I just spent the last eight hours watching–and blogging–Super Bowl coverage, so forgive me if this House write-up is a little shorter than usual. But don't take the briefness as a knock on the episode itself, because this was a solid installment of House, working on two out of three of its intended levels.
First off, it offered another clever twist on the show's usual formula–albeit one similar to the "House solves a case over the phone" from a couple of seasons back. This week's patient: Arctic-stationed doctor Mira Sorvino, who falls ill and has to submit herself to diagnosis via web-cam. What follows are a series of puckish long-distance seduction scenes, with House urging the doctor to disrobe for the camera, and her insisting that he show her around his apartment first, so he can get some sense of what kind of guy he is.
Their tongue-in-cheek give-and-take has a thematic purpose. Right around the time Sorvino had to give herself a painful biopsy, it clicked: House is really doing one of his periodic self-examinations, by comparing his sense of how a doctor is supposed to behave with the actions of Sorvino, who seems like him because she lives far away from people, but is actually nothing like him because she does what she does out of selflessness. Of course none of this advances the House character in any significant way, because that's not what Season Four has been about. It's been more about letting House play his games, and making them as entertaining as possible.
On that score, the House writers failed with this week's B-story, which involved House's team trying to get the hospital administrators to restore free cable TV service, by sabotaging Dr. Cameron, who's on the budget committee. Later, House admitted that the real point of the assignment was to get his lackeys to stop doing whatever he asks–to stand up to him for a change. But that doesn't really seem consistent with what's happening in the rest of the episode. "Change" is not what House's character has been up to this season. Check this title of this episode for confirmation.
-A surprise ending! Cutthroat Bitch returns!
-Mira Sorvino looks different. Not bad, but not like she looked back when she was a movie star.
-Cool use of the webcam conceit: having Sorvino hold her cam as she passes out.
-Disgusting diagnostic methods foisted upon Sorvino's partner up north: having him drink her urine to test for salinity, and having him drill a hole in her head to release some fluid build-up.
-It was cute that the team gathered outside "the patient's room," even though there was no actual patient in there.
-A mid-show House commercial was set to Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," which seems a little insensitive now that Winehouse is actually in rehab. Still pretty funny.
-"If only she weren't in a coma, we could get her to run a test to find out why she's in a coma. The results would probably be paradoxical."
-"Did Shakespeare test his final play, Snow Dogs?"