HOUSE: 5 to 9 - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

HOUSE: 5 to 9

February 8, 2010 by  

Fans of LOST have waited years for resolutions to that show’s mysteries. In the opening minutes of “5 to 9,” House viewers were given firm answers to two burning questions. First, Dr. Lisa Cuddy’s day-to-day responsibilities are daunting, and do extend far beyond the occasional drop-in by the head of her Diagnostics department. Second, Cuddy does appear to make her wardrobe choices independently, with an emphasis on form-fitting chic.

All kidding aside, the biggest question entering this episode was whether Lisa Edelstein could shoulder the responsibility of carrying an hour of compelling television, righting the Princeton Plainsboro ship after weeks of inconsistent voyages. Not content with simply bridging the gap between House-centric episodes, Ms. Edelstein delivered an Emmy-worthy performance filled with smarts, sass, and vulnerability.

As a consequence of logistics, the challenges of being a working mother are rarely told effectively on network television. Babies, in particular, are rarely seen due to scheduling restrictions (and the unpredictable moods) of infant actors. Cuddy’s baby Rachel has been a footnote in story arcs since being adopted, and will likely follow the path of Ross & Rachel’s child in TV lore. Despite these challenges, I was moved by Lisa Edelstein’s ability to show a mother’s love despite a myriad of legitimate distractions. By telling this story in a single day, viewers witnessed the true impact of Rachel’s presence in Cuddy’s heart. By resisting the impulse to make this another round of the House/Cuddy/Lucas entanglement, the story ended authentically, with Cuddy’s eyes fixed on the most important person in her life.

What does a Dean of Medicine and Chief Administrator do, exactly? In Cuddy’s case, that person handles a serious case of internal theft, a pending lawsuit by a patient who surgeons actually healed, a boneheaded contest of egos between her Chief of Surgery and Head of Diagnostics, and a request for prescribing breast milk to a middle-aged man, all while negotiating a multimillion dollar agreement with her hospital’s largest insurance partner. All in a day’s work!

Lisa Edelstein’s talent has always been evident to viewers with the keenest attention to detail. Cuddy’s job demands that she be smart, formidable, nurturing, and decisive. This episode showed that these traits must be utilized differently in a moment’s notice. With Atlantic Net’s ultimatum hanging over her head (bonus points for those who caught the Cicero reference), Cuddy was able to switch gears instantaneously when House’s team emerged from the elevator, reminding him not to inject a patient with malaria. It takes an experienced executive to deal with situations as they are, rather than allow other issues to cloud his/her thought process. Edelstein’s skillful march through these treacherous waters, prioritizing inner strength over scenery-chomping overacting, was impressive.

Profanity is not my thing, either in conversation or on GMMR. As a result, I will avoid typing the term directed at Cuddy throughout, “5 to 9.” The repetitious use of that word, from the breast milk patient, Lucas, Gail the pharmacy tech, and Eli from Atlantic Net, was significant. With the backdrop of a professional woman doing her job effectively, the term lost its meaning at every utterance. Feminists may not DVR House every week, but I think they would be pleased with what this episode did to disarm people who use the “B” word ignorantly. If a man made the same series of decisions that Cuddy did, he would be labeled a hero and a rising star. For much of this story, Lisa Cuddy retreated to elevators and stairwells to hide the emotional impact of her actions. There remains a double-standard in corporate America, and Cuddy’s day encapsulated that fact without preaching about it.

Last but not least, this episode provided the best House/Cuddy moments in the two seasons I have written about this show. As Cuddy wrestled with the weight of her tactics with Atlantic Net, she turned to Wilson for advice. He wondered, along with the audience, why she had not asked House. Yet, we all know why. Absent the prepubescent theatrics, Cuddy respects House’s opinion enough to move forward in her career without relying on him. In return, House appreciates Cuddy’s commitment to the hospital, saying “the place needs you. That matters to you.” I enjoy Hugh Laurie’s subtle scenes with Lisa Edelstein, because they behave like grownups. As Cuddy breaks the news of her victory to the Princeton Plainsboro staff, it was refreshing to see House looking on with pride and, in my opinion, a hint of envy. The victory was entirely hers, with no one else to reign on her parade.

With all due respect to Robert Sean Leonard’s phenomenal efforts in “Wilson,” this episode is the show’s best effort since the Season Premiere. Lisa Edelstein realized the potential of her character in one magnificent hour, and I was blown away by the results.

What did you think about Lisa Edelstein’s chance to take center stage? Did the episode exceed or not live up to your expectations? Were you expecting more House/Cuddy drama, or are you satisfied with the straightforward storytelling? Did the insurance story arc inject a “ripped from the headlines” quality to the story, with health care reform playing such a prominent role in our politics? The discussion is starting early this week, so let’s talk…

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


24 Responses to “HOUSE: 5 to 9”

  1. Give Me My Remote on February 8th, 2010 10:26 pm

    Fantastic review Erik. Well done!

