The last new episode of House aired over a month ago, followed by two weeks of playoff-caliber baseball and one week of watching the Detroit Tigers make fielding errors. Like most viewers at home, FOX is happy to be done with baseball and to have Hugh Laurie and company back on the air.
House returns on Tuesday (Oct. 31) night with an episode that sets up the major conflict that should run through November sweeps and beyond.
On the procedural level, Tuesday’s episode, titled "Fools for Love," is fairly straightforward. A young woman is rushed into the hospital after being held at gunpoint in a robbery. When her husband begins experiencing similar problems, the doctors begin to look for connections leading to — you’ll never see this coming — a shocking and unlikely diagnosis in the final act. Sorry to spoil that for you. The surprise is a good one and the case emphasizes a series of psychological choices, rather than a slew of increasingly gross symptoms.
More interesting, though, is the arrival of David Morse as Michael Tritter, a clinic patient who takes exception to House’s demeanor. He demands an apology, but this is House we’re talking about, prompting Michael to take the law into his own hands, which isn’t difficult, since he’s a detective.
This isn’t the first time that the House team has tried to give the good doctor a human adversary as a change of pace to his internal demons. Chi McBride stopped by for five episodes in the middle of the show’s first season playing the hospital’s new chairman of the board, a billionaire out to eliminate House’s services. The always-watchable McBride was compelling, but his character was there to make an unsupportable argument — that House wasn’t essential to the hospital. Audiences could just twiddle their thumbs for a few weeks, comforted by the inevitability of McBride’s departure.
I fear that the same may be the case with Morse’s character. One of our very best character actors, Morse’s resume is filled with parts that straddle the line between psychotic and eerily sympathetic, so it’s no surprise that he comes across as initially relatable. Michael comes into the clinic with a medical worry and is treated with apathy and rudeness in very familiar House style. Who could doubt that eventually House would run into a patient who’d respond poorly to tough love? The problem going forward is simple: Michael is attempting to punish House for being House and what are the odds of the writers letting that happen in the long run?
We’ll get a few episodes to watch two great performers spar, but Dr. House is a force of nature, while anybody sent to oppose him is just a nuisance, particularly any actor signed to a six or eight episode guest-starring arc.
Sound off after you’ve seen the episode… What did you think?