Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

House: "Both Sides Now"

Illustration for article titled House: "Both Sides Now"
Illustration for article titled House: "Both Sides Now"

I was excited back in the fall when Noel said he was stepping down from regular House coverage; I loved his write-ups, but the chance to do my own was too good an opportunity to pass up. The resulting season has been, to put it mildly, a mixed bag—I'd say it's the worst season the show has yet to put out, and there are troubling indications that the creative team has exhausted all reasonable possibilities and is now resorting to cliche. There've been flashes of brilliance, but it's not consistent, and despite their best attempts, the New Coke team haven't ever yielded the same chemistry of the original trio.

Which makes it tough judging this finale. For the first two-thirds, I was convinced we were deep into territory I'd been dreading for months. There was a decent patient story, a thoroughly tedious Chase/Cameron thing, and, of course, House and Cuddy, sitting in a tree, acting like teenagers. Then things took a turn that—well, I'll be honest, it surprised the hell out of me. In a really good way, too. Right now I'm kind of juggling things around in my head, because do ten minutes of coolness really make up for all the mediocrity that preceded it? Even if those ten minutes actually go a small way towards mitigating my earlier complaints?

Well, we've got a few paragraphs to work that out, so let's get the recapping done, shall we? A couple (Scott and Annie—30 Rock fans might remember Annie as the blind woman who turned down Kenneth a few episodes ago) are at a nice restaurant when Scott's left hand starts chucking dinner rolls at somebody across the room. Scott's not doing it on purpose; as he tries to explain to the very pissed off roll-target, his hand just does stuff on its own. The target doesn't much care for excuses, and starts shaking the hell out of Scott… who starts crying blood. Neat!

With a little help from Cameron, Scott soon finds himself under House's care. The poor guy had surgery a while back that disconnected his left brain and his right brain, and his right brain apparently likes to cause problems, for no reasons anyone can tell. (They call it "Alien Hand Syndrome." I prefer to think of it as "Attacked By The Evil Dead!") While the team tries to figure out what's giving him trouble—that whole crying blood thing is not a good sign—House actually seems to be in a good mood. Better than that, he's off the vicodin and relatively pain-free. Amazing the miracles that love can do.

Too bad Cuddy doesn't seem interested in persuing a relationship. She pops into the office (in a move that makes a hell of a lot more sense once you know what really happened earlier) and tells House that she's his boss, and that's that. Either he deals with it, or he leaves. This confuses our hero; he decides that Cuddy has to've been lying to him either the night before  (when they, y'know, did it) or this morning, when she acted like there was nothing to be done. So he sets about screwing with her and testing her in various ways. Wilson, delighted that House is both off the drugs and possibly moving towards a healthy romantic relationship, gives the usual Wilson lectures on approaching every life situation like it's a problem to solve.

House should be satisified with the problems he's getting elsewhere. Scott's hand woes alienate his girlfriend—his left hand slaps her across the face, and she leaves crying and doesn't come back for a few days. The team sets up a visual test to see if the two hemispheres of Scott's brain are communicating somehow without him being aware of it, but apart from looking kind of cool, and delivering a new symptom (his liver's failing), not much is discovered. And if that wasn't enough, Carl Reiner keeps popping into the office. House has refused to do clinic hours, so Cuddy's sending the patients to him; Reiner's squawking troubles will bounce back and forth between both doctors till the end.

And through all of this, House keeps trying to figure out how to proceed. Does he want a relationship? And if he does, how's he going to proceed with it? Scott's "right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing" blues (which turn out to be intermittent heart clots caused by an overuse of spray-on deodorant) connect back to House's inability to trust his own brain—which, again, is probably the scariest thing that could happen to him. But everything's okay now, right? He's even to the point of following Wilson's advice for once; Wilson tells him to really piss Cuddy off to force her to talk about her feelings, so House informs a lobby's worth of people that they had sex. Cuddy fires him.

Your enjoyment of what happens next depends a lot on your patience for, let's face it, pretty over the top dramatics. House hallucinated the entire 24-hour-drying-out-period with Cuddy; worse, it wasn't just a hallucination, it was something actively created by that part of his brain that wants him to stay hooked on the drugs, wants him to be alone and unloved. So while Cameron and Chase finally go through with their big plans (nice that Cameron interrupts Chase in the middle of surgery to let him know she'll destroy her dead husband's sperm. Very professional, guys), Wilson takes House to the Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital.

So what did you guys think? On the one hand, this is sort of a cheat—it's big, it's flashy, a broad-stroke writing style that favors shiny melodrama over low-key developments and character work. On the other hand, well, this show hasn't ever really been that much about the low key. (Although it does have its moments.) And this was very shiny. This isn't the first time House has struggled with his own head, and I suppose it makes a kind of sense that those struggles would finally pop up in to the real world. Of course, the Kutner-trigger is still weak (even with his cameo here—hey, Kal!), and a stronger season could've done more to prepare us for this kind of twist. But on the whole, I rather enjoyed it. At the very least, it did the impossible; it made me interested to see what will happen in season six.

Grade: A-

Stray Observations:

  • House is basically committing himself. Is this going to affect his job at Plainsboro? Or are we going to have a season of him solving problems in a mental hospital? (That could be cool.)
  • Wow, they gave Carl Reiner a tumor. Bastards!
  • It's been real, guys.