Tonight’s House, M.D. episode “Runaways” is full of possibilities: a clinic patient catching House’s (Hugh Laurie) interest, a girl preferring the poverty of homelessness to live with a drug-addict mother, a parent with an addiction problem that hits very close to House’s home, the suggestion that House is being hyper-protective of a patient he believes is a victim. All the pieces are present for a compelling and textured episode. House even has recidivist clinic patients: a pair of brothers who are Civil War re-enacters. All the boxes have been ticked, but somehow it doesn’t quite all fit together into a cohesive fabric. A nice effort from new House writer Marqui Jackson (Lone Star), but I think the episode doesn’t quite deliver on its promise. I felt a little too much like a checklist of beats that should be in a House episode without much weight to it that might have really brought the episode home.
Homeless teen Callie (Bridget Mendler) comes into the Princeton-Plainsboro free clinic, catching House’s attention after he notices blood dripping from her ear. Although he legally should have, House doesn’t call in social services to deal with Callie, which Wilson explains as House’s way of empathizing with someone he perceives as a victim. He is quick to accuse House of caring for the girl and her sad story about an abusive parent, something House, of course denies.
While House does seem to sympathize with his patient, understanding her need to live apart from her mother, Adams (Odette Annable) hopes for a reconcilliation between mother and daughter, believing that Callie would be better off living with a parent. She contacts social services against House’s wishes, which locates Callie’s mom Ellen (Darlene Vogel). It’s very reminiscent of something Cameron might have done back in the day.
House also disagrees with Adams’ medical assessment. While Adams believes that Callie is suffering from alcoholism (after all, her mother is an addict), House believes the teen has a brain aneurism and needs surgery to locate it. In the end, House realizes that it’s a parasite that’s eating away at her brain, and can cure her with a couple of pills.
Elsewhere at Princeton-Plainsboro, Foreman (Omar Epps) is having an affair with a married woman, but loses interest after she discloses the relationship to her husband. Is it that the relationship has lost its adventure, or is Foreman running away from having any sort of relationship actually requiring committment? And Taub (Peter Jacobson) tries to make life a little more interesting for himself—and his daughters Sofia and Sophie—while trying to bond. He wants to feel committed to these two young lives, and ultimately finds a way with a little advice from Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard).
The story circles back in the end to the recurring House theme of “nobody changes”—perhaps even if they want to do so. Even after Callie and Ellen bond, Callie understands that change is fleeting, and soon enough Mom will be back on drugs. She’s better off, she believes to live on her own, where she has control of the situation. House both agrees with and admires her for her courage—we think. Neither Foreman nor Taub can easily change who they are, although Taub finds a way around the problem.
Onto February sweeps, which always promise big, emotional episodes for House fans. And certainly, next week’s “Nobody’s Fault” fits that bill very nicely.
I’ve already screened “Nobody’s Fault,” and I have to say it is an excellent episode. The story by Garrett Lerner, Russel Friend and David Foster is right up there with their best work (and that is saying something). Expect a preview article up by the weekend! Here’s a preview courtesy of Ms. Housefan to tease and please (spoilerphobes, please exit the room now!).
For readers who follow my Once Upon a Time reviews and articles, I will be doing a post-episode LiveChat with writer Jane Espenson (Torchwood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Game of Thrones) following her next Once episode “Skin Deep,” which airs February 12. Once Upon a Time stars House alum Jennifer Morrison as well as Ginnifer Goodwin, Lana Parrilla, and Robert Carlyle, airing on ABC Sunday nights; it is and is absolutely worth a peek if you haven’t already seen it.