Her final "House" call?

Her final "House" call?

Posted by Sean Stangland on Tue, 04/19/2011 - 01:22

Hello, Dr. Hadley. Goodbye, Dr. Masters.

Monday night's 151st installment of "House, M.D." was the rare episode that turned the focus away from the patient and its titular doctor and toward a member of the diagnostic team. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) were awarded underwhelming hours of their own last season, but an apparently peripheral character got an hour all her own this season, and the result was one of the year's best offerings.

Martha Masters (Amber Tamblyn) has given "House" a much-needed dose of sanity in a season that has seen its main character enter a doomed romantic relationship, marry a Russian national, drive a monster truck, dive off a hotel balcony and, in what was possibly the worst episode in the show's history, do a dance number after killing zombies.

Monday's episode had its share of silliniess, too, with House (Hugh Laurie) and Wilson smuggling chickens within the walls of PPTH, but it was nice to see Greg and James as friendly rivals again, finding ways to (somewhat plausibly) joke around amid the drama.

And there was a lot of drama for Masters, who greeted the audience in a sweetly surprising opening scene: The music and the paper-airplane mobile had me convinced we were inside a toddler's bedroom, not Masters'. I also briefly thought we were seeing a flashback to Masters' first day at PPTH, with talk of an open internship in House's department. I guess I assumed Martha was already an intern, not a student. (Then again, the "TH" does stand for "teaching hospital.")

I didn't expect much from Tamblyn when she came aboard, but Monday's episode -- entitled "The Last Temptation," by the way -- made me realize she has been the most consistently entertaining component of the show. She brings youthful, innocent energy to a cast that needs it.

Well, she brought youthful energy, I should say. It's clear that Monday was Martha's last day at PPTH, which once again deprives the audience of having two female voices on House's team. Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) is practically "House's" own incarnation of Antonia "The Black Hammer" Lofaso -- she cemented her spot on the team because Amber (Anne Dudek) died in the Season 4 finale; her rise to prominence coincided with Cameron's (Jennifer Morrison) departure in Season 6; and now her return from prison forces out poor Masters. Hopefully the show will spare us a House/Thirteen flirtation, although last week's episode dropped hints it could happen. (Apparently this show has no use for a smart, combative female character that House doesn't want to have sex with.)

Sadly, Masters' departure could soon be followed by Wilson's. There have been rumors to that effect for a while, not only because Robert Sean Leonard would rather be on Broadway, but also because the show might not be able to afford him in wake of its dwinding ratings.

I've read that the only actors guaranteed to come back next year are Laurie and Wilde, and I'm guessing Wilde isn't going to come cheap for much longer given her ever-expanding movie career. House could be a very different show next season on a different network, and with a very different cast. Have the creators planned a S7 endgame in which House and Thirteen jump ship, and we follow? (And if they do, could they start "CSI: Jersey" and hire Masters? Please?)

No matter how it ends, I am very glad that Tamblyn didn't have to go out like Kellie Martin on "ER." Last month's pseudo-cliffhanger about the homeless patient who was actually a serial killer suggested Masters would be the freak's next target. This show has come perilously close to betraying its audience this season, and that would have been too bitter a pill for me to swallow.

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