House recap: The Grinch's Stale Christmas

Fox gives us a late present: A new episode with some enjoyably outrageous holiday themes, including a misplaced breast and a naughty Nativity
Ep. 10 | Aired Jan 29, 2008

VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS House misinterpreted his hottie patient's story.

Now where were we?

Oh, how I missed House, lo, these many writer-striking weeks, but this episode felt, at first, bizarrely rerunny, because it was a Christmas show, fer Christ's birthday's sake. So I just found some nog for the noggin and adjusted my mental calendar to appreciate the gift of a wonderfully sick show about sick people.

'Twas a few nights before Christmas, and all through this House episode were life lessons, starting with the fact that human beings lie. Of course that is one of House's favorite truths, and I was again reminded how his obsessive quest for medical cures is almost of equal importance to his uncovering people's Pinocchio skills.

The Wilson banter this episode was supreme in that regard. I loved it when Wilson led House down the corridor and, when House asked where they were going, replied, ''I lied. Nowhere. I just know it hurts you.''

The diagnostic mystery for our resident agnostic was also wonderfully executed. Just when I thought I'd seen it all, we got a mother who ''never lies'' with a double mastectomy but cancerous breast tissue growing behind her knee. Uh, a show of hands for how many of you saw that coming. None. Exactly. Also, just when I thought truthy mom's bleeding eyeballs won the gross-out prize, milk squirting out the back of her knee kicked a win in the final minutes, especially when House shot the liquid into the mouth of mom's teenage daughter.

Yes, dear House is invasive in every way possible. He is without boundaries, and the whole premise of wondering how far the guy/show is going to go is invigorating because we're witnessing the exploration of frontiers. So when he asked the kid how often her mom has sex, we were horrified, but House was just probing, and so we all sat wondering how it was going to go. Would he get slapped, arrested, fired? Nope, so we wondered some more where he would boldly go next, and it turned out to be donkey sex. I would love to have been at the writers' table when they came up with that nod to the Bethlehem story by putting a hooker in the exam room when House had clinic duty. You can just picture the soon-to-be-striking scribes laughing, ''Yeah, so the patient is Mary, and she does ride an ass'' (so to speak).

I was more shocked when House went to church at the end of the episode, and I laughed when Mary, of course, was atop her donkey (not in the Biblical sense).

Meanwhile our cast was busy entertaining us with a secret-Santa subplot. I did love how House put his name down on all the sheets of paper; when he later opened his decoy gift of an iPhone, I was reminded of the Office episode in which Michael Scott got an iPod for Ryan and then Yankee-swapped it back. This similarity makes me think Apple devices have their own agent.

I'm so happy that the bake-off is over and the crew is all in place. This episode felt settled, and I enjoyed seeing House toy with his doc elves by bringing back his usual unhealthy competition. The setup feels less cartoonish now that we've returned to watching a show about medical mystery. And it was a nice kicker that one of House's secret Santas got him a second-edition Arthur Conan Doyle book to remind us of the show's patron saint of sleuthing.

What do you think? Did you expect a little more development in the new ducklings' characters? Did you wish we could have seen more of Cameron and Chase? And should Fox just have shown this episode last December, strike or no strike?


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