So, apparently, Kal Penn asked to leave House because he’s taking a position in the Obama administration.
However, how does that explain why the writers never figured out how to use Kutner at all in any episode this season? There were several opportunities where they could have explored his background (chiefly, an episode with an adopted patient, like himself), but they chose not to. Thirteen got a beefy story about her Huntington’s and her relationship with Foreman and the drug trials and all that. Taub’s divorce and the reasons he left plastic surgery are constantly brought up, but all we really know of Lawrence Kutner is that his parents were shot to death in front of him, he’s kind of a manchild and is now dead. I’m sorry, House writers, but even knowing that Kal Penn wanted out, this doesn’t excuse your laziness. I mean, shit, at least the folks on Grey’s are giving Katherine Heigl a worthwhile exit.
I guess, at the very least, I no longer have to gripe about how the show has neglected to find ways in which to use Kutner well. I like Kal Penn a lot, and I hope the Obama administration can make better use of him than the folks on House ever did.
I just thought I’d get that out of the way first so you all don’t have to wait for my reaction.
Three random POW storylines lead up to Kutner’s exit: a patient who lacks a social-appropriateness filter that makes him say all kind of things normal humans wouldn’t, a ripped-from-the-headlines story about Judy Greer and that cat that predicts death, and Mos Def starring in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
I have the least to say about the funniest of the three, “The Social Contract,” because other than presenting us with a person who is like House because he says what other people won’t, which is inherently amusing, the episode doesn’t have much substance to it other than that, save to set up a Taub arc for the next episode. It seems that the POW’s constant harping on Taub’s giant schnoz is enough to remind Taub of his insecurities and failures, including those in his stock portfolio, which lead him to get swindled by a guy who pretends to be a high school classmate, currently under investigation for defrauding doctors of investment money in new surgical tools. (I mean, really, it was a very well put together scheme.) Thinking he’d reclaim some of the former glory he had in his days as a plastic surgeon, Taub goes full-in on the investment and quits his job with House.
Other than that, the DeathCat episode wasn’t all that awesome, either, probing further into House Hates God territory by pitting him against a patient who at first fakes her symptoms because the DeathCat sat next to her, just as it does to old folks who are headed off to the great beyond in the nursing home where she works. On DeathCat’s advice, though, it’s good that Judy Greer came in because she did actually have a cancer in her appendix. By fearing the DeathCat, she managed to thwart her demise. But, of course, having faith in a cat that “predicts” death simply by following up on its natural instincts is absurd to House. When people are about to die, they’re either cold because their bodies are slowing down, thus they are covered in blankets, or are feverish. Either way, they’re warm. And cats like things that are warm. Maybe there’s something to House’s chastising Kutner in this episode for giving the DeathCat the benefit of the doubt that might have lead to Kutner’s demise. But, then again, you’d think peeing on a chair would be enough to cure a guy of any ill feelings toward mean things their boss has said.
I do like cats, though, so one great thing about the DeathCat episode was how pretty that cat was. She’s way more attractive than the real DeathCat, Oscar. How very Hollywood. (Oscar is cute in his own fluffy buttkins kind of way, though.)
As for “Locked In,” I found this episode to be rather excruciating. I think they chose an appropriate way to tell the story, i.e. the Mos Def voiceover and the Mos Def eye camera, however, that doesn’t mean I liked it. The episode got significantly better for me when Taub, trying to earn a spot on the team again, hooked Mos Def’s brain up to a computer after he loses the ability to blink so that he could move a cursor with his mind to answer yes/no questions. That stuff was way awesome, but the rest of it I just couldn’t get into. Not the voiceover, not the eye camera, not the mindscapes where House, Mos Def and Mos Def’s children all chat together. I did like the shot where the team goes over the place Mos Def had been hiding from his wife when he said he was out of town, though, and the scene transfers all Michel Gondry-like to the factory where he took work as a janitor to make ends meet. That was pretty cool. I will, however, try to avoid getting rat-urine-infected paper cuts, though, because I would prefer to not experience this episode in actuality.
