The Wife:

So, apparently, Kal Penn asked to leave House because he’s taking a position in the Obama administration.

Okay.

That’s cool.

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.

For the last time, I refuse to audition for bloody Cats!

For the last time, I refuse to audition for bloody Cats!

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.

Stupid . . . fucking . . . rat pee . . .

Stupid . . . fucking . . . rat pee . . .

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.

But I won't do that.

But I won't do that.

The Husband:

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!

Nehhhhhh…

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.”)

The Husband:

Wow. What a crazy-ass roller coaster week. America shows that maybe it can be trusted slightly more with their Top 12 picks (although they still have some ‘splainin’ to do), the Group 3 performances end up being startlingly good, and the judges, while making some strange picks as to who they wanted to see again for the Wild Card round, made some darn good decisions of their own.

But oh man, it’s going to be a heavily male-centric final group, and I can only attribute that, as I did last week, to the show’s main voting constituency — hormonal teenage girls. It’s a sausage fest. A non-threatening, asexual sausage fest.

But, as I was saying, this was the week where the contestants really stood out, and at least half of the 12 performances could actually be classified as “good” or above. Gee, what a concept.

In which case, I don’t really need to tell you who did poorly, since I think it’s quite obvious to everybody, and I need only to mention their names (Taylor Vaifanua, Aianna Afsar, Nathaniel Marshall) and get shudders from you readers.

Actually, I really have to call out Nathaniel Marshall for giving the semifinals one truly awful performance, where he took one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite albums (“I Would Do Anything For Love” from Meat Loaf’s classic 90s record Bat Out Of Hell 2: Back Into Hell) and turned it, as I wrote down but also said by TVSquad, into a Donna Summer song. What a trashy undoing of a powerful song. Nathaniel, without question, should be ashamed.

Idol's Group Three runs hot and cold.

Idol's Group Three runs hot and cold.

So who did a good job, and who did a great job?

Good

Ju’not Joyner (“Hey There Delilah”): While I am never big on people reusing songs, it’s completely understandable if it’s their signature song from earlier rounds (much like Kimberley Locke’s version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” that got her into the Top 12 over Clay Aiken pre-Wild Card), and I thought for a moment that I’d really like Ju’not in the Top 12 just to shake things up. Alas, he did not get voted through, nor was he brought back for the Wild Card.

Felicia Barton (“No One”): An interesting selection from an interesting person who, unfortunately, just couldn’t get enough screentime thanks to her being a last-minute replacement in the Top 36. I hate it when contestants sing Alicia Keyes (they’re never going to measure up), and Felicia’s performance definitely got messier at it progressed, but I thought she was a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, she did not make it through and, also, was not brought back.

Scott MacIntyre (“Mandolin Rain”): So here’s the deal. I think that if he weren’t legally blind, that voice wouldn’t have been strong enough to really make much of an impression, but he has a story and a “handicap,” and his heart more than made up for some of his vocal shortcomings. He’s a darn good performer, and I appreciate that, and I appreciate that he “sailed on through” to the Top 12.

Lil Rounds (“Be Without You”): I’m kind of sick of this Idol type, even if I’m quite aware that Lil is trying to be her own person. I mean, she’s basically being touted as Tamyra and La Toya and Trenyce and Syesha, and maybe I’m just finally done with that spot that always seems to be open in the Top 12 for eight years now, but I can’t deny the fact that she has a pretty impeccable voice. But she’s not inspiring joy out of me. Just respect.

Kristen McNamara (“Give Me One Reason”): I don’t know why she chose to do such a sped-up version of the song, ended up with some majorly garbled words, but this NorCal resident gave a cool Kimberly Caldwell vibe that I wish had made more of an impression on America.

Great

Jorge Nuñez “(Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”): I think we may be in for something very special with this bilingual singer. We got a small bit of comment huff a few weeks ago for defending Jorge’s accent on this blog, but like Simon we were aware then that it wouldn’t be a problem, and that with the right song and the right amount of heart it doesn’t matter if he says a word differently here or there. He will do wonders for the American Latino/Chicano community merely by his presence in the Top 12, but the best thing is that he’s a great singer to boot. He could demolish the rest of the competition, and I’m fine with that assessment.

