(Warning: spoilers for the episode that aired Nov. 22)
Instead of the usual pre-credits focus on getting to know the patient of the week â€“ or the fake-out non-patient of the week - â€śHuntingâ€ť jumps right in with a shot of House (Hugh Laurie) and Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) discussing the question that really needed asking last week. To wildly paraphrase Wilson: what the hell did House think he was accomplishing by stealing Stacy's therapy notes and attempting to manipulate her into acknowledging that she'd rather be with House than her husband?
Because House is House, his answer is more of a non-answer. Because House is House, we also meet the patient of the week pre-credits â€“ an HIV+ man, Kalvin, who is stalking House to try to persuade him to take the case. Hmm, doing something creepy and illegal in order to get someone to look favourably on you? Can't imagine why Kalvin thinks House would understand that method.
When House's not-quite-a-hit sends Kalvin backwards into Wilson's car, causing him to collapse, House finally has a reason to be interested in the case. Not only does the anaphylactic shock introduce a symptom he can't easily explain away, House is reminded that treating the patient might stave off the lawsuit.
That reminder comes from ex-love Stacy (Sela Ward), during a cozy domestic scene courtesy the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital of Inappropriateness, where lawyers take meetings in their kitchens while waiting for the exterminator. Of course the scene is a wonderful excuse to introduce us to the House and Stacy of infarctions past, interacting with a casual, familiar humour and warmth. It's one of many pseudo domestic moments in the episode as House finds excuses to return to her home and Stacy finds excuses to let him. In absurdly comic and sweetly affecting scenes, House traps the rat in her attic, then becomes obsessed with the sickly creature as a patient instead of a pest, returning to treat it, trap it, and continue with his devious plan to force Stacy's hand.
When House and Stacy go on a stakeout for the rat, which he's oddly and adorably named Steve McQueen, they have a conversation with a couple of layers and more than a little romantic tension. â€śAdmit it. You like him,â€ť House cajoles, lying shoulder to shoulder with the woman he obviously loves. â€śHe's alright,â€ť she responds coyly. â€śFor a rat.â€ť
Call me easy, but after an episode that tested my faith last week, all I needed to be back on House's side was the obvious disconnect between his admitted motivations and his actual motivations, which were full of nuances of pain and the desire to inflict pain, conveyed beautifully by Hugh Laurie's expressive face. (Well, I needed that and the impish humour that brought the funny back to the bastardly.)