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Heading into the end of House M.D.‘s Season Seven: From “The Fix” to “After Hours”

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Spoiler Alert: some details of Monday night’s House episode revealed toward the end of this article.

Since Season 2, we have seen Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) flirting with trying radical fixes for his leg. For all his cynicism, rationality and skepticism, House has always been gullible and unbelievably naive when it comes to The Leg. As much as he would mock, deride and ridicule patients who have tried all

Hugh Laurie is House courtesy FOX

varieties of snake oil, House is just as prone as any of his last-resort patients to false (and not-so-false) hope.

The question is, “Why?” What is it that propels House to take risks with his health and well being? Why self medicate? Why not just visit a pain specialist and trust the process? What does he have in common with the last-resort patients who come to him, willing to be berated and mocked to have a chance at his medical mojo?

“The Fix” revisits this familiar House themes (particularly explored in Season 3), but now after the enormity of the events in House’s life post-Mayfield. At the beginning of Season 6, after his release from Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital, House seems a changed man. After months of in-patient therapy at a psych hospital, he is released with a new lease on life—and a new outlook.

On antidepressants, ibuprofen and undergoing therapy, House embarks on trying to live a somewhat normal life. (By the way, I do not believe we are ever meant to understand that House’s pain is completely controlled by the any combination of distractions, therapy, antidepressant drugs, which are also used to treat chronic pain), and Motrin.)

His pain ebbs and flows, exacerbated when he can’t find enough distraction to keep it at bay. Distraction and therapy—and increasing amounts of ibuprofen (and not a little alcohol), along with the terrible fear that going back on Vicodin will unleash the demons in his mind keep House away from narcotics. His main distraction for nearly two seasons has been Cuddy: the pursuit, trying to be a better person (for her) all help to keep House’s mind from the chronic pain.

But by the end of the last season, with Cuddy now engaged to Lucas, and a patient with whom he has connected in a very visceral way, now dead, House returns home at the end of “Help Me.” His leg in agony, his life in tatters, his last (he thinks) chance at happiness has vanished. House is only rescued from despair by Cuddy’s 11th hour declaration of love. 

I’ve spoken in previous articles about Cuddy’s ambivalence going into their relationship—and about House’s fear that Cuddy would end it, so I won’t explain again why I feel the breakup in “Bombshells” doesn’t bother me as much as it has many others in the fan community. I do, however, agree with the assessment by some that it feels abrupt coming immediately after House’s drunken declaration to Cuddy in “Recession Proof.” Her decision to end it seems arbitrary, something even she acknowledges to Wilson.

The breakup triggers an “oh what the f**k” reaction in House, propelling to do his best to live down to everyone’s worst expectations. Back on Vicodin, perhaps as much to punish himself as to make the pain go away, House is out of control for two episodes before ending the bender, considerably worse off than when he began it. This is House at his most self-pitying and pathetic. He doesn’t seem to care about anyone or anything, least of all himself. I’ve never especially liked this House, where any sympathy for him is because we feel sorry for his circumstances. Sympathy for House should mainly come from his latent (albeit wounded) nobility. 

It is incredibly hard for anyone to find sympathy for House during this time; he lashes out at everyone, most significantly himself. There is little redeeming about him, and there is no sense that he is coming to his senses through either of these episodes (until the final scene of “Fall from Grace.” He’s disaffected from the medicine and the patients; medicine has always been his “one thing,” and in the two post “Bombshells” episodes, House’s passion for that “one thing” has fled. (We won’t even talk about the nonsensical monster truck differential and the farcical “green card” wedding in “Fall from Grace.”)

And although he crawls out the other end of this period beginning to come to terms with the relationship, House is still badly wounded and bleeding internally. No one, not even Wilson, recognizes that House is in as much distress as he really is. In “The Fix” Wilson thinks House is finally getting back to normal; he’s clearly not.