So Jorge, Lil and Scott made it through, which unfortunately left some darn good people in the dust, a fact made worse by the fact that no remaining Group 3 contestants were brought back for the Wild Card round. Why? So the judges could put insane people like Tatiana or jokes like Von Smith in their spots. (Come on, we know that those spots could have gone to Kristen McNamara and Felicia Barton easily.)

But I’m more than okay with the judges’ final picks for Wild Card. While I think Jasmine Murray will end up being destroyed by her own nerves and lack of professional know-how in the next few weeks, I’m glad to have her youthful energy around and hope she can recapture some of the magic she had during the auditions. Megan Joy Corkrey and Matt Giraud were no-brainers to move through, honestly, giving the show a more bluesy and adult vibe amidst all the pop shenanigans, and I welcome the variety.

But the greatest part of the week was making the Top 12 into a Top 13 by also accepting Anoop Desai, one of this season’s best performers, into the final group. He needs to tone down some of the overwrought drama in his performances, but he’s now the show’s official underdog, dawg.

The “real” competition is just around the corner, so pick up your phone and start voting with the smart part of you instead of the horny part. Don’t forget, the progression of this show actually does affect mainstream pop culture whether you like it or not, and I don’t want another no-talent, pretty-but-bland personality singing to me on the radio. There’s already enough of that.

The Wife:

This was certainly a rollercoaster week on Idol, and I’m still mad about what Nathaniel did to Meat Loaf. Throughout the entire performance, I was hoping that Mr. Aday himself would burst through the back wall, Eddie in RHPS-style, roar in on a hog and kill Nathaniel with a pick axe as the band started playing “What Ever Happened to Saturday Night?” (Ideally, Meat Loaf would sing that song while murdering Nathaniel and then launch into a triumphant rendition of “I Would Do Anything For Love.”) I wish I could describe the look of abject horror on my face, but alas, it is indescribable.

Like my husband, I was sad to see that Kristen McNamara was passed over for a chance at the Wild Card. Instead, they gave her spot to Jesse Langseth, who has a lovely voice, but I cannot call myself a fan of because of her complete inability to produce consonant sounds. Seriously, she is rarely actually saying a word when she sings. I’d have liked to see McNamara go further in this competition. She’s cute like Anna Faris and has a great, powerful voice. And this week, her outfit wasn’t a problem at all, despite what the judges may have said about it. That dress was adorable, totally made by those little pink rosettes on the shoulders.

I still think a lot of the contestants need help styling themselves, Lil Rounds being a prime example. She went from super hot yellow and black cocktail number for performance night to a dowdy black and white dress that would work, maybe, on Alison Iraheta or some other young white kid who shops at vintage stores and Hot Topic. And I only want to see Anoop in the skinny-tie-and-Rufus Humphrey-cardi combo for the rest of his Idol days. So, so happy they put Anoop through. I think the judges made the right choices with the Wild Card contestants they sent through, thought I agree with my husband that they did make some really weird picks for the Wild Card round.

Competition next week! Let’s see if Megan Joy Corkrey learns to move to music!

The Wife:

Oh, Luke Perry, I’d like to send all of the original 90210 fans a copy of this episode in which you play a slightly pedophilic cult leader just so that they’ll stop asking you to come back and do an episode of the new 90210. You were scary. And you look a bit haggard these days. But don’t worry, it’s haggard sexy. Like C. Thomas Howell. Point is, you coming back to 90210 would be bad.

Scary cult leader Luke Perry aside, this episode was a great exploration of the relationships between the BAU team. Prentiss and Reid infiltrate a fundamentalist compound to investigate potential child abuse. They pose as Child Victim Interview Experts from Colorado’s Child Protective Services, a job title that prompts Perry’s cult leader Cyrus to inquire how far humanity has strayed from the path to need a job like that. Unbeknownst to Prentiss and Reid, the Colorado State Police had planned a raid on the compound to rescue the children.

When the raid goes down, the rest of the BAU lead the hostage negotiations in the interest of getting Prentiss and Reid to safety. Hotch puts Rossi in charge of negotiations, sneaking in a bug to listen in and hoping that Prentiss and Reid will work on freeing the hostages from the inside. They do: Prentiss by giving herself up as an FBI agent so that Reid could work on Cyrus, Reid by endearing himself to Cyrus and cleverly guiding the hand of the prophet to get him to release those he deems to be nonbelievers (which Cyrus does by testing his followers with non-poisoned wine that he tells them is, in fact, poisoned).

