Tuesday, February 9, 2010

House “5 to 9“ A Day In the Life of Cuddy, And It’s Not Pretty

Photo from Fox

The episode of House(Fox) "5 to 9" takes a different approach by centering around a day in the life of Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). After watching, I found that I had even less respect for Cuddy, which may not have been the intent. It also seemed to be a horribly long episode that seemed to have a horribly predictable outcome, and only confirmed to me that Cuddy is in over her head.

This episode tries to portray Lisa Cuddy as a woman in an executive position with a young child and a new boyfriend trying to juggle her personal life, while at the same time trying to keep Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital running like clockwork. She doesn’t seem to be doing very well in some cases. She gets up at 5:00 in the morning to begin an exercise/yoga routine, but her morning gets trashed fast when the baby is sick and Lucas (Michael Weston) comes home after a stakeout wanting a quickie. Of course, Cuddy, who is already late for work, shows where her priorities are by opting for the quickie, apparently not being able to go one morning without one, even if she is late for work for a critical meeting. (More on this meeting later.) She also ignores an emergency page from House. Let’s not forget that she’s a doctor with a sick baby, so she passes the kid along to the nanny to deal with it. I don’t buy her later worry for one minute when she tries to repeatedly check with the nanny on her child – after all, she’s a doctor and she shouldn't seem to fall apart with worry so easily with a what seems like a simple illness with her child. (I found it slightly creepy when, after Cuddy is unable to reach the nanny, she finds that Lucas "accidentally" took the nanny's phone AND he turned off the phone at home. )

Once she gets to work, House (Hugh Laurie) confronts her about not answering the page, saying he wanted to talk to her about a patient he had wanted to give malaria to as part of treatment. He also tells her he was with Lucas on the stakeout and had bet Lucas he could stop them having sex with his page. This should be a clue to Cuddy that both House and Lucas are jerks, but since we’re talking Lisa Cuddy here, I am sure that thought will be forever lost.

She also finds that a pharmacy employee has been stealing ephedrine, and seems to take the soft approach with her at first, telling her she won’t report her to the DEA but she will fire her. I find myself wondering why, after all the problems she had with House’s drug issues that Cuddy doesn’t seem to want to report the woman. I suspect that Cuddy was more afraid that it would reflect badly on her if word got to the DEA. Things get a lot worse when Cuddy is told the woman has been stealing ephedrine in large quantities for a long time, likely to make meth. Cuddy asks to have the woman brought back in, and I wonder why on earth would a fired employee want to return to see Cuddy especially since she was stealing so much? When Cuddy puts the screws to the woman, the woman proceeds to threaten Cuddy with outing her relationship with House and all the related problems that goes with it, and Cuddy backs down for a while. This of course implies that the woman may have actual leverage, which, in my opinion, was a mistake on Cuddy’s part. But lucky for Cuddy she has a boyfriend who is a private eye and Lucas had previously given Cuddy a fake flower with a recording device in it, and Cuddy manages to get the woman make a complete admission. Now Cuddy has something to give to the DEA when she turns in the woman. Now, in the real world, what would a real hospital administrator do, you know, one without that convenient live-in PI?

Cuddy also has to deal with few other things that day: a patient who wants to get a prescription for breast milk as treatment (she denies him), a chief of surgery who is having a long standing pissing match with House, and a patient who wants to sue because they reattached his thumb. Cuddy handles the cancer patient poorly, barely looking at his file before she turns him down. Mind you, turning him down may have been the correct thing to do but there was something about the fact that she didn’t seem to bother to even verify his medical issue that bothered me. The animosity with the chief of surgery and House evolved into a fistfight of sorts, something that in most companies would result in immediate suspension of everyone involved. Not at PPTH, where things go on like nothing happened. No wonder everyone at the PPTH act like children! She also meets with the man suing the hospital and his lawyer, without a hospital attorney present, which I thought was unwise and unrealistic. Even though PPTH is a smaller hospital, I would think that for their own protection, they would never allow any hospital official to meet with someone suing them without their own counsel present. She does get bitchy at the end of that discussion, telling the man and his lawyer the hospital expects to get paid and will take his house if need be. Nice.

