TV Review: House – "Words and Deeds"

I think I may be suffering from broken heart syndrome. My symptoms? A pain in my chest every time I think about the latest episode of House, a reluctance to write about the show I normally can’t wait to dissect, and a sore throat. Though that last one might be more related to the cold I’m fighting off, come to think of it.

It breaks my heart to say this, but “Words and Deeds” takes away my ability to say that even a bad episode of House is better than most of the good stuff on television. To look on the bright side, the three weeks until another new episode should allow my heart to heal, since in an extremely unsatisfying plot twist, the reset button was hit on the series as much as on the patient of the week’s brain.

Derek, a young and hot firefighter who is very much not an older woman, is disoriented and experiencing extreme body temperatures. Cameron, who’s had enough of House’s self-created problems, forces him to focus on the case, eventually leading to a diagnosis of menopause. When she tries to administer the hormone treatment, Cameron finds herself throttled by a man who’s arm is about as big as her entire body. Last episode I kind of wanted to strangle the sanctimonious woman myself, but it definitely wasn’t pretty to watch it literally happen.

When Derek starts having heart attacks, the team discovers his beautiful partner Amy is the trigger, and broken heart syndrome is the new diagnosis. And damn, Scrubs beat them to the punch with that one in last week’s tribute episode, “My House,” making that particular disease appearing in the very next episode of House more comical than dramatic.

Through all this, the team has to get House’s input on location in rehab, where he’s checked himself in after an apology to Vogler Jr. – I mean, Detective Tritter – didn’t get him to drop the charges of stealing a dead patient’s Oxycodone.

Cuddy and Wilson try to suss out if House’s rehab decision is real or just a show, so he points out that it wouldn’t be much of a show if it wasn’t real. Everybody lies.

He even apologizes to Wilson for blaming him for his problems, a fact that makes Cameron thaw her newly icy attitude towards House and give him the most awkward hug in the history of hugs. I wonder if she apologized to Wilson for blaming him for House’s problems before getting all sappy over House’s apology.

Tritter doesn’t buy the rehab move, because nothing House can say or do would ever be good enough. Because Tritter is just another cartoonish big bad wolf with a sketchy motivation that goes no further than having been burned by an addict. His role ended up being solely to further a plot that no one but the most gullible viewer thought would end up with House in jail or losing his medical license.

But instead of the process of getting House off the hook being clever or believable or interesting, we get Cuddy suddenly pulling a rabbit out of her butt and perjuring herself to save House’s butt.

The show resets itself with the revelation that House has been taking Vicodin throughout, thanks to a bribable rehab worker. We’re promised the same old House, which I hope also means the same old House that doesn’t rely on cheap tricks.

I found it hard to care about the ludicrous rehab and trial plot, but the patient case was no better. Derek can’t confess his love for Amy because she’s engaged to his brother, so he agrees to a radical treatment to give him electroshock treatment to wipe out all his memories. No one objected to frying the patient’s brain and eliminating who he is as the first line of treatment, no one on this ethically flexible medical staff thought to talk to Amy, in one of the most ludicrous leaps the episode expects us to take.

Another is that after the brain frying works, when it turns out Derek’s memories had been false – Amy is not, in fact, engaged to his brother – the team calls House while he’s on trial to let him know they were wrong. He can’t trust his highly qualified hand-picked doctors to perform a test by themselves, so he walks out of his trial to swoop in and discover a spinal meningioma that’s causing all his problems. They can now cure him, except for that whole erased brain thing. Oops.

“What do I do when I get out?” the memoryless Derek asks Cameron. “Sue the crap out of this hospital” is what she should have answered.

I’d write more about Lisa Edelstein and Hugh Laurie making this episode even remotely watchable; and how his speech about pain affecting his actions rang true despite the fact that he was trying to bullshit Tritter; and how ironic it was to see House rebel against someone applying his own “everybody lies,” in words and deeds, philosophy to him; and how amusing it was that when House’s biggest supporter, Cameron, has had enough of the man, Foreman and Chase decide to be supportive. But I just can’t write anymore about this episode. My heart hurts too much.

In three weeks, I look forward to the same old House, even if I’m heartbroken at how the show went about getting to that point.

