Wednesday, January 30, 2008

House, "It's a Wonderful Lie": Macho medical donkey wrestler

Spoilers for the Christmas in January episode of "House" coming up just as soon as I test-drive an iPhone...

Much like House, I was enjoying the fellowship competition so much that I worried things wouldn't be as exciting once the team had been finalized. And despite his attempt to keep things frictional with the bogus Secret Santa contest, this felt like... well, like a regular episode of "House." That means some funny lines (my favorite actually belonged to Foreman, when noting that lies don't make Taub's life any simpler), a strange clinic patient and the usual six or seven botched diagnoses in a row before hitting on the solution in the closing seconds.

I know some fans missed the old formula and were no doubt glad to be rid of the rose ceremonies and Cutthroat Bitch and the like. I, unfortunately, started zoning out at a few points during the episode (admittedly, after one of my longest work days in a while) and had to keep rewinding to figure out things like what Wilson said to lead House to the solution, or whether the clinic patient was really a hooker who does donkey shows but also feels that old-time religion, or just a nice church-going girl who enjoyed letting House think that she was a hooker who does donkey shows. (That last scene was also worth rewinding and rewatching just for the superb use of the Staple Singers' "Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas?")

So "House" is back to being what it used to be: a well-executed, superbly acted but extremely predictable show. And that's fine. But I already miss the topsy-turvy nature of the competition.

Also, why are Cameron and Chase still on the show, other than the producers' loyalty to those two actors? Foreman's been well-integrated back into the team, but there's barely enough time for Wilson and Cuddy, let alone those two. And should I read anything into the arrangement of that old team/new team tableau in the hospital lobby? Kutner and Chase together is a natural (they're the two suck-ups), but Taub with Cameron and Thirteen with Foreman instead of the other way around? Interesting.

What did everybody else think?


rukrusher said...

I agree that the episode was back to basics but I thought House acknowledging that they were too comfortable gives me hope for more outside the formula moments. House needed new people to interact with but the decision to keep the old team around makes for scenes that seem forced.

On the medical front I am surprised to learn your bones can be harder then a drill and then return to normal after a tumor is removed and chemo treatments. Anyone think that seems unlikely?

Anonymous said...

Missed this week's episode but I just wanted to give props for the subtitle to your post.

"I had a small house of brokerage on Wall Street..."

CarolMR said...

House and the clinic patient/hooker had some great chemistry.

Mo Ryan said...

Thanks, rukrusher -- you hit the nail, or the stone, on the head. At the end of the ep, I was like -- Wait, her bones are no longer made of stone? Or turning to stone? Or her hip is not stony? Or is it that they just don't care about that dangling plot point and just let it go?

That bothered me, they're usually good about at least supplying a throwaway line to explain such sloppiness.

Also, I do not need the sight of House shooting breast milk into the mouth of an 11 year old.

Yep, agreed, pretty formulaic, and why bother even bringing Cameron on when she had no lines? I can't imagine what those actors are thinking. The producers have talked a good game about Chase and Cameron not being done on the show, but they sure look done.

However, all worth it for the sly scene at the end, which, because I was also tired (and zoned out a bit during the clinic scenes) I did not see coming.

I miss Cutthroat Bitch. For some reason CB vs Taub always entertained me vastly.

Anonymous said...

On the medical front I am surprised to learn your bones can be harder then a drill and then return to normal after a tumor is removed and chemo treatments. Anyone think that seems unlikely?

Yes, but even more unlikely would be House examining hooker/clinic patient's skin rash and touching her lips without wearing gloves. That was actually nastier - though not by much - than squirting the breast milk into the kid's mouth with a syringe, although considering the hooker subplot, I get where they were going with that. Galactorrhea indeed.

Jeff Vaca said...

Watching a Christmas show at the end of January was such a jarring experience that I had trouble focusing on the details of the episode. Having said that, I was inclined to cut this one some slack because Christmas episodes always seem to count on some type of forced emotional gathering (the Christmas party scene) that makes sense if you're watching it at Christmas-time, but when viewed outside that context seems sort of pointless.

BTW, Alan - what conclusion did you reach - was the clinic patient really a hooker, or just a nice church-going girl?

Alan Sepinwall said...

BTW, Alan - what conclusion did you reach - was the clinic patient really a hooker, or just a nice church-going girl?

I think the latter. And House was absolutely right: she has the creepiest smile I've seen in a long time.

Mrglass said...

You forgot the best part of the episode: the return of the CGI effects to show the various ways the patient body breaks down! They were absent since the start of season 4.

Mrglass said...

And yes it's a shame the way they treat Cameron and Chase. Foreman was the least likable of the three, and for some weird reason he's the only one still working for House, for mysterious reasons. Why does Cuddy still need Foreman now that the game is over?

Also Chase used to be the better doctor, and in his one scene it is Foreman who notices something as obvious as a smoking (!) bone, even though Chase is the surgeon.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Also Chase used to be the better doctor, and in his one scene it is Foreman who notices something as obvious as a smoking (!) bone, even though Chase is the surgeon.

