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TV Preview: Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Something Really Nasty on the Next House, M.D.

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Here be (mild) spoilers.

Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) is infectious diseases specialist. In other words, he knows his bugs (that is, viruses and bacteria). And when the opening scene of Monday’s House, M.D. episode “A Pox on Our House” suggests an outbreak of smallpox on a slave ship, I was immediately intrigued.

The teaser is a four minute mini-movie complete with a CGI ship, Dutch slave traders and a segue onto a modern ship off Bermuda where a young girl finds more than she bargains for when scuba diving. Finding a sealed barnacle-covered, sealed bottle in the deep of the slave boat shipwreck, she cuts her hand when the bottle slips from her grip. That can’t be good. House thinks its the long-eradicated virus smallpox.

Foreman, Chase and Masters are skeptical, with Foreman insisting the girl only has the flu, but House explains that the bottle contained primitive vaccine made from the scabs of infected pox victims. Even after obtaining confirmation from the CDC that it’s theoretically possible for a virus to survive 200 years in a sealed bottle, Foreman continues to insist they test for the most likely suspects: varicella, measles and all those boring 21st Century that House would find boring. Eventually the evidence is overwhelming and House is right; it’s smallpox.

But just as the CDC comes in to take over the diagnosis, House begins to suspect that it’s something else, which puts him at odds with the CDC’s infection control guru—who’s smug arrogance makes puts House’s to shame. Clearly this guy either isn’t aware of House’s reputation—or he just doesn’t care, treating House and his team like country doctors who need to make way for the boys and girls from Atlanta (where CDC is based).

What follows is a confrontation between House’s team and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) infectious diseases specialist.  Is it smallpox or something else—something that behaves much as smallpox would. Enlisting an unconventional source (an amusingly inappropriate translator), House realizes it’s not the fatal disease, which was eradicated decades ago—but something mimicking the symptoms. The CDC guy hears nothing of it, But when House continues to insist that it’s not smallpox, he risks his life to prove he’s right–and save the patient.

In the meantime, House and Cuddy grapple with their relationship in the aftermath of his lie last week about the faked test result (“Office Politics”). Although Cuddy understands that House will do whatever he needs to save a patient’s life (including things that will contravene her orders), she is upset that House has kept it from her—even after the fact. Although House has forewarned that he will likely do “horrible things to her” (“Now What?”), his lie seems to have hit a particularly sensitive nerve, one that strikes at her professional pride and authority as Dean.

Suspecting that Cuddy knows, House finally comes clean, wondering why she hadn’t said anything about it. But bringing the lie out in the open doesn’t really help when they can’t come to terms about whether or not it’s possible to compartmentalize their professional and personal lives. House believes it’s not only possible but necessary; Cuddy vehemently disagrees.

Wilson and Sam also explore their relationship after the smallpox scare has caused a hospital-wide quarantine. Wilson’s cancer patient, a little girl who only wants her “Lamby” doll requires very special bedside manner from couple as they watch over her. The experience allows Wilson and Sam to consider nature of their relationship and where it may be going.

I liked “A Pox on Our House.” Masters gets to shine big time in this episode especially (without giving too much away) when House is in no position to come up with the final diagnosis himself. I’ve always argued that he should always be the smartest guy in the room, and I still believe that, but I don’t mind Masters channelling House; she “gets” him—probably more than any of the others who work for him.

I’m not sure I’d like it as much, however, if this dynamic became part of the show’s regular rhythm long term. In a way, she makes the rest of the team look ineffectual by comparison, which they often appear anyway, stuck in House’s long shadow.

But I wonder how the House “boys” will feel having to live in Masters’ shadow as well. I get that Masters and House are probably more similar than any other two characters on the show, and I’ve long contended that as a young doctor, House might have been a lot like the Masters we see here (although never likely quite as idealistic). So I don’t mind seeing how this all plays out within the team. 

Anyway, more about “A Pox Upon Our House” after the episode airs tomorrow night, Monday, November 15, 8:00 p.m. ET on FOX.

Media heads up: I’ll be appearing on FOX’s Chicago affiliate WFLD tomorrow morning (Monday) about 8:50 a.m. (CT) to talk about House and more. So, if you’re in Chicago, tune in or, if you’re not, watch the live stream.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • janine

    “especially (without giving too much away) when House is in no position to come up with the final diagnosis himself” No position? hm… might we see House in a Hospital bed in this episode? Wierd as it sounds I’d kind of like to see Cuddy react to that.

    Only wants her “lamby”… does this have anything to do with those RSL “Lamby” videos that were released a few weeks ago?

    This episode sounds so intense and dramatic based on revews… I can’t wait!

  • http://BarbaraBarnett.com barbara barnett

    Janine–there is a moment :)
    Not familiar with the Lamby videos!

  • SCLove

    Hmmm this leads me to believe that House actually does end up sick in his attempt to prove the CDC wrong. Hmmmm, shall we hope for an awesome Huddy scene? ;-)

    Looking forward to the episode–thank you so much for the preview!

