Monday, May 12, 2008

House, "House's Head": Fly in the ointment

Spoilers for part one of the "House" season finale coming up just as soon as I enjoy a bottle of Beer-brand beer...

In my column today, I compared "House's Head" to season two's finale, "No Reason." Mo Ryan, meanwhile, compared it to season one's "Three Stories," still probably the strongest "House" episode ever. Whichever comparison you prefer, it's hard not to hold "House's Head" up against some of the series' previous head trips and wonder if perhaps the writers aren't going to this well too often, with diminishing returns. It's one thing to repeat the show's basic formula in dozens of iterations, but what made "Three Stories" work was how unusual it was. If they're going to go off-format, I'd rather it be in a new way (say, "Airborne") then giving us yet another episode that takes place largely inside the main character's brain.

I had several issues with this one beyond the repetitiveness. First, I never felt like they provided a good reason for why House didn't keep doing the hypno-therapy with Chase. From a writing/production standpoint, I imagine it was more interesting to have him try several different methods of unlocking his memories, but there was never a good in-show rationale, especially as the other methods became increasingly dangerous.

Second, Amber's random appearance during the hypnosis/bar scene was a flashing red light about who the missing injured person was, and if I wasn't already leaning towards her then, I was by the time House's fantasy gal pointed to the fly necklace. (Once you've read/seen "Jurassic Park," it's impossible not to think of the concept of bugs in amber.) "House" is, at heart, a mystery, and when the show telegraphs the solution, it isn't half as entertaining.

Third, while Lisa Edelstein certainly has a rockin' bod, and while the punchline about House's subconscious overruling his prurient desires was funny, Cuddy's striptease was there just to have something to put in a promo. And, as I figured, there was no attempt to follow up on House's epiphany last week about how maybe Cuddy needs to keep him on a tighter leash. As with so many developments on this series -- particularly any that suggest House's behavior might change -- it was ignored as soon as it got in the way of the plot. (Note: I'm not saying that I want House's behavior to change, but I'm tired of all the bogus suggestions that it's going to.)

So, a few questions to ponder until the conclusion next week:
  • What were House and Amber doing at the bar together? I think it's been clear he's been attracted to her ever since she got with Wilson, but is it something as simple and sleazy as House having an affair with his best friend's girlfriend? And if that's the case -- and especially if Amber dies as a result -- can Wilson ever forgive him? Or will that relationship be back at status quo by episode two or three next season?
  • Was House's joke about Cuddy not knowing Thirteen's name supposed to imply that Hadley isn't her last name, or just that he prefers to think of her as Thirteen?
What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I was actually bored with this episode til the last minutes, which were gripping! As for what House was doing with Amber, I hate to think of it. House is capable of just about anything, and tho he has done some lousy things to Wilson, I think that if House is capable love/loyalty it would be toward Wilson. Their friendship is what makes the would never recover from a House/Amber affair.


Mac said...

I liked it better than you, but it's not up to the level of the two episodes mentioned. Those are probably the two best episodes of the series, so it's not surprising that the writers went back to the well.

My guess is that House asked CTB to the bar and she found him drunk and was taking him home. Just a guess. And I'm pretty sure that Cuddy got Thirteen's real name right.

Anonymous said...

I agree that "Three Stories" is the best episode of the series, and I was already bored with the concept by "No Reason." So I completely agree with the diminishing returns theory. Tonight's episode was pretty to watch, but not that interesting until the end.

But of course, I'd watch Hugh Laurie and the gang (particularly Wilson and Cuddy) do just about anything.

Anna said...

Diminishing returns indeed. "Three Stories," in addition to breaking the mold, was also really well written. This was just boring and gimmicky. By the time they got to the amber necklace scene, I wasn't even paying attention anymore. Though the ending with the actual bus crash brought me back.

Poor Wilson! I highly doubt there was an affair happening. But not because I think House wouldn't do that - I wouldn't put it past him - but because I want to believe that Amber wouldn't do that. I really loved how sweet she was with Wilson in last week's episode, especially at the end when she lay down with him on the floor. I like her as Amber, not as Cutthroat (Cheating) Bitch.

Also, IMDB confirms that Fred Durst (!?) played the bartender, but it doesn't tell me whether or not that was Ivana Milicevic playing the amber necklace woman. Anyone else recognize her?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Anna, that was absolutely Ivana Milecivic.

Mac said...

I knew she looked familiar, but I couldn't place her.

Anonymous said...

What a sad world we must live in that people require a scene such as Cuddy stripping to be dramatically justified. Come on Alan! You never struck me as the type of person that hates fun.

Cree said...

Didn't hate the episode as much as a lot of you seem to. I appreciate any chance to get inside House's head and see his motivations. I'm sure there is an explanation beyond an affair for Amber and House to be together. House is a lot of things, but this is a line I won't follow him across. We'll see. But I found tonight to be pretty entertaining. I don't mind being the odd man out on this one.

Anonymous said...

The ending was the most interesting part, but overall, it was an okay ep. Not great, but not horrid. And I agree that they telegraphed the mystery waaay too early (not to mention reminding me of the MASH ep with Hawkeye and the woman who smothered her baby).

afoglia said...

I figured Hadley was the real last name, but House was saying that if Cuddy knew her real first name, she would have used it, so she obviously doesn't.
But, someone posted a comment on politedissent's with a screenshot from a previous episode. Apparently Remy Hadley is Thirteen's real name.

