A very marriage-centric episode in [[House (TV Series)|House]]’s eighteenth episode, Open And Shut. The ‘open’ of the title referring to open marriage, which is the lifestyle patient-of-the-week Julia and her husband are living.
Elsewhere, House is playing his usual cat and mouse games with Wilson, who is in the embryonic stages of a romance with his ex-wife. Knowing Wilson’s many flaws, House plays to his OCD about tidiness to speed along the breakdown to this fledgling relationship. And to round off this trio of tales about the woes of married people, Taub – taking his cues from the open-marriage case they’re studying – decides to raise the possibility of an open relationship with his wife.
I see Greg House as a rampaging nihilist. Throw any societal norm at him and he’ll take it apart as quickly as BA Baracus dismantling a scrap car to make a weapon. He instantly rejects the notion that two people can have an open relationship based on the idealism of being truly honest with each other. Someone must be hiding something. And sure enough he’s right.
Taub: There are happy, monogamous couples out there. Julia: Sure, and one or two have the perfect marriage. Everybody else has figured out how to settle for less… I’d rather get the 10% he doesn’t give me somewhere else…
I included the quote above to give you an example of Julia’s idealism – because the couple are sexually honest, she assumes they have no secrets from each other. And as House says, if it’s not sex, it’s money.
Elsewhere, Taub continues his flirtation with one of the nurses. Funny how Thirteen teases him that his tendency to cheat on his wife could be biological. How many people wish they could cite a medical reason for being unfaithful?
He clumsily raises the subject of open marriage with his wife over dinner, and she immediately sees his intention. What he doesn’t expect is that later on she’ll agree to give him Thursday nights to have dates with anybody else. This is where Taub’s morality gets explored in unpleasant detail. He’s happy to jump into the open relationship with both feet, but stutters a little when Chase asks if he’d be OK with Rachel seeing someone else.
When Rachel admits she’s unhappy with the arrangement, Taub backs down. He doesn’t want to hurt her. But when he meets the nurse in the hospital car park, it’s not long before they kiss and he leaves in her car for a bedroom that’s not his own. I think Taub clearly cares for his wife, but there is that 10% of him (harking back to that earlier quote) that needs something else.
It’s an instance where House as a series – not just as a grumpy cane-wielding diagnostician – holds up a mirror to real life and asks the unpleasant questions we’d rather avoid.
Remarkably, House’s meddling in Wilson’s relationship takes an unexpected turn when Wilson and Sam (his ex-wife) have an argument over things they repressed from their first marriage. With so many things out in the open, Wilson realises House was manipulating him all along. So when House returns home at the end of the episode, the couple are reunited over a board game and some wine. He looks furious to be thwarted, and sneakily puts the milk in the door of the fridge, which he knows will annoy Wilson.
As I said at the top, with House being a raging nihilist, he wants to tear down the emotional and social constructs people use to explain away the difficult parts of their lives. Unfortunately, from such a vantage point, he’s got to be a lonely observer, because most things in life require a degree of compromise in order to work.
I was not surprised to see the flaw in Julia’s relationship with her husband. Were they really going to let a husband and wife in an open marriage get away undamaged? Hence House’s barbed parting shot to them. A much better episode than many of the recent ones. This series of House has felt – in the aftermath of his psychiatric care – a little ill-planned, and I’m not sure where the story is heading. The abiding impression of season 6 is that it’s a little unfocused and unsure of itself.
PS. If you caught a really good quote from this episode that I missed, please tell me in the comments and I’ll add it here!
- Taub: She’s an interesting person… Thirteen: Fascinating. Last week that Cambodian lab tech was telling us how he survived the killing fields and you left to go get a doughnut… All I’m saying is if you wanna go on a diet, you might want to stop hanging out by the dessert cart.
- House: Men are genetically engineered to be jealous.
- Thirteen: A woman who likes sex is sick?
- House: That is adorable. Other than you still wanting to have sex with other dudes and him bankrupting your family, I think you kids are pretty much home free.