House: "Open and Shut"
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House: "Open and Shut"

Relationships are tough, right? I've heard this, anyway. There's an idea we're taught at an early age that couples are a natural progression of socialization, that falling in love with someone who loves you in return leads to marriage, and that marriages have a mystical shield around them that means they always inherently make sense, even when things get difficult. As you get older, though, you lose faith. Maybe you realize your parents aren't doing so great; maybe you discover from personal experience that there's no clear-cut cause and effect at work here, that you can do everything right and still have your heart broken; maybe you grow up and there's no one waiting for you back home, and no good reason why. So you start to wonder if maybe the whole monogamy concept isn't an unnatural one after all. Maybe "love" is just a word for a lie that makes the nights go easier.

"Open and Shut" doesn't really resolve the issue, but it raises some questions in a reasonably entertaining way. I have reservations about this episode, but I enjoyed it, mostly because it had the kind of honesty that the series had when it first started out. Sure it gets clumsy and heavy-handed, but if we're willing to accept that the direct approach has always been one of House's biggest flaws (dialog that sounds less like conversation and more like an op ed piece), we can at least respect a show that doesn't stack the deck in favor of the more reassuring perspective. I don't think "Shut" really wants us all to have open marriages, but it at least doesn't condemn them too badly. 

Okay, the PotW, Jules, has an open marriage with her husband, Tom. We first meet Jules preparing to have some romance-novel-inspired sex with a dude named Damien. (I love the idea that having an open marriage means getting to have sex with really, really attractive people. What's not to like about that?) She has stomach pains, so it's off to the hospital where her love-life is just interesting enough to get House to take her case. There's a lot of high-handed discussion between the Coke Zero team about the morality and practicality of open-marriages. Now that the horrors of Foreteen are behind us, I find 13 to be much more fun to be around. Olivia Wilde is easy on the eyes, sure, and the character is sharp. With Foreman almost a non-entity, 13 is the only one left who really seems like the heir-apparent to House's life views, even if she does think she's smarter than everyone else. 

These are traits I normally enjoy in Taub, but the latest sub-plot between him and his wife is getting painful. I don't understand why Rachel is so important to him, because every time we see the character, she's passive-aggressive and unlikable. This is unfortunate, because she should be automatically sympathetic. Taub has cheated on her in the past, and is getting ready to cheat on her again, and while I like the guy, that's not what you'd call stand up behavior. And yet Rachel is just so... so... gah! There's nothing to her beyond nagging and paranoia and crying, and bizarrely this isn't balanced by the fact that her nagging, paranoia, and crying are all justified. To make it worse, Taub himself has no consistency. It reminds me a little of Kutner's abrupt exit last year, the sort of plot-twist that is defensible in concept, but dead on arrival (heh) in practice. Taub is too collected, too seemingly comfortable in himself and adult for his sincere apologies to his wife to make sense contrasted against his infidelity. There's no connective tissue between point A and point B, so there's no emotional charge in the betrayal, just a shuddery feeling that we'll have to put up with some more shouting soon.

On the plus side, I liked Wilson and Sam's big fight. It was believable, and I was invested enough in both characters that I wanted to see the outcome. I like that we're getting a clearer picture of what drove them apart in the first place, and I can believe that it just might work out this time; at the very least, it would force House to deal with living alone again, which has all sorts of dramatic possibility. I don't know a whole lot about chemistry, but at least Cynthia Watros and Robert Sean Leonard both managed to come off as adults while they said horrible things to each other, and at least Wilson is still recognizably Wilson even when he's in love. (Unlike, say, House.) So I enjoyed that, and there were some funny lines. I guess thematically, this was all about how sometimes lies can help a relationship, and sometimes they can hurt it. It's even possible to believe that Taub going off with Maya at the end represents some sort of compromise between the ideal and the reality: he's cheating, but he's doing it to save his marriage? I dunno. If we never caught wind of it again, I'd be happy, but I don't think we're that lucky.

Stray Observations:

  • Oh right, the patient. She got stung by a bee. Does anyone even care at this point? (I did enjoy the scene when Damien arrived uninvited in Julia's hospital room and was immediately shut down. This is where the ambiguity comes in, because Julia is clearly still deeply in love with her husband despite sleeping around. Even though the open-marriage doesn't really work, because Tom has to lie to keep it going, the fact that one side of the relationship could see other people but still keep the core romance strong means that there've gotta be couples out there where both sides feel the same. Right?)
  • Was Wilson's cereal "Colios"?
  • Why is Rachel worth it? Somebody explain this to me.
Filed Under: TV, House

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