Monday, April 28, 2008

House, "No More Mr. Nice Guy": Strikes and spares

Spoilers for "House" coming up just as soon as I throw out all my ketchup...

Quick medical question: does having a smile plastered across my face for nearly the entire episode mean that I have syphillis? Could I have contracted chagas without going to South America? Or was that just a really good episode of "House"?

I like to think that while David Shore and the other "House" writers were walking the picket line, they weren't just thinking up a clever in-joke to start their next new episode with, but that they were thinking about how to make sense of the enormous cast they had built by the time Wilson and Amber started dating. Earlier in the season, even after House finalized the new team, the show seemed overcrowded, with certain characters (Chase and Cameron in particular) being marginalized or vanishing altogether. But this episode somehow comfortably fit in a standard (and entertaining) medical mystery, tensions between Foreman and the new team, the House/Wilson/Amber triangle, House using Chase as a substitute Wilson, Chase and Cameron bickering about the elephant in the room of their relationship (House), and even the usual power plays between House and Cuddy. And none of it felt rushed. Nice. I don't know if they can juggle the whole ensemble this well every week, but this one at least made me think they don't need to do a cast purge at the end of the season.

Couple of questions:
  • I continue to love House vs. Cutthroat Bitch, especially now that Amber has given up any pretense of liking or respecting House, but I'm confused about her job status. Did she get a job in another PPTH department (which would be wonderful), or did Cuddy just force her to do a shift changing sheets as punishment for breaking the Wilson rules, even though Amber's not technically on the payroll?
  • Was the House blood sample lying around the lab solely as part of the practical joke on the team, or was he testing himself for something? What other conditions would yield a positive on a test for syphillis? Or did House take a syphillis-positive blood sample and put his name on it? I don't really care that much about the mechanics of it -- the results were too funny, regardless of how it happened -- but my brain tends to lose the plot with this show sometimes.
  • Was the nurse's strike, in addition to being a reference to where the show has been, supposed to be some kind of meta comment on how the PPTH nursing staff is all but invisible on this series?
What did everybody else think?


Byron Hauck said...

I still think that they've built this giant cast to prepare for Hugh Laurie's surprising, imminent leaving of the show. Then they can turn it into an ER-style medical drama with no true center.

Mrglass said...

Hugh won't leave until the end of the show, it is called "House".

The cast is not that big for a drama, it only seems so because we have been used for three seasons to a minimal core of actors.

Average episode of House, some one-liners were great but the interaction between House and the new couple was too cartoonish at times.

I am not sure what Foreman's job is now, wasn't he supposed to join House's team only to supervise the many applicants during the elimination game? The writers should just re-organize the Department, make it bigger with a couple of teams under House, and bring back all the former fellows.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was pretty entertaining, though I didn't quite care for the ending (with the wife looking so concerned because the husband no longer likes ketchup--I didn't want House to be right!) :-)

Anonymous said...

How much longer until House and CB hook up?

Anonymous said...

This episode of "House" just had too damn much "House"-iness in it. Parts were really fun, but how many conversations can we take in which someone's telling someone else why they are the way they are, and why they aren't the way they think they are? If an ordinary episode is a strong cup of unwanted psychoanalysis, this one was a quintuple-espresso.

Mrglass said...

Also, isn't it the first time House doesn't solve the case? And the honor went to Kumar. I kept waiting until the very end (during the last scene with Cuddy) for House to realize the real disease was...

Anna said...

Alan, I agree with you that they finally managed to use all the characters well in this episode; but besides that, I felt the medical case was pretty uninteresting, and the stuff with House and Cutthroat Bitch, while amusing, left my favorite character Wilson looking like way too much of a frickin' wuss.

This is definitely not the first time House hasn't been the one to solve the case. The other time I can remember that happening, the honor went to my boy Chase.

afoglia said...

@Mrglass said...

Also, isn't it the first time House doesn't solve the case? And the honor went to Kumar. I kept waiting until the very end (during the last scene with Cuddy) for House to realize the real disease was...

No. I know Chase solved one last season or earlier. And I think House punched him in the face for it. Plus Kutner has solved, or suggested something to help House solve, a few cases now, I think. Quite a change from setting a patient on fire.

Excellent episode. A lot was going on, very fast paced, but not crowded.

