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Illustration for article titled iHouse/i: The Tyrant
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James Earl Jones is the title character in this week's House episode, "The Tyrant." Unsurprisingly, he's also the Patient of the Week. He's still as captivating a screen presence as ever, even stuck in a hospital bed and coughing up blood. Pity he didn't get to do much more than spout some middling dialog and inexpertly mess with Cameron and Chase's heads. Even more a pity, he and Hugh Laurie never even shared a scene together. But it was nice to see him up and about, at least.

I wanted to like "The Tyrant." It had a lot going for it; in addition to Jones' guest spot, there was also the return of Coke Classic, with Foreman asking Cameron and Chase to fill in for the now no-longer-working-there Taub and 13. (The former got no face time at all this episode, while the latter got waaaay too much.) House is finally back at Plainsboro, and while he doesn't have his license back, he at least gets to meet with the team and offer medical advice in a variety of amusing ways. And House's fight with Wilson's pissy neighbor had a decent enough pay-off. There are the pieces of something promising here, to be sure.

I'm just not feeling it any more, though. For one, I would pay good money to never, ever have to deal with Foreman and 13's relationship problems ever again. Yes, we get it, Olivia Wilde is quite fetching. (Although does she look skinnier this season, or is it just me?) That doesn't make her character compelling, especially since we no longer deal with her Huntington's. There was nothing in the conversations between her and Foreman that made me give a damn about either of them. There's no reason to care if they work things out. They have no real chemistry together, and while it was initially fun to see such an odd pairing (yeah, I'm fully aware I was all for this match-up last season), it stopped having any reason for existing a while back.

Foreman's gotten dull as well. He used to be a dynamic presence on the show, the only person really willing to stand up to House, and the only person willing to be to honest about his lack of emotional investment in his work relationships. Remember that speech he gave to Cameron a few seasons ago, when she got upset about him trumping a paper she'd written? He told her that they weren't friends, they were colleagues. This show used to understand the difference, which is what made it such a breath of fresh air from all the other mopey medical dramas on TV. Now everybody's one big happy family, and frankly, as emotionally comforting as that can be, it makes for poor drama. Cameron and Chase's relationship is passable largely because the actors themselves broke up a while ago, and that's gotta be awkward, right? So we can at least pretend there's some drama there. I just miss the danger of everyone at Plainsboro treating their jobs like actual jobs, and not like roles on, well, a long-running television series.

As for the stuff with House and the neighbor, well, the ending saved it somewhat, but I'm tired of being reminded about how House doesn't know everything. This isn't Curb Your Enthusiasm, I don't need to see him inadvertently asshole his way into a new embarrassing situation every week. Back when this show was actually good, it did a decent job of making sure all the characters were screwed up, and not just House; his aggressive misanthropy could go too far, but Wilson certainly wasn't a poster boy for sanity. But now that House has actually been to the nut-house, he's on the losing end of every conversation. Laurie does a good job of selling the character's attempts to play things straight, but we've changed the premise of the show from "brilliant but troubled doctor dispenses wisdom, snarkiness, and struggles with demons" to "jerk learns to be a real live boy." Having House use his medical skills to get back into the neighbor's good graces was, credibility problems aside, the right idea, but I'd be happier if we just got back to letting House be House.

And then there's Jones, and the fact that he died, and the fact that Chase is basically responsible for killing him. This is cheap stunt drama, plain and simple, and the final conversation between Foreman and Chase was some of the hackiest I've seen on the series. It wouldn't've been out of place in a soap opera, and the twist itself is a clunky, desperate grab for tension that hooks viewers at the expense of a consistently believable fictional world. What next? An alien crash lands in Cuddy's backyard, and House is the only one who can save it? Or maybe 13 goes exploring ancient tombs, gets a bad case of mummy's curse, and House has to make a deal with Anubis to save her soul, only Foreman drinks the magic potion first, and turns into a cat, and then Cameron has him spayed. "Tyrant" ends with Foreman burning the evidence of Chase's misdeeds, but I doubt this is going to be over quickly. So now, a character we haven't spent a considerable amount of time with in two years is going to be in danger of going to jail because he led to the death of a dictator who was possibly going to commit genocide. Yup. Can't wait.

Grade: C+

Stray Observations:

-House's sessions with the old team were pretty fun. Omar Epps was so close to cracking up during the mime bit.
-Number of times I wrote "I DON'T CARE" in my notes, re: Foreman and 13: 3
-Chase: "It worried me when you joked about letting that man kill Dibala." I can't pinpoint precisely why, but that's some not very good writing right there.
-I did like that assassin who tried to kill Dibala lied to Chase about having a wife. Not a bad change-up.

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