Monday, September 21, 2009

House “Broken” And Then Rebuilt

In this season premiere of House(Fox), titled “Broken” we pick up where last season left off. House is in a detox program at Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital to get him off his Vicodin habit and hopefully stop his hallucinations. Overall, I thought that this was a long episode and seemed like every moment of it crawled. Normally this would be a bad thing, but in the case of this episode, I think it heightened the sensation that House felt – he wanted out and every second in the facility seemed like an eternity to him. While the only regular besides Hugh Laurie in this episode was Robert Sean Leonard with his brief appearance as Dr. Wilson, the episode still provided an interesting group of characters that served as the backdrop for House’s own healing.

House, even while in detox, still wants to be the doctor and diagnose and fix everyone. But the ugly and destructive side of House comes out loud and clear when he seems to torment his fellow patients and doctors alike. Dr. Nolan convinces House that he can’t just be a fixer all the time, and he also can’t continue to deflect the problems if he wants to get better. House’s tantrums take a very serious turn when he manages to talk his way into getting a car, and takes the car and one of the other patients – Steven - on a joy ride and to an amusement park. Sure, House has fun and makes sure Steven has fun. But House seriously misjudges Steven’s issues and House’s day of play actually reinforces Steven’s delusions, and Steven takes a flying leap off a parking garage, almost killing himself.

House also strikes up a relationship with a married woman, Lydia, whose sister in law Annie is a patient there, and this relationship leads to a quick sexual encounter. Making things worse, once her sister in law shows improvement, House finds that Lydia is moving to Arizona with her husband to follow Annie to her next level of therapy. House is very hurt by this and feels pain and expresses his pain to Dr. Nolan. Of course, these are the magic words that the doctor is waiting to hear and he sets House free.

While the episode seemed long, it was completely worthwhile, if only to see House realize his grave error with Steven, his amazement with Steven desire to help Annie and her recovery, and House’s pain with Lydia leaving was well worth it. Somehow, I think House has changed a little, and now that he has the drugs out of his system and can feel real physical and emotional pain, I think we may see a more nuanced Dr. House this year. I am sure the caustic sarcasm will still be there, but somewhere deep inside, I think the feelings he has recovered will not be able to be buried so far deep again. It looks like a fresh start for the show, and hopefully will bring new challenges for televisions favorite cranky doctor.

By the way, it is a travesty that Hugh Laurie did not win an Emmy.

Here’s a recap – I tried to cover the high points of these two hours so I apologize if there are any gaps:

The episode starts with House going through detox. Since detox is not pretty, let’s skip those details. House thinks once the drugs are out of his system he can just walk out of the hospital. He finds that Dr. Nolan (Andre Braugher) wants House to go into their long-term facility to address larger issues that seemed to surface with house after the death of his father and two colleagues. Dr. Nolan makes it obvious that he won’t approve House to go back to practice medicine until House complies.

House checks into the Long term ward 6, and meets up with Dr. Beasly (Megan Dodds). He also gets a roommate called “Alvie” (Lin-Manuel Miranda) who talks a mile a minutes and gets on his nerves. It doesn't take long for House to pick up on the other problems of the other patients and call them out on their issues, earning him a trip to the padded cell. He creates a stir when he makes the patients realize that the hospital is forcing them to play ping-pong with no paddles and no net. He gets the patients all riled up until Dr. Nolan comes in and says House is right. He tells House he is a natural leader and may be able to do some good down there.

During group, House steps away from the session and looks out the window. He sees Dr. Nolan stepping into a car with another woman, and his curiosity is piqued. When Dr. Beasley halts the session and asks House what scheme is planning, he tells her he does have something planned. Of course, it’s blackmail. Later, he cooks up a scheme with Alvie to get Alvie checked into a separate area where he can get access to Nolan’s schedule. When Alvie fakes crazy and gets access, he only sees a large “X” on the calendar for the appointment, no name. This mean House must take another route to get the information, and hatches a plot to fight with Alvie so they would both be drugged and taken to another ward where House could get to a phone and call Wilson. Of course, neither of them swallow the pills so they can stay alert and make the call. But when he calls Wilson to ask him to track the license number of the woman’s car that picked up Nolan, House finds that Nolan already called Wilson and warned him that House was cooking up something and House would probably call him and ask for his help, but Nolan wants House to get better. Wilson won’t help him out this time. House has no choice now except to cooperate.