I’ve considered that perhaps House’s nearly year-long involvement with Cuddy may have been in some ways a pause button on the last scene in “Help Me.” And now, without the support, distraction and happiness of this relationship, House comes crashing down, picking up right where he left off going into last season’s finale. It wasn’t a good place. And I wonder how much emotional damage (held at bay for months) suffered by House’s encounter with Hanna in “Help Me” is affecting his judgment going into the season’s final episodes. It goes back to the leg: what was done to it, and the damage (physical and emotional) done.

It’s not that House hasn’t tried (or at least contemplated) radical therapies for the leg before. At the end of Season 2, after some serious soul searching House tries the veterinary anesthetic Ketamine, and in Season 3 after the Ketamine fails, House explores transplanting nerve cells into his leg that can feel no pain (“Insensitive”) and goes so far as to enroll himself in a drug trial that involves a sticking an implant into the “pleasure center” of his brain (“Half Wit”). In Season 5, he tries Methadone, nearly killing himself in the process. Freedom from pain and its transformative effect (less misery) are ultimately the real “white whale” to House’s Ahab. 

But in “The Fix” we see House stealing an experimental drug—something not even yet in clinical trials, injecting it into his veins on the basis of the researcher’s protocol for rats. This is a level of desperation we’ve never seen before in House (although he’s come close). What drives House to try these insane experiments on himself? That is an answer to which we come closer in Monday’s new episode “After Hours.”

“After Hours” intersects three stories; they each take place late at night. Thirteen’s prison acquaintance appears at her door late at night suffering from a stab wound to the abdomen received at a crack house. Refusing to be taken to a hospital, she insists that 13 treat her at the apartment; she agrees. Perplexed by her friend’s loss of blood pressure on one side, 13 needs help and calls Chase, who is at home reading in bed (about the Crusades!?). But upon seeing the friend, Chase insists they get to the hospital despite the friend’s terror of being arrested as soon as they hit the hospital entrance.

The second begins when Taub finds out that the nice  young nurse with whom he’s been hanging out (literally, I suppose) is (oops) pregnant. Taub has no interest in becoming a father, and goes to drown his sorrows with Foreman at a strip club, where Taub has an interesting (and possibly life-altering) encounter.

The third story finds House getting some frightening news. You know that experimental drug he’s been taking? The one that finally has begun to work? Well, it seems that rats on which this drug had been working so well to rebuild muscle have all died of large tumors. Although the researcher takes the news in stride, House is freaked out to say the least.

Doing an MRI on himself, House sees the same sort of tumors in his right leg that killed the rats. Intending to remove them himself proves a little too much even for House.

The episode deals with unreasonable (or perhaps reasonable) fear in all three stories; each of the characters has to address deep seated (and sometimes irrational) fears, some going back months; some years. Most significantly, we gain a new understanding of House, one that cuts to the core of his pathology and his deepest fears.

I will tell you that the tension is unrelenting and there are two scenes that misted my eyes. There are important moments for five of the series regular characters, including one dormant story thread that makes an unexpected (and very welcome) reappearance in the fabric of this excellent episode.

I have to warn you, the episode is very, very graphic in parts—almost unwatchable for a couple moments, so be prepared. I wish I could tell you more, but I can’t. 

In the meantime, enjoy clips from Monday night’s show, which airs 8PM ET. And if you haven’t, please check out my interview with House executive producer Katie Jacobs.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • MusicandHouse

    I am so excited for “After Hours”. I’ll just have to remember to eat dinner at like 4pm so that I won’t have to worry about um seeing it again while I am watching House.

  • Loreen

    Thank you for the review! I’m excited for the episode.
    One question: each story gets the same amount of screentime?

  • Sacha

    I’m positively excited for this ep! I sorely missed Chase in S7, and even if I’m not too fond of Thirteen, I’m sure Jesse Spencer will rock their scenes together. Just one little question: is the dormant story thread Chase-related, or is it about House?

  • Laura

    Another wonderful article. Monday can’t come soon enough.

