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.