Whenever a network TV show tries to give us a cynical hero, they always surround that hero with softening influences. With House, it’s his team, and Cuddy, and, of course,
Lately, though, that’s been changing. Cuddy is freaking out because she’s not having what she considers the appropriate emotional response to her baby; instead of telling her to relax, Wilson puts on his worried face and actually tells House what’s going on. So House gives a big speech about how Cuddy can easily give the baby back, it won’t hurt anyone, and the kid won’t even remember her in the long run. Cameron gets pissed at him for this, and Cuddy acts like she should be offended, but you know what? He’s right. His speech is a completely reasonable, sane approach to a difficult situation, and exactly the sort of thing Cuddy needed to hear at that moment. But instead of acknowledging this, we get the usual line about House being cold and unemotional and dick-ish.
The show has been throwing that out way too often of late; while overlooking his major sins (like, I dunno, giving a gun back to a hostage-taker), characters are constantly over-reacting to his blunt but generally logical opinions. Again, this has always been an element on House, and it could be I’m reading too much into it because I’ve been so disappointed with the current season. But it seems like the reactions are less about justifiable shock and more about following the old structure without understanding why it worked in the first place.
House does get off a couple good ones in “Big Baby,” mostly in his interactions with Cameron, who briefly takes over a big part of Cuddy’s job. Their plotline is probably the ep’s closest thing to a highlight, with each one trying to outthink the other one in House’s treatment of a special ed teacher who's coughing up blood. We even got a little spark of that Classic Coke chemistry—House telling Cameron she’d “put out” may not have been exactly classy, but at least it was interesting. (And funny as hell.)
Another big problem with the current season is that the big dramatic arcs we’re currently dealing with—Cuddy’s baby problems, Foreman and 13’s medical mystery tour—have nothing to do with our main character. Sure, there’s that unresolved Chuddy-romance, and House makes some snarky comments on the sidelines about the Oreo hook up, but that's all secondary. These are plotlines that could’ve stepped out of any medical drama without any real change; much as I like Omar Epps and Lisa Edelstein, I watch House for House, and without him tied directly into the action, I’m losing interest, fast.
In the follow up to his discovery in “Painless” that 13 is on the placebo in the drug trials, we get a lot of soul-searching from Foreman in “Baby,” and not only is it pretty tedious (although it was nice seeing Chase again), it also seems out of character. Foreman and 13 have been dating for, what, a couple weeks now? Maybe a month? And he’s willing to risk his career to get her a treatment he’s not even sure will work. Foreman’s at his best when he’s at his most mercenary, and while I appreciate a certain selfishness in his actions here—13 is, after all, quite hot—I’m just not buying this. It doesn’t help that we had two “Gosh, it’s great that I’ll be living a long, full life, isn’t it?” moments from 13; the second even had her going off about wanting kids.
But hey, there’s still the patient getting treated, so at least we’ve got some Hugh Laurie ass-kicking for that. Too bad the PotW, Sarah, is a rerun of a half a dozen before her, a saintly woman whose saintliness House is both right and wrong to immediately suspect. “Baby” works to wring as much drama as possible out of House’s crazy treatments and Cameron’s desperate attempts to assert her authority; the series has always pushed the line with what Doc Sherlock is allowed to pull, but it just gets absurd here, to the point where you actually hope Sarah finds herself a good lawyer after leaving the hospital. It all climaxes with House cutting open her skull and futzing around with her brain; Kutner freaks out and calls Cuddy, then puts his cell phone over the speaker so she can order House to stop the procedure. Normally this would be exciting, but I think they overplayed their hand, with Cuddy’s baby shrieking and her yelling at it to “tell me what you want” while the PotW whimpers and generally freaks out.
As is always the case, every mistake brings House a bit closer to the truth; here it’s figuring out that, since the patient got annoyed when her blood pressure dropped, she has a mucked up heart, which helped her stay calm in a crisis but also led to blood going into all the wrong places (and missing some of the right ones). But Cameron has learned her lesson; she quits the job, telling Cuddy she can’t handle it because she “can’t say no to House.” This leads to Cuddy deciding she has to go back to work, so it looks like the reset button has been given a nudge. At least Foreman went ahead and switched out 13’s meds for the good stuff, so we’ll probably get some crazy out of that next Monday. This one made me laugh a couple of times, so points there, but otherwise, poor character-work and a familiar arc don't add up to much.
--Y’know, they could just film Hugh Laurie getting annoyed at people for forty minutes, and I’d watch it.
--I like how Cuddy tells Cameron, “Do not play [House’s] games, because you will lose.” Yeah, and Cuddy wins so much of the time.