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TV Review: House – “The Dig” (7.18)

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So much is going on in last night’s 150th episode of FOX’s House, that’s it’s hard to know where to begin. The episode is entitled, appropriately enough, “The Dig.” Each of the various stories, some large, some small, many intersecting, deal with layers. There is always something beneath what is being talked about and obviously going on. Many of these layers deal with emotions and relationships. Some deal with disease. Some with morality. All allow serious insight into the characters of House.

Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) are absent in this episode, strange for a special 150th entry to the series. Yet, there is just no room for them. Too many stories are happening, and the episode is bursting at the seams as it is. Yet, who they are pervades other storylines, even though at this time, they are not on the journey, so they are present in some abstract way.

Cuddy has broken House (Hugh Laurie), as he has been seen with even more erratic than normal behavior in recent weeks. She also had begun to heal him. House has been in a bad state for the entire run of the series, especially emotionally. This seems to all stem from when he first hurt his leg, and what he went through with Stacy (Sela Ward). He has occasionally shown compassion, mostly for strangers, but rarely lets his team feel valued. This week, House actually expresses some real tenderness for a member of his staff, which will be dealt with more thoroughly later in this review. That shows House is becoming more of a well rounded person. Perhaps it’s a slow change, but it’s there.

The worrisome thing for friendship is that Wilson does not know how to deal with this new House. Wilson has been able to assist his friend through many issues in the past. Wilson has been shown to have a weakness for women that need fixing, but isn’t his friendship with House about the same thing? When House goes off the deep end, jumping from a hotel balcony, Wilson backs off, having reached his limit. Even the always helpful Wilson can only deal with one type of person, not the now baffling House. Wilson tries to get involved again, as House returns to work, and then House gets married. Wilson retreats, siding with Cuddy, who is the type of broken he can deal with. As House takes his road trip to a spud gun competition, he doesn’t bring Wilson along. Is this simply because House has ulterior motives for the trip, or is it a sign of a growing chasm?

Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) might just be the replacement friend that House needs. She is almost as messed up as he is. Despite making a go in a serious relationship with Foreman (Omar Epps), Thirteen mostly cannot allow herself to get close to people. It’s part of why she and Foreman ended. Instead, she seeks comfort from random strangers in bars and clubs. How is this different from House’s preference of hookers? She takes party drugs. How is this different from House’s addiction to Vicodin? She can come across as cold and calculating, like House. But when the chips are down, as they were with her brother, she comes through. As House will do for her.

This rekindled kinship, not romantic, but made through commonalities and a sort of friendship, may be necessary very soon. In a recent interview, Robert Sean Leonard raises the possibility of leaving the show, should House be renewed, which it has not yet been, but is expected to be. He is heading to Broadway, and would like to get away from series television, at least temporarily. This would rob House of the one real friend he has, for a few episodes minimum, and House cannot possibly take losing Wilson so soon after losing his relationship with Cuddy. Unless Thirteen is willing to serve as a replacement best friend. Wilson is invaluable, but it’s intriguing alternate path should the actor decide to depart.

Most of this episode centers on House taking Thirteen on a road trip. She is released from prison, having served a six month sentence for excessive prescribing, and he waits to pick her up and make her accompany him to a spud gun competition. At first, it appears that House is just pulling another stunt to figure out where she has been for the past year. As things play out, the stunt element fades and does not return, unusual for House. He actually opens up to her a little bit about Cuddy, with whom he would be celebrating a one year anniversary, had she not dumped him. He also shows real interest in what happened to Thirteen, and not just as a puzzle as he first frames it. While she may take his silence as a lack of emotion after she confesses the full story, House is processing and wants to help. He does not mock her.

While House stands there stunned, Thirteen having admitted she killed her brother, who was suffering mightily from Huntington’s, it seems he might open his mouth and offer to do the same for her, when the time comes. Instead, he doesn’t. But why would he? That is not the kind of act House would normally offer to do. It seems strange that that course of action fit so neatly in the scene, when it is a bit out of character. The writer’s hold off on it, though, until the very end of the episode. That makes sense, as House really is stunned by the depth of pain he gets from Thirteen, and needs time to fully consider such a drastic promise. He comes through for her in the end, and that’s what’s important.

Masters (Amber Tamblyn) becomes fascinated with a puzzle of her own. The team treats a hoarder and her husband, and Masters can’t wait to dig through the mess of their house and sort out what is behind it all. She has shown an aptitude and interest in strange behavior before, and so it makes perfect sense for the character. It is regrettable that she will soon be leaving the series for a new one, though if that gets quickly canceled, it would be nice if she returned. Despite a rocky start, she has staked her right to work among the other strong personalities, and brings a unique perspective to the team.

Is it possible that Masters has a little crush on Chase (Jesse Spencer)? It seems odd, as Chase is a pretty boy, and tends to go after traditionally hot women. Masters does not fit that category. She is a woman of substance and intelligence, who probably could look more attractive, but has more important things on her mind. She is likely drawn to the puzzle of Chase, more than his good looks. In the time she has known him, he has stumbled a bit, still a little shaken up from his divorce. She can see the genuine sweetness buried within, something it took awhile for Chase to show anyone else, and he has kept hidden ever since. So her feelings may not be out of line. The real question is, could he ever be truly interested in her? If she leaves permanently, we will likely never find out.

Foreman is still cocky and judgmental. After all the things that have happened that could have humbled him, he still thinks he knows better than anyone else. At first, he can’t believe Taulb (Peter Jacobson) has landed a young hottie, and tries to figure out what his roommate’s secret is. Then he catches Taulb with separated wife Rachel (Jennifer Crystal), and scolds him for messing with a woman’s heart. It seems Taulb can’t satisfy Foreman, whether he is playing the field with great success, or returning to his life partner. Is Foreman jealous of Taulb? That may sound far fetched, until you spend just a moment pondering their interactions as of late.

Taulb is showing serious growth. His reconciliation with Rachel has been long and winding, but thankfully is back on track. No matter how many times they call it quits, they feel so natural together. Taub is ready to put Rachel first, wondering if Foreman is right about Taulb messing with Rachel. So he does the right thing, willing to set her free so she can be happy, despite his unhappiness with being away from her. She denies him release, glad to be working things out. These two are built for the long haul, even if their marriage is still currently very much on the rocks. They have shared history, and it’s not hard to see what brought them together in the first place.

House continues its stellar seventh season Monday nights at 8 p.m. on FOX.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com