Home / Film / House, M.D. Executive Producer/Writers Garrett Lerner and Russel Friend on the Premiere and Hugh Laurie

House, M.D. Executive Producer/Writers Garrett Lerner and Russel Friend on the Premiere and Hugh Laurie

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When last we saw Dr. Gregory House (the brilliant Hugh Laurie, criminally robbed of an Emmy yet again), he seemed to have hit rock bottom. Plagued by hallucinations (the dead Amber Volakis) and haunted by the inexplicable suicide of his fellow Lawrence Kutner, House fell ever-deeper into the abyss. In the season five finale, House is abruptly snapped from his happy delusion of being Vicodin-free and in a relationship with Cuddy. 

Believing his symptoms are caused by long-term Vicodin abuse, House admits himself to Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital. The final scene of season five finds House hesitantly going through the doors of Mayfield, leaving fans to wonder just what we (and House) would find on the other side of summer.

What we have is "Broken," a two-hour premiere that pulls House (and us) from his familiar surroundings and people and thrusts him into an environment completely antithetical to what we know of the character. It's a complete departure for the series, dispensing with the usual medical mystery, and most of the main series cast. "Broken" confirms the series is far from "broken," with tight writing, sensitive direction, and wonderful, fully realized performances all round.

I had the chance to interview House, M.D. executive producer/writers Garret Lerner and Russel Friend for their thoughts on "Broken" and the season ahead. The duo wrote the season premiere along with series creator and showrunner David Shore and David Foster.

Friend and Lerner have been writing House since season two and have penned some of the series' finest episodes, including the stunning season four two-part finale "House's Head" and "Wilson's Heart," and season five's "Locked In." But writing the premiere, and coming at it from such a foreign position "was scary and risky to do," the duo told me. "We left the comfort zone in a way we never have before."

The writers explained "with the character of House already at such a low point, it would have been difficult to start from there and have the same show." Instead, executive producer (and episode director) Katie Jacobs decided to take the risk of doing a two-hour episode and "follow House through that experience."

"We talked a lot about whether we were going to cut back to the hospital and see what's going on with everyone there, what the team is doing in House's absence, what's going on with Wilson and Cuddy. We ultimately decided to simply be true to House's experience. It would be more powerful to just stay with him," they said. Of the regular cast, only Wilson appears, and then only for a brief scene.

Of course that was one of the risks. "We left our familiar storytelling and our familiar characters. I know we're asking a lot of our audience to go on this ride for two hours." Starting from a premise of letting "House be House" — snarky, blunt, and an unrepentant jerk — the writers had to build to a point at which "House admits he needs help."

It's obvious the show is going to be unusual when the usual teaser and credits sequence are replaced by a shot of House through a tiny window. He is in agony, clearly in great distress; his dosage is cut and his symptoms worsen to the point he is screaming in agony, pounding his fists on the door. And finally placed in restraints.

The credits drift aimlessly across the screen to an ironically upbeat carnivalesque melody. Instead of the usual parade of producers and executive producers gliding across the bottom of the screen, there are only three credited producers (including frequent director Greg Yaitanes) and three executive producers (David Shore, Katie Jacobs, and Hugh Laurie, who seems finally to be taking credit for a job he's been doing for some time).

That opening sequence, which allows us to view House going through days of withdrawal as he is weaned from narcotics, is painful to watch (in a good way). Laurie is magnificent as the camera simply observes him through the window and into his room through a series of short cuts.

"There is not a ton of direction in the script for that scene," noted the writers. "A scene like that is more a director's playground more than a writer's playground. I think we spent an entire day shooting just that sequence."

It appears that House is finally serious about getting help. Emphasis on appears. But he isn't, at least not beyond clearing the Vicodin from his system and losing the hallucinations. Once he makes it through withdrawal, House is ready to leave and packing his bags.

In his season five conversation with Wilson in "Under My Skin," and in his fantasy with Cuddy, House acknowledges how futile rehab would be for him. He knows all too well how to game the system, how to manipulate and badger his way out of anything.

Of course, at the time, he hadn't met Dr. Darryl Nolan. Played by the brilliant Andre Braugher, Lerner and Friend noted the part was written specifically for him. Early drafts of the script even called the character Andre. The writers credit Jacobs and Shore with some "excellent producing and persuading" in managing to snag the brilliant character actor for the role despite some scheduling and other conflicts.
"It was a very conscious decision to cast him. Andre has the gravitas, and the power and intelligence to be able to analyze someone like House." Everyone on the creative team felt "extremely lucky to get him. It was an incredible experience to sit on set and watch these two guys. A career highlight," they noted.

Nolan isn't ready to let House off the hook and back to practicing medicine, although House doesn't agree with Nolan's diagnosis. Insisting he's functioning just fine, and no longer on drugs, House reminds his doctor he's there voluntarily and with the hallucinations gone, he's leaving. Deeper issues like two colleagues dying along with his father over the course of one year? Something to put on the back burner.

Nolan confronts House, wondering why he didn't just go to a rehab facility if detoxing was the only thing needed. Why check into a psychiatric hospital? Using almost the exact words House himself used with Wilson in "Under My Skin," Nolan reminds him he's been using Vicodin for years with no side effects. There has to be another explanation, and until they have it, House is free to leave, but not practice medicine. He needs to be admitted to a long-term ward for treatment.

Not one to give up easily, House decides to make life a living Hell for Nolan and his entire staff of doctors, taking no prisoners. Nolan will be begging him to leave in no time, with whatever letter he needs for the state medical licensing board. 

It takes no time for House to put his plan into action as he taunts his fellow patients on ward six. Easily evaluating their problems, House pushes their most sensitive buttons, acting out in the worst way he can, like some playground bully. The only one he can't taunt into misery is his new roomie, the manic rapper Alvie (Lin-Miranda Manuel).

It's one of a very few moments in the episode that made me cringe. Yes, House is blunt and can be nasty, but it's not really like him to cut a swath quite that wide. On the other hand, House is fighting the system the only way he can (at least in his own mind). He needs to get out, and this is his plan to do it, damn the consequences. We have to remember during this scene that House is  sick himself, whether or not we understand him that way. When it's clear his scorched earth strategy isn't working, House stirs up a mini-uprising. When Nolan defuses that, he guns for the shrink directly, trying to dig up some dirt, trying to enlist Wilson in his scheme.

Wilson isn't up for the game, however. Nolan has already gotten to Wilson, telling him not to interfere. When Wilson reluctantly and necessarily hangs up on House, I recalled last season's "Social Contract" and the story about hanging up the phone on his schizophrenic brother. According to Lerner and Friend, the connection wasn't intentional. "It was a happy coincidence," not mentioned in the script. However, they thought Robert Sean Leonard (Wilson) might well have had Danny Wilson in mind during the scene as the camera lingers.

House, M.D. has a strong relationship with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The show has raised more than half a million dollars for the organization, including the funds raised at a screening of "Broken" in Los Angeles last Thursday night. I asked Lerner and Friend how they prepared for writing dealing with such a sensitive issue. 

"We wanted to make it as realistic as possible because of our relationship with NAMI, and because we like to present the real side of things," they told me. "We talked to some experts; went to visit a psychiatric hospital just north of LA. Katie (Jacobs) did an amazing amount of research as well, which was incredibly helpful."

Mayfield is based on a New Jersey facility called Greystone, which has been open since 1902. Jacobs and production designer Jeremy Cassells got "copious material about everything, from the day room's appearance to how the day is divided up." Besides doing a lot of reading and talking to the show's consulting physicians, House also added a new consultant to the team — a psychiatrist (and writer Liz Friedman's sister).

The entire creative team read extensively about people's experiences in psychiatric hospitals and "tried to apply some of those real things to the episode." But Lerner and Friend credit the actors who populate nearly every scene for completely inhabiting their roles whether they had pages of dialogue or only four lines. "They are in almost every scene and do a great job of creating their characters."

We also meet Alvie House's roommate, played by Tony-winning actor/writer Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights). Gregarious, outgoing, and chronically friendly, Alvie is the anti-House, but somehow it works. They both have a taste for playing the angles and beating the system, something House uses to his advantage at first.

For the first (nearly) 45 minutes of the two-hour episode, House is the unrepentant jerk he can be, especially under stress. He's a jerk to everyone. The notable exception is Lydia (German film actress Franka Potente), the sister-in-law of a withdrawn cellist who hasn't spoken in 10 years. Hearing her play the piano (which is usually locked), House is drawn to her as she visits daily, hoping to get through to her close friend and sister-in-law.

The show pulls one of its signature left turns and throws the story in another direction when a young man named Steve arrives. Calling himself "Freedom Master," he lives the delusion he is a superhero. When one of the psychiatrists (Dr. Medina) breaks coldly and harshly through Steve's delusion, House is enraged at the gratuitous cruelty of the doctor, especially when he shatters Steve, blurting out the terrible truth that Steve's wife is dead and no superpower can redeem the evil that killed her.

The orderlies subdue the young man, and when he doesn't appear at a ward gathering, House becomes suddenly concerned. Seeing Steve practically catatonic horrifies House, and he is angry, not only at Dr. Medina, but at himself for allowing it to happen; continuing to play poker without intervening when he could have.