  • Orange450

    Simply. Cannot. Wait.

    Thanks again for a wonderful hors d’oeuvre as we wait for the much-anticipated entree :)

    Good luck tomorrow. I know you’ll be great!

  • janine

    can’t wait for the “moment”!
    Here’s a link to the lamby videos. I believe they were origionally tweeted by GY but don’t quote me on that.

  • RobF

    I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so eager for an episode of House. Maybe the Season 6 premiere.

  • Sarah H

    Interesting turnaround for Cuddy — hasn’t she been urging House to keep their professional lives separate from their personal ones since episode 2? Along with everyone else, I am greatly looking forward to this episode. Even though we know that House has to generally be “okay” for the show to go on, Hugh’s expression of fear/ surprise in the promos is heartbreaking — I’m wondering if that look is about his own health or Cuddy’s reaction. Hope the interview was fun for you — congrats!

  • andreeC

    Barbara, you’re previews are the best thing on the web on House–well, second to your episode recaps! Don’t ever stop! Can’t wait to see the show tonight and looking forward to watching how Huddy handles the dual roles and the connected hearts. Tough stuff to sort out. Have hope for Huddy!

  • lauren

    i can’t wait to see the esposide, but i don’t like cuddy’s relationship with house

  • Diane

    Is the guy from the CDC related to Jon Cryer (Allen on two & 1/2 men). He looks and sounds just like him.

  • 54

    First of all, let me preface by saying that I am a die-hard fan of the show. I love what the show is and what it stands for.

    That being said, I found the writing for tonight’s episode extremeley disappointing.

    I find it heartbreaking to see that the show is becoming melodramatic. (is that a melodramatic expression? sorry) Sure, patients have had crazy diseases. There has been drama for the main characters in the past. But, while the drama for the characters may have been unexpected or shocking, that drama impacted audiences because it always resonated with the essence of something very real. I believe that sense of “genuineness” resulted from the writers treating the main characters with the respect they deserved.

    I think the writers did a good job of staying true to House and Cuddy for the first few episodes of Season 7. However, as the show tries to tease out the intricacies of the House-Cuddy relationship, I find certain things just plain unrealistic.

    I find it very hard to believe that a woman like Cuddy who waited so many years to be with House would be so upset with him being what she knew he was. Furthermore, I find it even harder to believe that House, who had a very serious long-term relationship with Stacy, could be portrayed as some teenage boy who is clueless about adult romantic relationships.

    What happened to the glimpses of the mature House we got to see in House’s unguarded moments? I always got the impression that, although House may be incredibly insecure and underdeveloped in certain aspects of his character, House was an adult. He dealt with pain, love (both lost and potential), and his professional duties according to the standards he had developed for himself throughout his life. I believe we also saw glimpses of how Cuddy dealt with pain, love, and professional duties–in her storylines regarding adoption, her relationship with Lucas, her ambivalence over House.

    I wish the writers would treat the main characters with more respect and not show them as so two-dimensional. The House-Cuddy relationship has always sizzled because, while they bickered, it was obvious that they were complex characters who “got” each other on a deeper level. Why does House now have to be the cartoon figure who ultimately does whatever he wants but is just afraid that “mommy” will scold him, and why does Cuddy have to play the scolding “mommy”? Really? I would imagine there is more depth to a relationship between people who have known each other for such a long time (they first met when Cuddy was an undergrad) and have so much shared history together.

    Sigh. I love the show so much and I love the characters so much. I wish the writers would look back on what they’ve done for the past six years and see how the main characters have already developed and work from there. I don’t expect House and Cuddy to be happy every single day and I don’t think it’s realistic that their relationship doesn’t have significant hurdles. I do think, though, their relationship deserves to be portrayed with more respect.

  • Janine

    really liked this episode…more on the real review tomorrow

  • Janine

    @54
    Yes House was in a long term relationship with Stacey,but that was a completely different relatinship and didn’t involve a work aspect. Also, House admitedally screwd up that relationship a lot and he doesn’t want to make that mistake with Cuddy. House isn’t clueless, he is just taking extra precautions not to ruin this thing, but imo is taking too much care in the wrong areas.

  • http://blogcritics.org/video/article/tv-preview-yo-ho-ho-and/page-2/ steph

    Completely agree with 54. Cuddy’s reaction tho to be expected from a gf doesnt ring true given where they are. House’s reaction to hers tho does tho – he seems to be fearful but resigned that here we go, its beginning of the end of their relationship just like he predicted…she can’t take who he really is, lovely dovey aside, and as heartbreaking and fearful as it makes him, he can’t change so can only stand by and watch possible train wreck as the relationship crashes and burns. For Huddy fans, lets hope Cuddy gets her act together and works at it once she processes the initial hurt. Sorry but i find her character really weak because of this – whilst she wants to defend her point of view about honesty in the relationship, its really hypocritical when she knew from the beginning and he never lied about how he would lie to her at work- ironic and rather irritating.

