Tuesday, December 13, 2005

TV Review: House, M.D. - "Deception"

(Warning: spoilers for the episode that aired Dec. 13)

Trust House to have a holiday-themed episode called “Deception” with the moral that people don't change and will go back to their gambling ways, risking their lives, their happiness, their careers, their money, but probably not their Vicodin. Sniffle. It warms my heart so.

Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) is terrific as this week's patient of the week, Anica, a woman House (newly minted Golden Globe nominee Hugh Laurie) meets and – is it possible? - almost flirts with at the horse races. When she collapses from a seizure, he notes mysterious bruises on her abdomen and has her taken to Princeton-Plainsboro so he can play doctor.

Following House's disciplinary action from last time, for this episode – oh please, let it just be this episode – Foreman is in charge of the diagnostic department. Cuddy does dangle the carrot of permanent leadership in front of Foreman, so House can be the “mad scientist” while the administration of the department runs smoothly, but neither Wilson nor I believe that will ever come to pass.

Foreman and House predictably disagree on Anica's treatment, with Foreman, Cameron, and Chase deciding she is suffering from Munchausen's Syndrome, a psychiatric disorder that causes her to self-induce illnesses. House believes aplastic anemia is contributing to her symptoms, and shockingly resorts to devious means to prove it to Foreman, who has discharged her. Turns out, House was almost right, but also wrong, stopping the treatment for the anemia just in time when he realizes she actually has an infection.

It was fun to see the diagnostically brilliant House forced to play hands-on doctor, ineptly doing a medical history and tests he has left to his minions likely for years. The man is barely an adult when he's in charge, so the role reversal of this episode gave him a great excuse to indulge in his childish side, and gave Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) another great line: “House assisting – that's funny. Too bad Foreman's gonna die.” There were cute moments: House shows off his surprisingly-not-tragic flirting skills again with a pretty lab technician; Cameron has a fantasy fulfilled when she gets to ride on the back of House's motorcycle. And it's good to see that New Jersey still has seasons, and hasn't become New California as I feared.

But the flaw of “Deception” is that while it was a lighter, fluffier House - not as much to sink my teeth into as usual - it didn't really play the implausible setup for laughs. The Foreman-House head-butting has been played out much better in other episodes, and Foreman is at risk of losing his personality to pedantry. “She should have died,” he says to Cuddy, about Anica. “House doesn't break rules, he ignores rules. He's not Rosa Parks, he's an anarchist.” House isn't Rosa Parks? I'm not sure Cuddy or I will recover from the shock.

I'm no doctor, but House's rationale for why Anica's problems weren't completely explained by the Munchausen's made sense to me, and his entire career hinges on his reputation for pulling the unlikely diagnosis out of the blue. So Foreman and Cuddy's refusal to let him perform one more test to either prove or disprove his theory rings false. “Deception” seemed designed to prove the entire premise of the show – House's methods are wacked and would cause chaos if all doctors followed his lead, but his deductions are ultimately brilliant and end up saving his patients. Which most fans got, oh, a season and a half ago, but we're expected to believe this is an epiphany for Foreman and, perhaps, Cuddy.

Tis the season for reruns. New episodes of House return in January.

Note: For something even more heartwarming than a House holiday episode, check out the eBay auction for House's season one cane. From the site: “Co-Executive Producer [and co-writer of season premiere Acceptance] Garrett Lerner has arranged this auction in honor of his son Zeke who suffers from a rare disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. This horrible neuromuscular disease is progressive, robbing children of their ability to walk, to stand, and eventually to even breathe. All proceeds from this auction will go to Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a charity dedicated to finding a cure. Go to www.fsma.org to learn more.”

(Cross posted to Blogcritics)