HOUSE: Larger Than Life - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

HOUSE: Larger Than Life

January 17, 2011 by  

In 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle took the unusual step of turning a prime time television character into a Presidential Campaign issue. Mr. Quayle attacked the producers of CBS’ MURPHY BROWN for allowing Murphy, played by actress Candice Bergen, to become a single mother, “mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another ‘life-style choice.’ ” If you are not old enough to recall the media firestorm ignited by these remarks, consider this analogy. It was as if House Speaker John Boehner accused Snooki of being the mastermind behind 9/11.

In a fitting role reversal, Candice Bergen joined the cast of HOUSE this week as Cuddy’s outspoken mother Arlene, and immediately chided her onscreen daughter for not living a Quayle-ific existence. By episode’s end, however, Bergen gave Arlene more than one note to play, and propelled the Huddy storyline forward without injecting sap or melodrama.

Considering the blanket of ads heralding Ms. Bergen’s arrival, the interplay between mother, daughter, and eccentric boyfriend was surprisingly limited. Arlene’s clinic-based ambush on “Greg” (after all, that IS his name) was a clever device by writer Sara Hess, following years of House getting the last word on his clinic patients. Cuddy’s response to her mother’s sneak attack offered the first of many quotable lines from this episode.

“This is what a relationship is. We average our misery.”

With ten words, Hess crystallized the backbone of many mature, committed marriages. If House & Cuddy are going to build an authentic partnership, viewers will need more than well-lit love scenes and witty banter to root for them. Love is often the motivation for compromise, and both characters offered support to their other half. House showed up for dinner, and performed the most chivalrous act of surreptitious sedation in the history of modern medicine. You may quibble with his tactics, but after Arlene interrogated Cuddy about House’s religious belief and declared, “I just don’t want Rachel growing up thinking you’re a slut,” Lisa’s boyfriend stood up for her. It was bold, funny, and the kind of romantic nod that only Hugh Laurie & Lisa Edelstein could pull off as emotionally satisfying.

Unfortunately, the Taubs are not experiencing the same bliss as House & Cuddy. Bolstered by the sudden fame of being Princeton Plainsboro’s poster boy for medical excellence, Dr. Taub appeared to be reconnecting with wife Rachel. They were pawing at each other like teenagers, even scheduling quickies in the exam room. Yet, something was deeply wrong. Chris Taub interpreted the message on his new billboards differently from the public. To the man on the street, Dr. Taub was the life-saving professional who could help you “Be Better.” But Taub could only see the flaws in his character, the imperfections that had triggered his infidelities. For Chris Taub, the man on those bus stop signs needed to “Be Better” as a husband, and he was not up to the task.

Eva, the patient’s wife, made the declaration that brought Taub to the brink:
“There’s nothing worse than loving someone who’s never going to stop disappointing you.”

Peter Jacobsen and Jennifer Foley have artfully played the roles of estranged husband and wife, and the sadness that accompanies the Taubs’ impending divorce is a tribute to their ability to communicate anger, mistrust, and frustration at low volumes. Their marriage did not dissolve under a thunderstorm of screaming matches or broken lamps. It disintegrated through the frowns and shrugged shoulders of two people who cannot live happily ever after, but do not know the first thing about living apart. I hope that this low decibel approach to interpersonal angst is not overlooked when Emmy nominations are released later this year.

This episode, perhaps more than any other in Season 7, stayed with me for hours after the credits rolled. It was flawlessly written, carefully shot, and emotionally engaging. I am looking forward to seeing how Mama Cuddy’s visit impacts the House/Cuddy dynamic, and curious to see what is next for Chris Taub as he deals with the consequences of his failures as a man.

There is much more to discuss, including Martha M. Masters’ continuing quest to uncover House’s sense of optimism, a mystery patient best known as Shaggy from the Scooby-Doo movies, and your theories about how/when Thirteen may return to Princeton Plainsboro, so I’ll turn the conversation over to you!

What are your thoughts on Candice Bergen’s first appearance? How did you react to the creative solution House used during dinner? Is Arlene’s presence a boost to the Huddy storyline, or another detour from the workplace stories? Were you surprised by Taub’s decision to begin divorce proceedings? Are you sympathetic to his situation, or is this karmic justice for his infidelities? I cannot wait for the discussion to begin, so let your voices be heard!

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12 Responses to “HOUSE: Larger Than Life”

  1. jonathan on January 17th, 2011 10:21 pm

    Candice was ok. i liked that she was one of those mothers that you envision terrible things happening to. lol. Evil Cuddy makes an appearance, no surprise there. Aunt Flo must have come to visit. Wilson was well, old and boring. House was more of scared puppy in this ep than before. so all in all, probably the best let down on tv to date. i can’t wait to watch next week and continue to see the show die and rot. its rather amusing. anyway off to watch “Skins” and “Doctor Who”.

  2. David on January 17th, 2011 10:24 pm

    Best episode in AGES.

