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House, MD: A Little Speculation About Next Week’s Episode, “Birthmarks”

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The FOX Network press release for next Tuesday’s House, MD tells us that House’s father dies. On most television shows, we would know what to expect. Funeral, family, tears and hugs, reconciliations and regrets. But seriously, guys, this is House, MD we’re talking about, right? Nothing is ever conventional about House or House. Throw Wilson into the mix (we know he’s there from the episode previews) and who knows what we’ll get?

Of course we should expect some sort of exploration about House and his troubled relationship with his dad — and an exploration of House’s fractured relationship with his best friend Wilson. (And speaking of the wonderful duo of House and Wilson, be sure to check out next week's issue of TV Guide — hitting the newsstands Thursday — which features a wonderful interview with Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard discussing their estranged alter egos.)

So, with no new House episode to discuss this week, I thought it might be fun to speculate about how House might confront the death of his father. We already know something about House's relationship with his parents. And it's clear that his relationship with them is strained (especially with his father). House seems to avoid all contact with dad, at least.

In “Daddy’s Boy,” House’s parents have a stopover in Newark on their way to Europe. They want to drop in on their son, and House is, to say the least, reluctant to meet them. But rather than lie and make up an excuse for not seeing them, House manipulates himself into having alternative plans. He sets up dinner with Wilson so that he is unavailable. When Wilson learns what House has done to avoid his parents, he tells his friend to either see them or not, but not to use him as an excuse.

Soon, it seems, everyone in House’s circle knows that his parents are coming to visit, although no one but Cameron, Cuddy, and Wilson seems the least bit interested. He asks Cuddy to assign him to the clinic; she tells him to do the grownup thing and lie to them. Tell them you’re busy, she says.

“I can’t lie to my mother; she’s a human lie detector,” laments House. He knows that his mother will pick up on a lie, and interpret it to mean that he doesn’t want to see her. But it’s not Mom that House is avoiding — it’s dad. “I don’t hate her…” he confesses to Cuddy. “I hate him!” House says this with great bitterness.

But Mom and Dad House do come to visit, dropping in on House as he’s embroiled in a case. At least he has an honest excuse to spend as little time with his parents as possible. But even in that brief meeting, it’s clear that something’s going on beyond an unreasonable hatred of a parent.

John House is a Marine pilot. Knowing House, the quintessential non-conformist and a natural rebel, it’s obvious from their first meeting why there’s friction between the two men. When House tells his parents that he has no time to have a polite and pleasant family reunion because he has a patient dying, House senior can’t avoid a dig into his son that perhaps they should see him when he has “things more under control.” Of course, House has the case under control and is notably defensive at the notion by his father that it’s not. We get the distinct impression that they’ve had this conversation before — and not about patients.

But Blythe, House’s mom, convinces him to at least take a break and have something to eat with them in the hospital cafeteria. And when Cameron, who has been annoyingly curious throughout, turns down Blythe’s offer to join them, House is visibly relieved that whatever goes on during dinner will be kept relatively private. Blythe and John dig into their meal, while House leaves his Reuben sandwich and fries on his plate, disinterested in eating, and very, very quiet.

John also digs into his son, telling him how lucky he is to even be able to walk, criticizing him for using a handicapped parking space and mocking his lack of “babes.” When John excuses himself to use the restroom, House and Blythe are left alone. Ever the peacemaker, Blythe tells House that John’s “only tying to help.” When House tells her that he doesn’t need or want his “help,” Blythe tells House, “you’re perfect just the way you are…” House smiles wanly, retuning her smile, both acknowledging it’s a lie, but a beautiful lie.

Finally, sitting in the dark, alone in his office, his parents long gone, House absently plays a handheld racing game. Cameron comes in, and for her earlier discretion she is rewarded with a rare moment of openness from her boss. But he tells her a painful truth about his relationship with his dad. “My father wouldn’t let anybody lie about anything… great for boy scouts and police witnesses, but lousy for a dad.”

House doesn’t elaborate on what he means, however. Did House senior never lie to soften the blow of bad news to his son? When House first learned to ride a bike and fell off, did his father not tell him words of encouragement, telling him “you’re doing great,” but instead berated him for falling off? Tell him that he’s a lousy musician whenever he hit a duff note on the piano? Tell him that he was an idiot or stupid when he brought home a “B” report card?

Or did House’s dad issue severe punishment for young Gregory when he lied? Lying is something no parent tolerates (or should), but I get the impression that John House would take it to an extreme. His mother, who House describes as a peacemaker, who “hated conflict,” probably turned a blind eye to the tension between House and his father, not wanting to upset John at all, believing that interference would not mitigate the conflict but make it much worse.

Later in the episode, Wilson tells Cameron that House is a disappointment to his parents. Cameron wonders aloud to Wilson how on earth House’s parents would consider him a disappointment. “He’s a doctor, world famous,” she declares. “How could he possibly be a disappointment?”

Wilson speculates: “Do you know what’s worse than seeing your son become a cripple? Seeing him be miserable.” Wilson speculates that House’s father is disappointed that House can’t overcome his “adversity,” rise above it. Get over it.

But we’ve seen House in the morning, getting out of bed, and knowing that every day is an effort for him. House gets little credit for the courage it takes to never miss a day of work; to push through incredible pain — and for a proud individual — to ignore the curious eyes of strangers. (But I digress…)

courtesy fox.comWe learn a lot more about House’s relationship with his father later in season three, in the episode “One Day, One Room.” That episode was one of those (I think like “Who’s You’re Daddy”) that people either loved or loathed. I loved it for what it told us about House on a lot of levels… and not just his relationship with his father.

In “One Day, One Room,” House is forced to spend time “just talking” to a young rape victim, who sees in House “someone who’s hurting, too.” Something that a lot of House’s patients seem to see, and something to which they often gravitate. But in this episode, House also reveals that as a child (and we have no idea how old he was) he was abused by his father. I would speculate that this is the first time he has ever spoken to anyone about this. And I believe that neither Cuddy nor Wilson are aware that he is an abuse survivor.

We learn that House had been forced to sit in baths of ice, and forced to sleep overnight outside. At least. It’s all he revealed, and House, a notably unreliable narrator, may not have been telling the complete story. We also don’t know about Blythe’s knowledge or complicity. My guess is that being a “peacemaker,” and not wanting to make things worse for young Greg — and wanting to please her husband — she probably saw what she wanted to see. And House doesn’t seem to blame her for his problems with his father.

Which brings us to next week’s episode, “Birthmarks.” Of course, as with any television series, the question is: how much of the show’s established canon will impact the episode? I’m pretty sure that House’s difficult relationship with his dad will play a significant role, but will the issue of the abuse come up? Or will it be forgotten and not mentioned at all? In general, the series has been very good with continuity, particularly after season one (when the show’s producers had no idea they’d even have a second season, much less a fifth).

We know (from the episode publicity shots and the previews) that House is asked to deliver a eulogy at John’s funeral. Dragged there by Wilson, House does get up to the podium to speak. But what comes out of his mouth? Does he say what is in his heart? What he has wanted to say for years, but could not? Or does he hold his tongue out of respect for his mother, letting her believe a beautiful lie about his father — that he was an honorable and good man?

House internalizes so much, it’s very possible that it’s the latter. But when he’s goaded, he can be brutal and brutally honest. So it really could go either way. And how does Wilson fit into this family scenario? We know that it is Wilson who drags House, kicking and screaming, to the funeral, but how does that affect their estrangement? Will House’s actions or words at the funeral have an impact on Wilson — for good or bad? It all remains to be seen next Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

In the meantime, visit FOX.com’s official House site; the kind folks there have posted four episode clips for “Birthmarks.”

