The Wife:

The final four episodes of this season of House almost made up for Kutner’s random-ass suicide in their inventiveness. Almost. I thoroughly enjoyed the return of Amber as House’s ghostly hallucination and his three-episode quest to discern exactly what’s wrong with him, either way knowing that if he’s crazy, he can’t practice medicine, and if he’s experiencing side effects from his Vicodin addiction, he can’t practice medicine because once he’s clean he’ll be in too much pain. Anne Dudek was delightful has his subconscious manifestation throughout this arc, especially the moment in which she reappears after House thinks he has staved her off by OD’ing on insulin, singing old jazz standards over the microphone at his bar, echoing her first appearance beside his piano. But nothing, really, was more chilling than the final episode, when House realizes he’d hallucinated the entire night he spend kicking Vicodin with Cuddy, ending in the two of them sleeping together. Reliving all of the moments we saw of him flipping coins or examining a tube of lipstick are replayed with Vicodin bottles replacing those objects, suggesting a very powerful drug addiction that has completely taken over House’s life, was pretty brilliant. Frankly, I’d prefer more arcs like this, rather than so many one-off episodes. But what else are you going to do with a 24-episode season? So while everyone else attends Cameron and Chase’s wedding (they spent these past few episodes almost not getting married because a. Cameron kind of got cold feet b. House nearly killed Chase with a stripper covered in strawberry body butter . . . that apparently was made with actual strawberry extract and c. Chase was being a dick to Cameron about keeping her dead husband’s sperm on ice because he took it to mean that she thought they weren’t going to work out, rather than, you know, being the last thing she has to hold on to of her fucking husband), House checks himself in to a mental institution . . . which he will inevitably check himself out of at the beginning of next season because you can do that kind of thing with you are voluntarily committed.

I should have known this was too good to be true . . .

I should have known this was too good to be true . . .

As far as the patients were concerned, I’m often irritated by how precious the conceits are in which every patient is a metaphor for someone on the team, etc. So I totally get why the guy with split brain whose hand was not his hand was necessary for the metaphor of the finale, it was also perhaps added just a tad too much levity, despite how much Thirteen et all tried to tell me it was creepy. The only patient that really got to me out of this bunch was the ballerina who lost her skin. A lot of my research deals with holes in the surface of the body, mitigations of that surface or the abjecta beneath the surface, but I found her skinlessness to actually be quite frightening. Perhaps its because I’ve had skin cancer that I find the idea of losing that much skin so terrifying (which, for the record, makes no sense, because the removal of skin cancers just leaves some awesome scars), but its more likely the fact that, without the mitigation of the surface, the inside is all that much more frightening. We forget that our skin is the largest organ on our bodies, and so it is vital that we take care of it. Losing a little bit when you scrape your elbow or knee is fine, and hardly horrifying, but losing so much that we are exposed so wholly to the world is truly unsettling. And deadly. I shuddered for that poor girl. She’s just damn lucky that Princeton-Plainsboro has so many fresh cadavers from which to harvest grafts. I know the episode wanted us to sympathize more with the possibility that she, a dancer, would have to have her gangrenous hands and feet removed in order to live (Taub managed to revive the tissue, somehow), but the loss of her flesh was something I couldn’t get out of my head. And I doubt I will.

So, damn you, House, you actually got me. Good for you.

Considering how poorly I did at keeping up with House this year, I don’t think I’ll write about it next year. I’ll still be watching, though, storing up dozens of episodes on my DVR to marathon whenever I get a break from my book learnin’.

The Husband:

And so the month of season finales involving hallucinations continue, and between this, Bones, and Grey’s Anatomy, I wonder what else have I not come across? I know how the US version of Life on Mars ends (but since neither my wife nor I have finished watching the second half of the season, I’ll refrain from saying what it is), but what about the shows I’m behind on?