Why does this bother House so much, I wondered? House is all for telling the unvarnished truth "in the harshest manner possible" (as he accuses himself in the season two episode "No Reason"). Yet, here he is reacting viscerally to the actions of another doctor. He seems to care very deeply about this. The two writers explained, "I think in House's mind, what Medina did was completely gratuitous; it seemed punitive. When House does something like that, there's a reason; a point to be made."

Of course House would never admit caring about anything in that way. The writers noted, "House can justify his reaction as 'I really don't care about him, I just care about how this doctor is acting.' But that's just on the surface."

House's caring leads to a near-tragedy. Borrowing Lydia's car, he takes Steve to an amusement park, going on a ride that takes them both soaring above the crowds superhero style. It's a wonderful and sweet moment of pure joy for Steve — and I suspect for House as well. Our tethered-to-a-cane super-doctor can also fly as long as Steve continues to hold his hand. It's a fabulous moment only to be broken by another left turn in the story.

The exultant Steve really tries to fly, nearly killing himself as he leaps from the garage wall stories down to the pavement below. Once again, House's actions have indirectly led to tragedy. As House sits numbly in the hospital waiting room, he does get what he wanted all along. He's broken Nolan, who's going to transfer the destructive House to a different facility.

"I'm done," declares Nolan, accusing him of simply trying to take a swing at him, not caring about the collateral damage. But is that what House is trying to do here? Is it really another scheme, or a profoundly nice (but, as Lydia later says, misguided) thing House has tried doing for Steve?

The wind knocked out of his sails, no matter his intentions, House recognizes the harm he has caused. It is a clear echo back to Amber's death at the end of season four and to whatever he thinks he may have missed leading up to Kutner's suicide in "A Simple Explanation." House asks Nolan please not to give up on him. "I need help," he finally acknowledges. It's a breakthrough that Nolan can't ignore.

Lerner and Friend acknowledge there's a measure of truth to what Nolan says to House.  "That's at least part of the motivation, to take a swing at Nolan. House has spent the first three acts butting up against him. He's done everything in his power to undermine Nolan and failed.  But there's also a measure of [wanting Freedom Master] to feel good about himself."

So, does House have a niceness streak in him somewhere? Lydia certainly thinks so. But was House being nice to be nice, or simply to cure Freedom Master? "Solve the puzzle and show up the Mayfield doctors as idiots. It's open to interpretation, giving House some plausible deniability," noted Friend.

"On the other hand," they noted, "Lydia might say, 'Hey, you're doing an awful lot of nice things.' We didn't think about it explicitly, but thought it might be nice to spur that debate about whether House is doing it to be nice or with some other agenda. It's something that's endlessly debated not just by fans but internally here by the writers. Does he have a compassionate streak under it all?"

The fallout from this incident leads directly to one of House's biggest issues, and something that's been raised periodically over the course of the series. House doesn't deserve to be happy if the world is just.

He causes pain; he misses a diagnosis; a patient dies. Therefore, he should suffer for it. It goes back to Stacy's question to House in "Three Stories," way back in season one: "You don't think you deserve to be happy?" Wilson brings it up again in "Son of Coma Guy." House's misery is very tied up in his failures. And to House, you can't redeem failures. Successes are fleeting; failures are forever, he tells Nolan. Apologies are useless.

House repeats a familiar trope for him: talking accomplishes nothing. "You can't just keep talking and hope for the best." It reflects what he's said so many times about action being the only thing with the capability to change things. When Nolan explains it's as simple as apologizing, House doesn't exactly buy it. "Apologize so you can feel better and allow yourself to continue to feel better," he tells House.

"Apologies, powerful things," House responds bitterly. "Get someone to jump off a building, say two words, then go on with your life." House has never bought that argument. In "Dying Changes Everything," House has an almost impossible time apologizing to Wilson, telling Cuddy it is hypocritical; meaningless. Now we know why. In House's world an apology is pointless; it fixes nothing and just lets you off the hook; lets you feel better without making it right. It grants absolution when it's not deserved. To House, only fixing things will put it back to right. But you can't fix someone who's dead (Amber, or season three's Lupe in "House Training," for example).

House considers taking Nolan's advice, but can't find the words. So House tries to fix what's he done to Steve, make it somehow right. If only he can heal Steve and by extension Silent Girl.

Remembering Steve's outburst in the day room about a locked up music box (which he believes is Silent Girl's missing "voice box,"), House demands the box, promising it will work to cure both Steve and Silent Girl. But it doesn't work; House has failed. He can't put it right, and is anguished by his failure. It hurts to see House's desperate attempt to fix something unfixable. House is shaken and hurting.

Nolan wants to put House on antidepressants. "You obviously have no problem taking drugs," digs Nolan. As House reminds him, the drugs are for his pain. And he is afraid the drug will change him, take away his edge and, as Nolan notes, prevent him from making the "unique connections that make you a successful doctor." Bingo. We've been down this road with House before ("Resignation," season three; "Softer Side," season five), but this time, House is willing to try it.

As the episode progresses, House and Nolan seem to connect, understand each other on an unexpected level. When Nolan calls House in to consult about his father, it feels like an attempt for House to keep his diagnostic dignity: a ploy. And maybe it is, at least in the beginning. But House stays, consult and ensuing mockery finished: stays to just sit with Nolan as his father slips away.

Lerner and Friend explained, "We went back and forth. There were drafts initially where House leaves and doesn't stay. As the re-writes went on, their relationship evolved. We thought it may be a little risky and may not feel House-like, but then it kind of did. House is taking a little step, although he still has to have his 'House moment.'"

House also connects with another human being in a completely different way. That would, of course, be Lydia. I mentioned to Lerner and Friend how tenderly that story played out, considering it was written in a room full of testosterone (all four of the episode's writers are male). They confessed that Katie Jacobs helped a lot with this sub-plot. "The four of us (Lerner and Friend with Shore and Foster) came up with good stuff, but then Katie stepped in and really elevated it. And made it hopefully a very emotional touching, dare I say, heartbreaking story."

The writers mentioned their concern about House-Cuddy fans and how they might react to the little love story between House and Lydia. "But it was a risk we had to take." Casting Franka, they said, was a great decision by Jacobs. "She somehow doesn't seem to challenge the House-Cuddy thing; like a 'summer romance.'"

It's probably been years since House has been able to connect with anyone on that level. He has never been able to bring himself to that point with Cuddy (except in fantasy), or with Cameron, and it's a pivotal moment for the character, made more poignant by the emotional effect it has on him. House in tears: he feels, he connects.

As we know, House can get caught up in romantic feelings, misreading his partner's intentions. He's done it with Stacy, and in his Cuddy fantasy. You can see it after House and Lydia kiss at the benefit, sitting outside on the park bench. He is deeply affected by that brief kiss, and equally terrified. As Nolan tells him later, he probably spent 12 hours thinking about what it meant.

But as with Stacy, he's not willing to risk his heart, afraid to take a step that seems to have no winners. "There are two ways this could end: we stop and someone gets hurt, or we don't and someone gets hurt." House can't do it. The risk is too great.

Yet, almost in spite of himself, when he sees Lydia alone and sobbing late one night, he tries to comfort her. Comfort becomes something else, and eventually leads to passionate, but gentle lovemaking. Which brings House to tears. "It was something Hugh Laurie came up with on the set that day," the writers told me. "He felt he wanted to try it. He felt it was the appropriate thing. And then when we saw it on the monitor, it was incredibly moving."

Circumstances conspire to take this brief encounter away from House. Seeing the music box cradled in Steve's arm, House remembers its significance and how much Steve wanted Silent Girl to have it. Handing the box from Steve to the girl, House has managed to fix two people with one small gesture and his own super-human observational and deductive reasoning skills. Okay, so it's a bit contrived. Call me sentimental, but I just thought the three actors really sold it! But it leads to the release of Lydia's sister-in-law, and the end of House's relationship. It's a poignant moment for House, losing Lydia.

Four people are touched by House in this episode, and are made better in some way: Alvie, Freedom Master, Silent Girl, even Nolan. "But it's interesting," noted the writers, "House helps Alvy by telling him him to go worry about his own loser life. And he helps Freedom Master by essentially getting him to jump off a building."

"House is not bringing people flowers. He's challenging them and helping them in that way, by being House — by making them look inward. And hopefully that's how we thought we were protecting the character; because he doesn't ever go really schmaltzy or soft. He helps them through the force of his personality."

I found it interesting for an episode so infused with music — cellos, pianos, Dvorak, music boxes — little of it was House's music. Including House's little vocal solo in the bathroom stall. House singing Gilbert and Sullivan? HMS Pinafore? Friend and Lerner laughed, "That was Hugh. Thought of it on set. Oh. And the cake in the face? That was Hugh too. "Final take. Only Katie Jacobs knew, no one else on set about it. The reactions are genuine."

So House is given his leave to return to his normal life back in Princeton. As he feared, the relationship ended, and House is left alone. As Nolan tells him, now willing to write on his behalf to the medical board, he trusted enough to connect; he was hurt by it, and wanted to talk instead of numbing his pain in a pill bottle. It's a small but significant step for House.