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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.
  • Orange450

    When House told Eve that he’d been physically abused by his father, I got the impression that he might not have been telling the truth about himself, but was trying to help her open up about herself. We know that he’s conveyed inaccuracies about himself on more than one occasion, so there’s a precedent for him to do that.

    I’ve come across very few people who agree with my take on this (but there *are* a few), and only time will tell, but my premise is based on analysis of House’s relationship with his father (and his mother) as presented to us in Daddy’s Boy. I posted a very long “almost essay” about it this past summer, when spoilers about the upcoming episode came out. I’d mentioned my opinion many times before without citing anything concrete to back it, so I wanted to get it all down before events in S5 cemented anything into canon.

    If House’s childhood abuse is verified beyond doubt, I will maintain that the showrunners conceived of the idea after Daddy’s Boy. The strain, difficulty and dislike come across loud and clear in that episode, and there’s no doubt that it’s a very troubled father/son relationship. But IMO, the evidence for a history of physical abuse doesn’t add up, for quite a few reasons (which I will spare you here :))

    But it’s hard for me to understand how House – having the personality that he does – could have such a seemingly unreservedly warm relationship with his mom if she had closed her eyes to physical abuse of her child (which she had to have known about, for several reasons), and let things slide to “keep the peace”. Because the refusal to face unpleasant facts is not a tendency that he tolerates kindly in others.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Hi orange. I think he was, in the end, honest with Eve. At that point he was no longer strategizing. And he was ambivalent in the end as well about the usefulness of getting her to talk. “Maybe all we’ve done was to make a girl cry.” This sounds so much like it resonates with House himself, who has after so long “talked about ‘it'” even in the smallest terms. It did nothing for him, but bring up emotions that he’d long repressed and didn’t want to come to the fore, so…I do think this fits (although I’m speculating here).

    Some aspects of House’s behavior suggest abuse (although I’m not a professional). He dislikes being touched (and has always nearly flinched when someone touches him suddenly.) Even Crandall knew (in Who’s Your Daddy) that he hates to be touched/hugged, etc.

    He has always had an affinity for the outsiders and for children. His visceral reaction in Paternity when he suspected abuse could be read as sarcasm towards Cameron, but I think it was too pointed be only that.

    So, I don’t know…but I do think that House was abused. In the Fox clips, he makes reference to his father being a bas***d (to him?) And he speaks about his father refusing to speak to him for 2 months when he was a kid. I’m sure there’s a lot more we’ll learn next week. In those clips, House looks haggard and hurting. I’m anticipating an emotion level right up there with Merry Little Christmas, Son of Coma Guy, HH or WH…I just can’t wait for this one. Hey. Good thing there’s the diversion of Yom Kippur and Sukkah building in between to make the week go very, very fast.

  • sdemar

    Thanks for sharing something with us in our off-week of House. I believe that House was abused by his father, which is why he so deeply hates him. i have no problem believing that he was submerged in ice water or left outside at night to toughen him up.

    To veer off subject for just a moment, I loathed ODOR but it wasn’t the writing. It had everything to do with the actress that portrayed the rape victim. She was just plain awful and ruined this episode for me. At least we got those beautiful scenes of House and Cuddy in the park. Sorry, I digress.

    I think House despises his father and the last thing he wants to do is sing praises to this man so I think he will use the opportunity of the eulogy to speak in code to Wilson. This will accomplish two things. It will give House an opportunity to tell Wilson how he really feels (we know that House is going to open up based on the TV article) and his mom and the attendees at the church will think it will be about his father. This will please Blythe because her son followed through on giving the eulogy and as Wilson said, she will think they were a happy family.

  • Barbara Barnett

    People definitely had a divergence of opinion on “One Day” I actually did like Eve, but could have done without the Cameron part of the story. Someone on a fan board pointed this out as well: in the Fox.com clip with Cuddy, she seems to be giving him an injection of some sort. And he seems to be in an awful lot of pain in the first clip. HE’s also looking very, very drawn and especially haggard. So House is having a lot of problems dealing with the death, with a lot of things.

    Also, last night’s preview clip made reference to a 40 year old secret–something that happened when House was nine????? Hmmm.

  • Starlight

    Hi Barbara!

    Love the article. I was looking at the promos and when I saw the look on House’s mum’s face it seemed to me that she didn’t look to happy.

    I was wondering how will House get there when it indicates that at the start he didn’t want to go through with since I live in Australia I saw the promo for next week and it showed me that House was standing when he collapsed to the ground in his office. I am sure that it is not a repeat because the shirt he was wearing was the same one on the Americam promo and it happened in his main office and not in the conference room. This indicates to me that he refused to do it and someone drugged him in order to get him into the car. I am guessing its either cuddy or wilson. Thoughts?

    Anyway I am so excited about the ep after some slow starts imo. I work in the department of human health services and I can tell you that many people who suffered from physical abuse from either a parent or someone who had a close connection with then often don’t like to be touched because in their mind it brings back memories of their past in which they rather want to forget. Reactions differ, some will get very tense and not return the touches and me awfully silent or they may flinch in a small manner or react in an almost violent explosive manner. This all depends on the person, how withdrawn they are, how severe the abuse was and the amount of times that had occured to them. It also depends on the person’s personality and their way of thinking, their environment in which surrounds them, influences on them like peers, lovers anyone that interact that may have a signifcant impact or influence on them and their way of thinking.

    I hope that helps Barbara.

  • Orange450

    Hi Barbara, I just saw the promo clips. I agree that it looks to be an incredible episode on many levels, and in spite of what I posted about the House/Lucas relationship on your Adverse Events review – it looks like House and Wilson will have some all-time-high interchanges.

    Something crazy occured to me when House spoke about his father refusing to speak to him for two months. Do you remember Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen”? The protagonist’s father brought him up “in silence” – refusing to speak to him except when they studied together (probably not a bond that House and his father shared!). The father did it for a specific reason which was purportedly beneficial (albeit in a very twisted way), but it had a profound impact on the character, and his relationship with his father. I wonder if the showrunners borrowed that detail?

    Have an easy and meaningful fast and a Chag Sameach. I’ll have to miss seeing the episode for a couple of days, but I can’t wait – both to see it and to read your review :-)

  • Kate

    Barbara this really looks like it will prove to be an intense episode on many levels. I truly believe that House was abused as a child and had taken the brunt of criticism frm his father all those years. It makes me think of “Son of A Coma Guy” when all House wanted to hear from his father was that he was right and did the right thing. As for the pain of memories, House alluded in “One Day, One Room” that you can talk about an incident and the pain all you want, but it never goes away. Yet, a profound statement to make as his pain has never really dimished.

    What will happen in next week’s episode? It is an interesting question indeed. Will House be a hypocrit and utter words of false praise for his father or will he tell the truth? As you say it is anyone’s guess. I am interested to see what warrants the reaction of Wilson throwin something with House standing there in the promo.

    I also think it is interesting how House is leery about people touching him too. He’s not comfortable with it. But on certain occassions, he has allowed it. He let Stacy touch him as ahe was close to him and he has let Cuddy touch him. With both ladies he has returned their gestures on occassions.

    I am anxious to see how House and Wilson met and their connection in terms of this episode. I wonder what the significance will be and if it will bring House and Wilson closer to repairing thier friendship. It should be a fantastic episode.

    Thanks again Barbara for another great blog that gets us thinking.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Starlight–thanks for the information and insights. I believe that Wilson is going to drag House to funeral kicking and screaming. He really, really doesn’t want to go. Not that I blame him. Even in those short clips at FOX.com, I couldn’t help but feel terrible for House (yeah, I know. Fictional characater :)

    Orange–“gam lach”–a meaningful Yom Kippur to you and a joyous Sukkot! Interesting idea about The Chosen reference. Something to ask the writer if I get the opportunity.

