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House: "Massage Therapy"

Illustration for article titled House: "Massage Therapy"
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I have no idea what Foreman's actual job is anymore. He's ambitious, and career-oriented, and while the reason he returned to Plainsboro after leaving a few seasons back was because his experiences with House made it hard for him to find work elsewhere, you'd still think that he would've nailed down some specific position here, instead of the nebulous, "I am the boss because I really, really hope I am" line he takes most often. The ambiguity comes up in "Massage Therapy" while Foreman and Chase are having it out over the doctor Chase hired to replace the still missing 13. Foreman accuses Chase of hiring Dr. Kelly Benedict because he wants to sleep with her. (This is, just like nearly every accusation on the show, true.) Chase fights back by mocking Foreman's pretense at leadership, and pointing out that he (Foreman) is just picking on Dr. Kelly because he doesn't have the guts to spar with House, the real source of his frustration.

It's not an amazing scene or anything, and by this point in the episode, characters telling Chase he wants to sleep with Benedict is old news (it doesn't get any fresher by the end, believe you me). But there's at least some brief tension there, or chemistry, or something that doesn't just feel like the writers vamping on a series that ran out of fresh ideas the same time Amber ran out of heart-beats. The only real reason I remember it now is that it draws attention to the fact that I have no idea what Foreman even really does on the show these days except glower, and because the rest of the non-patient storyline this episode was, well, kind of freaking boring. The patient, who never really establishes an identity, at least has a semi-decent mystery to hold our attention; and hey, you could even say that her endpoint diagnosis, schizophrenia, makes that lack of personality a fitting artistic choice. The rest of the ep, though, we spend either tearing down Chase's new hire, with endless riffs on the same predictable material, or we go through a sitcom-level plot about House and Cuddy and a hooker masseuse. (Which sounds a lot more fun in theory than in practice, let me tell you.)

First, Dr. Benedict. I guess having everyone constantly pointing out it is supposed to make it okay that Chase hired an underqualified looker simply for the brownie points, but on a show that routinely mishandles its female characters… ah, screw it. I really don't want to have this fight today, and it's not like it's going to change anything on the show. It was boring, can we agree on that? It was really, really boring, watching House make his snide comments, then Foreman, then back to House for slide show presentation, then more Foreman, then more House, etc, etc. Even the slideshow, while certainly odd, wasn't really much of anything. There's no new ground here. Given that the most obvious, meanspirited assumption a person can make when a beautiful woman gets a job is, "Oh, she got picked because somebody wants to get laid," did we really need to spend about a quarter of this episode pretending that Chase's half-hearted protestations were anything but? The worst part is that we're supposed to find it charmingly honest that Chase did what he did. There are no negative consequences for the character; worse, Benedict actually asks him out after quitting the job, so he benefits from his sexual favoritism. It makes her look like an idiot—yes, it's really impressive that he stood up for her like he did, he couldn't possibly have an ulterior motive—and it doesn't do anything new for us story-wise. Every single major female character on the show (all, what, three of them? Four, right, there was Sela Ward) has had her physical appearance be one of the most important aspects of her presence. Where's our female Taub? (And no, 13 doesn't count.)

Anyway, who cares, that was boring, and the sitcom stuff was boring too. House uses a hooker as a masseuse, Cuddy objects, House thinks she's behaving irrationally, there's a funny bit, House gives in, House gets to hang at Cuddy's. As Wilson explains to House, in essence, "You put up with the crazy, and then you get to have sex with them," which is the sort of line I'd expect to hear on one of those Fat Ugly Schlub Weds Hot Shrew shows. It makes no sense coming from Wilson, who we've seen over and over again is much more into relationships for the emotional aspect, and it makes no sense as an argument to House, seeing as how he's been going to hookers for years when he needs sex. The episode tries to back pedal at the end by saying this was all House's attempts to sabotage his relationship with Cuddy, but it's still just really, really blah. I laughed at the gay prostitute masseuse, I'll give it that much (and wow, Cuddy just strips right down in her office, I guess?), but… blah.

They do try to tie this in with the PotW, and I guess we can cut them some credit because the connection isn't as forced as it might've been. The Patient is a schizophrenic (huh, I guess that not-establishing-an-identity thing was on purpose?), and her symptoms at the start of the episode were caused by the meds she was taking for the disease. Once she gets to the hospital and goes off her meds, those symptoms leave, but then the hallucinations start. It's an easy enough fix, once House figures it all out, but the patient never told her husband about her illness, and now he's freaking out. (Not to mention her attempt at obfuscation with a lie about an abusive ex that sends poor hubby into the city to get his ass handed to him by an innocent man named Carl. The patient is lucky Carl could hold his own in a fight, or she'd have gotten her husband in jail in addition to everything else.) The husband wants House to give him an excuse to dump the wife, and House feeds him the same line about relationships being "hard." I don't think anyone would disagree with him (although I'm not sure "giving up my hooker massage" is equivalent to "my wife sometimes thinks I'm a demon"), but just because he's right, doesn't make him fun to watch.

Stray Observations:

  • Every time they do one of those hallucination/trip/special effects sequences, I wonder how many seasons it'll be before House does his first exorcism.