The last two episodes of House haven’t been my favorites. Having said that, this one definitely redeemed the last two. “Office Politics” accomplishes everything a strong episode of House should. It provided interesting dynamics amongst the team, it tested House’s relationship with medicine and Cuddy, and it set up dynamic parallels between new characters, old characters and the patient of the week. “Office Politics” also explored one of House‘s age old themes: Everybody lies.
Patient Comes First
Do not adjust your television. The annoying campaign commercial was just a part of the brilliant and timely, I might add, teaser at the beginning of the episode. If only this episode could have aired on Nov. 1! What’s worse than a dirty politician? His campaign manager, apparently. Such was the case with this week’s POTW, Joe Dugan. Joe wants to dirty up the already slimy Senate race, and in the beginning, Sen. Anderson is opposed. All it takes is a dip in the polls, and Anderson releases a dishonest commercial about his opponent; and of course, the POTW has no problem even taking the blame for the Senator’s crossing of ethical lines.
The idea of putting the patient first seems easy enough, but when you throw morals, ethics and medicine together along with rules and guidelines, it’s a wonder that anyone makes it out alive. Hence, this week’s biggest issue. Masters sees things in black and white. Step one, diagnose. Step two, discuss every option with patient. Step three, assume the patient will be honest and have integrity. Needless to say, House and this week’s POTW blew Master’s basic assumptions to hell, and as Chase pointed out, it’s as entertaining as watching a bunny hop into a buzzsaw.
Is it me, or is House again addressing the audience’s needs? This show is now in its seventh season. It’s getting older and new viewers may not turn on a show that is seven seasons deep. So the writers think, let’s explain a few things. Enter Martha Masters, the naive genius — who actually knocked on that glass office door — that the creators have cooked up to spice up the show. Not only does she function as a great opponent/ally to House, but she parallels many of the current and departed characters. Through her eyes, we see the team’s breaking and entering as actually crossing a line, rather than a necessary diagnostic tool.
Martha has House’s genius mixed with a bit of Asperger’s, Cameron’s “insane moral compass,” Kutner’s dorkiness, and Cuddy’s drive and optimism. The Cuddy/Masters parallel was made more apparent when both of them were shown walking in overdramatic slow motion. Also, Martha says to Cuddy, “Nobody can do everything.” Except Cuddy, that is! Cuddy is a female dean of medicine in her 40s that adopted a kid and is in a highly risky relationship. She’s attempting everything, and she’ll be damned if Masters quits on her. Martha Masters, based on Amber Tamblyn’s real life friend, is the perfect concoction to go with the sausage fest that’s been marinating in Thirteen’s absence.
The team’s reaction to Martha was well done and almost exactly the same as their reaction to House and Cuddy’s relationship. Foreman was for it, Chase was in it for entertainment value, and Taub, Mr. Bite Sized himself, was vehemently against it, but no one could quite figure out why. Did anyone think it was almost strange to see Foreman smiling so much in this episode? It’s unprecedented. Regardless, the basketball scene was amusing, and Taub’s old man voice made the scene work for me. Would love to have Chase more involved, which I’m sure will happen eventually. As for Taub, the poor guy just wants some recognition. This makes perfect sense in regards to his character. He’s a man that thrives on attention and validation, especially from women, so when Masters didn’t acknowledge him, he went insane. Oh, Taub how I love thee.
House, Cuddy and Wilson have all said it at one time or another. But this week, things are different. House has been mixing business with pleasure, and it’s a bumpy road on the way to shifting the priorities he’s had for at least a decade. The patient’s life comes first, no matter what the cost, no matter what the patient actually wants, and no matter how many boundaries House needs to push. Things get especially dicey when Cuddy, his roadblock to patient treatment, is also his girlfriend. We knew at some point there would be some major pass interference.
What’s great about this conflict is that it’s deceptively complicated. House told Cuddy a simple lie. He did something he’s done a thousand times. Cuddy should at this point know his priorities, and yet when Cuddy realizes House has so clearly deceived her, she’s terribly hurt; not only has House lied to her, but he’s demonstrated that he chooses the life of his patient over trusting her ethics as a boss and lied to her as his girlfriend. Taub says sarcastically to Martha at one point, “Clear your conscious, ’cause that’s what’s important.” House was shown lying on his office floor, weighing heavily the decision to try and save his patient or stay honest with Cuddy. Does the guilt over his lie matter if the lie is life-saving?
And are results, as Joe Dugan said, what matter? Interestingly enough, Sen. Anderson did something similar to what House did. He chose politics as usual rather than take the larger risk and tell his wife that he had contracted Hep C from snorting cocaine on the campaign trail. Poor Loretta. She and Cuddy are certainly putting a lot of trust into their significant others. In the end, Sen. Anderson retained his seat and Joe Dugan lived, but at what price to the women in these men’s lives?
1. “Just because my sausage has been filling your bun, doesn’t mean you get to decide what flavor chips I nosh on during the day.” -House
2. Cuddy’s gloating and happiness over House and her getting along so well is just made all the worse knowing that House lied to her. Well played. Well spanked, too.
3. “You popped your cherry. Diagnostically speaking. Unfortunately, the first time always sucks.” -House
4. The question is, do lies even matter? In season 3’s “One Day, One Room,” House said by making a rape patient talk about her experience, all he had done was made a girl cry. Is telling the truth equally as useful?
5.”You do realize you’re 2 and a half feet tall, right?” -Foreman
6. “Are you a vampire? It’s OK, we’re inviting you in.” -Taub
7. “You’ll lie when it doesn’t matter, but you won’t when it does. How’d you get so screwed up?” -House
8. Glad Cuddy’s assistant is back. I like her.
Follow me @TVTherapy for hints about next week’s great episode, “A Pox on Our House.”
(Image courtesy of FOX)