TV Recap

Lame Ducklings

On ''House,'' while solving the case of a hallucinating astronaut, the doc auditions 40 new assistants, none of whom seem to match up to Chase, Cameron, and Foreman

FRETTING House is still fussing over his kidnapped guitar
FRETTING House is still fussing over his kidnapped guitar

''House'': The doc's dreams and regrets

Nice reality-show premise for this riveting episode of Top Doctor — or is it Project Run Tests? We've got 40 physicians in a classroom vying for a spot on House's team and a wannabe-astronaut patient with a mysterious ailment and a bit of the NASA crazies. What is not to love?

During the Space Odyssey intro, we saw our psycho-ambitious pilot patient suffering a trippy Pink Floyd brain freak-out that caused her to crash-land and led us to believe someone had slipped some peyote in her Tang. (Remember Tang?) As an armchair diagnostician, I thought, ''Blood clot to brain,'' but I would've been kicked off early.

Do you find yourself trying to make diagnoses during the intros? It's like shouting out the answers to Jeopardy!

Meanwhile, back in the classroom, we found Dr. House lecturing to the 40 applicants in front of a slide of Buddy Ebsen. Turns out Pa Beverly Hillbilly got kicked out of Oz for having an allergy to the aluminum used in the Tin Man makeup. Or did he? The giant Ebsen photo served as a bold backdrop and a nice metaphor for Dr. Heartless Bastard, who began his wonderfully rude elimination process by cutting row D, until he spotted a D-cupped doc he'd like to keep. If he only had a heart indeed.

House then got his challenge, in the form of the aforementioned hyper-ambitious but mysteriously ill astronaut candidate. For $50,000 in prize money, House and Company had to puzzle out her ailment without any medical test or intervention that might alert NASA to our heroine's plight. ''You're the best,'' she told him. ''You break rules. You don't care about anyone but yourself.''

True.

And when he asked what's in it for him, she replied, ''I crashed a flight simulator because I started to hear with my eyes.'' Nice! Hearing with your eyes. And this is why we dig Gregory House. He does it for the challenge! And so he challenged his potential underlings, who followed him around like good baby ducklings, to solve some big problems, like washing his car.

Just as in real reality-TV shows, we got a pressurized situation that revealed the worst characteristics of folks you would never actually want to hang out with ever. It seems that the skills needed to make it to the final elimination round are also the best ingredients for creating a sociopath, especially the willingness to do whatever it takes, even if it means taking from others, taking a life, taking a short cut (like stealing House's car keys and driving to the car wash — although the ''boob job'' solution was ingenious). But in order to cheat NASA, the docs couldn't cheat. Most of them don't have hearts. But they do have brains. They don't care about the health of their patient any more than they do the cleanliness of a car. They just want to complete the task.

Did you care for any of the potential newbies, or did their personalities make you miss the good-looking trio from past seasons, who returned to gaslight their old boss in this episode? House was seeing or not seeing the ghosts of Eric Foreman, Allison Cameron, and Robert Chase just as he was starting to realize that he can't live without them. Loved the scene where House swiped a suspect bagel smeared with listeria cream cheese from Dr. Wilson (infection be damned) and was told, ''It's always interesting when repressed guilt starts unrepressing itself.'' I'm so enjoying every moment that Wilson needles House, and I felt sorry for our guitar God trying to bring his Flying V back to life.

In fact, this whole episode was about trying to repair broken dreams. Cameron told House, ''You couldn't kill her dream,'' referring to Greta the astronaut and obliquely to Cameron the doctor. The Columbia University admissions guy was hoping to become a real licensed medical boy. And House revealed a pair of dashed youthful fantasies when talking about living with disappointments: ''I never opened for Springsteen or slept with Barbara Feldon.''

So what do you think? Will House get a heart and reassemble his original dream team? Which of the wannabe ducklings would you like to see more of? And do you have a favorite House quip from this episode? Mine is ''Twins! This argument is distracting every male and lesbian here,'' followed by ''Someone is paging me during Judge Judy.''

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Originally posted Oct 03, 2007