Let's get the boring stuff out of the way first. This paragraph is for those of you who still care about the medical mysteries of House, and those of you who fast-forwarded through the patient segments of tonight's episode, "Black Hole." There's a high school girl named Abby who starts foaming at the mouth during a spectacular (and unless the technology has improved by leaps and bounds since I was in high school, somewhat implausible) planetarium show. Cuddy gives her to House's team, because Abby's smart, and Cuddy likes to help smart girls, which is rather decent of her. Lots of adventure, including a semen allergy scratch test, and, well, we'll get to the subconscious brain imaging crap a little later because that deserves special mention. In the end, it turns out we're coming in on the last act of a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode, because Abby's boyfriend's father had sex with Abby (best part of this: "You two had broken up, and she was crying!" Because yeah, when you're in your late forties, it's basically required that you bang any distraught, single seventeen year-olds that hove into view), and that, in a moderately roundabout way, got her sick. Problem solved, a few lives ruined, all very par for the course. Really, it's a mildly shocking ending I guess, but only if you'd never watched the show before; the fact that Daddy kept hanging around whenever Abby's mom was talking to the doctors meant he was more important than just a throwaway character, and House has certainly gotten into this level of sexual dysfunction before. Hell, compared to the dad who was screwing his sixteen year-old super model daughter, this is practically wholesome.
So once again, we have an iffy patient case that gets in the way of some much more interesting regular-cast foolishness. I realized something tonight, which I should've figured out a long time ago: the writers on this show have finally figured out a way to give people the House/Wilson relationship they always wanted. This is obvious, what with them living together and all, but what's fascinating about it is that we're seeing all the beats of a "romantic" pairing that TV often gives us, only minus the romance. And it's working! Having House and Wilson suddenly become lovers wouldn't fit, as it's too gimmicky and too poorly justified, but having them sharing the condo is a perfect way to finally get as much comedy and emotion out of the only two people whose interactions have always made sense. Tonight's bit of silliness, about House driving Wilson to furnish the apartment to fit Wilson's own tastes, was largely inessential, but it was funny and intermittently charming. The patient cases these days are largely just an amalgamation of recycled greatest hits, with some added "wow, expensive effects work!!!" crap thrown in to pretend it matters. The only real reason to keep watching is the characters, and so long as we keep getting Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard BFFing their way through life, I can put up with the tedium.
As for the other characters, well, Taub's wife is still a one-note obstacle; even the reveal at the end that she might have something worth worrying about didn't really change her lack of depth. If we're going to feel some kind of suspense over what happens next in Taub's home-life, it would be nice to believe there's a good reason for him still to be married, apart from him just saying there's a good reason for him to be married. I wouldn't mind more screen-time for Taub. Of all of Coke Zero's members, he's my favorite (second would be Chase, tied with 13 when she's in straightforward mode), and the character is still a distinctive, unique presence. (It helps that Peter Jacobson can do sarcasm and play the straight man very well. The punchline of the "sexting" sequence got a lot of laughs out of the look on his face.) Of the all the dangerous potential subplots House could throw at us, Taub's rocky homelife is miles better than Cuddy and Lucas, Chase whining about Cameron, or, shudder, 13 and Foreman hooking back up again.
Clearly, we're in "it could be worse" territory, which is never a good place for a show to be. House still has enough going for it that I can't give up completely, but when it breaks out something like the brain-pattern-recognition-tron-technology… That's a bad choice. That's something the CSI people would leave for a dream sequence. Abby's hallucinations were flashy, but hollow, and they're used here to distract us rather than tell the story. Sad to say, the reveal of the cause of her illness falls into that category as well, a twist delivered more for its inherent shock than for any honest emotional connection. It used to be the show used ugliness like this (and despite the sort of cavalier attitude the episode takes, I'd say a middle-aged man screwing a high school student is at least moderately ugly) as a way of illuminating House's cynicism, showing us again and again that "Everybody lies" isn't just a catchphrase but an understandable way of staying safe in a hostile universe. It used to be there was some ambiguity as to whether or not believing in people was worth the pain. But since we've decided House was just crazy all along, there's no argument left to make, and all we have left is a series of blight, flashing lights to keep our eyes on the screen. As one of the best anti-heroes in TV history, House deserves better. And as loyal fans, so do we.
- Another thing to dislike about Taub's wife: everything she says is irritatingly literal. While they're hooking up in the car: "I just don't like feeling this isn't the first time you've done this." Why not just have her come out with, "You cheated on me, and this causes me to be suspicious of your actions, especially those presented in a sexual context."
- Also, apparently the motto of the story is, if your wife is upset with you, buy her a bigger diamond.
- I'm generally the last person to complain about medical silliness on this show, but that brain scan thing. Come on. I'm looking forward to next episode, when House squares off against Moriarty in Plainsboro's "Holographic Entertainment Enhancement Unit."