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TV Review House, M.D. – “Family Practice”

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Monday night’s new House, M.D. episode “Family Practice” makes for an interesting exploration of family dynamics. I’m using “family” loosely, because while the main episode deals with the relationship between Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) and her mother (Candice Bergen), “Family Practice” also spotlights the complicated “family” dynamics in House’s (Hugh Laurie) diagnostics department, his increasingly complex relationship with Cuddy—and Taub’s (Peter Jacobson) relationship with his (now) ex-wife Rachel (Jennifer Crystal Foley). But the episode also says much about the nature of confrontation within those family relationships.

When Arlene Cuddy exhibits signs of a heart problem while dress shopping with her daughters, Cuddy wants to admit her to House’s service. House thinks this is a terrible idea (and rightly so), although his motivations have as much to do with the fact he thinks Arlene’s case is a big snoozefest as it has to do with the ethics of treating his girlfriend’s mother.

It doesn’t take long for Arlene to insist on another doctor; she is not too keen with House’s diagnosis. But Cuddy insists that House and his team continue to work the case behind the back of Arlene’s new doctor.  The arrangement becomes an ethical (and medical) nightmare, with stridently ethical Martha Masters putting herself on the line. The scenes between House and Masters are extremely tension-filled and emotional with an interesting and insightful outcome for both House and his third-year medical student.

With Arlene’s life potentially in the balance, the tension between House and Cuddy is enormous as House tries to do the best he can in a terrible situation. House realizes the consequences for him and Cuddy are potentially dire if Arlene dies. On the other hand, circumstances handcuff him and make matters worse. I loved the scenes between House and Cuddy; the mounting frustration and their final confrontation. I really can’t say more without spoiling it for you (sorry).

We also gain new insight about Cuddy as we learn a little more about her difficult relationship with Arlene. There are some harsh disclosures, some of which are incredibly hurtful. Anyone who’s had a combative relationship with a parent may hear familiar echoes in the scenes between Cuddy and her mother.

The divorcing Rachel and Taub part ways with a kind gesture on Rachel’s part. She connects him with her lawyer brother (who has his own difficult relationship with Taub). But the connection opens a door for Taub to pick up some extra cash as a medical consultant on medical liability cases. But working for relatives is never a good idea and things don’t seem to go very well when Taub finds himself in a seeming ethical dilemma, caught between his ex-wife’s brother and his own sense of self-worth. The resolution is unexpected and well done.

There is a emotional rawness that runs through this episode and all of the story threads: House and Cuddy; House and Martha Masters; Cuddy and her mother; Taub and Rachel. Raw and intense.

Family dyanmics and confrontation (for better or worse) run through each of these story threads in Peter Blake’s fantastic script.  Along with a series of excellent performances from the regular and guest casts make “Family Practice” one of the best episodes of season seven.

It airs Monday night at 8:00 p.m. ET. Be sure to come back next week for my more in-depth look at the episode. In the meantime, enjoy the clips courtesy of Fox on the Official Page.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • Joe

    Could you answer this? Is explained in some way the absence of Wilson during the episode? From House or any other character?

  • Sue

    Sounds like a very interesting episode. It’s about time we got a bit more info on the mysterious Lisa Cuddy who has captured the heart of our beloved Gregory House. Very much looking forward to Monday (or Tuesday here in Australia).

  • hazel eyes

    Hi Could someone please tell me how many episodes Cuddy has not been in up to now?

    This will be the 3rd one Wilson has not been in and I have a strong feeling it will not be the last one too.
    Thank You

  • Myles

    I’m pretty sure Wilson didn’t miss an episode in season 6, I’m thrilled for House this season – he is the one who has a life now and he has worked so hard to get to where he is and have what he really wants. I’m enjoying season 7 a great deal – my favorite season so far. Well done to the House team!

  • Perhaps RSL needed to be written out of an episode for other commitments. I don’t know that as fact, but it’s entirely possible…

  • Jessica

    I think Wilson’s absence in this episode would help focus on the ethical and other dilemmas between House and Cuddy. If Wilson were there, he would be the voice of reason and detract from the raw emotion and intensity. This time without Wilson, House and Cuddy have to deal with it on their own (as do House and Martha and the rest of the team).

