasons listed above, I find hard to imagine what more the writers could inject into this show. It feels as if we’ve seen everything, even to the extent of House breaking down for an emotional reason.

    I hadn’t got the opportunity to watch Wilson epi yet. Hopefully, my addiction won’t be cured so fast…