Spoilers for the "House" third season finale coming up just as soon as I figure out whether I have the power to fire anybody I work with...
From the people who brought you "Tell Cuddy I want Ketamine" comes a different kind of "shocking" cliffhanger: House alone after all his subordinates have either quit or been fired.
Unfortunately, the Ketamine bit -- and the entire season that followed it -- has sapped a lot of the tension from this cliffhanger, because it showed us that the "House" writers aren't interested in actual change, just the illusion of it. House's leg healed for a few episodes, and then he went right back to the same limping pill-popper he was before. Tritter came in and threatened to rip House's world apart, and after a few episodes, all was status quo. Cuddy felt betrayed by how House manipulated her at the end of the Tritter thing, but within a few weeks, their relationship was same as it ever was (same as it ever was). House's sidekicks were all horrified by him faking cancer to get high, and House in turn realized he had hit rock bottom and had to be more human with them, and the following week it was like none of that ever happened.
I really like "House." It's a lot of fun, Hugh Laurie is doing brilliant work every week, the supporting players have adjusted well to his rhythms over the years, and it's one of the few network procedural dramas where the actual cases don't feel like afterthoughts. (Most of the fall procedural pilots I've watched could learn a thing or 20 from this show.) But it's one of the most formulaic Great Dramas on television, present or past, which means there need to be periodic resets to the status quo. There can be changes on the fringes -- Cameron and Chase dating, Cuddy trying to have a baby, Foreman maturing -- but the key elements of House the socially abrasive genius and his fractured relationships with his colleagues have to remain relatively stable.
So you'll forgive me if I don't spend my summer chewing my fingernails over the prospect of Omar Epps, Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer leaving the show. I expect we'll come back in the fall with House working solo, or having recruited some new subordinates to bully (maybe he can bring back the trio of chatty med students from "Three Stories"), and over the course of the first half-dozen episodes, Foreman, Chase and Cameron will find themselves drawn back into House's orbit.
Now, I don't know anything about the contract details for Epps, Morrison and Spencer (though actors traditionally sign contracts that run four years or more when they agree to do a series), and for all I know Ausiello or Kristin or somebody will have a story up later today where one of the "House" producers explains that one or all of those actors are leaving. But right now, this one smells to me like another false cliffhanger, a twist to shake things up for a few episodes in the fall before everything goes right back to normal.
Which isn't to say it was a bad episode. Hugh Laurie did a great job depicting House's complete inability to diagnosis a cure for his Foreman problem, Cameron developing real feelings for Chase was sweet (if predictable), and I liked the patient and her husband's handling of House. (Though their grasp of the English language made a quantum leap from the opening scene to the end of the episode.) I'm just feeling blase about the cliffhanger stuff.
What did everybody else think? Does anybody believe the show is done with one or more of those characters?