The ducklings suspect that both our hero's nasty personality and a patient's pleasant one are caused by an STD; plus, House and Amber have a custody battle over Wilson

By micheleromero
Updated April 29, 2008 at 05:00 AM EDT
S4 E13
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  • Fox

For weeks I’ve been waiting for these words to appear on my television: ”All New House on Its New Night, Next on Fox.” I even watched a House marathon on Sunday to help me through my final stage of withdrawal.

One thing I noticed on Sunday during my self-imposed House arrest is that there is a lot of voting on this show. Raise your hand if you vote this much at your job. Thought not.

Anyway, it was a cheeky inside joke for this episode to open with a line of picketing nurses marching around Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital as stand-ins in for the real-world TV and movie scribes who have thankfully voted to end their strike. The intro reminded us that without writers there would be no Hugh Laurie hospital show and we would be sad, sick patients, even though Dr. House denigrated the strikers by wondering why he needs nurses at all. And it’s true: There are few visible nurses on this show.

But there are plenty of madly skilled House script doctors, as evidenced by this episode’s rapid-fire, right-out-of-the-gate dialogue. When House noticed a roly-poly patient lounging contentedly in the ER, the doc asked, ”What’s with the idiot?” and then wondered if the guy was Canadian. When House was told the man was a low priority, Laurie, who is looking more and more like the Grinch, said, ”Is that a yes? He’s happy. Gotta stop this before it spreads.”

And so we learned that happy is a manifestation of a disease but not a diagnosis. The symptom sleuths scattered to argue, write on a dry-erase board, run labs, fear House, etc. A few blood tests later, it was revealed that Happy Man suffered from syphilis and that resulting lesions on the brain explained his pleasant personality. So, alas, he was not simply nice by nature.

Well, that’s all fine and good and hugely uninteresting to those of us who are not nice and want some perversity during our prime time with Doctor Evil. Apparently so did the rest of the cast, who ditched Mr. Fuzzy Teddy Bear for a moment to test a sample of House’s blood, suspecting that his nasty personality might just be a symptom of a disease too. They learned that our hero also suffered from syphilis.

Wait a minute: Haven’t we had this STD on the show before? Oh yes, in episode 8 of the first season, Shirley Knight was a happy lady whose syphilis turned her into a horny cougar (beware of these sex-starved seniors late at night). This kind of recall is a symptom of seeing too many episodes of House back to back.

Perhaps inevitably, it turned out that both diagnoses of syphilis were wrong. The patient in fact was suffering from a long-dormant case of a tropical disease called Chagas’, which could reportedly cause the same abnormal niceness. That still left him and his wife waiting at the end of the episode for his real personality to emerge. (Turns out he doesn’t like ketchup!) The question of whether House’s nastiness is innate or pathological will have to be tabled for another episode, since we learned that he had simply duped the ducklings with a fake blood sample.

Both outcomes left me a little unsatisfied and hoping for some nourishment from the subplots. Amber and House’s battle over visitation rights with Wilson was childish even by Princeton Plainsboro standards, but the rapier-sharp repartee was a lot of fun. When Amber told Wilson that House’s demands were crazy, he replied, ”Crazy is what House would normally do in this situation: swap your lubricant with superglue.” Whoa and ouch.

Meanwhile, I did learn that Dr. Chase makes bowling look like ballet and even got a great finger-release tip for my next game of ten pins.

Finally, I loved the employee-evaluation subplot, especially when House refused to do his, claiming ”too much paperwork,” and Foreman had to deal with whether he had any power over the new ducklings. The final evaluation scene with House and Cuddy was my favorite; their excellent verbal jousts reminded me that the House dialogue writers richly deserved that raise.

What did you think? Did the niceness-as-a-symptom question make you go, ”Hmm”? Do you believe that Amber would put up with House’s nonsense? And which of the new ducklings is turning out to be your favorite?

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