It's telling that he didn't call Wilson to fetch him. House is taking that step alone. As he must. But armed with an understanding that he's not quite as alone as he might think. And wearing Alvie's shirt. So what now? What can we expect in the future?

"Without giving too much away, as a writing staff, we'll try to be honest with regard to what happened in the premiere," promised Lerner and Friend. "Yes, the show will go back to the medical mysteries, and the characters are back. But House is going to go on a little bit of journey, and not just plug back into the guy he was 10 episodes ago. The challenge is how to stay relevant and keep the viewers interested."

House airs Monday nights on FOX at 8:00 p.m. ET.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • wackjob

    I already commented at length on the review, so I’ll only say that it’s hard to believe they did all of that research, even if they did. House never talked about the incredibly traumatic year he’d been through, his abusive childhood, inadvertently causing Amber’s death, Kutner’s suicide…he gets laid and voila, House is open to change. If only the rest of us with mental illness found change that easy. And what hospital would let House a) drive someone’s else’s care to an amusement park with another patient b) again inadvertently almost cause someone’s death, and not lock him in isolation and dope him up with Haldol?

    Sorry, but this wasn’t “House,” this was an Afterschool Special.

  • barbara barnett

    I wouldn’t have expected this to be a tell-all reveal-all episode. This took place over months, how do we know he didn’t talk about some of those things? I don’t think this is going to be easy. Remember, House is there voluntarily, and will undoubtedly require more therapy. The goal was to get him healthy enough to leave.

  • mary

    Ugh, they were worried about just how the House/Cuddy fans would react to the House/Lydia storyline? Really? Why should they be bothered? House and Cuddy aren’t in a relationship, and the show doesn’t owe any fanbase anything. I really don’t understand the tendency by the writers lately to treat that one group of fans differently than others.

  • barbara barnett

    Mary, they just gave it some thought, just like they gave thought to the idea of taking the entire cast out of the episode. They didn’t do anything differently, but it was something of a risk, considering all the huddies out there. Who, interestingly enough, didn’t really seem to mind (as far as I’ve been able to see)

  • Jair

    I think the writers were just acknowledging that the show left off with House realising he did indeed have romantic desires in regard to Cuddy and if that will be picked up again in some way in the future, as David Shore has said it will, then they had to be careful what they were establishing between House and Lydia. I thought they did a marvelous job.

    The interlude was believable with two damaged people focusing on the institution as a separate place from a difficult daily life, and realising both that they truly connect with each other and they are not in the right time or place for the relationship to go forward.

    House’s knocking on the door was the step forward for him he can take away from the experience.

    I loved the episode, though, yes, the music box was a little cheesy. It was still a nice counter balance to the opposite theory of pills being the route to health. All potential ways to healing were represented, which is a good thing.

  • barbara barnett

    I agree with you jair. L/F also said the encounter did not preclude something with H/C later… of course.

    Of course television is never realistic. It’s not a documentary, it’s entertainment. Everything’s compressed and much is symbolically represented.

    For its cheesiness, I still really liked the music box. First representing House’s failure and then his redemption.

  • nicole.o

    What a powerful and unique eposide. A risk? Definitely. Do I think it paid off? Absolutely. It was very different than what we are used to, but I found it refreshing, moving, emotional, and inciteful. I don’t think it was always perfect, at times it seemed a little convenient (music box) and off character (rapping?) but I liked those things as well. Perhaps that is House, just a side we only get to see when he is around no one who knows him in his outside world? Sometimes we can be more oursleves around strangers than with those who have known us our whole lives becuase there is no persona that is expected, no image to maintain.
    I was very moved by the connection he made with Lydia, proving I am not just a huddy fan, but a romatic side of House fan. It was probably the first time he has let himself connect with anyone intimately since Stacy. His other sexual encounters were with hookers with no emotional connection, a physical need met is all. That must have felt amazing for him to finally have that again, and know he CAN have that again. The fact that Hugh thought of adding the tears was great. That touch put it over the edge. It was so much more than just sex, and that scene was one of the most moving and telling of the strides he is making. Bravo. The two of them are exceptional actors together as well. She was perfect for the role.
    As to the comments made about him not addressing the real issues… I think this was a breakthrough that he realizes he can make connections with people and address his feelings. At first I was thinking it would have been nice to see a cut away shot of him talking about various issues (not diving into it for us but showing he was doing work on it) but then I came to the conclusion that it would have seemed like a fix all for House. He’s not necessarily ready to bare his soul and confront everything, it’s baby steps. He is not leaving healed, he is leaving with a promise of finding a better place in his life. Addressing any more than they did would have seemed too quick and too easy. We are going to follow him on this journey throughout the season, not just the first episode. But for House, this was a big start. The rest will come in time. If you’ve been in therapy you know it takes time to address the heaviest of things. But I believe he is coming to terms with the fact that he does not have to be defined by his mistakes anymore. He can apolagize and move on. He can begin to let go. I think this opener gives us all some things to think about. Very deep. I look forward to taking this journey with House and with all of you. I’ve missed everyone’s comments this summer. Good to be back!
    I am also very excited about the previews for this season. I think it is shaping up to be the best yet… 🙂

  • savta

    Barbara –
    Thanks for your preview article, which heightened my anticipation even more and for the premier episode analysis and Lerner/Friend interview which shed light on the thought processes and ideas that went into the brilliant writing of this terrific two hour season premiere.

    I loved every minute of this episode.
    Wackjob – I think your comments about the veracity of the portrayal of the process of working through a mental illness to the point of being enough on the road to better mental health that one is ready to resume his/her life in an improved state are well taken.
    However, as with most of the House episodes where the viewer is asked to make a leap of faith or suspend disbelief for everything from the super doctors who execute all the tests from small blood draws to brain surgery themselves, to the rapidity with which test results appear, to the magical thinking in the DDX that spurs House to come up with the brilliant diagnoses, we are asked to do the same thing with this episode.
    It would have helped a little more to have one or two sentences inserted somewhere to give the viewer a sense of the time lapse from the beginning of House’s entrance into the facility to the bus ride. Was it weeks, months? There were some scenes with some rainy weather. Was it from early spring to late fall?
    In the same vein, it would have helped to have one or two sentences that illustrated that House dealt with his issues to some extent during his therapy sessions. Hopefully, some of this will be referred to in future episodes? i.e “during the 6 months (or weeks) that you were gone.” or something like that just to fill in some of the missing back story. Or maybe we don’t need it and it is enough to have him back in his hopefully non-vicodin dependent altered state.

  • nicole.o

    I also like how it showed House’s growth in that THIS time when he got to the woman’s door, he was able to knock on it and talk to her. Tell her how he felt and be vulnerable. With Cuddy, he got to the door but could not knock. He walked away keeping his feelings inside. That’s progress. I love the House and Cuddy dynamic and always will be a fan of theirs and their chemistry. However, the story with Lydia was beautiful.

  • nicole.o

    Savta- It took place over the three-four month break between seasons. It will be addressed because life has gone on at the hospital and changes had to be made to combat House’s absence. The idea is that this whole time, since the season finale to the season premier, House has been in Mayfield. This opener was to show what happened during that time and next week will pick up at the hospital in present time. Hope that helps…

  • Jair

    “And what hospital would let House a) drive someone’s else’s care to an amusement park with another patient b) again inadvertently almost cause someone’s death, and not lock him in isolation and dope him up with Haldol?”

    Administering haldol is not supposed to be a punishment, it’s a way to help someone stop being a danger to himself or another. House recognised that he had screwed up and made poor decisions. He asked for help. He didn’t need haldol. And House is also a patient in the hospital and ill–the carnival trip happened because the hospital did not supervise well enough. You don’t blame the patient for being ill. You help the patient process and get better. And you put better security measures in place.

  • Jen

    Barbara, the review is great! It seems like it has been a long summer. Glad to be back. I thought the ep was excellent and was true to the Classic House from earlier days. You can count me in as being here each week! Thank you for your thoughts! And, I too cannot figure out how HL doesn’t get that darned Emmy. But I would rather have a great career and a huge following than one staute and fleeting fame. I guess House said it himself, success is forgotten, but failure is forever…

  • sherlockjr

    One of the things I liked about the episode (and from reading other people’s reactions, perhaps they didn’t see it this way) is that they didn’t go into detail about all of his past issues — guilt over Amber & Kutner, pain from his father’s treatment of him, fear over losing his abilities as a doctor, anger over how the leg pain has changed his life. He was at Mayfield for several months, and we see only a fraction of his therapy sessions, leaving the rest to our imaginations. For me, that really worked. It keeps the sense of mystery for us as viewers, leaving some aspects of House’s psyche a secret until the time when the writers choose to divulge a little bit more.

    There’s also the issue of his friendship with Wilson. Clearly, when Wilson refuses to help him manipulate his way out of Mayfield, Wilson is anguished about it, but House is also, feeling that he’s some how lost his friend because of it. I would hope — and the next episodes should clear this up — that by the time he’s released, House has realized that Wilson was right to hang up on him, that by turning him down, as painful as that was for both of them, it led House to the place he needed to be. Ironically, when Wilson hangs up on him, House believes he has virtually no friends, but by the end of the film (I refuse to call it an episode), he has gotten close to several people and may consider some of them friends – Alvie and Dr. Nolan, in particular.

