House Season Premiere Review: "Twenty Vicodin"

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After writing about House for the last two years, I've come to realize that there are two kinds of fans of the show: those that have watched every episode, know every story arc, and are completely obsessed... and those that have caught some episodes here and there on USA or Bravo and just enjoy watching House be who he is and are entertained by the series no matter what shape it's in.  

I fall into the first camp. And after last season's finale, I wasn't too excited to see this premiere. House has done the whole "institution" bit before - with season 6's well-received premiere, "Broken."  After a year of House attempting therapy, staying off drugs, and doing everything he possibly could to better himself, Cuddy finally noticed and the two started dating, only to be broken up midway through season 7.

By the end of that season, House took the drastic measure of driving through Cuddy's house and running off to some deserted island. And here we are now.

House as a Janitor

Which brings us to the opening scene of "Twenty Vicodin," showing us a House who is given the opportunity for parole after eight months in prison. We also get David Shore's clear backtracking regarding Rachel's (Cuddy's daughter) whereabouts when House drove his car through her home. 

A number of fans were infuriated, wondering how House knew Rachel wasn't in the house. This was Shore's clear device to let us know she wasn't around. Apparently, every Friday Rachel goes to her grandmother's, which House claims is reason enough to safely take a stand and drive into someone's home. Is it silly of me to question House's rationality during a scene in which he drove his car into Cuddy's living room?

Regardless, the point of the scene is that House has five days in which to behave himself so he can be released. Of course, House attempting to behave himself is what landed him in prison, but at least it raises the stakes in the episode. I want what the parole board wants from House: to see remorse for what he did last season and for him to mean it! 

But this is House, after all, and he rarely shows anyone what they want to see, especially when it runs as deeply as his emotions, which as far as I'm concerned, need to be addressed more that they are. House blames who he is on his leg, then on his medical practice, which he claims to want to leave to study physics, and more specifically, dark matter: the greatest mystery there ever was. How about rather than blaming your doctoring, your leg pain, and whatever else is happening on the exterior, we look within

This is probably why I loved Dr. Nolan (Andre Braugher) so much when he was on the show; he talked to House about who he is and really made him explore himself.  This is another episode of House, like all the others, where viewers are expected to read a little deeper and give the writers the benefit of the doubt in giving House a soul. I'm not sure they have succeeded.

At any rate, in addition to being under the pressure of "being good," House also is forced into giving over his Vicodin to the ultimate prisoner skinhead, Mendelson.  Twenty Vicodin and very little time to get it. In the meantime, we see House and how he managed for the last eight months. He's got a friend who he plays chess with, and beats of course, the only seemingly sane prisoner in House's cell block. 

House and Dr. Adams

And then of course, there's the patient. In "Broken," House was the patient, but there was also someone who he attempted to diagnose. House would always rather fix others than turn the lens onto himself. But this time, with the prisoner patient, comes the prison doctor, the latest in hot women doctors from House, the series. I could write a whole other article on the way women are portrayed on this show, but maybe I'll save that for another day. 

Dr. Adams, the latest doctor to fall under House's diagnostic spell, is eager to diagnose patients in a Housian way. She seems like the ultimate hybrid of Chase and Kutner. Pretty and privileged, but with a real interest in the mysteries of medicine.

At this point, House has got extreme leg pain as he tries to save the Vicodin he's stolen from Dr. Adams for the skinhead and as he takes at least three pills, he decided to check himself into Protective Custody to avoid getting killed by Mendelson. But House wouldn't be House if he left a case unsolved. And this is where the House we know and love/hate comes bubbling to the surface. He attempts to force the patient into confirming a diagnosis in a dangerous way, but a doctor overlooking things won't let him. In comes the risky Dr. Adams to save the day, and to let House know she's in on all his little secrets. Not only did House not hire a lawyer to defend himself, but he also took the first deal offered to him without putting up a fight, showing Dr. Adams (AKA Wilson's epiphany twin) that House was just trying to punish himself.

But wait a second. 

If House was just trying to punish himself, wouldn't jail not be the right place to be?   Real punishment for him would be to own up to his emotions and work to figure them out, rather than shutting himself off from the world that he's too embarrassed to see anyway. On the other hand, one of House's biggest fears is to be alone, and as he told another prisoner, he hasn't had nary a phone call, let alone a visitor. So he's down and out. And ready to fall in line? Not quite. 

