Every week, I do the best I can to approach the shows I review with an open mind. I don't always succeed, and I'm not even convinced I should; after all, when I review a new episode of House, I'm both reviewing the episode itself, and trying to put it into the larger context of the entire series. If a new ep repeats familiar ground, that's something worth catching and commenting on, and if the show suddenly manages to approach an old concept from a fresh angle, well, that's worth praising. However, it's way too easy for me to dismiss a storyline out of hand simply because how much I dislike the arcs of the past two seasons. The series has changed, and while I'll be the first to criticize when those changes don't work, I also have to accept that my initial reaction isn't always the right one.
So I was fighting my instincts a little during "The Choice," and once I made the effort, I think there were some nice ideas here, and a solid enough understanding of character relationships that I even found myself interested in the return of my least favorite sub-plot in the final scene. I doubt it's revolutionary at this point for a mainstream network show to come out so firmly in support of being true to one's sexuality. Although maybe it is, given House's demographic? I honestly don't know, but I still respect that kind of thing, predictable or not. It seemed like the stronger patient storyline also led to some more interesting debates among the team. While the discussions followed the pattern they've always followed, it's striking to hear such a politically and culturally loaded situation—a man who's almost certainly gay deciding he wants to marry a woman and insisting that it's love—talked about without any real reference to the political or the cultural. Nobody ever argued that the "treatment" Ted got worked, but nobody ever said he should stay gay to prove the system wrong. The issue was more what we're allowed to chose about ourselves, and what we're forced to accept is going to be a part of us no matter what.
The down side is, PoTW Ted, wasn't a very good actor, and his former roommate-boyfriend, Cotter, was worse. Both were very TV gay, soft and generic and largely personality-less. Cotter behaved like a wounded puppy, and we either needed to see some actual sense of anger and betrayal from him, or else his lack of a spine should've been more than just "Oh, y'know, gay-ness." Of the three, only Nicole, Ted's bride-to-almost-be, had spark, but I wanted more specificity from the situation, a greater sense of them as something beyond concepts. I liked that 13 and Chase's argument was abstract, but when it came to the actual love triangle itself, I wanted more… I dunno. It seems a little ridiculous at this point to complain at how generic the patients on this show can be, but this is the first time in a while where I was intrigued enough about a case to want to be more emotionally invested in the outcome.
On other fronts, House, realizing that Sam is gradually pushing him out of Wilson's life, is developing a drinking problem. Rather, a drinking-then-waking-up-in-the-neighbor's-bed problem. So Wilson bribes House's team to take him and be friends with him and so forth. This starts off with a dinner with Taub, which gives us a nice little drama about House screwing with Taub's marriage, and then actually helping Taub cheat, in a way that ultimately convinces Taub to end his affair. Then 13 takes House to a lesbian bar, then Chase and Foreman take House to karaoke. It's cute, and made me like the characters more, but oddly enough, I find myself turning on Wilson, especially when Wilson visits House near the end to lecture him on what a good job he's doing making friends. I know we're supposed to cut Wilson a lot of slack for all the crap he's put up with over the years, but there's a gloating tone in his voice that's become unpleasant. House shows a few honest moments tonight, and Wilson gleefully pounces on them, and that's not very friendly. If we're going to accept that House has serious mental problems (and the past few seasons seem determined to make us accept this), shouldn't his best friend in the world know that sometimes it's better just to shut the hell up when you're winning?
Oh, and that last scene… Well, if the series is going to try and re-light the House/Cuddy fireworks, that's crap. However, that's not the only way to play this. House's frustrated childishness about Cuddy's relationship with Lucas could be "True Love" and whatever, but it could also just be an attempt to keep him fixated on what he can't have, wanting what will always make him miserable. I don't believe a House/Cuddy relationship would've ever make sense, but I could believe in House clinging to the idea because he has to believe that there's a reason for his unhappiness that can't be resolved. Being sad and angry and alone for a reason is much better than to risk being sad and alone for no reason at all. We'll see how this plays out.
- Another reason to like this week: the patient solution was a clever way of subverting expectations (it was awfully suspicious how Ted seemed to pass out every time he talked about marriage) while still holding to the central thesis. Ted's problems came from trying to force himself to be something he's not. I guess the question with House is, is he try to force himself to be a loner? Or is he a born loner who's trying to force himself to have friends?
- What the hell was with the catty nurse? "Well, we've got some noble, suffering gay folks in this one, probably should have a funny one as well."
- "Sodomy. One of the top ten most common household accidents."
- "I'm gonna check out this new lesbian bar tonight." "Your life is awesome." "You wanna come?" The more I think about it, the more I would've enjoyed House's adventures with Coke Zero if it hadn't been on Wilson's dime. It just seemed like such a new, odd development, and to have it turn out to be just another con, well-meaning or not, was disappointing.
- I guess Taub's resolved his problems with the wife. Or else he's lying because he's sick of House meddling.