  3. Erik Wilkinson on January 17th, 2011 10:37 pm

    Jonathan: I noticed your objections via Twitter. There’s no question that the show has experienced some missteps recently, but what are your primary concerns about the show? Not enough humor? Too much Huddy? I’m curious…

  4. mp3 on January 17th, 2011 10:38 pm

    I didn’t care for this episode. It was an average one, really. They really need to learn how to make episodes more interesting when they AREN’T the final two.

  5. Erik Wilkinson on January 17th, 2011 10:38 pm

    David: We certainly see eye-to-eye on this episode. What storylines are your favorite on the show? Which aspects of Season 7 have troubled you most?

  6. Erik Wilkinson on January 17th, 2011 10:40 pm

    mp3: There’s no question that House’s recent premieres and finales have set the bar very high. Which aspects of “Larger Than Life” could have been better, in your opinion? I’m always curious to hear from the diverse House audience about their favorite/least favorite characters/stories.

  7. David on January 17th, 2011 10:55 pm

    Erik, I feel like the writing was all over the place this season. That atrocious “You lied to me” arc in episodes 6-8 nearly killed my interested in the show. But tonight’s episode was everything the show should be: interesting patient that resonated with the B and C plot of the episode, very sharp dialogue, great comedic timing and a decent pacing. Nothing bothered me for once. And Candice Bergen is always a plus.

    I do love House and Cuddy together, but up until tonight, I felt as if the writers were pushing too hard to inject drama into their relationship, which ended up causing more damage than good. What please me is that the writers are STILL capable of delivering a fine episode when they make an effort. Looking forward to next week.

  8. Serena on January 17th, 2011 11:04 pm

    One of the best episodes in ages. I didn’t like how they were trying to push angst in this relationship at all costs. Since episode 3, they were facing issues against each other, pushing back, but now they’ve solved a problem together, as a team. I liked how they were comfortable with each other while making the dishes, or on her couch – at ease, relaxed, happy. And I liked that Cuddy told him she needed him to feel better, and I lobed that he defended her from her mother when she called Cuddy a slut. This episode proves Huddy can work, without being too angst and wearing. It proves they still have the challenge, sexual chemistry, the outwitting games, the antagonism and the sweet-Housian-vein that we all came to love. Good thing Sara Hess knows how to write it. I hope I’ll see more episodes like this one.
    AND of course…can we have Candice Bergen as a series regular? But then again, I think Cuddy would rather stab herself in the eye than have her mom there all the time lol.

  9. Trish on January 18th, 2011 2:13 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed this episode although I wasn’t really interested in Taub storyline. I was initially worried how they would handle the House and Cuddy romantic storyline and thought we would lose the sizzle but I love how the show runners are handling it. They still very much have the sizzle but they are also remaining true to their characters. I dare say I see this relationship going to go the distance. Kudos to HL & LE.

  10. huddy on January 18th, 2011 8:16 am

    Best episode ever!

    Huddy+Candice are amazing, can’t wait for next Candice episode!

  11. babyblue on January 21st, 2011 4:36 pm

    “I didn’t care for this episode. It was an average one, really. They really need to learn how to make episodes more interesting when they AREN’T the final two.”
    So true!
    Candice Bergen was great but only 3 scenes with her? WTF? the storyline with Taub is so boring, I’m not sad that it ended.
    And please, please, writers, try to give us good storylines with POTW because they’re not really interesting anymore. Amy Irving was great but she’s the only character I remember this season.
    Huddy was nice in this ep, but I miss banters and passion with these 2 characters, I’m waiting now for some very dramatic eps in which huddy is always more intense and interesting to watch.

  12. mp3 on January 22nd, 2011 11:44 am

    @Erik Wilkinson Well, suffice it to say the episodes which run in the later seasons feel like a math equation run on how many different stories they can fit in ~40min. Mind you running many angles is fine, but they really cram it in excessively. Not only that, but the show’s main focus is meant to be medical mysteries, but lately it feels like a backdrop frequently excused for their soap-opera character angles; sometimes it feels like the OC or something instead.

    About Larger than Life, it wasn’t bad because the patient was interesting, but they missed the boat because they didn’t bring that out enough IMO. The best House episodes have him racking his brain, almost in agony, over trying to crack the mystery, with the ethical complexion of the patient stressing that process. In this ep, House’s differentials took <1min while he tried to deal with Cuddy's mom.

    I liked the Taub story; despite the fact that ppl seem to hate Taub, I find him refreshing as he's not exactly a model, and his dilemma seems to be learning how to deal with his shortcomings. I like where they go with him.

    Like I said tho, House seasons all run the same cycle now: premiere episodes are great and shake everything up, middle episodes kind of sit there where nothing of consequence happens, and the finale episodes shake it all up again.
    This season they do have a great set-up, with the 13 story being the elephant in the room and Huddy's destiny. But in a sentence, what I would do to make the in-between better would be to have things happen that shift the characters around, and change the status quo. House's trial with Tritter, conflict with Voegler, are good examples of that.

    Anyway there's my essay on that, lol. It's really clear how opinions differ when you opposing reactions online, but all in all, I wish House would make the scientific and ethical dilemmas surrounding patients the most important, with soap opera stuff minimized.