As season eight begins, House is several months into a prison sentence for plowing his car into ex-girlfriend Lisa Cuddy’s house in the season seven finale. “Twenty Vicodin” begins House’s journey back to what he believes will be his old life, but not before we observe House both in his element among his fellow inmates, and victimized and bullied by those with more power than he has—a very different environment for him. But even once he returns to Princeton Plainsboro Hospital, as much as he tries—and as much as he’d like—House is in a different position. Powerless, without either staff or budget, he suddenly finds he has no staff, no office, and no budget. He suddenly finds himself reporting to a new Dean of Medicine—Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps), his former fellow and occasional antagonist. Foreman knows House’s tricks and proves a pretty decent foil for the worst of House’s behavior (much better than I had expected). For much of the season, House has his parole hanging over his head, and Foreman seems fairly comfortable using that as an often, but not always, effective check on House’s behavior.
Eventually, House manages to finagle his way into some money for the department—enough to lure Chase (Jesse Spencer) back into the fold, and to hire a new fellow (played by Odette Annable), as well as take on a socially awkward female medical student (played by Charlyne Yi). His cobbled-together staff, headed by Chase and Taub (Peter Jacobson), come into their own, with House often distancing himself from the weekly cases, something I think is one of the main weaknesses of season eight. For it is when House has connected with his patients that we see into his soul—what he’s thinking and what he feels.
Overall, however, season eight is a strong season, especially for a series nearing the end of its life. There are a few really exceptional episodes, including the premiere “Twenty Vicodin,” and “Nobody’s Fault,” one of the series occasional non-linear narratives, which reveals through flashback events that led to a near fatal accident, and House’s responsibility for it. In my opinion both episodes belong on a "best of" House, M.D. list.