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21 Responses to TV Review: House – "Words and Deeds"

  1. wcdixon says:

    Sigh…yeah, that about sums it up. Makes me think of the ‘polishing a turd’ post…did the show realize they had dug themselves into a hole and needed to get out? Or that this was the plan all along and it just turned out to be a turd? And did they realize it was a turd or were they high fiving each other after it was done?

    I actually heard two friends of mine who are friends of the show say yesterday that ‘if the next one isn’t a lot better, I don’t know if I’ll keep watching it.”

    I always contest that nobody or no series sets out to make a bad episode…it just happens. But you’re right…there’s been a handful of series over the past ten years who’s worst shows were still better than most – I had ‘House’ on that list, but no more.

  2. Steve says:

    “…We get Cuddy suddenly pulling a rabbit out of her butt…”

    I will never forgive you for the image you gave me of that poor rabbit.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’ve never enjoyed the nemesis arcs that have popped up on House…they’ve felt rushed, over-the-top, and too in-your-face for me. I figure the writers are either better at the subtle stuff that happens in the stand-alone episodes, or that we’ve been spoiled by Hugh Laurie’s brilliance; and that the guest actors simply can’t bring to their characters what Hugh does to House to make the audience sympathetic towards them.

  4. John says:

    I’ve been going around the net the last couple of days, hoping to find someone to change my mind, but maybe I’m not all that wrong. That was a bad episode, the weakest one of the entire show so far.

    The reset button, while encouraging for good future episodes, is also a tad annoying, because it immediately removes the impact of a storyline. If nothing moves forward, the occasional storylines (like Vogler or Tritter) are just excuses for soap drama. It’s fairly obvious by now that the writers don’t do well in such expanding storylines. They’re better off staying away from them in the future.

    Another problem with the resolution of the whole Tritter storyline is that once again they made a situation impossible to get out of and had to resort in such resolutions to end it. The judge just dismisses the case, because Cuddy lied? I don’t know much about the system over at the US, but that comes off a bit implausible. Just like frying a guy’s brain, without bothering to talk to his brother or his partner first.

    And don’t get me started on the characters’ emotional state and actions in this one. Last episode, Cameron was about to bite both Wilson’s and Cuddy’s heads off for pushing House, but now she’s against him? And suddenly Foreman and Chase (who were as good as absent in this episode) were supportive?

    Well, seeing how this is the first really bad episode the show has given so far, I’ll calm down and wait for the next. Ultimately, I’d like to believe that they were trying to do too many things in too little time. If they had expanded this in one more episode, it might’ve turned out better.

  5. Annie says:

    Well Diane for the first time I completely disagree with you! And I’m sorry you are broken hearted but don’t go getting your brain zapped please 🙂

    If you want plausible, this is not the show to provide it. Even the basic premise, that a hospital would continue to employ a doctor who routinely flouted the law and medical ethics in this litigious culture is preposterous. And you can continue to list nonsensical implausibilities right up to miracle leg muscle cures and on through all of Tritter’s questionably legal antics. So to me the resolution of this story was no more ridiculous than anything else they’ve done.

    That said, I really enjoyed the episode, primarily because it gave us a ton of House from perspectives we don’t often (if ever) get to see. And I was hooting at the end — House got the last laugh and played everyone including the audience, at least in my case. Hugh Laurie continues to impress although I’ll confess I could happily watch him read the phone book. The man is simply amazing. And hot of course, but seriously talented.

  6. Namaste says:

    Personally I don’t believe he was on Vicodin the entire time, but started taking it once it was clear Tritter wouldn’t be moved. (If he was faking the detox for the benefit of Wilson, Cuddy and the fellows, why was he so wasted looking in one scene when it was just him and “Voldemort?”)

    So did he cheat and lie? Did he take the coward’s way out? Sure, but I can buy that he did make a legitimate attempt, which is more than he ever did for Stacy or to eliminate the Vogler threat two seasons ago.

  7. Suldog says:

    Well, I’m obviously part of a minority here, but I enjoyed the episode and found it as plausible as most others. As a matter of fact, the only part I found totally UNplausible was Tritter’s “Good luck” wish to House after the trial.

    (I will say that Cuddy’s perjury was a bit wishful on her part. A detective of Tritter’s tenacity and intelligence would have had no problem comparing records of oxycodone received and distributed by the hospital and being able to pinpoint a discrepancy that would have been damning. However, the judge’s dismissal makes that a moot point.)

