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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)

The new season is definitely off to an interesting start! I'm glad that Chase and Cameron are going to have more time in the spotlight, and I do hope Thirteen fades to the background a little bit. It feels like they're trying too hard to make her interesting, but failing. I mean, by all means, she SHOULD be interesting, but still comes across as boring. :/
I am a tad dissapointed that they're just sort of dropping Taub. I didn't like Taub until the episode where Kutner died. I really liked how they handled Taub in that episode, and I think they had the potential to grow Taub into a more interesting character and a better doctor as a reaction to Kutner's death, but they completely wasted it.

I liked the episode though missed the medical issues. Can't wait for next week.

didnt notice taub was absent. thirteen are better as a side character, wouldnt miss her either. old team was better but without House its a boring show. bring House back to the foreground please!

I love the old team and could not have been more thrilled to have them back! This past Monday was the House which I couldn't get enough of instead of the past 2 years of misery with a drab, no presence other group Taub/13. While I really like the Taub character so much better than 13 - which bores to no end that you end up turning the channel. The chemistry, cohesion, tension the 3 original cast have with the way the characters are written really made the House show we love. Bring them back, but with Cameron leaving...don't know how you will do it.

what a great episode Monday loved seeing the old team together liked the intensity of acting in this.looking forward to seeing where pushing the envelope leads...

I loved the chemistry between Cameron and Chase. They're so cute together, especially when Chase told Dibala to back off his wife! So excited for the old team to be back, but I bet it won't last. I'm a little tired of Foreman making power plays, because it's obvious that eventually House will be put back in charge. I'm so excited for this season! It's going to be a good one.

as a strict follower of the show since the beginning, i have to say this episode was one of the best ones i can remember in a very long time. the drama between relationships was really brought out, particularly with cameron and chase. you really got to see chase as a human and not just a cute australian jerk. i thought the acting on his part in this episode was phenomenal and i hope this story progresses into something even greater. fabulous episode.

Well, I loved the charade differential. Having worked healthcare all my life the humor really flows on the dark days. I've always loved the tension between comedy & drama on this show.......and House's antics seemed appropriately timed to undermine Foreman.
I think House is more compelling with the deeper shading of his character. Audiences always knew he had a heart, albeit a slightly skewered one. He is still obsessive , driven, acerbic, sarcastic and brilliant. ...but not the sociopath he seemed to be morphing into. I'm also sure he will slip and Vicodin will call once again. But he tries and I appreciate the mental health message.

Didn't miss Taub one bit. Wouldn't miss Fourteeen either. I'm sorry Jennifer Morrison is leaving the show.

Love the House & Wilson as roomies although I think Wilson's mental health dilemma is on the cusp of collapsing. The guy couldn't be more tightly wound.

Am I the only one who isn't convinced that it was Chase who actually killed this horrible man? I hope this story line holds a few more surprises.

I like this House better than before. He shows more humility although his childish side is still there. Old team is way much better than the new one. I love watching they are all back together. Sorry to say this but Taub character is not so much interesting. He should be paired with Kutner. Otherwise, he is boring.

House and Wilson are inseparable. They are awesome together. Foreman will never be as good as House, because the department means House.

Anyway, I think this episode is one of the best episodes I have seen from House M.D ! When Chase confronted President Dibala and shocked for his answer, Spencer showed his best performance ever from this show. His shocking face is the best ever ! I love it when they showed his expression twice.

Nice review Carine, but I think you should give more credit to Spencer in this episode. :)

I'm glad that Taub is gone, he was a dweeb. Thirteen was never very convincing to me, she was too whimpy for that bunch. I'm glad the old team is back together, and I, like you, wish that House and the pres would have had some scenes together. The ethical issues were pretty tough in this one, though.

Taub: I miss him. He was the most like House without even knowing it really. I thought his character had complexity, depth and great development potential. Hope they bring him back. Thirteen was pretty predictable. Amber was much better, especially after she died! Love Chase and Cameron, and it's not House without Foreman. Agree that the sit-downs with the therapist are essential to House. Bring Taub back!!

Great episode!! These last 3 episodes have been wonderful. House is far more interesting with some of his sanity regained. I loved your "Dexter" comment, Carina! Best thing about House is that you are always pleasantly surprised when he does something nice for another human being. Armchair psychology? House saw himself in the angry neighbor and found a way to end his pain-- even if it did require some shady behavior. I just love Hugh Laurie-- his darkest side is even incredibly entertaining (but the obnoxious charade player was great too).

I love James Earl Jones-- he is iconic, as you said, and always plays a memorable character. I loved the scene with "Allison" and the hypodermic. I thought the inner conflicts were well played out by all-- and I suppose we all wonder exactly what we would do in their place-- save one and result in genocide? Or try to do our part to save so many? However, it is not so perfect a world to assume that the death of one diabolical (or not?) leader would solve the issues of a torn country. Does make for one heck of an interesting episode though!
I agree with one of the writers below-- I was hoping that in the season premiere, House would have found some physical reason for at least one of the patient's insanity. But it was great season opener nonetheless-- played like a movie. I am back to being a full-time House fan again!
I am loving the show and the writers are doing a bang up job. There are the usual great one liners (and you seem to catch them all! ). Great review, Carina-- nice writing style. I agreed with you on everything and love your observations. Till next week-- let's see what surprises the writers have waiting for us.

i love to watch house .
when i get older i want to be a docter

Your going to have to learn punctuation first! This was a great review for a great episode. I'll be back next week!

I thought it was an excellent episode. I like the old team of House's better especially since Kuttner is gone. House's interaction with the neighbor showed his old self but at the same time the growth he has made in understandingsomeone else's pain and trying to help.

I was hoping at the end that Dibala really did have the condition that Chase wanted but that the meds were too late to help, that way He wouldnt at least feel guilty. Now, he knows he is capable of killing in situational ethics, and is keeping secrets from Cameron. He will go crazy with guilt. His character is not able to keep that much duality, but having two people in the show with a mental breakdown will be interesting.

I loved this episode. The cast handled the intensified drama brilliantly, and I am glad to have Chase and Cameron back. Thirteen and Taub are ok but the original team simply has a better rapport. The solemn music at the end and the light on Foreman's face as he burned the paper was moving but not cloying. Also glad that House gets to stay with Wilson for a while longer, they have perfect comic chemistry!

First of all I thought James Earl Jones' performance was absolutely fantastic.

Also, i agree that getting the old team back together enhances the show greatly, and I think this was one of the best House episodes yet

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