Smallville, of course, always has at least a couple hallucination episodes a season – and more now that they’ve been struggling to find stories in Metropolis, a task that doesn’t actually sound very hard – but will Prison Break get all wonky during its final five-episode run that’s sitting on my DVR? (Michael does have major brain shenanigans last time I checked, so this has potential.)

Does Lie to Me, which we’ve DVRed but haven’t touched yet, turn everything on its head by revealing that Tim Roth is just a figment of our imagination? (Considering he’s been both a futuristic ape and Abomination in The Incredible Hulk, this could be a possibility.)

Is Reaper going to turn out to be an extremely vivid dream concocted by Sock during a very long nap at the Work Bench? Will that explain Andi losing her personality this season?

Is that missing episode of Sit Down, Shut Up an apology to the idiots who didn’t find it funny and complained about the intentionally awkward animation-on-top-of-real-backgrounds?

Motherfucker! Ugly Betty ended in a hallucination, too! What happened here? Is this a veiled backlash against Obama? Did all the showrunners stop taking their medication?

The only time I can remember even the slightest bit of consistency across certain shows during season finales was May, 1996 (I had to check Wikipedia for the year, but remember everything else about the following without any aid.) For some reason, three major shows in my life decided to kind of lose their minds and go way too dark for my young teenage brain. With Seinfeld, it was Susan, George’s fiancée, dying as a result of toxic envelope glue, and when the main cast stopped by the hospital, they pretty much felt nothing and went to go get some coffee. On Roseanne, Dan breaks his diet and he and Roseanne get into one of the foulest shouting matches I’ve ever seen on a family sitcom, devolving into back-and-forth screams of “Fatty! Fatty! Fatty!” (Let’s not even mention the final season, which was all a dream.) And, finally, Mad About You challenged Paul and Jamie’s marriage when she kissed the man she was campaigning for and Paul lusted after another woman but didn’t do anything, leading to a quiet, disturbing fight.

It just seemed like, for no discernable reason, sitcoms ended that year wanting us to feel like absolute shit. So I ask, does anybody have an explanation for this madness in dear old 2009?

Don’t get me wrong, I thought everything with Dudek was some of the most compelling minutes House has ever had, and even without her, the final mindfuck, while hard to avoid in the press after the fact, was still eerily effective, thanks in no small part to Hugh Laurie’s continued brilliance on this show. Does he still not have an Emmy? (Now that Boston Legal is gone, Spader’s absence in the category will help considerably. That is, if Jon Hamm’s John Ham doesn’t take it, which would not be a bad thing per se.)

On another note, do any of you out there seriously care about Chase and Cameron? At all? Boooooooring. How about hiring another intern. I’m fine with that. Anything to get away from the dour blondes.

The Wife:

30 Rock 3.8 “Flu Shot”

“Oh no! I must have Ox Fever!” – Kenneth

The flu is going around 30 Rockefeller Plaza and the cast and the crew of TGS are all falling ill. Because of short staffing, Liz’s vacation to St. Bartleby’s (where she likes to read magazines in old-fashioned swimwear and black socks) gets canceled. Jack fears that the unionized crew members will get the more elite members of TGS sick, so he has reserved their limited number of flu shots for a select few, including himself and Liz Lemon.

Liz refuses to take the flu shot, however, feeling that it is unfair of Jack to ration them off. She becomes a hero to the crew, a sort of Norma Rae figure in their quest to get better healthcare. Kenneth, meanwhile, thinks that he’s dying and demands the traditional burial of a Parcell man, which involves being wrapped in the Confederate flag, fried and fed to dogs. As the only Page not currently out with the flu, Kenneth feels its his duty to not leave his post, therefore he can’t go out to get soup for the crew when flu-shot imbued Tracy and Jenna decide that they want to do something nice for the people who are working so hard while they’re all deathly ill.