Alan, I think House put his name on someone else's blood. And considering the previous cottages screwed up his scheme to get drugs injected into his brain, no wonder he expected them to eventually check it. I just want to know if it's common for hospitals to keep blood samples of their employees on file.

Was I the only one who didn't follow House's argument for why he had to humiliate Foreman? I think Laurie should have given a different emphasis to the "should"s in the first part. Like the cottages should respect Foreman because he's better, but shouldn't because they won't question him. But the way it was phrased, he ended up using "should" for both sides of the argument. Without a different emphasis, I couldn't follow what exactly House felt should be the case.

Then again, I believe Foreman's correct, House/the writers make up the logic to suit his actions, not the other way around.

Bruce Reid said...

bigted: "This episode of "House" just had too damn much "House"-iness in it."

Yeah, I thought it was better than mediocre, but it did suffer a bit from familiarity. Even the House-Wilson moments (well, most of them--see below) were perfunctory; and the ambiguous ending with the husband and wife didn't have the bite I think the show was going for, however much I admired the acknowledgment that any resolution wouldn't occur till long after they'd left our view.

But overall, very enjoyable, the whole cast quite well balanced, and House sharing his syphillis prank with Wilson shoots up to one of my favorite scenes ever. Wilson's conspiratorial snickering nicely reinforced Sorvino's observation from the antarctic episode that their relationship has more to do with his meanness than House's well-hidden decency.

Alan: "Was the House blood sample lying around the lab solely as part of the practical joke on the team, or was he testing himself for something?"

House's pointed insistence that Wilson was missing the point when he brought up that question leads me to think the latter.

Anthony Foglia: "Plus Kutner has solved, or suggested something to help House solve, a few cases now, I think."

Technically, in fact, he diagnosed Sorvino in the episode I referenced above.

"...House/the writers make up the logic to suit his actions, not the other way around."

Agreed; I've always taken most of House's intricate untangling of his manipulations to be equal parts sincere espousal of his beliefs and post facto rationalizations for actions he took on the spur of the moment. As he pretty much admitted to Foreman when he said he wouldn't rule out the pleasure of screwing with him as a motivation.

Mrglass said...

"Technically, in fact, he diagnosed Sorvino in the episode I referenced above."

Of course his team helps House. But here Kutner had the typical end-of-the-episode epiphany. It is true that Chase had one in season 3, but while House was under heavy pain. Any other example?

I wish the reference to the writer strike in the beginning had been more cruel; one nurse could have ranted about the greedy and useless "hospital" board for example.

One last thing: the show is really starting to recycle themes. "Is niceness a symptom?" was already adressed in the episode Autopsy, and "Religion as possible disease" of the last episode was also in "House vs. God" - both in season 2. Time to explore other territories with the new cast members.

CarolMR said...

This is the best the writers could come up with after all those weeks on strike?

I didn't care for this episode at all. The old Dr. House at least cared about his patients (in his own detached way). The new Dr. House couldn't care less about them and is turning into a two-dimensional annoying jerk.

And what's up with everyone discussing House's supposed syphilis? Isn't that against the law in some confidentiality-related way?

Anonymous said...

la, I certainly hope House would respect the Bro Code, if nothing else.

(CB is seriously hot. I seem to have a type, and that type is Evil.)

Anonymous said...

I don't sleep with everyone who's better than Hitler!


Karen said...

The dialogue was so good on this episode, I could forgive it many other flaws.

House has, in the past, pulled a similar switcheroo. I can't remember if it was blood, or a chart, but he wanted the Cottages to believe he had something that had killed some old man who'd been a patient. Wilson's amusement over "You WANT them to think you have syphilis?" led me to believe that he had specifically planted a syphilitic sample. Given House's protection of his medical history, there's no WAY he would ever leave a vial of his own blood anywhere where anyone could find it.

I liked the discussion of whether curing a condition might eliminate the distinctive qualities that make someone brilliant (or saint-like). It's an argument straight out of "Equus," but I liked it anyway, because it's a fascinating topic.

Man, I felt terrible for that wife.

Anonymous said...

From a medical perspective, House is cool for bringing up all kinds of neat and under appreciated diseases. Other than that, though, the medicine can be pretty questionable, which is fine if you just accept that this show exists in its own little word where a man like House could even exist and be a highly regarded physician. In particular the show tends to ignore the realities of treating diseases. I loved House's line from this ep that was along the lines of, “Why do you think a drug is more powerful than a parasite, except of course these drugs we are going to use which are more powerful than the parasite.” Unfortunately, he was very wrong. The parasite responsible for Chagas is difficult to clear in the early stage of the disease, and in chronic cases like this one it is nearly impossible. More importantly, the changes the disease has made by then, particularly to the heart muscle, don't go away and require lifelong management.

