Sela Ward and Hugh Laurie, <EM>House</EM> Sela Ward and Hugh Laurie, House

The biggest question on Fox's House (Tuesdays at 9 pm/ET) this season hasn't been whether the brilliant Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) can cure all of those disturbing diseases  it was whether the seemingly unlovable lug would be able to win back his true love, Stacy Warner (Sela Ward), the beautiful  and married  lawyer who returned last season to shake up House's world.

In the Feb. 7 episode, we finally got the answer.

We first met Stacy when her husband needed medical treatment at Princeton-Plainsboro. Ever since then, House has ceaselessly angled to get back in her life  and in the Jan. 10 episode, their chemistry gathered some intense momentum. "We started the whole arc off very subtly  and very unsatisfyingly to some viewers," says executive producer David Shore. "So in the episodes leading up to this one, we brought them to the brink. And then we pushed them right over the cliff."

Stacy helps bring out House's softer side. "I think she's a great match for him and really does serve to bring out pieces of him that you wouldn't be able to see otherwise," Ward says. (Exhibit A: That unexpected hotel-room kiss when the two were stuck in Baltimore.)

Last week, Stacy was forced to make some tough decisions about how far she'll go for love. When she did, House was faced with an even tougher dilemma: Is he willing to change to make her happy?

Shore teased that showdown as "the Casablanca episode," for reasons that became quite clear at the end. And in true House fashion, the doc's motivations will remain somewhat mysterious. "Before Stacy came along," Shore says, "he was this curmudgeon  and he's still a curmudgeon, but he had love, and he sends it out of his life. We're all left wondering why he did it."

As for how House copes with his decision, Shore remains coy: "We're going to deal with the fallout. We're not going to have him pining for the rest of the season, but we want to at least give a nod to the end of the relationship."

But is it really over? As Ward says, Stacy's exit "definitely leaves things open. We talked about it before I left  it's such a tricky story line. I don't know if the producers will do anything; I don't think they know."

Hazy futures aside, there's plenty in upcoming episodes to keep fans glued. As House's season continues, Shore says, "We've got some good stuff happening with Wilson [Robert Sean Leonard] and his [personal life]. That gets a little bit more extreme." Maybe House should find a cure for broken hearts.