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Sunday, 7 of March of 2021

House – “Bombshells”

“It is good-time-adjacent.”

Cuddy and House in her frenetic dream set to "Get Happy."

Get ready.

There are three keys to identifying a “Very Special Episode” of House.

First is the absence of “Teardrop.” Now, I know what you might be thinking: “Teardrop” is absent on many of the syndicated episodes not airing on USA. And you’re right. And you’re being technical. “Teardrop” isn’t around on those episodes because no one wants to pay Massive Attack their blood money. When it’s not in the prime-time version, you can bet it’s because the show needed a truncated opening sequence to pack in all the deliverables for this week. And maybe so they wouldn’t have to pay Massive Attack their blood money.

The second has everything to do with the teaser/cold open. While we’ve dealt with a House distracted from and almost disinterested in medicine all season (much to my chagrin), the teaser here dovetails the height of that distraction into the patient-of-the-week, foreshadowing the rest of the episode. When Cuddy comes out of the bathroom, mentioning she has blood in her urine (and that goes right into our “Teardrop”-less non-credit sequence), we identify that if we know our patient-of-the-week (and it isn’t someone that can easily be killed off in a montage set to a slow ballad, preferably Damien Rice), something’s up.

And, my friends, something is definitely up this week. And I’m almost giddy to talk about it.

You might also argue that there is a nameless patient-of-the-week in the 16-year old boy (who might actually have a name but who cares?) that Taub takes after but the storyline itself is simple enough and doesn’t really become important until the end. The B-plot pretty much boils down to Taub being sad and this kid is also sad so Taub wants to help the kid but the kid is sad and dangerous so Taub has to punish the kid for possible badness. He’s also afflicted by a disease of his own making but they don’t know that at the beginning (obviously).

I’ve really not liked this season of House and I’ve really thought long and hard about why I haven’t liked it. Though I’m a Huddy-hater, it’s not that I don’t want love interests on television to get together. I wanted Pam and Jim to get together (even though I think that was the beginning of the end for The Office). I wanted Chuck and Sarah to get together (though it’s led to some awfulness on Chuck, including “vs The Honeymooners”*). I was even okay with Shawn and Juliet getting together on Psych (even though the character/actor symmetry is groan-worthy). I hated Huddy because I thought that was the death of the series. House getting with Cuddy could only lead to two scenarios: a happy ending and the show ends or a horrible, miserable break-up and we begin a new cycle of sadness where everything is back to normal but we’re left with this “Again?” feeling. But Huddy isn’t why I’ve hated this season.

Well, it’s partly to blame. House finally touches on it himself in last week’s episode (“Recession Proof”) after his Sunshine Cleaning patient kicks off. He says it’s because Cuddy makes him a worse doctor but he’s just a distracted doctor (which, in House black-and-white terms, I suppose does make him a worse doctor). The distraction has been most noticeable in how he approaches his weekly puzzles. Though the ducklings have always done much of the heavy-lifting, House traditionally is deeply mired in the the conceptual and/or strategic portion of the meetings. This season, House interrupts every differential with something off-topic or tangentially-related. He’s not figuring out the puzzle but just picking which pieces to lay down until the end of Act III when he has his epiphany, swoops in, and saves the day. The puzzle itself isn’t as important to him as it used to be. I don’t know if that’s just great planning on the part of a staff very familiar with this character or if it’s been lazy writing. Either way, I hate it.

This episode is the pinnacle of that idea, however, that the puzzle is secondary. With Cuddy possibly on the brink of a life-threatening diagnosis, my familiarity with House says that he would dive head-first into his patient-of-the-week, even if he wasn’t that interesting (which he turns out not to be), and try to make something of it in order to take his mind off what troubles him. Instead, he really backs off of both Cuddy and his other patient and finds ways not to be involved with either. Love drives him to an ultimate place of distraction where he becomes almost child-like in ignoring, not just his job, but reality itself.

Which leads us into the third key in identifying a Very Special Episode: manipulation of presentation, especially with hallucinations or dreams. Think to episodes like when House was shot or when Amber died. Remember when House imagined that Cuddy helped him get off pills? Good stuff. They all shared visual styles far different than usual. And this episode is no different.

We dive into Cuddy’s subconscious for most of these breaks in formula (except for once when we dip into House’s). Interestingly, her mind communicates to her in the form of media properties. Apparently she likes to watch a lot of Two and a Half Men (House is the Charlie Sheen character — surprise!), old 50s sit-coms (though she imagines gender reversal and then realizes none of it could be real), something that resembles Mr and Mrs Smith and Bonnie and Clyde combined with a western motif, and, finally, Baz Luhrman movies (particularly Moulin Rouge). Of the five sequences, her last dream (the Baz-Luhrman-esque take on “Get Happy”) and House’s dream (a zombie horror sequence) are the most interesting to me.

House first. His vision of defending himself against the zombified ducklings is curious though not as interesting as them feeding on Cuddy at the end. House has a habit of treating patients that are terminally-ill as already dead. He’s able to write these patients off. He can’t do that with Cuddy. So the fear that she might actually have something that’s killing her, something that he can do nothing about, is the seed that motivates the final scene of this episode. Her dream, the most visually-adventurous of all the sequences (and, obviously, most choreographed — here by Mia Michaels), is very telling, especially in light of the final scene. The Moulin Rouge effect allows for a sequence to be superficially upbeat with bright colors, bright lights, and uptempo score but have an undercurrent of nightmare in frenetic pacing, dark imagery tucked in with superficial (hidden by quick cuts), and sensory overload (often emphasized by sudden silence). While her other dreams are pretty surface as far as symbolic meaning is concerned, this one is a strong metaphor for how Cuddy should understand her relationship with House. That while they connect on several meaningful levels, and they can maintain a superficial level of happiness, House is still broken man, an addict, a train wreck even at this stage in their lives. The wounds are still fresh. And while they can provide each other with mountainous highs, it is an inevitability that House will cause cavernous lows.

It took us most of the season but Cuddy comes to the realization she should have come to in that bathroom at the end of last season in that rushed “let’s get together” scene that made me so mad. House looked up at her pathetically, talking about being the “most screwed up person in the world,” hoping he can be fixed, and I wanted to throw up all over the place when Cuddy said they should be together. But, as Cuddy deduces that House cheated by taking pills in order to get the nerve to visit her, she realizes that, even if they’re meant to be together, he’s too messed up even for their romantic kismet.

And that, my friend, should be the end of Huddy. Can it be true? Are we getting drug-addled, self-destructive House back? Can we have the guy that needs to the figure out puzzles return to the fold? Can this whole squishy mess turn into the flaming post-apocalyptic crater we all want the season finale to be? I’m not an evil man but I was totally cheering when I watched our boy pop those pills. Get in there, son! Do some damage!

Note: I do not support or condone actual, living people abusing narcotics or any drugs, medicinal or otherwise.

Suck those pills down and make me a story worth watching!

* Yeah, I totally found a way to mention how much I hate “vs The Honeymooners” on a show that’s no way related to Chuck during a week that Chuck wasn’t even new. That’s how much I hate it.

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