We get two PotWs in "Emancipation": a sixteen year-old girl with seizures and a confusing history, and a little boy with stomach pains. The former is for House and his lackeys to solve, the latter is Foreman's chance to prove that he doesn't need House standing over his shoulder to solve a case. Unsurprisingly, both cases end up thematically related by the end; and sadly enough, both cases are pretty boring.
There is a particular phenomenon that's been discussed elsewhere on the TV Club boards: the way that some shows can have a dynamite supporting cast, but suck rocks when it comes to their main character. It comes down to the fact that it's difficult to write heroes and not have them wind up boring. Too often with an on-going series, a lead has to be relatable to just about everyone, and because of that, they don't get a whole lot of room to develop or grow. Besides, these are people who have things happen to them, not people who make things happen–which may help with the structure long-term, but doesn't make them the most endearing folks around.
Clearly, that's not the case with House. There's a reverse to the Dull Hero Theory, and that's a show where the main character is basically the only interesting thing going on. Something like Dexter, with its terrific central performance and conceit, surrounded by a lot of wasteland and tedium. We don't have to suffer quite that much with House, but there are moments; at the very least, without Hugh Laurie, you don't have a series.
If that's true, why does he seem so tangential to the action lately? Of the two main threads this week, House largely stayed in the background on both; he delivered his usual snark during team meetings, prodded Foreman to grow up a bit, and like always, had the big deduction when it came time to figuring out PotW #1's secret. There were a couple scenes of him and Wilson messing about, but it hardly built up to much.
After all the ado over kissing Cuddy, I can understand that it was time to ease off on the sub-plot for an episode or three. (Or, hell, you can junk it for the rest of the season, eh?) House has been on the air for nearly five years, and it's not like this is the first time that Dr. Doom has been relegated to the sidelines. But there's been a sense this whole season of House pulling away from the rest of the cast. Maybe it's intentional, maybe it's building to something; I really hope it is. For right now, though, it just makes the show a lot less fun to watch.
Of the two PotW's, the girl, Sophia, had the more dramatic story, but it all seemed a little familiar. She's claims her parents are dead; she is, of course, lying. Her parents are alive, but her next story is that her father raped her, and her mother lied about it, so she wants nothing to do with either of them. This becomes important when the team finds she's dying of leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant (neat little twist here; they treat her for arsenic poisoning initially, only to find that the arsenic was actually holding the leukemia off), and her parents are her best chance for donors. She refuses to contact them, so Thirteen tracks them down for her. (Kutner would've done it, but he's still all sad that Sophia lied to him.) Only it turns out "Sophia" isn't the girl's real name, and those aren't her real parents. At first it looks like she'll take her secret to the grave, but then House realizes that she's rationalizing far too quickly, and forces her to confess the real reason she split from her parents: she's responsible for the death of her brother. He drowned in the tub when she was supposed to be watching him.
So the real parents are found, there's a reunion, etc. It was a bit much; and the final reveal paralleled a little too nicely with the other main case of the week, a little boy named Jonah. When Cuddy gives him the chance to prove he doesn't need House, Foreman struggles with the diagnosis and turns to Cameron and Chase for help (yay!); but when they can't figure it out, he gives up and asks House. Only House refuses to help, forcing Foreman to get the answer on his own–the kid's suffering from too much iron, and it's all because his brother has been giving him too many vitamins. So on the one hand, we have a girl who killed her brother from too little care, on the other, a boy who nearly killed his brother from too much. Very neat. But oddly generic, even the lying "Sophia." The strongest element in her story was her relationship with her real parents, but given how the episode unfolds, there's no real relationship until the closing montage.
The most interesting aspect of Jonah's story wasn't about the little boy at all. It's how Foreman is trying once again to define his position on House's staff. Foreman's efforts to figure out what kind of doctor he can be have always yielded good drama, but while I like how this ended, with him telling House he's going to do clinical trials, and House being okay with it, it seems sort of redundant. After all, Foreman did have a different job for a bit, and he did save at least one life there; the training wheels have been off for a while.
Really, this season needs to up the ante again. According to promos, we've got a gunman and an extra-long episode next time, so here's hoping that will be more memorable than what we got here.
--Taub tells Sophia he has Huntington's, and Thirteen freaks out. Sheesh.
--From Thirteen: "So the object in life is to get hurt just the right amount?" She says it sarcastically, but that sounds pretty much dead on to me.
--A brief glimpse into Foreman, M.D. Apparently, he's much nicer.