    Insofar as the frying of the fireman’s brain, let’s explore another possibility only slightly touched upon in the script. He was experiencing menopausal symptoms because of damage to his sexual apparatus. Might he have wanted the deletion of memory, and might he have been experiencing “broken heart symdrome”, not due to false memories, but rather due to his knowing that he would never be able to fulfill his physical end of a love/sexual contract? If so, his embarrassment over that situation might lead him to evolve a delusion, over time, that saved his psyche. And since the nature of that delusion – the reason for frying his brain in the first place, whether a delusion or not – involved a matter that he preferred be kept confidential from both his love and his brother, why would they have been consulted? It was his decision to make, as a legal adult, and neither he nor the medical team needed their consent.

    I found the resolution quite satisfying, in that this series did not back down from any of the original impulses that drive House or from their seeming viewpoint that not all recreational drug use is inherently evil. Judges are not automatons and have great leeway to dismiss. A stretch? Perhaps. Implausible? Hardly.

    I don’t believe that Cameron acted out of character. She has consistently (at least over this story arc) defended House to others while being increasingly strong TO him in their dealings together. The hug was, indeed, awkward, but played beautifully by Laurie.

    Well, Degustibus Non Est Disputadum, as my grandfather used to say when he’d had a few too many. You still present the most lucid and detailed reviews of this show. Thanks for doing so!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I found this episode a highly satisfying resolution to the Tritter arc. This arc was focussed on the rupture of the core relationship of the drama:the unruly, twisted friendship between House and Wilson. We were not supposed to really believe that House might go to jail, that was not in the cards,obviously.

    What I found I deeply cared about was whether or not House would be able to restore his friendship with Wilson after the series of devastating blows suffered from the beginning of the third season.

    The previous episode, “Merry Little Christmas” ended with the gut-wrenching scene of House realizing that Wilson had finally been pushed beyond the point of breaking. So “Words and Deeds” provided an effectively sincere moment of apology from House to Wilson to conclude that part of the story. This was for such a closed and controlling character a momentous change in direction.

    House was indeed detoxing during the first several scenes in rehab. He reversed course only after Tritter’s nasty visit to the art therapy class when he realized that nothing he said or did would change Tritter’s maniacal drive for vengance.

    The other important movement in this excellent episode was to see House recapture some modicum of control over his life and his pain. This restoration of control is crucial for his personal development as well as for the continued success of the drama itself. House did this by using his favorite methods of subterfuge, deception, and bribery to resume using the Vicodin. His mojo is back, but he is chastened nonetheless. This not a case of resetting but of recharging this electric and vital show.

    Cuddy’s perjury was surprising, well-played, and in character with her oft-stated belief that House needs medical support and the discipline of physician-guided pain therapy rather than punishment by the legal system. Lisa Edelstein completely sold me on that scene as well as the following one at House’s cell when her combination of relief, anger, and frustration boiled over.

    And of course Hugh Laurie continued to deliver an astounding performance of liquid subtlety, intelligence, and power. He was mesmerizing and moving in this episode.


  9. Sara says:

    I’m sad to say, I’m not enjoying “House” at all this season. It was my favorite show.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Love the Tritter arc, think this is the best season so far. I think what I should give up, though, is reading other’s opinions.

  11. Mef says:

    Just caught the ep. I’m with you Diane.

    And I don’t think Cuddy now owns House. I think he owns her, in a Miller’s Crossing Tom Reagan/Bernie Bernbaum way.

  12. CAROLINE says:

    Anonymous, perhaps what you should give up is hiding behind anonymity if you’re going to dis someone in their house. Bad form, really.

  13. Diane Kristine says:

    Was that a dis? I just thought anonymous was helpfully going to keep us posted about his/her reading habits.

    Good to see not everyone hated the episode as much as I did, though.

    Sorry for the image, Steve. Yeah, Mark, I can’t imagine Cuddy owning House any more than he wants her to think she does. If that sentence made any sense.

  14. Kristen says:

    I liked this episode. I really enjoyed the case until they decided to fry his brain with too much time left in the show. (Frying his brain should never been offered as a solution to him. Just tell him to stay away from her.) I knew it couldn’t be the final solution unless the trial took up the rest of the show so that decision did not bode well for the patient. That’s an inherent problem with House. If there is still time left in the episode you know he hasn’t reached the final solution.

