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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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User Rating:

Rating: 3.8 / 5.0 (146 Votes)
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Josie leeds

Have had it with House. The writers have utterly ruined this series and it's none of the studios business what Edelsteins' politics are. Guess I'll wait until it goes to syndication and watch the early episodes. Last season stunk and this one is shaping up to be even MORE odiferous.

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Cuddy was not the one person House loved. Not even close. There relationship had very little to do with love, and everything to do with sex. House only thought that if he could make this (ultimately shallow) relationship work, he would fix himself and he could be happy. That's what the entirety of latter Season 7 was; trying to fix himself so he would be happy. There never was any love been House and Cuddy. For that matter, I'm not sure there was ever any friendship. I mean, their professional relationship consisted of House hitting on Cuddy because she's walking around with her boobs hanging out, and then ignoring her instructions. They never hang out, they constantly bicker. That doesn't sound like them being friends to me. If there was anybody that House loved, it was Stacy Warner from Season 2. There, we actually saw a bona fide emotional connection (not to mention a half decent actress). And not only that, but House cared for Stacy so much he sacrificed his own happiness to turn her away, saying that he would never be able to make her as happy as Mark could. If that's not love (although an enormous mindfrak of a loving gesture) then what is?

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Idk if im remembering right but the guard last night was named Alvarez and when he was in mental hosp wasnt his friend named Alvie because his name was Alvarez?

Jlc

Lisa, your review was spot on. I love reading your reviews because even though you are a loyal longtime fan viewer (as am I) you still remain objective enough to write great reviews. I appreciate that, always have. I liked the episode but I had to judge it aside from other eps. Like "Broken" which I also liked except for Lydia though I can see why they threw here in there, it has to be judged as a stand-alone. In "Twenty Vicodin" I liked House's humanity in treating his cellmate's cricket, I liked that he thanked his cellmate for not killing him LOL. I liked his chess playing friend who saved his ass and I loved that he got those two prisoners fighting so he could get his walkman and his tuna back. That's the manipulative House we kno. I like that he flushed the Vicodin down the toilet, said "nice knowing you" to his cellmate and headed to protective custody in defiance of the skinheads. I also liked the epiphany moment. I liked that in the end Adams risked her job to help this patient. I liked the emotion House showed when someone made reference to why he was in prison. Love that little speech he gave to the POTW about "she's not your girl" and how he looked remorseful/sad when he talked about "your job, your girl" etc. We have to remember, if one thing is consistently true throughout the series, House is a man of actions not words so what he does speaks volumes MORE than what he says. I didn't like the backtracking in the beginning. Actually that was the only part of the episode I did not like. There's a problem though related to Adams that just bugged me. She was willing to risk her job for House because she knows he has a "gift" for reading people right? But at the beginning of the episode, he's been in eight months, has five days to go till parole and she only THEN found out he used to be a doctor. Yes he's been a janitor there for how long? But seriously, would you give up a career for a guy you've only known had this gift for the last five days? I guess this is one of those implied things by TPTB. We're supposed to assume that when she read his file she realized he was a world-renowned diagnostician or before knowing he was a doctor, she caught on to his people-reading abilities during his earlier janitorial duties. I know this seems trivial but it's details people, details. When all is said and done it's foolish of Shore to think he can bring us back to the roots of the show. You can't erase seven years of history (20 plus between two characters). You can't erase that long history with Cuddy going back to the college years. You can't just have him and Wilson become buddies again and move on laughing, pranking and carrying on. You've already implanted the backstory in the viewers heads, you can't take it back. In fact, wasn't there a line in late S7 about "you can't go back" - maybe Shore needs to hire a better continuity person to keep track of what's said and done in previous episodes. Unfortunately House cannot be redeemed without Cuddy. It can't happen. A person who seeks forgiveness (and my bets are that House WANTS forgiveness from the one person he loves most though he will never say it, he will show it) cannot receive it without the person they wronged being a part of the process. No matter what TPTB do, we are still left with a gaping hole where House and Cuddy's relationship as friends/colleagues/lovers used to be. House cannot be redeemed, gain forgiveness, nor can he even have anything remotely resembling closure to the past in an attempt to try and have some sort of life without Cuddy being a part of that. I'm not speaking just as a fan of the dynamics of the two since Season 1, I'm speaking as someone who has loved this show, the characters and the stories since day one. My thoughts on the Team? Foreman's going to bore me to pieces as Dean of Medicine. Foreman changed a few seasons ago, I tired of him. He lost his sense of humor. Chase changed too, he's not funny anymore, he's not appealing. Odette Annable as Adams is only there as eye candy for the 18-49 male audience and Yi--well she's there to appease the ones who are pining over losing Masters. Does anyone honestly give a crap about Taub? My favorite three have always been House-Wilson-Cuddy. Cuddy will be missed in more ways than one. Both Cuddy and Wilson were important to House's life. Without one of them he just won't be balanced. Wilson is House's conscience while Cuddy kept him in line and was the only person who could keep him in check and he liked that (it was kind of an exchange for him challenging her to be her best which he did). Wilson could never provide that for House. So it seems he will be unbalanced. I used to love my dynamic three and now it's down to two. Don't know how much Bob will be active but can he and Hugh carry an entire show? I just don't see that it is possible, nor is it right to expect it. It will be very strange watching House walk through the halls of PPTH with no Cuddy to be his foil, his protector, the one who kept him sane and in line. I don't think it can work without her. Not just because of her alone but because of what she was in his life and even in Wilson's life. Without her it will seem like something is missing, and rightly so, something is missing. I miss my old House series, the original characters, the pranks, the laughter and the incredibly riveting POTW stories that managed to tie into some area of House's life, making his humanity show just a wee bit. I remember times I felt so much emotion for what House was going through, I miss that. (Paternity, Autopsy, One Day One Room were just a few of the many eps that really made me FEEL for him). Lisa thanks for getting us all thinking this morning. Again loved your review.

