C+

House: "Last Resort"

So there's this guy–with a gun–and he busts into Cuddy's office while House is screwing around with her desk, and he asks for Cuddy, and House is all like, "Pfft, enjoy my sarcasm!" and the guy's all like, "Okay, suck on some hostages!"–and he brings a bunch of people in from the clinic, because, y'know, that whole gun thing makes an especially persuasive argument, and he tells House, whose totally paying attention now, that if House doesn't figure out what's causing the gun guy's symptoms (shortness of breath, tired, rashes), somebody's going to die.

Oh, and this is all in an episode (called "Last Resort") that runs an extra! eight! minutes! Freaking awesome.

Or it could've been, anyway. As is, "Resort" isn't a total failure, but it's definitely a disappointment; and those extra eight minutes were largely eaten up in a series of short, pointlessly arty sequences that should've been left on the cutting room floor. Once again we're treated to 13's struggles with mortality, and once again, those struggles left me largely cold–the writing seemed less like how a real person (or at least a believable character) would handle a situation, and more like an intellectual exercise designed by people with no real feel for human nature.

That's really my biggest problem with the episode, and for the parts of this season that have left me cold. You can make an argument that 13, confronted by her impending doom, would flirt with death as a way of finding control over her situation; if she gives up hope now, she won't have to worry about crashing as hard when the inevitable occurs. This is logical, but in practice it always comes across as overly mechanical and self-aware, especially given the nature of the series to constantly comment on itself. 13's problems are never affecting, because there's never any surprise in what she's going to do next.

But at least we still have House, right? Watching him deal with the gunman, Jason (Zeljko Ivanek), was initially a lot of fun; as he jumps from disease to disease, getting his whole team in on the case via cell phone and making drug exchanges with Cuddy, he seems interested in solving the mystery, and even moderately concerned at having a gun pointed at his head. He tries some cleverness early on to slip Jason knock-out meds, but it goes south when the guy proves to be just smart enough to stay in charge for as long as the episode needs him to be. From then on, 13 has to have first crack at whatever drugs House decides to try; she volunteers, because of the whole near-death wish mentioned above, and spends most of the remainder of the episode looking pale and dying prettily. So in addition to solving the problem, House also has to keep her from dying; but weirdly enough, this never enters into any of his calculations. It seems like a missed opportunity–the show gets more interesting when House has to work under restrictions, and having him try and find ways to treat Jason without killing 13, instead of just getting shocked each time Jason demands 13 test the meds, could've been neat.

We get some stuff outside Cuddy's office with Cuddy and the SWAT guys, and the various Coke teams running around not accomplishing much, but for once, the focus is largely on the central story. (Hell, it's the only story.) Which makes the occasional directorial flourishes even more irritating; instead of keeping the tension high, every ten minutes we're treated to some bizarre slow-down of events. I liked the music cue at the cold open well enough, but everything after that was a useless distraction.

Eventually House et al leave the office for a trip to Radiology to give Jason an x-ray. Here's where we get the episode's biggest twist. After the first x-ray has a "starburst" blocking the picture, House convinces Jason to give up his gun in order to get a clean picture from the machine. Jason ultimately agrees and House re-runs the machine; but once he realizes that his current diagnosis was incorrect, House gives the gun back to buy himself some more time to figure out the real problem.

I can almost see this working. House's obsession with puzzles, his need to know, has been well-documented on the series, and having his current patient leave with the puzzle unsolved would drive him crazy. But again we have that lack of understanding of human nature in the writing. I can buy House being tempted, and if it was only him and the gunman, I could've believed he'd be arrogant enough to do it. But 13 and the teenager were still in the room; for House to willingly put their lives in danger again is just beyond the pale. Worse, he suffers no consequences for it; by episode's end, the status quo has been restored. He aided a felon in front of witnesses–he did it just to satisfy his own curiosity–and the worst he gets is a tongue-lashing from 13 about his ego. That's lazy as hell.

Maybe the reason House could justify giving the gun back is because he believed that Jason was no longer a threat; this is probably what we're supposed to think, given the way the two bond over "needing an answer." But we're never given any real sense as to who Jason is. Apart from some babbling about the "need," he's not a character so much as a plot device, which makes House's decision even harder to sympathize with. If the motivation had been more specific, or better developed, it could've worked; but the guy is a blank slate, which meant there was no way to predict his actions. I spent the last ten minutes really hoping House had screwed with the gun somehow–but no. He was just being a dick, and in the end, no one really cared.

"Resort" did have its share of nice touches: the final, silent exchange between House and Jason, confirming melioidosis; the chat between Cuddy and House in the final scene that dealt with the relationship issue in a believable way; the reveal on what House had been doing to Cuddy's desk at the beginning of the episode; and hell, at least 13 has finally gotten over her emo crap and is going to take some steps towards living her life. Really, though, for the hype, this was a let-down.

Grade: C+

Stray Observations:

--Wire Watch: Wood Harris, Mr. Avon Barksdale himself, was the head of the SWAT team. He wasn't much good, either, but I'd blame that more on the role than the actor.

--Gunman: "Florida counts?" House: "Well, not to the Supreme Court."

--House on 13: "I would've laid money you had herpes."

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