No, I think Foreman was always established as the first among equals with the cottages -- the guy with the most impressive resume, the most skills and the greatest willingness to disagree with House. Not saying that Chase is a bad doctor, or a bad character -- just that there's a reason Foreman was a hot enough commodity to get his own team after he quit.

Mrglass said...

"No, I think Foreman was always established as the first among equals with the cottages -- the guy with the most impressive resume, the most skills and the greatest willingness to disagree with House".

That is what they say all the time in the show, but in practice Chase was quickly becoming the better doctor especially in season 3. When House almost completely screwed up for the first time and almost amputated that young girl, it was Chase who made him realize his mistake. (and got punched in the process)

It is a theme since the first episode that Foreman is "just like House", but his record isn't impressive at all; certainly not enough to make him Head of Department at another hospital. After all, House is a genius and the show doesn't really allow any other doctor to shine (except Chase a couple of times).

Anonymous said...

I agree that giving an episode a Christmas theme is completely useless if you don't air it around Christmas.

But a lot of this one seemed like a throwback: The discussions about the value/prevalence of lying added little to what we've heard on this show before. (And what was the point of learning that the patient's daughter was adopted? It allowed House to prove that "everybody lies," but in the end it didn't even matter whether or not their DNA matched.)

The ending was particularly weak. House made the daughter drink milk from the mother's breast-tissue leg tumor? That's not just malpractice, but child abuse as well, and House certainly couldn't have known whether or not it was safe. Beyond that, I was surprised to hear that the fact that it was "just" a tumor meant the woman's problems were over, and that surgery and chemo would cure her completely. You don't need to be a doctor to know that isn't always the case.

To me, the best part of this ep was the interaction between all the cottages, and the former cottages as well. But even those seemed a little stale if you've been watching the show for a while.

Here's to the strike ending and the writers freshening things up a little.

Anonymous said...

I thought donkey girl was a prostitute, since she said that she already 'check my labia" for clap.

olucy said...

Yes, getting squirted with leg milk was pretty squicky, but am I the only one bothered by the fact that an 11yo girl knows her mother's favorite sexual position?

And Ho Ho Ho may have just been a good church-going girl yanking House's chain (not like that! stop it!), but unless she works with an at-risk population as part of her job (entirely possible), getting tested quarterly for HIV is a little suspicious.

Anonymous said...

Just imagine how much more fun the Secret Santa game would've been with Cutthroat involved...

Anonymous said...

I liked the episode overall, and thought Hugh Laurie gave some nice smirks and grins. I enjoyed his singing of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," too. But, the syringe full of breast milk? UGH. Even if we buy the notion that rogue breast tissue cells can form a cancerous tumor on the back of one's knee, does anybody remotely buy the notion of said tumor lactating?1? I mean, doesn't there need to be a pregnancy for that to occur?

Anonymous said...

I thought it was pretty much established with the conversation about the St. Jude medallion that she was a prostitute. The only question was how she came into contact with donkeys.

Anonymous said...

what's a cottage? And what's wrong with Fox? I almost missed this new episode among all the reruns of everything else.

Alan Sepinwall said...

what's a cottage?

It's a fan nickname for House's assistant. (Get it? He's the house and they're the... nevermind.) Fienberg has tried to propagate the idea of calling them "condos," but it hasn't caught on.

olucy said...

what's a cottage?
Something smaller--or less than--a house. Thus, one of House's underlings.

jcpbmg said...

I could be wrong but I think the 'cottage' term originated over at twop

Anna said...

It did. Although, I have never heard anyone use it outside of the recaps. Even everyone in the forums there calls them "ducklings," as do I and all of my friends.

Also, I absolutely agree with Mrglass. As far as I can remember, Chase was the only person to ever get a diagnosis right when House was wrong (and on more than one occasion, too, I believe).

As for this episode, Christmas in January was ridiculously distracting. And I don't understand why it had to turn out that the woman's daughter wasn't actually her daughter. That didn't have anything to do with anything, and, as a woman who is looking to adopt, I found it incredibly insulting.

olucy said...

Ha! I still prefer "ducklings" too.

ITA that Foreman was the most polished doctor on paper, but several times Chase was shown to be more creative in his thinking, something that House values, and which can lead to better diagnoses.

Anna, JMHO, but the mother's lying about the adoption didn't have anything to do with the diagonsis, in the end. (unless I just haven't thought it through). But given the title of the ep--It's a Wonderful Lie--the truth was a strong theme throughout the ep. So in that regard, her not telling her daughter that she was adopted was huge. When they thought that a bone marrow transplant might be the answer to the mother's was everything. Add to that the running question about the clinic patient's truth-telling, and 13's evasive answer about whether she has Huntington's, and it was a running theme. I'm sure I'm leaving things out.

