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'House M.D.': 16 spleens to be thankful for

NUP_136909_1300 As I mentioned in my review of "Grey's Anatomy" last week, I'm a big fan of Very Special Holiday Episodes. Perhaps it's leftover from Charlie Brown Christmas specials, but I like that warm-and-fuzzy feeling that holiday episodes tend to leave you with.

On "House," however, the holidays generally mean 'tis the season to be lonely, bitter and manipulative. This week's episode, "Ignorance Is Bliss," was no exception to that rule!

The case of the week was James Sidas (Esteban Powell), a boy genius who, as an adult, turned in his Mensa card and became a courier instead. He says he'd rather be happy than smart -- and apparently that's also how he likes his women, because his wife, while beautiful, drove me crazy with her obvious questions and wide-eyed confusion. In the cold open, his hand abruptly stops working, and predictably, the rest of his body follows suit.

House wouldn't be House without a scheme to distract him from his job. This week, he's decided that he's going to deal with the Cuddy/Lucas situation by simply breaking them up. Hey, at least he's being honest about it! Wilson doesn't even have to use his House-ESP to get to the bottom of it.

As far as House sees it, he's doing Cuddy a favor. After all, her relationship with Lucas can go one of two ways: They can break up eventually or stay together forever. "If they split, then the sooner it happens, the better for everyone," House says. By 'everyone,' of course, he means himself. "If it's stay, then my meddling won't matter. In fact, if they survive it, it might even make their bond stronger."

He decides that Thanksgiving is the ideal stage for his shenanigans and does his best to weasel his way into an invitation to Cuddy's sister's dinner party. When calling every Julia Cuddy within 100 miles doesn't work out, he's overly nice to Cuddy for five minutes and she invites him.

Here's the thing. I know that obviously House was attending the dinner with plans to sabotage it. I know he had the most selfish intentions and that his heart was 100% in the wrong place.

Still, after watching him choose a tie and drive three hours to Cuddy's sister's house, even knowing his nefarious design, it broke my heart to learn that Cuddy had intentionally misled him -- the house was empty except for the housesitter, who offered House a turkey sandwich.

I should probably be proud of Cuddy for dodging the inevitably torturous night he had planned for her. It's about time she started anticipating his moves. But it's Thanksgiving, and he was stranded all alone three hours from home. I'll blame the soundtrack. Was that a James Taylor cover of "Games People Play"? James Taylor is always a direct shot to the heartstrings.

I felt a little bit better when I realized that House's subsequent drunken rant to Lucas about how much he loves Cuddy was just another act. And a good one, too. House goes all-out for this particular performance -- he looked like he was a half-second from literally weeping on Lucas' shoulder when they cut to commercial.

Cuddy tells House later that she and Lucas aren't going to last long, and for a moment, it looks like House might have won -- except it turns out that Cuddy is onto him, and she's faking the confession.

Wow. Round and round we go ... where we stop, nobody knows. Finally, it seems like House is going to back off of Cuddy, and while I'm not holding my breath for that to actually happen, I hope that the epic House/Cuddy non-romance takes a back seat for a while. It's become too much of a game even for House, and it has stopped feeling genuine and believable. I do enjoy House wearing his heart on his sleeve, but it's begun to feel like too much of a good thing.

NUP_136909_1173 While House was playing the grownup version of playground tag, the rest of the team was focused on their patient. Wait ... no. That's not right. Taub was focused on helping Chase through his marriage woes. Foreman and Thirteen were focused on trying (and failing) to hide their resentful feelings about their breakup. Chase was focused on saying "I'm fine," over and over again ... until the House makes a snide remark about Cameron, and Chase punches him in the face, proving -- in case there was any doubt -- that he is nowhere near "fine."

As usual, House realized what was wrong with Sidas when a conversation with Wilson caused a light bulb to go on over House's head. While the mid-conversation epiphany is cute on occasion, I think that The Powers That Be over on the "House" writing team have been over-using it lately. At this point, they could make room in the budget by using the same footage of Hugh Laurie's "by George, I think I've got it!" face in every single episode.

It turns out that Poindexter has been using DXM (cough syrup) to dumb himself down for years, in order to tolerate his wife's inability to match his smarts. According to him, she's so stupid compared with him that sleeping with her is akin to "an act of beastiality." To avoid brain damage, he has followed the cough syrup with a shot of vodka every day. On top of that, an attempted suicide in his past led him to grow 16 spleens -- meaning that the unnecessary splenectomy House ordered was ... well, even more unnecessary.

This wasn't the feel-good lovefest we've come to expect from holiday TV, but it wasn't without its small miracles. The scene between House and Chase -- where House admitted that he deserved Chase's right hook and Chase admitted that he only did it to get everyone off his back -- was actually pretty nice. Though neither of them would ever cop to it, they've sort of become friends. During this season alone they've supported each other through some hideous moments. Their friendship may never compare to the epic House and Wilson bromance, but it's there.