    This episode was very powerful. As a woman it was really compelling to see the story of a working mother told in a very deliberate but meaningful way. Sacrifices were made at every turn, and it’s all she could do to keep all the balls in the air. Just as Rachel’s fever and rash could have quickly turned into something worse, so could have the negotiations with Atlantic Net.

    What I really saw in this episode was the loneliness of Cuddy’s life. Lucas may be in her life but she can’t count on him any more than she can count on House. And in the hospital she has to make decisions by herself that affect so many. House always says “everybody lies”, but Cuddy doesn’t want to believe that. She wants the best for people. It’s why she believes one of her employees when she says she just took a few pills to lose weight. Seems every time she turns around someone is letting her day. She only has herself to rely on.

    I really loved what you had to say about how they demphasized the word “bitch” by dovetailing it to ignorance. The first time someone called her that I was taken a back, but by the end of the episode it didn’t hold the same meaning. She has to deal with people like THEM all day….they have one encounter with her and label her in such a way? So sad.

    Kudos to your great recap and to the writing team that pulled this episode together. It’s risky, but well done.

  2. Alicia on February 9th, 2010 8:39 am

    This has been the best episode this season by far. I´m sorry for Robert S. Leonard because he is a terrific actor but the Wilson episode was pretty boring. 5 to 9 was amazing.

  3. Give Me My Remote on February 9th, 2010 5:12 pm

    Can’t believe there hasn’t been more of a discussion. Erik, do a few searches for this post – other sites have linked over here and commended you on your review.

  4. tash on February 9th, 2010 6:28 pm

    Lisa was great and for a few moments I remembered why I really liked Cuddy the first couple of seasons but the episode was a bit dull.

  5. RickyBoy on February 9th, 2010 8:40 pm

    Loved your review, Erik. I particularly enjoyed and agreed with your comments on the “maturity” of the House/Cuddy interactions. To me, it spoke of the deep, abiding professional respect they have for each other, despite all the other “shenanigans” in the past. I also picked up on House’s pride and yes, perhaps, envy of Lisa’s “triumph” with Atlantic Net. His best advice was to take the 8% and “get by”. (BTW, I loved the line: “You may not have learned this in Hebrew School, or from Jimmy Cliff, but sometimes the bigger they are the harder they can kick you in the a–.” Cuddy didn’t (and doesn’t) want to just “get by”; she wants to excel.

    Pithy, topical, witty, thoughtful, compassionate and, I thought, brilliantly written and acted. Definitley my favorite episode so far this season.

  6. Erik on February 10th, 2010 12:53 am

    Kath: As the episode unfolded, I was quite taken with how easily a well built structure (in this case, Cuddy’s sense of self) could easily have tumbled if any one of a number of crises had deteriorated. The brief respites Cuddy allowed herself were a continuation of the message she said aloud to begin the day. “You can do this.”

    In addition, your thoughts on the episode reminded me that Lucas’ name never appeared in my review. As a fan of Michael Weston, it seemed almost bizarre to have written about Cuddy’s day without thinking about her boyfriend. Your argument is the most logical explanation. Their relationship, while full of charming moments, is as functional to Cuddy as the nurses who stand in for her non-existent assistant and the heads of Princeton Plainsboro’s various departments. They are all means to an end. Fortunately, we saw that the “end” Cuddy prioritizes is a full and happy life. We should all be so lucky…

  7. Erik on February 10th, 2010 1:04 am

    Alicia: I recently rewatched the “Wilson” episode, and it does lack a quality of “rewatchability,” to use a non-existent word. Movie critics sometimes classify films as being performance pieces, rather than complete works. (Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-nominated role in Crazy Heart, for instance) Robert Sean Leonard & Joshua Malina were amazing in that hour, but I believe that Lisa Edelstein was given material that had higher stakes for both her character and the hospital she runs. I’m curious about how “5 to 9” will hold up if the events of Cuddy’s day are not incorporated into the remainder of Season Six.

    Tash: The pace of this episode, from a big picture standpoint, could definitely be a problem for fans who enjoy House’s regular format. As in the “Wilson” episode discussed above, I can put myself in the shoes of a regular viewer, tuning in to see Hugh Laurie do his thing, and be taken out of the story when Cuddy, Wilson, or any other characters dominate the story. I am thrilled that Lisa Edelstein’s performance brought back fond memories of Cuddy for you, and I hope that she continues to be a favorite in future episodes, when you’ll have smaller doses of her to consume!

  8. Chloe on February 10th, 2010 11:51 am

    Lisa Edelstein is an amazing actress. There is no other like her out there. I didn´t need an episode all about her to realize this. Anyway, 5 to 9 was fantastic.

