It’s interesting, considering how easy it was for House to get back so much of what he lost after last season, that the season took as long as it did to get his department funded. At the start of “Risky Business,” House has his office back, but not completely, and he’s got a team, but not a full one—and they aren’t even both working for him. Dr. Park, aka “Dr. Velma,” has been temporarily shifted to House’s staff, and Dr. Pretty Doctor doesn’t, so far as I can tell, even have a real position. She just keeps showing up, and hey, this hospital can’t function unless we have some kind of surrogate Cameron hanging around. (In tonight’s episode, DPD gets upset about the Patient of the Week moving his company to China, ending thousands of jobs; then she gets caught up because he has a dead wife. Classic Cameron!) I’d honestly be fine with just accepting that this is just how it’s going to work, much the same as I accept House continues to have employment because the show requires he has employment. And yet, here we are, four episodes in, and he’s still trying to manipulate patients to get enough money to make everything “normal” again. I suppose I should be appreciative that the series is willing to even pretend it has to deal with my suspension of disbelief.
By the end of “Business,” life is well on its way to being back to what it used to be. House, through a series of stratagems I only somewhat understood (it’s the stock market), finally gets the money he needs on his own terms (sort of), and we’re promised the return of Chase and Taub next week. Whoever had “episode five” in the pool, please collect your winnings. Really, though, we’ve already settled into the rut we call home. House is playing games with his team, games that we’re not even sure are games right up until it works out so that House isn’t a complete creep, but then, maybe if things had gone even slightly differently… Who knows. It’s a storytelling style the series has used for years now, because it’s the easiest way to appear as through you’re telling smart stories without actually, really, telling smart stories. House’s bet with Dr. Velma that she’d be fired led to a lot of questioning about whether or not House would really go this far (because apparently Velma, for all her anger and nerdiness, has yet to grasp that House may not be the most trustworthy person on the planet; seriously, I think he hires people based on how long he expects he’ll be able to shock them), but of course he would and of course he wouldn’t. He’s basically got Schrodinger’s Morality: His behavior has to have the full potential for good or evil right up until the end.
That can make for good drama, but at this point, it just makes for a muddle. The most compelling moment in tonight’s episode, for my money, is when Velma goes to Wilson and asks him for help dealing with House. For once, he flat out explains the situation in a way that gives us clear parameters. House has rules, and he considers his honor to be on the line. Of course, Wilson has to make a move to confuse things by throwing in a counter bet to try and save Velma’s job, and of course, we all suspect that House isn’t really going to get her fired because he doesn’t like change in his life. But at least that conversation felt direct about the situation. It felt like we were being given a structure for House’s behavior, as opposed to him just doing whatever the writers think will freak us out. Like nearly hitting the guy in room next to him? That’s silly, and worse than that, it’s “edgy” silly. As in, ooo, maybe House isn’t really as sane as he seems to be. Maybe House is half out of his mind, and he’ll crack up and run a car through another building. I’d really like a minimum of unpleasantness from this series now, but throughout “Risky,” there were signs of possible dark times ahead.
I suppose I should mention this week’s patient, a businessman played by Michael Nouri. This episode takes the bold position of doing as much as it can to make us sympathize with a rich man about to screw over his employees to save what he thinks needs saving. It’s an odd choice, and there’s some drama between Nouri and his daughter about the move to China, but it doesn’t really register. I think I’m taking too much after House at this point, since I care as little about the PotW as he seems to. Remember when the puzzle was the thing? Remember when he would do anything to make sure that his patient got the best treatment, not for their sake, but because House took every disease as a personal affront? The show still sort of remembers this. Every once in a while, we’ll get an episode where House risks everything to save someone, but most of the time now, he’s bored. He’s more invested tonight in making sure Nouri gets better to save his own ass.
You could make something out of this. Like, House is bored because he’s been doing this so long, and he doesn’t really have anything else in his life, and the medical mysteries are no longer doing it for him. But I’m not convinced the show is playing this angle. Each week, it plays more like going through the checklist for what they’ve decided makes a passable House episode. PotW with bizarre symptoms, preferably someone with a back-story that can be explained in a few sentences? Check. Mind games with the staff? Check. Fighting with authority, and sort of holding his own, despite offenses that would force any sane person to fire him? Check. Wilson? Check. It’s okay for what it is. I’m docking this one a few points because I was bored for big chunks of it, House's funding struggles were far too stupid, and the Dr. Velma story was a complete non-starter. (Also, because Charlene Yi’s attempts to “emote” were about as convincing as, um, okay let’s just say they weren’t convincing.) To the good, I enjoyed Wilson as always, and the scene at the end with Dr. Pretty Doctor destroying a lot of medical equipment with a baseball bat, while not exactly plausible, was entertaining.
- It really is impressive how hard the episode worked to make Nouri not entirely a bastard. Look, he’s basically moving his entire company, and betraying the people who work for him, to save face. I understand the value of control, and wanting to hold on to something that’s been in your family for generations, but in this economy? He’s an ass.
- Speaking of asses, House grabbed Foreman’s tonight. If this show has any slash fiction writers who aren’t devoted to a House/Wilson pairing, I hope they had their DVRs set.
- More clinic hours this week, and I want to go on record as being a huge fan of this. These scenes have always been one of the shows most under-used assets.
- “The best Halloween costumes are always the ones that need an explanation.”
- “You have to give him something he values more than honor. And you should update your resume.”