    One thing Barbara didn’t mention that struck me fiercely (as it did with everyone who saw the premiere with me at the Cinerama Dome) is that in the final scene, not only does Wilson not come pick him up — and we’re not sure if at this moment House believes they’re still friends — but House leaves on a bus, bringing everything back full circle to the bus crash that caused Amber’s death and triggered House’s eventual emotional breakdown. There was an audible gasp in the theater when he gets on the bus.

    I just hope they keep going with this, allowing House to stay in touch with some of these people, especially Dr. Nolan and Alvie, and that they never again show us a House who is untouched by this experience.

  • Flo

    It was a very good episode but not that great.

    The music box is completly cheesy even if I can forgive that.
    On the other hand, Nolan calling House when his father died was totally irrealistic and laughable. I’m with Wackjob on that: there is no way a psychiatrist can do that with a patient (even if the patient is actually a doctor) and remain professional. How can Nolan still treat House after that?
    The writers went too far on that one. I actually laughed of disbelief. I know we are suppose to do a “leap of faith” like savta correctly said it, but there are limits.

    The end with Alvie asking for pills was a little too corny for my taste.

    Otherwise it was a very interesting, insightful episode. Great acting from everyone.

    This season couldn’t bengin in a better way.

  • Val

    Barbara- great review and article as always!

    As a fan who watches House the show for House the character, I really liked this episode. It may have not delved into bigger issues that face House, but like sherlockjr, this was an aspect I liked. House made several hugh strides during his time at Mayfield. First, he admitted he wants to be happy to a living, breathing human being and made steps towards that end. He was able to admit that he needed and ask Nolan for help. The last time we (and he) saw him do that was in the beginning of his delusion with Cuddy. He made it to the door and talked with Lydia; something he wasn’t able to do with Cuddy. Those are big for the good doc, and I look forward to the exploration of his other issues in future episodes.

    In the end, House did what he does best! He helped others (of course, not his patients) and himself. It’s one of the things that is so amazing about this character. He was able to “fix” things to some extent for Silent Girl and Freedom Master, but his presence had an effect on everyone like Alvie and even Nolan. I’ll also agree with sherlockjr on the importance of the bus scene and coming full circle. Wilson, or anybody, could not pick him up. I imagine he hasn’t been on a bus since the accident…he did apologize to Wilson and Wilson said he never blamed him even though he tried. I think he may have finally forgiven himself.

    I really enjoyed all the guest actors; they were all excellent. I didn’t even miss the ducklings (old and new)…Dr. Nolan’s staff actually reminded me of a couple of them.

    Barbara, it was funny to see that G/L said the final take was HL’s idea and only KL knew about it. When House took that bow with the waving-hands gesture I almost said out loud “There’s Hugh!”…I’ve seen him do that gesture a number of times on talk shows.

    Enjoying all the comments and am a bit frustrated that I lost my original (longer comment), but think I got the jist of it in this shorter one. Looking forward to the further discussions this season!

  • Val

    Even with the preview still get the typos–should be huge instead of hugh, but figure you may have all realized it since it wasn’t capitalized. Sorry.

  • simplethings

    I have to say that I am a huge fan of watching House’s character develop, but last year I was intent on wanting to see him and Cuddy attempt something.

    I loved the character of Lydia and what she brought to this episode. Lydia was honest! And open! And this is why it worked with House. When Cuddy blew her chances of being honest with House (during Let them Eat Cake, Unfaithful, and The Softer Side), he couldn’t step forward with her.

    They’re both emotionally terrified and Lydia was refreshingly true to herself (granted, while cheating on her husband).

    I loved the episode. I thought it was one of the best of the series. I am partial to the second half where we finally got to see some truly poignant House moments.

    Even House holding hands with someone made me gasp and the love scene was perfect.

    I only hope that the writers (who I do trust) don’t just return to the status quo. I want a mix of the cake in the face House we just witnessed and the sharp wit we all watch the show for.

    And by the way, Hugh looked dreamy throughout the whole thing. Even my roommate was drooling. I told her it was about time…

    Here’s to a wonderful season six!

  • Mary Dagmar

    Wackjob. It is the nature of fine screenwriting that you do not slow the drama with unnecessary exposition. This is clearly a one-off standalone movie for television. It is an intelligent gift to a discerning audience. If you allow for the compression of time you would realise that the psychiatrist working with House is familiar with much of the material that concerns you. Thank you Barbara for an excellent article.

  • Spider

    I’ve been as big a fan as anyone else, having seen all episodes so far, most of them several times over, evangelizing about the show to friends, selecting specific episodes to show them and watching them along to get them hooked.

    However, this show was just unbelievably corny, and I’m still blinking in disbelief that they’d take such a 180º turn from the pervious tone of the series.

    It starts with taking Freedom Master to the amusement park. No, no, no, no. House would never let his nice side shine through so obviously. They should have let him hide his intentions behind some much more devious plan.

    And besides, this was nothing but an Olympic-sized cliché.

    OK, that ended in doom and gloom, alright. But it wasn’t because House messed up, as usual, the emotional side of things, and allowed his cold intellect get its way. Nope, he screwed up by being a big softie and forgetting to think. Kind of the diametrically opposite way that House would ever do.

    But then the story goes downhill from there, very fast. And I’m concerned that so does the entire series. OK, in a certain way, House does get a pass from viewers, as he’s in an isolated institution and his actions won’t be revealed to the outside world, so he can be a bit less careful than normal about putting up a façade. But not nearly as much as he actually did in this uncharacteristically sentimental feel-good episode. In the end, he was acting like an anorexic Santa Claus, making everyone happy all around him in a special way, touching lives, influencing people, and spreading wuv.

    And the thing with the magic music box… Really, that is by far the lowest point of the entire series so far. The worst cliché I’ve seen in the past year on television, it would at least warrant an explanation, as to “WTF just happened? Hello? Anyone there? Huh? Is that a joke? Did someone film some placeholder text in the script, or what? Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet?”

    And the love affair?

    And Nolan’s father?

    Really, when something is too good to be true, it usually is in House. The pure idyll of “Under My Skin” was redeemed by the grim reality of “Both Sides Now.” The virgin birth in “Joy to the World” was a worrisome moment, but luckily we soon found out what a blatant lie it had been, and what cynical purpose it served. (Of course, that lie also saved a marriage, nicely hiding House’s nice side under several layers of cynicism.)

    And now… This? We get an episode which constitues the corniest thing I’ve seen on any screen in the past six months, and I do watch almost all romantic comedies as they come out.

    At any moment near the end, I was expecting House to wake up yet again and realize that it was, again, just a hallucination.

    House has not only jumped the shark spectacularly, but also plastered its broken fin and tucked it in, kissing it goodnight. And the speculation by the writers about whether or not House has a nice streak to him is making me even more depressed: hello, you should know this stuff, not debate about it… You are the authors, for crying out loud!

    I wonder if S06E02 has anything up its sleeve to make us forget this unwelcome departure. (A tiny bit of hope might be afforded by the revelation by Hugh Laurie that House won’t have his license back four episodes in, which contradicts the happy-go-lucky ending of this abomination.)

    So, alas, all I have is the faint hope that the proverbial shark can still be unjumped.

  • I was annoyed by this episode. I think in general it was well directed and extremely well acted, but I couldn’t get past the ludicrous nature of most of it. It was inaccurate to psychiatric facilities, first of all, and considering that there is plenty of people to research and question … this really shouldn’t have been an issue. Is it so boring on TV to get the truth?

    Beyond that, the Lydia/House thing was offensive. I don’t have a problem with House’s point of this; he’s shown himself to be very tied romantically to people sometimes, and he moved in with Stacy super fast. I have to wonder what kind of person Lydia has to be. She’s married with children and obsessed with her sister-in-law, and she meets a man – A PATIENT AT A MENTAL FACILITY – and ends up committing adultery with him. Sounds like she should be checked in as well, honestly. And what kind of irresponsible human being would give two psychiatric patients her car? I don’t care how much she thinks she ‘knew’ House at that point; someone almost died because of it and she should be held accountable for this. It’s not enough to say it was “nice” for House to do it. That is not an excuse for her negligence. And let’s say House was a truly unstable patient who managed to put on a face for her, she truly wants to mess with his emotions and his mind by screwing around with him and then going ‘meh, I can’t mess with my family.’ She should have thought of that before. For all she knows House could lose his mind and take it out on her and her family for her choice. I hated that entire storyline and felt like they were force feeding it down my throat.

    My general problem with this episode is that I fear nothing will have lasting changes. Keep in mind that several times now they started a season out with a ‘huge House event that would change everything’ and then … nothing changes. His fixed knee for like two episodes, the Vogler issue, Tritter, it’s all rolled up neatly in a few episodes and then brushed off to go back to the status quo. I wouldn’t have any problem with House changing and having lasting effects from this episode, but I think the writers will eventually just go back to the easy street and all this will be something in the past no on comments on anymore.

    I hope this is not the case, but I’ve grown too accustomed to it to not be disgruntled by the Lifetime Movie Version of House.

