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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

House: "Larger Than Life"

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"Um, why are you still together?"

God bless you, Martha Masters. God bless you for saying to Taub what I've been writing in my notes for two seasons now, for stating a question no one on House has ever been able to give a satisfactory answer to. "I love her" seems like it should be enough, but it isn't; Taub has committed multiple infidelities and acknowledges that he'll almost certainly commit them again, and his wife is currently having an "emotional affair" with a dude she met on the Internet. There may be love between them, but at this point, it's more just a word they both use to avoid having to change their lives. The Taub/Rachel plotline has been one of the show's biggest weak-spots (we're judging on a curve at this point), a conceptually interesting hook that devolved into mawkish, repetitive melodrama, but hallelujah, it looks like Taub may have finally seen the light. And all it took was a recurring guest star pointing out the obvious.


There's nothing like a break to make you re-examine your priorities; it's been over a month since our last new episode of House (nearly two months, in fact), and in that time, I've had occasion to try and figure out what I expect from the show these days and how to adjust my reviewing style accordingly. But just having occasion doesn't mean I actually did much about it, and frankly, the less I think about this series and how it's gone from edgy medical drama with potential for greatness to middling hospital soap opera with occasional bursts of dark wit, the better for all of us. The one thing I did realize while the show was gone was that I kind of missed it, and the one thing I realized while watching tonight's episode is that as bitter as these reviews can be, I still have a deep affection for the main character and for some of the supporting cast. Which isn't surprising, really, since I wouldn't be nearly so bitter if I wasn't constantly missing the glory days. (The glory days were never perfect, of course. This was always a series that was more potential than delivery. But the potential is largely gone now, and that makes me sad.) I guess it was nice to remember that House used to be one of my favorite things on TV, even if it isn't anymore.

As for "Life," well, we had ourselves a couple of big guest stars, the usual moral quandry, House acting all crazy, and a wacky med mystery. Matthew Lillard played the slacker PotW, whose heroic rescue of an epileptic on the subway tracks has absolutely nothing to do with his actual health problems, and Candice Bergen appeared to be unbearable as Cuddy's Semitical convert mother. The problem the PotW posed, in addition to what ailed him, focused on his bravery: Could it be considered a symptom, indicating a neurological problem? Or was he just too swell for words? The answer, it turns out, is no to both. As is usually the case on House, House's cynicism was a little harsher than reality, but there was still a grain of truth buried in what he said. One act of heroism doesn't change a lifetime of ingrained irresponsibility, so it wasn't a huge shock at the end when Lillard went back to his family-ditching ways. As is par for the course these days, the medical mystery was mildly interesting but not much more. Lillard didn't get a whole to do, although he seemed likable enough. Which was frustrating, since his wife (the delightfully named Sprague Grayden) should've been more sympathetic, but wasn't.

As for the other plots, well, we got what is (please, please, please) the end of Taub's miserable marriage. Rachel starts wanting more sex, which makes Taub sad because, well, everybody on this show thinks too damn much, but also because he knows she isn't nailing him for him. It's more that her relationship with her Internet Romeo is getting more intense, so she's all turned on, and he's the best outlet that doesn't require an actual outlet. Per the usual, the Rachel/Taub scenes were agonizing, but at least Taub finally got some straight talk from Martha (as opposed to House's version of straight talk, which is generally too antagonistic to be much help), and, even better, it looks like he's finally going to move on with his life. There was also a goofy little story about Taub's picture showing up in Plainsboro ads, and the final shot of him throwing paintballs at his own smugly grinning photograph was, well, very much the sort of thing you'd expect, complete with emo song. But hey, at least that's over, right? If Taub can't change who he is, maybe it's time to change what he expects of himself.

And then there was Candice Bergen as Cuddy's mother, a storyline that could've been… I dunno, cool? Could this have worked? Bergen is certainly an interesting choice, and theoretically, a fitting one, as it's hard to imagine many actresses being able to stand up to Laurie in character. And yet, the episode largely wastes her as a horrible, nagging shrew. Sure, she apologizes at the end, but it seemed like a waste of Bergen's presence, and a bit of stunt casting that failed to create the illusion of depth. It was fun watching House drug her and Wilson during Cuddy's birthday dinner, although it's too bad the show has to push this hard to make House shocking. The most interesting thread here is the way House keeps playing Cuddy and Wilson off each other in an attempt to spend evenings alone in his apartment. It's a surprisingly honest moment in an otherwise routine bit of fluff. Even if you overlook the fact that House and Cuddy make only a hair more sense than Rachel and Taub did, House has spent a long time on his own. He was brave enough to embark on a new relationship, with all the risk it entailed, but just being brave doesn't mean you can change forever.


Stray Observations:

  • "I finally know what Taub would look like if he were life-size."
  • Ha, see, it's funny that Bergen keeps using Yiddish words, because she converted to Judaism, and that means "shtupping" isn't a painfully lame gag.

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