I always love it when FOX’s House departs from its standard formula and does a different format episode. This week’s “Two Stories” was the latest example of this, and it did not disappoint in the enjoyment factor. Framed by House (Hugh Laurie) talking to two fifth grade students, events are told disjointed and out of order, and often times, House is just downright lying. Add to that, parts of the episode involve House telling the young couple about him telling a fifth grade class a story. Mix in several bits he tries to pass off as reality, but were actually ripped from popular movies, and you have one entertaining hour!
Despite the chaotic nature of the narrative, the plot is pretty easy to follow. I assume that’s because the story House is telling is kept simple. There are only two elements, and both are relatively short. First, House’s team treats a patient that literally coughs up a lung (gross, but funny). Second, Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) grows tired of House’s inconsiderate nature and the duo have a fight. At first, House doesn’t even understand why exactly she’s angry, or that this is a culmination of a behavioral pattern, but instead seeks a singular event. Then House tries to figure out what he can do to make it right, but after his conversation with the students, he realizes his manipulative games are what got him into the mess in the first place. Simple, honest sincerity was what it takes to win the day.
The fact that House can embrace such a concept shows just how far he has come, as well as how deep his feelings for Cuddy go. As House told the principal, he doesn’t just love Cuddy, he needs her. Sadly, he has a hard time actually caring about her, as she is quick to point out. Which is what makes them such a great couple. She calls him on his faults, and he really does attempt to be a better man, one worthy of her. It’s a process, of course, but I think they both realize that, and House’s progress has been satisfactory, overall.
The reason that letting the two leads pursue a relationship is usually avoided on television is because many shows quickly grow stale when that happens, though there are a number of notable exceptions, Chuck being the most recent. The tension of ‘will they or won’t they?’, even when the audience knows that the answer is almost always ‘they will, at the very end of the series’, provides dramatic tension and allows fan interest to build momentum. The problem is, after many years of this, it begins to grow stale and feel unrealistic. At that point, it becomes a double-edged sword. If the pair get together, they could become a boring couple. Problems are either unrealistically forced upon them to try to build tension, which doesn’t usually work too well, or viewers just can’t see how two people can dance around each other for so long and not eventually make a move. There has to be some natural growth after the couples gets together in order for the concept to work, and that groundwork must have been laid long before the relationship begins.
House has solved this by making the main character so anti-social in the first place. While House has always had a special fondness for Cuddy, I don’t think the good doctor ever believed she would go for him until it happened. It is throwing his whole world out of order, and that’s a good thing. There is plenty of story to mine about someone who got what he wanted and doesn’t know how to keep or enjoy it. Suddenly, House, who has overcome plenty of obstacles, but remained a fairly static personality at his core, has to find his way. While fans know he hasn’t always been the Grumpy Gus that we’ve watched for seven years, House has lived that way for so long that it’s hard for him to remember who he used to be. This season has delighted in that discovery, and there’s at least another season or two worth of material here.
The foils of two fifth graders to Huddy’s love story is clever. House is, at heart, somewhat childlike. It makes sense that his actions have an immaturity two children can relate to. I think that the young girl is a cross between House and Cuddy’s more aggressive sides, while the young boy is their softer sides. Or what their softer sides need to be, as Cuddy is clearly more developed in this area than House. As such, House can learn from watching the boy’s example. The boy chooses to support the girl, and be there for what she needs and wants. House does that, too, at the end of the episode.
An elementary school is such a bizarre place for House to be, and not just because he doesn’t have kids. But once I got over the fact that the teacher lets House keep going with his wildly inappropriate stories, which would never happen in real life, I enjoyed the way that kids don’t buy into House’s crap as much as adults do. They can see through his bluster. I especially enjoyed the kid who keeps pointing out which movies House is referencing.
On the other hand, I also see House’s appeal to the children. He is an interesting man who does exciting work. It’s readily apparent that he is also a very smart, talented individual who excels in his field. Plus, his manner of storytelling is just plain fun, and makes you want to hear more. I can relate to that. After all, I’ve watched six and a half seasons about the guy! Kids haven’t yet developed their preconceived notions, and are more open to hearing about the world, as they are not fully in it. This was the most receptive audience that House could ask for, save a room full of med students who have been studying his cases. But that’s already been done.
House is, at his heart, a teacher. Perhaps an abrasive one, but he knows how to set people up to learn. Look at how he treats his team. You cannot tell me that any of them haven’t benefited from working under House, learning his techniques and how his mind works. He espouses unconventional thinking and self-motivation. House teaches you how to learn and figure things out for yourself. Any teacher will tell you that teaching someone how to learn is far better than just giving formulas and answers. Whether he is in front of young children, med students, or his own staff, this element, which often gets buried beneath his blustery, over-sized personality, is essential to knowing who House is.
Now that I’ve gotten through the serious, deeper elements of the episode, I want to delight in the fun parts. Besides peeling aside the layers of House’s soul and the inner workings of his romantic relationship, this week also brings along some of the funniest moments the show has exhibited in awhile. The fact that most don’t actually happen in no way lessens the enjoyment. We see House shoot a college student to influence another into hacking into Cuddy’s laptop. Taub (Peter Jacobson) and Foreman (Omar Epps) help House stage an elaborate break-in to Cuddy’s office. House shouts at a student, “You can’t handle the truth!” All wonderful moments.
My favorite scene in the entire episode, though, was when House makes up dialogue for his fellows, playing on broad stereotypes. Chase (Jesse Spencer) and Taub both proposition a new nurse in lecherous ways, but also in references to sexual experiences both have had (Taub cheats on his wife in past seasons, and Chase engages in a threesome at an administrator’s wedding). Masters (Amber Tamblyn) is shot down by other team members, and Foreman takes control, even though he isn’t actually their boss. It is a smart play, not wholly out of character for any of them, and yet, of course, using dialogue they would never actually say. The entire scene deserves continuous laughter.
Also, just the basic image of House being sent to the principal’s office is plenty entertaining. That he gets into a fist fight in the classroom, of the sort that elementary students might engage in, only adds to the scene. In some ways, the hospital where House works in like a school, and Cuddy is like a principal. Too bad for House, the principal in this episode doesn’t have the same fondness for him that his boss possesses.
The last thing I’d like to mention, since I don’t review every episode, is something that happened last week. Taub moves in with Foreman. Their bonding over video games and love troubles is a high point of the series, showing characteristics of both men that we haven’t seen that much of. I am very pleased by this development, and hope the series shows us plenty of downtime together for the two of them in future episodes. Though most of the show takes place in the hospital or wherever House is, Taub in particular has been getting a lot of outside material lately, and it is something I’d like to see more of for all of the other cast members.
House airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. on FOX.