If there’s one undeniable credit I can say in favor of the writers of House, it’s that they’ve never over-burdened us with too much backstory. Oh sure, we know a fair bit about our protagonist, and every year or so, we can expect a monologue from him about growing up, and there was the whole thing when House’s dad died—but the show has never overused this particular trump card. It must have been tempting, especially in the last few years when every week brought some new, desperate attempt to create drama. Family is always good for a laugh, but while we got a few hints of controversy (House was abused, House’s dad is not his biological father), the series never pushed this too hard. I never got to a point where I was sick of hearing about House’s childhood, or seeing him into random relatives and old friends, and that’s a smart choice. The urge to “explain” House is always going to exist, and every fresh attempt to fill in his mythology is one step closer to turning a complicated bastard into a bland equation. By limiting the trips down Memory Lane, this sort of reduction can be avoid. The infrequency of family moments has also meant that whenever the show does decide to bring in Mom, it's a pleasant surprise. “Love Is Blind” had a light touch, and that made for a brisk, refreshingly direct hour of television.
Well, the family half was brisk, anyway. We still had our usual patient of the week theatrics to go through, and while this case was interesting—a blind man who starts suffering seizures—it fell down the melodrama hole in the final 10 minutes, turning from heavy-handed but moderately entertaining to an outright ridiculous soap opera. Will Westwood is just getting back together with his girlfriend after a long break when the attacks start. He gets trundled off to the hospital where House and his merry band can poke, prod, and misdiagnosis him for the next half hour or so. Melissa, the girlfriend, comes along for moral support, and when Will asks Taub and Park to hide a wedding ring, the team makes the obvious assumption about who that ring is for. But it’s more complicated than that. While he was on a break from Melissa, Will met someone new (a girl named Julie), and he fell in love with her because she treated him like a capable adult. So now, he wants to propose to her, but she’s off visiting with her parents, and he doesn’t want her to see him in the hospital. Melissa is there, though, and he needs someone to be with him, so…
The effort required to keep Julie out of the picture is the first sign that the episode is trying to do too much at once. If you’re close enough to someone to want to propose to them, letting them know when you’re in the hospital seems like a necessary step, and it raises the question: Is Will is as capable as claims to be? “Love Is Blind” makes some half-hearted attempts at the psychology of blindness and general physical impairment, but it’s all very shallow, boiling down to Adams having some sort of revelation about how blindness is just something you have to feel, man. (Chase mocks her for this, thankfully: “Are you talking to me, or writing a Facebook post?”) And it all gets really silly when House makes his final diagnosis, and they learn that in order to cure Will of his illness, they’ll have to treat him with medicine that could very likely leave him deaf. It’s a decision so immense that I’m not sure the show could do it justice even if they gave over the whole episode; here, it’s relegated to the last five minutes. Melissa, who had left earlier after having been told the truth (by a Will who was guilted into honesty by the forever judgmental Adams), returns, there’s a heartfelt exchange of feelings, and Will gets the treatment. In our final scene with the patient, Adams tells Melissa (in hushed tones, not that it would matter) that Will has lost all his hearing, and that no one knows if it will ever come back. Melissa goes to him, and squeezes his hand to answer his questions. Then he proposes. Laughing, because every girl’s dream is to marry a blind and deaf guy who was planning on leaving you before he got sick, Melissa says, “Yes, of course!” And Will hears her saying it. Fin.
I laughed. I doubt this was the intended effect, but it’s a damn funny scene, so ridiculously, relentlessly over the top and coincidental it belongs in a Dickens’ plot. You could dig a little, and point out that both Melissa and Will are making a huge life choice at an incredibly emotional moment, and neither of them can be expected to be in their right minds. You could wonder how Will is going to deal with Melissa treating him like a child for the rest of their lives together. (She apologizes for this, but as the show has told us again and again, people don’t change. They just learn better lies.) Maybe the show wants us to think about these things, but given the happy look on Adams face and the triumphant framing of the scene, I think it’s supposed to be a beautiful reunion. Eh. Again: I laughed. It fails as drama because it tries to hard, but it was enjoyable to watch, and, as I’ve said before, that’s my main criteria for the series these days.
As for the rest of it, Park’s acid trip was absurd but earned some decent laughs. (I like that House is House no matter how drugged you are, and WIlson’s attempts to lion-tame Park into submission were delightful.) It’s great to see Billy Connolly again, whatever the context, and he and House’s mother, Blythe (Diane Baker), create a fine dynamic with our leading man. House can try and avoid his mother, and he can confront her when he feels she’s given him enough of an excuse, but he can’t ever cut her out completely. The dinner scene, when House brings Dominika and plays all the truth cards he has left in his deck, was a smart way to handle the situation; where other shows might have played House’s faux-marriage for farce, the direct confession, followed by the utter lack of shock on anyone’s part, was refreshing. We’re back into soap opera land by the end, when Wilson runs another DNA test and proves that Mr. Bell isn’t House’s real father either, but this is saved by House’s reaction to the news. He’s not disappointed or relieved. He’s interested. These days, the show works best when it finds ways to keep its hero engaged in the world around him, and it’s charming to see him realize that his mother has more secrets than he realized. For House, being disappointed in people has become a way of life. He’ll be ending his run soon, and it would be great to see him learn that just because people lie, that doesn’t mean they aren't worth listening to.
- Blythe tricks Wilson into thinking she has cancer. House’s father is up for grabs, but he’s definitely his mother’s son.
- Dominika is still a bizarre character, but I like how the show uses her. She’s just so happy to be included! (And she’s still not sleeping with House.)
- Park’s acid trip had, so far as I can tell, absolutely nothing to do with the case at hand. Because of course it didn’t.
- “People were calling me Park-Ing-Lot.” -Park, revealing that peers can sometimes cruelly mock sudden weight changes.
- “I thought we had the Santa Claus talk.” -Wilson, getting off a good one