    Cuddy was good. A great scene was her going along with the really bad medical decision without fighting because House appeared more rational and in control than normal. Also the final scene; although, her owning him will rely on him be grateful. She’d be in as much trouble as him if she were to admit the perjury.

  15. Eric says:

    I’m going to miss Tritter a lot, personally, because he was a much better villain that Vogler ever was. And given all the Sherlock Holmes parallels the show has always employed, I love the irony of having House’s “Moriarty” be a cop. 😉

    I think there was some deeper commentary on the nature of House/Tritter than most people gave the episode credit for – let’s not forget that Tritter was absolutely *right* about House, even while being the show’s “bad guy”. House’s Vicodin addiction continues, to the potential harm of himself and the people around him. Tritter was a caricature of justice without mercy; it makes him a dick (much like House, obviously), but it doesn’t make him wrong.

    The problem I see is that now the Vicodin angle – which has been their hook several times during the show in various ways – really can’t be approached again. At least not for awhile. Everyone important on the show knows he’s still hooked, and it’s now been decided that nobody cares. Even the judge, knowing full well Cuddy was making up the defense, basically said “big deal, he’s on Vicodin, I don’t care.” So it’s still a problem, but it’s not a problem. I’m not sure how that’s gonna work.

    On the whole, I didn’t hate the episode – it had its moments. The medical case was weak, but every one of the House/Wilson scenes was great. Those two are wonderful together. The apology in the rehab clinic and the discussion about the apology at the end of the episode felt so true to character; House is still House, but Wilson gets a little compensation for what he’s been through.

    Still looking forward to seeing them wrap up the season. I wonder what our cliffhanger will be this time.

  16. Renee says:

    I felt lukewarm about this episode. Maybe it was the three billion years I had to wait between “Merry Little Christmas” and “Words and Deeds.” At first, I wasn’t sure if the anticipation and wondering had caused me to get my hopes up for the greatest episode ever only to be disappointed with a dialogue deprived skimpy version of what I expected, but then I realized that the episode itself was less than adequate.

    I think the major problem is that there are too many writers. The writers never write for very long. They come in, write one or two episodes in a row, and then another writer, one who doesn’t like the previous writer’s storyline, decides to quickly resolve the action. “Merry Little Christmas” was a great episode. It had all the best elements: heart breaking drama, humor, sassy dialogue, and somewhat interesting case. The best part of “Words and Deeds” is the last two minutes of the show when Wilson realizes House has been taking the Vicodin (though I agree that he was not taking it the entire time he was in rehab). The music beginning to blaze in the background, “Season of the Witch,” left me with a quirky smile and the knowledge that the next episode will be full of the House I have come to love. I want to see some patient drama, not just them laying there in the bed dying. I want to see a patient who is a good actor. I want to see more.

    There is a threat House fans seem to pass around. It is the if-this-next-episode-isn’t-better-than-the-last-then-I-am-going-to-stop-watching-the-show-forever threat. I have heard it uttered many times on blogs and overheard rants about how creepy Tritter is and how he didn’t do anything for the series. But I think we all know House is in our veins, and we will continue to watch as long as it comes on. Though, I must admit, getting an episode every three weeks to a month is just ridiculous.

  17. CAROLINE says:

    Did you see the promo during 24 for the new episode on Jan 30th? A dark secret from House’s past comes to light … the most shocking episode ever, apparently.

  18. Diane Kristine says:

    No, I don’t watch 24 (yeah, I’ve heard it’s good, I tried in the first season, but it’s just too much commitment, and too much drama). But if the promo people say it’s the most shocking episode ever, it must be true 😉 I have read the press release description of it and it does sound like a great one, as far as you can ever tell from a description.

  19. atara says:

    Oh and I HATED the ECT plot. First of all, one session isn’t going to destroy one’s identity. But I know someone who went through about 15 ECT sessions, and it wreaked havoc w/ her memory and despite tons of work trying to recover things, has left really upsetting holes in her memory of her life and her academic knowledge. It was a stupidly extreme idea for treatment of the firefighter’s condition. I can’t begin to express how stupid it was. I mean try anti-depressants first! Therapy. Whatever. But don’t fucking fry someone’s brain!!!!!