House starts to cooperate and racks up good behavior points. He continues to not swallow his meds.

He comes back to the piano room where the woman who can’t speak - Annie (Ana Lenchantin) is here, and her sister in law Lydia (Franka Potente) is playing the piano. He strikes up a conversation with Lydia and they seem to hit it off. Lydia thinks that Annie is trying to communicate by bobbing her head to the music, but House says Annie is bobbing her head to her pulse.

House gets quizzed by another doctor, Dr. Medina (Andrew Leeds), who says he is curious because House is having no side effects from meds and his story and Alvie’s about the fight isn’t adding up. He insists on a urine test. House seems to have planned for his, as someone else is waiting in the stall who provides the sample for House. The doctor later apologizes for doubting House when he sees the test results. Then, this same doctor tries to convince the patient Steven - who also calls himself the Freedom Master (Derek Richardson) - that he is not a superhero by asking him to move the piano. He then brings up the fact that Steven’s wife is dead and Steven couldn’t save her. Of course, Steven goes nutty and a “code grey” is called and Steven is taken away.

Later, House is disappointed when he hears that it’s Susan that is going home, not him. He also asks where Steven (AKA Freedom Master) is, and he goes to his room, where Steven is clearly drugged. House is irritated with the staff because Steven is out of it and he had been functional before. House gets pulled into Nolan’s office and House is angry that they screwed up Steven. He suggests to Nolan that he allow him to go out on an outpatient basis because he can cope. He admits he hasn’t been taking his meds and he fooled the tests. Nolan asked him to lick his hand, and House tastes sugar. Nolan tells him that House was improving too fast so they switched him to a placebo. House has been outmaneuvered.

But things take a weird turn when House manages to talk Lydia into letting him drive her car and also to take Steven along. When House admits that he is stealing her car, she steps out and lets him go. House and Steven head to an amusement park, where he and Steven get on one of those things that allow you to rise up on a column of air as if you are flying (I can’t remember what they call them!). The bad part is that this only seems to reinforce to Steven that he really does have superpowers and can fly. When he and House leave the park, Steven stands on the ledge of the parking garage. House yells for him to come back off the edge, but Steven jumps, nearly killing himself. Later, Dr. Nolan arrives at the hospital and rips into House, saying House doesn’t care about anything and he reinforced a sick man’s delusions. He tells House he is going to have him transferred, but House asks him not to, admitting he is sick.

In a therapy session with Dr. Nolan, House is not sure where to start. Nolan asks him what is on his mind and what does he want? House wants to get better, whatever that means. He also wants to be happy. Nolan suggests SSRIs to start, but House doesn’t want to change who he is. But Nolan says he is miserable, and wonders if House is worried about loosing his edge. Nolan says House needs to trust him, and House takes the medication.

When Alvie realized House is taking meds, he says they broke House. House says he already is broken.

Nolan stops by later and asks House if he connected with any other patients. Nolan wants him to trust people.

Later and elsewhere Nolan takes House to a hospital party and suggests he try to open up to strangers. House strikes up a weird conversation with a man and tells him that he is gay and points out Nolan as his lover and psychiatrist. He later tells a woman that his is a philanderer, and then gets her to lie to Lydia about what he just told her. But he later bonds further with Lydia, who opens up to him about her sister in law. She kisses him as they say goodnight. She thinks this is just two people having fun. It seems House has made a real connection with someone.

