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'House M.D.': Family obligation, meet the diabolical puppet master

February 2, 2010 | 12:10 am
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Forcing House and Wilson to become roommates has to be the best decision "House" writers have made in years.  Their cohabitation has opened up countless opportunities for insights into both characters' heads and hearts... and, more importantly, countless opportunity for silly, almost slapstick-style comedy that the show previously lacked.

Tonight's "House" episode, "Moving the Chains," featured House and Wilson in a prank war in which neither of them were actually pranking each other.  I have to admit, putting an opossum in Wilson's bathtub was a pretty genius idea.  Those things are terrifying.  Later, the handrail House installed in Wilson's bathroom so that he could get in and out of the tub without his chain comes loose. That was where I began to suspect that it wasn't actually Wilson retaliating--he doesn't pull many punches, but there was a pretty high potential for a concussion and subsequent drowning there.

The most climactic prank was a late-night shower--for the entire condo, including the precious flat-screen TV. Having realized that neither of them were behind the hijinks, House and Wilson question the diagnostics team, but ultimately realize that it's actually Lucas' doing.  He's upset that they snagged the condo out from under him and Cuddy.  (By the way, does anyone else find it weird that he refers to his girlfriend as "Cuddy" and not "Lisa"?)  If you ask me, his ultimate prank was actually the best: he dissuaded House from retaliating by threatening to tell Cuddy about their condo-hijacking, when Cuddy actually already knows.

Aside from the prank war, the episode was about family obligation.  In fact, they may have been a little heavy-handed with the theme this week.  By the end of the episode, I wanted to shout, "We get it!  We have to make sacrifices for our families! OK!!" at the TV.

Foreman's brother, Marcus (Orlando Jones) was released from prison, but Foreman isn't interested in reaching out to him. He doesn't even accept House's offer of time off to go pick his brother up.  Of course, House finds family tension as delicious as most people find cupcakes, so he does the most obnoxious thing he can possibly do: he hires Marcus as his assistant.

Foreman's delinquent past has been brought up very occasionally over the last six seasons--it was even heavily emphasized in the pilot.  However, we've never gotten the real story, since Foreman keeps it very close to his chest.  Having Marcus in the hospital gave viewers a chance to learn some things about Foreman's criminal past.  Still, it was hard to watch Foreman reject Marcus' attempts to win back his brother's affection.

Of course, Foreman ultimately does reach out to Marcus, after Marcus quits when House insensitively reveals the very private matter of their mother's recent death to the entire team.  "You didn't provoke Marcus to quit so the pranks would stop," Wilson says, offering his usual House insight. "You were becoming the common enemy they could bond over. You are the diabolical, yet benevolent, puppet master."

As it stands now, Foreman intends to convince House to give Marcus his job back, or to help him figure out another choice.  He also invited Marcus to live with him, instead of at the halfway house. I hope that we'll get to see their relationship develop over the next few episodes.  Orlando Jones is a compelling guest star, and I like the opportunity to see something of Foreman's private life that doesn't involve Thirteen.

Our major patient of the week was Daryl (Da'Vone McDonald), a 300-pound, 6 foot 7 college football player just days away from the game that would make or break his pro career.  Scouts would be at the game, and if he didn't make it onto that field, his life would be over! After a lot of false starts that, of course, include House assuming that the patient is on drugs, Daryl is diagnosed with cryoglobulinaemia.  Dumbed down for those of us without advanced medical degrees, that more or less means that there are proteins that won't dissolve in his blood.NUP_137850_0111

Unfortunately, the treatment takes three weeks: not enough time to get Daryl his playing time in front of the scouts. Daryl refuses to pass up the opportunity, though. "My mom sacrificed everything for me," Daryl tells Foreman as he heads out onto the field. "I do good out there, I can take care of her for the rest of her life. Who am I if I don't sacrifice for her? That's family."

Daryl never makes it to the game because Foreman essentially poisoned his water, causing him enough temporary blindness that Daryl agrees to go back to the hospital.  "Figured a temporarily blind patient is better than a permanently dead one," Foreman says casually, as though that's the kind of decision doctors make every day. Back at the hospital, House realizes that because Daryl is black, they didn't consider skin cancer. He finds that a tiny melanoma between Daryl's toes has been the cause of all his trouble.

Daryl moans and groans about how life has no purpose now that he's missed his pro football opportunity, but it's hard for me to sympathize with him, since most people with college degrees actually do survive without NFL contracts.  Plus, maybe I'm wrong, but do college football scouts really only show up to one game? You'd think that if they had their eye on a player, they'd give him another chance once he was done fighting cancer.

This week, the "main" patient wasn't the most compelling to me; the clinic patient was.  On "House," clinic patients tend to be used as comic relief or as the catalyst for one of House's famous "eureka!" moments where he figures out what's wrong with his diagnostics patients.  However, in this episode, clinic patient Jim Dunnegan (Trever O'Brien) gave us a powerful story line of his own.

Having finished his contract with the U.S. Army, Dunnegan was "stop-lossed" three months before his wife was due to give birth.  When we first met him, he was complaining of seeing spots, looking for a doctor's note to get out of re-enlistment.  House refused to give him a false excuse, saying, "Back in my day, the real dodgers had the stones to run up to Canada or shoot themselves in the foot. Go hug your wife and tell her to get a babysitter."

Dunnegan took House's words to heart and... shot himself in the foot.  His antibiotics didn't work, and he got an infection that would require amputation of his toe.  "The Army is perfectly fine with nine-toed infantrymen, so long as they can walk and run," House said.  Dunnegan then opted not to switch to a better antibiotic - and when we last saw him, his leg had been amputated just above the ankle.  He had successfully dodged re-enlistment to be there for his family.

Let me know what you thought of tonight's episode in the comments.  Did you think that what Dunnegan did in the name of family was honorable? Do you think Lucas took the prank war too far?  What are your thoughts on Marcus, and do you hope to see more of him? Check back next week for another recap!

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

Photos (Credit: Fox) - House (Hugh Laurie) with the Foreman brothers (Omar Epps and Orlando Jones); House examines Daryl (Da'Vone McDonald)


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