Last week on House in “Known Unknowns,” House (Hugh Laurie) received an unexpected blow. Having attended a medical conference to court Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), he learned she had already become involved with the quirky private investigator from last season, Lucas Douglas (Michael Weston). His reaction to the news was oddly calm. As they sat the next morning they seemed accepting, and even as Lucas blabbered on about House’s delusion and his hospitalization at Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital, House took it serenely, despite the look of betrayal in his eyes.
Which brings us to “Teamwork” (6×08). House’s medical license restored, he reclaims his department from Foreman (Omar Epps), treating a male porn star with a sensitivity to light and bleeding. The patient is a paradox. He’s a nice Jewish boy “from the ‘burbs” raised by an over-protective mother who wouldn’t let a cough go by without a visit to the doctor. He is happily married and matter-of-fact about his unusual line of work. Neither he nor his wife (also a porn star) have any shame or embarrassment about what they do. Ironically, it's his clean-living childhood that's made him sick (and the cure is fairly disgusting — a threadworm cocktail). But as is often the case, the medical mystery simply provides a structure for the real action of the episode.
House's team gets the case just as Cameron and Chase resign. Planning to move to another city, they want to get on with their lives after Chase’s assassination of the African dictator Dibala (“The Tyrant,” 6×04). House is left with only Foreman to run the tests and diagnose the sex star.
Again, House seems oddly accepting — at least at first. But House plans to win back his fellows old and new, inciting with the case, but without actually asking them to return to the team.
He visits 13 at her home and at the gym; he stalks Taub at his new plastic surgery practice. He tries to drive a wedge between Chase and Cameron, believing one or the other of them will decide to stay while the other departs. Wilson wonders why, when House could have his pick of any of thousands who would give anything to work for him, he insists on these particular well-worn diagnostics fellows. He believes that House, devastated by losing Cuddy to Lucas, is seeking the comfort of the familiar. But everyone has an opinion.
Chase and Cameron come back on the team to help out Foreman, who is overwhelmed having to run House’s tests by himself. But as the old team runs through the diagnosis process, House conveys the latest theories and tests to Taub and 13. At first they ignore the faxes and personal visits, but in the end, the challenge of House’s high-stakes and high-impact medicine is too attractive, and like a medical Pied Piper of Princeton, House lures them back with an interesting case.
Chase and Cameron are a tougher sell, but House’s manipulations drive doubt into the young marriage. House cannot believe that Cameron has been so forgiving of her husband for murdering the dictator — no matter how evil he may have been. He tells Chase that for her to forgive and forget would run contrary to everything House knows of Cameron and her rigid morality. Murder is murder. No exceptions.
And he’s right, telling Chase she’s forgiving him because he has shame and regrets what he has done. She can live with that. But she has misread Chase entirely. Chase has never given any indication he feels remorse for what he has done. “It may have been the worst thing I’ve done,” he admits. But, “it might have been the best.” However he feels, Chase does believe he’s saved tens of thousands from genocide by murdering Dibala.
But she also forgives Chase because, as House has astutely observed, Cameron actually blames him for the murder, not Chase. At first it seems like simple Hous-ian narcissism — the whole world revolves around House, but he’s actually right. Cameron believes House has poisoned the environment of the diagnostics department so no one knows what’s right or what wrong. He has created a little world of no remorse and no morality. She believes that both he and Chase, men she has loved, are irredeemable, with no understanding of the sanctity of human life. And so she tearily leaves.
The scene is an interesting bookend to a scene way back in season one’s "Role Model" (1×18). House had refused to compromise his integrity to endorse a drug he believed had no virtue for patients. He did so at great risk to his career and his department.
At the time, Cameron alone among anyone else (including Wilson) seems to understand that House does things because they are “right,” without regard to the consequences — often acting contrary to conventional wisdom and conventional medicine. And sometimes that gets him into trouble. She resigns at the end of scene, in a noble gesture to save his department. She extends her hand out to him to say goodbye, and he refuses to take it, unable to even look her in the eye.
In “Teamwork,” five years later, does she no longer understand House’s philosophy of medicine? Is she upset because he has spread it beyond himself, gaining disciples in Chase and Wilson (who nearly tanked his career last week in a damn-the-consequences medical paper on euthanasia)? Again she offers her hand, and again House refuses it, unable to look her in the eye. It’s an interesting parallel to “Role Model,” but I’m not sure what it says about either Cameron or House.
The episode seemed off-kilter to me. I understand that in the aftermath of last week, House’s inclination would be to guard himself completely, becoming non-reactive. He can barely speak to Cuddy, and certainly cannot look at her. When she confronts him in the hospital corridor about whether his actions in the episode have to do with her involvement with Lucas, he simply turns away and walks off. He says nothing to her, doesn’t engage her at all. No snark, no mocking, nada. And that’s completely in character.
However, House is fundamentally a romantic, and his intentional manipulation of Chase and Cameron’s fragile relationship seems out of character. Yes, I can see him manipulating it, but to be intentionally destructive? Does he think there is some greater good there?
In his final scene with Wilson, House is practically giddy that he’s gotten three of his four fellows back. He seems to care very little that number four, Cameron, has flown the coop. Yes, we do see him consider calling after her as she leaves his office in her departure scene. But his recovery seems too complete, and her departure too easily blown off, by this final scene with Wilson.
Perhaps “Teamwork” is a transitional episode that leads us into the next narrative arc of the season. Transitional episodes often feel “off” because we get no resolution — to anything. They’re all setup with no payoff. So, I look forward to next week as House, with his re-configured team, celebrates Thanksgiving.