  • Joe

    @hazel eyes
    Cuddy was absent in only one episode(Broken) but in that episode there were not no regular characters except one brief scene with Wilson.
    To be fair this will be the second episode without wilson but while for adverse events we knew the reason this time i have no idea of the why and i’d like to know if it will be explained during the episode but knowing the writers, he probably won’t be mentioned at all 🙁

  • Elisabeth

    I don’t understand – Wilson was in the previous episode in at least two scenes that I remember – once when NOT giving advice to House on ‘how to cheat on a test when there is no test” and a second scene in Wilson’s office when House was coaching Rachel to feed the monkey. He hasn’t had MUCH screen time, but he’s bee there.

  • madfashionista

    Yes, without Wilson, there is something major missing. I know better, but I wish the big confrontations would break up House and Cuddy. I wonder if RSL has other commitments or they are planning to write him out of the show since there’s been no talk of contracts or the show actually renewing in the wake of the Comcast merger.

  • vicpei

    Wilson’s presence would be unrequited in a Cuddy’s family story. It seems that the episode is full enough. Maybe his absence is explained the week after, with his new companion. And we have seen lots of Wilson last year, comparing to precedent seasons. Don’t get me wrong, I love Wilson, but he has always been a side character and the show is about House. It is time for exploring his relationship with Cuddy, this year. I do hope they show them strong enough not to break them on her mother, but who knows?
    House has been almost gentle since the beginning of this season. From the previews with Masters, it looks like he can still be a jerk. Not that domesticated, so.

  • Joe

    So full that there is no space for only one scene with Wilson? Wilson that I believe was House and Cuddy friend and this seem to be a this seems a difficult time for House and Cuddy and maybe a friend might be a help.Instead we have plenty of Taub(I like him) but how many episodes and how much space was devoted to his marital problems? And maybe I’m wrong but Cuddy has always been a side character too and yes you’re right last year wilson had a lot of space but Cuddy has never been absent for a whole ep. I hate how this show does not know how to balance the characters -_-

  • vicpei

    Cuddy has never been absent for a whole ep.

    Broken, mainly. But last year, in several episodes, she only had a tiny scene, and did not interact with House at all (The Down low, black Hole).

    I guess the point is to show us that right now, Cuddy is more important to him than Wilson. He is safe and secure with Wilson (“Wilson is not a consolation prize”), and not with Cuddy. I doubt Wilson will ever disappear from his life. When you enter a relationship, you tend to see your friends a little less in the beginning. Wilson will be back in front of the scene when House find his equilibrium with Cuddy – or break up with her.

  • Alex

    This show has never balanced the characters and it has sunk in the ratings by 35% this year alone. This is one of the reasons why it is on it’s last legs and will probably be cancelled soon.

  • savtaof5

    House doesn’t need to balance the characters b/c it isn’t a procedural with an ensemble cast. It has a lead character, House, and the stories for the most part revolve around the development of his character.
    By now, it has been acknowledged in this blog that the writers lead us through story arcs with an overarching end goal or story in mind. I enjoy sitting back to see where they eventually take us.
    Panic or unhappiness over a central character’s lack of appearance one week or another takes away from the enjoyment. Remember that they actually changed the order of the episodes – according to recent press releases. The original sequence of episodes may have had a logical explanation for the missing Wilson built in.
    I have confidence that we’ll eventually understand where the story is taking us.

  • Joe

    @vicpei well Broken is a peculiar episode except a tiny scene with Wilson the rest is only House .
    I remember that Cuddy last year has had little space but she was here anyway,in scenes with wilson for example, you know because they are friends but in this situation so important for the relationship of House and Cuddy but most of all Cuddy and problems of her mother and wilson is nowhere to be found?I would accept it if it was a normal episode but not so dramatic and important.Myabe his absence will be explained the next after but I’m not so sure about this.We’ll see.

  • hazel eyes

    Thanks for answering my question.
    It just seems strange that this is the start of Sweeps and House put out an episode that does not include one of their fan favourites, so Wilson fans might not tune in, which in turn the viewing figures could be down. It would be the same if Cuddy was no where to be seen, I’m sure her fans would not tune in either.
    Just strange that’s all.

  • Joe

    @hazel eyes
    Agree with you

  • Joe

    Just to be clear i didn’t want a storyline for wilson or plenty of space in this episode, it’s a cuddy family centric episode and it’s right that the most of time is dedicated to this , one tiny scene with wilson would been enough for me.

  • vicpei

    I understand that House will obsess over Wilson the episode after?

