The pivotal set piece (and one of the funniest) in the episode takes place at Cuddy’s birthday celebration. Arlene does her best to antagonize Cuddy (not so much House), but when she pushes one particular button, it’s one too far. I love that House had really tried to play nice (sort of), but feels he has to step in when he perceives that Cuddy’s really under attack. But before he gets a chance to get a snark into the conversation, Arlene—and Wilson are knocked out, victims of House’s slipped Mickey.
Although House’s solution to silencing Arlene is underhanded (and oh-so-Housian), it has its own sweetness. It buys House and Cuddy a little domestic downtime together: washing up the dishes and sitting together on the sofa. I really like House’s birthday present to Cuddy—a ribbon-wrapped bottle of more sedative. It’s a funny, lighthearted gift that demonstrates undoubtedly how much House cares for Cuddy. And in the end, Arlene sees that as well. Showing herself as neither as intimidating nor as much of a dragon as she suggests at first, Arlene wisely acknowledges that no matter what she personally thinks of House, she understands that he loves her daughter. I love that Sara Hess (the episode’s writer) stepped back from complete stereotype to make Arlene more reasonable—and real—than she appears at first.
I really enjoyed the interplay between Cuddy and House, and between House and Wilson. We do not need to see House and Cuddy snogging and pawing each other to know they care about each other. They have quibbles with each other, and even snipe a bit. But that’s pretty real. And I really like how the series writers are exploring this latest challenge to House on his quest to “not be miserable.”
Each season House faces new challenges and obstacles on his journey. In season one it was simply interacting with people outside his immediate circle; in season two, it was dealing with the reappearance of someone who he deeply resents—and just as deeply loves. Season three House grappled with the failure of the Ketamine treatment (and getting shot at the end of season two), and in season four, he learned how to adjust to a new set of fellows. Season five saw House dealing with multiple losses—other emotional traumas, while in season six he struggled with learning to live a life free of narcotic painkillers.