House” has to play a balancing act every week. We know there will be a main plot involving a mysterious illness that we tend to be semi-interested in; but we need an emotional anchor to hook us, and usually that comes in the form of one of the subplots. This week was one of the nice exceptions where the show was firing on all cylinders, with both the main plot and the subplot sucking us in, and while the episode was far from perfect, it still exemplified why “House” is a great show. Read our review to see what we mean…

The Players:

  • Director: David Straiton
  • Writer: David Foster
  • Cast: Hugh Laurie, Lisa Edelstein, Omar Epps, Jesse Spencer, Amber Tamblyn, Peter Jacobson

Episode Title: “Carrot or Stick”

A drill instructor at a boot camp for young criminals collapses while berating one of his charges. His occupation, and the way in which he goes about reforming the teenagers who attend his boot camp, sparks debate amongst House’s team; this situation is further complicated when one of the young men at the boot camp falls ill as well. In the meantime, Chase discovers that someone has posted an embarrassing nude picture on his Facebook profile and is making large donations with his credit card. He thinks it is one of the three women he hooked up with at the wedding a few episodes back, and is preoccupied with finding the culprit. House gets closer to Cuddy’s little girl, Rachel, when he tries to help her get accepted to an exclusive pre-school.

The Good:

  • House and Rachel: This show has always been about House coming to terms with his depression and learning to be a better person while balancing those efforts with his own cynical world view. To the immense credit of the writers, this has always happened fairly organically, and this episode was further proof that they can find the right subplots to explore his journey towards mental peace. We got such a subplot this week when House showed not only that he can learn to tolerate children, but also that he can act on his love for Cuddy without seeking approval, by spending time with Rachel to prepare her for the “entry exam” for an elite pre-school.
  • Carrot or Stick? We can’t expect “House” to be subtle. It asks questions that most primetime TV shows refuse to, so even if those questions are shoe-horned into the dialogue rather awkwardly, we need to give credit where it is due. So yeah, the whole theme of “positive vs. negative reinforcement” is kind of forced, but it is one the show has not explored before, so it made for some interesting television.
  • Masters: Yeah, she’s still too timid to take seriously, but she’s starting to assert her own opinions more strongly, and that’s a start. Masters can’t be a realistic character if she sticks to the naive role she’s been playing, but if this episode is any indication, she’ll learn to stick up for herself.

The So-So:

  • Chase: The subplot involving Chase this week at least allows the writer to acknowledge that he’s been acting like a frat boy with a fresh box of condoms, but that doesn’t totally excuse such behavior. At the end of it all, that’s pretty much the only statement being made here: Chase looks for sex too much. OK. We knew that.

The Bad:

  • Taub: Taub ended his marriage last week. We understand that the show would collapse under the weight of a fourth subplot per episode, but the way it was swept under the rug is unrealistic.

Overall:

This is what “House” does best. Clever dialogue, decent insights into human behavior, all wrapped up in a nice entertaining bundle. Best episode this season? No way. An episode you’d show to people who want to know why “House” is worth watching? You bet.

Rating: 8/10

“House” airs every Monday night on FOX!

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What did you think of last night’s episode? Tell us in the comments!