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'House M.D.': James Earl Jones' tyrant brings the tension


Like most viewers, I had my doubts as to whether a "healed" House would be as entertaining as the old House. After all, his misery was what made him so fun to watch.  Luckily, House's stint in the mental institution made him more self-aware and less self-destructive... but didn't strip him of his sarcasm -- or of his tendency to delight in making other people squirm.

Monday night's episode, "The Tyrant," brought House back to diagnostics for the first time since his mental breakdown. He's ready to work but missing one key ingredient: his medical license. Until House's license is restored, Cuddy puts him to work "unofficially." Because Taub has quit his job and Foreman fired Thirteen, the team House returns to consists of Foreman, Chase and Cameron, a familiar crowd to those who have been following the show since the beginning. As House says, "It's three years ago! Does that mean I'm still crazy?"

Without his license, House is reporting to Foreman instead of the other way around. This isn't the first time hospital politics have set House and Foreman up for a power struggle; the role reversal has been explored several times before. Predictably, House doesn't respond well to authority and spends plenty of time making Foreman's life difficult.

I did enjoy a few of House's tricks -- writing the diagnosis on the blinds before the meeting, just to reveal it later, was a pretty clever way of saying, "I'm still smarter than you." However, with a man's life on the line, House's silent game of diagnostic charades somehow seemed more childish than usual.

The patient in question was President Dibala, a tyrannical African dictator played by the iconic James Earl Jones, visiting his son at Princeton while on a trip to address the U.N. Even weakened and coughing blood, Dibala was an intimidating force (maybe it's that Darth Vader thing) and garnered no sympathy when he tried to explain away his horrific war crimes by insisting he had his country's best interests at heart.

House-Ep604_Sc15_3022 Dibala's influence on Chase and Cameron was particularly interesting, and I was pleased to see their stories explored, since they've been on the back burner for two seasons now. When Dibala revealed plans to incite genocide in his war-torn nation after his release from the hospital, Cameron all but suggested that the team let him die. Chase called her behavior borderline sociopathic, but he changed his mind after an encounter with a young guerrilla soldier whom Dibala had forced to torture an innocent woman. 

Ultimately, Chase faked Dibala's test results, which led Foreman to treat Dibala for the wrong disorder and ultimately killed the president. "All the good we've done, every life we've saved, it would've meant nothing if we'd just sent him off to kill hundreds of thousands of people," Chase said when Foreman confronted him.

"House" tackles ethical issues almost weekly, but I loved the way this particular episode pushed the limits. I think one of the reasons that medical dramas are so successful is that doctors have the ability to "play God" on a regular basis, something with which regular folks are unfamiliar. Ethically, the team was expected to save Dibala's life, without evaluating the merit of the life in their hands. But can a human being really be free of judgment when faced not only with a moral dilemma, but with the opportunity to save hundreds of thousands of innocents?

When given the opportunity, Cameron couldn't bring herself actually to kill Dibala -- but Chase could.  Foreman had the opportunity to turn Chase in for his actions, but ultimately he helped Chase out by burning the evidence. This episode really showcases how the dynamic of the "original" team enhances the show.  Since Cameron, Foreman and Chase have history together, they're more compelling than the new team ever was. I'm interested to see how working together again -- at least for now -- changes their relationships with one another and with House.

Speaking of House -- his character development took a backseat to the patient of the week in this episode. I was disappointed that House and Dibala didn't share any scenes together.  Cuddy forbade House from having any patient contact, and for once, House actually listened. It's too bad, because Hugh Laurie and James Earl Jones would've made a formidable pair.

House's side plot with Wilson's pesky neighbor wasn't particularly enthralling, but it did make for some great moments -- in particular, House's Dexter impression as he plunged a syringe into the neighbor's neck. The pop-culture references were abundant in this episode. I loved Wilson's deadpanned, "I am vampire, Sookie!" and Foreman's allusion to "Say Anything" -- though I'm less than thrilled that I've had a Peter Gabriel song stuck in my head for a good three hours now.

My favorite House-ism in this episode was when House gave Foreman a hard time for his relationship troubles with Thirteen. "My condolences. Although, it's not like she's the hottest woman in the world," he teased, a clever nod to Olivia Wilde's place at No. 1 on Maxim's "100 Hottest Women of 2009" list.

What do you think? Is House as compelling now as he was when he was "crazy"? Did you miss Taub, or, like me, did you barely notice his absence? Are you glad to have the original team back together? Do you think Foreman will ever get over his constant desire to one-up House? What do you think of House and Wilson as roommates?

Sound off in the comments below and check back after next week's episode to compare notes!

-- Carina MacKenzie (follow me on Twitter @cadlymack)

Photos: At top, House (Hugh Laurie) plays a game of charades with Foreman (Omar Epps) and Cameron (Jennifer Morrison). At bottom, Jesse Spencer, as Chase,  and James Earl Jones, as President Dibala.  Credit: Fox

Comments () | Archives (79)

It was a bit hard to picture James Earl Jones as anything other than Darth Vader, even when you're looking at him speak. Which, for me, made me laugh when it was supposed to be a "serious" moment. But all in all, I did like the episode!

I think the character of Taub worked best when it was him and Kutner. He's pretty boring without Kal Penn there.