  9. Erik on February 10th, 2010 1:06 pm

    RickyBoy: Great pickup on House’s inclination to be more pragmatic than Cuddy over the AtlanticNet situation. We’ve been conditioned to believe that House is the ultimate risk-taker, and he alluded to that tendency when he advised Cuddy “not to be like him.” Perhaps Cuddy, by sticking to her guns and risking abject failure, behaved more like House than he would have himself?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and please return to the discussion for upcoming episodes. I always learn more about House from the GMMR community than I do from the show itself!

  10. Erik on February 10th, 2010 10:48 pm

    Chloe: As a fan of Lisa Edelstein, what would you like to see from her during the rest of Season Six? More personal stuff with House? New problems with her job? I’m curious…

  11. Norma on February 11th, 2010 12:36 am

    How can you talk bad about Wilson? He is my favorite and I didn’t like the things you said about him, I used to always read your House’s reviews but now you have lost me forever. You didn’t need to belittle RSL in order to exalt Lisa Edelstein, this is very sad. bye.

  12. Erik on February 11th, 2010 1:13 am

    Norma: If you take a second look, I praised Robert Sean Leonard”s efforts in “Wilson” as phenomenal. I felt that “5 to 9” was a better overall episode of House than “Wilson.” That’s no knock on RSL himself, who was gracious enough to speak with me during the publicity blitz leading up to his showcase hour.

  13. Chloe on February 11th, 2010 6:22 am

    Well to be honest I´d like to see both: more of her like a woman and more of her like a professional. I think she is really fantastic doing comedy so I wouldn´t mind to have the amazing and funny House and Cuddy banter back. But sadly I think this is not what we are going to have this season. After 5 to 9 she will be probably back to her 2 minutes per episode.

  14. Erik on February 11th, 2010 2:31 pm

    Chloe: I agree with you completely, and think that the show is at its best when Hugh Laurie can dance with all his capable partners. If you watch clips of Ms. Edelstein from her Sports Night and West Wing days, there is no question that she has the versatility to bring both comedic and dramatic beats.

    Hopefully, with the events of this episode in mind, viewers won’t presume that Cuddy simply waits for House to barge in to propel her day.

  15. Anne on February 13th, 2010 4:45 pm

    First of all, I think it’s great that you have created this forum. I have really enjoyed reading the comments of all of the participants–they are insightful the disagreements are respectfully expressed and add so much depth to the discussion. Also, I really agree with your assessment of this episode although I think that the Wilson episode, while smaller in scope, was a very powerful experience for me. Juxtaposing Wilson’s relationships with his two closest friends was an excellent way to explore the meaning of friendship in general and the House-Wilson relationship in particular. Wilson’s friend’s ingenuousness (is there such a word?) was appalling while House’s candor in this episode, especially about his feelings toward Wilson, was nothing short of wonderful and amazing to behold. Their montage towards the end of the episode as Wilson comes out of anesthesia is a beautiful piece of acting and an ingenious device of the writers and the director. Also a great example of how beautifully the cast and crew work together to create such an excellent program.

    I apologize for turning this comment into a discussion of the Wilson episode–the Cuddy episode was huge in scope and I think an excellent foil for the Wilson episode and it shows how rich and multifaceted the House program really is. I agree that Lisa Edelstein deserves an Emmy for her tour de force performance and the writing was first-class. Her interactions with House were well worth waiting for after wading through several painful episodes when she avoids contact with him. I’m hoping we’ll get to see a continuation of the wonderful interacts we saw between House and Cuddy. Ok. Now I’m done. Thanks for your patience.

  16. Anne on February 13th, 2010 4:48 pm

    P.S. please substitute the word “disingenuous” (if there is such a word) for ingenuous.

  17. MILDRED on February 14th, 2010 2:39 pm

    “I recently re-watch the “Wilson” episode, and it does lack a quality of “rewatchability”
    Well to each his own, personally, I have watched the Wilson episode at least 10 times and I plan to watch it again a lot times more, because I really like it very much, and I think it is very “rewatchable” *g*

  18. gbbg on February 14th, 2010 3:23 pm

    Well the episode having a picture perfect ending sort of helped, and as someone noted, what if they didn’t? She was resigning from the job..

    But overall, glad to see LIsa take center-stage and match it with a good performance. All those hate-filled comments against her, the name calling her character underwent over the past should finally come to an end.
    Oh wait, they are exactly the kind of people who would use the “B” word on her..

  19. Erik on February 14th, 2010 8:53 pm

    Anne: I am delighted to see you back in the discussion, and you raise several wonderful aspects of the “Wilson” episode. The montage following Wilson’s surgery, giving us a unique peek at the chemistry between Hugh Laurie & Robert Sean Leonard, was one of my favorite scenes from Season Six. In addition, the moral questions about family, friendship, and professional barriers raised by Josh Malina’s appearance were profoundly thought-provoking.