    Kate–thanks for your insightful comments. I can’t wait to see how it plays out!

  • Mary

    While it’s not an example of an interaction with his parents, in “Merry Little Christmas,” when House has been cornered by Tritter, and faces the possible ruin of his career and his life, it is his mother whom he calls on Christmas Eve.

    Since we, as viewers, can see his face as he’s leaving an utterly conventional, even bland, Christmas greeting for his mother (but not his father), we can see the anguish on his face. And then he takes several pills, swallows a large amount of bourbon, and Wilson finds him passed out on the floor next to his own vomit.

    It’s about as close to a suicide attempt as we’ve seen him make, and I believe it is significant both that it was his mother whom he called, and that his message gave no indication of the difficulties he was experiencing at that time.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Of course you are right, Mary. In that scene, House has hit rock bottom. He’s done with Wilson, he’s done with the pain and the anguish.

    And it’s interesting that it’s his mother that he’s thinking about…

    maybe he wanted to hear her voice, perhaps for the last time. But when he hangs up (and he does it very, very quickly…before he maybe said too much more than that bland greeting) he seems resolved to finish off the bottle of oxy and the alcohol. He had been taking oxy all day, and when he finishes off the bottle he would have taken 30 pills in a very, very short amount of time. I do think it’s signficant that it was his mom, and significant that he revealed nothing to her about his problems.

  • Jewels

    Sorry if this has been addressed already but why was there no new episode last night?

  • sassydew

    Hi Barbara! As usual, I love reading your reviews and thoughts about past and future episodes. I have never looked forward to a House episode with such an uneasy combination of anticipation and dread. We got glimpses of the fact that House has issues about his worth in “Three Stories” with Stacy pointing out that he doesn’t think he deserves to be happy and would give up his leg to save *her* life but not his own and I remember wondering what the backstory was. After seeing “Daddy’s Boy”, it was clear from my perspective that House was a victim of physical and/or emotional abuse, and that was confirmed for me, as it was for others who posted above, in “Son of Coma Guy” and “One Day One Room”. And I loved “One Day One Room” for what we learned about House, though I thought Eve was over the top (and I keep forgetting there even *was* a B-story with Cameron).

    Having viewed the recent clips on Fox and the promo from last night, I am sure we will learn about something horrible in House’s past relationship with his father. I think that’s what I’m dreading the most. Also, I am worried that no one will understand House’s point of view. I can understand completely why House might want to reveal it at the funeral, and I will be bothered if Wilson doesn’t understand. It looks like he might not, judging from two of the clips (one by the car and one in the funeral home). I think he was wrong about House having sent Stacy away because he needs to be miserable, and he clearly didn’t know about House’s relationship with his dad in “Daddy’s Boy” or I don’t think he would have gone along with Cameron’s idea to plan a dinner with House’s parents and his colleagues. I’ll stop rambling now. All I know is that I think I’ll have to miss a family Sukkah party to watch this right when it airs! Happy New Year! :-)

  • Robin

    With the episodes seen so far we know what House gets from Wilson, but it’s still not clear yet to me what Wilson values in his relationship with House. I don’t think Birthmarks will answer everything but maybe they will start healing. At least stop the heartache this split is causing me. So far what I get from Wilson is that when push comes to shove House is expendable next to his dearly beloved. I want Wilson to realize how crappy and abusive he has been to House, and one episode of togetherness can not resolve everything in a satisfying way.
    (

  • Grace

    Great comments by everyone! I think I will make sure I have a box of tissues nearby when I watch this episode.
    I agree with most of you on all points but what bothers me is why he is not at all angry with his mother. To me it doesn’t fit House’s personality not to hate her too if she knew about the abuse.
    I am hoping that House lies his butt off in the Eulogy and I think he may if only for his mother’s sake. What’s the point now?
    Wilson says to House that he is only doing this (driving him) for his mother. I believe that. I don’t think Wilson is ready to take House back into his life just yet. But it probably will be a beginning of wounds healed between House and Wilson.
    In any case, we will probably like this episode the best for the season.

  • L.Lilly

    Orange, I understand what you are saying about House’s interaction with his father in “Daddy’s Boy.” Like you, I saw the strain and dislike, but I didn’t get any vibes that John House was a physically abusive father. Tough and strict, definitely. (Perhaps I was fooled, though, by the actor’s kindly visage.)

    On the other hand, I believe what House told Eve in One Day, One Room to be true. I love that episode and have watched it many times. One of the reasons that I believe it is true is because of the connection with the “B” storyline of Cameron’s, as silly as that may sound. In both the “A” and “B” storylines, House and Cameron were forced to deal with something from their past, and they both faced it admirably in the end. Cameron’s Achille’s Heel had always been her unwillingness to deal with death and to impart bad news. Much of this came from her experience with her dying husband. In this episode, she gradually accepts the dying man’s choice to die in pain, and sits with him until the bitter end. There is some growth for her in this episode. House, in the “A” storyline, is also forced to deal with something he doesn’t want to face. In spite of his many attempts to rid himself of the rape patient, it is clear from Eve’s overdose scene that he has made a connection with her. To me, that connection is abuse. *She* sees that in him, from one abuse victim to another, in my opinion. It is only when she tells him that she feels his pain (in so many words) that he finally begins to open up.

    Having said all that, though, I don’t want to be told in “Birthmarks” that House was beaten black and blue as a child or sexually abused. Knowing this episode was written by the wonderful Doris Egan gives me confidence that it will be a poignant episode we will be talking about for a long time. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve truly looked forward to a new episode.

  • sassydew

    Grace said, “I agree with most of you on all points but what bothers me is why he is not at all angry with his mother. To me it doesn’t fit House’s personality not to hate her too if she knew about the abuse.”

    Grace, I am certainly no expert on the subject, but I know a little bit, so I can say that it isn’t particularly unusual for an abused child to hate the parent who was the abuser and have no ill feeling toward the other parent. Sometimes it’s because the other parent was bullied/abused as well, sometimes it’s because the child senses that the non-abusive parent can’t handle the truth, and sometimes it just takes too much energy.

  • Ali

    Although I think the writers intend to establish House’s history of physical abuse as canon, I personally believe they shouldn’t — for several reasons. Orange, I haven’t read your essay, but I imagine our views on the interaction between House and his father in ‘Daddy’s Boy’ are pretty similar. While the evidence of extreme tension and turbulence between them was obvious, it just didn’t read like a physically abusive father and his child to me. Emotionally abusive — insults and shouting and mindgames, etc., even physical punishment methods like spanking which were not considered ‘child abuse’ at the time — probably, but not physically abusive. House’s problems with his dad seem to be more about personality and general child-raising techniques than about hurting him physically. (For the record, I’m no professional either, although I am a child development student and have therefore done a fair amount of research on abuse and child psychology.) But that could be the writers’ fault or, as Orange said, the episode could have been written before they decided to make House a physical abuse victim. Mostly, my reasons have more to do with personal opinion and experience.

    I think physical abuse is the obvious, even cliched, explanation of ‘troubled’ fictional characters’ personalities/behavior. House has nearly all of the classical signs that indicate a history of physical or sexual abuse, so to make that the root of his issues would be WAY too easy for a show as good as ‘House.’ There are a million other reasons he could have turned out the way he did and have the relationship he has with his father, so I’d really like to see the writers explore something different. (Also, physical abuse is too often used as a cheap, lazy way of making viewers feel sorry or sad for a character, and I’d hate to think that my favorite show’s writing staff would stoop to such a low.)

