Here's what Noel said back at the end of season 4: "But as always, House is ultimately about House, and how he lives with himself. In a callback to the season-opener's "go into the light" business, House imagines himself bathed in luminescence, telling the now-dead Amber that there's no justice if he survives a bus crash and she doesn't. Is this the prelude to a Season Five where House is chastened and–once again–on the verge of change?"
I think it's safe to say we have our answer; there's plenty of space left in the current season for things to go in a different direction, but as of "Let Them Eat Cake," we have a House who's kinder, gentler, and most surprisingly all, actually capable of growing up. Tonight had another iteration in the on-going Chuddy Adventures, with Cuddy commandeering House's office in light of last week's enforced re-decorating; the two trade pranks with Wilson smirking on the sidelines, until House finally calls the bluff, goes to the object of his affections directly and–kills the moment by groping her boob. Ah, but wait! After much soul-searching, he realizes that maybe his constant self-sabotaging may not be the best way to go about things, and he does something nice for Cuddy; specifically, he gets her old med school desk from out of storage and has it installed in her newly refurbished office. House is willing to take the next step. He's willing to be an adult.
I don't really know how to feel about that.
"Cake" had a decent PoTW–a fitness guru named Emmy collapses while recording a commercial, and the team discovers she had her stomach stapled, which may be the source of her current health woes. With Foreman and 13 largely on the sidelines for Foreman's clinical trials, Kutner and Taub do the usual talking heads routine, with Kutner defending Emmy's sincerity and Taub fixating on her lies. Taub ends up bonding with her; per the usual, the patient interaction is a little too much like debate club rehearsal, and Taub's utter lack of bedside manner seems done more to provoke discussion than for any character based reason. It turns out Emmy is suffering from a hereditary condition called coproporphyria; her liver isn't producing enough of a certain enzyme that even House can't pronounce, and the reason the condition is coming on now is that back before her stomach stapling, she was eating a lot of carbs and sugars–exactly the kind of diet that gets prescribed to coproporphyria. These days, with her ultra-healthy diet, she's not getting enough chocolate cake. Given the choice between getting her surgery removed, or taking medication to moderate her symptoms, Emmy choices the meds, much to Taub's disgust. To which I can only respond, the hell?
We also find out that Kutner's got a side-business going, running a website under House's name that offers second-opinions at discount rates. He pulls Taub in to help, and the whole thing backfires when they get a patient they can't treat; the patient comes into the hospital looking for House, wackiness ensues until the patient, gasp, dies. Remember, though, this is the season of zero consequences–it's all a con by House to teach the boys a valuable lesson, and so he can get his own cut of the action.
And over in plot D, 13 is struggling with the Huntington's trials; some of the patients are in the advanced stages of the disease, and it gives 13 some bad flashbacks to her mom. Nice to see some actually testing going on, and just having an "actual" Huntington's sufferer twitching and jerking across the screen threw 13's problems into a better focus than a whole year's worth of moping and sarcasm. I like the relationship developing between Foreman and 13; right now it could develop into a romance, or it could just go on being what it is. It's probably the only interaction on the show right now that isn't painfully predictable.
Ah, but House and Cuddy! Can't forget about them. Cuddy is so charmed by House's desk gift that she decides to forgive the whole boob groping thing and goes immediately to his office to, I dunno, invade his personal space some more. But apparently the writers of Friends decided to pop in for a scene, because before we get our emotional reunion, Cuddy sees House chatting and flirting with the prostitute he hired earlier for his little game with Kutner and Taub. To be continued!
Like I said, I don't know how to feel about this. Whenever House and Cuddy are one-upping each other, it makes sense, but the moment they start getting close, I get bored. It's the Moonlighting dilemma, and if you step back far enough, it's a problem affecting the series as a whole lately; where's the tension? Too much of "Cake" could've been lifted straight from an episode of Scrubs. And that last minute reversal–that's just lazy. You want House and Cuddy together, then either do it, or give us a convincing reason why they won't hook up. Otherwise, stop wasting our time.
—Another thought: if House really does change, what happens to House?
—I still don't really get why Cuddy is suddenly so hot for House. And not a further word about the whole baby thing.
—Ooo, Christmas episode next week. Let the Grinching begin!