    The distinction I make between “Wilson” and “5 to 9” is purely subjective. They are clearly the 2nd and 3rd best episodes of this season, bowing only to the masterpiece that was “Broken.” So long as everyone has the chance to enjoy Lisa Edelstein & Robert Sean Leonard’s standout efforts, the decision on where to rank them is a joyful debate.

    Welcome back to the fun, and let’s see where the rest of this season takes us!

  20. Erik on February 14th, 2010 9:10 pm

    gbbg: I think ER was the first drama to regularly use the “special episode” tag to build Emmy credibility for their ensemble cast, and that marketing approach finally reached the entrance to Princeton Plainsboro. Though there should not have been any genuine concern over the consequences of Cuddy’s decisions, the fact that I did hesitate (even if for a moment) before Eli presented Atlantic Net’s white flag is a testament to Lisa Edelstein’s talent.

    I do hope that “5 to 9” will serve as evidence that Cuddy serves a non-romantic purpose on the show, and that the producers can orchestrate a future Huddy pairing in an organic way. Simply tossing Lucas aside and throwing them into bed together would be a colossal failure, in my opinion.

  21. carol on February 15th, 2010 3:22 pm

    thank you for this excellent review of a marvelous episode. I agree with you that “5 to 9” far out-shone “Wilson” in its scope and impact on our appreciation of the focal characters and of their consequence for the hospital and House himself. In “Wilson” we learned, again, that House and Wilson are great friends to each other, as if we had any doubts after Wilson’s return in season five’s “Birthmarks.” But in “5 to 9” we saw Cuddy as a hard-driving executive, a risk-taking intellectual equivalent to House, a compassionate mother and nurturing administrator, a person with normal doubts and extraordinary fortitude. Of equal importance, we saw that House plays a crucial role in supporting and sustaining Cuddy in her position, not by offering specific solutions to her administrative crises, but by hearing her out and watching her back and asserting his confidence in and need for her. These two are genuine friends and confidantes, without the cloying wordless montages. The chemistry between Laurie and Edelstein is a gift to the audience and it is put to great use in this outstanding episode. Definitely “5 to 9” ranks as the second best episode of the year after the monumental “Broken.”

  22. Erik on February 16th, 2010 7:09 pm

    Carol: Thanks for sharing your thoughtful take on “5 to 9.” Since this episode, along with “Wilson” and “Broken,” have generated so much discussion, I have a theory for you and the other commenters to consider.

    If you were introducing a new viewer to House, and could only Season Six to hold their attention, are there any episodes outside of the “Big 3” we’ve been talking about that would be worth sharing?

    It’s an interesting question to consider, particularly as we look ahead to the last batch of episodes. I’d be eager to read everyone’s ideas…

  23. Chris on February 20th, 2010 2:36 pm

    PEOPLE –……Erik : – it’s a flippin TV show. Many of you sound like my 84-yo mother when she talks about the soaps. Analyzing a TV show? Granted – it’s bright – but c’mon ! And I thought I didn’t have a life!

    I’ve been in the medical field for quite a while — trust me — it’s TV.

    OK – There should be a ‘HUDDY”. Part of one season (maybe) of that. Bye-bye “House” while the whole sexual tension thing sates itself – and that will be a GREAT thing! I’ll be first in line to watch. The show shouldn’t end there. This is such an incredible acting and dialogue sensation that I hope it goes on and on, and it’s dependent on all its participants — Hey Writers!!! excellent job … Hugh Laurie could do any thing that was set in front of him – and am gaining respect for the others. However. Hugh is just too darn good 🙂

    Why aren’t first names used on this program? Erik – I bet you can tell me !!!!!

    Thanks 🙂

  24. Erik on February 20th, 2010 8:58 pm

    Chris: I appreciate any and all feedback that is generated by my recaps and/or the subsequent comment threads that emerge. Thanks for your contribution.

    You raised a legitimate argument about the nature of online forums, blogs, and message boards. Many of them are inundated with mindless pages of negativity, based solely on some people’s propensity to find fault with anything in his/her path.

    My opinion, and that is all it is, is that GMMR has fostered a community of readers who react strongly to shows that they feel passionate about. For the most part, we celebrate the amazing talents that put shows like House on the air each week. However, after six seasons on Fox, there are occasional misfires, and those are worthy of examination, too.

    It is analogous to the degree to which certain musical acts are followed. A band like U2 or Dave Matthews Band sells CDs to a large mainstream audience. Some people would buy a ticket to one of their concerts based solely on the enjoyment of a guitar riff or a particular radio hit. Others, while smaller in number, congregate online to interpret lyrics, plan meetups before concerts, and report back on the pros and cons of a particular show.

    I would argue that neither the casual fan or the die-hard fan is a better fan. They simply express their enthusiasm in different ways.