Back in therapy with Dr. Nolan, House talks about Lydia kissing him, and that he knows she is married. House deflects some of the discussion and asks about the woman in the parking lot. House wants to talk about Nolan, and says Nolan has no personal items in his office because he has no personal life.

Visiting time arrives, and Lydia comes to see House. He asks why she kissed him. He begins to play the piano for her, and they see Steven being wheeled in, and it breaks the mood. Later, Nolan and House talk about him seeing Steven being wheeled in and House continues to deflect. Nolan says House caused Steven pain, does that mean House has to suffer equally? He says he needs to move on and to apologize to Steven. House later approaches Steven but Steven is catatonic.

Dr. Beasley comes in to group and announces in two weeks they will have a talent show - a fun way to work on their therapeutic issues. House gets annoyed when Dr. Beasley asks Steven what he can do. House gets frustrated and sees a music box in the office and says that he things Steven needs it in order to help Annie speak. House gets agitated when then won’t just let him into the locked office area to get it, claiming he is not psychotic. He gets them to open the room and get the music box, and he hands it to Steven, saying he knows that Steven wanted this so he could help Annie to speak. But when Steven still refuses to speak as well, House grabs his face and orders him to speak. Dr. Nolan comes up and breaks up the session, telling House that he is just trying again to just fix things.

Later, Lydia brings House sheet music (Dvorak) and when House ask her what this is she says it’s just two people having fun. But House thinks someone will get hurt, and he says goodbye.

Back at group, House seems agitated an annoyed again and tries to disrupt the process. Someone comes in and gives House a day pass from Dr. Nolan, as Nolan wants to see him. House finds himself in a hospital room with the doctor’s father, who seems to be in a coma. House tells him that it’s over and that Nolan just wants someone to tell him it is OK. Nolan tells him he doesn’t need him there to play this game. But House pulls up a chair and sits with him.

Back at the ward, Lydia is there, crying. House apologizes for pushing her away. She says she is not crying because of him, it’s because she is pathetic. He offers her his hand and she takes it and she hugs him. He hangs up his cane and they begin a slow dance, turning in a circle, in the silence. They then find themselves in another room and it leads to sex. House seems to have a look of mild regret.

Next comes the hospital talent show. When Alvie freezes during his performance, House helps him fill in the blanks. Alvie tries to get House to come up to the stage, and the group claps. House begins to rap with Alvie and seems to be having fun.

In session again with Nolan, he tells Nolan things are good. Afterwards, he goes to Steven and says he is sorry, he was trying to prove a point, and it put him in a dangerous situation, it was his fault. The nurse calls out for med time, and House moves to wheel Steven over. But they see Annie standing there, and House backs up the Steve’s wheelchair. Steven hands Annie the music box, and she opens it, and after hearing the tune, finally speaks, saying thank you. Later, Lydia arrives and House tells her he has a surprise for her. He takes her hand and leads Lydia into the room where Annie is playing the cello. Needless to say, Lydia is happy with tears.

Next, we see Annie’s farewell party. House is upset that he is not the one who is being released, and makes his feelings known to Nolan. Nolan says Annie is going to a rehab facility in Arizona. . House asks for an overnight pass, and Nolan allows it when House asks him to please give it to him.

House drives to Lydia’s place and her son answers the phone. Lydia comes up to the door, and she tells him her husband has an office in Phoenix but that have felt tethered here. He doesn’t want her to leave, and she apologizes for not saying goodbye. After touching his face, she says he has to go and closes the door.

Back at the hospital, House tells Nolan Lydia left and he is lost. Nolan tells him he is going to write the letter to the medical board to get his license back. House recognized his own pain. He tells him to get his sleep and tells him tomorrow he can say his goodbyes. House gets his wish – his goodbye party, where he gives Alvie a hug, and then slams his face into his farewell cake.

As House walks out of the facility and then waits for the bus, Alvie watches from his window. He decides he wants to take his meds – he wants to get better. And House gets on the bus and seems to have a peaceful contended smile as the bus pulls away.

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