  • KC

    I’m tired of people saying that it is unrealistic that house would change. He was in a situation were he was forced to deal and in the end he did. This episode was stayed true to house because at first he was reluctant but he got to the point were he realized just functioning was not enough. I don’t think house will change over night but on last nights episode he took a huge first step. This episode was amazing and I’m still upset hugh laurie didn’t win the emmy on sunday.

  • Sera G.

    Barbara, once again a wonderful, insightful and thought provoking article about the S.6 ‘movie’. Thank you!
    I wanted to add a few of my observations after watching last night, discussing it with friends and just mulling it over in my mind:

    1. TPTB took a big risk and in my opinion, it paid off. “Broken” was beautifully written. It was strong, funny and creative, wonderfully directed by KJ. Granted, there were a few moments that might have not been true “House”, but this wasn’t House as we know him. This episode gave viewers who might be unfamiliar with the character a chance to meet him in a totally different way. Yes, he was sarcastic, mean, maniuplative, etc. but we were also given a chance to see more of the inner man and his true struggle to get better. It also gave the fans a chance to see him with fresh eyes. Who knows what the writers will do as the season progresses, but I felt this was almost a ‘reboot’ of the House character. He has a chance to live life with managable pain, knows that he can confront loss and disappointment without resorting to numbing himself. I hope that the essence of the man is allowed to grow. He can still be a bit of a jerk, who isn’t at times, but it might be fun to see this side of Greg House.
    2. When I first read that none of the cast (with the exception of a few minutes with Wilson) were to be a part of “Broken” I must admit that I was disappointed. After viewing, the epi. I feel that it would not have been as powerful performed any other way. It was crucial that our focus stay with the world of Mayfield. For however many months that House was there, that was his only life. It was interesting and believable that he never wondered about patients, Wilson or Cuddy, never mentioned his team. For all House knew, he could have been at Mayfield a VERY long time. A friend of our family was at a sanitarium for TB (many years ago). He said that he couldn’t endure it without ‘forgetting’ about his other life. He had to make his time at the sanitarium his world.

    3. On to my favorite topic; Cuddy/House. I wasn’t too upset, because, as was said this was not a relationship that could last. I appreciated what it brought out in House, an opportunity to show the tender, sweet side that he hides so fiercely. I felt that Lydia could not have really expected anything more than a brief moment, as she never talked about her family, never told him she had children, etc. Yes, I know, that was so that is was more dramatic when the door was opened by the little boy, but again, she never wanted more than comfort and a chance to forget the loss and pain that her sister in law suffered and the strain and grief that brought to her family. Again, would House really have expected more to come from it? IMO, no. Other than music, what did they share?
    I must respectfully disagree with Mary’s post (#3) regarding the Huddies being upset. Granted we love the pairing, but it is not without a lot of encouragement from the writers. We did not invent House being jealous and interrupting Cuddy’s date in “Insensitive” nor his concern when Wilson appeared interested. We did not have him fantasize Cuddy helping with a DDX in her school girl uniform in “H.Head”. We didn’t have 18 episodes devoted to the possibility of a relationship in season 5. The writers have given us plenty of evidence that there is more to the duo than mere friendship/valuable employee. It is a dynamic chemistry and lifetime bond that they share.

  • Prof

    Great review! Like you, I didn’t *love* the cheesy parts, but I thought the actors were so good that they sold it. And I loved how much they got out of Wilson’s 2 minutes on the phone, as well as his absence at the end.

    One thing that amuses me is your revealing that Hugh was responsible for the cake and the toilet serenade. A bunch of us on the forum were convinced that those decisions were Hugh’s… I think he loves House as much as we do.

    It’s interesting that some people are worried that House has ‘changed’ and others are worried that ‘nothing has really changed and he’ll go back to how he was’. To which I respond with a reference to the Ledge Analogy. Some people want the guy to jump, others want him to go in. I want the writers to keep performing the death-defying and insanely beautiful balancing act that they’ve been doing for 5+ seasons now!

  • sdemar

    Excellent review, Barbara. You could have added several more pages because there was so much that went on and you would have kept my interest.

    As a Huddy, I had absolutely no problem with Lydia.What took place fit and I was glad to see someone acknowledge and accept House for who he is. I found the storyline sweet and tender. Plus it shows us and House that maybe it is time for him to take the risk again and try once again to connect to a woman and in my mind, I can only think Cuddy. House is such a tender and sweet lover. A hard shell but underneath and exposed, he is raw to the bone. And I am glad the writers acknowledged the House/Cuddy storyline. They have spent 2 year’s building up their relationship. Just because the finale was a hallucination doesn’t eliminate what transpired prior to that and I would feel cheated if they just dropped it with no resolution or continuation.

    Question? What was Hugh’s idea? The lovemaking or the crying at the end?

    As far as the final scene, I totally saw Hugh in that. Face in cake, face in clothes in HH. Only Hugh can come up with that. The little bowing with his hands is very characteristic of him. Not that I minded but I saw Hugh and not House in the cake celebration scene.

    As Jair pointed out, this was one time when House was willing to open the door and walk through. What will he do now that he is out on his own?

    This was such a brilliant episode all around. Yes, some of it was a little cheesy and farfetched, but I was willing to suspend my belief for storytelling purposes.

    BTW, I adore KJ. She is terrific and has a wonderful ability to bring out the best in Hugh. It is apparent he puts a lot of trust in her. And kudos to the writers. I think I have to say this is the best episode of the show. I seem to keep saying that but they have a way of outdoing themselves.

    Although I didn’t miss the rest of the cast and loved the 3 other stars of this episode-AB, LM, FP, I am excited to meet up again with the familiar faces. I’m excited to see House’s reaction when he first sees Cuddy. I hope they don’t skip over that. I’ve been waiting 4 months for that moment.

    Thanks again, Barbara. Well done.

  • Sera G.

    Yikes, that is embarassing! I pressed Post accidentally. Sorry, I am almost done.
    House is sitting, again, at the back of a bus…incredible! He has come full circle, perhaps able to achieve what he wished at the end of “W. Heart”, to not be in pain, not be miserable and to not have Wilson hate him. Beautifully done, writers!
    I loved that hug with Alvy. I think the true healing was that Alvy would take his meds. The music box scene was sweet and necessary to move along the plot, but that was true House. Unsentimental, do this, it will make things better…no fuss, no fanfare.
    By the by, the only false note that I felt was when House was upset by the doctor bursting superhero’s delusion. That was pure House! He would have called the patient on that in a second. Perhaps that was him having more empathy with a person in pain, but it just rubbed me a bit wrong.
    In summary, it was worth waiting 133 days! (Yes, I counted!)
    Beautifully written, amazing direction, incredible performances. On to season 6!

  • barbara barnett

    Thanks everyone for your kind comments. It’s good to be back after the summer into the full swing of a new season.

    Sdemar, I meant the tears, not the lovemaking.

    It was great talking to the writers (one of whom confessed to being a reader here!)

    I could have written a lot more, but at more than 4000 words, I think it was even a bit too long. And I wrote until 2 a.m. last night. Even though I had already seen the episode last week on DVD, I had to transcribe the lengthy interview and put my thoughts down somewhat coherently.

    I can’t wait for next week’s episode, and unfortunately I’ll have to DVR it, as I won’t be home till late on Monday.

    I agree about House opening the door, and it being a callback to “Half Wit” and “The Itch.” It was so difficult for him, and his inital rebuffing of Lydia’s advances reminded me of his final conversation with Stacy. But I loved that he hummed to Silent Girl and saw her sway.

    There was such joyfulness in House little bit of piano tinkering as well when Lydia explained the kiss.

    There are no words for the impact of House’s taking Lydia’s hand, giving her comfort and more. And the delight with which he brought her into the day room to see her SIL playing the cello.

    But my favorite scenes were the story of House and Steve. Like Steve, House suffered hallucinations that gave him a happier story. His own realization that it was a fantasy was sudden and devestating. I wonder how much that played into House’s reaction.

    I just loved that story. And what it says about House as a person.

    More for another time.

  • Sue

    I thought this episode was brilliant in every way. It reinforces to me that all that time wasted on 13 and 14 was a mistake that took time away from the essence of this incredible program. Just think what we could have had if Hugh Laurie had the screen time they gave to untalented Olivia Wilde.

    I loved that the script was simple, and they let a talented cast of actors run away with it. Simple is better when it comes to what the characters say. No one will accuse Mad Men of having complicated intricate scripts.

    The casting of this episode was terrific. Too bad it wasn’t terrific when they cast the rejects we got for a new team. Secondary characters can help or hurt a show, evidenced by the great performances of Braugher and Miranda.

    One thing not mentioned in the article was House’s attempt at an apology in Under My Skin. He put the patient on anti-biotics and she got a horrible side effect. He knew he did something wrong and when he apologized,and he felt nothing. In Broken, House did something nice for the patient, and although the outcome was tragic, he could not have seen that coming. But this time, his apology was heartfelt.

    Hugh is a genius actor and producer. I hope he realizes how loyal his fans are.

