House: Who doesn't go for the drugged-out hallucinating bad-boy type?

housenup_134828_0307Last week, I somehow forgot to mention that I love Chase. I feel bad about that, because I do love Chase, and I loved Chase more last week than I have pretty much in the entire season prior. And it wasn’t just the giant stuffed kangaroo. Although, okay, that was a sizeable chunk of it.

But more on Chase later. This was an action-packed episode so let’s get to it.

Our patient is a 21-year-old ballerina named Penelope whose boyfriend/dance partner drops her during rehearsal, prompting her to stop breathing. House diagnoses her badly, for reasons that I’ll discuss in a sec, and they treat her with antibiotics and then do a procedure on her that is apparently the medical equivalent of waterboarding. I already saw the video of that journalist who had himself waterboarded, so I chose not to watch this fictionalized version, but I heard enough to know that Taub slipped during the procedure (maybe I should retract what I said before about how he was the only doctor on the show I’d let come near me if I got sick). And anyway the whole thing was just a setup to address the issues of the day and to transition us into this week’s freaky symptom: Penelope loses 80 percent of her skin. Apparently this is sometimes a side effect of antibiotics. It’s called toxic epidermal necrolysis. So glad I know that now. I bet there are people who watch this show for the same reason they go on those freaky drop-straight-down-from-9,000-feet rides at Six Flags. House finally figures out that Penelope has gonorrhea, which is causing major problems with her heart. In order to operate to fix the heart problem, they have to dopamine her up, which causes her to get gangrene in her hands and feet, so they’ll have to amputate. Penelope, being a ballerina, is not on board with that, and the doctors (minus House, who by this point is way off in his own storyline) are resigned to her dying, until Taub figures out some magical procedure that Chase is convinced won’t work, which works. So Penelope is cured, and she still has all her extremities. Go Taub!

Anyway, all that dramatic stuff with the waterboarding and the skin falling off had nothing to do with the actual diagnosis and was just there because the case itself wasn’t that interesting. A ballerina at risk of losing her hands and feet? That might’ve been moving 30 years ago on General Hospital. On House, it’s nothing. Cuddy’s handyman actually lost both his hands a couple of seasons back. Besides, as has been the case in three out of every four episodes this season, the patient story is just there to propel the character story. That never used to bother me. But now, I really miss having cool patient stories. Remember when they killed that little girl in season 2 and nailed her head to a table so she’d lie still while they diagnosed her? Remember when that T.B. doctor refused to be treated for T.B., but then it turned out he just had cancer anyway? Remember when a teddy bear caused an epidemic in the hospital nursery? I used to really like that show.house4

Which isn’t to say that our character stories aren’t good this week, because they are, as usual. We spend most of the episode watching House freak out about his ongoing hallucinations of Amber-as-House’s-subconscious (hereinafter Ambrouse). House has decided (correctly, according to Wilson and Cuddy) that these hallucinations are symptoms of a very serious medical problem, so House spends a while diagnosing and/or treating himself. In the meantime we get to see Ambrouse do some ballet stuff (I recognized first position from the class I took when I was 5; I’m guessing that’s the extent of House’s ballet knowledge too), and there’s also a freaky moment when Ambrouse slits her wrist in despair at the prospect of not being able to practice medicine again. Later, House puts himself into insulin shock for some reason I didn’t follow and wakes up sure Ambrouse is gone for good. But no! Just when he thinks he’s safe, she’s back again. They try to make her reappearance scary, and for these scenes at least I do think bringing back Kal Penn would’ve fit the role better; it’s hard for Anne Dudek to be frightening no matter how weird the lighting is. She also does some a cappella of a song that I’ve never heard before, but the lyrics are pretty creepy. And her singing isn’t so great, but I think that’s just because she’s Acting. (I tried to find a clip on YouTube but instead I found this gem of a Robert Sean Leonard interview. Enjoy.)

Following this reappearance of Ambrouse, House freaks out for real. He and Wilson settle on Vicodin overdoses as the cause of House’s hallucinations, and detox/rehab is deemed the cure. It’s all very dramatic and darkly lit and scored, and it’s generally portrayed as the worst thing that can possibly happen to anyone ever in the world. Never mind that we’ve already seen House detox once, and go to rehab once (and let’s not forget that Christmas he OD’d on some dead guy’s pain meds). Plus, as far as I could tell we still haven’t ruled out schizophrenia as a possible diagnosis yet.

