Tuesday, November 08, 2005

TV Review: House - “Daddy's Boy”

The latest episode of House, the first of the November sweeps period, introduces us to the couple who spawned Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) – nice, normal Mom (Diane Baker), and ex-marine Dad (R. Lee Ermey). As House desperately tries to avoid dinner with them while they're in town on a layover, Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) and Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) try desperately to trick him into seeing them.

Though Foreman (Omar Epps) provides the opinion that “only a mother could do that much damage,” their appearance sheds little light on how their little Gregory grew into a bitter, sarcastic misanthrope. It does, however, offer another poignant layer to his current misery – though it's far less revealing than the episode-long setup led me to expect.

The medical mystery of the week, however, was one of the most shocking. No, not really – that was another bad pun, a leftover from my exposure to last week's “TB or not TB” episode – but it was one of the more interesting cases. Carnell Hall, a recent college graduate, is brought to the hospital suffering from unexplained electric shocks and various other bizarre symptoms. Always squeamish about visuals of surgery in progress and CGI innards, my stomach and I were slightly traumatized by this episode's normal delight in those, plus an unusual fixation on bodily fluids and solids. Note to self: forget the popcorn next Tuesday.

House's icy relationship with his parents is contrasted with the loving but deceitful relationship between the patient of the week and his father. Unravelling the lies is, as is often the case, the key to solving the mystery. Dad lied to son about how Mom died, son lied to Dad about his spring break activities, Dad lied to House about where he works ... and as the audience knows, patients and their families should never, ever lie to Dr. House, unless they want to be subjected to the three-misdiagnoses-before-actual-diagnosis treatment method.

House's motto “everyone lies” is used and abused in “Daddy's Boy,” as we get comment after comment on how and why (almost) everyone does. Besides the patient and his father, House himself is the biggest lier here. He lies to his parents to avoid dinner, and lies to Wilson, who is startled to learn that his friend is trying to objectively measure how much he values their friendship. House's unexpected truth to Cameron about his father – and, even more subtly, about his attitude toward her – is even more unexpected given the string of lies that came before ... though he was unusually chatty about his personal life in this episode.

His potential self-destruction is on display again, as he shows off his shiny new motorcycle. Wilson, who as usual plays the role of House interpreter in this episode, also plays the role of House protector by admonishing him that a motorcycle is perhaps not the best mode of transportation for a crippled drug addict. The friendship between House and Wilson is so beautifully done already that it's paradoxically frustrating to think of how much better it could be if Wilson were given more of a life beyond those roles.

Though this wasn't a “wow” episode, subtly is not a bad thing, nor is complexity. The character revelations of “Daddy's Boy” don't stand on their own as stunning insight, but they do add more pieces to the puzzle that is House, while raising additional questions for future weeks to answer.

(Cross posted to Blogcritics)