One of the weaker ones this season, but still enjoyable. Probably won't hold up on repeated viewings. I don't know what they'll do with Cutthroat Bitch. Her character does open up a lot of possibilities for Wilson, but not so many that she should become a regular. They've been using her a little too much recently, almost as if they want to do a lot before she (possibly) leaves.

Mo Ryan said...

my theory about Amber and House were at the bar:

Amber wanted to meet House -- to tell him that she wants to marry Wilson and wants House's blessing, or at least his promise not to frak things up.

The thing that got me to that theory -- House went out at 5 pm and got hammered. Not that the guy isn't capable of that, but isn't there probably a reason he didn't stick around at work to torture the new cottages?

Why'd he leave work to go get plastered? It wouldn't be to start an affair with Amber (or try to do that). It's far more likely he'd do that to mourn the end of his bromance with Wilson.

Just my theory.

Yep, a lot of bells and whistles in this ep, but this was one of those times when all the shiny things distracted me. You're right, Alan, about Amber in the bar scene -- seeing her there and knowing it's a two-parter, it wasn't hard to figure out the "twist" even before you saw Ivana's necklace.

What I wonder is -- given that this was supposed to be the post-Super Bowl two-parter, how would this episode have unfolded then, given that Amber and Wilson weren't an item then? I have a feeling it would have had a lot less impact in the middle of the season -- or maybe Cameron would have been on the bus or something like that?

Myles said...

I think my biggest issue by the end of this episode was that, considering we are supposed to be wrapping up this season to some degree, how it was so stuck in House's head that we got nothing but one-liners at the expense of our newest additions.

I'm not saying that the storyline itself doesn't involve them, and there is another half to go, but this half was so absolutely centered on House and I'm not sure it needed to be. We could have spent half as much time on House's various gimmicks, and more time with the other cast members who the season has spent more time with, and I still think the final Amber moments (admittedly gripping) would have been powerful, if not moreso without so much foreshadowing.

And while I didn't immediately jump to Amber as quickly as you did, Alan, I did spend the entire scene where the woman kept pointing at her necklace and asking House what it was made of pondering how in the frak House has never seen Jurassic Park. Seriously, for such a smart guy he was way too slow to pick up on that.

Anonymous said...

What I wonder is -- given that this was supposed to be the post-Super Bowl two-parter, how would this episode have unfolded then, given that Amber and Wilson weren't an item then? I have a feeling it would have had a lot less impact in the middle of the season -- or maybe Cameron would have been on the bus or something like that?

I don't think it would've been any different. Unless I'm mistaken, the Mira Sorvino episode (the one that reintroduced Amber) was originally supposed to air in December. They only delayed its airing when the strike shut down production and the show had already booked the post-Super Bowl spot. In other words, this episode was always presumably designed to cover the Amber/Wilson relationship.

Anonymous said...

I was actually really bothered by the Cuddy striptease. It's not that I mind this sort of thing on TV -- and Lisa Edelstein seems perfectly willing to play sexpots. But since Cuddy was introduced as a strong woman who was the only one with any kind of authority over House, the show has since found a thousand ways to compromise that authority. In an episode in which House had already gotten a lapdance from a real stripper, how much prurient pandering do they need to do?

Mrglass said...

This episode was pretty good, I wonder if all the negative comments are justified. It didn't have a lot in common with '3 Stories' (probably the most unique House episode), and in the season 2 finale the hallucinations were not voluntary, and far less obvious. Besides, it was two years ago so getting into House's head is not becoming that common.

The last few minutes were gripping indeed. My only worry is actually for next week. I always felt it would be a 'jump the shark' moment if Wilson or Cuddy became the Patient of the Week with a mysterious illness only House can cure. Amber was in a crash, let's hope she didn't also suffer from an exotic disease.

Mrglass said...

Mo: I read the two-parter originally planned after the Superbowl was supposed to focus on Cameron and Chase.

Mo Ryan said...

Oh, I guess if you substituted Cameron and Chase for Amber and Wilson, the bus-crash 2-parter does make sense. I think the show's probably better served by having the couple or duo in question be Amber and Wilson, imho.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the episode a lot, and how all the bit players had bits to play. I especially liked Chase as the hypnotist.

What if Amber is a red herring just like the bus driver was, and House is the one who is dying, even before his brain injury?

Alternately, Amber can be the one dying, but House will likely be dying too, given the level of his injuries, plus his messing about with drugs to stimulate memories. I liked the scene on the bus where his heart stopped--proving again that he'll go to death's door--others' or his own--for answers.

Anonymous said...

i think some of you guys are overlooking the very real possibility that House cared about Amber, not because she was so polarized and acerbic like him, and not because she hooked up with wilson, but because she made wilson, his only true friend, happy.

before you all dismiss that, consider this: putting aside the fact that house is a misanthropic ass, and putting aside the fact that he is an inured doctor who sees the human body as a machine and is constantly exposed to death, the fact is, House is still a human being and we know he is capable of having feelings and even mild empathy (e.g. Mira Sorvino episode).

Combine that with the fact that he went through an incredibly harrowing and traumatic experience and looked on as the girlfriend of his best friend was impaled by a giant rod, and its not inconceivable that he would subconsciously consider something "amiss" and submit to risking his life (numerous times) to save her.

i think this episode had a very deep, albeit all to unfortunately subtle message.

Anonymous said...

Wait, Lisa Edelstein did a striptease in last night's episode?

I'd buy that for a dollar!

Anonymous said...

Two points ...

Being the total ass that he is, I can easily see House getting involved with Amber if only to prove to Wilson how bad an idea their relationship is/was.

Assuming there were no body doubles involved, Lisa Edelstein has a smokin' hot bod.