B+

House: "The Itch"

B+

House

"The Itch"

Season 5, Episode 7

I don't think we can deal with a happy House. Sure, there are moments of satisfaction, enlightenment, the occasional fleeting delight, but actually honest-god happiness? Feh. His brief reunion with Stacy in the second season was notable largely for its nauseating cuteness, as though the leads had been replaced by a pair of simpering tools from Grey's Anatomy. The simple fact is, with misery you have a story to tell; contentment, not so much. And anyway, a miserable House is an entertaining one. Who'd want to watch an hour long medical drama where everybody was nice to each other all the time?

So instead of a neat resolution to The Kiss this week, we get a lot of talk and not much action. House dodges the issue, which is always a sign that something's confusing him; Wilson tries his usual ineffectual meddling; and Cuddy denies anything's wrong. It's all very high school, but unlike high school, it's at least mildly entertaining. (Also, nobody gets felt up by the band teacher.) Although man, Wilson needs to get a life of his own. The stunt he pulled, asking Cuddy out to make House jealous, was Shakespearean, but only in the sense that you'd have to be a drunken illiterate standing in horse dung to believe it could work.

Really, though, "The Itch" felt like old school House; we got a patient who was interesting enough to carry the A-story, and the two Classic Coke players we don't see as much of in the office, Cameron and Chase, got a significant amount of face time. Cameron is the one that brings Stewart Nozick, an agoraphobic suffering multiple seizures, to the attention of the team, and it's her baby right up until the end. Glad to have her around. I still hate the blonde hair, but unlike some of the commenters here, I actually like her. Especially now that she's no longer mooning over you-know-who.

Speaking of House (and when are we not?), one of the reasons "Itch" works is that House is actually engaged by a case again. It's probably at least partly an attempt on his part to distract himself from Twu Wuv, but Nozick also presents an endlessly fascinating problem: how do you treat a man who refuses to leave his home? House's solution: initial compromise followed by increased pressure and discomfort until the poor bastard breaks down and lets them bring him to the hospital. Only that's not how it plays out. Irresistible force, meet immovable object.

Cameron does her usual wounded heart routine; you can respect her for standing up for her principles (especially when Juggernaut, M.D. is so focused on breaking them down; there's a nice bit during one of the diagnostics when House starts asking questions about her and Chase's relationship, 13 gets pissy, and Cameron tells her its better to just answer and move on), or at least I can, but when she wakes up Nozick pre-surgery after drugging him and moving him to the hospital just so she can tell him what's going on, she's acting like an idiot. Her reasoning is somewhat justified, but the scene seems there largely to remind us that Cameron is a Care Bear with a med degree.

Still, the stuff between her and Chase worked. I don't mind a little soapiness, and I like the fact that we actually get to see Cameron working through her dead husband issues. It's a card that'd been played maybe once too often, but here, it made sense; as House has observed, Cameron is drawn to the wounded because she needs to fix them, and because while she's fixing them, she can keep her distance. Chase isn't broken, far as we can tell, and getting closer to him means committing to something that could hurt her again, maybe even worse before. It's not exactly a revelatory idea (Relationships Are Scary), but the handling here was low-key and brief.

The balance of the whole ep, between patient and staff issues, was very solid. Nozick gets some good backstory; he and his girlfriend were shot by a mugger, Angela died, and now our PoTW spends his days surfing the net and ordering take-out. As is the habit on House, at least some of the patient's problems mirror those of his doctors. Here, it's Nozick's terror of the outside world; so we've got Cameron trying not to move forward with Chase because she's frightened of being hurt, and House doing his best to rationalize away his feelings for the same reason. The final diagnosis even seems to prove them both right–Nozick is sick because of lead poisoning, caused by two bullet fragments lodged in his leg. Going outside isn't just terrifying; it can actually kill you.

Fear of change is an idea that the House writers have played with a lot over the past four years, and in this episode it all plays out much as you'd expect. Cameron finally caves in and offers Chase a symbolic foothold in her life, and House finally realizes that the bug bite he's been scratching since the cold open, while actually real, is still just a distraction from the real problem. So he goes to Cuddy's place, and…

What, exactly? My DVR cut out at the last bit; I got him walking up to the door, watching Cuddy through the window, and then deciding not to go in. It was all part of the normal endtage–we see Cameron and Chase in her apartment, we get a shoulder-shrug bit with Taub and his wife probably reconnecting, and in the sequence's strongest thread, we see House's approach to Cuddy's place, and Nozick's attempts to leave his own home. The scenes are intercut, and the contrast between Nozick's facing his fear, and House's inability to do so, makes House's cowardice all the starker. Nozick's lost everything and he's still willing to take the risk; what's House's excuse?

Of course, something could've happened after my TiVO went twitchy that contradicts all of this. Anybody?

Grade: B+

--Not only was Wilson's jealousy plan utterly insipid, I'm not buying Cuddy's response; sure, she realized what he was doing before it got out of hand, but it's not actually charming that he was willing to manipulate and lie to her for what he thought was best. Is it?

--Apart from Kutner's line about being honest with the shut-in and House's chat with Taub, New Coke spent most of the time in the background. I can live with that.

--House kicking Wilson out of the room: "Sorry, I get better reception when you're not here."