Out of all the actors who’ve been with the show since the beginning, Jesse Spencer has always been the easiest to overlook. As originally conceived, Chase was a bit of a suck-up. Where Cameron followed her heart, and Foreman kept trying to fight the system, Chase did his best to toe the line and make sure House was happy. That kept him from getting the juiciest storylines, and that meant that Spencer’s performance was often drowned out by the madness around him. But whenever the show has turned its attention on our favorite Australian doctor, Spencer has been up to the task. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s amazing or anything, but he gets the job done, and even when his storylines took a turn for the absurd, Chase always managed to stay relatively centered. Considering he once upon a time murdered an evil dictator, that has to count for something.
On the whole, “Chase” isn’t a very good episode. It’s the latest in the show’s occasional efforts to follow non-House characters around the hospital, and easily the least of the bunch, because unlike “Wilson” or “5 to 9,” “Chase” doesn’t really show us anything new. Spencer does the same solid work he’s always done, and it’s nice to see Chase getting some time in the spotlight. The problem is that that time fails to delve much into his character or his perspective beyond what we might have gotten from any other episode. Chase wants to believe in God, but doesn’t. He falls in love (or thinks he’s fallen in love) way too quickly. Oh, and there’s clearly some kind of complicated father/son, mentor/mentee relationship going on between him and House, but that’s basically true of every doctor that works with House. By now, it’s really just justification to allow House going on acting like a dick. He does it because he cares, don’t you know.
This is about as paint-by-numbers as med shows get. Chase is struggling with the stabbing from last week’s episode (it’s been three weeks in show terms), and he doesn’t know if he wants to go back to work. Foreman convinces him to do some clinic hours, and Chase meets a hot nun with a lump in her breast. (Sidebar: Why is it always a hot nun?) Things proceed as they so often do on this show, and after some soul-searching conversations, Chase talks the nun, Moira, into giving up her calling and having sweaty, post-chastity sex in his apartment. Then she gets sick again, Chase gets in trouble for treating her despite his emotional investment in the patient, and Moira has a vision during surgery and decides to be a nun again.
There’s a bit more to it than that, but those are the bare bones. Stripped down, it’s not all that compelling. In action, it remains just as trite and predictable as it looks on the page. There’s nothing in any of Chase’s conversations with Moira that is different from any of dozens of faith-centric conversations on this show before. While it’s nice that Chase never becomes tempted by Moira’s faith to leave the hospital and turn to the church (what a weird spin-off that would have been), Moira is such a non-entity that their relationship is essentially a dull exercise in inevitabilities. Of course she’d briefly leave the church, and of course she’d run right back to it. She only exists to allow Chase to come to sort of peace with himself. If she stuck around any longer than that, she’d run the risk of inconveniencing future episodes. Combine this with the show’s insistence that Chase getting stabbed was some kind of Event, and it makes for a boring, occasionally laughable, hour of TV.
So once again, we find ourselves picking through the pieces to find any diamonds in the crap. Park’s newfound terror started off as amusing (the way she hid behind Adams was a decent sight gag), but quickly became the wrong kind of silly, as it turns out she has some sort of deep personal whatsit that she needs Chase to help her work through. More successful was House and Taub’s on-going prank war. (Well, not exactly “prank,” but sort of.) It was, like everything else in the episode, basically ridiculous, but it was an entertaining sort of ridiculous which gave us several funny moments, and a great tossed off conclusion.
The highlight of the episode came near the end, when House and Chase finally had it out, and House delivered yet another moment of honesty and vulnerability. Much like his apology last week, House’s explanation as for why he’s urging Chase to let the nun go was a refreshing, legitimately exciting exchange, as it once again showed a House who's apparently willing, at long last, to be direct and humble when the situation requires it. He’s done this before, but it’s still enough of a rarity to be distinctive, and, with the announcement that this will be the show’s final season, it has me wondering if the writers will finally find some balance between House-the-jerk and House-the-hero. I can’t imagine anyone wants him to turn warm and cuddly before the finale, but it would be a decent pay-off, after all these years, if the character was allowed to end his run with a certain amount of dignity and grace. But who knows. There are always bigger buildings for him to run into.
- Speaking of this being the last season, what do you want to see before The End? More explosions? Gratuitous nudity? An episode that finally addresses all that House/Wilson slash fic?
- “Am I boring you?” “Unfortunately, yeah. Sorry.”
- “You reassess your life when you make mistakes. You just got stabbed.” (Actually, I think being stabbed would be a pretty good time to reassess your life.)