  • HouseMDFan

    Honestly? I love Wilson very much, but this “one tiny scene” policy has been getting on my nerves anyway, especially because they went for “comic relief” in his scenes an awful lot lately. I’d rather not have him there just for the sake of being there. This way, they can take the time they need to tell the story they want, and maybe we will get some actual serious content to the Wilson scenes in the future.

    On the other hand, I do admit that I don’t like their tendency to have him conveniently diappear at crucial moments – “Under My Skin”, “Baggage”, “Help Me” or “A Pox On Our House” are just some of the latest examples. God forbid he should have some emotional scenes with House when it matters.

  • ruthinor

    This discussion about how many scenes each character has is bordering on paranoia! No matter what the situation is, someone will always complain because each show has its major and minor players. Cuddy was minor throughout most of season 6. Wilson is more of a minor player this season. If you’ve ever read an interview with RSL, this probably suits him to a tee since he confesses to be the laziest guy around. Please, take these silly arguments elsewhere before this blog deteriorates into another House-centric website (like so many others) that focuses on fan BS instead of the story of House.

  • Joe

    @HouseMDFan I agree with you if an episode whitout Wilson provide some serious scenes in others but so far this season, Wilson has been used only as “comic relief or consultant of the couples in both few and more numerous scenes so I’m still prefer him to be present.And I agree with second part of your message-_-

  • nitemar

    Regardless of how, when, what or who, there always be complaints because some fanbase is not happy. But no matter who’s in or not, you are here because you are still watching the best show on TV!

  • I had no idea when I wrote this piece late last night that it would become a gripe session about Wilson’s absence. Frankly, the series does not need to explain his absence; if his presence doesn’t serve the story or belong in the story, a token scene or two would seem afterthoughts and tacked on, and I guarantee people would complain about that.

    I want people to come here and discuss my articles, the show and its characters, no matter what you think. I can’t impose parameters for discussion, and I certainly don’t want to, and maybe it’s because this is a preview article, but this thread has really veered far away from the point.

    So I’m going to pose a question or two for discussion:

    What are the dynamics of House’s team: the place of the characters on, including Masters.

    Speculate on the nature of Cuddy and Arlene’s relationship. What was it like? What might have been the dynamics with her sister, knowing what we do about Cuddy?

    Anyway, take me up on this or not, but I hope you do, bring your friends–and raise the level of discussion. That is all 🙂

  • former fan

    Absolutely getting boring-this House and cuddy “romance” never made any sense,And now more forced relationship drama?? Never thought this show would be boring but this entire season of House and Cuddy?? A disaster,I see no evidence at all from the pilot on that House ever had any real love for Cuddy.The love story has been House and Wilson Might as well end this show

  • Ladyluck

    First off, this show is House’s story and done via his POV. This is his first stable relationship in some years so of course his focus will be on Cuddy. It’s not like he’s cut Wilson out of his life.

    As for Barbara’s points:
    House’s team – I’ve liked Foreman this season. House is the leader of the department but Foreman’s become the leader of the fellows. He stepped up during the “Kelly” episode when Chase pointed it out to him and he eventually confronted House. I also like his brewing bromance with Taub. Chase has been a bit of a hot mess this season but last episode may have been his wake up call. It’s now Taub’s turn to be a hot mess although maybe Foreman will be there for him and the fall won’t be as bad as Chase’s who pushed everyone away. Master’s has been House’s mental and ethical rival. She’s as genius as House but her ethics are the polar opposite. The contrast has been interesting to see!

    Cuddy family relationships – Apparently, the sister and Cuddy have always had a bit of a rivalry. It seems Arlene’s favorite has been the sister and my guess is that Cuddy was the father’s favorite (considering the photo incident with House). Cuddy’s drive to be an uber doctor is probably partially to gain her mother’s approval and a way to get closer to her father (it seems that medicine runs on the father’s side as seen by the medical text written by Cuddy’s great-grandfather). However, since Cuddy’s father passed away some years ago, the family balance has shifted to Arlene and the sister and poor Cuddy has been the “odd man out”. I would not be surprised to find out if Arlene and/or the sister was jealous of the bond Cuddy had with her father.

    I can’t wait to see what this episode reveals of Cuddy’s family.

