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House: "Baggage" 




Season 6 , Episode 20

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The episode is called "Baggage," and in the interest of full disclosure, that's what I brought to it. No, I'm not talking about my problems with House's trip to the asylum at the start of the season, although those were very much on mind. The baggage I mean is the kind that makes me more inclined to view House's visit to Dr. Nolan in a charitable light. Sometimes TV, even kind of silly TV, hits you where you don't expect, and having anything approaching a detached opinion becomes basically impossible. 

The reason I've always loved House is that I've always found it easy to identify with the show's lead. Not because I'm super smart, or because I have an interest in medicine, or because I'm a creep to anyone with the misfortune of being within earshot, but because I can relate to his inability to fit into standard social norms, and his need to comprehend those norms on some intellectual level. I suspect I'm not alone in this. A show like House relies partly on its medical mysteries, but also on the way nearly everyone has moments when they not only fail to fit in, but fail to understand why they don't fit in. I like House because he's an essentially good person (deeply flawed, yes, but good) who reacts to the bizarre demands of the world by declaring open war on their inanities. I've spent most of my life being told I "think too much," and I respect a show that acknowledges how difficult it is not to do that.

Obviously, none of this is all that interesting to you, but I mention it in passing because, well, my identification with House has colored my reviews from the start, and tonight I found myself both relating more strongly to some of his problems than ever before, while at the same time seeing clear problems with the show that haven't gone away. House's fear of relationships, his inability to understand how that fear drives him, his tendency to use the most transparent methods of dodging the issue, even when he's intelligent enough to be well aware of his transparency--that's solid. I can believe that House has trust issues, and I can believe that those issues drive him to act out in unhelpful, and often hurtful ways. I don't really appreciate these things being drawn out in such an obvious A-to-B-to-Crazy way, but the root problem? It's not so unreasonable.

Andre Braugher is also a welcome face to have back. I question the wisdom of a therapist who treats sessions as a form of combat, admittedly. Since House already views every personal relationship as a battle, it would make more sense to me if Nolan took a, if not conciliatory, at least more surprising tack. But hey, Braugher is good, so I'll let that slide. Using a therapy session to give us this week's patient was clever, as we got to cut through all the usual medical gibberish, and I'm always a sucker for "characters telling a story interacting within the story and with the listener" scenes. Really, this is just putting another coat of fresh paint on ideas we've seen before, but since it relied mostly on two strong actors to carry it along, it was agreeable.

Less agreeable was Alvarez, the one-note roommate from House's mental hospital sojurn. This character represents the worst of that mini-arc, because there's nothing well-drawn or interesting about him. He's just "hyper crazy guy," and his only purpose here is to provide an outlet for House to handle his issues with Wilson. Alvie has left at the end, and I'm hoping for good. Also problematic was Wilson's decision to kick House out of his home. It's too abrupt, and it's overly harsh, especially since Wilson knows House has been drinking, and House hasn't even been aggressive in trying to get rid of Sam. It smacks of contrived drama just to force House to some kind of crisis point, and that does a disservice to Wilson as a character. 

The obviousness of the therapy is also irksome. Nolan has to look up the book House keeps hunting for, as if the fact that he's determined to track down some valuable piece of his old life that someone else now owns doesn't draw clear enough lines in the sand. The direct connection to Cuddy was embarrassing, as is the re-emergent concept of her as some kind of deeply felt romantic loss. House was willing enough to pounce on Stacy back in season 2; if he wanted Cuddy so badly, why wouldn't he have made a move before? Nolan's continued "surprise" about House's fondness for the lady is disingenuous. Clearly he knows House has feelings for her (their imaginary affair is what drove House to commit himself in the first place), wouldn't it make more sense to try and help him move on with his life? Grand gestures are swell in the movies, but in the real world, when two people are moving in together, that's when you spend a weekend with a bottle of scotch and your copy of Groundhog Day, and then you get over it.

So, yeah, mixed. Very surface-level flashy, the usual good acting, but I suspect what little depth I found was mostly due to personal reasons. Once again, I'm in agreement with House, who left the session after accusing Nolan of selling "snake oil." The only problem is, I think we're supposed to believe that that House is wrong.

Stray Observations:

  • Nolan asked a lot of stupid questions. Like, when House goes hunting to get back the furniture and books that Alvarez pawned, Nolan says, "Why is it so important that you get your stuff back?" Seriously? 
  • The PotW had amnesia, brought on by an allergic reaction from a tattoo she'd had unsuccessfully removed. Huzzah.