    Masters is interesting but don’t want her to be just a House wannabe as thats going to be old really quick.

    Cmon writers, bring back something into it! But do keep Hugh Laurie front and centre as usual..can never get enough of him.

  • smk 46

    54 is spot-on about cuddy’s reactions. the writers are making her seem unworthy of a long-term adult relationship not to mention incapable of sustaining one. perhaps that is on purpose, but it seems that after six years of carefully establishing a deep bond between house and cuddy, tptb would be more savvy about creating a situation that would actually be threatening to house and cuddy’s connection with each other. making their love founder on a lie that was necessary for house to fulfill his committment as a doctor contradicts the emotional set-up the viewers have been understanding and appreciating these several years. she has loved him for his dediation to his profession and his patients. that this should suddenly threaten her so badly that she acts like an insecure child is simply unbelievable.

  • Andrea

    There were a lot of things I liked about this episode. I really like Martha Masters and how easily she fits into the team and seems to get House. She stands up to him, she comes up with ideas and bounces them off him. She doesn’t give up. She’s even teasing him back — “sexiest American man” indeed. He’s not giving her nearly as much crap as he gave the other people when they were new. Maybe it’s because she’s Cuddy’s pet but she also seems like a better fit with him personality wise. I did regret the lack of air time/story for Foreman, Chase and Taub. Hopefully they’ll do more with them this season.

    The medical mystery itself was interesting. The boy who played the son was on General Hospital last year and I thought he was a remarkable little actor. I also liked the guy who played the CDC doctor.

    I’m on House’s side in the House-Cuddy argument. He’s right — his lying to her was business and he didn’t lie to her on a personal level, though I’ve always thought the business with Rachel would have gotten him in even hotter water. One thing I noticed is that House no longer seems so eager to embrace death. He put on that suit and stayed away from the dead body and was watching the dad’s goodbyes to his family with a lot of regret. House is now a man with something to lose and he knows it. The next show’s title is “Small Sacrifices” and I wonder if House is going to apologize after all, even though I don’t think he rightfully should have to. They need to come up with future ground rules for how they operate in the hospital — she shouldn’t ask for more promises and infuse them with such shattering meaning and he should be more careful about what lies he tells and how he means them. Their biggest problem seems to be a lack of communication. She’s spending her time stewing, waiting for him to apologize and he’s asking other people to interpret her behavior instead of going to her directly.

    I like Wilson and Sam. I wonder if he’s going to propose in the next episode?

  • ruthinor

    I actually can see both points of view re House and Cuddy. Do you think Cuddy knows that Rachel swallowed a dime while under House’s care? She does if she believes her daughter! In which case, House lied to her again when he said he does NOT lie about their personal lives. House lies whenever it’s convenient, and in this new relationship, that means he lies and then lies again to avoid confrontation. On the other hand, I understand House’s desire to save the patient at all costs, including his personal life. But he and Cuddy have different interests at work. He cares only about his patient. She has to care about the hospital as a whole. This puts them in constant conflict. Up till now, they have worked well as a team with Cuddy restraining House from doing really off-the-wall tests and/or treatments while House forces her to consider riskier options than her conservatism would normally allow. I don’t think Cuddy is upset by his first lie (what he did to the patient in the last episode), but rather with the second one,
    his not telling her what he did. The fact that he feels so guilty about it tells me he knows he was wrong. They won’t solve this unless they talk…to each other!

    I liked Sam until she said that Wilson + Sam was a better relationship than House and Cuddy because it wasn’t based on lies. She should have heard Wilson talk about how he agrees with her no matter what (and vice versa) so that he can have sex with her. House is right. Everybody lies.

  • Heather

    Just a brief comment on the House/Cuddy relationship power struggle:

    I think Cuddy’s issue is that what she thinks she wants is separate from what she actually wants.

    She’s stated several times that she doesn’t want House to change, she loves him for who he is, etc.; however, her actions don’t bear out these assertions.

    If I wanted to make a comparion, Cuddy dating House is a milder form of the good girl/bad boy relationship dynamic. The bad boy looks exciting to the good girl, but as the relationship goes on, what looked exciting from the outside can quickly become tedious.

    (And just for the record, I’m in favor of the House/Cuddy relationship. The above is just my opinion on how I think the writers and actors are playing the relationship thus far.

  • ruthinor

    I read the House-Cuddy relationship a bit differently. I don’t think Cuddy expects House to stop lying to her about what he does to his patients. (i.e.”change”). I DO think she’s upset that he wouldn’t fess up after the fact, leaving her feeling like a fool. House seems to believe that they can completely separate their personal and professional lives while Cuddy thinks that this is not possible. I agree with Cuddy here. Their professional lives make up so much of who they are. They just need to figure out how to compromise on these differences. Not easy!!

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