  20. atara says:

    BTW, I wrote a longish comment about this ep and the previous one tonight, and they both never got posted. I hate it when I’ve used brainpower, time, and, energy, and it all vanishes into the ether.

    atara (sad and peeved)

  21. atara says:

    Renee said:

    “There is a threat House fans seem to pass around. It is the if-this-next-episode-isn’t-better-than-the-last-then-I-am-going-to-stop-watching-the-show-forever threat. I have heard it uttered many times on blogs and overheard rants about how creepy Tritter is and how he didn’t do anything for the series. But I think we all know House is in our veins, and we will continue to watch as long as it comes on.”

    First a proviso: what I’m saying refers to the really involved fandom-y fans: the ones who write reviews, discuss the series online, write fanfic, create graphics, and so on, as opposed to the fans who really like the series but don’t devote large portions of their time and emotional life to it. (I think maybe BTVS will always be a big part of my emotional life; I’m hugely lucky in that I have a shrink who’s a BTVS fan. I can refer to a particular episode to illustrate something going on w/ me, and he immediately gets it. 🙂 BTVS as therapeutic shorthand.)

    OK, back to Renee’s comment: Yeah, exactly. I’ve heard that threat wrt every fandom in which I’ve been involved. It’s kind of like a honeymoon-over sort of thing. At first we’re just so entranced and in love with the show and the characters that we just feel delighted and lucky that we have something so marvelous in our lives and our heads. And after a while, we become so involved with the characters and their relationships and the plots, we start to feel ownership of the series. In fact, we start to believe that we understand it better than the series’ creators do. So if they put two characters together as a couple, and our own reading of those characters convinces us they would never do such a thing, we get mad. Or if a character acts in a way that strikes us as really out-of-character, we become more convinced that we know the characters better than the series’ PTB do. (And, frankly, to them it’s a job; to us it’s an obsession.)

    This happens particularly when the series has been on the air a little while, and TPTB want to do something different or introduce a new level of angst or show a really dark part of the hero’s character or his/her past. Yesterday it just occurred to me that it was also in the third season that the creators of Xena Warrior Princess introduced an extremely serious rift b/t the characters. They talked about the rift in interviews, etc. It was a very deliberate shift in the series’ direction. Many fans thought the rift was handled really badly, particularly with the notorious “Gabdrag” at the beginning of the episode, “The Bitter Suite,” in which we saw Xena act in a shockingly violent way toward her sidekick/partner/friend/lover (depending on how you read them) Gabrielle. Many fans insisted that this was out-of-character–that no matter how angry Xena might be with Gab, she would never do something so extreme. It also seemed ironic that Lucy Lawless (Xena) was doing TV spots about countering domestic violence. And, yes, I heard many fans say they were leaving the series; I can’t know if they did or not, but I do know of many fans who wrote outraged letters (I wrote one to Whoosh myself), but stuck w/ the series. And of course, fanfic writers could take the characters’ relationship in another direction altogether. For all the interpretations academics make of why fans write fanfic, one reason is simply to revise or correct something the series’ creators did “wrong.”

    So House reaches Season 3, we have a very dark and angsty plot arc, and a serious “rift” between the hero and sidekick, best friends or lovers depending on how you read the relationship. And for many of us, this plot arc violates precisely the elements that drew us to the series in the first place, and TPTB are f***ing up our House, and since they’re f***ing up something we emotionally believe that we own, we feel hurt and angry and betrayed–like the series’ creators had a compact w/ us that they broke.

    And of course, because, thankfully, not everyone in the world thinks the same way, other fans will think the story arc works really well, they appreciate seeing more of the less appealing parts of the hero (which, after all, make him more human–the arrows don’t bounce off him any more), and they enjoy seeing something different. Hence the debates and disagreements. At least the ones I’ve seen here in comments to Diane’s reviews, have remained polite. And of course Diane’s reviews are marvelous and intelligent and beautifully written whether I agree with her or not, so the comments take on the mode of thoughtful discussion and debate, as most of us have deposited our flamethrowers in the foyer on our way in.

    At any rate, sometimes love hurts, and if we’ve let these marvelously written and performed fictional characters into our emotional lives, their actions and words and things that happen them are going to hurt too, particularly when (we believe) they’re wrong. After all, House belongs to us, and who do these producers, directors, and writers think they are anyway, breaking in and trashing our House?

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