    For example, I’m practically a dead ringer for House — not only in personality but even in terms of chronic pain (and painkiller) issues, all the way down to a bum right leg which makes me limp — and I too have a very strained relationship with my ex-military-officer dad branching back into childhood. But I was never physically abused by him. I was spanked (hard) occasionally, and there were times when I thought for sure he was going to do more than that, but to his credit he never did. He did traumatize me in many other ways, some perhaps intentionally (I’m not him so I can’t know for sure what his motivations were or if he realized the impact his actions would have on me) and some not, which is clearly the case with Houses Jr. & Sr. too. However, he was by no means an abusive monster like the confession in ODOR, if true, would make House’s dad seem to be.

    I just think it would be really disappointing if the writers went the obvious, overdone route with this relationship when they have an opportunity to make it so much more complex and interesting and different. I rarely see father-child relationships in fiction that I can relate to, where the dad is generally a decent person who just has a few flaws that make him not the best parent (though not the worst either). I would imagine a lot of other people out there could identify with such a storyline too, and maybe — if done a certain way — it could help them forgive their parents’ imperfections or at least understand a little better why their parents treated them the way they did. I think House has done the latter, but he definitely hasn’t done the former — and his father’s funeral would be a good starting point for it.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Great comments everyone. Look what I missed by being in synagogue all day (and I mean ALL day)–and now properly prayed and fed (and no longer starving and thirsty) I’ve had a chance to sort of catch up on comments.

    I do think it’s been established that House was emotionally abused; but also physically abused. I believe what he said to Eve, and I don’t believe that House would necessarily react to people and his father from emotional abuse (but I’m not a pro).

    I also want to see Wilson understand the role House plays in his life and appreciate that it’s not a one way relationship.

    As far as blythe knowing about the abuse, I do wonder if as Mrs. Peace-maker, she simply turned a blind eye to whatever John was doing…or let herself believe that it was better to leave it be so as to not make it worse.

    More thoughts tomorrow. Happy new year to all of my Jewish readers!

  • Orange450

    “House’s problems with his dad seem to be more about personality and general child-raising techniques than about hurting him physically.”

    Ali, I agree with your statement. It was my take, as well.

    This is copied from the conclusion of my “essay”: To me, their difficulties seem to be about existential decisions/directions over which House and his father clashed (perfectly understandable, in the face of two such different personalities), or fundamental opinions or positions which he and his father didn’t share – not about physical wrongs his father committed against him.

    I agree with your opinion that a history of physical abuse would be a predictable way to explain aspects of House’s personality, and I, too, would rather see the exploration of the relationship go in a different direction.

    I was also emotionally abused by one of my parents. That parent had come from a dark place, and I was able to understand the roots of the abusive behavior – but to understand is simply to understand, and not necessarily to forgive. Although it *is* possible to get to a stage in life where one can put it behind oneself, while resolving never to do it to one’s own children (or spouse).

    Whatever the reasons behind House’s relationship with his father (and I agree that the abuse will probably become canon), it’s obvious that he’s still in the throes of the struggle. It would be great if the writers (who do such a sensitive job of writing intensely emotional situations) could let House make some measure of peace between his past and his present. (And Hugh Laurie would do such a sensitive (and amazing) job of portraying the reconciliation!) But whatever happens is sure to be some of the most “compelling television” ever.

  • Andree

    I am reading this blog with increasing interest. I even went to read all the old stuff, because it is a real pleasure to read what mature, intelligent fans think and feel about this great series. Compared to other sites I first landed on when becoming hooked on House, where I just felt soooo old among these apparently nearly hysterical, immature people, this is just what I was looking for.

    Next week they will show House’s Head here, (yeah, we are always a year behind here in Europe, sigh) and I am looking forward to that. And as I like knowing what to expect coming next, I am eagerly waiting to see what you will write about “your” next week’s episode. Which apparently will be one of the very good ones again.

    Thanks to you all for your great comments.

  • Ali

    Oops, I forgot one thing I wanted to mention in my earlier comment. Since House’s aversion to touch has been cited so many times as evidence of physical abuse, I wanted to offer some alternate explanations. I too tend to recoil from touch (and to remain stiff/guarded even when I allow it), but I thankfully have never suffered any physical abuse in my life. (I have been put through the rigors of grueling physical activity as punishment in army ROTC, and it’s possible that House’s military father used that style of punishment on him, although I don’t think that would qualify as true abuse if it was less extreme and set at a child-appropriate level.) For me, it’s a combination of several things, including: having Asperger’s Syndrome (which I believe House does have at least to a mild degree, regardless of what Cuddy or Wilson says) and both the hypersensitivity to touch & the preference for isolation associated with it; body-image issues (we already know House doesn’t like people to touch or see his damaged leg, so it wouldn’t be unrealistic for more generalized body consciousness to develop from that); and of course, that old standby, fear of/disgust with intimacy (emotional & physical). That one’s pretty powerful, and House has plent of reasons to dislike intimacy — only some of which have to do with his father’s treatment of him. I would go into possible reasons for his other ‘abused child’ traits too, but I just finished a massive midterm essay so my brain’s wiped out for the night. I’d love to read your essay though, Orange. It sounds really insightful and well-written. Whatever path the writers decide to pave, I hope they bring something new to it, handle it with just the right blend of sensitivity & sarcasm, stay true to who the characters are, and give us something that will be satisfying to watch. I guess that’s a lot of things to ask for, but they’ve done it many times before and I’m trying to have faith that they’ll do it again!

  • Eve

    Hi Barbara, and thank you for a very well written blog, the first thing I read after a “House-viewing”.

    About Birthmarks. (Im not english, so I hope you understand me)
    I think its sad if house´ intriguing personality must be “explained” by being victim of child abuse. I think being brutally honest and having a nihilistic worldview is just the way he is, and his father might have reacted badly towards him because of it. The fact that he does not like to be touched does not apply to ex Stacy, or others close to him. So some people do not like touching everybody, so what! Are they all abuse victims? I think the show is being stereotypical if the reason behind Houses behavior is simply being an abuse-victim. He might have some traits that leans towards asperger syndrome, who also fit the “symptoms”. But most of all I think that people dont “get him”, and that his personality is something he is born with, and that it gets him in a lot of trouble also (and sadly) with his cruel dad.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Orange wrote: To me, their difficulties seem to be about existential decisions/directions over which House and his father clashed (perfectly understandable, in the face of two such different personalities), or fundamental opinions or positions which he and his father didn’t share – not about physical wrongs his father committed against him.
    Thanks for sharing that. I do agree that they would have clashed on existential, social, political and pretty much every other plane of opinion. House appears also to be a natural rebel–and a non-conformist (and as my son would point out, there is a difference.) In a military household with a strict disciplinarian father, there would have been terrible tension.

    But I also understand House as someone who is gifted. Gifted children are by nature hypersensitive, hyper-aware, even hyper allergic. If you place a kid like that in such an environment they’re likely to end up with problems–House would have probably internalized (or tried to) any sensitiviites to the point of not having (outwardly) any at all. We see this in the character, because House’s sensitivity (and I don’t mean “aw gee, let’s smell the flowers”) comes out all the time–in his playing (particularly piano), his ability to connect so emotionally to (some) patients, his dealings with children. Those longingly long shots of House peering into patient rooms once they’re healed–even his (in One Day One Room) observing and then freeing the ladybug on his hand.

    But I also believe when he says he was abused. It’s not something he would have exaggerated in his mind. So, I don’t mind it becoming canon.

    In any event, I agree that House is always in this struggle with life and with himself. We root for him, but I think it’s the thing that keep me glued to his character. I love to see that struggle and Hugh does such a wonderful job of bringing it out–especially in all of those non-scripted, non-verbal ways.