Tracy and Jenna return, of course, from their soup outing without soup. They got bored and ended up going shopping instead, because every girl’s crazy about a sharp-dressed man. In gratitude to Liz for sticking by them, the crew buys Liz a meat plate, which she realizes she cannot eat because Cerie managed to get her vacation back on and now Liz will do anything she can to not get sick. After refusing the meat plate, she fearfully wanders through the halls of 30 Rock, as flu-ridden zombie crew people (and zombie Kenneth) lumber after her while she sneaks off to beg Dr. Chris Parnell for the last flu shot. I love seeing Chris Parnell, anywhere. And I’m glad he made Liz Lemon dance for that flu shot. Anytime Liz has to dance is guaranteed to be funny.



Meanwhile, safe from the flu-filled halls of 30 Rock, Jack continues his budding romance with Elisa, his mother’s Puerto Rican nurse. He thinks she works too much, unhappy that the only way he gets to see her is when she sneaks him in when she watches her other patients in their homes at night. He begs her to go out, and she compromises by bringing her disabled, dementia-addled charge with them on a variety of dates. Eventually, the patient’s son nearly catches them together, noticing, perhaps, that Elisa’s nurses uniform is suddenly a boob-boosting cocktail dress. As Jack sneaks out, Mr. Templeton suddenly reveals to his son everything that he witnessed on Jack and Elisa’s dates in a hilarious stream-of-consciousness monologue.

“He made me watch a giraffe with the legs of a man!”

That quote was my favorite part of the monologue, but the whole thing together was priceless.

Back at TGS, Liz has to cover up her flu shot injection site so that no one will see the unmistakable flu shot rash. Kenneth notices it, but Liz tells him that he’s hallucinating:

“No, no. You’re having a fever dream. We’re speaking French. And I’m your mother.”

Tracy and Jenna, meanwhile, decide to make up for the soup failure by giving the crew laughter, the only medicine better than medicine. They dress up as the most terrifying clowns I have ever seen and expose Liz’s flu shot secret to the crew by tossing a pie in her face, which forces her to remove her rash-covering sweater. The crew immediately turns on her and starts hating her again, including Kenneth, who is still speaking French because he thinks he’s in a dream, screaming:

“Je deteste!”

30 Rock 3.9 “Retreat to Move Forward”

Jack wants Liz to be his buddy for a corporate retreat, which Liz remembers performing at a few of back when she and Jenna were on an improv troupe together. (I can’t tell if an improv troupe would be improved or not by the presence of Jenna Moroney, considering her response to Liz’s Sling Blade impression in their “Sling Blade and Oprah go on a date” scene was, “You sure do, Oprah!”) Liz thinks of these retreats like going to summer camp, and she agrees to be Jack’s camp friend, knowing that he needs moral support because he can’t go alone to a place where he needs to psych himself up with a speech that includes a variety of corporate ad slogans. (“Just do it. Is it in you? I’m lovin’ it!”) Only, Jack’s corporate retreats are not at all about team building and fun like camp. They’re weird. Like, I can’t even describe exactly what goes on there. That’s how weird they are. Somewhere between the Dharma Initiative and a Scientology meeting, people at the meeting are concerned with what “levels” they’re at (things like Js and Gs and Hs and a variety of other alphanumeric combinations) and only address each other formally. It’s also filled with intentionally confusing acronyms, where lunch is an activity but CLASS is Consuming Lunch and Simple Socializing. Eventually, as they participate in team building activities together that are altogether too strange to describe accurately, Liz becomes totally jazzed about the Retreat to Move Forward, screaming at Jack to finish things faster and communicate better in order to facilitate that, culminating in a cute little Glengarry Glen Ross joke: “Always be talking, Jack! Always be talking!” (Alec Baldwin’s monologue, written just for him, in the film purports that the ABCs of sales are simply “Always Be Closing.” Watch it if you haven’t seen it. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.) She also screams something about a robot penis that I didn’t quite catch but laughed at anyway.