And then there’s Kutner’s suicide, which totally overshadowed the POW and shouldn’t have, because the POW is fucking MEAT LOAF! First of all, I loved that Mr. Aday’s character in this episode was Eddie. Although, sadly, my favorite (s)ex-delivery boy was not riding Harleys and wondering whatever happened to Saturday night, but bed-ridden and dying of a weakened heart. Only, when his wife suddenly falls ill, he starts getting better. Taub is in change of tending to the couple, as House and the others are busy grieving/trying to find answers as to why Kutner would kill himself. While at first Eddie’s wife was faking her illness so that she could hang on to her husband for just a few more days, it turns out that she’s actually sicker than he is and needs a new liver. Because he’s only got a few days left, House asks Cameron to convince Eddie to give his wife his liver and die on the table. Even when Cameron discovers that Eddie can be saved (he has a lung infection that weakened his heart, not cancer, as doctor’s previously surmised), Eddie is ready to die; he’s already grown accustomed to the idea and would rather that his wife survive. I mean, it’s Meat Loaf, all. That dude would do anything for love. But Taub instead reveals the plan to Eddie’s wife, who won’t let her husband die for her, even though he wants to. And it’s for the best, really, because when he got sick, he couldn’t take her to Rio like he’d always promised he would, so she went with another man and developed the tropical infection that’s now killing her because it went undiagnosed for too long. Still, I am a little haunted by the imagine of Eddie, reaching out his left hand to hold his wife as she dies, knowing that he loves her enough to forgive her for seeking comfort when he couldn’t give her any.
I completely understand the decision to pair this set of POWs with Kutner’s death, coloring the entire episode in a very particular noirish shade of grey, and presenting two different ways of dealing with death (Eddie’s acceptance vs. House’s need for answers), but I wish the loveliness of Meat Loaf’s story could have been allowed to stand on its own. It reminded me very much of Baccus and Philemon, a myth about a couple who strove so hard to please the gods that Zeus allowed them to remain together forever, entwined as trees. As Mary Zimmerman summarizes it in her breathtaking theatre piece Metamorphoses, as the two began to change, you could hear them say, “Let me die at the moment my love dies. Let me not outlive my own capacity to love.”
It wouldn’t wholly surprise me if Eddie, after his wife died, willed himself to stop living, too. It would be a fitting end to their conjoined-twin like symbiosis, and woefully romantic.
Like I said, that Meat Loaf, dude will do anything for love.
Curses, woman! I had to correct your reference to Meat Loaf at least five times! His name isn’t “Meatloaf,” it’s “Meat Loaf,” a nickname (origins debatable) he got because of his first and middle name, “Marvin Lee” (which he randomly changed to “Michael Lee” for no discernable reason.) And she’s not the only one. He just happens to be one of the highest-grossing rock and roll artists of all time!
As far as the other episodes are concerned (I have nothing to say about Kal Penn’s exit other than it was pretty hasty), I only really had the following thoughts in mind over the run of these middle-of-the-road episodes:
1. It’s good that The Shield veteran Jay Karnes (who played the POW without the politeness filter) wasn’t in the DeathCat episode, or he would have strangled the DeathCat just to get inside the mind of a serial killer.
2. During “Locked In,” my mind wandered for a bit, only to come back into focus minutes later, prompting me to mutter one of the stranger things I’ve said in a good long while: “I’m sorry. What just happened? I was thinking about Sam Shepard.” I have a valid explanation for this train of thought, though, but it would take too long to explain and I have work to do here in the office. But it comes down to the relationship between the Mos Def mindscapes and the second act of Shepard’s play The Late Henry Moss.
3. I wonder what Olivia Wilde is going to look like with her Light Suit on in the upcoming sequel to Tron called Tr2n. (Or as I pronounce it, “Tra-too-en.”)