    Andree–welcome (and pass the word!). Making this blog the starting point for intelligent and thoughtful analysis of the show had really been my fondest wish for it. I am constantly amazed and gratified at the level of discussion here, and even when we disagree (as often happens) all opinions are respected. That’s the beauty of the series: it is complicated and intricate. Many interpretations are possible. I envy you for seeing “House’s Head” for the first time! Enjoy.

    Ali–you offer good alternatives explanations for House’s aversion to touch and other “abused child” behaviors. The Asperger’s issue will probably be debated until the show ends, as will other explanations for House’s self-isolation and aversion to touch. I cringed when I saw the clip in which House said his father refused to talk to him for two months. I wonder how old he was? If he was really young (not yet a rebellious teen), I wonder what sort of an impact that would have had on him. A young boy wanting his parents’ approval, gets nothing but silence for an entire summer. That alone would be devastating to a nine or 10 year old boy.

    Eve–thanks for your kind words. I don’t believe that House is defined by the abuse. It’s simply one aspect of a very, very complex personality. His giftedness/genius, his inherent personality traits (he’s probably a loner by nature to an extent, although he does crave social interaction and was deeply in love one), He is socially awkward and that, too, probably doesn’t help. His social awkwardness may come from his not “fitting in” anywhere as a kid (maybe until he went to university).

    Anyway, as I said–the beauty of the character! So complex and so intricately performed.

  • Ali

    Barbara, I love your last comment. I didn’t even think about the gifted thing, but it makes perfect sense. While I am by no means a genius like House is, I was apparently ‘gifted’ (I don’t even think of myself with that word, but apparently others do) enough as a child to qualify for Gifted & Talented programs at school, so I can somewhat relate to that. Gifted children do require a special kind of home environment to really blossom, and House’s father clearly had no idea how to provide such an environment or to encourage his giftedness. I totally agree about House being forced to internalize his sensitivities, which would help explain why he’s so reticent to express — or sometimes even acknowledge — his emotions as an adult. (As a side note, between his giftedness, a natural tendency for being a loner yet still making some attempts toward socializing, an outward lack of empathy, heightened sensitivity, extreme preoccupation with things that interest him, choosing & excelling in a scientific career, and the social awkwardness, I can’t imagine he WOULDN’T be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Plus, children with AS have trouble fitting in around ‘normal’ people, depressing them and making them feel like outcasts from society, which House definitely does. It’s really emotionally draining for an Aspie child to try to understand and conform to the ‘rules’ everyone else seems to follow naturally, which can certainly encourage the kid — especially if he’s not getting proper treatment or accomodations for his differences — to just give up and live by his own rules instead, regardless of how it affects others. Another interesting possibility is the fact that AS children tend to be naive and too trusting; that means they can be hurt/betrayed/lied to very easily and end up drawing into themselves even more for protection. What if that’s why House came to his “everybody lies” conclusion?) There are undoubtedly a lot of additional reasons, because he is a human — granted, a fictional one, but still — and human personalities rarely have a single cut-and-dry explanation. One thing I love about the show is that we learn more and more about House’s complexities as the seasons progress, that his many layers are unfolded gradually and (usually) subtly so our understanding of his character develops just as that of a real person would. And that, too, is part of why I wish physical abuse didn’t enter into the picture — because it’s such an enormously heavy issue that it could very well overwhelm all the other aspects of his character. I don’t want House to become defined by it, in the writers’ eyes or in the viewers’. If the writers did intend it to be true (and at this point I’m pretty much certain they did), I hope it’s handled as just one part of who House is, not some giant OMG DRAMATIC RATINGS DRAW thing that the show obsesses over forever.

    Thank you so much, Barbara, for writing this article and for encouraging discussion in the comments. It’s so interesting to read everyone’s take on the situation and to consider more deeply what my own opinions are, too. And to have it done in such a mature, intelligent manner without the fighting and side-taking that often occurs in fandom makes it even better!

  • Barbara Barnett

    Thanks Ali. We all love House because his is so complex! Without that complexity, he would just be another tv character!

    Very exciting news–I will have an opportunity to talk with David Foster and Doris Egan before the episode airs next week. David and Doris have co-written “birthmarks.” Should be a very interesting interview.

  • Ali

    Oh, that is exciting! Good luck with the interview, I imagine it will be quite enlightening and a lot of fun.

  • sassydew

    I have been enjoying reading everyone’s comments about the upcoming episode and I agree with those who’ve said that it’s wonderful to have such a place (thanks, Barbara!) to have mature and thought-provoking discussion. :-)

    That said, I respectfully disagree with those who have expressed the notion that making House a victim of physical abuse would somehow be cliche and/or make him a less interesting character. I don’t understand why, since, as Ali says above, “House has nearly all of the classical signs that indicate a history of physical or sexual abuse”, it would be “WAY too easy” to make that the root of his issues. I think it would be unrealistic, given the background information we’ve been given and everything we know about House, for there NOT to be a history of abuse – but it doesn’t mean abuse is the sole determinant for who House is. I believe that we become who we are from all of the experiences and relationships we have in our lives, including our relationships with our parents, whatever those relationships may be like.

    Eve, I don’t think that anyone would suggest that House having been abused would be the sole reason for his brutal honesty or intriguing personality, nor do I think the writers would ever suggest that is so, since they seem to understand that people are incredibly complex. I think this is a nature vs. nurture debate that we’re having, and I think House is the way he is partly because it’s just who he is and partly due to his experiences and relationships.

    Also, some have mentioned that maybe House was a victim of an extremely strict military parent who believed he was doling out fair punishments rather than abuse. I am one of the people who believes that this was likely the case – but it’s still abuse even if his father didn’t view it as such.

    As for whether House has Asperger’s Syndrome, I thought one reason TPTB brought it into the “Lines in the Sand” storyline was to make it clear that House does not. In any case, one thing I’m trying to understand is this: how/why would it be a bad idea to attribute some of how House is to having been abused, but *not* a bad idea to attribute some of his issues to Asperger’s? I’m not trying to be argumentative for the sake of doing so; I’m really curious, and I’m enjoying reading these varying viewpoints. :-)

    Barbara, congratulations on scoring an interview with Foster and Egan! Will you be posting the interview before the episode airs?

  • Barbara Barnett

    Loving this discussion, everyone. Sassydew, I agree with what you’re saying.

    I will probably write the interview in two parts, part one as a sort of teaser (with NO spoilers at all). I really don’t want to spoil the episode for anyone (not even myself, if I can avoid it).

    Part two will run after the episode airs, probably on Wednesday evening along with my review.

    but depending on the nature of the interview, I may wait until after the episode airs to post in one shot.

    If anyone has questions they’d like me to pose, feel free to post them here, and I will try to incorporate them into the interview.

  • Robin

    This may be a bit off topic of Birthmark but I saw in the casting that the show is looking for 2 people as autistic patients for a future episode. This might be a revisiting of the AS issue.

  • Barbara Barnett

    I read about that too, Robin. doesn’t necessarily mean revisiting AS, but you never know. Off topic is fine here. Just keep it House-related (more or less)

  • Eve

    Hi again, and thank you for bringing the gifted child into the thought process, Barbara. Its so true.
    Its fantastic that you have such close contact with the writers and producers of the show.

    OK – this is a bit off-topic, so straight House-blog fans – skip this one.

    Sassydew, thanks for your input, I was wondering if anyone would pic up on my thoughts – here it comes –

    Im not sure that House has AS, probably not, but it has become an issue, and some people will think he does. And now its becoming established that he is the victim of some sort of abuse.
    Being a show that reaches millions of people, I think the abuse thing is an important issue. Healthworkers who are working with children or adults whith problems also watch the show.