The stubborn doctor that we know incites a riot and wants to be beaten up, and finally put into solitary confinement, where we see he truly is alone with just his thoughts. And then comes Dr. House's three favorite words. Not "I love you," which permeated last season's premiere, but "You were right!" (from Dr. Adams regarding the patient's diagnosis), which House feels indicates the ultimate in respect for another person.  In season three's "Son of a Coma Guy," House was asked what he'd like to hear his father tell him, given the chance. 

House thought for a moment, and said "You were right." So here it is. He finally gets the confirmation after several months of "punishing" himself. But is it worth where he is? Is House's pursuit of what's right what keeps him isolated to the point of complete solitude?

Yes, I enjoyed the last scene.  And on second viewing, I enjoyed the episode more. But what's going to happen in the following weeks when House is put back in the hospital? I give the series five episodes to get everything back the way it was in season one, minus Cuddy, an integral part of the show. And I don't want to see the same old House. I want House to want to change and figure it out. He's damaged and I want him to pay for what he did emotionally. Jail for House was obviously not easy, but did it really challenge him to face his emotional downfalls? Of course not.  If anything, it just gave him more time to avoid dealing with anything related to real remorse, which is again, what I want to see.

The worst part about the upcoming season is that even if we do see House being remorseful, it won't be directed toward the right person. Lisa Edelstein is probably never coming back to the show, so we're left without closure to a relationship that has been built up since season one (from my perspective). Others hated the whole relationship and may be thrilled that Edelstein is gone, but really, who is going to be House's boss now? Wilson?  Enough with the foreplay. Foreman? Boring. Taub? Too short. And Chase, my favorite choice, will probably never get the job, because ultimately, when it comes to this show, I can't always get what I want, and neither can House.

So while I didn't mind this little trip down San Quentin Prison Lane, I know that where this season is going is not where I want to be. I'm not interested in more new characters. In fact, I want the old ones back. Kal Penn (Kutner), who left in the first place to pursue politics, just made another Harold and Kumar movie. Where would we be if his character never killed himself? 

What about Cameron? And while the episodes that Amber died in were the best of the series (arguably), wouldn't it have been interesting if she were House's boss? And that's worst case scenario anyway, since all I really want is for Cuddy to return. Sigh. All I know is this: the series on the whole could have been better without constantly getting rid of, killing off, or allowing its stars to run off and make films after all of us have become attached and invested. And now we're left with who we're left with. And the only two I care about seeing are Chase and House. And House is borderline. So you do the math.

If this show is going to get better with age, which is already not looking so good, it needs to make me care about the characters, and not just the medicine. Develop the characters that we're forced to watch and I'll be a happier viewer, at least as happy as someone can be watching the most depressed doctor ever practice medicine.

Jeers to no Cuddy. Cheers to a new season and a new time slot.

Review

Editor Rating: 3.5 / 5.0
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Rating: 3.8 / 5.0 (146 Votes)
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    25 Comments New Comment Subscribe

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    I enjoyed the start of the new season. I watch the show for House and feel that all the other characters are merely there to help flesh out his storyline so I've never missed any of his girlfriends or almost-girlfriends like Stacy or Cameron -and I definitely won't miss Cuddy .That relationship was fun when it was playful and their twosome was anything but.
    I think if the show decides to go in the direction of redemption ,they can do it very well without Cuddy. After all,the life House damaged is his own.In season 6 he was coming along just fine and had a real epiphany when at the end of season he finally told the woman in the collapsed building that her life mattered more than keeping her leg.If season 7 had picked up at THAT point in the character's evolution instead of wasting its time on Huddy,we would have had an amazing time.
    I hope the writers use this opportunity to reset the story at a point where House works on himself instead of putting it off for another tiresome romance.

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    I did not S7 because I developed such a hatred fro Cuddy after she dogged Wilson in S3, there was no way I was going to sit through the Huddy crapfest. The rattings were terrible in S7. You may want her back but I am sooooooo very happy she's gone. When I heard she would not return for S8, I thought to myself, well I finally got my favorite show back. There's only two people I want to see on House - Robert Sean Leonard and Hugh Laurie. I think Olivia Annabe is a really good actress. I enjoyed her character on Brothers & Sisters. I was also excited when they added a woman of color to the cast because they always bring the FLAVA!! I'm not interested in Chase or Foreman or Taub but I'm glad they're returning.