  • simchasd

    This episode really took us inside the journey with House from its initial scenes of withdrawal to the very last one of House on the bus,in a better state of mind than when he entered Mayfield. ( I think the faded yellow smiley face on his shirt was indicative of that.) It was enthralling and captivating to watch the entire season’s premiere. Everyone has their role to play in House’s development and they were realistic in their portrayals. If you have worked in a hospital setting you would know that it is hard to keep track of time. Days and weeks just bleed into one another and the predictable daily routine makes it just that. Time is at a standstill and the only clues we get about elapsed time is from Dr. Nolan. The relationship he has with House is obviously going to be “different” from other patients in the facility. His calm and calculated way of dealing with House, is what House needed and no it wasn’t going to follow the standard operating procedures of the hospital. The way Dr. Nolan dealt with House was pivotal to House’s epiphany that he in fact needed help. I really feel that each person House encountered while in Mayfield aided him in some positive way. And as someone mentioned before because these were “strangers” and this was not going to be a permanent situation House was able to interact with them on a more personal playing field (hence the role Lydia played). How all of these break throughs will translate for him back in his “real world” in PP is why we all can’t wait to watch the upcoming episodes.

  • JK

    I loved the premiere as well, for all the above mentioned reasons. And though I am a strong Huddy fan, I thought the House/Lydia relationship was beautifully done. I don’t know if this is considered off topic or not, but in the actual broadcast premiere,(it was edited out of the ITunes version, for some reason), you can just barely see House breathe “Cuddy” and then start to cry. I thought I heard him say something, then I went back, and sure enough it’s Cuddy’s name when you watch House’s lips. I’m so not making that up. See for yourselves!

  • JL

    It’s great to get the chance to hear from the writers, as well as your own take on this episode, Barbara. Thanks as always.

    I think that of all the episodes, ‘Broken’ is going to be the one I will most appreciate watching AFTER having read everyone’s analysis (whenever Australia get around to airing it…). People have such very different takes on it. It’s good to get all sides of the issue.

    I will admit to being somewhat concerned that TPTB may hit the reset button yet again. I have been burned before. I do not want to see these events being completely forgotten.

    Not that I mind the idea of House relapsing into old ways, somewhat, because a HUGE part of the journey is accepting that you will relapse and that, every time, you will have to have the humility and courage to pick yourself up off the floor and start again…

  • KHC

    Hiya! Barbara – fantastic to have your reviews back, its just not House without them 🙂 Thank you for another great one!

    Nothing quite like splitting the fans is there? I have to say I’m on the ‘really enjoyed it, despite the cheesiness’ side of the debate. Yes, when he handed over the music box and she started talking, and then steve started speaking, I shouted at the tv ‘they did NOT just do that!!’, but I got over it – something had to happen to make House and Lydia finish. But other than that I was completely wrapped up in the journey, as ever, and the writers, director, and of course Hugh are amazing for making the journey so amazing to watch.

    A few people have commented on House’s motivation for the trip to the fair. I think he was playing the system, trying to prove someone he didn’t like wrong (remember the migraine cure/lsd?). I love that it was left open to interpretation though – insert your version of House here!

    Can’t believe Hugh was so overlooked in the Emmys, again! His little touches made the episode – crying, head in cake a la bus clothes, brilliant! Not to mention the work he did with the dialogue that was put before him, the scene in the hospital, his acceptance that he was, actually, broken – wow!! I loved that he took the journey on the bus at the end, as someone has previously commented, going full circle from House’s Head.

    With regard ‘Huddy’ – I am totally a shipper, always have been, but still loved him connecting to Lydia. However, I think the writers had every right to consider the fans reation though -after all, lose the fans, lose the show.

    I hope that the writers and team can build on this now. I’m looking forward to seeing a slightly more emotionally open House take on the world – can he keep it up around people who aren’t strangers? I think the big test for him will come in trying to keep open in his interactions with the team, Wilson and Cuddy – they have come to know and respect his misanthropic ways, I can’t help but wonder how a slightly different will House fit back into this, bearing in mind that they haven’t changed at all. Can’t wait to find out though 😀

  • wackjob

    “Administering haldol is not supposed to be a punishment, it’s a way to help someone stop being a danger to himself or another. House recognised that he had screwed up and made poor decisions. He asked for help. He didn’t need haldol. And House is also a patient in the hospital and ill–the carnival trip happened because the hospital did not supervise well enough. You don’t blame the patient for being ill. You help the patient process and get better. And you put better security measures in place.”

    As far as I could see, there was no security in this hospital. And House nearly killed another patient–that doesn’t make him a danger to others? At least in the doctor’s minds? I’ve seen many patients put on Haldol because they merely expressed violent and/or inappropriate thoughts. And who on earth thought up the day pass/night pass thing? As I wrote on the other thread, you are only allowed to do so with a family member.

    Yes, it’s entertainment, it’s a movie, it’s also something that will make the lives of the mentally ill more difficult because the subtext is “man up, change your attitude, and things will get better.”

    For the record, I saw my psychiatrist today, also a House fan, and he thought the Nolan father thing was ludicrous, and mentioned that you don’t put restraints on someone in opioid withdrawal. When patients are put in “isolation rooms,” they scream their heads off, often for hours.

    I expected a lot more from this show then House turning into Mr. Rogers, at least for now.

  • Jair

    “As far as I could see, there was no security in this hospital. And House nearly killed another patient–that doesn’t make him a danger to others? At least in the doctor’s minds? I’ve seen many patients put on Haldol because they merely expressed violent and/or inappropriate thoughts. And who on earth thought up the day pass/night pass thing? As I wrote on the other thread, you are only allowed to do so with a family member.”

    Security was shown on a couple of occasions in the ep. The show is not supposed to be a documentary and there’s no “one” true experience of psychiatric stays to be shown. House showed he knew what he had done was wrong and why and Dr. Nolan knew what his motivation for the trip was. There was no reason to give House Haldol or lock him in solitary confinement.

    The Nolan “father” thing was a way to tie House’s father’s death, which he did not witness, to his healing process, as he witnesses another lonely genius who screwed up his life somehow sit vigil on his father. There was a dramatic reason for the scene and it didn’t pull me out of the show at all.

    “Yes, it’s entertainment, it’s a movie, it’s also something that will make the lives of the mentally ill more difficult because the subtext is “man up, change your attitude, and things will get better.””

    I’ve seen a lot of positive comments from people in the mental health community.

  • barbara barnett


    So have I. Including NAMI and the head of another mental health organization who specifically noted this episode of House in comparison to other shows based in a psych hospital. It’s entertainment, not a documentary–not even a docudrama.

    It was an astonishing raw and well-done look at House’s heart and soul.

  • Amie

    @JK (#29) : I’m sorry to dissappont you but he doesn’t say “cuddy”. He inhales through his mouth and his tongue makes a snappy sound that sounds like cuddy.
    Although I am a big Huddy fan, I think it would have been completely weird if he said her name then. I actually think he didn’t think about her during his stay.

  • KC

    The show is not supposed to be a documentary and there’s no “one” true experience of psychiatric stays to be shown.

    I agree with this very much. Even if it was a documentary they are subjective.

  • hwl40


    Insightful as always, but somehow I wonder if you might have more to say… parallels between other episodes, identical lines, different consequences, the slight trickle of water through the ice jam of House’s psych, what is it, where might it go or will the freeze set in again, the “we’re all pathetic’…can he really become part of the human race and do what he does?

    Just a thought or two, thanks for what you do. Ami

  • MAineac

    I thought it was interesting (and maybe unintentional, since the writers don’t mention it) that many of the other characters House interacts with mirror him in some ways:

    First, Freedom Master. The efforts of “the Man” to break Freedom Master remind me of House’s famous “circle queen” comment to Cameron during Lines in the Sand, about how normal people fear and try to “break” anyone who is outside the norm.

    Next, Dr. Nolan. Dr. Nolan was also someone, like House, with no personal mementos in his office, “no personal life.” Who’d screwed up his life.

    Lastly, Silent Girl, someone who started withdrawing from people ten years ago. Sound familiar?

    It was like they were all aspects of House. I personally thought the episode was brilliantly done–such a large notch above usual TV fare. Congrats to the writers (and of course Hugh and Katie and all).

    BTW WAtching the episode, without having read your column, I pegged both the face-plant in the cake and the G&S song as having been HL’s contributions.

  • Flo

    I agree this in not a documentary. On the other hand the Nolan’s father thing was indeed ludicrous!

    My sister mentioned an interesting thing to me. She wondered if, when House see Lydia’s kid, he was feeling like him. After all, House’s mom cheated on his dad. She told me that perhaps he saw himself a bit in this poor kid and fully understood why there was no future for him and Lydia.

    I just thought I’d share it with you guys. I honestly didn’t see it that way a that time but it is interesting.

  • savta

    Flo – We know that House’s mom cheated on his father before he was born since he determined that he is not genetically related to his father by snipping off enough hair or tissue during his funeral to test it against his own DNA.
    House said that he always thought that his father was really a close family friend.
    Do we have any other evidence of her in other relationships while House was growing up?

  • barbara barnett

    All good questions, guys. Keep the discussion going! I do have more thoughts on specific parts of the episode and I may have time to put them into a separate entry over the weekend (hopefully).

    I want to comment on the music box, lydia, the Freedom Master story line and nolan all separately. But what are your thoughts?

