It’s been a long time since we had a new episode of House, but I for one am glad to see the show back. Sadly for you, Daniel Fienberg is not back, as he is busy writing away about American Idol. Or, maybe I mean sadly for him. However, I am overjoyed House to be taking over duties on  for the remainder of the season, so let’s get to it!

When we left off all those many weeks ago, House had chosen his final 3: Taub, Kutner and 13 – giving Cutthroat B**** the boot. Which was something we all saw coming, anyway. You know how when you were a kid you used to just about die in anticipation of the holidays, only to have a huge let down on December 26? Well, if you celebrated Christmas, anyway. That’s where House is, since he no longer has multiple hopefuls backbiting to win the coveted spots on his team and he’s looking for a replacement game. That’s where the holidays come in to play.

By the way, was anyone else put off by holiday decor and tidings of comfort and joy more than a month late? I know it’s not the fault of the show and I am behind the strike…still, it felt like watching something syndicated.

To get back on track, House’s scheme this week is to pit the team against each other in a merry way – Secret Santa – with Santa being about giving and secrets being about withholding and withholding being another way of saying lying. Which is House’s favored chess piece. It’s an obvious ploy that he stacks the deck by filling out slips of paper with only his own name on them for the team to pick, but more telling is the teams reactions. The team quickly figures out his clever ruse, but of course House knows human behavior better than anyone – predicting that they will all decide not to get him anything at all. So, with a little help from Apple’s product placement department, House steals Wilson’s iPhone, wraps it and gives it to himself, clearly violating the $25 rule. Kutner is the first to break and get House a gift anyway, just in case one of his teammates has beat him to the punch, which causes Taub and 13 to follow suit.

Foreman sits on the bench for the gift giving and isn’t really the assertive presence he has been in the last few episodes, doing nothing to keep House in line. Chase only appears in one short scene, where he speaks less than a handful of lines of dialog, and Cameron doesn’t speak at all, only seen in passing during a slow-mo montage of the hospital holiday party (which takes place in the reception area, which is odd).

However, my fan girl mind spins ahead to notice that only the old team notices House limp his way through the party and outside, the new team being too caught up in….well, whatever.

The Patient:
Janel Moloney plays Maggie, a mom who has never lied to her daughter Jane (played by Liana Liberato). When we find out this includes telling her daughter what her favorite sexual positions are, I think everyone can agree that some secrets are not only good but down right healthy. When Maggie suddenly loses the use of her hands, she becomes House’s patient and, of course, gets steadily worse until she is right on death’s door. The team wants to get her a bone marrow transplant, but she refuses to let them test Jane’s marrow, calling the procedure ‘painful’ and ‘risky’. And, also a good way to tell if two people are actually related or not, which further proves House’s favorite belief – everybody lies. It seems Jane’s real mom was a drug addict who didn’t want an abortion but also didn’t want a kid, especially one that knew mommy was a crack fiend. So, Maggie promised never to tell, and thus gave Jane her first – and supposedly only – lie.

The key to the case is Maggie’s previous double mastectomy due to breast cancer. It seems she may prefer to have sex on her stomach so she doesn’t have to see her various lover’s reactions to her scars (and what mom gets trashed and ends up screwing Joe-Random-Guy while on ecstasy and then has the nerve to preach about the importance of honesty in being a good and effective mother? How about not using illegal substances and sleeping with men you just met, little miss righteous?) but she may want to switch and find a position that obscures their view of the back of her knee as well, since that is where the random breast tissue cells the surgeons didn’t remove ended up and became cancerous. House finds this out when he gives her Risperdal, a psychiatric medication usually used to treat psychosis, which apparently has the side effect of giving a person really perky boobs if the sudden swelling behind Maggie’s knee is any indicator. We may not have gotten an exploding testicle in awhile, but when House extracts a liquid from the red lump and squirts it into Jane’s mouth (despite her protests) to prove it’s milk, I realize there are levels of "eww!" we have not even touched upon. But a mastectomy on the back of her knee, some chemo and Maggie won’t have to die after all.

The Clinic:
Our minor patient is Melanie, played by Jennifer Hall, who presents through most of the episode as if a woman of ill repute. At least, that seems to be what they want us to think when she is introduced wearing a medal of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, children, and prostitutes. Using his powers of deduction, House takes her for a prostitute and she smiles coyly, adding "well, I’m not a child".  When she returns with a mysterious rash on her neck and with red swollen lips, House figures she’s in donkey show and she responds "donkey or mule, I can never remember" and gives another grin to which House responds "Wow, that is a creepy smile. And I bet the donkey’s is even creepier" before prescribing an antibiotic for her and prophylactic for the donkey. And, of course she hands him a ticket to her show, telling him she thinks he would like it. He classically responds "I don’t like westerns".

Of course, the episode ends with House attending her show – she’s playing the Virgin Mary in a church’s production of the Nativity story. Of course. Just in case the Mother/Whore dichotomy hadn’t been made apparent enough in the episode.

The Best:
Melanie: "Prostitutes wear religious symbols?"
House: "I think they just like being on their knees."

Kutner: "Who’s the gift from?"
House: "Santa, of course, don’t you know that I worship him? Oh wait, that’s Satan. Sorry, I get them confused.."

House: "I tried that once, but she just tied me down and whined about how hard it was to be the Dean of Medicine." (House in response to the suggestion that he try bondage as a search term on Maggie’s computer).

Kutner: "It’s not Christmas yet"
House: "I just remembered, I’m not a satanist. I’m a druid."

House: "Your mom called. Your dad is dead" (to Wilson, upon returning his iPhone to him).

House: "Where are we going?"
Wilson: "No where. I just know it hurts you." (While walking through the halls)

Wilson: "Why don’t you use your powers for good, like to bring peace to the middle east?"
House: "I couldn’t do that."
Wilson: "But if they got it, you could screw it up."
House: "That’s more where my powers lie."

Wilson: "The angels of Christmas have finally given House a present he can appreciate."
House: "Oh don’t ruin it! Don’t pin this on Christ, he’s got enough nails in him."

The Bewildering:
House’s assertion that 13 has Huntington’s Disease. And her evasion of the subject. Is that how the show will drop it’s most boring character? Please?

So, what did you think of the return episode? Are you desperate to have Chase, Cameron and Foreman back? With more Cuddy? Or are you happy with seeing where the new team goes?

Posted by:Jessica Paff