HOUSE Recap: Last Temptation - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

HOUSE Recap: Last Temptation

April 19, 2011 by  

In September of 2009, I suggested that Hugh Laurie be nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in the Season 6 premiere, “Broken.” For two hours, the star of HOUSE put on a display of acting prowess that would fill any theater on Broadway.

Amber Tamblyn’s name may never appear on a marquee in Times Square, but her final episode as Martha M. Masters was a case study in how to present a morality play. By focusing on her character’s core values, the tension between ambition and principle, and the importance of being “extraordinary,” Ms. Tamblyn made her case as the Most Valuable Player of Season 7.

Amid the wreckage of the Huddy relationship, Martha M. Masters’ attempts to assimilate herself to the Diagnostics Department were a refuge from the melodramatic storms of this season’s early run. Masters’ farewell episode underscored the importance of her character for non-Huddy fans all year long.

Dramatically speaking, Hugh Laurie needs ring-worthy sparring partners, actors talented enough to hold their own with one of television’s most distinctive leading men. Amber Tamblyn rose to the occasion by playing Masters without bells or whistles. True to the character, Tamblyn rarely raised her voice or betrayed her core beliefs. She was the “anti-House,” the idealistic wunderkind who steadfastly refused to betray her ethical obligations.

Week after week, scene after scene, Laurie & Tamblyn engaged one another over the core differences between their characters’ world views. Could Masters be simultaneously extraordinary and morally pristine? Was House right to push her past her limits, for the sake of unlocking her full potential, or was his narcissism blocking him from seeing great medicine being practiced in a different way?

“Last Temptation” was the destruction of Martha M. Masters’ innocence, a wake-up call to the practical necessities of providing first class patient care. Watching Masters lie to escape her surgical rotation, manipulate Kendall’s parents to authorize the amputation, and wrestle with the fallout of her actions was painful. Over 13 episodes, the audience had been trained to follow Masters’ moral compass, and Tamblyn’s subtle movements and nervous inflections told us that it had turned South.

Young people are blessed with the regenerative power of hope, and Martha M. Masters embodied the spirit of optimism that so many of us once had. She trusted her routines, from the alarm clock-induced recitations of medical vocabulary to her unusual fashion choices. Like her young patient, Masters IS different from her peers, even those at Princeton Plainsboro who possess far more experience.

In the end, Masters made a logical choice. She did the research, seeking the opinions of those who know House best. Chase, Cuddy, Wilson, and Thirteen all took the same position. Just because you can work in House’s world does not mean that you should. The slippery slope of little white lies can turn into an avalanche of professional misconduct, with the ringmaster silently applauding his followers’ digressions. It is an approach that saves lives, as it did in this episode, but it may be poisonous to one’s soul.

Fittingly, Amber Tamblyn’s final steps inside Princeton Plainsboro were accompanied with a smile, the product of a last minute encounter with one of the chickens that provided levity to an otherwise serious hour. Though Masters’ next step was left up in the air, the confidence it took to choose to leave the hospital altogether was refreshing. Everyone who tries to leave House’s realm ends up running back. Time will tell if the same fate awaits the little girl who tried to go her own way…

Quick note: Amber Tamblyn is not abandoning the show’s creative team 100%. Our friends at TV Line reported that Tamblyn is developing a new dramatic series with HOUSE Executive Producer Katie Jacobs and THE WIRE co-creator Ed Burns that would showcase her as a young public school teacher. As a huge fan of THE WIRE, I cannot think of a better situation for Ms. Tamblyn to utilize her considerable talents.

What was your take on Amber Tamblyn’s final performance? Were you disappointed that the episode was Masters-centric, or was it a nice change of pace? Was Masters’ decision consistent with her ethics, or an act of immaturity? Are you looking forward to the rest of Season 7? Oh, and what would you suggest House & Wilson hide in the hospital after the ferrets?

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Filed under House, House Recap


11 Responses to “HOUSE Recap: Last Temptation”

  1. Stephi on April 19th, 2011 10:22 pm

    I thought it was a nice change for once. Even though I am sad to see her leave for now, I am very happy Thirteen is back!

  2. AnnG on April 19th, 2011 11:24 pm

    Not at all happy with 13’s return, but agree this episode was a nice change.

    Also agree with all the points in this review of MMM’s value in challenging House, which is what Cameron’s role could/should have been. I hope the show explores this side of House’s drama and has abandoned the soapy romance for good.

  3. Erik Wilkinson on April 20th, 2011 9:17 am

    Stephi: With just a handful of episodes left, and a number of cast members in contract limbo, the race to the Season Finale ought to be intriguing. I was also happy to see Thirteen return last week, but am equally happy that Masters filled such an important role during Amber Tamblyn’s run. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    AnnG: Your comments reminded me of a theory that’s been floating around my head about network TV lately. Viewers seem to be turned off by story lines that could be thought of as “a bummer.” NBC’s Parenthood, for instance, is a beautifully crafted show, but has struggled to gain an audience while confronting authentic topics like sibling rivalry and financial failures.

    The producers of HOUSE, along with FOX executives, must keep their eye on the bottom line, so their interest in “soapy romances” is probably good for business. Creatively, however, great TV should generate great discussion, the kind we enjoy at GMMR. Romance is an easy sell for casual viewers, but I prefer when writers trust their audience to think through the consequences of a story. Masters’ purpose this season was to offer an alternative to House’s methods, and I enjoyed that tension each week. My fingers are crossed that we won’t immediately see members of Team House jump back into bed with one another next week…

  4. John on April 20th, 2011 1:11 pm

    I will miss MMM, even as a welcome 13’s return. The show does need someone who will stand up to the bully House.

    I don’t think it is House himself that is so hard to walk away from the, it is the adrenalin rush medicine he practices – DO SOMETHING NOW and hopefully not kill the patient doing it – that can be addicting. It sort of feeds into the god complex some doctors have already.

    I can’t think House as a person is much of an attraction, except to a TV viewer.

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