    In my country there are two different directions when working with children with problems. One is that there must be something wrong with the parents, and the other is that the child has some sort of disorder. Often its by chance what the solution/diagnosis will be.

    If the result is that the child has been abused, then you must take steps to prevent this from happening again.

    The worst thing you could do with a child with Asperger is to remove him or her from their home or estrange them from their parents or familiar environment in any way, they do not cope very well with change. UNLESS there is physical or sexual abuse, then you should.
    So you can see here why its so important that signs of regular Asperger is NOT mistaken for abuse. As the child itself in many cases have difficulty expressing him/herself at this early age.

    Now, these vulnerable children are in danger of being misunderstood and also been treated wrongly by frustrated parents, but it can get soooo much worse if you remove them from their home because of suspicion of abuse. (it can lead to psychosis, other mental illnesses, and then they are completely lost) So the important part here is to help the parents helping their child, not accuse them. ( And in my mind if there is abuse, you have no choice but to remove the child.)

    So I hope the writers work this angle with extreme care and do not overdo it.

  • JL

    Hey there – comments on several different issues, here:

    I really like sassydew’s comment that the abuse House suffered may have been viewed very differently by his military father. While I’ll acknowledge that abusers may frequently be unable to recognise their behaviour as such, I do see some distinction between behaviour that is clearly abusive and behaviour that someone might see as ‘toughening the kid up’ -type stuff.

    I am intrigued more by House’s motto ‘Everybody lies’ juxtaposed against his description of his dad as someone who won’t lie at all. Especially because House seems to both describe himself as someone who lies but who is simultaneously preoccupied with the issue of telling the truth regardless of the resulting effects people’s feelings (an issue which has been explored in several episodes).

    Regarding AS (and since people have been sharing) – I’m gifted, sensitive and on the spectrum but not extreme enough to qualify as a true Aspy.
    My point here is that it’s very much a continuum, not an ‘On/Off’ diagnosis.
    While I agree House doesn’t qualify as a true Aspy, the traits he does have place him more in that direction than the average Joes he’s frustrated by every day.
    I actually feel that ‘Lines in the sand’ made this point reasonably well – although Wilson and Cuddy agreed that House doesn’t have Asperger’s, they also noted the traits he does have and acknowledged that he might experience actual difficulties with change (rather than demanding his old carpet back simply to cause trouble).

    Finally, I’ll express general affirmation with everybody’s congratulations to Barbara on a fine blog and discussion. It is nice to get to engage my brain without fear of recrimination…

  • JL

    I think I’d better qualify my comments on abuse. I’d been noting that several people have commented above that they don’t want the writers to go down the physical abuse story path.

    I intended to say that I hope the writers portray the abuse as House’s dad ‘toughening him up’ or as ‘punishment’ for his not doing well enough.

    To my mind, that would fit better than abuse such as striking out from rage, for example, which might feel a bit out-of-whack with what’s gone before…

    (Hope that makes things clear. I wouldn’t want anyone to think I was suggesting that any sort of abuse was okay, whether acknowleged as such or not.)

  • Barbara Barnett

    I would agree that John House would have thought his actions with House “appropriate,” but weren’t–even in terms of late 1960s/early 1970 social norms. But “normal” punishment can easily turn into rage and grow completely irrational and out of control very, very easily–especialy if the victim fights back. Which might have been the case if it continued when House was a teenager.

    This went on in my house with a father who, while “normal,” and genuinely kind in some aspects, could horrifically violent with my older brother. My brother moved out of the house as soon as he graduated high school and has led a very, very screwed up life.

  • Ali

    To those of you who have been sharing about your personal experiences too, thank you for opening up. It’s intriguing to see how our personal experiences with these issues color our opinions about them on the show.

    Sassydew — my point in saying that it was too easy for writers to go the abuse route was two-fold: A) since he displays so many of the classical signs, childhood physical abuse is the obvious conclusion for their explanation. Especially on a show that’s usually all about situations where the first, obvious diagnosis ISN’T the right one, it just seems lazy to give House all these characteristics and then say it’s due to physical abuse — like the writers just lifted the symptoms directly from a textbook without any regard to possible variations in how they might show up in a real life (i.e. non-textbook) person. B) So many TV shows, movies, books, etc. have focused on characters with these symptoms who turn out to have suffered physical abuse, to the point where (in my opinion) it’s become almost a cliche. I am by no means saying it isn’t a story deserving of being told, but I do think it’s been told many other times and the House writers have many other, less frequently exposed issues they could tell the world about here. Which leads into my reasoning for wanting it to be AS, and I’ll be honest, it is mostly personal preference. I want it because I have so few AS characters I can identify with in popular culture (the only one I know of is Bones, and I was never able to get into that show for a few reasons), but I also want it because AS would be a more creative explanation — since it isn’t used as often — and because it would expose more of the public to what the term means and what it’s like to live with it. (Most people I meet give me a blank look when I tell them I have it.) Also, just to clarify, I do agree that it was pretty much established as canon that he DOESN’T have it, but I wish he did.

    Robin — I hadn’t read about that, thanks for letting us know! I’ll be curious to see how that episode turns out.

    Eve — I agree with you completely about the AS vs. abuse thing. Another reason I feel so passionately anti-physical abuse in this case is because, as an adult, I’ve been to many therapists/psychiatrists/etc. who’ve assumed that all my mental ‘problems’ were caused by my parents. They insist that I must have been beaten and I’ve just blocked it out of my memory, or that my mother must have been overly demanding and emotionally unavailable, or whatever else. The truth is that, even though I did and still do have problems with my dad sometimes, I had a fairly happy home life. Many of the troubles we did have were due to my AS-related temper tantrums or conflicts with my dad because we were both too stubborn to give in about anything. I would have been MUCH worse off had I been removed from that environment over false concerns of physical abuse. (In fact I remember being really scared every time I bruised myself — which was often, since I was so clumsy — because I thought an adult would call child protective services and they’d take me away from my parents.)

    JL — I also agree with you, re: abuse vs. ‘normal’ punishment. While neither is okay, I do think that House’s father fully believed his actions were entirely appropriate and had no idea they might have been considered abusive. I don’t see him as the ‘beat his son black and blue’ type (particularly if it was a regular occurrence and not a one-time thing where he got too worked up and accidentally flew off the handle), so I hope that the physical abuse issue isn’t handled that way. It wouldn’t fit into my concepts of either character, although obviously I’m not the writers so my conceptions aren’t the ones that count! As to the AS thing, I definitely agree that it’s a spectrum (along with autism in) and not an on/off diagnosis, but for me that’s part of why I think he does — or should — have it. I wasn’t diagnosed with AS until adulthood because I largely internalized my symptoms and tried my best to fit into societal norms as a child, and even once I discovered the term as an adult I put off getting checked out for it because I dismissed my symptoms as too mild. But a counselor finally brought the subject up to me, referred me to a specialist, and I was diagnosed. There are degrees of AS, and even people with very mild symptoms can still have it. Just as autistic kids with less extreme symptoms still have autism and not Asperger’s, people with milder AS symptoms can still have AS. Of course, you’re definitely right that not everyone on the spectrum would qualify for the diagnosis. But even if they don’t perfectly fit the exact clinical diagnostic standards, sometimes the professional making the diagnosis can use his or her own discretion to flex the ‘rules’ a bit. Also, IMO even people who don’t get a diagnosis but are on the spectrum still have the right to identify as Aspies and to receive support/treatment for it (if they want it). Granted, House’s desire to identify that way isn’t because he wants help with it, it’s because he wants to use AS as an excuse to behave the way he does without repercussion — but that’s a whole different issue to discuss. I’ll be kind and stop here for now, since I’m taking up so much space here already!

