House – Baggage (S06E20) – Episode review

Everybody lies. That’s what House used to say virtually every week, isn’t it? In Baggage, House revisits his therapist Dr. Nolan continuing the therapy that we’d almost forgotten about. It looks like House’s fragile state of mind is going to top and tail the sixth season of the show.

Baggage sees [[House (TV Series)|House]] being the patient and Nolan becoming the diagnostician, trying to work out what’s bugging the cane-wielding doctor. And like every one of his own patients, House avoids telling Nolan the truth about his despondent state of mind. Nolan of course picks up that something’s wrong from the moment House walks into the room: he’s late, hasn’t commented on new paintings the hospital has installed in the foyer (because he hasn’t noticed them) and very soon admits to taking on a case without the customary bartering to escape clinic hours.

House just isn’t himself.

It quickly transpires that Wilson’s relationship with Sam has moved on very quickly. He wants Sam to move in…and House to move out. A sensible choice from Wilson’s point of view, it would remove the prime saboteur of their relationship. Although House tries to present a rational perspective on the decision, he’s clearly upset.

The remainder of the episode plays out with House detailing his latest case – a lawyer/long-distance runner whose memory has been lost and who can’t remember her husband or current life. And Alvie – House’s roommate from the mental ward turns up as a squatter in his old apartment. House is less than amused to discover that Alvie has redecorated his living room and pawned his furniture to pay for most of the work!

Of course, the interesting thing about Baggage is that it breaks with House tradition – where the Princeton Plainsboro team try out different diagnoses, medicate, observe other symptoms and repeat until House works out what’s really wrong. And House this week isn’t gleefully mocking his staff. There isn’t even a barbed remark for Taub’s infidelities. All of the scenes from House’s memory are presented as little mini-plays, right down to how the lighting dims at the end of some scenes.

It’s interesting to watch Nolan picking House apart, seemingly with an intimate knowledge of his idiosyncrasies and House is clearly uncomfortable being that transparent. The interplay between Hugh Laurie and Andre Braugher really worked to this effect, with House quite irritable about the spotlight Nolan was shining into his life.I really did feel that Nolan thought of himself as a detective, picking through House’s retelling of his week looking for the clues that would lead to the truth.

While we’re on that, I’d like to share an excerpt of Zack’s review over on The AV Club:

Less agreeable was Alvarez, the one-note roommate from House’s mental hospital sojurn. This character represents the worst of that mini-arc, because there’s nothing well-drawn or interesting about him. He’s just “hyper crazy guy,” and his only purpose here is to provide an outlet for House to handle his issues with Wilson. Alvie has left at the end, and I’m hoping for good. Also problematic was Wilson’s decision to kick House out of his home. It’s too abrupt, and it’s overly harsh, especially since Wilson knows House has been drinking, and House hasn’t even been aggressive in trying to get rid of Sam. It smacks of contrived drama just to force House to some kind of crisis point, and that does a disservice to Wilson as a character.

Yes, Alvarez – pain in the ass. A very one-dimensional character, but at least showing up at a time when House might have felt quite isolated. So I can see why House might have been upset when Alvie disappeared with just a note – House had just gone to great lengths to sort out Alvie’s immigration problem, and the guy just ran off leaving a note to explain. That sucks.

Wilson’s warp-speed relationship with Sam is definitely a cause for concern. Even if House should have been taking the hints – Wilson setting House up on play-dates last week might have been House’s first clue that he wasn’t welcome in Wilson’s new situation. Still, in the real world it’s only been a few weeks and that seems quite fast for a couple who’ve burned each other in the past.

All the same, it was a welcome diversion from the usual format of the show, and a lead-in to the last episode of the series, ominously titled (according to Wikipedia) Help Me. Is House heading for meltdown yet again?

Quick quotes:

  • House: By moving too quickly. Given your usual rate of committment I’m surprised you’re not already re-divorced.
  • House: “For God’s sake Wilson, you really span the chasm from wishy to washy. If you’re gonna be an ass, be an ass. Stick with it.”
  • House: “Aren’t therapists supposed to be nurturing?” Dr. Nolan: “Nowhere is that in the manual.”

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