When we last left House, he had just lost a patient after amputating her leg at a horrific disaster scene. In the depths of despair (even Foreman is concerned), House returns home and to the possibility of returning to Vicodin. “He is bereft,” said Hugh Laurie in interview footage provided by Fox. “He’s formed an emotional connection with her,” and her death hits him hard. But also, says Laurie, it’s because his powerful intellect has failed him and “his intellect is all he has.”
But as he sits in his darkest hour sitting on his bathroom floor, an angel in pink appears at his bathroom door at this critical juncture. It is (as Laurie puts it) “the saintly Cuddy” to pronounce to the stunned House that she has ended her brief engagement to Lucas Douglas. She cannot get House out of her head— no matter how happy she is supposed to be with a “new fiancé and a new house.” Season six ends on the clasped hands of a finally-united House and Cuddy after she declares to him, “I love you,” despite all her efforts to stay emotionally detached from him.
Season seven begins moments later with House and Cuddy standing in his bedroom with Cuddy tending to his physical (he was badly banged up in the season six finale) as well as his emotional wounds. It’s a powerful scene—something I won’t spoil. I’ll just say that my eyes misted and it’s a very important moment for both characters—and especially for House—to experience on several levels.
It’s no secret that it all leads to lovemaking and House’s inevitable “now what?” Cuddy wants to go home, shower and go to work; House wants to capture this moment and let it linger into the rest of the day, calling himself in—and convincing Cuddy to play hooky as well.
House has pursued Cuddy for several seasons (depends on your point of view as to just how long), and now she is there. Part of House seems to still not quite believe it; at one point, Wilson gives him even more reason not to when he visits House, concerned for his friend’s well-being in the aftermath of “Help Me.”
Watching House trying to be romantic is always fun, and he’s pulled out all the stops, trying (to great comic—but sweet effect) to open a bottle of Champagne with a sabre; draw a bath (as only House can) for Cuddy; make her breakfast (again, as only House can). It’s all sweet and its light and it’s lovely. He is courting her. This is the romantic side of House: the small sweet gestures, the gentleness and soft-spoken part of House of which few in his circle are aware.
On the other hand, this is House we’re talking about, and he suddenly finds himself in rarely-charted territory. His happiness and joy is counterbalanced with fear and self-doubt about his ability to love and be loved. There are resonances in “Now What?” to the same sort of fears he expressed season two’s “Need to Know,” as well as lessons learned (and not completely forgotten) from his brief romance with Lydia in “Broken,” which began last season.
But House and Cuddy spending the day cocooned in House’s house, is everything you’d expect (and more), whether you are a “Huddy” fan or simply a fan of the show. This is a completely new situation for House, and it’s an opportunity for the show’s creative team to place House in a situation in which he’s never really been before in the series.
It provides him (as well as Cuddy) with emotional and practical challenges; it has the potential to once again reset the series in a very positive (and exciting way). I know fans will tell me that “it’s because you like House and Cuddy together.” Actually, although that adds to my enjoyment, I think even people who are not especially into the “relationship” thing on the show will enjoy this episode.
House is never out of character. Not for a second. If you’ve watched the series for several years, even House’s overt romanticism will seem completely in character. I’m going to enjoy this new journey. As Laurie noted, House and Cuddy’s relationship “is a long time coming,” acknowledging that you can only go so many years teasing. “It had to happen, and “hopefully sparks ensue,” he added. If “Now What?” is any indication, they have indeed “ensued.”
There’s even a crisis (and a connected case) back at the hospital when Princeton-Plainsboro’s only neurosurgeon in town suddenly falls ill. If he goes home, the hospital is at risk of losing its Level 1 trauma center certification. It’s a crisis about which House does his best to keep Cuddy in the dark, calling on his team to manage it (i.e. figure out what’s wrong with the guy) before the hospital is half shut down—and Cuddy’s return really becomes necessary. The hospital storyline is a great counterweight to the romance ensuing in House’s apartment. As is the story of 13’s intended leave of absence from the team with twist of an ending.
More on “Now What” Monday night after the episode airs. House, M.D. premieres for its seventh season Monday night, September 20 at 8:00 p.m. ET on Fox.
An invitation for Chicago area fans of this column: please be sure to stop by Goose Island Brew Pub Sunday night from 7-9 p.m. to celebrate the launch of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. We’ll talk House, schmooze about season seven and more.