By Sandra Gonzalez
Updated October 04, 2011 at 04:10 PM EDT
Ray Mickshaw/Fox


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I’ve always enjoyed the episodes of House that take him out of his element. The pair of episodes that took place in the psych ward were, in my humble opinion, some of the best of the series. And the episode last season where House picked up Thirteen from prison was also a favorite of mine. So when I found out the season 8 premiere episode was going to take place in prison, it was an easy sell. I was going to love it.

But was it enough to set the tone for the season? That, I’m not entirely sure. Beware SPOILERS…

Obviously, fans of the show who felt burned by Lisa Edelstein’s exit were coming into this season wondering how producers would handle her character’s departure — and it was an incredibly difficult challenge, given how they ended last season. After last night, I think they dealt the best they could. The whole episode took place in prison, where House had spent several months serving time for driving his car into Cuddy’s house.

Early on during the episode, I was peeved by the control House appeared to have over the situation. He was correcting the prison employees about medicine dosages for inmates, effortlessly playing chess with another inmate, and, seemingly, a man to be contended with even in prison. That was all a bit of a fake-out, though. We quickly learned that even though House was better off than many because of his brains and abilities, he was still out of his element. He was bullied for his personal property (someone stole his tuna!) and, more importantly, was bullied into paying an “exit tax.” He was just days away from being released and if he wanted to make it out unscathed, he had to pony up a stash of Vicodin.

This is where Normal House would tell the guy to bugger-off or risk getting a cane up the butt, but Prison House was clearly aware of when he was outranked. Seeing House scramble to find the pills he needed was refreshing. (Of course, Normal House made his return by the time he had to hand the pills over. Instead of giving the “tax” to his foe, he threw them on the floor in an act of defiance. Oh, Normal House)

Moreover, I rather enjoyed the show’s new female blood, Odette Annable. [Minor spoilers ahead] I think we’ve only scraped the surface of this character — a prison doc that was intrigued by House’s unconventional approach to medicine — and considering we know, per casting news, that she’ll be sticking around, I’m eager to see where they take her. More importantly, I’m eager to see her ditch the innocent, doe-eyed doctor routine.

In all, I enjoyed the episode. But I still can’t help but see it as damage control. The real test, I say, is next week.

What did you think of the episode, PopWatchers?

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Hugh Laurie and Lisa Edelstein star in the hit medical mystery series
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