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

House: "Instant Karma"

Illustration for article titled House: "Instant Karma"

How much do we have to pay for our own good fortune? And how do we know when the bill's coming due? That's what Roy Randall, the Father of the Patient of the Week, is concerned with in "Instant Karma," but while that's not a bad question to bat around for an episode, "Karma" has different things on its mind. In the end, despite Randall's fervent need for control, what we're concerned with here are the lies we tell ourselves to pretend we understand our lives, and the things we believe to make things easier on ourselves. For Randall, it's his conviction that his wealth and business success are responsible for his wife's death and his son's illness; for House, it's pretending that he's not really the boss, even when everything he does indicates otherwise.

That doesn't really get into the matter of Chase and Foreman trying to find a way to cover up Dibala's death, or 13's attempts to leave the country, but I'll take what I can get. So far, I seem to be doing some rubber band grading on this season of House, hating an episode one week, only to bounce back positive for the next, and "Karma" continues that trend. It could just be that my expectations are so low by what frustrated me earlier that I'm willing to overlook just about any flaws to get a glimpse at the show I love, or it could just be a matter of luck. I'd say a little of both, really, but whatever the reason, "Karma" wasn't bad.

Let's get the rough stuff out of the way first. Chase and Foreman's ethical and legal problems didn't generate a whole lot of tension, and while their back and forths on the situation didn't kill the pacing too badly, there was never any real concern that either of them was going to get caught. Whatever your feelings about House's trip to the asylum, this season hasn't really been high on suspense so far; Chase's decision to kill Dibala seemed almost arbitrary, and without any deep emotional commitment to his actions, the attempts to cover up the crime are equally ho-hum. Both actors give it their all, but while I can come up with reasons for why Chase did what he did, and why Foreman is now helping to cover for it, those reasons haven't been presented strongly enough for the ultimate outcome of the case to matter one way or the other. Like Taub quitting, or 13 getting fired, the drama is all about the surprise of the moment, without sufficient build-up or grounding to sustain the drama once the surprise passes.

Speaking of 13, well, I hope she enjoys her flight out of the country, and I hope she stays gone for a long time. (Although I'm not holding my breath.) Her scene with the cab-driver brought "Karma" to a dead stop, and seeing all these different characters trying to talk her into coming back to work didn't make me want her back on the job any time soon. (Although, again, I'm not going to be surprised if and when she does return.) We've seen the House triple play before, with House denying his involvement in some prank, us buying his denial, only to find out at the end that it was him all along. There really isn't anything here at the end that we didn't know at the beginning, despite all of Wilson's psychologically tap-dancing. Cut the 13 sub-plot from "Karma," and apart from House's e-face moment, we're not missing anything.

But the main plot, with Randall and his sick son? That was solid, with Randall (Lee Tergesen) really selling the concerned dad thing. The scene where he gives away his money was a little on the ridiculous side, but I actually found myself caring about what happened to him and his kid, which isn't something that happens with most PotW's these days. It didn't hurt that House was actually putting an effort in, even talking with the guy a couple times. The resolution should've played more with the ambiguity of the situation—obviously Randall giving away his money isn't the reason his son got well, but "Karma" played the usual House trick of not completely denying the possibility, and, in this case, that's silly enough to make the fact that the kid did wind up okay seem more than a little cheap.

A few people asked last week why I continue to review the series even though I hate it. But I don't hate House. I'm frustrated by it, often disappointed with it, but I still enjoy watching it, even when it's not great. This one was at worst bland, at best, not too bad. There wasn't a whole lot of edge here, but if this is what the Brave New Doctor looks like, well, I can live with it.

Stray Observations:

-Lee Tergesen is an accomplished character actor, but I think I'll always remember him as the Bill Paxton replacement on the Weird Science TV series.
-House to Chase: "Better a murder than a misdiagnosis." Awwww.