The "trapped together" plot is something anyone who's watched a fair share of television has seen before. While the methods vary from series to series, the premise always boils down to: through certain circumstances, characters are forced to deal directly with each other for a period of time, generally revealing some deep or mundane truth about their relationship before the end credits. (At which point, if it's a comedy, the newly freed characters will almost immediately find themselves re-trapped, because hey, No Exit is hilarious.) I wouldn't be surprised if House has already done this scenario before, even if I can't remember it happening off the top of my head, but "Lockdown" tried, at least, to use the temporary confinement of House, Wilson, and the others as a means to examine the ways people can trap themselves. Most often the writing is the sort of inorganic cheese we've come to expect at this point, but it has its moments.
In many ways, this is a refreshingly low-key ep. Of all the different ways the writers could've had the hospital shuts its doors, that they chose to use something as straightforward as a misplaced baby was a pleasant surprise. (Remember, after all, that we've had a crazed gunman and a mad dictator in recent months. Subtlety is a thing of the past.) Sure, there's drama over the missing kid, and the eventual solution is sort of random, but despite Cuddy's mad deductive skills, "Lockdown" wasn't really about a mystery. There was no big doubt the baby would be found safe and sound, and there was no massive emotional catharsis when mother and daughter were reunited. It was a necessary sub-plot to make all the other sub-plots possible, and hey, it could've been worse.
I like it when a show as set in its ways as this one decides to try something to shake up the routine, so I appreciated the idea of "Lockdown" more than I did the actual practice. The big problem is how inorganic a lot of this felt. Wilson and 13 stuck together in the cafeteria playing "Truth or Dare"? Er, okay. Taub and Foreman taking Vicodin and going over staff files? Not seeing that one. 13 is a character who likes to show off how bold she is, and Wilson is someone who desperately wishes he was bold (he seems to be getting more and more hobbit-like over the years), so I can sort of see them sparking off this way, although we don't really gain any worthwhile information from it. (Oh, 13 has a dad. So anybody betting she was a clone and/or pod creature, pay up.) But Taub and Foreman's actions are random enough to have been drawn out of a Hat of Stupid. Foreman has lost nearly all his potential as a character by now because he's painfully inconsistent. That he'd suddenly get worried about a letter in his file about cheating in school? Don't get it. I can see Taub being embarrassed and/or bitter about his current job status, but the whole sequence between the two of them was too forced and under-developed to work. (Not even going to get into the Vicodin use.)
As for Cameron and Chase, well, I'm not sure. I appreciated the chance at give the two closure, but having them hash out old drama, before dancing to "Alison" and having sex, presumably for the last time, wasn't particularly satisfying. The actors were passable (although I can't be the only one who wonders how much their real life break-up informed the scene), but there's no tragedy to their split anymore. Chase's crime has no weight. It's something that happens to series when they've been on the air too long without evolving in dramatically sound ways; this loose, "what the hell, we haven't done that before" vibe that killed whatever real emotional legitimacy The Simpsons had years ago. But all right, if we accept that Chase's actions caused the break-up, why the sudden need to lay the blame on Cameron's feet? (I love Chase's "I've spent so many nights trying to figure out what I did wrong" speech. You killed a guy, dude.) As the only consequence of a deeply unethical action, the dissolution of Chase's marriage at least had some purpose. To try and rag on poor Cameron for the umpteenth time about her dead husband issues, at this stage in the game, is strange. It's not a completely unsuccessful sequence, since the pair really did deserve some kind of goodbye, but it relies on what's become a House standard: people stating how they think they feel, and then some rushed sentiment so you don't realize how little sense that first bit made.
Thankfully, there's still House, and better still, House got stuck spending time with guest star David Strathairn. Strathairn played a dying classics professor who'd tried to get House to take his case while there'd still been hope for a cure. Now he's drowning slowly in pain, desperate to talk to his estranged daughter one last time. It's decent material done by strong actors, and while we've had ample opportunity to see House deal with the consequences of his choices before, it fit in with the general low-key attitude of the episode. (If anything rescues the Chase/Cameron sequence, it's the mild tone.) I wish we could've seen more of this, really. I was surprised that House talked about the woman at the mental institution (Franka Potente) when talking about love, and it would be nice to hope that maybe that means Cuddygate is closed for good. (I wouldn't be averse to Potente showing up again.) And Straithairn's voice message to his estranged child was heart-breaking. Everyone this week had their cage; 13 has her lies, Wilson has House, Taub and Foreman are trapped by their past, Chase and Cameron by a relationship that won't work no matter how much they wanted it too. But it was House and the dying patient that meant the most, lost in the mistakes they've made, with no clear way to set things right.
- The lighting on this show has always been stylized, but we seem to be approaching CSI-levels of color filters in this season. I'm not really a fan.
- Would a cash register in a cafeteria used mostly by doctors and nurses need a burglar alarm?
- "I want you to show your breasts to Taub." And she does. A well-worn joke, nicely done