This kind of thing has happened before, such as the episode in which Foreman was infected with Naegleria. These infections are almost always fatal and no proven treatment regimen for them even exists, yet it was presented as being no big deal on House. Occasionally we get a case in which House solves the mystery but can't do anything, but for the most part this show considers diagnosing the conditions the equivalent of curing it. It's mantra is that diagnosis is hard and treatment easy, which makes sense for its mystery perspective-- nobody reads Poirot or Holmes to see them conduct a trial or run a prison--but in reality diagnosis tends to be easy but appropriate and successful treatment hard.

The diagnosis issue was a little off in this episode as well. When Chagas damages the heart it tends to cause an enlarged heart, which would have been seen on the echo they did. This should have easily tipped them off as to the reality of the situation. And while the basic serological tests for Syphilis are not specific, there are other much more specific secondary tests that would be triggered by a positive response on the initial test. In neither case do I see anyone getting fooled by the false positive, but it was needed by the show. There were other fun errors too, like talking about 'roid rage when referring to a corticosteroid like prednisone.

I also have no idea how permanent neurological/behavior changes caused by Chagas or Syph are, but this episode did quite clearly contradict the Season 1 episode in which that old lady developed a crush on House due to syphilis. In that episode House told her that the behavioral changes were permanent. It's also kind of funny that so many women develop crushes on House based on diseases. IIRC, the same thing happened to Leighton Meester when she was guesting on the show at one point. Maybe they should test Cameron for Syphilis after all...

I also definitely think House's joke about the nurses not doing anything was a reference to the show's conceit that the cottages run all the tests and generally do all of the work.

And my only guess about the CTB/Amber thing is that she was doing it because both her and House had agreed to let Cuddy decide all Wilson matters. It's not like House, despite being an employee, would do this sort of scut work without some deeper reason anyway, and he had been the one to propose having real and meaningful penalties for their contract, so I interpreted it as something like that.

Matthew said...

I wish the reference to the writer strike in the beginning had been more cruel; one nurse could have ranted about the greedy and useless "hospital" board for example.

I disagree. The nurses strike was clearly just supposed to be an acknowledgement of the reason why it has been so long since we last had an episode. After a couple of scenes, it was dropped, because it wasn't relevant, and I really think the writers would prefer to move on rather than reairing the same things we've heard about over the past few months. Plus, I'd rather have all the great character interactions we had in theepisode, rather than some unknown nurse give an irrelevant speech about "those greedy bastards". Especially since the nurses strike didn't seem too bitter - I got the impression they'd only just gone on strike, and it was resolved a day later.
In fact, I quite liked the way the strike storyline was dropped - we got into the actual story within a couple of scenes, and it seemed to be forgotten. Towards the end, I found myself thinking "Wait, what happened to the strike", only to discover a couple of minutes later that the nurses had been back for the better part of a day.
Plus, remember House's comment about how Cuddy's management was poor because of the strike? The only character we really know in the hospital management is Cuddy, and any statements by striking workers would risk reflecting badly on Cuddy. And we're supposed to like Cuddy.

My main problem was that Wilson seemed really terribly amused by House's syphallis scheme. I really thought we wanted to watch it all play out. Yet for some reason he goes immediately to tell Cutthroat Bitch about it? And we don't see it or learn why he did it?

Other than that, it was a very enjoyable episode. Very funny, with some great interaction of the characters (which, to be honest, is why I watch).

Anonymous said...

but my brain tends to lose the plot with this show sometimes.

yup. I got lost somewhere between House's "syphillis" and what the guy had and why. Maybe it was just late....

(and the wife - "Nurse" - has played nurses in so many things - well apparently she is a nurse. and her name is Bobbin??)

Anonymous said...

I think House has syphilis. He was going to commiserate with Wilson, but CB was in the room. The next day, he pretends to play a practical joke on the cottages, tells Wilson about it (knowing that he will tell CB) and then waits for Amber to tell everyone else. His "secret" is now safe again. Brilliant, and exactly what House would do.