House, “Last Temptation”

Thirteen’s back, so naturally that means Masters has to leave! Okay, that might not be the exact logistical explanation for the transition between last week’s very good episode of House and this only-okay episode of House, but it does seem a bit obvious that this series refuses to have two female characters on the team. In any event, before Masters says goodbye, she gets to star in her own episode of sorts, much like last season’s “Wilson” or Cuddy’s “5 to 9.” This gimmick was refreshing when the series used it for “Wilson” and it’s engaged in the law of diminishing returns at this point, so I cannot wait to see the Foreman version of it next season in “Awful Person.” That seems like a good title, right?

In any event, I can’t say I feel a whole lot either way about Masters. I like Amber Tamblyn and I thought the character was moderately interesting when she was introduced, but like everyone else on the team, she was quickly discarded into the used toy box and given the same beat to play every episode. I get it, she’s idealistic and her whole time on the series has been about House trying to break her down and get her to do something illegal, bad or whatever for the purposes of saving a life. In general, that’s an interesting conceit, but I’m not sure the writing staff is really up for an ideological battle like it might have been in the early seasons, so instead of that, most of time, Masters and House just said and did the opposite things of one another. And there were some firings along the way. And re-hirings.

I don’t necessarily blame this on Tamblyn or the character, it’s just how the series is written these days. The staff gets bored with characters after they’re done being “new,” and although Masters wasn’t an awful nuisance in any of her episodes this season, the inertness at which she was portrayed means that her departure has no real impact. This whole episode is about whether or not she’ll take an internship with House now that her school work is over, but of course that means taking a risk and doing something BAD. But we know that Thirteen is back and that Amber Tamblyn is leaving so there’s really never any threat of actual interesting drama. Masters is going away and that’s it.

And what is perhaps more disappointing is how this episode doesn’t really even make an effort to complicate her departure. It’s clearly trying to show us that eventually EVERYONE succumbs to House’s brand of medicine and thinking and that’s a decent concept. However, there’s not a lot rational reasoning for why Masters is doing these things other than that House is antagonizing her about being something more than exceptional. Similarly, there’s truly no reason for House to push her so far in the first place. The character hasn’t been given the time to prove herself in a way that would make us really think House believes she is exceptional or worth corrupting, so it just feels like another game House is playing with someone’s mind to pass the time, except for in the scenes where the episode wants to see a deeper connection between the two of them. I’m okay with the series having it both ways because House is a complicated, mess of a man, but it’s not explicit enough what House thinks either way. Is he literally just screwing with Masters because he can or does he really see something in her, in thus must screw with her to prove something? I HAVE NO IDEA.

This is unfortunately, especially in the light of this season’s events. I really hoped that the series would make some complicated changes in the aftermath of the House-Cuddy break-up and in the first few episodes it looked as though I was going to be correct. But now it seems like House’s best solution to dealing with his heartbreak is to just avoid Cuddy altogether (who has more less disappeared for multiple episodes now). That’s not the most unrealistic choice for a man-child like House, but it seems like cheating for the series to try to go back to some season two-equilibrium just because it doesn’t really no how to deal with the complicated emotions behind this break-up. I think the next episode deals with the two of them explicitly, so I could be proven wrong very soon.

And yet, this episode could have just as easy made House’s treatment about his confused feelings over Cuddy. I’m not saying that’s the best approach to take, but at least IT IS AN APPROACH. As it stands, Masters feels like just another toy that House got to screw with for a few weeks, got bored with and eventually pushed out because he had very little to do. And even that is fine, I just wish the episode was more explicit with that approach and execution.

In the end, Masters’ time on the series wasn’t a complete waste, but it was close. Amber Tamblyn was very good in her first few episodes and particularly great here and any fresh blood in the team is nice. But despite those few enjoyable episodes, it seems too obvious that the character was only on the series to fill the female quotient while Olivia Wilde was off making movies that will hopefully make her too famous to be on House anymore, and that’s just wildly unfortunate. Even if that was the behind-the-scenes reason for the character’s creation, it shouldn’t have been so overt and simple in the execution of Masters’ episodes, but it was. And now it’s over. So there’s that.

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