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By RD Heldenfels Published: October 31, 2006

This summer, I was one of many reporters interviewing a producer of ''House'' about what's coming this season. She apparently had a very good time toying with us, giving out dribs of information, or turning the interview around by asking what we wanted to see on the show.

I told her I wanted to see House get a real nemesis, someone as smart and tough as he is. She promised that he would. And tonight he does.

House, being all too House-like with a patient, finally ticks off the one guy he shouldn't do it to -- a tough, relentless and pretty ruthless new character played by David Morse. Their conflict will reach a key point at the end of tonight's episode, but it won't end there.

Morse is an interesting choice. For those of us old enough to remember ''St. Elsewhere,'' he was the perpetually victimized (and sometimes inept) doctor who won viewers over because he had this please-love-me look. More recently, though, he has abandoned that look to play characters whose superficial appeal covers the possibility of real menace; ''16 Blocks'' comes to mind. Here, he's playing off both things. You sense that House is making a mistake when he is so rude to the guy, but it only gradually becomes clear how very big a mistake House has made.

I'm not sure how well this will play out. I've seen tonight's episode and next week's, and even by next week it felt as if Morse was getting implausibly formidable. But watching him is only part of the entertainment; the bigger part is seeing how House responds to this invasion of his life, an invasion that goes both wider and deeper by the end of next week's telecast. It gives Hugh Laurie, who plays House, a new aspect of his character to wrestle with, and an intriguing match it should be.

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