By Caryn James | James on Screens April 11, 2011 at 1:00AM
At the start of tonight’s bold new episode of House, we learn that Thirteen, who mysteriously fled last year, has been in prison. (No real life surprise: Olivia Wilde was off filming Tron). As she walks through the prison gates, she is astonished to find House waiting with a martini -- what more can a girl ask for? And as if the writers were energized by being free of the interminable Cuddy-House on-and-off romance, the episode zooms in a fresh direction.
Actually, it heads to upstate New York, as House insists on taking Thirteen along to a spud gun competition - apparently they look like bazookas and spit out potatoes. He’s not using her as a Cuddy replacement, though; he wants to find out the real, rather than the legal, reason she was in prison.
When he finally learns the secret, we read his reaction a lot better than Thirteen does, which says a lot about how well we’ve come to know Hugh Laurie’s character, not in a predictable way but with the closeness of real life. Should Thirteen have been able to read him better? Maybe; she’s never been the strongest written character, even though the series has piled on life-defining traits including bisexuality and a degenerative disease.
The subplot back at the hospital involves a hoarder, and it stays on the background where it belongs. But we know that Thirteen's return means that Amber Tamblyn’s character is on her way out the door. That's too bad. Her naive but supersmart character grew on me, even though I can never remember her name; it’s Masters, not that we’ll need it much longer.
This quirky episode turns out to be profoundly emotional yet, true to House, unsentimental. Here's a glimpse, which includes a behind-the-scenes interview with Laurie and Wilde. Somehow, the surprising difference between Laurie's British accent and House's American one never gets old.