Speaking of House and Wilson, I'm so glad that they're still living together. At the end of a rough day -- and yet another rejection from Cuddy -- it's nice to know that House doesn't have to go home alone to his piano, like he used to.

My favorite House-ism of this episode: "I've got all my starters back, plus a couple of first-class free agents. I feel like Mike Tomlin. Probably not as much as you do," he tells Foreman, "but you get the idea." It's a fun reference to Omar Epps' uncanny resemblance to the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Were these guys separated at birth?

Let's discuss the episode in the comments. What'd you think of House and Cuddy's antics? Did you think Chase's reaction to Taub's Thanksgiving invitation was warranted? Are you still bored by Thirteen? What do you think about Lucas and Cuddy's chemistry or lack thereof?

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Don't forget to check back here on Monday for some details from Robert Sean Leonard about next week's Wilson-centric episode.

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

Photos: Top - House (Hugh Laurie) and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein).  Bottom - Taub (Peter Jacobson) treats Sidas (Esteban Powell.)  Credit: Fox

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Comments () | Archives (7)

Yawn. "You're all better. You can go home in about a week." Cue patient crash.

Cue House being a bigger jerk than ever. Cue Cuddy sinking to his level. Cue disbelief.

Yeah, the talk to Wilson, lightbulb goes on over House's head is getting old.

Actually... it's all getting old. Time for a tune-up.

Good review, thoughtful and insightful. One quibble: I thought the 16 spleens meant that the original diagnosis was correct, the DXM abuse was a red herring, and Chase had to go back and remove the rest of the spleens (having removed only one the first time).

Indeed, that was James Taylor with a "Games people play" cover, but..I want to listen to it completely and I can not buy/find the song anywhere. Any James Taylor fans out there that could help on this?

I also liked this review. I have to admit to feeling wrenched at the end, though, especially after seeing the previews for next week's episode. I continually marvel at the combined genius of the writing, directing, and Hugh Laurie's brilliant acting to make this seemingly detestable character actually a multi-faceted man worthy of love and compassion. How does that work? Perhaps it is because I can relate to his machinations and wish I were capable of conceiving and executing them with such joyous abandon? Who knows. Anyway, despite feeling sorry and sad for House, I am impatiently waiting for the next week's episode.

Considering the last ep Teamwork, I rather enjoyed this one. Mostly because I went to the bathroom during the Huddy stuff. It really gets tiresome now and seems childlike and pathetic. I mean, this is a TV show and not real life, is it?

I absolutely adored Chase. I always found the character intriguing and I do hope they're going to explore him further more and his relationship with House. It's totally ambivalent yet caring and thoughtful, I like it way better than Huddy or even Hilson. Those two also have chemistry. Loved the little smile they gave each other in the last scene! Sad as it is, but I think Chase needed to get freed by Cameron in order to become a character you would want to know more about, which he was in the first two seasons. Their relationship never worked with me. I wish there wasn't so many "ships" on the show, it spoils the fun a little. But, of course, that's probably just me.

Cuddy/Lucas may turn out into something unexpected, given the fact that Lucas sneaks around in PPTH for personal information about Houses team... You never know.

As for House, I think he seriously needs another sitting with Dr. Nolan. I thought he would melt down a little after Mayfield. I still haven't given up all hope but it looks dark right now.

However, I really liked season 6 so much better than 5. Of course it has its flaws. But I grew to like most of the characters on the show and it would be sad to see it end. PotW? Don't really care, as long as Taub is kind and sweet enough to invite Chase to Thanksgiving dinner. :)

Good review.

House is still gameplaying and a jerk. Cuddy and Lucas are stooping to his level. Taub is lying to his wife. Foreman and Thirteen are still boring. The patient is the stupidest of all about his marriage.

For this they got rid of Cameron?

At least next week's Wilson-centric episode should be better. It was written by David Foster.

I agree with most of this. It's time that TPTB moved on from all the stupid, prank-playing, not funny any more Huddy storylines. I don't quite know why they think that dragging this out is helping, because it is clearly not.

House was at its best (as a show) in the first few seasons when House was a snarky, witty genius, Cuddy was a strong, independent woman who could run a hospital and keep her employees under control, and the ducklings had chemistry (and in Foreman's case, a personality). What they are giving us now is House going from being a kinder, gentler House to being a bigger jerk than he's ever been, Cuddy playing physically harmful pranks while desperately trying to find a baby daddy and making sure her wardrobe is impossibly tight and impossibly low cut, and Foreman/13 who are both individually and as a couple two of the most incredibly stiff and boring people on the planet.

Dump Huddy, dump Foreteen (not just the relationship, but also the characters themselves), give us more House, more Wilson, MORE CLINIC PATIENTS, and interesting POTWs that are more than a background annoyance.

It saddens me to say it, but this show has jumped the shark. They have lost 1.1 million viewers this week with next week's episode being the last before an 8 week hiatus. If they don't step it up by next week, there's a good chance that the 8 week hiatus will turn into something permanent for a lot of viewers.


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