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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

House: "A Pox On Our House"

Illustration for article titled iHouse/i: A Pox On Our House
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I realized after I posted last week's review that the last time I got this excited about a new character was with Lucas, the private detective who went from charming to hair-tearingly obnoxious in the space of about two episodes. So I don't have a great track record. I'm not sure why—am I easily seduced by novelty? Am I that excited to have something new to write about after covering this show for over two seasons? (Wow. I've written more Trek reviews, but I think this is the longest time-wise that I've ever been attached to a show.) Or maybe I'm just eternally optimistic. Lucas could've been a great character, if he hadn't been turned into an obstacle for House's Cuddy obsession. And Martha still has potential. Her moral convictions come up a few times in "A Pox On Our House," and she manages to solve the medical mystery, but she hasn't overstayed her welcome quite yet.

Can't really say that for much of anything else in "Pox." It's back to the mid-level, bland competency the series has been striving for ever since it made the decision to trade in the darkness on the edge of town for sunshine and soap opera. There were sad moments here, for sure, and House and Cuddy are on the rocks, which cuts down on the creepy Oedipal dynamic, but nothing here has much bite or dramatic impact. We've had a couple quarantine plots before, and while I wouldn't argue that it's a storyline that the series should never do again, this episode doesn't really stand up that well to, say, the "Euphoria" two-parter from the second season. That House would be brazen enough to force his way into a potentially contaminated room and risk his life to prove himself right is believable, but it's not all that suspenseful. Which wouldn't be a problem, if it didn't keep calling to mind Foreman's near-death experience in "Euphoria." Will House do meth and have sex with Chase next?


Plus, again, we have a family of nobodies driving the drama, and it works as well as it usually does; the father's death could've been moving, but it's a scene that could've been inserted without any change into any number of medical dramas. And to make matters worse, the father dies immediately after he says goodbye to his wife and son. We know nothing about these characters beyond the fact that the mom and dad are newly married and they both brought a child from a previous marriage. Beyond that, Mom is a bit snippy under stress (understandably so), and Dad had kidney cancer. The actors aren't quite as bad as some of the dregs this season has turned out, but they're not given much to do beyond suffer and fret. It's obviously difficult to sketch in believable histories for the patients each week, but the series is starting to view the sick with the same disdain as its title character; these aren't people so much as variables in a problem, anonymous except for those few required moments of pathos.

To make it worse, time we might've spent getting to know this family was instead wasted on a bafflingly extraneous Wilson/Sam subplot, featuring a cute cancer kid, a stuffed lamb (or llama? Anyway, four legs and fleecy), and Sam's issues with children. Cynthia Watros is a fine actor, and we haven't been getting much face time with her or Wilson lately, but the idea that their relationship is interesting enough that it can command a storyline that has nothing to do with House is, well, stretching it. And such a sub-plot! If the intention was to make Sam seem sympathetic, it fails; she comes across as a self-absorbed moron who forces her own psychological problems on a kid who has cancerHouse has never had a problem bouncing the troubles of its doctors off their patients, with varying degrees of success, but this has to be a low-point.


Then there are the romantic woes of House and Cuddy, which once again make Cuddy into an idiot. She knows House lied to her, so she gets passive aggressive, and when he confronts her about it, she tells him some general "You can never lie to me" rule. What happened to them trying to do their jobs separate from their relationships? It's the only way these two could possibly work as a couple, and while it's believable that they would be unable to maintain the split between their personal relationship and their professionl one, Cuddy doesn't even really try. If she's upset with House over ethical concerns, or because he lied to her as his boss, she should sanction him somehow. Instead, she makes rational demands in an irrational manner, and the argument loses any force.

There was good stuff here. Martha's use of the truth plus incentives to win Dylan Baker over to the team's side was a clever touch, and hey, it's just nice to have Dylan Baker around, even if the episode mostly wasted him. The medical mystery was clever enough, even though the patients weren't, and, apart from the Wilson/Sam scenes, nothing in here was horrible. Even the House/Cuddy fighting has a certain glazed competency. It's not good, mind you, but the actors are good in their roles, and these are discussions we've seen on shows so many times that it's possible to let it all wash over you. But hey, Martha is still around. Maybe next week that will matter more.


Stray Observations:

  • House actually refers to Cuddy as "Mom" at one point. Really not a good idea.
  • The opening on the slave ship was something. The juxtaposition of suffering Africans to the affluent whiter-than-white family was certainly a searing commentary on, er, I got nothing. (It was a striking way to handle the cold open, but we spent an awful lot of time getting to know characters who had been dead for a couple hundred years.)
  • House paying an online Dutch sex kitten to translate the slave ship log is so absurd it's essentially self-parody, but it was funny, so I'll give it a pass.
  • Cancer kid made me think of Cancer Boy from Kids In The Hall.
  • "Oh my god, I had a threesome with Beyonce and Lady Gaga."
  • Nice Guinness you got going there, Hugh.

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