  • savta

    Though many have written in saying that the music box as a catalyst for a breakthrough for both the Freedom Master and Annie was too unbelievable and corny, I just remembered a similar story.
    An uncle was so shell shocked and brain damaged after WWII that he was in the mental ward of a VA hospital for many years after the war. After being in a non-communicative, catatonic state for 7 years, one day while sitting in the visitors room with his parents and sister, another inmate picked up a very heavy planter and threw it at his sister’s head. She ducked just in time. He suddenly blurted out “that guy is crazy”. After that, he began speaking – slowly at first, but did recover his speech.
    I guess these breakthroughs do happen. In this case, b/c it was House who saw the possibility and provided the music box, it sort of gave him some more validation which at that point he sorely needed.

  • tigerfeet

    Hi and thanks for the great interview/review combination. You do have a way with words, I must say.

    My thoughts. Yes, I absolutely adored this episode. Great writing, directing and acting by all. But first and foremost a tour de force performance by HL. He IS the show. Period. It was fantastic to watch him convey the different stages in the recovery: withdrawl (wow – how raw was that!), arrogance, defiance, realisation, fear, and finally cooperation and trust. Who could do it better?!

    I also liked the other actors very much – dr Nolan and Alvie for sure, but I’d like to comment on Franka Potente. Her Lydia fitted perfectly to House in that situation. I thought they made a lovely couple while it lasted. It was fantastic to see House let his guard down and give himself over to someone – and with her it rang true. Maybe she can give Cuddy – whom I love – a run for the money later in the season?! (I still want him with Cuddy though…)

    The fact that this whole double-episode took place outside PPTH, gave me a taste for more of the same. Not all the time – obviously – but maybe more than in previous seasons. I think. I don’t want the show to disband the formula that made it so succsessful either. Oh, it’s difficult.

    Now it will be interesting to see how this whole experience will change House, if at all. I imagine it will be a change, at least for a while, and trust HL to find the right new nuanced tone.

    I am sooooo looking forward to follow it all.

  • KC

    I just heard that jennifer morrison is leaving the show.

  • Flo

    42 – savta :
    yes I know the cheating part was before House’s birth obviously, and my sister knows it too, but I think my sister meant that maybe House didn’t want the kid to feel like him. He didn’t want the boy to know that her mom had an affair, just like House discovered it at 12. It is a speculation that, House fully understood there was no future between him and lydia at that moment. I think he knew it from the beginning but maybe he fully realized it at that moment, I don’t know. That’s my sister’s thought. It was the idea that House didn’t want the kid to wonder about him ad his relationship whith his mom.

    You’re right we don’t know if House’s mom had others affairs but once you know she had one, once you doubt, it’s over. I think it was in that way that my sister took it.

    I’m gonna try to push the discussion further with her. Of course if would be better if she would come here to explain it herself.

  • hwl40

    A little addendum. In case some of you might not know, the wonderful piano piece that Lydia played and House played with is the first movement from Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) entitled “Of Foreign Lands and People”. Sadly, Schumann, who was at least bipolar, died in a mental institution. The sensitivity and attention to the heartrending detail in this show never cease to amaze me.

  • barbara barnett

    Fantastic hwl40. Yes, there is incredible care taken with every musical piece, every prop, every action and reaction. Why I love the show. (well, one of the reasons, anyway)

  • KHC

    KC – a spoiler tag would’ve been nice!

    Barbara – me too, there’s always another level of detail to that which is immediately obvious! Looking forward to next weeks episode already.

  • KC


  • simplethings


    Awhile back you said you were working on a piece about House’s romantic streak. I would love to see that someday if you have the time to work on it.

    I’m so glad House is back, but I’m terrified that House this season might go downhill, especially after what the spoiler sites are saying.

    The writers haven’t let me down so far, but I hope that they don’t just return to status quo and they really flush out this House, the one that was moving forward inch by inch.

    Trying to keep the faith…

  • barbara barnett

    Hi simplethings and everyone. Thanks so much for all your comments and discussion. I did a piece a while back on House’s love life, but not specifically his romantic streak. After seeing broken, it’s clear my perceptions about it are no mistake. He is consistent in his reactions to love and relationships–and has been since season one.

    House falls very easily and seems very much to hang on when he does: Stacy, Cuddy, even Lydia (although his romance with her was fleeting). He tends to become more involved than the target of his affections, and it makes him happy enough to sing when he has fallen for someone. But he has misread both Stacy and Lydia…verdict is still out on Cuddy.

    I loved what he said to Nolan about kissing. “kisses are good things.” (I think that’s exact, but maybe “nice,” not “good.” And you can see it when he does have a romantic encounter. The way he kisses. It’s gentle, tender, but passionate.

    So that’s my take on House’s romantic side in a nutshell.

  • Eve K

    Thank you Barbara, for both of your reviews.

    I loved this episode, this “House-movie”. HL was very intense.

    I loved the Lydia story, House seemed so different with her.

    How can that same person pay for sex? I guess the hooker theme is the shows alibi for being politically incorrect and “daring”, but opposed to Breaking Bad and Dexter where a lot of morally questionable choices are being made, we almost believe that House is real.

    On top of this, House is prejudiced. “Go suckle your bastard child”, House told Cuddy. That’s a loaded word – bastard. Even if he said it to Cuddy in another context, it still means that he on some level differentiates between a child born outside a relationship and other children.

    If he accept and respect paying for sex and sleeping around, then he should accept and respect any child that may come out of that. He compartmentalizes and do seem to have a double standard on the issue. (Feel free to disagree)

    And now he experience intimacy. A very emotional, beautifully played scene. Lydia and House connected somehow. It may be the therapy. It may be the music. (Schumann, Schubert, Bach’s beautiful Prelude) He may have his guard down. It still doesn’t add up. But a human being never does make sense. Or is he really changing? House is carrying a whole lot of guilt in this episode, and he says that you don’t deserve absolution for certain things. I don’t agree. And even if some things cannot be excused, it helps to NOT do them anymore.

    This episode was an exciting journey including the cheesiness, and there was a LOT of cheesiness. Loved the Steve story, and I got why House was so into helping him. I just hope this experience makes him take a closer look at other aspects of his life.

  • Jill Billy

    2) I agree with Barbara on this. I don’t think the episode was supposed to be a clearinghouse of all his issues.

    The House fish out of water thing was a smart touch in my opinion. I don’t think it clouded his character at all.

  • wackjob

    I am seriously worried that, after this “Very Special Episode of House”, and the upcoming dismissal of JM, that the infrastructure of the show is crumbling and they’ve jumped the shark. Who on the staff has such a thing for Olivia Wilde???

  • Annabelle Fox

    Hi Barbara and everybody here. Im a big and passionate fan of House M.D. and I regularly read and like your reviews and comments here. I’m not wrote anything in this discussion yet, but now, when I saw „Broken“ (and I was really excited from it) I want to share one my opinion here. I’m not a native english speaker, so please excuse my english, I hope you will understand :-)).
    I really very very liked a character of Lydia. She was kind, honest, open and hearty, optimistic, reasonable and steady and every time she could (and wanted) to see the better, softer and honest side of House. She liked him such as he was and didn’t try to change him, to train or indoctrinate him and to say him, how he should behave. And I think that House needs exactly the same type of woman. Someone who has no connection with PPTH and House’s previous life and who will like him this way how Lydia did. I used to be a Huddy fan for a long time, but after episode 5×10 up to the end of 5. season I suddenly quit like Cuddy. I can’t help myself, but I didn’t like her behavior in the second part of 5. season. And now I must truly say, that I’m afraid of everything Huddy in 6. season, because I think it’s not realistic and it can’t work. I think that Cuddy isn’t the right woman for House. Firstly because she is his boss and always will take him from this position (like boss, teacher, parent,…someone who must always watch over him and indoctrinate him and this kind of approach can’t never work in relationship betwen man and woman) and next she herself still has a lot of problems with her own life. She is still looking for what she realy wants and needs and still has a lot of expectations and ideals, that in real life are mostly unrealistic. And I think that House needs a woman who already knows what she wants, has her personal and inner life stable and well-balanced, is satisfied with herself and her life and will be able to take House such as he is (and not only House, but everything in life), without expectations that he should somehow change and without an effort to change him into someone else. So I very liked Lydia and when I saw all the scenes with House and her I was suddenly hit by the difference between her and everyone in PPTH, inclusive Cuddy, Wilson, Cameron and all others, who are mostly and primarily searching a nonemotional egoistic manipulative bastard in him in everything what he does and says and are constantly trying to fix him, indoctrinate him and manipulate with him. O.K. I know that Lydia couldn’t know anything about his past and his behavior in work, but that’s just it… She didn’t interesting about his past and she concentrate with kindness and sympathy on the man who stood before her right now and was trying to see always the better in everything what he did. House can be a bastard (this we all very well know :-)), but I thing that only relationship with someone open, honest and sympathetic, who has solved his own life and problems, is self-respectful and can take everything such as it is, can in House’s life work.

  • TVFan

    Watching Rupert Everetts excellent Sherlock Holmes in “The Mystery Of the Silk Stockings” on PBS the other evening I was once again struck by the similarities between “House” and “Holmes” (even the name seems evolved thru “homes”, as Wilson seems evolved from Watson). The parallels are simply too striking to be chance.

