I used to think that when I watched Alias, Sidney Bristow (Jennifer Garner’s character) had it hard.  Constantly compartmentalizing everyone’s problems and doing what was right even when it wasn’t easy was her M.O. 

I think it’s safe to say I seriously underestimated what being Dean of PPTH meant.  I don’t think I actually exhaled until “5 to 9” was over.  Cuddy had very few peaceful moments throughout the episode, and surprisingly, when she did show any relief, it was typically with House (although it was balanced out with her exasperation of his actions).

Tonight’s highly anticipated episode of House focused solely on the woman in charge: Dr. Lisa Cuddy.  From 5AM to at least 6PM, she’s scheduled.  And when she doesn’t have a scheduled appointment, she’s dealing with something urgent that is unscheduled.  Gave me a whole new respect for what my boss does on a daily basis.

Now we no longer have to question if her job is solely saying no or giving in to House’s latest whim.  Her job is to run every aspect of the hospital and respond to every situation.  It doesn’t start out as the best day.  Our favorite premature boy- toy boyfriend literally can’t wait to have sex with his hot girlfriend leaving Cuddy “late, stressed out, and frustrated.”

Her first appointment is a discussion about Atlantic Net with Eli, an insurance rep.  8 months of negotiations with the hospital’s main patient insurance company, Cuddy isn’t playing games anymore.  Atlantic Net’s contracts are under renegotiation and Cuddy wants the insurance company to pay 12% more in patient coverage.  Banking on the insurance company choosing quality of patient care over losing a bit more money, Cuddy, the eternal optimist, bluffs her way through the day.

And how about Gail, the pharm tech that turns out to be stealing amphetamines?  She cries to Cuddy about her perfect record for the last seven years, but Cuddy is firm and resolute about firing her.  She’s boss and it’s the right thing to do.  Not easy, but definitely right.  Enter sociopath Gail.  Now we’re dealing with a brand new problem.  She threatens Cuddy with a lie that could feasibly happen: a relationship with House while Cuddy makes sacrifices for him to stay.  Albeit they were illegal sacrifices, but Cuddy recognizes that she’s got a strong record where protecting House is concerned and she’s worried.

House is trouble on a couple of different fronts.  Besides trying to win a bet and infect a patient with malaria, he is also causing problems among the surgery staff that is now fighting House for sole custody of Chase.  Seems like Cuddy has to play mommy on multiple fronts.  She ends up having to break up a fight later.  They’re also bitter that House seems to get whatever he wants.  I wonder why that is…

Lest we forget Lisa’s got a sick daughter at home and her delinquent, albeit sweet lunch-bearing boyfriend grabbed the nanny’s phone and turned the house phone on silent to get some sleep.  I love Cuddy’s exasperated question to him, “what are you doing to me?” I can imagine a Type A personality like her continuing to question herself on how she could let someone as disorganized as Lucas into her life. 

On the side, we also have a jerky clinic patient and a patient suing over money because of Chase reattaching his thumb.

So what does all this mean?  What can we now gather from Lisa Cuddy’s “day in the life?”  An old Madonna quote comes to mind: “I’m tough, ambitious, and I know exactly what I want.  If that makes me a bitch, okay.” Cuddy isn’t a bitch, despite nearly everyone in her day calling her one.  She’s a shrewd business woman, a resourceful boss, and she is more collected that I could surely ever hope to be.

So why is it after this episode is over, I’m still not sure who Lisa Cuddy is?  I can characterize House and Wilson, but when it comes to Cuddy, I don’t know what she’s really thinking.  I can wager a guess, but I still don’t feel entirely let in.  Maybe this is purposeful.  This is how she manages to stay sane.  By choosing very few people to open up to, she can remain composed and less vulnerable.  She definitely has it together, but is she happy?  She seemed content enough by the end, but is she fulfilled in her relationship to Lucas? 

And where does this leave her and House?  I was curious if House and Cuddy have interactions like the one in her car off screen.  She so easily cleared the space for him and was willing to let him in to her car and more importantly, her thoughts.  He relaxed her and consoled her.  She is continually challenged and frustrated by him, but he’s a real adult.  He’s an adult in that he understands adult problems, while Lucas is an adult in the way he emotionally supports Cuddy at home, but not much else.  Combine two parts adult; get one ready-to-date-Cuddy man.  She trusted House enough to ask his opinion.  Didn’t even see her broach that with Lucas.  Loved House’s subtle smile when she made the announcement at the hospital about Atlantic Net giving in.

By the time her day was over, she was able to turn in proof that her sociopath employee was selling drugs, celebrate with her staff and her boyfriend (and Rachel) about Atlantic Net backing down, and revel in the fact that the newly thumbed patient understood what paying for services meant. 

Her stubbornness with Atlantic Net reminded me of House’s unwillingness to make a speech for Vogler (season one).  In the end, he didn’t make the speech for his own principled reasons.  And Cuddy, putting the hospital and her job at risk regarding Atlantic Net, made a similar gamble.  While House and Cuddy’s principles manifest themselves in different ways, they are two similar creatures. 

Glad we got this peek into her world.  Props to Lisa Edelstein for flexing her acting chops for a full episode.  And looking gorgeous while doing so.   

-Lisa B. Palmer, BuddyTV Fan Columnist

(Image courtesy of Fox)

Lisa Palmer

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV