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House: The One Where Olivia Wilde Acts

Ooh, goody!  An “event” episode of House!  Like the kind ER used to be so good at!

Except, wait.  Didn’t ER do this exact episode last season?  With the crazy armed gunman taking over the hospital and making the doctors hostages and forcing them to treat -

Well, never mind.  This is House.  When it’s on its game, it’s about a hundred times better than ER was even back in the Clooney years.  Let’s sit back and enjoy the ride.

We open in the hospital’s free clinic, which for some reason I’ve never caught is adjacent to Cuddy’s office.  House, still desperate for attention, has snuck into Cuddy’s office to mess with her stuff.  So when a guy with a gun storms into the office with a collection of hostages and demands to be diagnosed, House is there to welcome him.

The hostages include Thirteen, who had the misfortune of working the clinic that day, along with a nameless nurse and a bunch of nameless clinic patients. (This isn’t a Spike Lee movie, so we don’t learn much about them, which is fine since mostly they just cower.) The crazy guy, Jason, somehow figures out that House is a doctor and orders him to diagnose him.  Given the particulars of Jason’s situation – he’s been to 16 doctors and still doesn’t have a diagnosis – it’s odd that they didn’t have him research House in advance and come to target him specifically, but maybe the producers thought Cuddy’s office would make a better set for this scenario.

House is initially very cool in the face of Jason’s threats.  I guess after you’ve already survived getting shot by one psycho patient, you get delusions of immortality.  He approaches Jason, and it really looks like he’s trying to talk him down, but of course House is sarcastic and mean about it.  He’s lucky that he’s being held hostage by a relatively reasonable guy who shares House’s general outlook on life and therefore doesn’t shoot everyone else in the room immediately.  House gets strategic, too, sneakily trying to shoot Jason up with a sedative before the SWAT team even arrives.  This gets one of the hostages shot in the leg (good one, House).

And, as an aside, this is one of my favorite things about House – that the immortal genius detective doctor at the center of the show’s universe is wrong so often.  And that a lot of his actions have really bad consequences, like getting an innocent hostage shot in the leg, and, later, nearly killing Thirteen.

But anyway.  Plot.  This episode was packed with it.

In the first act, House is all sass, answering Cuddy’s phone with a chirpy “Crime scene!” and offering his (incorrect) insta-diagnosis for Jason before the opening credits have finished rolling.  But as the hour progresses it becomes clear that it’s not going to work that way.  Jason, much like House, won’t rest until he has his final diagnosis.  And so the two of them proceed to bond.

Before that, though, House pages all his other minions, past and present, and asks them for a differential on Jason’s case via speakerphone.  Cameron, whose hair is looking particularly droopy this week, jumps right into the fun.  But Chase, probably still irritated about his new doppelganger over on Bravo, frownily says, “I’m not playing this game.”  And stomps out of the office.  I love Chase, but how many times has he done this now?  Had one scene, said one line, exited in protest, and then remained absent for the rest of the episode?  It works character-wise, but if they’re going to keep Jesse Spencer in the opening credits they need to stop pulling this crap.

But the episode proceeds sans Chase, as it always does.  House keeps himself busy trying to psychoanalyze/antagonize Jason (Wilson’s not around much this week, so someone’s got to do it) until we establish a parallel between Jason and House: their intense obsession/need to know things.  Whatever.  Maybe I would’ve sympathized with Jason, but I think Jack Bauer is still in my head because I was watching this thinking “Oh, just knock the gun out of his hand and tie him up to some electrodes, or something.”

Meanwhile, Thirteen, looking more and more like a zombie as the episode progresses (Olivia Wilde and her makeup are playing this well), voluntarily succumbs to Jason’s order that someone else take all the dangerous meds before he does to prove that they aren’t sedatives in disguise.  Which is stupid of her.  It’s like how Jack is always the first to run off into the shootout on Lost.  It’s one thing to be all noble and self-sacrificing.  It’s another to put everyone else’s lives in jeopardy by upping the odds that one of the few available doctors will be put out of commission.  Look, Thirteen, I get that you’re all self-destructive now, but please, could you give it a rest and let us spend more screen time on the House/Cuddy thing?  Please?

Anyway, eventually Jason needs an X-ray to confirm House’s latest incorrect diagnosis, so the whole crew shuffles off to radiology.  But Jason’s gun is messing up the X-ray, so House convinces him to hand it over.  But then, once the X-ray is over and they still don’t have a diagnosis, House gives the gun back to Jason.  Watching this the first time, I assumed House’s reasoning here would be perfectly clear and justified by 9:08 p.m.  I was wrong.  Again, with the House-being-deeply-flawed thing, and again with him almost getting Thirteen killed for it.  I’d love to think House would learn a lesson from that, but I don’t see it happening.  Or, more likely, he learned it, but he will never implement it.  Which I guess is okay.  And realistic.

But in the end, Thirteen refuses to take the last drug (the one that would kill her), and instead opts for lying in her best drugged-out-supermodel pose on the floor until House comes in and finds her.  She’s chosen life!  She’s all healthy and smiley now!  She even signs up for Foreman’s clinical trial of a new anti-Huntington’s drug!  No more exploitative lesbian sex-focused episodes supposedly designed to illuminate Thirteen’s many character dimensions!  Yay!

Also with the yay!, we finally get some movement on the House/Cuddy front.  Cuddy spends most of the episode hanging out with the SWAT team looking really worried, but when the hostage negotiator asks if Cuddy has “a husband in there, or a loved one,”  Cuddy says, “Uh, no.”  Oh, come on, Cuddy.  If you can’t tell your SWAT team hostage negotiator, who can you tell?

At first, Jason insists that Cuddy be the one to deliver the necessary meds to his office, which she’s only too willing to do.  So we get lots of tender, silent looks between House and Cuddy, which is more than we got last week, and since they’re good actors and stuff it’s all very tense and meaningful and cool.  But then at the end, once the threat of imminent death has been resolved, Cuddy tells House, “This is why you and I can’t be a thing.”  What, because when crazed gunmen show up and threaten House your judgment gets clouded?  House agrees with me that this is faulty logic, and comes as close to asking her out as he’s able to do, but she doesn’t take the bait, because then they couldn’t keep stringing this out for the rest of the season.

Look, would it really be that bad for the show if House and Cuddy got together for real?  I get that the resolution to the Jim/Pam thing has given that show a couple of less-than-titillating seasons, but House isn’t Jim.  He isn’t going to morph into an unlikable bore just because he’s getting laid.  In fact, House was a lot more fun after House and Stacy slept together in season 2 than it was in the way-too-long arc leading up to it.  And after five years, we’re starting to lose patience here.

Oh, and also they diagnose Jason and the SWAT team arrests him.  It was pretty anticlimactic after all that other stuff, though.

Season 5, Episode 9: Last Resort (originally aired November 25, 2008)

For more on House, click here.

House, Tuesdays 8/7c on FOX

Photographs courtesy of FOX Broadcasting Company and IMDbPro

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