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House: "Unplanned Parenthood"

Illustration for article titled House: "Unplanned Parenthood"
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I miss 13. She was always a problematic character, but then, it seems like all we get on the show now are problematic characters; and while her relationship with Foreman turned into a narrative dead-end, when she wasn't moaning over Huntington's, 13 was actually not a bad presence on the show. She had Taub's sarcasm without his cowardice, and Foreman's spine without his lack of self-awareness, and that made for a decent dynamic on the team. She was willing to stand up to House, in a way that wasn't about proving herself—out of everyone, she probably cares the least about House's opinion of her, or her standing with him, or whatever. And she had a personality, which was nice.

Olivia Wilde is almost certainly coming back, given that her name appears in the opening credits; maybe she was busy filming the new Tron movie the first half of the season, but didn't want to pull the full Kutner. So that's good, and I look forward to the theatrics and strange tonal shifts her return will almost certainly bring. But despite missing her and everything, I was very sorry to see Taub's potential candidate for the New Coke Vagina Replacement Mission decide not to take up his offer to join the team at the end of the episode. Dr. Cheng was smart, not easily flustered, and pretty in a non-generic, "Well, I've got some time to kill before shooting my next L'Oreal ad" kind of way. Also, she behaved like an actual adult, which is turning into a rarity on the show of late.

"Unplanned Parenthood" boils down to three plotlines. We've got the PotW, a mom named Abbey (Jennifer Grey!) who gives birth to a baby who can't breath; we've got House forcing his team to find a woman replacement for 13; and we've got House (and eventually Wilson) struggling with the mind-numbing horrors of babysitting a sweet, fairly low energy toddler. None of these plots were entirely abysmal, although all had their moments. None were successful, either. I mean, they were successful in the sense that they told coherent stories with beginning, middles, and ends, but as entertaining television, well…

The toddler story first. Of the three, this was my least favorite, and yet it was the most consistent; I just really don't get many laughs out of grown men acting like morons around small children. House and Cuddy's relationship continues to look more like a "Friends With Benefits" situation than anything else, and the constant sex bartering (hell, even Wilson brings it up again) makes it more difficult for me to care about them as a couple. I'm sure that real-life partners do this sort of thing, but in the first couple weeks of dating? The fundamental dynamic between the two characters hasn't changed. At first I thought that was a good sign (Cuddy as a love-struck puppy would've been horrifying), but the longer this continues, the more off-putting it becomes. Before, Cuddy was the maternal force in House's life, the one who brought the hammer down, the responsible one, the one who set the rules. She remains this, only now, he's fucking her. That's just weird.

Then there's the kid and the dime and all that (Cuddy's toddler swallows a dime.) It's consistent because this is a sitcom plot, and it's been done a thousand times before. The familiar laughs are there: adults saying stupid things, kids who seem perfectly calm and then cause chaos the moment they're out of sight, the men being terrified that they'll get in trouble for their behavior, and so on. If you liked it, more power to you, but since when is this House? Hugh Laurie continues to hold things together as best he can, but all of this was ridiculously broad, and Robert Sean Leonard appears to be auditioning for Zach Braff's role in some mythical film version of Scrubs.

As for the PotW, well, I've been tempted lately to go back and re-watch this show's first few seasons, because it feels like lately all we're getting are bland iterations of old cases. Here, a mom sacrifices her life for her child. There's a bit more going on, but that's what it boils down to, and while there's theoretically a lot of power in the situation, it's painfully mishandled here. Grey is fine, but the actress playing her daughter is as bad as that family with the wheelchair kid back a couple episodes, and her bizarre attempts to guilt-trip her mother are tacky, unbelievable, and embarrassing. Everything here played out as though by rote, so that even the mom's decision to risk (and ultimately lose) her life for the sake of her baby is a shoulder shrug. And there's no ambiguity to it, either, which is bizarre. This woman (who we know nothing about, beyond a vague idea that she wasn't a very good mom to her first kid) dies for a two day old baby. Her actions are understandable, but it would've been nice if there'd been some sense of loss at her passing.


Finally, Foreman hires a hot doctor who House fires, and Taub tries to beat House at his own game, but ends up embarrassing himself in front of the nice lady doctor who clearly deserves better co-workers than any of these lunatics. I don't really believe Cheng's reasoning for not taking the job in the end (she says it's because she thinks Taub behaved like a child; okay, he kind of did, but if she's that interested in the job, and if the position is that high prestige, well, wouldn't you put up with a so-so co-worker to get what you wanted?), but I liked having someone actually say it. That's really my feelings about the show as a whole. If the point is to make House act like an adult, maybe it would help if the rest of House followed suit?

Stray Observations:

  • "It's your baby sister!" "It's my mother's vagina!" To-may-to, to-mah-to.
  • House firing Foreman's new hire: classic, dick-ish House. So I guess he hasn't changed that much, thank goodness.
  • "Just talking in a soothing voice. Not for your benefit. Am I turning you on?"
  • Hey, in case you forgot? Cuddy has breasts!
  • "I know about the Jew, the Black, and the Croc Hunter…" What about the Red-Haired Gay?
  • Looks like we're off till November 8. See you then!