  • Leiney

    I love your idea of “the pause button” and connecting this “breakdown” to “Help Me.” It helps put season 7 in perspective. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • http://barbarabarnett.wordpress.com barbara barnett

    Thanks guys for your kind words. I do believe people will enjoy the episode. Having seen it, I’m on pin needles to see the finale.

  • Jared G

    Thanks for the review. Seems like this episode was written well, far better than (ie, out of the shoot, last temptation, fall from grace). Sometimes i wonder whether i knew the producer at some point because House’s character seems an exact replica of me, the sarcastic, deragatory and outrageous remarks.

  • Alejandro

    Will the final moments between House and Cuddy at the end of “After Hours” provide some degree of closure – perhaps bittersweet – to the painful emotional fallout from their breakup, or does there still remain enough unfinished business between them that will carry over into the season finale?

  • Kate

    I can’t wait for this episode because of all the “Chase time” many reviewers promised it will have. Jesse Spencer is amazing and it’s a real shame he got this unrealistic playboy storyline this year. It’s not that a man in Chase’s position would not go out and look for sexual adventures. Of course many men would do that after a bad or unsuccessfully marriage to distract themself. But to show Chase acting like a brainless teenager while doing it really was a turn off for me, because I just can’t imagine that Chase would ever act like that. The writers really could have written this storyline in a different and better way.
    I hope this episodes will make up for some of the mistakes the writers made this season with Chase’s character :)

  • Emma

    So House used Cuddy as a distraction? Good grief, I thought he had actual intentions toward her.

  • Jane E

    Nice article. I think you did a great job with the summarization. I can’t wait until tomorrow night.

  • 2 lightworker

    Thank you for this, particularly for your thoughtful warning about the self-surgery part.
    Barbara, I love the way you lift up the metaphor of “the Leg,” and it made me think of limping Jacob after his wrestling with the angel.
    Although it seems that the conceptualizers of the show prefer the dark angel, and seem not to favor long-lasting romantic relationships or marriages, based on the 7 years of story arcs, I wonder if there is still something coming eventually that will suggest that even the most screwed up among us can find someone who loves us “warts and all.”

    While I imagine that anyone with whom our Hero fell in love to assuage his inner torment would have appealed so some viewers and not to others, the long yearning he had prior to Season 7 feels that the depiction of the House/Cuddy relationship was not handled with the seriousness anyone would have wished for – pro-“Huddy” or not, and the unfolding was confused, although sometimes fun, which in itself added to the Housian mystery. Sometimes I think that the Arlene comments brought a common sense assessment of reality, counterpoint to what was being played out, but perhaps intentionally so.
    Is the only conclusion with integrity for House’s journey for him to drive HL’s red convertible over a cliff, a la “Thelma and Louise?”

  • Scotty Boy

    Barbara, when you write about a “dormant story thread that makes an unexpected (and very welcome) reappearance in the fabric of this excellent episode,” over what period of time are you referring to? Since the beginning of Season 7 or much earlier in the show’s history?

  • BrokenLeg

    I’m beginning to think all this season has been some kind of hallutination. So the “cliffhanger” inside a “clifffhanger” as someone said. And “After Hours”/”Moving On” are the continuation of “Help Me”. So this season bad writting becomes agood one.
    H/C loving relationship really never exists.
    ¿Toughts?

  • http://barbarabarnett.wordpress.com barbara barnett

    Scotty, it goes back farther then the beg. of season 7

  • ruthinor

    Hmmm, the “dormant” story that seems most obvious to me is the Dibala incident with Chase. Of course, this is “House”, so “obvious” is not always the case. But it did seem that this was an incident that deserved more of a resolution. Any other guesses?

  • http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com Ladybelle Fiske

    I can’t wait either! Looking forward to it. That thread… could it involve Stacy? Or Cameron? Or ??? I wonder, and look forward to seeing what happens… very much. Thank you.