  • Barbara Barnett

    Ali–Have you ever watched the British series Wire in the Blood? (Or read the Val McDermid novels upon which the series is based?) The main character is a brilliant, loner, intuitive psychologist and criminal profiler. Socially awkward and a genius. In the second season of the series when he had a (benign) brain tumor, the neurologist who examined him also confirmed that he has Aspergers syndrome.

  • Ali

    No, I haven’t seen the series or read the books, either. Thanks for letting me know about them! I’m actually just about to leave for Barnes & Noble as we speak, so now I’ve got something to look for while I’m there. I’ll have to Netflix the show, too — it sounds like I’d love both of them.

  • Robin

    I don’t think the abuse from John House is blatant, but more emotional and demanding. But I bet House never followed anyone’s lead and went his own way, which would be intolerable for a military father who worshipped rules. I also believe he has a mild AS. But getting diagnosed is no guarantee for a better life or more understanding from people around you if they knew. It could be used as a weapon against you, and House has pissed off enough people through the years that if they knew his true weak spot they would have a field day. Cuddy had no trouble finding someone to cut his cable. Ever since Line in the Sand I was curious enough about AS to read about it. Donna Williams has said that getting labeled with a disability can cause ALL ability to disappear in people’s mindset. I don’t think House wants to be seen as being handicapped anymore than he already is. If people see him just as a jerk then they won’t probe any deeper, which can be a strange kind of protection. I think the AS is partly why House didn’t deal well with Tritter. He didn’t pick up on how angry or menacing Tritter truly was and treated him as he did bulllies before, by ignoring him. Or defended himself better by at least telling someone about Tritter tripping him in the clinic, at least to his lawyer. He is not good about understanding emotional behavior between people which was proven in ALONE. What he learns about people is by observation as if people were a different animal species. That is why he experiments with his staff to see how they react or how much they will put up with, IMO. BTW, I have read some autobiographies of ASPYS and find it fascinating to see the world in an entirely different POV. EMBRACE THE DIVERSITY! (a holdover from old Star Trek)

  • Anna

    I have been following this discussion with attention:it is a real pleasure to read such intelligent and perspicacious remarks from people who show deep understanding of how an excellent show works on various levels.And your comments are of great help to me in the improvement of the English language (I am Italian). Well,after watching one of the trailers of the next episode, suddenly this evening a crazy idea has come to my mind: apart from the physical abuse, which, in my opinion, was real, House’s father might have ruined his son’s childhood by suggesting, even if only once, that he was not his real son, that he was a bastard.They are different in everything. The stiff officer might have never had the courage to accuse his wife, perhaps he was rationally aware of how absurd his assumption was , but he might have blamed his child.
    Has House been struggling with this doubt all these years?Isn’t one of House’s episodes called “Who’s your daddy” and finally, have I drunk too much wine this evening?

  • Barbara Barnett

    Thanks Anna, Robin–and all.

    Interesting idea, Anna–that John might have made that suggestion about his son. If House was at an impressionable age…

    I suppose we may never know–even after Birthmarks.

  • Orange450

    “If anyone has questions they’d like me to pose, feel free to post them here, and I will try to incorporate them into the interview.”

    Hi Barbara, you *do* know that you write the coolest blog in the world, right? :-)

    I have a question – not spoilery at all. I really would like to know whether the writers consciously borrow plot devices from other works. For example, back in S3, Chase’s “gentle, polite reminders” to Cameron on Tuesdays were so reminiscent of Lord Peter Wimsey’s gentle, polite proposals to Harriet Vane on various specific days of the calendar, that I was convinced that the writers had borrowed the idea from Dorothy Sayers.

    Above, I mentioned the father refusing to speak to his son (also an extremely gifted individual) in The Chosen, and as I posted on your “Adverse Events” review – I was struck by how very similar Amber’s deathbed scene was to the deathbed scene in the movie “Love Story”. So – conscious, unconscious, or am I imagining the whole thing?

    Speaking of your “Adverse Event” review – when you have a chance, I’m very interested in your opinion on the question I asked there about Lucas’ take on Cuddy’s reaction to the cheerleader picture. That given that Cuddy has known House since she was an undergrad (and House wasn’t much older) – so she knows what House was like pretty close to the time the picture was taken – why would Lucas come to the conclusion that it’s impossible for her to believe that the picture could have been genuine?

  • Barbara Barnett

    Ah, Orange…I’m blushing. Thanks. Great questions, and I will ask about literary references other than Holmes of course. I love the Lord Peter novels. I’ve always thought that HL would make a great Lord Peter Wimsey (but he’s too tall!).

    I also know that the three students in 3 stories is a reference to three of the four sons in the Passover Hagadda (the fourth son, who didn’t know what to ask would never make it to med school, I guess).

    Regarding your questions, I think that Lucas would come to that conclusion based on his own bias. He can’t see beneath what House wants to show him. Yes, he sees that House is pining for Wilson, but doesn’t know why really. And he probably doesn’t know House’s history, how much he’s changed.

    maybe that’s refreshing for House in a way, but it also gives Lucas imperfect information about House. After all, he’s being paid to snoop FOR House, not about him :)

  • Orange450

    “I’ve always thought that HL would make a great Lord Peter Wimsey”

    Height aside – it’s because HL wouldn’t be acting :-) He’s just as charming, brilliant, urbane, clever, talented, kind, perceptive, self-deprecating and driven. And he had a stern upbringing, as well. Isn’t the following quote of Peter Wimsey’s something you could imagine HL (or House, for that matter) saying in an unguarded moment?

    “I must have a streak of my father in me. He was one of the old school – you either faced a fence of your own accord or were walloped over and no nonsense. It worked – after a fashion. One learnt to pretend one wasn’t a coward, and take out the change in bad dreams.”

    Very, very cool about the three students/three sons!

  • Eve

    This is amazing – I’ve always loved the Lord Peter Wimsey series and now this blog reminds me of it, and i am going to reread it.

    and I love P.G. Wodehouse and because of House I got to find out about HLs brilliant work in the “Jeeves and Wooster” series who I didn’t catch when it aired in my country in the 90′.

    Usually when I like an actor I do not enjoy all of his work, but HL has done a lot of interesting stuff. And I think there a lot of roles he would have been perfect in. The socially awkward Mr Higgins in My fair lady is one of them. (With Mr. Steven Fry as his companion?) I hear they are going to do a remake, but but but – with Keira Knightley? Can she even sing? Im in fact not to thrilled about a new version. I dont know if its the musical or “Pygmalion” version but Hugh could certainly master both.

    OK, that was a distraction, but again. I love this blog, and I am now going to cuddle up with a lord peter wimsey-
    story on a sunday morning (In my country).
    I am very much looking forward to the interview with the writers!

  • Sue

    Barbara, Happy and Healthy New Year! May you be written in the book of life!

    I do not believe House has AS. House is the opposite of AS. People with AS have no choice in how they react to social situations, other than learned responses. They have a problem in their brain that prevents them from understanding social mores and accepted social behavior. Some people with AS have trouble reading and interpreting facial expressions. They are also not physically well-coordinated and usually do not partake in sports. They can have problems with mood swings, inappropriate behavior, and temper tantrums at inappropriate times. None of this is by choice. Most AS patients figure out how to overcome these deficiencies with learned behavioral therapy and medication.