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@Stephanie You know, I totally agree. You know what the disaster that was Season 7 was? That was House trying to change. That was House, under the influence of Dr. Nolan and Wilson, trying to become the perfect, "'50s domestic suburban bliss" boyfriend. Cuddy's dream sequence in "Bombshells"? It had a point. Only she was the problem, not he. If House changes, it's because he wants to change. But he thought he did, because of Cuddy, Dr. Nolan, and Wilson, and that resulted in the tortured House of late Season 7 (I mean, come on, "The Fix" anyone?) and the House who put a hole in Cuddy's dining room. If he changes this season, it'll be his choice, not anybody else's. Not that he hasn't changed. Would Season 1 House ever have gone so awkwardly out of the way to track down Thirteen's high school ex in "Changes", or shared his food with her? This is House we're talking about. Since when does he share food with people?

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Sorry Ryan honey, but this reviewer clearly knows her stuff. You seem very bright in acknowledging what reviewers do "seeing way too many shows..." but I feel like you'd be complaining if she saw too little as well.
I admit I'm one of those viewers that watches an episode here and there but it sounds like you and House may be destined to meet at a therapy session with Dr.Nolan.

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Please, what episode was this reviewer and some of you commenters watching? This was a perfect start to the absolutely horrendous that was last season. I am not going to counter argue every little thing in this article, but the glaring fault of the writer (if she has really watched every episode of every season) is that House has never been as less despondent as he has been in this episode. House is seen finally interacting on a human, but obviously albeit House level with the other temporary characters in the show i.e. prisoners and prison clinic staff. Please name any other episode where House has had this much interaction with the varied amount of characters as he has had in this episode? Even during his asylum time he migrated toward his roommate Alvie as his connection. Lets look back at his asylum days, slowly but surely he did grow to have a relationship with the patients there. By the time House was ready to leave the institution and had his little getting out party we saw probably the most emotional house moment of all him hugging another person voluntarily. Fast forward from the asylum, thru the terrible mess that was last season. We have the good old Doctor being in prison and see how cooly and calmly he interacts with others around him - this is not character development and unHouse like? When House talks of teaching Physics are we not taken aback by a man who has often said without his medical prowess and mind, he's worthless? The scene in the, "patient's" cell where House remarks on how people like himself and the patient are meant to be away from normal people and society isn't a very emotional and soul searched statement? We are talking about a doctor who started out as one of the most selfish loner type characters on TV that winds up healing his cellmate's pet cricket and throws away getting parole so he can get back into the clinic to heal a patient. I would wager a younger developed Dr. house with his narcissistic tendencies would have most likely taken parole. This episode was filled so much with character growth I think reviewers such as yourself had many minor subtleties fly over your head. This is because you are looking at the show through a jaded viewpoint of wanting the atrocious Huddy arc that almost killed this show and booted it from it's 8pm time-slot to return. I am for one very optimistic about this season, believing it will be the last, that we will finally have an extremely well written and though out ending for everyone's favorite curmudgeon.

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Is this really Wilson??? .....by the way I am sincerely glad the writers haven't made house into another ER clone where the doctors love their patients bet you that would last long.

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I don't agree with you. The only thing that isn't being redone over and over again is house's antics. I hate everyone tries to change him, try to make him more normal, try to make him care and are incredibily obsessed with him. He wouldnt be house if he werent a jerk or a damn good doctor. He would be so boring if he was emotionally stable. This show seems not your cup of tea if you want to change the main character's most noticable and note worthy characteristics. I can do without the repetitive medical plots but house is always funny. I love his attitude if you don't really care for house himself why do you watch? I wish we could see a confrontation between cuddy and house it's seems really anticlimactic. By the way, why is everyone freaking about the possibility of the kid being in the house they wouldnt make house a child killer that would a total show killer.

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Cuddy was not a "strong female equal" to House. She never was, not even close. She was never "strong", she's not an "equal", and even "female" is a little debatable, considering she looks like she's been dressed by a thirteen year old who has never actually seen a woman, let alone one in a position of power at a hospital. The closest thing this show has had to a "strong female equal" to House was Stacy, who unfortunately was not a regular, or Dr. Cate Milton, who by all rights should have been the female lead, although paying for Mira Sorvino to be on the show's regular cast probably was a little over House's budget. Of the regulars, only Thirteen applies, and while she fulfills the roles of "strong" and "female" I couldn't call her an "equal". She might have given as good as she got from House, which is admirable, but she's still his subordinate. Amber almost could apply, but then the writers had to turn her into a walking female stereotype ("tough bitch who secretly just wants to be loved", anyone?) alongside Cameron ("caring female doctor", gotta fill out your medical drama checklist). Masters... let's not even talk about Masters. And Cuddy... well she was a joke.

House Season 8 Episode 1 Quotes

That look of shock is elitist and offensive. Doctors can be degenerates too. This is America.

House [to Dr. Adams]

Mendelson [regarding House's special attention to his cellmate]: Why you keep helping him out?
House: Yeah, why would I want to make sure that my homicidal cellmate is taking the right anti-psychotics?