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

House: “Man Of The House”

Illustration for article titled House: “Man Of The House”

Two-thirds of the way through last season, House got married. If you’d forgotten about that before tonight, nobody could blame you; I know I certainly had. The plot was a lark, a goofy riff on House’s various attempts to get past the grief of losing Cuddy, and it wasn’t designed to last more than an episode. Technically, the main reason for the marriage—his “wife,” a young foreign hottie named Dominika—hadn’t been resolved, as “Fall From Grace” ended long before it was time for the customary green card interview. But really, this was such a goofy concept that, if it had been dropped for good and we never found out if Dominika became an American citizen, I can’t imagine even the hardest of hardcore House fans much caring. And yet she’s back tonight, to prep her fraudulent hubby for an interview which, if it goes wrong, could send House back to jail. Ha-ha, I’m kidding. Oh sure, if Homeland Security realizes House is lying about being full-time married to a woman he hasn’t seen in a year or so, House would, technically, be going back to prison, but it’s not like that could possibly happen. He did his time, and, dramatically speaking, prison is a dead end.

I get the impulse to keep the threat of prison alive on the show, but it should really be used more as an incentive to do things, and not, as it is through most of “Man Of The House,” the most likely consequence of an incredibly ill-advised attempt to defraud the government. The Great Green Card Fakery isn’t as terrible as I feared it might be from last week’s promos, but it never comes across as all that useful long term, at least not until the end. Dominika (Karolina Wydra) is a sort of ‘80s teen movie pin-up girl come to life; she’s granted a little more agency than most, but she’s still defined entirely by her physical attractiveness and her willingness to use that physical attractiveness to get what she wants. Put that together with the thick accent and the tendency to jump around dancing to Amy Grant songs, and you don’t get a character. You get a premise. Especially telling is that, so far at least, she and House aren’t sleeping together. The man we’ve routinely seen hiring prostitutes to distract himself from the pain of being alive actually can’t have sex with his live-in bombshell, because if he did, it would wreck the delicate balance of their sitcom existence. Screwing would make everything too real; for now, he just leers, and, I dunno, looks forward to the joy her free spirit attitude will bring to his life over the next six months.

That’s the best part. They screw up the interview (in what, credit where it’s due, is a pretty funny scene), and only Dominika’s last minute desperate plea of love saves the two of them from a dire fate. Of course she’s lying, but the agent decides to give them one more chance—a chance, by the way, that screams “pilot episode set-up” very, very loudly. The show could’ve easily written off Dominika after her first appearance, and it could’ve just as easily written her off after this appearance. Instead, she’s now legally obligated to be a continuing part of the series. Maybe she’ll disappear after next week. I don’t know. Maybe there’s some drama to be gotten in the contrast between House’s cynicism and Dominika’s charming, bubbly ruthlessness. Hugh Laurie was sure doing his best to sell “bemused wonder” in that final scene, and while it really is the rankest of cliches (male curmudgeon softens when faced with an attractive younger woman), it might work. I don’t think it will, and this show has given me no reason to allow it the benefit of the doubt, especially when it comes to romantic relationships, but hey, we’ll see.

Because maybe I was just dreading this story so much that it had to be better than I expected, but I thought there were some not bad scenes here. The Dominika plot got us some great Wilson scenes and even managed to get the best out of Park, whose eagerness to prove herself to House made her a willing ally. And while it will almost certainly explode in all of our faces soon enough, structurally speaking, I’d rather they bring back this character for a reason, rather than just flailing around for guest stars. The overall arc of this season seems to be pushing for a somewhat softer House, and, given that this is the final run of the show, that’s not a terrible idea. So we get him having a sort of relationship with this young woman, and, even better, we get him goofing around with his team in a way that didn’t turn everyone into jerks. House is still by and large abrasive, but that abrasiveness has been tempered of late with more moments of humility and humanity for the character, turning him back from the Scrooge-ish caricature he’d risked becoming in the show’s worst moments.

Even the patient of the week was pretty good. Joe, a marriage counselor, collapses on stage during the cold open. He preaches a kinder, gentler man to his clients, which means it comes as no surprise to House when it turns out that Joe has a testosterone deficiency. This leads to the usual debate on what makes a man, with a fair number of jokes at Taub’s expense (although he does come out on top at the end of the night). It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, not even the sudden shift in Joe’s personality and the threat that shift poses to Joe’s marriage, but there were decent stakes here, and even being pretty sure that Joe was going to ease off on the testosterone in the end, that didn’t make the moment any less satisfying. As I’ve said, I don’t expect House to swing for the fences anymore, and when it does pull out all the stops, it tends to trip over its own feet long before it hits home. But a credible single, or even the occasional double, isn’t past them. I enjoyed the silliness of this, even as I cringed during the more awkward moments.

Stray observations:

  • Did anybody else get a Regarding Henry vibe from the video clips of Joe pre-ball kicking? He even had his hair slicked back, a traditional sign of the Evil Bastard.
  • Seriously, where did Dominika get $30,000 to pay House? I suppose she could be lying.
  • Wilson using a fake British accent to try and fool the Homeland agent is adorable. Just look at that picture!