  • Lauren

    I’m guessing the dormant story is Chase’s guilt over the Dibala thing. If I’m right, I’m interested to see what kind of heart to heart he and 13 have.

  • Emma

    @17 Emma, I hope you’re right about Stacy! Sela ward has tons of chemistry with Hugh Laurie, can’t wait for the unfolding of next season.

  • http://barbarabarnett.wordpress.com barbara barnett

    Emma-that’s not what I said. House being in love: the courtship, the pursuit, the relationship itself distract from his other troubles (his physical and emotional troubles). I didn’t say that he used Cuddy as a distraction. Now that that bubble has burst, he has nothing to focus on other than his anguish.

  • Rinay

    one story thread I never thought was resolved for house was from “one day, one room”. People don’t become like House for no reason… it’s not purely innate personality. Bitterness needs a seed in order to take root. In “1day1room” I think we found out a little more of that. I also think House’s pain hasn’t been taken seriously enough by other characters this season. Antidepressants don’t do that much for pain… or at least not the kind of pain that comes from such an injury.

  • nitemar

    Ive read somewhere about the end of After Hours is Houseian..to me it implies hallucinations. For some reason I can see Amber and Kutner popping in this episode, perhaps is one of the surprises Barbara has made referece about?

  • Harley

    Whoa! i have only just seen this article thank you Barbara!

    I cannot wait for this episode even though i feel i may have to watch from behind a pillow.

    The dormant story thread has got to be House with his mother and Chase with the Dibala incident?

  • http://barbarabarnett.com Barbara barnett

    That would be telling, harley

  • Harley

    24 – Barbara barnett

    True but i will predict that these are the ones that are shown in tomorrows episode, i have now seen others have mentioned Chase and Dibala so scratch that one but i have faith in the House and his mother one ; )

  • 2 lightworker

    @14-Broken Leg

    we’ve processed these theories for months,
    with some amazing scenarios, and now…………..tonight and next week, time will tell! :-)

  • BrokenLeg

    @ 2 lightworker

    Nice to hear you again!!!

  • The Other Barnett

    Barb, nice review and preview. I now want to get home a full hour before so I will not be bothered by anything else.

    The Leg reference is an interesting thing to go into. The Leg Pain represents pain from the surgery, sadness over loss of whatever perceived vigor he had, and betrayal from Stacy and Cuddy.

    House was already a damaged man when he first went into the hospital – look to the relationship with dad and whatever messed up stuff that may have been there with his mother (yes I think something dysfunctional is there). Stacy was this human pain-killer for House, until she (in his mind) betrayed him with the “middle-path”. From that time on, House is defined as much by his pain and his leg as by his diagnostic brilliance. In some ways, House saw the two things as intertwined – the medical hail-mary passes that he’d throw were (in my mind) actual signs of House taking a more healthy view of his life. He was actually untangling the sides of himself (the physical impediment and the brilliance) in order to address what he perceived to be the thing that holds him back.

    I have no pity for House after the break-up. My sympathy for him vanished as soon as he decided to jump back into the vicodin bottle. However, the antics were entertaining and perfectly enjoyable as long as he does not hurt himself (listen to Wilson on this – from the Fix).

    Getting back to the pain and the vacation from pain that Huddy represented for House…I wonder if all those people talking about the “it was all a dream” scenario may be right. It would explain away the arbitrary ending of the relationship, the horribly structured relationship itself, and so much more (moreso than “its bad writing”) to my liking than the ugly alternative. Still, I wonder if this relationship (if it happened) was merely a pause in House’ return to druggie-land….and if the pause was more damaging than if he had just popped a few vicodin at the end of “Help Me” and moved on.

