Tonight, House makes a triumphant return from its winter hiatus with “Larger Than Life”, one of the best episodes of this season so far.
When Jack Nash (Matthew Lillard), an aspiring rock musician, willfully throws himself onto the subway tracks to save the life of a complete stranger who lays unconscious in the path of an oncoming subway car, Nash quickly finds himself in need of help after suddenly collapsing following his heroic rescue.
Given the moniker of “The Subway Hero,” Nash finds himself – like most patients on House – with a litany of life-threatening symptoms for an undiagnosed disease. When the big-hearted Martha Masters (Amber Tamblyn) takes a special interest in “The Subway Hero’s” case and forces it upon the team, House (Hugh Laurie) finds himself looking for a reason - other than heroics - for Nash’s leap of faith.
As is typical for House, the patient of the week serves to lay the thematic groundwork for many of the episode’s additional subplots and this season’s reoccurring story arcs. With elements pertaining to family and relationships, Nash’s story, while simplistic in its development and surprisingly shallow in its conclusion, provides perfect supplemental narrative to this episode’s two main storylines, the first of which is Cuddy’s (Lisa Edelstein) birthday and the introduction of her mother Arlene (Candace Bergen).
Review (Spoilers Ahead)
In a familiar attempt at circumventing all obligations for what House believes to be an extraneous celebratory dinner, Princeton-Plainsboro’s master of mendacity devises a plan that will not only allow him to avoid any possible interaction between himself and Cuddy’s mother, but to also be able to “regretfully decline” lonesome Wilson’s (Robert Sean Leonard) invitation to take in a film festival. However, knowing their friend Wilson and Cuddy team up to ensure that House’s hustle fails, while Arlene – unbeknownst to her daughter – devises her own plan of attack.
With a vocabulary full of wonderful Yiddish phrases, a discreetly planned character introduction and an intensity that proves to be even too much for the famed diagnostician to handle, Candace Bergen shines as Cuddy’s mother, Arlene. In a performance that’s perfectly executed, yet similar to Bergen’s character on Murphy Brown, viewers are finally given a look at what maternal characteristics went into raising television’s favorite Dean of Medicine.
Although somewhat contrary to the composed characterization of Lisa Cuddy, Arlene’s confrontational nature and audacious opinions not only provides viewers with a sense of where Cuddy’s no-nonsense, tough-as-nails demeanor originated, but also shows that Cuddy is predisposed to handling situations more difficult and stressful than those that House continuously puts her in. Fortunately, while many may find themselves at times disliking Arlene, there’s more to Cuddy’s mom than her overt behavior and constant self-righteousness. But that is something both House and viewers will have to wait to see.
Whilst House is humoring the overbearing Arlene and waiting for the perfect time to present Cuddy with her birthday gift (which may be the greatest birthday gift ever seen on television), his team back at Princeton-Plainsboro are less than enthusiastic with Taub becoming the “face” of the hospital in a new series advertisements asking everyone to “be better.”
What was originally thought to be only a single billboard featuring the face of everyone’s favorite admitted adulterer turns out to be a massive marketing push from the hospital using the physician who they believe has the most trustworthy face. Considering only a select few know about Taub’s many indiscretions, House attempts to provide some artistic improvements to the hospital’s new advertisements by using a giant permanent marker to transform Taub into one of Germany’s most iconic dictators.
Fortunately, there are some perks to becoming a recognized figure – as Taub soon realizes. Upon returning home one evening following the placement of Princeton-Plainsboro’s advertisements, Taub finds his wife Rachel (Jennifer Crystal Foley) waiting for him and, for some reason, she's looking to an rekindle their relationship – something she hasn’t done since he admitted to his numerous marital indiscretions.
Of course, when this type of unusual behavior continues for an extended period of time, Taub begins searching for other reasons why Rachel decided to show interest in him and their relationship. While Taub has consistently been one of the best new additions to House, it wasn’t until now that Peter Jacobson (The Lost Room) was given a chance to let his character shine in this manner.
With reflective moments both alone and with his co-workers, Taub’s entire journey throughout this episode will in no doubt endear him to the series’ many fans, as it provides Taub with a refreshing depth to his character and a planned evolution that sees Taub’s story-arc progress further than any of House’s other team members currently in attendance.
Despite the initial starting point for Taub’s marital intrigue being woefully two-dimensional, his story quickly takes an intriguing turn that will cause viewers to take pause when his character is on the screen and enjoy one of the series’ most honest storylines in quite some time.
While House, Cuddy, Arlene and Wilson most certainly help drive this episode for the series’ core fans, it is without a doubt the wonderfully crafted Taub subplot that really serves to elevate this episode above it’s predecessors from this season.
House airs Mondays @8pm, on Fox