This wasn't a great ep, especially considering how much we all anticipated it after the hiatus. I don't think people nodding off was entirely due to being tired. The pace and energy of the ep was just OFF.

Anna said...

Well, the truth is always a strong theme, seeing as House's life philosophy is that "everybody lies." But this is the only time I can think of where the lie wasn't actually relevant to anything other than just validating House's philosophy. If you were to play the episode without that one scene between House and the patient and just cut right to the daughter giving her mother the brutal truth about dying and showing how that affected House so deeply, the episode would've been exactly the same. Only less insulting.

The only thing the lie did for me was to feel like House and/or the writer were suggesting that somehow this woman's relationship with her daughter was somehow cheapened by the fact that she didn't literally push the girl out of her vagina.

Byron Hauck said...

Not a doctor, but your bones are used as deposits of calcium. It should be possible to pull the calcium back out and de-diamondize her bones.

Davy said...

My thoughts... eh. Not great, but not bad. Why were the other "cottages" (first time hearing that term, and it's the stupidest thing I've ever heard) there? Because this was the Xmas episode, and everyone shows up on the xmas episode. Why are they still there period? That's the bigger question, and I hope there's something bigger brewing. (Huntington's anyone?)

I thought the adoption lie was kinda important to the show, considering the theme of the show and the mother/daughter relationship, and the way it opened House's eye's briefly. Here is a mother who has convinced her daughter they have a relationship built on complete truth, and yet there's one BIG lie at the heart of it that she wasn't willing to tell, not even to save her own life. So telling her daughter that she'll always tell the truth is also a lie. It builds up.

It really doesn't matter what the cause of her disease was at that moment -- to her, she was willing to continue the lie and ultimately die to protect her daughther from the truth. At that point, it was about her loving her daughter no matter what and protecting her, not about the lie, and House figured that out finally. I didn't see it as an insult to all adoptees/adopted parents (especially since I'm assuming you'd make different choices with telling your children). Perhaps your situation makes you take it more personally, however.

I wasn't as jarred by the Xmas episode as most of you. Due to the strike, things are what they are, and at least we have a few new episodes of shows I like this year.

Unknown said...

I thought it was a blast, actually; they used the excuse of the Christmas episode to berelentlessly cruel. The conversations between House and the girl were awesomely uncomfortable, the House-Wilson quips were pretty classic ("Where are we going?" "Nowhere. I just know that it hurts you"), there's a real sleazy chemistry between House and Mary, the mindgames against/among the underlings were fun w/o being oversold.

The show is overstaffed -- I figured that big smile on Cameron's face at the end must be because this was the easiest paycheck ever -- and the medical mystery sort of careened off the rails toward the end. But considering this was the 10,000th "everybody lies" episode, it was pretty darned entertaining.

I missed the first two seasons of this show, and have caught some of the reruns during the strike. I was surprised how tame the older stuff was; I prefer the current ferocity.

afoglia said...

j said, "I missed the first two seasons of this show, and have caught some of the reruns during the strike. I was surprised how tame the older stuff was; I prefer the current ferocity."

Really? I think the first two seasons were more darker. I'm pretty sure more patients died in the first season, and House came across more as really, really good rather than infallible. Plus they hadn't added the detrimental back story they did in "Son of Coma Guy" and "One Day, One Room."

Now, as to the cottages. Foreman was always the one who was most like House, and the one who had the least patience for him. (That's why, if there was any meaning to the pairings at the party, him and Thirteen make sense. Both of them see through House's games.) I'm not sure what his role is now though. During the elimination, he obviously was a second-in-command and countering voice to House, but now he's just another cottage.

As for the medical, I'll direct everyone to the Polite Dissent medical review.

PS: I thought it was the patient who asked Taub is his life was simple.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I thought it was the patient who asked Taub is his life was simple.

The patient asked, but it was Foreman who then made a joke about it, related to Taub's web of lies and infidelity.

Pamela Jaye said...

>even though Chase is the surgeon.

and just when did Chase hve time to do a surical residency, having been to med school (i presume) and training (residency?) an an intensivist, before his fellowship in "diagnostics"?
Cam in the ER, I can understand (diagnostics would be good for that) but isn't surgical residency a 5 (ER, Scrubs) to 7 (Grey's pilot) year proposition?

that said, despite the jarring, I was just happy to listen to Wilson - he gets the best lines.
(seeing Donna was cool too)

Anonymous said...

I know Cutthroat was a divisive figure, but I'm surprised no one else seems to think she was sorely missed here. Apart from being played by Kal Penn, is there anything likeable or interesting about Kutner? He was such a lame, wormy loser in this episode. Cutthroat was a much more fascinating character, and her interactions with all the others had much more spark as well.

Anonymous said...

Count me among the very disappointed with this episode. Maybe my hopes were high after a long hiatus and with Janel Maloney guest starring, but I thought the mother and daughter characters ringed false

You know you've seen a sub-par house when the C story (the girl and the donkey) far outshines the A (patient) and B (secret santa) ones.