C+

House: "Changes"

C+

House

"Changes"

Season 7, Episode 20

(For the next several days, some of our writers will be swapping duties on some of our most popular shows. Some of them will like what they see, but for different reasons. Some of them will have vastly different opinions from the regular reviewers. And some of them won’t be all that different. It’s Second Opinions Week at TV Club.)

At the risk of being pelted with dozens of rotten tomatoes (metaphorically speaking, or at least I hope), I’m going to start this recap with a confession: I’ve never been a regular House viewer.  The show and I are like friends with benefits who see each other a few times a year, often on hungover weekend afternoons or during long flights. I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent with House but I never felt the need to take our relationship to the next level. I like my chance encounters with the show just fine, and I’m easily seduced, but usually by the end of our little trysts I’m remind of why I don’t return more regularly, as I was tonight.

At this point, it’s well beyond stating the obvious to say that Hugh Laurie is the best thing about this show.  But allow me, if you will, to elaborate. Truth be told, the major reason I even watch House is because of a long-standing, somewhat inexplicable crush on Hugh Laurie, a crush which dates back to the mid-‘90s and his role as a (what else) misanthropic country gentleman in Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility. I mean, who wants Hugh Grant in knickers when you can have this guy?

But I’ve always felt there’s a disconnect between House/Laurie and the rest of the cast. House has some great supporting characters—Wilson, Cuddy—but there are some real snoozers as well (I’m talking to you, little Australian man).  Then there’s the fact that, relatively speaking, House appears to be another breed of human altogether, a castaway on an island populated with Abercrombie and Fitch models. Again, stating the obvious (This just in: Olivia Wilde is gorgeous),  but it’s always seemed more than a little silly to me,  a conspicuous, almost self-conscious nod to Hollywood’s exacting beauty standards.  (“You want young and hot? Well, have we got just the thing for you!” ) Similarly, the show has an ersatz look to it, an antiseptic sheen, that’s off-putting; it looks fake. 

Another problem for me is that House relies on a formula of predictable unpredictability; you can tell how close you are to a diagnosis by how many minutes after the hour it is.  If you’re 20 minutes in, there's bound to be about 3 more working hypotheses by the end of the episode; if you’re at minute 48, you can prepare for a landing. For me, the thrill of the constant narrative switchbacks wears off pretty quickly. It’s a fun ride every once in a while, but every week? I’ll pass.

Enough with the generalizations: let's turn our attention to tonight's episode. To borrow Zach’s wonderful acronym, this week’s” PotW” is Cyrus, a refrigerator repairman-turned lotto winner played by Donal Logue, who first charmed Americans back in the heady days of the grunge era, playing Jimmy the Cab Driver on MTV. Here, he’s in a familiar role as a lovable but slovenly working class guy.  He’s on a quest to reunite with his long-lost love, a girl named Jennifer with whom he shared a passionate weekend at the Jersey Shore.

The search is cut short when Cyrus is stricken with a sudden case of paralysis. Sure enough, Jennifer—or, more accurately,  a Jennifer impersonator--shows up at the hospital. In a not-very-surprising twist, it turns out that Cyrus’s cousin-cum-limo-driver and the fake Jennifer are scheming to get their hands on Cyrus’s fortune.  Early in the episode, Cyrus expresses his reluctance to become what he calls a “tabloid cliché”—i.e., the lottery winner who’d duped out of his money by manipulative friends and family. It’s too bad that that’s precisely what this storyline devolves into.  When the real Jennifer showed up in the last seconds of the episode, it felt like a sentimental afterthought.

Cyrus’s real purpose in the episode was to force some kind of personal discovery for 13. She’s skeptical about fake-Jennifer’s motives, and the discovery that she was right all along does little to make her feel better.  House wants to view 13’s cynicism as a sign that they are kindred, wounded spirits; he thinks he “gets” her because, like him, she’s sick. Or, as she (sarcastically) says: “I love being back, and having every theory you and I share used  as proof of my personal damage.” One of the things that I really do enjoy about House is how the characters consistently try to diagnose each other psychologically. This episode may have gone a little overboard in this regard—Chase and Foreman seem unduly interested in each other’s mental well-being—but it’s one of the more effective themes on the show.  It’s as if they just can’t quiet their deductive minds.

The last component of tonight’s episode is the feud between Arlene, House and Cuddy, In a very House-ian twist, it turns out that Arlene’s aggressively litigious behavior is really just an elaborate way of trying to get Cuddy and House back together again. But it’s not meant to be “I'm sorry mom. Some things take more than a common enemy,” Cuddy says. It was sweet, if the kind of elaborate reverse psychology that only works on television.

Stray observations:

  • “I want a relationship with no sex but I still have to deal with your mother.”
  • Did anyone else think the “I only eat canned food” revelation was going to go at least be some kind of red herring?
  • “That was totally courageous of Khloe to tweet about her weight gain.”
    "she's like this in bed, too. always scheming to get the lawyers out of the room."
  • “Think you're in danger of being dissolved by your own stomach acids.”
  • “Forget yoga. Embrace sin.”
  • Catchphrase least likely to sweep the nation: “We are who we are. lotteries are stupid.

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