I like Wilson and House at roommates, I think we'll get to see some hilarious moments in the upcoming episodes!

i may be wrong but i think i heard jesse spencer say "allison" instead of Cameron in the scene where cameron injects the medicine into the IV after the president confronts her about what she said to his colonel

You're right, Kayla - Dr. Cameron's first name is Alison. They use each other's first names so rarely that it's easy to miss.

For the record, it's Robert Chase, Eric Foreman, Greg House, Lisa Cuddy, James Wilson, and Chris Taub. Thirteen's name is Remy Hadley.

thank you for that. most of the full names i knew but i'm so used to cameron being cameron that i started to ignore that she must have a first name.

Chase's decision was surprising, but you make a good point - he was between a rock and a hard place!

John bard, The M.D. comes from the title of the show. It's actually called "House M.D.", check out Fox's website or the DVD box.

Very good segment. Great that Chase and Cameron are on again (in a working sense). This is an ensemble group and should remain that way....wuth House as the focal point. Improved writing...keep it up....don't get stale....keep the ethics at stake with different pov's...that makes for good conflict. And give Robert Sean Leonard more to do....he's a great talent....

I was also thinking this season would be hard to excite, but I am happily surprised! They've tamed House's nasty side, which we love, without dullness. The pop culture as well as the larger world view, pinpointing it down to a moral decision "what would you do?" brought us into the show. And with Cameron and Chase, whom we've been left feeling warm and fuzzy about since their marriage, was a good twist. James Earl Jones, well he's just the best, and I suppose it would have been great had he and Laurie had a scene together. Have always loved Wilson and House as roommates, though I loved that House had Holme's address. I hope that they have more Mirror Box Therapy twist in the future as Holmes most often solved the unsolvable. Doubly delighting us with a case that wasn't solve in the same episode.

Missed Taub. A lot. Hope that Thirteen is banished for good. Thought they jumped the shark by having Chase conspire kill a patient. I probably won't stay with the show this year.... They need to get back to what they do best and killing patients isn't it.........

I liked this episode a lot, probably because I hate Foreman and 13, who weren't important to the storyline. I'm liking where the season is going so far with a focus on Chase and Cameron instead of the other team members, thought I hope there will be more of House in future episodes.

I missed Taub. he always stayed realistic and wasn't impressed by Houses behavior or character. Chase is ok, but after season one I really started to hate Cameron. She is just stupidly girlish. also 13... not worth it (and hot is Lisa Edelstein not Olivia Wilde. sorry, Olivia). there need to be more women like Cuddy.
I love all the buddy scenes between Wilson and House (although they seem a little gay, but I like that and in my opinion there need to be more gays on TV anyway). Heard that Lucas will return and I am looking forward to that.
House seems to become softer only in his private life (at least I hope so), so that means he could stay mean with his colleagues and patients. good to see, that even for almost hopeless cases of pain or depression positive development is possible.
So until now it works for me because of the brilliant House-character and the also brilliant and funny actor Hugh Laurie.

I honestly can't believe more people don't know about mirror therapy. It is a very effective technique for treating neuropathic pain states such as phantom limb pain or RSD.

It is best used in conjunction with graded motor imagery which is a sequential process of laterality reconstruction, motor imagery and mirror therapy.
Check out the website - www.gradedmotorimagery.com

Check out this quick 7 minute video with all the basic mirror therapy questions answered. It's a good one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMBA15Hu35M

Awesome review, I agree with pretty much everything. I was disappointed, too, that House and Dibala didn't have any scenes together.

Enjoy the old team as much can now. I'm 97% sure it's not gonna last, as much as I would like to. After seeing Chase and Cameron back, I realized how amazing they really are and how much I've missed the old team. So far, season 6 is turning out one of the best seasons of House. Season 5 is looking more and more inferior as this season unfolds. I think 13 would be back, after all, one of characters is leaving(surely, most of us have heard who the person is).

I also think that there should be more Cuddy!

I'm glad house is still funny even though he's getting surgery!

I thought Jesse Spencer was superb in this episode and for the life of me I can't understand why he has been kept in the background for the last 2 years. Having Chase back makes you realize how much more depth he adds to the show compared to the wooden 13, I only hope he is back for good, less 13 and more Chase please.

Great review, Carina. I enjoyed reading your piece. I look forward to next week!

Jesse Spencer was awesome. It makes no sense that they have a hot, young actor who's actually *talented* and fail to use him like they should. Instead they have a hot, young, talentless actress that they shove down our throats constantly. My request is simple: MORE CHASE. LESS 13. This episode only reinforced what fans have been saying for two years. The old team is so much better than the new. It's interesting to me that last week's episode was one of the worst of the series because it focused on Boreteen while this episode was one of the best of the series. Could it be because it focused on Chase for a change? I think that definitely has something to do with it. A compelling character played by a capable actor will win over a character who is nothing more than one gimmick after another (mysterious! nameless! dying! bisexual!) any day.

Wished there could've been a bit more Cuddy and Wilson in this episode but we can't have everything! I'm finding more and more that my enjoyment of an episode relies on these two characters and their interaction with House.

However, it was really interesting and exciting with some great performances. I've missed the ethical aspect of the show in the past season so hopefully we will be getting more of that as this storylie developes.

The show was better than your review.

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