'House': Olivia Wilde returns as Thirteen -- so where was she?

olivia-wilde-house-dig.jpg Olivia Wilde returned to "House" as Thirteen on Monday (April 11) -- and in addition to lending her expertise in physics to House, she explained her long absence from Princeton Plainsboro.

In real life, Wilde was filming a pair of movies during her time away. On the show, Thirteen has been doing time for much of the time since we last saw her, and House ( Hugh Laurie) is there to pick her up when she's set free. What follows is a slightly form-breaking episode -- House and Thirteen are off on a road trip while the rest of the team deals with its case of the week.

Yet even while House and Thirteen were off trying to beat a punk teenager in a potato-gun competition, House was putting his diagnostic skills to use. One of his core principles has always been "everybody lies," and it was clear that Thirteen was lying (or at least leaving out a few facts) about what landed her behind bars.

She pleaded to a charge of over-prescribing drugs and served six months, but she gives up nothing as he pokes and prods about her sentence: You were running a bleeding-heart medical consultancy for illegal immigrants. You gave phony prescriptions for medical marijuana ("I did, but I didn't get caught," she deadpans). And then there's the fact that she asks House to drive to a house, knocks on the door, knees the guy in the groin and calmly walks back to the car. (I really liked the fact that we observed the whole thing from House's point of view in the car; kudos to director Matt Shakman and writers Sara Hess and David Hoselton for framing it that way.)

Eventually, she offers up this: "I killed a man." But how? A misdiagnosis? That was our thought. A hookup gone wrong? House offers this explanation, and Thirteen tells him yes, that's what happened: She met a guy, went home with him, and he overdosed. So why's she crying in their motel room?

A few potato-gun modifications (it was pretty amusing to see Thirteen get as absorbed in the competition as House was, if not moreso) and a few more rounds of interrogation later, we get to the actual, and sobering, truth: She helped her (previously unmentioned) brother, who like her inherited Huntington's disease from their mother, end his life. He had lost control of his body physically, and his mind was slipping too, and she saw it as the compassionate thing to do. She also knew to wear gloves, so that while she procured the drugs for the assisted suicide, no one could definitively say whether she or her brother administered them.

(In Patient of the Week-land, the team gets to the bottom, literally, of a man who's brought in with respiratory problems and turns out to live in a trash-filled house. The hoarding has caused his illness, but it's his wife -- whom Masters and Chase find under a tarp in the house -- who's the hoarder. Her hoarding was triggered by a breakdown related to multiple miscarriages, and the syndrome that caused them also explains the cardiac issues she developed at the hospital.)

We were Cuddy- and Wilson-free with this episode (the show's 150th), and the fact that at least half of the action took place outside the hospital shook up the usual "House" formula just enough to make it feel fresher than usual. (Thirteen's incredulous reaction to the idea of House and Cuddy having dated helped too.) It also gave us some renewed appreciation for what Wilde brought to the show. Amber Tamblyn has done well with her role as Masters, but the history Thirteen and House (and Wilde and Laurie) have elevated their scenes.

What did you think of Thirteen's return?
Photo/Video credit: FOX