So here we are at Episode Two, “Rendition,” written by my dear friend Doris Egan. I worked with Doris on a show called Tru Calling, and was thrilled to get a chance to work with her again. Doris has been writing at House for the last few years and probably thought she’d gotten away from tense last-minute medical solutions. Not so fast!
So are you ready to walk through the ep with me. As always – SPOILERS AHEAD!
First – tarmac action. And here is the wonderful Dichen Lachman from Dollhouse. And then we get to see Gwen separated from her baby. Russell was very clear that all we would have to do is put Eve Myles in this scene and trust her to fight like a tiger. And clearly, she does.
Back in the CIA, we get more of a window into the current state of the world — social implications like YouTube videos and political ones like wars starting and ending. I love the sense that the “Miracle” has results that are understandable but unpredictable. Coming up with logical results was some of the most fun we had in the room.
Gwen’s emotions are so darn complex. Is she happy? Furious? Relieved? Frantic with worry? YES. Yes, to all of those. And that’s great, because she would be. We always talk about giving characters clear wants and goals, about knowing what they’re feeling, but if you can manage it, that doesn’t mean the feelings have to be facile.
The new way to do triage is another one of my favorite scenes. I think this is one of the things I love about science fiction – you can write scenes in which the rules of a whole world change – it’s sort of like writing for a cop show in that a character has a realization about who the killer is or something, only it’s a realization about something so much bigger – about how the definition of “killer” just changed, to use an example that could fit into our show. I just like the big size of that canvas.
Jilly Kitzinger was a character we had great fun with in the room long before the amazing Lauren Ambrose was cast. The high heels, the attitude, and the name were there from the beginning.
Lauren Ambrose as Jilly Kitzinger
When I read these scenes in the panel room in Doris’s first draft, I got totally intimidated. They were already filled with the little details about the person taking coffee orders and originally there was a bit about someone bringing in laptop cords and power strips.
The scene has lots of people talking over each other,and past each other — and it’s packed with exposition. This is a very hard kind of scene to write believably and I really did feel that Doris’s work here meant I had to raise my game.
Some sounds are recorded long after the original shooting of a scene – maybe a gasp or a groan, or fight noises. Some of those were Jack’s vomit noises. Well, guess where I was when John Barrowman came in, weeks after shooting, to record his vomit noises? I was right there in the room with him. It was an experience, I’ll tell you that! And you’ll be happy to know that every vomit noise in the episode was made by him personally! Accept no substitutes!
The idea of using chelation on the plane came from friend-of-the-show Bob Harris, who didn’t just suggest chelation, but worked out all the things you could find on a plane to make EDTA. I think this is a great sequence – smart and funny and tense and beautifully directed. I’m going to be speaking at the American Chemical Society conference next month and I’m going to bring this sequence with me to show them that sometimes we care about chemistry. You know, when it’s sufficiently dramatic for us.
In the airport, I love that the new configuration of Torchwood happens without any discussion. It’s messy and the car situation is messed up and funny and the encounter with Dichen is weird and then “Welcome to Torchwood.” I love it when a plan sort of comes together, but not really and there isn’t a plan, but you trust the people to take you where you need to go.
If you missed it, be sure to check out last week’s Jane’s Take.