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    Why would you want House to feel remorse? There's a reason we watch this show and it's not to see him become boring. Not every doctor has to be perfect, this is not Grey's Anatomy.

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    just watched first of season 8 and thought it was very dull. Now I hear that Lisa Edelstein won't be returning! I just set my dvr to DO NOT RECORD THIS SERIES. The interplay between Cuddy and House was what kept me watching.

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    I disagree with many of you: I think there's been growth for the character of House. Okay, maybe it's regression. Still, it's (d)evolution of sorts. It might not be him conquering addiction and becoming open to relationships, etc. but we've seen House go from a relatively functioning member of society (season 1 in particular) to abusing his medication to dangerous degrees (season 3 Christmas Eve near oxy overdose comes to mind). He's had a mental break down which sent him to the institution in season 6 and now to prison. In real life people hit bottom (and keep hitting it!) all the time. I think what we've seen House experience is not only consistent with the show's themes ("people don't change" though maybe for the worse?) but also fairly close to the years long downward spiral people like House do go through. I do admire the show's adherence to these themes.

    This season there are only two ways to go: House really decides to change- for himself- or he continues on his downward spiral. I think we could see a redemption arc or, if we continue down the rabbit hole, death may be in the cards for House. You can't get any lower than six feet under. I've always thought it'd be rather fitting for House to die alone which is why I think the final scene of the season 8 premiere would've made a great ender.

    I feel like this review was written with shipper's googles on...

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    I actually really liked the season 8 premiere, perhaps more than anything we've seen in the last two seasons (I HATED Huddy). This was much better than the mental institution episode. House had to "fall in line" to a certain degree just to survive and boy did it add some tension! What the opener proved to me is that all I really need is House. All the other characters have become useless. Their storylines are over. I'm interested in what will happen to the House/Wilson relationship, of course, but I realized through this episode that I'm still Hugh's b---h.

    I do wonder where they will go from here and how the series will be wrapped. I think this premiere could have worked amazingly as a series ender. Contrary to what this review says, I think House has always wanted to be alone. Solitary confinement + vicodin = House's heaven! I just loved how they tied the series' overarching themes into this episode: people don't change and House, above all, wants to be right.

    The loss of Edelstein is the show's gain in my opinion. Good riddance to bad rubbish. I don't dislike like LE herself but Cuddy/Huddy really brought down the show the last 2.5 years.

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    Ack! 1) glad Cuddy is gone because I hated hated Huddy 2) House is an a@@H@le and always will be one and a jerk and an egomaniac and a just plain maniac. All his pseudo-suffering in the name of being "better" or getting "better" is a dead loss, every time. Liked this episode, although female doctor was an idiot at least tenfold if not more. But, it IS the House genius level gifts that I came to watch this show for and for the "got it" moment. I do not like House and if such a person existed, I would insist on another doctor. oh, and I wish he would shave.

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    NEW CHARACTERS/ OLD CHARACTERS-- WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE? HOUSE IS HOUSE ! ITS A GREAT SHOW---- I FOR 1 WILL HATE WHEN IT ENDS --- EVERYTIME THERE IS FINALLY A GOOD SHOW---- IT ENDS OR GETS CANCELED AND USUALLY WHEN EPISODES ARE GETTING REALLY GOOD !---- ghost whisperer, saving grace, hawthorne-- and now house---- SOON THERE WONT BE ANYTHING WORTH WATCHING

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    For me, the moment Cuddy left house, the show ended. Buddy was the only reason I ever watched the show. But not in their relationship like "love" but the way they were before. When house used to bother Cuddy, like for example in an episode in season 3 where they where hugging and house touched cuddy's ass and said: one small lap for a man, one huge ass for humanity. LOL that's the house I love. And I swear to god I'd rather die than watch house without her

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    Wow, conspiracy theories much?

    Let's get this straight: Lisa Edelstein chose not to renew her contract. If anybody is responsible for her character no longer being with the show, it is Edelstein herself. Actors aren't slaves of the big bad studios, used and then cut loose on a whim. They're professionals, and a professional, even a mediocre one, choosing to quit and to not renew her contract is not exactly unheard of.




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