HOUSE: Lockdown - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

HOUSE: Lockdown

April 14, 2010 by  

For all the questions that we answer by using our powers of recall, intuition, and Google, the toughest ones to handle are rarely asked. Sheer force of habit tells me how many times to hit the snooze button and whether I want fries with that, but I would be hard pressed to deal with the issues raised by this week’s House. Should a dying man ask for unconditional love from a daughter he abandoned under horrendous conditions? Is it possible for one’s self-worth to peak too soon, then slowly drown while treading back toward normalcy? When is love not enough to sustain a marriage?

Undaunted by the challenge of such delicate material, Hugh Laurie stepped behind the lens to direct this unique story. Breaking from the show’s tried-and-true formula, Laurie drew from his theater experience to present a series of one-act plays. Each story was intimately shot and thoughtfully paced. The result? An hour of television that added chapters to each character’s biography, yet flew by at supersonic speed.

Jennifer Morrison has been missed. Prior to her departure, I believed that Allison Cameron was the strongest female character on the show. As a woman who grew past her idol worship of House in order to gain his professional respect, Cameron was strong, versatile, and intriguing. Standing face-to-face with her estranged husband, however, Morrison peeled away all pretense, and tore up her scenes with Jesse Spencer. At times cold and detached, at others kind and reflective, Cameron was just as she described herself, “a mess.” Though the couple said goodbye via an amorous tryst, I would not describe this as a happy ending. Chase never got the answers he really wanted, but he found reason to let himself off the hook. It is far from the stuff of fairy tales, but it is much closer to reality.

Though Wilson and Thirteen’s game of “Truth or Dare” was a playful contrast to the melancholy story arcs of Chase/Cameron and House’s patient, it also provided a huge teaser for the remainder of Season Six. The first woman to marry Dr. James Wilson, Sam Carr, is also part of his future plans. I have been critical of House’s creative team over the past two seasons for inconsistent storytelling. It is only fair to congratulate the writers of the “Truth or Dare” scenes for cleverly building up to Wilson’s revelations about Sam. Olivia Wilde was particularly charming in these exchanges, eliciting reams of information while telling a series of white lies. Notice, however, that both Thirteen and Wilson were insulating themselves, one through misdirection, the other through naivety. Asked directly about Foreman, even the queen of the game could not muster a clever response. Confronted about projecting his issues onto House, Wilson was flabbergasted that he had not figured that out for himself. Solid job by Wilde and Leonard, and worth a second viewing.

For me, the weakest link in the episode’s chain was Taub and Foreman’s drug-induced jaunt through the personnel files. Peter Jacobsen and Omar Epps were not the problem, since both were able to embrace the silliness of their setting. Instead, I fault the story device itself. The underlying tension between the two, lost in the haze of hallucinogens, was about ambition. Could a young doctor be bumped off of the fast track because of rookie mistakes? Is it possible for an experienced doctor to look ahead to a future that may never live up to his past achievements? I applaud Hugh Laurie for taking chances as a director, but I was taken out of Taub and Foreman’s story by their Harold & Kumar routine. As a result, the power of Taub’s closing gesture may have been lost. It was not a fatal flaw, just a creative choice that disagreed with my sensibility.

Dr. House was absent for much of this episode, but his efforts to help a patient face down death were magnificent. Hugh Laurie and veteran character actor David Strathairn were ideal scene partners, simultaneously jousting and confiding. Loyal fans should be gratified to hear House acknowledge, for the first time I can remember, the significance of his relationship with Lydia, the young woman he met in the Season Six premiere. Unlike Cuddy or Cameron, Lydia fell for a man named Greg, not a legend named House. Since he requires the satisfaction from his work to overcome his addiction, isn’t House ultimately destined to be alone?

I rarely highlight musical selections from the show, but the closing montage featured the song, “Birds & Ships,” written by Woody Guthrie, arranged by Billy Bragg, and featuring the voice of Natalie Merchant. The lyrics speak to the joys and consequences of love, and sum up this episode better than I ever could.

The birds are singing in your eyes this day

Sweet flowers blossom in your smile

The wind and sun are in the words you say

Where might your lonesome lover be?

Birds maybe singing in my eyes today

Sweet flowers blossom when I smile,

But my soul is stormy and my heart blows wild,

My sweetheart rides a ship on the sea

Were you satisfied with Hugh Laurie’s turn in the director’s chair? Was the break from the show’s normal formula helpful in enjoying the episode? What question would you have asked Wilson or Thirteen in “Truth or Dare?” How did you feel about Jennifer Morrison’s return and subsequent goodbye?


