So, Kutner's still dead. Any chance of House waking up to find last week's suicide in the shower with Patrick Duffy died with "Saviors"' cold open. As Kal Penn heads off to do more valuable things with his time than save fake lives, the survivors try and pick up the pieces; which means that while the standard PotW structure remains as rigid as ever, there's a little more shuffling around when it comes to the character stuff. And that means—huzzah!—more time with Cameron and Chase.
Cameron gets involved when this week's patient, Doug Swenson, an environmental activist committed to keeping a decades old stereotype alive, needs a referral to House. She says she owes somebody a favor, which is probably true, but something's up; she and Chase had a vacation planned, and Cameron's involvement in the case keeps pushing that trip further and further away. So while the team races for a cure, Chase gets increasingly pissed off at Cameron's distance, and, in what were probably the episode's worst moments, Cuddy gets all nervous that Cam is putting the moves on her would-be-but-please-god-not-ever-really boyfriend, House.
Oh, and there's some chatter about Kutner being gone as well. It's so-so, and my objections to the character's exit remain the same; just because real-life suicide is often meaningless and seemingly random doesn't mean that the writers can use it as a Get Out Of Jail card whenever they need to come up with a hasty exit.
But enough of that. As seems to be the general way of this season, I enjoyed "Saviors" but didn't think it was all that good—Hugh Laurie is, as ever, the man, and with more time given over to some old friends, there were scenes tonight that you could almost confuse with the first couple seasons of the show. (You just have to pretend that Cameron never went blonde, which is something I've been doing since Season 4.) We were still plagued with the forced soap opera melodrama that's been around since the end of September, though. Seems like everybody on the staff is either dating another member of the staff, or pining hopelessly for another member of the staff, or they're Taub. The best House episodes manage to balance the concerns of the patients with the problems of their doctors, but now, the patients are after-thoughts, and the doctors' problems seem like pre-wrapped cliches. Cameron's got cold feet; Foreman doesn't communicate to Thirteen enough for her liking (brief note: augh); and Cuddy really does love House, but she just can't bring herself to tell him. (brief note, revised: whole mountains of augh, overlooking plains of bleagh, and bordering on the sea of GIVE IT A DAMN REST)
I so wanted to like this one, too. That first scene with Cameron and Chase, it was like old times, and it was great seeing Cameron back in the office again. I've always liked Jennifer Morrison, wrong hair color or no, and she does a good job here playing sane person in the face of the increasingly crazy accusations people throw at her. Nobody understands why she insisted on helping with House's case or why, once House effectively sidelines her, she keeps hanging around the hospital. She gets accused of still being in love with House, which is all kinds of dumb—I mean, that's stuff from the first season, and while it's been dug up every once in a while, the issue is basically closed. House himself closed it on their first date. (Which was a great scene, by the way.) Cameron's subplot is, well, lame, but she nearly manages to sell it; she's worried that Chase is going to propose to her, which brings back all the dead husband blues and fear of committment, so her plan is to convince him to dump her.
Again—lame. As are Cuddy's blatant attempts to "mark her territory" (as Cameron puts it) regarding House—remember when Cuddy was a hard ass? I'm pretty sure she used to be. This is just embarrassing. I also wasn't a huge fan of Chase's marriage proposal, or the fact that they immediately go tell Cuddy who is just overcome, you know. The relationships are all too easy now; everybody's friends with everybody, everybody's hugging everybody, and while part of that may be a response to Kutner's departure, it's a routine we settled into back in the fall. House used to differentiate itself from other medical shows by the quality of its writing, the performance of its lead, and by making sure everything was always a little bit dangerous. Characters had their own agendas, and sometimes those agendas conflicted. Now the only person on the show who doesn't always go along with everybody is House, and he keeps getting slammed for it.
He's still fun, though. There's an interesting subplot here with House being worried he's lost his "mojo"; not only was he unable to predict Kutner's suicide, he can't figure out why Cameron is butting in on the latest case, or why Wilson's suddenly got an obsession with healthy foods. As always, Laurie does the heavy lifting—his "I'm thinking" look, as oft-used as it is on the show, never gets old. It's an expression that can give even the most shallow of plotlines the illusion of depth, and that magic was needed here. Wilson's food-pranking has to be a new low of blandness, even for him, and Cameron's predictable, easily swayed doubts weren't all that dramatic. But it still seems sort of cool when House puts everything together.
Oh, and the patient! Almost forgot about him. Doug—who is every bit as annoying as the description "tree-hugging hippy" would suggest—has a wife, and a kid, and he's been neglecting them because, well, he's a self-righteous ass. We have a marriage in trouble, only they're not really characters, they're just a handy way of marking time till the credits role. Doug suffers a bit—he gets a broken femur just lying in bed, has surgery, flatlines, bleeds some—and House finally figures out that the one time Mr. Natural Is Perfection touched treated flowers, he got himself a case of sporotrichosis. The one good thing here is that there's no impression that the marriage is saved, or that anyone's learned a valuable lesson.
Some of the dialogue was decent tonight, but the only really memorable moment (unless you've been waiting all this time for Chase and Cameron to—gasp—oh I can't even say it, it's so wonderful!) came in at the end, with the return of the Hallucination of the Ghost of Dead Amber. Or just Dead Amber, if you prefer. It was a nice change up; House is clearly feeling proud of himself (loved his piano/harmonica "Georgia On My Mind"), but here's that one part of his brain that can't ever let go of anything. And it's swell to see Anne Dudek again. But I've got this horrible feeling that the lesson Dead Amber is going to teach House about life is going to involve him climbing on the Cuddy train, and that might just be the last straw of the show for me. I so hope I'm wrong.
- Man, I was so hoping this would be better. First ten minutes, it was like old times.
- More clinic time, at least.