    Back to the pain and House seeking to escape it…..If House sees being free from pain as being free from emotional darkness, does this mean that he is actually taking a healthy step into getting beyond his demons? It is so easy for people to say that someone in pain should “just deal with it”, but most of these people who feel that way never have experienced the pain (and the facts surrounding it) that House has. Remember “Last Resort” where a gunman’s illness drove him to taking hostages. Certainly House has taken a more healthy approach than that man. House may have other flaws and more land mines in the psyche than just the pain….but how can he address the other things in his life while having that leg remind him of so much more than just the physical pain?

    2 Lightworker…good point about Jacob and the Angel….

    The dormant story…..I think Dibala is done….I do wonder if House would confront his mother about his real father, though. Also wondering if it could be about Taub and his feelings about Kutner’s death. Seriously doubt that Amber and Kutner are being brought back to torment House again. Would Lydia drop in? How about the teenager who had a crush on House showing up as a med-student? Saucy!

    Finally, did anyone see Hugh Laurie on Graham Norton on BBA America? He did a gig on one of the songs in his CD….he needs to keep his day job.

  • 2 lightworker

    @27 BrokenLeg

    Ditto ;-)

  • http://blogcritics.org/video/article/heading-into-the-end-of-house/comments-page-2/#comments j.i.m.

    I just watched “The Fix” after missing several previous episodes. Poor House seems like he’s trying to navigate through some kind of nightmare. His eyes appear permanently haunted. Hugh Laurie as an actor is a natural wonder.

    House’s line, “What a lovely day.”, conjured up the plot of a romantic classic film, “I Know Where I’m Going” directed by Powell and Pressburger. The plot parallels that of House and Cuddy in some interesting ways.

    The film began with a woman travelling by train, boat and private car to marry her rich fiancé and being greeted along the way by these words: “It’s a grand day.”; “It’s a fine day.”; and “It’s a sublime day.” But the greeting is transformed into “It’s a pity about the day…” when her wedding plans are interrupted simultaneously by mother nature and the encountering of her true love for the first time (the poor Scottish Lord of Kiloran).

    Fear of love almost kills them both (the ‘Bride to Be’ and the ‘Lord of Kiloran’) when the bride tries to escape her fate by challenging mother nature (a storm on the sea).

    As the bride finally leaves to marry her rich industrialist, she apologizes to her true love for not being able to change herself and he replies that she’s alright as she is. He asks her to sometimes remember the song he sang her, “You’re the one for me…” And she asks him to kiss her for the first and last time in farewell. A classic romance!

    I’m afraid the height of romance between House and Cuddy will be attained when they become ‘true friends’ for the first time toward the end of season 8. (House to Cuddy in season 6: Friends – “That’s the last thing I want to be with you.”)

  • Susan

    #30 j.i.m.- Can you clarify “true friends”, when House said that’s the last thing he wants. If that’s the height of their romance I think I’ll stay with “Now What”.

    But I still seem to have hope for “more than friends” in Season 8.

    Sorry for being so House/Cuddy-centric in my remarks. Unfortunately, for me they are the show and I watch it through the prism of their relationship even now.

  • http://barbarabarnett.wordpress.com barbara barnett

    Review of tonight’s episode is up…tell me what you think!

    TV Review: House, M.D. – “After Hours”

  • http://blogcritics.org/video/article/heading-into-the-end-of-house/comments-page-2/#comments j.i.m.

    @Susan #31, On the chance that you check this thread again…I’m House/Cuddy centric too and after “Now What” and their year together, their own ‘prisms’ have been inextricably altered to include one another and this alteration colors everything that happens between them and more.

    To answer your question about how I would define a ‘true friend’…it leans towards ‘unconditional’ love. But, of course, one’s own personal happiness is not daily and intimately intertwined with a friend as with ‘the love of one’s life’. So it’s easier to love a friend ‘unconditionally’.

    (pure speculation!)
    But if House and Cuddy can become true friends, than all the other ways they have loved each other (family love and passionate love) could be regenerated in the future. Unfortunately this possible regeneration of passionate love will probably only be hinted at, for those who want to see it, short before the final finale of season 8. All we’ll get to actually see is the true friendship.