But this development, too, is in many ways only there to propel the real story. House decides rehab can’t possibly work, since he’s that good at cheating. (Really? There is seriously no rehab facility in the world that is sufficiently equipped to handle a middle-aged guy with a bad leg and a functioning addiction to Schedule III prescription narcotics? House has an awfully high opinion of himself.) So he asks Cuddy to come over and hold his stubble back while he pukes. She agrees, of course, happily abandoning her invisible baby to hang out with House at his most disgusting. She even seems to enjoy it. Then, the next morning, when House is over the worst of it and is in fact looking remarkably good for a guy who just spent the night having a sweaty hallucinatory fit on his bathroom floor, they flirt. They have this exchange:

Cuddy: “You want to kiss me, don’t you?”

House: “I always want to kiss you.”

And then they make out.house5

And obviously, this is what this season has been building up to. And it’s also where my DVR cut off, so here’s to hoping nothing too dramatic happened after that other than the obvious, and that Hulu.com gets the episode online sooner than usual.

Well, we’ve already had to watch the fallout of one House/Cuddy kiss this season, and it went on for about a million years and made me hate both characters. So I kind of wish this episode had been the season finale, so we could avoid having to suffer through that again. But I am assuming that this time, it’s going somewhere (somewhere other than “We can’t figure out how to stretch out this storyline for 12 more episodes help help help!”).

And finally, in what may be my all-time favorite House subplot, Cameron announces to Chase over dinner one night that she still has some of her dead husband’s sperm. I can’t remember laughing out loud at a House episode in a long time, but that, and the ensuing conversation, did the trick. As did the scene that follows, when Chase recounts their dinner conversation to an unusually judgmental Foreman, because Chase has no friends and it wouldn’t have been appropriate given the rest of the episode to have Chase confess this to House himself (even though that would’ve been about 100 times funnier). In the end, Chase wears a hilarious polo shirt and breaks up with Cameron for not being willing to commit by throwing out her dead husband’s frozen sperm.

Anyway, regardless of the absurdity of this whole concept, I’m on Chase’s side here. And it’s not just because – say it with me – I love Chase. And it’s also not because Jennifer Morrison and her extensions (which I totally didn’t notice until alert commenter Jean pointed them out a couple of weeks ago, but now when I look at her it’s all I can see (that being said, JM is looking fantastic these days)) aren’t doing such a great job with these scenes – after all, they’re given such little screen time to work with it’s hard to really hold it against them.

This storyline is much more interesting (but no less funny) when you think about it in the context of Cameron’s history, and the heavy emphasis placed on her issues with her dead husband, and with House, in the first two seasons. This is a character who, we were told over and over, was happiest when everything around her was broken. She chose to marry a dying frat boy who, as far as we know, she didn’t even love. Then she chose to pursue her emotionally unavailable and otherwise unsuitable boss, even after he rejected her over and over again. Then, when first confronted with the possibility of an actual non-broken relationship with Chase, she rejected him, over and over again; when she finally decided to pursue that, she made the decision the same night she quit her job working under House, aka the night she ruined the other, then more important aspect of her life. And now, all of a sudden, she has no problems at all – she’s 30ish, she’s got the most stress-free department head job in the world, she’s in love (or something close to it), she’s getting married, she’s over House (or so we’ve been led to believe), she’s got not one but two readily available sources of sperm, and she’s got fantastic hair extensions. So she has to break something, and apparently the only way she can think of to do that is by revealing her sperm-related secrets. But it did the trick, so go Cameron. You should’ve just trusted your instincts and said no two weeks ago. Oh well, at least Chase got a cool bachelor party out of the deal.house6

(And no, it doesn’t bother me that Chase and Cameron appear to have broken up. Seeing as how they already broke up two episodes ago, and they wouldn’t have already set a wedding date for the week of the season finale if we weren’t going to see a wedding in the season finale. And also, the writers have no idea what else to do with these characters, and stringing out this rarely-seen romance even further would be preposterous. Then again, if they do get married then we will never see any hint of their romance ever again, because it will be resolved (like how we never see Cuddy’s baby, now that she isn’t debating whether to have one anymore). And since the romance is the one thing that the writers have been able to do with Chase and Cameron for the past two seasons, it’s in their best interest to continue it. But, breaking them up creates the same problem. If this were Lost, they would resolve this issue by having Chase and Cameron enter into a love quadrangle with Foreman and Thirteen (which, much as it makes me cringe, would be way more interesting than the Jack/Kate/Juliet/Sawyer thing, and not just for the potential girl-on-girl reasons).)

So, see you at the altar, season 5. We’ve had our ups and downs, but I’m holding out final judgment until the credits roll.

Season 5, Episode 23: ­­­­­Under My Skin (originally aired May 4, 2009)

For another take on this episode, check out Cameron Cubbison’s review here.

For more on House, click here.

House, Tuesdays 8/7c on FOX

Photographs courtesy of NBC Universal, Michael Yarish, IMDbPro

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