"Known Unknowns" started off on a bad, heh, foot; the acting in the cold open was lousy, and freaky as the swelling hands and feet were, I wasn't exactly keen on spending the next forty minutes trying to solve "Jordan"'s problems. Little did I realize that her woes would be far from the most annoying thing about the episode. Once you get past the lackluster performance, at least whatever made her swell and lie and go all gray was life-threatening and, as such, somewhat interesting. Not so much the medical conference that House, Wilson, Cuddy, and Cuddy's daughter Rachel attended. Wilson wants to give a paper about euthanasia, to cover his own guilt about a patient? Okay, I can live with that. House drugging him and taking his place was fun, and it led to some nice soppiness and so forth.
But we also got to deal with the dreaded return of Chuddy, and even better, the writers found a way to somehow keep House and Cuddy apart at the end that was nearly as disappointing and creepy as if they had hooked up. Signs were bad from the beginning when our first scene with Cuddy has her wearing a blouse so embarrassingly low cut I assumed she was late for a wenching class; it didn't get better when the camera angle managed to look down her shirt at least three times in a row. And then give us a nice shot of her ass as she was bending over. I'm not entirely sure what was being conveyed here, but it might maybe have been that House was contemplating sexual relations with his boss again. Possibly. It was sort of a gray area.
One of the biggest problems with the attempts at putting House and Cuddy together is that the writers seem incapable of doing this in a way that makes Cuddy his equal. She's a character who, for a long time, was known entirely by how she affected our leading man, which already puts her at a disadvantage; she was the person who kept trying to hold him back or keep him from doing crazy things, the disciplinarian, the somewhat attractive but still stern nun in the church of healing. The last couple seasons, in order to make this relationship even remotely plausible, they tried to make her more than that, so we got the baby obsession. Generic, upwardly mobile career woman stuff. And now, whenever the two of them have romantic scenes together, she either endures his double entendres with a mild nod towards a reprimand, or gets all googly eyed at him and blinks too much.
I was talking to a friend while watching tonight's episode, and he said that at the core of this series is House's basic unhappiness. I think that's right, and as nice as it is to think that he can change and grow up and become part of society, that sort of change doesn't really belong on the show. Give us an ending with some hope, and then move on to something new. The current iteration of House, which tries to keep the sarcasm but tone down the misanthropy and sadness, is the kind of medical procedural that the first few seasons did so well to puncture, by suggesting that, okay, sometimes people really do suck and that it's possible to be broken inside and bitter and still do good without feeling good about it.
I'm not explaining this properly, and I realize this kind of commentary bothers some readers. It bothers me, too. Because I miss scenes like House and Cameron's first dinner date, where he told her flat out why he figured she was going out with him--and how you couldn't be completely sure if he was right or not. That season also had him asking her to go see some monster trucks. It wasn't perfect, but the show used to have a better balance of real loneliness and real pleasure, and I think it's lost that.
Case-in-point: while House is on the road to Wellville, he and Cuddy can't get together quite yet, because while we've switched over to happy, cuddly House (who's still managed to drug two people so far this season against his will), we still need baffling, often random roadblocks in his way to create the illusion of drama. So, House explains to Cuddy that the reason he never called her after their one night stand is that he got expelled from med school the next morning? Well, it has to turn out that she's already dating Lucas, the private detective from last year!
Technically, there was some slight set-up to this with Lucas's creepy obsession with Cuddy. In practice, did they draw a name out of a hat?
There was more going on tonight than just the romance gears grinding their way through my good-will; we had creepy, "did the teenage girl have sex with the older man or didn't she?" mystery, plus her workaholic parents who are totally responsible for her going to concerts and stuff. (Scott Tobias will be happy to hear, there was a cell phone present.) Chase finally confessed his sin to Cameron, in yet another horribly melodramatic and clunkily acted scene. The Wilson/House stuff was okay, because Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard have decent chemistry. Cuddy and House just bored me to tears, and the return of Lucas--the idea that Cuddy would go out with a stalker guy--is just lame as hell. Maybe next week, House can date someone who looks exactly like Lisa Edelstein, only she can be a stripper, so we can get her in more revealing outfits. That would just be about perfect.
- Some points are due for having Laurie dressed a bit like he did in his role as the Prince Regent from Blackadder The Third.
- From now on, I'm going to start every paper I write with: "Euthanasia: Let's tell the truth. We all do it."