9 Responses to “HOUSE: Lockdown”

  1. Sandra on April 14th, 2010 11:57 am

    Great review! And I agree on your remarks about Lydia and House’s feelings for her. While I always had and always will have a soft spot for the House/Cameron ship, I love the fact that it was Lydia who got in touch with House’s wounded heart. Away from PPTH and all the pressure it was certainly easier to open up a bit. But yes, you are right, ultimately House is meant to stay alone. Anything else wouldn’t bet true to the character (which is one thing why I strongly oppose to any full-blown romance involving House on the show). This is also one of the reason why I’ll never understand how some “fans” are so deluded to think that House undyingly loves Cuddy and that’s the only ship that’s meant to happen. Looks like they are more than wrong.
    Anyway, kudos to Hugh Laurie, he was not only the brilliant actor that we know he also managed to make the best out of a script I’m not really convinced of, with the help of the two endlessly talented actors Jesse Spencer and Jennifer Morrison. While I’ve never been a fan of the Chameron relationship (doesn’t feel right to me, even more so after the real-life split between the two actors), I adore the intesity of their acting, I felt like crying with both of them. The only minus I can find in that is Cameron’s “confession” to be messed up and unfixable. It destroyed all the character development during the first seasons. I blame that on the change of writers thought, seems like Eli Attie has a real problem with writing Cameron consistently. Still, it made me realize how much I miss Cameron, and how tired I am of the new team. I really hope to see Jennifer Morrison as Cameron in season 7 again, hopefully permanently and hopefully with a better storyline than some soap-operaish “I’m pregnant, Chase”-stuff. The Chameron relationship is over for good imo, but there’s still so much to tell about Cameron, they need to bring her back…

  2. makila on April 14th, 2010 12:02 pm

    I hated it.

  3. bertas on April 14th, 2010 12:56 pm

    Ooooh I have to see this one! Obviously a) I am still reading and b) I am definitely not a regular viewer anymore. But since it is Hugh Laurie in the director’s chair plus Jennifer Morrison is back…

    OT but I’ve read something the other day Hugh is currently filming The Oranges (saw pics from the set). Hopefully it will be better the Street Kings.

    Oh and since I’m trying to be all service-y and if by any chance anyone is interested 🙂 Second part of Stephen Fry’s memoirs will be out in September. It should be about his years at uni and work with Hugh on A Bit of Fry and Laurie and the period after that. Should be going to the book launch (if everything aligns properly 🙂 so I’m all a tither about that. He is a really good writer so I’m dying to get my hands on the book.

    Sorry for OT 🙂

  4. Meg on April 14th, 2010 2:45 pm

    I couldnt disagree with this review more!
    I dont know why I keep torturing myself with reading your reviews.
    it seems we can never find a comon ground…

  5. Erik on April 14th, 2010 3:04 pm

    Sandra: If the Chase/Cameron scenes had been forced into a regular episode of the show, I doubt they would have resonated so strongly. The unique structure of this particular episode helped frame their story as a passion play, fueled by frustration and affection. Laurie did a great job coaxing the right dose of emotion from Morrison & Spencer, without going overboard.

    What did you think of Wilson’s new prospects for finding love?

  6. Erik on April 14th, 2010 3:07 pm

    Makila: There are still five episodes left in Season Six, so I hope they are more to your liking.

    Meg: I’m glad you chimed in with your thoughts. My opinion is just that, one person’s take on an hour of television. I’d be glad to read your thoughts about the show, and why this episode did not meet your expectations.

  7. Erik on April 14th, 2010 3:10 pm

    bertas: Welcome back to the discussion! This episode was a solid showcase of the characters you have always enjoyed, and I would encourage you to check it out.

    As for Mr. Fry, I did catch some of his special appearance on Craig Ferguson’s late night show in March, and he was absolutely brilliant. If you did not have a chance to see it live, YouTube is full of clips.

  8. Anne on April 19th, 2010 1:21 am

    I agree with your review. I was intrigued by the whole concept of “lockdown” and what it meant to each of the characters in this episode. Some random aspects of the show that were particularly interesting to me: I really liked your description of a the scenes as one-act plays and I thought that the way each “play” was divided and interwoven with the other plays was beautiful. I thought it was particularly interesting that only House was reminded that the lock-down had ended. For me, it emphasized that of all the characters, his was the most trapped by what transpired during his play. I thought the choice of music was ingenious. Each of the actors really responded beautifully to Hugh Laurie’s direction; he brought out the best in all of them. I loved the way he shot the very first scene and the way each of the women were framed, photographed and portrayed. There was a beauty, truthfulness, respect, and affection for the characters that filled the screen with radiance and grace.

  9. Erik on April 26th, 2010 5:01 pm

    Anne: Can I e-mail you the next time I need to find the right words to describe lighting and direction? I do my best impression of an English major to paint the picture, but I envy the ease with which you captured the glow of this episode. Hugh Laurie did shoot the actors in an intimate style, and let the 4 acts play out in a more organic fashion than the frenzied pace preferred by modern directors. The drama in this episode came from places of honesty, rather than trumped-up chutzpah.

    Thanks for the amazing contribution to the discussion, and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts as Season Six races to its conclusion.