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Wednesday, 30 of September of 2020

House – “Office Politics” (Nick)

“Is he grunting? I think I hear grunting.”

You may notice this is my first post on House all season. There are several factors. (1) It comes on the same night as Chuck and, with all the time I need to lament that show (both in writing and post-episode independent face-palming), I usually don’t have time to watch House on the night it airs. (2) House episodes tend to lean more toward the episodic and, after six years, discussing the banal Psych 101 the characters wield against each other in order to extract plot points is not only tiresome to read but boring to write. (3) I’ve been hoping against all hope that this season is a fake and that House is going to wake up and realize Huddy was just a figment of his drug-addled imagination.

That is, until tonight.

Though the addition of Amber Tamblyn (known to most as Joan of Arcadia or the daintier female cop in The Unusuals; sadly known to me as Emily Quartermaine on General Hospital) was intriguing, unlike Noel, I’ve suffered this season week by week. I know: other people have found it to be good, even the better of the past three seasons. I don’t. I’ve felt like Huddy, though set up for years, was a contrived ending to last season. I felt like House’s change in demeanor since being with Cuddy has been unnatural at best, antithetical at worst, to his character. I’ve felt like the rest of the diagnostic team has been weak sauce this season (not to fault the actors). But, finally, tonight, I saw something (however poorly executed) that might actually turn everything around for me.

Masters to this crew does what everyone on this show does: acts as a foil for House. Other TV shows might bring in characters so they can connect with an audience and viewers can watch a character grow with them. House brings in people that reflect House. Foreman is House except from a different upbringing. Chase is the reformed spineless jellyfish Taub is today, made stronger by House’s tutelage. Thirteen is the only character that shares House’s seeming moral bankruptcy and vision in gray though she is hampered by emotions. Masters is a combination of everyone else. When House assumes that Cuddy sees herself in Masters, it’s true. But she’s also Wilson. And she’s also Cameron. She is a person with a strong belief in what is right and wrong and can be indignant about sticking to that vision. While our protagonist doesn’t value this position (think of all the times House has tried to prove the polar position wrong over the years) he does value the conviction. While the boys are also strong in opinion, Thirteen was usually the only one that could and would challenge him so, while Olivia Wilde traipses about my old neighborhood of downtown Atlanta while filming some — interesting? — movies, it’s good to bring on a character with this kind of determination (or at least bolstered determination with Cuddy standing behind her) and conviction, especially since Cuddy’s position is compromised by sex and they’ve decided to hide Wilson.

But that’s not the turnaround I’ve wanted.

Amber Tamblyn did fine in her role and having an intellectual equal (at least in book smarts) poking around the office will be fun but the turnaround I’ve been looking for comes in during House’s decision to choose between his puzzle over his personal life.

Maybe I’m just tired from a long day or already jaded to whatever underhanded scheme House is going to use to treat the patient unconventionally, but I felt like there was no drama to him faking the blood test. The act and the events surrounding it didn’t feel all that — well, eventful. He goes into Wilson’s office and has a chat, the result of which leads him to believe he can either let the patient die and take the hit to his record or he can lie to the girl he’s always wanted and save the stranger. House actually struggles with the decision. While watching it, I thought to myself, “What is he mulling? He’s obviously going to do it. Who is he trying to fool?” But then, I understood: the season has been about this decision not being as easy as it would’ve been 8 episodes ago.

All the garbage I’ve suffered this season, with the horrible “can you love a bastard like me” routine in last season’s finale to the skip in his step to the compromises he’s made for Cuddy have all been a slow decline to this moment. I’m not sure why it didn’t hit for me until after I watched the episode but now it’s clear this is the first real House moment of the season. This is his self-sabotage. Trivial as it is compared to the egregious violations of trust he’s perpetrated over the years, this act of defiance and subterfuge heavily blurs an already smudged line between employer and employee and, as House obviously chose to save the patient rather than protect the relationship, Cuddy finding out that the man she trusts most is still willing to sneak around and lie to her face is the beginning of the problems I felt they should always be having.

The show is not about House’s happiness. The day the man is 100% happy with the way things are going is the end of the program. This show runs on the intellectualized curmudgeon and a constant source of negativity and discontent hovering around Diagnostics. So that’s why these twinges of happiness and compromise in House’s demeanor over the past few weeks gave me some grave concern. But this small thing with the blood test gives me hope that the good doctor is willing to ruin everything to solve the puzzle. I don’t ask for much from this show: not seasonal arcs, not constantly deepening characters, not even overwhelming medical drama. What I do expect is dedication to their eponymous character. And “Office Politics” makes me feel like they’ve been setting us up for this the whole time. I just wish they’d come to this much sooner.

So here I am, still trudging through this show despite my reduced interest in the actual medical situations and my disappointment in the latest emotional draw. But at least the show that I recognize is showing through. Just a little. And, hey, they fed Taub a line about Small Wonder. Dated reference: totally worth it.

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