"I'm fine. Just not happy." -HouseI was bracing for a let-down after the wonderful season premiere, and much of "Epic Fail" - specifically, anything to do with Foreman, Thirteen and the Patient of the Week - lived down to expectations. As I wrote in my "Broken" review, seeing House in a different context made me realize how unnecessary the hospital, the cases and, especially, the sidekicks (Wilson and possibly Cuddy excepted) had become. So a storyline where all of that existed largely apart from House was particularly dull. There came a point where I pretty much stopped paying attention to the case, except to wonder which was more incompetent: security at a software company where two random doctors could break in to play their still in-development game, or the entirety of PPTH that would let a patient suffer a delusional episode in the middle of the lobby without anybody but Foreman and Thirteen doing something about it.
That said, it was a pleasant surprise to have Andre Braugher still around as Dr. Nolan, as I had assumed his guest stint was one-and-done. (Braugher has a TNT show coming up later this season.) Also pleasantly surprising: that for at least one post-"Broken" episode, the writers were trying to do more than pay lip service to House's efforts to get better. We saw with the dog urine gag that he can still be the House we know and are amused by, but he seemed actually happy for a few minutes during the cooking class, and he sincerely dismissed Cuddy's concerns about narcissism. Given how quickly the show has tired of previous cures like the Ketamine, I still suspect House will be back to being a misanthropic bastard by mid-season. But at the moment, you can tell that Hugh Laurie is really engaged by the challenge of playing some different notes as this character - of playing a House who's tired of being quite so miserable. I don't have high expectations for his return to the hospital, but at least seeing the fellows adjust to a slightly kinder and gentler boss will be amusing for an episode or two.
After that? Well, maybe I can hold out hope that House gives the cooking thing another try. I would totally be into a show where he gives up medicine altogether and becomes the next Anthony Bourdain.
What did everybody else think?