  • madfashionista

    Barbara, I take your point, but even in your own writing you have seen House/Cuddy/Wilson as an important trinity. Yes, last year Cuddy wasn’t on as much (although she and Wilson had episodes dedicated to them). The pronounced absence of Wilson this season has left a gaping hole, esp. since they dispatched Sam so unexpectedly. I, for one, wanted to see how they would deal with each other when each one was in a committed relationship. Now, as others have said, Wilson is comic relief. I would be very surprised if RSL signed for an 8th season.

    As for the team, I’m glad that Foreman is getting, if not exactly more to do (he’s always done a lot) his character is being allowed to lighten up and return to the looser Foreman of earlier seasons. Jesse Spencer continues to amaze me with his acting chops. And I like Taub, even though I would really be happy if I never saw his wife again. As for Masters, er, just, no. She is a two-dimensional caricature to me, and as an ethical challenge to House, she acts as a cartoonish rehash of the same ethical challenges he’s already had over the past seven seasons.

  • dago

    I totally agree with you,Barbara.I always thought that complaining about everything and the tinies details was an essentially german trademark since we are ever so pessimistic and negative in our attitude towards almost everything.
    But the ratings here in Germany haven`t dropped dramatically ,House is an attractive series especially for advertisers who have to pay up to 80.000 € the minute to air their spots.
    It also seems attractive for a lot of tv-companies that buy House throughout the world.
    Nevertheless is House MD the story of its tellers and we have or haven`t to go along with that fact.I don`t think that people however hard they try can change that concept to their content.It seems that fanfics have spoiled the fun a bit and all the complainers suffer from intellectual overload.I will keep reading this blog because of your reviews wich are very insightful and the few comment that measure up to that standart.But it get a little dire lately because of the increasing negativity.

  • Madfashionista: Absolutely the House/Wilson/Cuddy relationship is the heart of the show. I’ve always believed that, and I still do. But Wilson’s absence from an episode doesn’t bother me. Cuddy’s absence last year didn’t bother me either. I certainly didn’t complain about it.

    I try to to take the series as it comes to me as long as it’s organic. House’s different relationships illuminate his journey: Cuddy in one way; Wilson in another. I actually hated what both did to him at the beginning of season three, but I went with it because it was important to the story (and part of how in their own ways they care so deeply about him).

    I agree that Sam was too abruptly removed (as was Cameron, for that matter) and I wrote about it at the time in both cases. But we know that on House, story threads pop up and back all the time (and no, I’m not suggesting that Jennifer Morrison is returning to the show).

    I always thought that Sam was freaked by Wilson’s proposal and looked for any excuse to bail on the relationship. Wilson gave her a lame excuse and she took it. She left Wilson stunned and hurting, but we’re not going to see an episode devoted to Wilson pining after Sam as we did with House and Stacy. But that is the nature of the show and why it’s called House.

    Will we see fallout? I think we will soon.

    We’ve seen the fallout from Dibala and Cameron play out very subtly over the last year, particularly this year (but in tiny, tiny moments). Last week’s episode provided (hopefully) crisis point to that. And Chase will hopefully begin to find himself again.

    Anyway, FWIW, I think in this Monday’s episode, we might be able to explain Wilson’s absence as House avoiding him at all costs, because he’s telling himself the same things Wilson would probably tell him–and he’s unable to listen.

  • Norma

    So, not Wilson on this episode? thank you for the heads up, He is the only reason I still watch this show, so I guess I’m missing this one.

  • Simkha

    I was thinking lately about House and Cuddy relationship. What actually strikes me is the imposed belief that Cuddy has never lied to House. That’s not true: she lied to him when she cured the patient with House’s diagnoses, and also when she sent house to her sister’s empty house for a Thanksgiving dinner. Cuddy has been really mean to House, so why we assume that house is the only liar in this relationships?

  • simona

    For some time I do not write here because I feel that many comments are reduced to dumb wars between different shippers. So, I’m glad that you, Barbara, has offered a cue to return to the most interesting debates.
    As you said “I try to to take the series as it comes to me as long as it’s organic.”