    No harm done: one could hardly find a better model to follow for episodic TV stories. There is an endless source of materials in the mysteries of crime and medicine. Each has a ready supply of perplexing puzzles that require an intelligent detective able to put aside personal inclination and professional prejudice and then proceed on evidence.

  • Jackie

    I really liked how House put aside the cane and had the slow dance with Lydia. For a man who used the cane as his crutch and the other part of his identity, he seemed perfectly fine when he held Lydia during the dance. I remember back to the season 1 finale, “Honeymoon” when he so valiantly tried to take a step near the end after downing a glass of Bourbon for courage. He tossed away the cane then, only to have his leg buckle or give out in pain when he attempted to walk towards the couch, in his effort to prove to himself that he can overcome the surgery that was five years in the rear view mirror. Seeking consolation out of frustration, you have the Vicodin pill tossed in the air only to come down and leave House just as troubled as he was in the beginning of season 1.

    Fast forward to the next scene in “Broken” when he enters the room with Lydia without the cane. Perhaps he no longer thought of himself as a man who was crippled both physically and emotionally. Lydia became his liberator for the moment and a stepping stone towards his future.

    These two hours were a beautiful portrait of what makes House tick and the baby steps needed to add up for him to make that one giant leap back into humanity. He’s always had that heart of gold but was never able to express his fears and wants so precisely.

    Truth be told, if this airing was filmed to be a three hour journey at Mayfield instead of the two, it would not have been difficult to watch. I’d love to see Alvie or any of the others at Mayfield come to Princeton-Plainsboro for a guest spot later in the year.

    As an aside to the above comments and the human side of “House”, I thought and thought about an older film and a British actor who called the female star, “Lydia.” I couldn’t place the voice that I kept hearing, but it was Ray Milland to Marlene Dietrich in the 1947 hit film, “Golden Earrings” (Paramount). Milland was a British officer, emotionless, staid, a true military man. Dietrich is the gypsy he encounters who reaches his emotions (true she is overbearing at times) but at long last the human side of Milland’s character emerges.

  • barbara barnett

    TV Fan–The show is intentionally based on Holmes, so good catch. And welcome. As well as a good welcome to everyone who is new to my little corner of the Blogosphere.

    I want to take this opportunity to wish my Jewish readers an easy fast and a very good year.

  • tigerfeet

    Hi Annabelle. I really liked your post and understand where you’re coming from, even if I don’t fully agree. This was very well put, and you’re on to something in my mind:

    “And I think that House needs a woman who already knows what she wants, has her personal and inner life stable and well-balanced, is satisfied with herself and her life and will be able to take House such as he is (and not only House, but everything in life), without expectations that he should somehow change and without an effort to change him into someone else. So I very liked Lydia and when I saw all the scenes with House and her I was suddenly hit by the difference between her and everyone in PPTH, inclusive Cuddy, Wilson, Cameron and all others, who are mostly and primarily searching a nonemotional egoistic manipulative bastard in him in everything what he does and says and are constantly trying to fix him, indoctrinate him and manipulate with him.”

    He does take some stick from his collegues and boss, and there has been many a time where I’ve been annoyed with how they berate him so often. But then again, most times it’s mostly rightly so, no? I mean, even if we as viewers love him, he must surely be a handful “in real life” (ha!). And Cuddy is admirably understanding and indulging.

    But as I say, I understand your view-point, but unlike you I look forward to further House/Cuddy, and anything else the writers will come up with. I just love this show!

  • DebbieJ

    @#7 – nicole o: Nicole, I couldn’t have said it better myself. You’ve recited exactly what is in my head about this episode, especially not just being a Huddy fan, but a fan of romantic House. As a House/Cuddy fan, I was not upset by Lydia’s, presence. She was a catalyst in House finding the ability to connect with another person on a physical and emotional level simultaneously. This was just one of many break throughs for House in the ep. To feel pain by her leaving and then going to talk to Dr. Nolan instead of drowning in a bottle of pills were also two very important break throughs.

    Was the talent show lame? Yeah, a little. But I like lame 😉 I’ve actually enjoyed it more upon subsequent viewings. I think that scene was really important and not just for House. But for all the patients. The one that struck me the most besides Alvie, was the big, mute black man; the one with his hands wrapped in some sort of support. It just touched me to where I had tears in my eyes. It’s really true that music is the connection to the soul. He never speaks but in that scene he was so expressive and he felt pure joy. And I really don’t think House rapping was all that out of character for him. Of course, he doesn’t rap, but the man has rythym, he is quick witted and it certainly fits within the character to come up with lyrics in a split second.

    I’ve also read how some thought the music box scene with Freedom Master and Silent Girl was too Hallmark-y/movie of the week cheesy. But if you look closely, House doesn’t get the epiphany by himself. He is wheeling FM past SG to get ready for Group, when FM lifts the box from his lap just as they pass SG. House sees FM breaking through on his own. Was SG’s accepting of it and saying thank you after not speaking for 10 years a bit unlrealitstic? Perhaps, but due to the time constraints of the TV drama and to keep the story flowing, this was the only part of the episode I felt the need to suspend my disbelief.

    As for whether the writers are making too much change for House to be believable, I think the timing was perfect for this to be happening to Greg House. For 5 seasons, we’ve seen him miserable, seen him self-destruct. As much as we know that a fixed/happy/content House will mean the end of the show, this was the time to see some growth in him. But they aren’t accelerating it. They’re taking baby steps. Which I love. To keep House always miserable without any willing to change would make the show and character stagnant.

    To know that it was HL’s idea to have House cry after their interlude makes me love this scene even more. The scene itself was beautiful. Perfectly lit, perfect music. I almost felt like I needed to turn away and give them some privacy. ALMOST! LOL It was such a sensual scene, I was complete turned on by it. Then the tears in his eyes left me a like a puddle of of goo.

    Not surprised at all to read that the face in the cake was Hugh’s idea, also. It was so him, especially with the rolling of the wrists to take a bow!

    At first I thought the car you see driving up was Wilson coming to pick him up, but was so glad to see him doing this himself and hopping on the bus. The look of uncertainty but eagerness to get back to life was perfect and bless Hugh Laurie to be able to express both in one expression. The happy face tshirt was icing on the cake!

  • Jackie

    In the opening sequence to “No Surprises” by Radiohead, there was a shot of a hospital employee looking in through the glass window on the door to House’s room. I thought for an instance it was Cuddy (but it wasn’t, although there was a resemblance).

    I thought that the rap sequence during the talent show was very telling for the lyrics. That in itself summed up what House has to do to get better. For example, “My roommate is a jerk”, “If you don’t make connections, your whole life is a mess”….

    Hugh Laurie’s expressions were very reminiscent of those in “House’s Head”, namely the opening shot of him in the strip club – fast forward to the scene in the ER in “Broken” when he is in shock and Andre Braugher comes over and tells him about Freedom Master’s injuries. The look of fear when FM is about to jump off the garage balcony, similar to that when he realizes that Amber is the one who will be the fatality in “HH”. I also noticed the change in the shirt colors once he started to feel better (for example the pink one in the conversation with Andre Braugher’s Dr. Nolan where he admits feeling good but that he has more to do) and the smiley t-shirt at the end.

    I thought the ending was great and no, I was not looking for Wilson’s Volvo to drive down towards Mayfield Psychiatric. House was so absorbed in taking those steps that he was focused on that until his eyes centered on the road straight ahead from the back of that bus. I wouldn’t expect House to be House without bumps in that road ahead. If the season finally is entitled “Fixed”, then the show’s gone too far too soon!!

  • Jackie

    Oops – meant to say, “If the season finale is entitled “Fixed”, then the show’s gone too far too soon!!

  • ValentineBaby

    The writers’ said that the face in the cake was not in the script. Was pinching Alvie’s butt in the script? Or was that also Hugh’s spontaneous action?

  • Mike

    Nice final scene on the bus- paying homage to The Graduate…

  • mario

    All I have to say is: Franka Potente should stay.

    Cuddy should go.

    Ugh! Now I have to watch Huddy go all up in smokes again with their constant tug of war and passionless chemistry.

    Lydia and House WAS chemistry.

    You can’t expect House to hook up with Cuddy just because they work together!

    Cuddy 0
    Lydia 1

  • Nm

    Hugh Laurie is outstanding.

    So far the rest of this season is incredibly boring, and trite. Someone said chessie…yes it is.

    House is made weak, drugs are promoted as “getting well” and the only glimmer of hope here is that that House is going to get to be a doctor again rather than an feminized version of himself.

    Cuddy knows him like no one else and their relationship is not changed. A new person is no challenge to have a relationship with – no history – no real tension – both people projecting what they want and no depth.

    I love Cuddy, she grounds him, and has real feeling for him whether or not they end up in bed it doesn’t matter. She is his advocate along w/Wilson of course.

    I want the real House, perhaps with an new insight about human interaction or additional brilliance about life but not a watered down crying man – I am not afraid of brilliant “damaged” people or men who don’t cry at chick flicks.

    He is a deeply feeling man, and that has been shown. His ability to express, maybe could be improved, but why o why do we need to make him like everyone else – watered down.