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InHouse: “A Pox On Our House”

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“A Pox On Our House” was one of my favorite episodes this season. It was ambitious and dramatic with, as always, a touch of humor thrown in for good measure. Good news! The InHouse folks have given us an update that does the episode justice.

First up is the Dark Room, where we get a behind the scenes look at the creation of the slave ship. The slave quarters we saw on screen look as close, dirty and damp off camera, as they do on. We can’t imagine that those actors were too comfortable during the filming of the teaser. But it certainly made for a great scene. Then it’s off to the more aesthetically pleasing Port of Los Angeles, where the present day boating scenes were filmed. The Pacific Ocean is at its most beautiful in these shots. We also get a look at the isolation area of Princeton-Plainsboro, featuring a bevy of crew tucking the cast members into their protective gear. We’d like to thank the InHouse folks for the ver-r-ry nice photo of Hugh Laurie being instructed on the proper handling of the patient. After some miscellaneous shots of the cast between takes, the Dark Room segment ends with a shot of a chair bearing Amber Tamblyn’s name. It looks like we’ll have Martha M. Masters with us for a while.

We love behind the scenes footage where we actually learn something about the way Hollywood stuff is done. InHouse has been very good about keeping us up to speed with how the experts do their jobs. This time is no exception. In the Media Room, we are treated to a crash course on “Special Effects and Prosthetics Makeup” by two of the show’s experts. First we meet Dalia Doktor, who is House’s Special Effects Makeup Department Head. She explains the difference between ‘standard makeup’ and ‘prosthetics’, and then runs down the grisly special effects she works on (blood gels, vomit, cuts, gashes and rashes, etc.). She has such a lovely way of explaining all this, she might as well be chatting about gardening. Obviously the woman enjoys her job.

The “B-story” this week concerns a little girl who is a cancer patient. It is up to Ms. Doktor to make the actress look the part by fitting her with a bald cap, and she explains how this is done. It is a lengthy process, we are told (one and a half to two hours). To her credit, the young girl playing the role is a trooper, smiling as Ms. Doktor works on getting the bald cap just right.

Ms. Doktor also demonstrates how the “A-story” patient of the week and the slaves were made to look like they were suffering from smallpox. She is shown creating fake pustules on their skin, which look chillingly real.

In the second Media Room video, “Special Effects: The Slave Ship”, we meet Gary Monack, who is in charge of the mechanical special effects (which include atmosphere smoke, rain, snow, etc.)and pyrotechnics. In less than a minute, he shows how the slave ship was made to look like it was rocking up and back on a turbulent storm at sea. He also demonstrates how they were able to simulate an explosion on the ship using pyrotechnics and a huge gust of air. It sounds so simple but it takes a great amount of expertise to make the scene come together so quickly and without a hitch.

As a special treat, we get to hear from Larry Kaplow in the Writers Room. Mr. Kaplow has been a writer and producer for House since 2005 (leaving briefly in 2007 to work on K-Ville), and penned this week’s episode.

He begins by talking about the ambitious double whammy teaser at the top of the show: the slave ship in 1793 and then modern day Bermuda where two kids find a jar containing what could be smallpox. Briefly he discusses the emotional element of two scenes: the first concerns the doomed father on the slave ship, who must say goodbye to his son, Later in the story, the modern day father, also dying, must say farewell to his boy. One scene foreshadows the other and they resonate off each other perfectly.

The episode also deals with the fallout from last week’s story where House lied to Cuddy. House’s assertion that he needed to lie in order to do his job does not sit well with Cuddy (even though House has been working this way for the past seven years). Now that they are in a relationship, this presents more of a problem than it used to. “Cuddy can’t draw the distinction between a personal relationship and a work relationship,” Mr. Kaplow tells us.

Masters, he says, is growing into her own. Because she is so smart and honest, she believes telling the truth is the best way to get what you want. Surprisingly, the truth works for her.

Also in this episode, Wilson and Sam become surrogate parents to a young girl whose mother is locked out of the hospital (because of the smallpox scare and the CDC’s orders). They work well together because they tell the truth to one another, admitting their faults and their weaknesses. This is in contrast to House and Cuddy, who, in this episode, don’t work well together at all.

Mr. Kaplow’s insights on his episode are insightful and shed light on a few points I had originally missed. The subtle way certain scenes work together is especially fascinating.

Only one writers’ pick made it to the Houseism section this week: “You’re free to perform whatever unnecessary tests you want, Foreman. Slavery was abolished years ago.”

Finally, the iTunes link to the episode’s sole song “All That We See” by Black Ryder is featured in the Music Room.

We’ll be back next week with a look at the InHouse updates for the episode “Small Sacrifices”.

The inHouse app is available free from iTunes for your iPhone,iPad, and iPod Touch. Some features are also available at Fox.com/house.

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About Mindy Peterman

  • housefan

    The episode was great, but I expect the medical side to be somewhat accurate. In this case is wasn’t at all. Smallpox is viral, and Rickettsialpox is bacterial. The lesions of smallpox are nothing like that displayed on the girl or her father. Ricketsiallpox lesions do not resemble smallpox lesions and any infectious disease novice (let alone experts) would know the difference. In addition, the ricettsialpox stems from mites, and could not possibly last for 200 years without a host (or even one month). Rickettsialpox is also not fatal, any more than say chicken pox. Moreover rickettsialpox is a modern disease first outbreak know to us is in 1946 in New York. (see wikipedia article).
    I would hope that in the future, the screenplay would be screened by some physician before the screenplay proceeds to production.