Paget Brewster is not sorry that she didnt save herself for Luke Perry.

Paget Brewster is not sorry that she didn't save herself for Luke Perry.

When Cyrus hauls off Prentiss to beat information out of her, she communicates with the rest of the team by calling out “I can take it,” a subtle reminder to her colleagues that they don’t need to rush in to save her just yet. Cyrus secludes her from the rest of the compound, but his child bride’s mother comes to care for Prentiss, which Prentiss sees as an opportunity to convince the woman to get her daughter and other children out of the compound before the situation escalates. Meanwhile, the outside team acquiesces to Cyrus’s request for a meal for the compound, especially with Reid’s backing. Hotch writes in code on the food packages to let Reid and Prentiss know that the raid will take place at 3 a.m., further demonstrating just how close-knit these characters are and how well they can communicate with each other indirectly.

The chicken place is open til 3 a.m. Thats all that means, I swear.

The chicken place is open til 3 a.m. That's all that means, I swear.

Jessica’s mother helps Prentiss get all the women and children to the basement so that the FBI can spirit them out the backdoor when the raid happens. Morgan bursts in to the compound and takes out Cyrus before he can blow the whole compound while Prentiss got the women and children to safety, save for Cyrus’s wife Jessica, who ran back in to see her dead husband and ignited the blast, sacrificing herself for her husband’s beliefs.

Luckily, Morgan and Reid got out in time, but not without causing me intense distress at the thought of potentially losing my beloved Spencer Reid! Not okay Criminal Minds! Don’t try to take him from me twice in one season!

Criminal Minds decided to follow up an excellent episode like “Minimal Loss” with “Paradise,” a pretty lame episode that was basically the lovechild of Vacancy and Tarantino’s Death Proof. (In short, couples are tortured in motels and made to look like they were killed by accident in big rig accidents.) The only good things about this episode were seeing Lost’s William Mapother be slightly less creepy and seeing geek favorite Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation) grow the balls Wesley Crusher never had and morph into a psychotic rapist and murderer, who ultimately meets a fitting end when he’s hit by a semi.

For as much as I didn’t like “Paradise” (because I saw Vacancy, people!), I did enjoy that two weeks in a row, Criminal Minds managed to take former teen heartthrobs like Luke Perry and Wil Wheaton and turn them into scary, completely unsexy people.

The Husband:

Nope, no vacancies. Room 8 is technically vacant, because the occupant is my mother and she is not alive, but I try not to advertise that.

Nope, no vacancies. Room 8 is technically vacant, because the occupant is my mother and she is not technically alive, but I try not to advertise that.

Yeah, the episode “Paradise” is like Vacancy and Death Proof, but it’s also like…oh, you know…Psycho. While Wheaton does a pretty damn good Norman Bates – and, to be fair, a good Frank Whaley in Vacancy – the episode didn’t feel like an episode of Criminal Minds so much as a straight-to-DVD movie. (Or, more specifically, straight-to-premium-cable fare like Blacktop with Kristin Davis and Meat Loaf.) I did get a big laugh at the ultimate fate of Wheaton’s character, though, bringing a nice sense of humor that most episodes of Criminal Minds lacks whenever Reid or Garcia are not onscreen. (Seriously, has J.J. ever cracked a smile about anything?) We did, I believe, get the first Hotch Funny ever when he commented on Garcia’s chipper and bizarre state.

“Remind me to have her drug-tested.”

The previous episode also felt a bit un-CM, although I do appreciate them trying to break out of some of their formulas. Problem is, the machinations of the Ruby Ridge/Waco plot felt more like Numb3rs than anything else. In fact, Numb3rs has already done a very similar episode a couple seasons ago, one that slightly bothered me because the FBI team ended up failing the mission, leading to the sacrifice/decimation of the cult due to a few Eppes Brothers mistakes. What bugged me was that such an FBI disaster, in the real world, would be dealt with by a very thorough internal investigation, but in the world of CBS procedurals was never referred to again despite Don and Charlie having been partially responsible for the deaths of two dozen people.

Oh CBS procedurals, will you ever cease to exist? Probably not.