House, Season Five, Episode Eleven, “Joy to the World
Original airdate December 9, 2008
In the ever-increasing list of iconic television portrayals that were not rewarded with an Emmy, Hugh Laurie’s performance as Dr. Gregory House may be on the top of my list. Laurie’s performance is incredible when taken on its own, but those familiar with his work in things like Jeeves and Wooster, Stuart Little, 101 Dalmatians and a wide array of British television shows will appreciate just how much of a departure David Shore’s show was from his usual high-pitched, bumbling characters. Laurie is nothing short of incredible as the modernized, medical version of Sherlock Holmes, and combining that with the way in which Shore and his writers progressed the character and peeled back his gruff layers to reveal his humanity helps cement the show as an all-timer.
There were a good number of Christmas-themed episodes to choose from, but for one reason or another “Joy to the World” stood out to me as the most desirable revisit. We’ve certainly seen darker and more sinister behavior from the title character, and this episode is rather tame compared to what the show had led us to expect. There are still some incredible zingers from Laurie, but what really makes this episode sing here is the interactions between the characters. At this point in the game, House is still free from the meandering and lifelessly repetitive melodrama that would plague later seasons, and getting to see what makes all these characters tick served as a wonderful reminder why I loved this show in the first place.
Cuddy’s desire to adopt a child has reached full force, and children are everywhere to be found throughout the episode. Patient of the week Natalie Soellner (B.K. Cannon) collapses at her high school Christmas recital, revealing her inner angst and turmoil brought about by bullying. Writer Peter Blake stages some great scenes between Cuddy and Natalie, and Lisa Edelstein shines brightly with the strong material she’s given. Kal Penn’s Dr. Lawrence Cutner, a series highlight, has some fun interplay with Peter Jacboson’s Taub that culminates in an effective emotional payoff.
Olivia Wilde essentially became a star thanks to her role as “Thirteen,” and her scenes with Omar Epps are a perfect example of why. The banter between House and Robert Sean Leonard’s Wilson is another series highlight, and the conversations between the two about House’s inner angst and tendencies to be a Scrooge do not disappoint. A fun surprise pops up with the presence of a pre-fame Lucas Till as one of Natalie’s classmates.
Gift-giving pops up a lot throughout “Joy to the World,” but the film’s subplot about a virgin birth is what makes this episode worthy of our advent calendar. House’s clinical duties unearth a pregnant girl who is a virgin waiting until marriage for sex with her fiance. The more House investigates the case, the more it seems a scientifically provable case for immaculate conception could be the answer. Children are a wonderful gift, but maybe the best gift of all is a doctor with a sarcastic bite.