House – “Not Cancer”

“Not Cancer”

September 23rd, 2008

The bodies are piling up for Gregory House, but he’s not really worried about whether or not Felicia Day survives through the episode: instead, he’s busy speed dating for a new Wilson. When he lost his three fellows at the end of the third season, it took him a good few episodes before he’s start even a protracted search potential replacement. In this episode, replacing Wilson is more important than life, death, or whatever might come after death.

So, needless to say, House is not in the best position to be figure out what is causing multiple transplant recipients from the same donor to either die or nearly die through a strangely diverse selection of illnesses. Some lungs fail, there’s a heart condition, and the aforementioned internet sensation (and star of Dr. Horrible) Felicia Day as the one who is not displaying quite the same level of symptoms. With such a wide workload, and with his attention elsewhere, House makes a bold move: he hires a private investigator, someone actually trained to break into people’s home and do all of the non-medical thing House usually has his fellows handle.

And while it is decidedly problematic for them to be introducing yet another new character when the show can’t handle Chase and Cameron as it is, Michael Weston’s P.I. is a charming enough character who feeds House’s paranoia while offering enough of an investigation into his relationship with Wilson. Yeah, he’s a bit precocious, but as far as guest characters who might be sticking around a while, I’ll prefer a sarcastic one to one who pops up in midseason as a contrived roadblock for our genius doctor.

These types of episode, for the most part, are not about the patients: yes, Apple (Felicia Day) slowly deteriorates and presents new medical mysteries to House and his team, but for the most part Day is secondary to the broader relationship between House and Wilson. The show often goes into these modes, where the actual cases are a mere distraction from House’s real preoccupations, and it can have one of two effects: either the episode feels too paranoid and self-centered, or it actually serves as an interesting window into what makes House tick.

And say what you will about Michael Weston’s character, but his obnoxiousness has even House uneasy: when they’re stalking the woman from the bookstore, it’s House who expresses a lack of comfort with the activity. Rather than having House string along an innocent, he’s the one getting roped into a self-investigation of his new situation. It works because it’s someone who is actually testing House, driving him to the point where he eventually has to show up at Wilson’s door to get a diagnosis not because he can’t know the answer without him, but because he can’t find that answer without a Wilson-driven epiphany.

When House eventually finds the solution, it’s a discussion with his new private investigator friend, which presents the usual problem: like when he tried to replace his fellows with a Janitor, there isn’t much validity to the opinion of someone unrelated to the medical profession. Of course, what he’s found instead is someone who is willing to not only assist House, but to crash a patient in order to allow House to test his theory: he thinks he’s found Wilson without morals, something that probably wouldn’t be quite the force of balance that House really needs moving forward. But he knows that it will never be enough for him.

The episode makes good use of its second half to excise most of the rest of the cast in favour of House against himself, and his one scene confronting Wilson at his apartment. The episode doesn’t even bother bringing Chase or Cameron into the fold except during the end of episode surgery, and smartly – there’s something quite good about when the show just lets House face his own destiny, and Hugh Laurie often does most of his best work in such situations. This is no exception.

The episodes offers a few good moments of comedy, some more sophomoric as others: the body sewage explosion was beyond predictable, but nonetheless effective, and the Fellows are given just enough to do in order to emphasize House’s frustration over losing Wilson. The show can’t keep this up forever, as they will eventually have to resolve this issue, but in the meantime it’s given the show a good foundation. Now, let’s get more of Cuddy, Chase and Cameron, shall we?

Cultural Observations

  • Felicia Day was right in her big scene: House does look sad. And that makes me sad. It’s all very sad.
  • House had plenty of great lines tonight: “Get the widow to say yes” was particularly mean, but I enjoyed “She’s going to get sicker, and she’s going to die. I brought Thai Food.”
  • I’m still undecided about whether I could handle an entire series about this private investigator character, but I’m open to the proposed spin-off considering some of the sharpness Weston brings to the role.

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