House, “The Dig”

I’m willing to face the consequences of this statement: I actually like Thirteen. I know that many House fans have hated her from the beginning because she was more or less replacing fan favorite Cameron, and I can see their point of view. The way that Cameron was shoved not-so-gently off the stage so that the writers could start playing with a more attractive (sorry Jennifer Morrison, I still love you), more complicated toy was a severe misjudgment on the writers’ part. But aside from her terrible relationship with Foreman, I think Thirteen’s been an interesting addition to the cast over the second half of the series’ life. Sometimes her inherent mysterious-ness is obnoxious, but when aren’t the underlings on House obnoxious? Olivia Wilde is a fairly good performer and when given good material — which, in the past, only happened when she was paired with Hugh Laurie — she can really nail it.

Thankfully, in her “much-anticipated” return, Wilde is given good material and she does wonders with it. I can’t recall her being really any better on the series than she is tonight, and even though I’ve enjoyed this season a lot, her re-appearance feels like a sweeping breath of fresh air that I think the series probably needed at this point. Of course, there’s a mystery to her return, where she’s been and what she’s been doing, but that’s ultimately sort of secondary to the enjoyment of watching Wilde and Laurie bounce off one another on a goofy-as-hell road trip.

And you know, it’s kind of funny that the road trip conceit dominates this episode. I’m not sure how aware you are with the behind-the-scenes stuff at House, but apparently, the second half of this season — presumably post-Huddy — House was to go on this long-winding road trip to get away from the terrible life he lives in NJ. Unfortunately, that arc fell apart, so much so that David Shore actually had to come in and re-direct the last portion of the season. In any event, on top of that, you’ve maybe heard the rumblings about the series’ future, or lack thereof. Hugh Laurie is under contract for an eighth season, but barely anyone else (if at all) is and NBCU and FOX are haggling over the cost of the series. There’s a far, far, far outside chance that House doesn’t return for an eighth season and if it does, it could be retooled somewhat to cover come costs or whatever.

OK, I say all that to set up the fact that I’m now at least 84 percent convinced that I would watch an entire season of House that was just House and Thirteen driving around the country, saving random people at rest stops, solving cases, being simultaneously mysterious, saying oddly sexual things to one another and so forth. I’ve wanted House to turn into a road trip series for years — I’ve been pitching a House-Wilson only series called House Calls for at least two years! — and I think this is the perfect time for it. Who really cares at this point? The ratings are down, the series is getting old and costs need to be cut. Why not hang on to your two most bankable stars while simultaneously cutting costs and fundamentally changing the series’ dynamics? They could save people, shoot others with potato guns and eat lots of bad food. There could even be an episode where they share drugs! I mean seriously, WHY THE HELL NOT? “The Dig” shows us that a series with that framework could work, at least for a half season until it got canceled. Do it, David Shore. Do it.

Right, so this episode. By now you can imagine that I really liked it. I’ve already expressed my adoration for Olivia Wilde and the road trip premise (which involved potato guns!), but I really do think this was a solid episode. I wouldn’t put it past these writers to drag out the “mystery” of Thirteen’s year-long disappearance for countless episodes, so it was nice to watch House slowly wear her down in such a way that she eventually just had to give in. I know that it’s kind of cheating to have her be so damn mysterious and alluring all the time since the lead character loves nothing more than attractive women and puzzles (really in either order), but screw it, they work together. I’m not especially advocating for any sort of sexual relationship between the two of them because I’m very certain that would make the collective heads of most House fans EXPLODE IN RAGE, but more than any other character, more than Wilson and even Cuddy, Thirteen appears to be on House’s wavelength. Wilson might be able to objectively see and point out the mechanization of how House’s mind works and Cuddy is generally charmed by that for some reason, but Thirteen’s really the only one who sort of understands, or at least appreciates House for who he is. She too, refuses to get close to anyone and although their intimacy issues stem from different origins and manifest in certain, distinct ways, they’re both extremely self-destructive, albeit brilliant minds. Thirteen is, in a lot of ways, the female homeless man’s version of House. She’s not as brilliant and not even nearly as misanthropic, but she’s arguably more self-destructive and brash.

In that sense, bringing her back means not only reminding us of how fun the two of them are together, but also allows her to provide a fresh set of eyes on what has apparently been a year since we last saw her in the season premiere. She’s fully incredulous at the realization that House and Cuddy actually dated for a year, but also not sympathetic towards him when he refuses to show her any sort of sympathy or compassion when she finally reveals why she was in prison. And of course, I guess it’s sort of fitting that Thirteen’s “crime” is something we could absolutely see House doing. Apparently, she had a brother who also suffered from Huntington’s — what are the odds of that — who was in terrible shape, so she helped him pass on. It’s a crime that shows compassion in the midst of brunt, kind of terrible act, but that’s absolutely something House would do. And by the end of the episode, he tells Thirteen that he’ll be there to kill her just the same when she gets that bad. It’s a blunt, obvious thing for House to say, but one that also feels really honest and true to his character and his relationship with Thirteen. House might not show emotion when someone is sad and crying, but he knows pain and no matter how awful he is, he doesn’t want anyone to be in pain. So it’s not just a platitude, it’s the truth. House will legitimately kill Thirteen whenever she wants him to, and the series ever gets to that moment, I’m sure it will be heartbreaking, but honest.

I know the season is going to have to come back to House and Cuddy before it’s all said and done, but I hope the writers stick to House and Thirteen, I really do. The two actors work well together and there’s a lot more interesting and legitimately honest things to explore. I’m much rather the writers focus on a more believable platonic relationship than a only-barely believable romantic one.

Other thoughts on tonight’s episode:

  • I liked this week’s case too, as it seems about the time that the writers would finally integrate hoarding into plot. The twists and turns weren’t particularly effective or memorable, but it was a serviceable time-filler in between the good stuff with House and Thirteen.
  • Filed under things that really suck: Taub getting back with his ex-wife. Taub used to be my favorite of the New Coke squad, but he’s been the anchor weighing down this season with his terrible marriage. It’s like the writers are just torturing us at this point with this crap. Just stop. Let him have sex with 22-year olds and be done with it.
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