But now, the issue with the big meeting. Cuddy had been in long negotiations with a medical insurance company, and she makes a final offer to the rep demanding a 12 percent increase in reimbursements or she will not renew the contract and will announce that fact at a press conference that day. Of course, he calls her bluff. The PPTH board tells her that she’d better get the contract renewed – they need it to survive – and if she doesn’t, she’s out. It seems that at PPTH, decisions get made in a vacuum, with Cuddy not having a real staff that she can review her decisions with, relying on House and Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) for advice. I’ll admit that I don’t know the exact hierarchy of the management structure of a hospital, but I would think that the head of the hospital would have some sort of staff meeting with department heads to review the options? Not here, where Cuddy has to think things out in a stairwell and ask the question WWHD (What Would House Do?). She tries to pressure the president of the insurance company, and he calls her bluff too, sending his rep in to offer Cuddy an 8% increase. She holds firm for the 12% and lets the contract lapse. Lucky for her, this is the thing that brings the insurance company to offer her the 12% amount, and Cuddy whoops with joy in the lobby. Did you expect anything else?

After her hectic day, she ends it cuddling in bed with the baby and with Lucas. Apparently she has forgiven him for his bet with House and with discussing their sex life with House. She clearly doesn’t see the lurking creepiness in Lucas, which only confirms to me that, like in her dealings with people like House and Lucas, Lisa Cuddy goes through life with blinders on.

It’s nice that they attempted this “change of pace” episode, but in my opinion, if the intent was to paint a flattering picture of Cuddy, I think it did the exact opposite for me. I would expect far better from someone in her position. She seems to have no checks and balances in place and no control over the people that work for her, creating an environment where someone can steal drugs over a long period of time and doctors who have physical fights without any repercussions. It also seems she is so desperate for a family life that she is wiling to overlook some serious warning signs with Lucas, who seems more and more like the scheming House every day. Let’s not forget the special appearances of Cuddy’s cleavage, which maybe subconsciously she thinks she needs to expose routinely in order to get the attention she needs. All in all, “5 to 9” only highlighted the fact that Lisa Cuddy is overseeing a very dysfunctional hospital, and she may be partly to blame for allowing that environment to thrive. Hopefully, we won’t be getting another view of another day with Cuddy any time soon.

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fictitiousfrenzy said...

Your review was one of the few who disliked the episode.

This was a great fast-paced episode that didn't stall at all. It was also the first single character driven episode ever; I don't consider Wilson's episode in that same catagory, because House was basically with him in every scene with him.

Lisa Edelstein proved that she is a talented actress that deserves a lot more than a one line role in a huge tv show.

The different emotions she expressed made me feel for her, and I loved that we were with her, every single step of the way.

She showed us that Cuddy has got balls, probably matching House's as you can tell from his slight smile at the end, he had the same sentiment as the viewers; Cuddy deserves respect, for what she does, it's ridiculous to describe her daily routine as un-realistic, because to me, it wasn't. It was pretty damn close to what all career driven women go through.

9/10 from me, and from a hell of a lot of other professional reviewers and critics.


Anonymous said...

I hated it. I just came over from the Television Without Pity message board and it seems most of the people there didn't like it either, one poster even said it showed what an idiot Cuddy is.

The TV shows aren't written to please professional viewers, and many pros are too compromised by wanting to keep contact with the show people that they rarely tell the unvarnished truth.

I Like to Watch TV said...

fictitiousfrenzy, I may not be a TV reviewer employed by a news outlet or the entertainment media, but I was a director and a vice president at a large multi-national firms and this experience is where I draw my observation that her behavior and handling of work issues is poor. I would have already dismissed her a lot sooner for her inability to control her staff, but, her handling of the fight was the last straw for me. I know this is only a one hour drama, but I would have liked to see her suspend those directly involved immediately, at minimum get them to separate offices and then speak with the employees involved and then suspend them pending an investigation. She seemed to completely blow it off as just another day at PPTH. She has also lost complete control of House and his staff and this has made her ineffective in addressing performance and behavioral issues that relate to him. I know that "House" is fiction, but I am getting tired of them making Lisa Cuddy into an incompetent manager or leader of her staff.