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

November 23, 2009 | 10:23 pm
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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