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'House M.D.': The scheming is contagious

January 12, 2010 |  7:11 am
NUP_134278_1109 After a five-week hiatus, "House" returned Monday night with some slightly more lighthearted fare than we've become accustomed to this season.

In the first half of the series' sixth season, fans were treated to heaps of angst. House battled his mental illness and addiction and saw the painful side of his feelings for Cuddy.  Wilson continued to struggle with the death of his girlfriend Amber, while battling several gut-wrenching ethical dilemmas at work. And, speaking of ethical dilemmas, we saw the final demise of House's original team when Chase took a war criminal's life and his marriage to Cameron ended.

Despite a gloomy and tragic "patient of the week" story, Monday's episode, titled "The Down Low," served as a reminder that through it all, the Princeton Plainsboro doctors haven't lost their collective sense of humor.

Fans of House and Wilson's odd-couple shtick got a real treat this week.  The BFFs have gotten comfortable in their new apartment -- despite the fact that they don't have any window treatments, and their furniture collection begins and ends with bar stools.  When Wilson meets their neighbor Nora (Sasha Alexander), he's instantly intrigued -- but she sidesteps his dinner invitation because she assumes that he and House are boyfriends.

House finds this hilarious, and sees a golden opportunity for a sleazeball move that could've been pulled straight from Barney Stinson's "Playbook."  Though he does Wilson the favor of telling Nora that they're straight, his actions speak louder than words when he subsequently tears the wrapping off of a huge framed poster of "A Chorus Line" and coos over Nora's Louboutins.  When it comes to stereotyping, House has never been the most politically correct.

"I started doing this to mess with you. Now, I'm honestly trying to hit that," House tells Wilson happily of his plan to play gay.  "I got it all figured out. Nora and I spend the next few weeks hanging out, become best girlfriends, I confide in her about our issues, and then one night we get drunk. Back-rub turns into a front-rub, and the next morning.... I've never felt this way about a woman before! I'd like to date her, in the sense that I'd like to jump her repeatedly."

Though House likes to think otherwise, Wilson is always one step ahead of him. When Wilson interrupts House and Nora's dinner... only to get down on one knee and propose to House in front of the entire restaurant ... House's bluff has officially been called. It doesn't take long for Nora to catch on and decide that both House and Wilson are "mendacious dirt bags." 

Elsewhere, the kids aren't exactly playing nice.  Chase, Thirteen, and Taub do some scheming of their own when they decide that Foreman needs to be "taken down a few notches."  With a few forged pay stubs and a fancy watch borrowed from one of Thirteen's friends, they convince Foreman that he's significantly underpaid compared to the rest of his team.

As the team leader, Foreman is understandably peeved, but Cuddy isn't interested in raising his pay until his review in August.  Feeling underappreciated, Foreman tells the team that he's decided to leave his job, despite his lack of prospects elsewhere.

Chase, Thirteen, and Taub decide they've pushed it a bit too far.  Feeling guilty, they approach Cuddy and offer to take pay cuts in order to boost Foreman's salary. "Foreman is a good team leader," Chase says. "He deserves it."  It's only after Cuddy has sealed the deal that the team realizes that their bluff has been called as well!  Foreman had no intention of leaving. 

"The phrase, 'Who's your daddy?' comes to mind," Foreman says.  I loved this storyline.  It was good to see the team joking around together, and bonding.  Foreman often appears humorless and uptight -- does he ever have any fun? -- so watching him give his friends a taste of their own medicine was incredibly satisfying.NUP_134278_0179

Of course, it wasn't all hijinks and musical theater.  Ethan Embry gave a strong performance as the patient of the week, Mickey, a drug dealer who turns out to be an undercover cop.  Even when House needs to investigate environmental factors, Mickey is unwilling to sacrifice his extensive sting operation even for his own health.  In a heartwarming moment, another one of the drug dealers, Eddie -- a real dealer this time -- puts his own freedom on the line to help Mickey ... who is, in turn, working to get Eddie arrested.  It's a vicious circle in which the "bad guy" turns out to be courageous, whereas the "good guy" is mostly just stubborn.

Ultimately, however, it's all in vain.  Mickey's abuse of beta blockers has triggered an incurable autoimmune disorder, and he's barely got days to live. Finally, he gives up his cover and asks for his wife, so that he's not alone in his dying days.  As he holds his loved one, the sting operation brings Eddie and his crew down.

It's always a bummer when the team loses a patient, but in this case, there was never anything they could have done. The episode still went out on an amusing note, as Wilson good-naturedly tortured House with some show tunes, singing, "You know you'll never be lonely with you-know-who!"


Were you satisfied after five weeks of waiting? What'd you think of Chase's new clean-cut big-boy haircut? Did you get a kick out of House and the team getting their just deserts? What do you hope to see from the second half of the season?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and don't forget to come back next week!

--Carina MacKenzie (chat with me on Twitter @cadlymack)

Photos: From top, Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) and House (Hugh Laurie) argue over their neighbor; Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) and House discuss their patient Mickey (Ethan Embry). Credit: Fox