    House, on the other hand, is very familiar with the inane social niceties that are expected of people; he just CHOOSES not to participate in them. House can read the body language, facial expression, voice inflection, etc., of anyone he meets, and he can figure out what is really going on with them. One of the reasons he is such a great diagnostician is that he looks for the social and emotional factors that influence a diagnosis. He considers family and mating relationships, job-related situations, alcohol and drugs, psychological factors, social history of the patient-all of the things an AS patient would not even think to consider. In Need to Know, House asks what they know about Margo, the person. She is a mother, attends PTA, has a high-powered job, and still has time to make her husband really, really feel like a man (after she has fried the bacon in the pan). He figured out the father in Skin Deep was doing his daughter. The team doesn’t even consider a lot of these things. House is the keenest observer, something lacking in AS patients. It takes someone keenly aware of what he is supposed to do to be socially successful in getting away with not adhering to these social mores.

    The reason House chooses not to participate in the social niceties expected of people has to do with his control over how people perceive him. That desire for control developed from his childhood with an emotionally and physically abusive father. A parent who makes their child sleep outside is physically abusive. There is more to physical abuse than beating someone.

    If we can extrapolate the few things we know about House’s childhood with his father, we can predict why House acts the way he does. His father was a control freak who was determined to strip away House’s individuality. He wanted House to conform to his way or it was the highway. House had no siblings, so he had no perspective from the point of view of another child at the time. His father controlled his behavior, and he was successful at it. House did what his father wanted him to do. Internally, he likely felt unworthy and unloved; these feelings carry through your lifetime. It is difficult for a child to understand that the father has emotional problems and that is why he is acting that way. Children think they are the problem. The child has a lowered self-esteem, and they will find a way to compensate for that if they want to be successful in life.

    House does not blame his mother, because he knew there was nothing she could do to stop his father. She shied away from confrontation because it was emotionally difficult for her as well. The father probably convinced her it was for Greg’s own good. It was interesting that when he called her in Merry Little Christmas, he called her at home, not at Aunt Sarah’s, where he knew she would be. He didn’t want to speak to his father.

    House was raised that only perfection was acceptable. Perfection in his physical body. Perfection in his career. Yet House could not be emotionally perfect. He chose to keep people at a distance unless he felt he could totally trust them. He kept the ducklings at a distance so they would respect him and not doubt his expertise. He feels he can be his imperfect self and be totally accepted by Wilson, somewhat less by Cuddy. He wants to have control of how people perceive him, and he has more control if he limits the expectations people have. He can lie when he wants to and tell the brutal, honest truth when he wants to, without having to explain himself to anyone. He doesn’t bask in glory because he doesn’t let others define him. This is a self-protective mechanism. He spent his whole childhood being defined by his father. Now, he lets no one define him.

    I don’t understand why you all say House doesn’t like to be touched. House got a massage. Cuddy held his hand in Wilson’s Heart. Cameron kissed him in Half Wit. He didn’t want Crandall to hug him because it was embarrassing. He had no problem with Stacy touching him.

    AS for what will happen in the next episode:

    Wilson gave House a tongue-lashing about his erratic behavior and how that contributed to and set-up the circumstances of Amber’s death. Wilson will not discuss anything with House at this point. House needs to get Wilson to understand why he acts like he does. He thinks this is his only chance to get through to him. I don’t think House could bring himself to say anything nice about his father, if there was anything nice to say. Even though Wilson told House to make his mother feel like she had a happy life, that is not as important to House as Wilson is at this point. House’s comments about his father will be directed at Wilson. House would never reveal to Wilson what he will reveal in this episode if Amber had not died and Wilson had not blamed House’s prior behavior as the cause.

    Kudos to Hugh Laurie, who with his incredible talent, gives us a gift of a fascinating character that defies definition. We use every talent we identify in House to analyze House himself; because House seems like a real person with a multi-faceted personality, we can no more pin this character down than we can pin down our friends or acquaintances. Every time Hugh raises his eyebrows, he gives us food for thought.

    Robert Sean Leonard says that Hugh inhabits House, and I totally agree with him. To me, House exists just as much as Hugh does, maybe more. Hugh doesn’t “act” House, he “is” House.

  • Ali

    Sue: I have to politely disagree about people with AS lacking the ability to observe well; we may or may not be born with it, but many of us develop it out of necessity. We spend most of our lives observing the rest of the world, trying desperately to understand how others behave, interact, respond, etc. Plus House is naturally a brilliant observer in general, so it wouldn’t be hard for him to extend that talent to studying people, gradually becoming better at it over the years. I think Robin brought up a great point in saying that House experiments with his staff as though they were a different species, because he truly DOESN’T understand them. Knowledge (figuring things out) is supreme to him, and this is one area in which he lacks expertise by nature. That’s an incredibly frustrating position to be in, so it’s no wonder he’s obsessed with trying to conquer it.

    Although it takes a lot of effort — and usually professional help rather than human lab rats — many Aspies manage to teach themselves intellectually most of the rules & skills that others know inherently. (I’d also just like to mention that not everyone with AS has ZERO intuition about this stuff; mild-degree Aspies may have enough to function relatively normally without therapy or even diagnosis. Some are also quite in tune with their own emotions and those of others, especially as adults, although that’s not the usual case.) Aspies can become very successful at acting the part of a ‘normal’ person — or, in House’s case, use his self-developed skills to manipulate people and get what he wants out of them — we still have AS. There’s also the fact that he probably studied/trained in psychiatry during med school, internship, residency, and so on. That gives him a definite edge. The rest of us have to rely on undergrad psych classes and the internet!

    Even if House isn’t on the spectrum, I would bet money that he was a socially awkward child, unpopular (not by his own choice at that point), teased, easily hurt. Adults with AS tend to have much more control over their deficiencies than they did as child. I know I, for one, have improved my social skills a lot since childhood but I choose to remain a mostly solitary person for many reasons. Not every Aspie WANTS to become like everyone else and have a normal life and never make waves again. Obviously House has found that life alone is safe and comfortable — although his realization that he needs Wilson is a great step forward — and that his Aspie traits (as they are now) work for him, so why would he want to change?

    As to the part about people with AS being physically uncoordinated — that is true for some, but not all, patients. It’s not a required characteristic for diagnosis, and I’ve known several Aspies whose motor skills are & have always been just fine. Even those with impairments (like myself) can improve with help and practice. For example, I was a very klutzy kid, but through ROTC involvement — drill team, track/field, rifle marksmanship — in my teenage years, I gained much more control over my gross & fine motor skills. I think it’s also been noted in studies of AS that childhood coordination problems sometimes seem to ‘naturally’ diminish or even go away by adulthood. Like I said earlier, I don’t want House to be a textbook case of anything, so I actually like that he has a few realistic variants in his symptoms. This is how AS could easily present in a three-dimensional human with his own specific personality and life experiences complicating the situation. And here’s where I really have to commend the writers for giving us such a deeply compelling character, one that lends itself to endless discussion, speculation, and analysis.

    On a final note, totally agree about RSL’s quote. When Hugh gets in front of that camera, he IS House from head to toe, skin and blood and bone. (Of course, I’d say the same thing about RSL as Wilson — I relish every opportunity I get to see him on screen, however brief it may be. Put the two of them together, and the results are just incredible.)

  • Kizmet

    I don’t think they’re going to go the route of over the top physical and/or sexual abuse the way all too many fanfic writers do. In “One Day, One Room” when House is first telling the story, he also makes the comment “Maybe she was right. I hardly ever screwed up when she was around, too scared…”

    I got the impression that whatever happened, was probably physical displine which either came close to or crossed over into abuse, and even House isn’t a 100% sure which it was.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Good point, Kizmet. It may not have been overt, but certainly seems like it may have crossed the line. Perhaps we’ll never know for sure–as House is often an unreliable narrator.