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House Recap: ‘Better Half’ (Season 8, Episode 9)

Posted By Holly Hunt On January 24, 2012 @ 12:36 am In Movies & TV,Television | 1 Comment

When the team’s patient disappears from the hospital, House stops the patient’s wife (guest star Melanie Lynskey) from searching for him.

So, here we are, back at Princeton-Plainsboro. House still has an ankle monitor, Dr. Chi Park still has an interestingly spiky personality, Dr. Jessica Adams still doesn’t have much personality at all. Taub is absent this week, attributed to a sick daughter. House makes a Taub-is-short joke about how he’s got Taub in his backpack.

Actually, I’m jumping ahead – we start elsewhere, with a disoriented man who needs continual reminders of where he is, and why he’s being taken for some tests by his wife. The wife is played by Melanie Lynskey, whose first acting job was as Kate Winslet’s co-star Heavenly Creatures. Since she moved to Hollywood, straightened her hair, and adopted an American accent, she’s mostly featured in much lighter fare — she was a regular on Two and a Half Men (this is a thing I know from the internet, not from watching). She also had a very nice turn as Matt Damon’s wife in The Informant!. I mention this because I’ve always had trouble matching her current image to my memory of her from Heavenly Creatures, and tonight, for the first time, I can really see it’s the same person. Maybe it’s the stark lighting and harrowing circumstances?

Back on topic. The man has early-onset Alzheimer’s, and both husband and wife have known this for a while. The tests are about his participation in a drug trial. That plan is put on hold when he starts coughing up blood in the doctor’s office.

Foreman is sitting in on the diagnostic team this week, and let me just say that Omar Epps is wearing the hell out of a three-piece suit – charcoal, pinstriped, blue tie — in these scenes. Can Foreman participate in a diagnosis without either overruling House arbitrarily or caving in to him? I’m not sure this is the freshest theme at this point, and I’m not sure they really do anything new with it tonight. But there it is. What’s specifically at stake tonight is a petition to have House’s ankle monitor removed. But there it is. To prove he can predict Foreman’s every move, House has previously hidden an index card under Park’s chair announcing that Foreman will try to overrule him, and also Foreman is black. This gag will be repeated a couple more times.

The title of tonight’s episode is “Better Half,” and both the A and B plots focus on marriages. In the B plot, we see Wilson doing clinic duty for once. He’s treating a woman who explains he need not do a pregnancy test, because she and her husband are asexual. She rejects the term “celibacy” because she says it’s not a choice, it’s their orientation. Wilson cannot resist bringing this up with House, who immediately bets Wilson one hundred dollars that he (House) can find a medical reason for the woman’s lack of sex drive based on her records alone.

Meanwhile, Chase and Park are in the patient’s room, when very special family friend Joseph, who helps the wife out, shows up. Park shows him the door – he’s not family – and Chase scolds her for her lack of sensitivity. “You mean you think they’re..?” asks Park, grinding her fists and fingers together in the most appallingly awkward way imaginable. “If they’re having sex, they probably use their genitals,” deadpans Chase.

Later, the husband flies into a paranoid rage and punches his wife in the face. There’s blood in his urine, too. The wife tearfully confesses to Chase that she and Joseph are not in fact sleeping together, they just talk about the possibility a lot. She hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in three years, so Chase sends her home to rest. I should add that we learned earlier she gave up her florist business a few years before to care for the husband, and has literally fed him every meal he’s had for the last four years. And yes, the fact that she was a florist will be the key to tonight’s diagnosis.

Back to Plot B, which is way more fun. House has recruited Park and Adams to go over the records of the asexual woman. Adams, fairly predictably, declares that sex is different for women, that for them it’s all about meaning and connection. Park, less predictably, interjects that she’s “tapped” about thirty guys and wouldn’t care if she never met most of them again. “I lived next to a Jewish frat,” she explains. Is there an Asian girls/Jewish guys joke here? Anyway, it’s a nice twist to her character. “Thirty?” queries Adams. “Everyone lies,” says Park.

It turns out that sending the wife home for a good night’s sleep wasn’t the best idea, as the husband has disappeared. Seems he wandered off while all the nurses were distracted by an emergency. The guilty rage with which the wife reacts clues House into the fact that she and special family friend Joseph took advantage of her night off to go past the talking stage. The husband is found nearly frozen to death at the soccer field where he used to coach a kid’s team. His heart’s not beating, but they revive him by circulating his blood outside of his body and warming it that way – the previews gave a lot of play to this, but it’s not all that central to the plot. Foreman is now just wearing an ordinary two-piece suit.

Chase and Adams debate whether the husband was, on some level, attempting suicide to spare his wife the ordeal of caring for him. Chase says he hopes that’s what he would do in the circumstances. Adams (fairly predictably) is horrified. Chase tells her about caring for his alcoholic mother and his baby sister (I don’t think we’ve heard about the sister before). I have a sinking feeling we’re being set up for some long, drawn-out, complicated Chase/Adams affair. They are being made to disagree way too often. Is that why she’s here? As Cameron Lite?

House is in the clinic seeing a man who expresses confusion over why a free flu shot involves so many tests. Wilson interrupts just as I realize who the man is. House explains how the “no contact with the patient” clause in their bet doesn’t mean “no contact with the patient’s husband.” House diagnoses a slow-growing tumor on the pituitary gland which has suppressed the man’s libido since it started growing in adolescence.

The patient in Plot A keeps getting worse, and the wife tearfully declares she can no longer do this. The patient – who is Brazilian – loses his memory of English, and starts speaking in Portuguese, which of course House speaks, too. House just wants to ask about potential toxins, but the wife begs him to translate – the husband is describing their first date, at a place called the Blue Shack (“A shack with pesticides in it?” asks House) and how he fell in love with her. But just as we reach the touching reunion, he asks who she is again. Foreman has the episode’s “ah ha!” moment while meeting with reluctant donor. All he can focus on are the still-fresh flowers on a table – the husband has Reye’s syndrome from the aspirin the wife kept to preserve flowers (it’s an old trick). I wonder if this means that Foreman will lose interest in administration and go back to work for/with House.

Things aren’t going so smoothly for the other couple, either. Wilson is discussing the treatment, and how it may well revive the man’s sex drive. He feels his identity threatened, but his wife is suspiciously eager. Turns out she’s been lying all these years for the sake of their relationship. Wilson hands over the hundred dollar bill, and House uses it to light up a couple of cigars as we celebrate the show’s most stable and satisfying pairing. House gets his ankle monitor off after all. And it seems that Chase’s first name is Rodney?


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