When Liz comes to greet Jack on the second day of the convention with omelettes from the omelette bar (which, by the way, she suggests that he goes to get, because her two plates are for her, goddamnit), Jack tells her that she’s embarrassing him with her enthusiasm and informality. That’s just not how the retreat to move forward works. In a snit, Liz declares that her friendship with Jack is over. She spends the rest of the day sulking, hanging out with a couple of lower level retreat partners who openly make out at their convention table. Jack asks Liz to sit at his table, but she refuses. He then gets miked up for the speech he’s about to give and she realizes his mike is on just as he heads to the bathroom to give his psych up speech. Liz tries to stop him, but arrives too late. The whole room heard him pump himself up. She tells him the bad news, but, as a friend, goes out to do her best to take the blow for Jack’s embarrassment. She grabs the mic on stage, does some bad improv (including her Sling Blade impression) and tells everyone that she was impersonating Jack Donaghey attempting to psych himself up. The crowd isn’t buying it, so she pulls out a last-ditch move by ripping open her shit and dancing around while singing “Everybody Dance Now.” Jack cannot believe that Liz would do something like that for him, to which she replies that’s what friends are for. He then informs her that she’s banned from all future retreats.

Jenna, souped up for her role in a Janis Joplin/Janet Jopler biopic, announces to the writing staff that she will be employing the “method” method of acting and will be in character from this point forward. Frank decides to fuck with her by telling her to do her research on Wikipedia, because people are discovering new things about Janis Joplin everyday. Frank and the writing staff have oodles of fun using Wikipedia to convince Jenna to do things like speedwalk in leg braces and chug bottles of tequila. Frank realizes it’s getting out of hand, though, when he catches Jenna about to chow down on a cat.

If Janis did it, you can do it, Jenna!

If Janis did it, you can do it, Jenna!

He comes clean and tells her that they tricked her, but assures her that her unbridled rage at something like this will make her a shoe-in to win an Oscar if she can bring that fire to her Janis Joplin role. Stroking Jenna’s ego, of course, is incredibly hot to her, and she and Frank end up hooking up. The next day, Jenna tells Frank that she’s just going to be cool about their hookup and not tell anyone, and asks the same of Frank. He earnestly begs her to also be cool and not tell anyone, which confuses and infuriates her. (“You are the one who cool should be!”) Frank warns her that he has a lot of people in the building that he wouldn’t want to hear about him and Jenna. When she walks in on him the next day telling a story, she expects to hear her name as the cool thing he did last night, but is even more furious to hear that the story is about videogames. She freaks out and tells the whole crew that they slept together.

Dr. Chris Parnell, meanwhile, tells Tracy that he might soon develop diabetes, or The Sugarbetes, as I like to call it. He might lose his foot, but could replace it with a wheel – à la Rosie from The Jetsons – if he wanted to register himself as a moto-vehicle. As a result of this news, Tracy starts rolling around the office on a wheel. Kenneth asks him why he’s doing this, and hears he might develop diabetes. Worried for Tracy’s health, Kenneth starts trying to get him to eat better, slapping sugar candies out of his hand. Tracy tells Kenneth that the link between diet and diabetes is a white myth, like Larry Bird, and Colorado, thus many African Americans continue to eat whatever they want even when threatened with the Sugarbetes. Unable to fight the power of the white myth, Kenneth tries to get Tracy to improve his diet by telling him stories about the Hill Witch, who eats children who won’t eat the vegetables. This does not stop Tracy. Kenneth even tries dressing up as the Hill Witch, but to no avail. Jenna bursts into the room, fresh from an encounter with her hair colorist, who turns out to be one of the many women in the building who get it on with Frank, sabotages Jenna by overbleaching her hair, causing Jenna to run around the building screaming like a banshee, terrifying both Kenneth and Tracy.

I’m glad Tracy and Jenna got larger plot lines this week, especially one that involved both the writing staff (who go underused at times) and Chris Parnell. I actually liked these plots better than the A-story with Liz and Jack this week, so props to 30 Rock for giving it up for the supporting characters.