House, “Out of the Chute”

After last week’s controversial episode, House and House could have gone a number of troubling directions. I suspected “Out of the Chute” would be overly melodramatic and annoying and since the series has gone this troubling route in the past, there was an outside chance that this episode didn’t actually deal with the fall-out of the House-Cuddy break-up really at all.* Thankfully, neither of these mediocre outcomes came to pass in this episode and instead, “Out of the Chute” ends up being another fairly successful exploration of House’s muddled state. There’s still a chance that House’s return to the drugs means that the series is going back to the early season status quo or that this is all just a moderately extended reprieve before House and Cuddy get back together and work on their happy ever after. But I feel like this episode does a nice job of suggesting that even know this a television series and one of those things WILL probably happen, it really SHOULDN’T.

*You know, like how when Cameron and Chase got divorced. Or when House and Wilson were fighting at the beginning of season five.

The reason this episode works for me is because of the tone. I hate the overly melodramatic version of the series that sometimes pops up (most recently in the episode where Candice Bergen almost dies), but “Chute” keeps House’s issues under the microscope without beating us over the head that he’s sad and depressed. At this point long-time fans of the series knew exactly how House would react to his break-up with Cuddy and to write a follow-up episode where he isn’t taking a lot of Vicodin and sleeping with hookers would probably be a minor betrayal of the character. House can’t be overly sad and mopey because the whole point of the break-up in the first place is that he won’t really allow himself to get to that point. He uses the drugs as a defense mechanism and that thinking is in full-bloom here, as he takes most of his money out of the bank, rents a luxurious hotel room and cycles through an inordinate amount of ladies of the night in just a few days. Also, he pretend shoots one with an arrow.

But instead of playing this all for straight humor, House’s crazy behavior starts to slowly make sense over the episode’s duration. Despite Wilson’s concerned meddling — this is really what the man does best — House tries his best to regain what he lost when he lost Cuddy: feeling. It’s been well-documented over the years that House only lived for the thrill of solving the case, but when Cuddy found him in that bathroom at the end of the season last year, she started to replace that void in his heart right at a time when his faith in puzzle-solving had been shaken to the core. So without Cuddy now out of the picture, House quickly become s a bit risky with both his life and the episode’s patient because he hopes that it will allow him to feel something.

And even though he smartly deduces that Cuddy’s professional protests are all for naught, solving the case with a legitimately risky move doesn’t really do anything for House, and then he’s really shaken. So, you know, he jumps off his hotel balcony into a pool while Wilson stands by in horror. By the end of this episode, House hasn’t fixed his problems, he’s not even close. But now he should be on an interesting journey of discovery or self-destruction — probably both. Cuddy isn’t the answer and if the medical puzzles aren’t either, what does he have? I’m not sure and perhaps this just leads to House totally breaking down again, but over the last three episodes, the series and its lead character are starting to look more and more like themselves and that makes me very happy.

I’d be remissed if I didn’t talk about the other person of the series’ recent break-up and for the most part, Cuddy is well-handled here as well. I enjoyed that Wilson rightly pointed out the flaws in her desire to get with House in the first place because the dude’s always been an addict, but also respected Cuddy’s reasoning for why she had to pull the trigger on both the relationship and the break-up. There’s an obvious problem with the two of them getting together in the first place, but I can respect how they’ve handled for most of the season and that appears to be continuing in the post-split portion of the story. I will be particularly interested to see how the series uses Cuddy as a character for the rest of the season, as it feels like she’s going to be dialed back in place of more House-Wilson time. That’s never a bad thing in my mind, no disrespect to Cuddy.

I guess it makes sense that episodes covering a break-up of a couple that never should have been together in the first place would be logical and enjoyable, but nevertheless, “Out of the Chute” is the third rock-solid House episode in a row.

Other thoughts:

  • I really enjoyed the fact that none of the veteran members of the team were upset, shocked or annoyed that House was doing Vicodin and doing it while on the job. This compared nicely to Masters’ shocked, newbie reaction. Without Cameron around, it’s kind of great that House is mostly surrounded by miserable, awful people who don’t really care about his well-being past the surface levels. Chase, Foreman and Taub are probably the least interested people in the world and that works..
  • I know that it’s a gimmick, but the episode used slow motion very nicely, both in the teaser with the bull-riding sequence and with House’s jump off the balcony into the pool. Effective use of gimmickry, says I.
  • Masters’ crush was cute and innocuous.

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