    Some thoughts.
    I believe that both, the meaning of life and especially the inexplicable death are the essence of House and his journey.
    If Arlene is in danger of life or even die it will be very moving to see Cuddy’s reaction and how this reaction in turn will trigger the House’s soothed emotions, compared to his loss (patients, colleagues, father).
    We know that both House and Cuddy had a conflictual relationship with the parent of the same sex.
    They are both rationally aware but rationality is always lost when we see that we are unable to accept an event as big as the death of a parent. Someone said that we stop being children only when we lose our parents, the guardians of our childhood. It has been true for me, when you lose your parents you become suddenly aware that you can not be no more children.
    It is a void that no one can fill, is a chapter that is closed forever and this happens regardless of whether you had a good or bad relationship with your parents. The link exists and is undeniable and with this you have to compare. If you’re lucky you can get the right people comforting you but the loss of that part of you will go with you forever. And the regret will be with us forever (even though we once thought we did everything right and necessary): the regret of not having embraced, kissed, touched, talked, listened and loved enough.
    It is often useful to dissolve our pain, talk to our parents inside as if they were still alive, and tell them everything we hear, what we lack and what was important to us. What a person has been for us is not lost with his death. Sure you lose the ability to do other experiences together, but what they gave us remains forever, it’s our inexhaustible wealth or our heavy burden. It will be up to us to decide then what to do with this presence, the inner parents. We’ll decide if keep or throw them. One thousand ghosts act within us. A person disappears from the outside world, but leaves his/her legacy forever, in more or less important way, in people who have met him/her, loved or hated.
    Cuddy and House should be confronted with all this and we will be, as always, the privileged witnesses of this (potential) tragedy. We’ll see if their relationship will come out stronger from this test.

  • Oo

    Thank you Barbara!! Can’t wait to read your review of the episode as we get it two weeks later!! aye! for all those complaining, they should just apply for the writer position in the Fox network so they can write House to what they want the show to be…because as for me and many fans here, we’re just enjoying the show as it is and try to work out what the writers are trying to convey with every storyline they pick

  • Grace

    Sorry but I am missing House/Wilson time myself. Wilson comes to House to tell him that he and Sam are through (on the night he proposes) and House doesn’t even offer him a drink or sympathy? House doesn’t check on him, take him out….in fact, House tries to get out of going out with Wilson. I don’t think another word of Sam is spoken. I would have been much happier if the Taub scenes were Wilson scenes. Also, why does everyone call Rachel, Taub’s ex wife? Surely they couldn’t have gotten a divorce already! And WHY spend all this time on Amber if she’s going to be gone by season’s end? Why not just do to her what they did to Cameron?

  • Action Kate

    Apropos of nothing here except that this is a House discussion site — what did we think of the “Mean Joe Green” parody House promo during the Super Bowl? I saw at least one paper call it the top ad of the show. 🙂

  • ruthinor

    For those who haven’t seen it, check the above. I hope someone comes along to “fix” this since, as I’ve mentioned before, this is the only website that doesn’t seem to accept copy and paste correctly from my computer!

    I thought it was terrific, but I think you really need to have seen the original Joe Greene spot to appreciate it!

    [Ruthinor: I don’t know quite what you mean when you say that this site won’t accept copy and paste but I do know the correct way to make a link work.

    For the benefit of yourself and the other eager raw link posters on this thread, this is how to format a link properly. Christopher Rose, Blogcritics Comments Editor]

  • ruthinor

    This is the original Mean Joe Greene ad. See this first!

  • ruthinor

    Whenever I copy and paste at other sites, it works perfectly, but not here. I don’t know why that’s the case. Here, someone has to change something to make the link work. Tis a mystery to me!

  • alex

    This episode was fantastic! They really researched their current events when creating “Family Practice.” The events of this episode, metallosis as a result of cobalt poisoning due to a faulty hip implant, parallels the recent Johnson & Johnson hip replacement recall. House detailed the metallosis diagnosis nicely, but the scary thought is that there’s about 93,000 real live people out there who are currently dealing with this dangerous issue without the swift brilliance of Dr. House. Last night’s show struck my curiosity, so I decided to figure out exactly how metal bits and particles enter the bloodstream. I found a website, http://www.recalledhip.com that put all of the events and details of last night’s episode in real life context. Very interesting!

  • Hey Alex, I didn’t know that! Cool.

  • Panos Kakaviatos

    House has gotten pretty boring in season 7. The opener was dramatic and touching. And there have been some great scenes in subsequent episodes (House drugging both Wilson and Cuddy’s mom, House’s method to get Cuddy’s adopted daughter into a pre-school). But now he seems too domesticated and tame. The edge is gone. I miss the troubled genius popping pills, having visions, and mocking medical aspirants. And I am not sure I like the new person. She seems to nerdy. It is not as if we needed another gorgeous actress to play doctor, but she seems too one dimensional.