If Dr. House is annoying and everyone in his orbit would say so it's hardly from a surfeit of virtue. Season 5 leaps off an idea established in the previous season's finale that perhaps House is so toxic, so selfish, he's actually a danger to others. The daring two-parter had viewers winding through a labyrinth of hallucinations, dreams, and false memories, before finally revealing that House had gotten sloshed at a bar and called buddy Wilson to pick him up, only to be met by Wilson's girlfriend (and House's former job applicant), Amber (Anne Dudek), who subsequently died from her injuries in the bus crash. Because you can't kill a guy's girlfriend without bruising some feelings, the accident establishes this season's central conflict. (Warning: spoilers galore!) Picking up two months later, Wilson returns to the hospital and announces that he's resigning, having decided to put some distance between him and his ex–best pal though he'll eventually return to help House with a personal crisis. Says Shore, ''We haven't terminated Robert Sean Leonard's contract.''
Fact is, House isn't tearing up anybody's contract this season Thirteen (Wilde) stays on, despite having learned in the season finale that she has Huntington's disease, and with it, a 10-year life expectancy. Cameron and Chase remain romantically entangled (er...awkward?), and will have more scenes and an entire episode that focuses primarily on them. And the long-simmering flirtation between House and Cuddy pays off in episode 6 when the duo finally lock lips. The trick will be for writers to steer clear of the Moonlighting curse otherwise known as okay-they-did-it-now-what? syndrome. Shore says caution is the word of the day: ''Sexual tension is fantastic, and we enjoy it but, you know, so many shows have been killed by acting on it.''
And since they're ratcheting up the stakes on everything this season, why not explore whether House can support a spin-off? Actor Michael Weston (Law & Order: SVU) joins as private investigator Lucas Douglas, a (slightly) nicer version of House who will poke into patients' backgrounds and help the docs with their diagnoses. (Cases this season include recipients of the same organ-donor tissue who keep dropping dead, and an overworked feminist activist who begins hallucinating ants all over her body.) But House being House, he can't help but use Lucas for more colorful purposes like digging up dirt on his own staff. ''It strikes him as an amusing way of running his department, to hire a private investigator,'' says Laurie. ''He also is desperately curious to know how Wilson is faring without him.'' Should Weston's character click with fans, there's talk of giving him his own show. ''I don't want to do just another medical show,'' Shore admits. ''What does excite me in terms of writing is the choices people make and the nature of right and wrong...and a private investigator can approach that question much more readily than a doctor can.''
Whether or not House M.D. begets House's P.I., the good doctor isn't going anywhere: Fox has Laurie locked down through the 2010–11 season. The actor declines to speculate on whether he'd want to continue beyond that, but he does have some thoughts on how he'd like Dr. House to leave the building. ''Go with a bang,'' he decides. ''We should do something so egregiously offensive that there are questions raised on the floor of the Senate, and David Shore is indicted, and I'm repatriated and not allowed to come back into the country. It should be something magnificent. We should just flame out.'' As if House would have it any other way.
Go behind the scenes with the stars of House at EW's photo shoot