House – “No More Mr. Nice Guy”

“No More Mr. Nice Guy”

April 28th, 2008

Of all of the shows who had set up extravagant storylines before the strike, House had perhaps the most to lose without returning: it had gutted its existing team, hired on new cast members, and had left at a point with nothing resolved. David Shore and company wanted to be able to see this to its end, whatever that end may be, so here we are with “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

The episode is a fitting return: a central question of House’s lack of niceness, a chance to further indulge House’s relationship with Wilson and his new girlfriend Cutthroat Bitch, and a sly way to both reference the writers’ strike and find a way to add more of Cameron and Chase to the show all at the same time.

If I were to, like House, give the series a performance review, I’d say that it’s back on track: it’s hard to really analyze the various medical cases, largely interchangeable, but this one was smartly unmemorable in favour of allowing these characters to regain some space in the viewer’s mind. As my mother says, the new lineup wasn’t as favourable once it settled in beyond the entertaining reality show metaphor, so it is important that we get to know them more than we get to know a lovable oaf.

The comedy of the episode, of course, comes from House himself, who literally enters into a custody battle with Amber over Wilson. While I have heard that there are some big plans for his character on a dramatic side for the finale (Stupid spoilers hidden in newspaper articles), House has worked best this season when he lets everyone else do the work while he goofs off. Bowling with Chase just wasn’t going to work for him, and forcing Cuddy to play King Solomon is just the tip of the iceberg for its potential.

House sabotaging his relationship is regular behaviour, and it’s helping to make this storyline more than an excuse to bring back the fantastic Anne Dudek. Her return has been a nice breath of fresh air, if only because she was the most disruptive element of the early season contest and her disappearance sent things back to something too close to normalcy. The episode did a good job of expanding on what we saw before the strike, so no complaints to be had there.

The case of the week, however, took a 180 turn to being all about House fairly quickly. Starting as a case of a man who faints and is in House’s view too nice as a nurses’ strike leaves the hospital short-staffed, you barely know the guy’s name before we realize that the real case is that House, like the patient, has syphilis according to an old blood sample. This, somehow, means that it could be this STD that is the cause of his LACK of niceness, and that treatment could result in a change in his behaviour.

It was almost disarming, because the show didn’t have the grounding of a recognizable case to move it forward. Instead, we got a lot of interactions between various different individuals. We got a lot of interactions between our four diagnosticians and Chase and Cameron, which we have never really had before – they struggle with a new House who is growing nicer by the second, and everyone tries to figure out how to return to their stable instability. We get an opportunity to see more of the latter pair than we’ve seen in a while, and Foreman’s struggles to regain authority is intriguing.

Of course, House is just pretending to be nicer, an extension of his usual bouts of making their lives a living hell. It was the age ol’ question we always ask: what happens if House changes? The end result is that the group of his students all figure out that they like House just the way he is, a sentiment I’m sure that the producers want the viewers to have so the show continues to draw boffo ratings.

I think that the series can only have so many of these moments – we kind of get this character by now, and we know that him being nice can only last so long. The threat of an STD controlling his behaviour seemed a bit strange, and I didn’t buy his team’s reaction: would they really be so worried? Are his diagnostic abilities so fantastic that there was actual concern that a little bit of niceness would irrevocably damage them? It seemed a bit forced at points, perhaps like their commentary on the Writers’ strike that grew less and less subtle as the episode went along.

I’m all for House being a strong character, but “No More Mr. Nice Guy” seemed to place him on a pedestal – even being humiliated with Amber by Cuddy isn’t enough for me to ignore the rest of the episode seeing him get out largely scot-free. I’m hoping that, as the season comes to a close, we can start to hold him a bit more accountable.

Cultural Observations

  • House is capable of multi-tasking watching soaps, spinning his cane, paying attention to his interns, doing his taxes AND doing Cuddy.
  • “I don’t sleep with anyone who is better than Hitler” Cameron on her sexual appetite.
  • I thought it was odd that an actor who I knew had been a high-profile Guest Star on Brothers & Sisters was in House’s Soap Opera, and sure enough next week’s episode focuses on House’s plan to kidnap him – nice foreshadow, House.

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