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House Recap: ‘Parents’ (Season 8, Episode 6)

Movies & TV

House Recap: ‘Parents’ (Season 8, Episode 6)

We open at a suburban birthday party, where a teenaged clown is failing to keep a group of children entertained with his balloon animals. A chunky little redhead yells out that he’s a “sucky clown” and punches him in the gonads.

Still: House: Parents

John Scurti guest-stars as a clinic patient who tries to convince House he has diabetes.

Previously, on House… House went to prison after driving his car into Cuddy’s house. Foreman got Cuddy’s job after she left town, and used his newfound clout to bring House back to the hospital on parole, complete with ankle bracelet. At first there’s no money to rehire House’s old team, so he’s working with Dr. Jessica Adams, the trust fund baby he got fired from the prison hospital, and Dr. Chi Park, who lost her previous position after punching the supervisor who groped her. Now, six episodes in, Taub and Chase are both back. Taub is the father of two baby girls born almost simultaneously to his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend. Wilson is happy to babysit, but nevertheless takes part in the hospital pool betting that one or both of the girls may not be Taubs’.

Tonight’s theme, thoughtfully provided early on by House himself: “All parents screw up all children.”

We open at a suburban birthday party, where a teenaged clown is failing to keep a group of children entertained with his balloon animals. A chunky little redhead yells out that he’s a “sucky clown” and punches him in the gonads. The clown shoves the kid, the kid’s dad wades in, but it’s too late – the clown is down, as he is tonight’s patient.

The rest of the team is discussing plotline A when Taub comes in late. House deduces he’s been in a fight, probably with the ex-girlfriend, because if the ex-wife had violent tendencies Taub would have been dead years ago. Taub responds by explaining plotline B – his ex-wife, Rachel, wants to move across the country to Portland with her new boyfriend, Phil, and baby Sophia. Taub doesn’t want them to move, and he and Phil had a fight.

We also get plotlines C,D and E, which I’ll get out of the way now.

Plotline C: The discussion about parenthood inspires House’s pronouncement about all parents screwing up all kids. Adams insists she’s not screwed up, and House commits himself to worming out the dark family secrets he’s sure she’s hiding. The problem is, I believe her and, frankly, it keeps her from being all that engaging a character. So far she’s pretty bland. Of course, in the House universe, no one is interesting until they’ve got at least one big black mark on their record, and most of the continuing characters have several. This is actually one of the things I like about the show – in this world, it’s the well-adjusted who have no place.

Anyway, the one payoff from plotline C: we learn that Chase became interested in medicine when his mother would lock him in his physician father’s study so she could drink. After he’d tired himself out yelling and pounding on the door, he’d look around for something to read. This is why Chase belongs on this show. (Plus, he killed a guy.)

Plotline D: A patient keeps showing up in the clinic insisting he has type II diabetes, even though his symptoms don’t match. After various complications, including apple juice passed off as pee, and his wife begging for an injectable placebo to shut him up, House figures out the guy’s screwed up his thyroid by eating too much bok choy.

Plotline E: Wilson has ringside tickets to a fight in Atlantic City but House can’t go, because of his ankle bracelet.

Back to the patient, who they think might have endocarditis. He knows he’s a terrible clown, now, but he’ll get better, and he’s committed to clowning as his life path, because of warm memories of his father, a professional circus clown who died years before of melanoma. Mom thinks he should aim higher, and has arranged an internship in his stepdad’s law office. This all becomes less relevant when the kid starts bleeding out of his mouth and nose.

The team returns to find House holding Taub’s other baby, who’s just been dropped off unexpectedly by her mother, ex-girlfriend Ruby. Baby girl number two’s name: Sophie. “I wasn’t in a strong negotiating position,” explains Taub. Later, while conducting tests (the working theory at this point is aplastic anemia), the others ask where the baby is – Taub’s stashed her in the maternity ward.

By now, the patient has had an allergic reaction to donor platelets (hey, I’m just saying what the show said), and House has (of course) figured out that the mom’s hiding something. Faced with detailed questions about her first husband’s melanoma, she breaks down and admits he’s actually still alive. The kid needs a bone marrow transplant, so Park and Taub show up on his doorstep. “I already got a religion,” is bio-dad’s response. Park and Taub explain; the guy says he doesn’t have a son, any more.

House tries to have the ankle bracelet sawn off, then tries to soak it off in a therapy tub. Foreman persuades Wilson not to go to the fight. Wilson surrenders the tickets. Is this going where I think it’s going?

Phil and Rachel show up to extend an olive branch to Taub – and let slip that they’ve started calling Sophia “Sophie”. Oops.

The patient goes into liver failure, which leads to a diagnosis of Burkett’s lymphoma, but when he crashes completely, the team is at a loss. Bio-dad shows up to see his son; Stepdad called him. Mom goes ballistic and physically shoves Bio-dad out of the room. Seeing the violence of her response, House puts things together. The kid has syphilis. Which he caught from Dad. When Dad molested him. Now that’s nasty. Mom explains that he seems to have blocked the abuse out, and only remembers the balloon animals. The team now has a cure, but they also have a dilemma – how are they going to explain the syphilis when the patient – who’s a virgin — starts asking questions? House says this is Taub’s call, as he’s the team’s official representative from Parenthood.

Closing montage: Adams (the boring one) spills her secret to House – she once ran away because her family was too functional. Yawn. Taub tells Rachel and Phil he can’t let them take Sophie #1 to Portland. Wilson shows up at House’s place to watch the fight on pay-per-view, and finds it empty. He turns on the TV, sees House and Foreman seated at ringside. But he accepts this with good grace – so far, Wilson’s season appears to be about quietly resigning himself to the fact that his friendship with House is the one enduring relationship in his life.

Time for a confession: what’s kept me watching House hasn’t been the plots, or even the characters’ longer story arcs, so much as it’s been the characters’ smaller interactions. Every week someone is going to get sick, and most weeks that person will get better again; the characters’ lives will lurch from self-created disaster to disaster. This week, I admit, it all felt a bit familiar. How long has it been since we’ve had quirky/annoying clinic patients popping up regularly? The diabetes/bok choy subplot was somewhere between a retread and an homage. On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed everything they’ve done with Taub. I like watching Foreman’s perfectionism and paranoia going into overdrive as he tests his new authority, and I like watching Wilson’s fatalistic slide back into his usual role. I love the show’s willingness to present us with characters who are not just quirky, but genuinely, deeply screwed up.

There was no scene this week to match the best one last week — where Wilson told Taub that House was obsessed with running paternity tests on the Sophies not just to play mind games with Taub, but because the entire hospital was placing bets on the babies’ true parentage, and then Taub caught Wilson stealing his used cutlery for DNA testing, and Wilson defended himself by saying he was putting his money on both girls being Taub’s daughters. But as long as there’s more where that came from, I’ll keep tuning in.

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