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TV Review: House, M.D. – “Black Hole”

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What is a black hole? In astronomy, a black hole is a compact mass in space from which nothing (not even light) can escape. Opaque, it absorbs all light (and all matter) that hits it and reflects nothing back.

This week’s House episode, the appropriately titled “Black Hole,” is all about opacity and trying to find the truth within a densely constructed façade. Because in the end, it’s a deep secret that holds the key to a teenage girl’s life.

The episode opens as usual: a teaser that fades to credits as this week’s patient collapses. We are in outer space, planets, stars, constellations whiz past, leaving us to wonder if somehow the remote control flipped to the Discovery Channel. I usually don’t talk much about the teaser in my episode reviews, but this one, like the earlier season six episode “Epic Fail” (6×03) features a visually stunning opening, beautifully rendered (by the way) in hi-def.

A teenager, Abby has stopped breathing while watching a planetarium sky show, oozing something unpleasant from her mouth. The case, of course, finds its way to House’s team.

Leading the differentials, House (Hugh Laurie) shares power with Foreman (Omar Epps), willing to go along with his ideas, even deferring to him. Of course House is certain Foreman's wrong.

Abby is also suffering hallucinations along with her other symptoms: she imagines falling into a black hole while in the MRI machine (in another neatly directed effects sequence) and sees visions of herself as a little girl. House believes that her subconscious is trying to tell her something, pointing to whatever is wrong with her. Foreman thinks Dr. Rational House is insane for wanting to pursue this fantastical diagnostic path.

But House believes this procedure, cognitive pattern recognition, is really their only hope, no matter how "crazy" it seems. By contrast, Foreman comes off as an intransigent skeptic. The episode sets up a framework through which to compare the relative styles of the two physicians as they try to diagnose Abby.

In the first years of the series, Foreman would ever accuse House of gratuitously shooting down the fellows’ every theory. Of course, he’s right—but with an important caveat. House’s practice of “shooting down” theories has always been part of his synthesis, filtering others’ ideas into a cohesive whole.

In “Black Hole,” it’s even more clear than usual when Foreman disparages House’s ideas on the case, he has no point other than to disagree. And as the diagnosis progresses, the entire team is wowed by the success of House's procedure. Except Foreman, who continues to shoot down its validity.

House calls him a "buzz kill." Foreman lacks the wonder and imagination that House’s requires and possesses himself to take that leap into the experimental. Chase, Taub and 13 are all right there with House, amazed and awed by what the subconscious mind can process and what science can now reveal, while Foreman is on his own, there simply to criticize. But perhaps he believes that's his role on the team.

The subconscious mind is itself a “black hole” what goes on there, what it means, is usually in the realm of psychology. Memory, experience, images and emotion trigger electrical impulses within the essential inner workings of the brain. Locked inside is “who you are” buried so deeply that even you are not aware. But getting past the opacities of Abby’s façade and into her subconscious is the key to finding out what its trying to tell her.

Like nighttime dreams of waterfalls and running brooks that tell the dreamer that he has to go to the bathroom. Abby’s subconscious is trying to tickle her conscious mind and tell her something. Her hallucinations have meaning.

I would imagine that in the months since House was released from Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital, he has considered the nature of his own hallucinations in the weeks before his emotional collapse at the end of season five. He knows that hallucinations tell us something. They may reveal feelings for someone for whom we want no such feelings; act as guide or muse; tormentor or persecutor.

Hallucinations, like dreams reveal truths that are too difficult to face (like Abby’s affair with her boyfriend’s father, which resulted in her illness). It's a corollary to Carl Jung's idea that dreams are the answers to questions we don't yet know how to ask.

The episode explored more than medicine. Lawrence Kaplow’s great script as provides a nice lens through which to observe Taub (Peter Jacobson) and his marriage, as well as comment on the eminently opaque  and enigmatic Wilson (along with his reluctance to buy furniture).

Is Taub who he says he is: a repentant cheater who sincerely wants to renew his marital vows to “do it better” this time around? Or are his romantic olive branches towards wife Rachel intended as mere cover for his continued affairs?  Is he creating his own black hole through which no light will emerge from the subterfuge of his lies?

House is at first convinced that Taub’s moves are strictly a cover story that will allow him to remain a serial cheater, but slowly he’s convinced otherwise after Taub re-proposes to his wife Rachel. House is affected by this overtly romantic gesture and approves. “Good for you,” he tells Taub introspectively; it’s a phrase House reserves to express his admiration when someone makes an unexpected and difficult choice.

But House’s moment of approval is brief as he watches Taub flirt with a young nurse. House’s disappointment is obvious; Taub’s gestures are meaningless, and you have to wonder what visions might plague Taub's sleep as his subconscious conscience wrestles with him over his actions. Is he, like Abby tormented by what he does?

But on House, there is no character more opaque than Wilson. He is as unknowable as House wishes he could be. And when House insists he buy furniture for the new condo, Wilson can’t seem to reveal enough of himself—even to himself—to furnish his apartment. “We are what we sit in,” House claims. Wilson has spent so much of his life being who he believes others want him to be, even he doesn’t know who he is. At least that’s what House claims.

I loved this little side story about the apartment furnishings. House’s apartment is so full of character—and so him. I have mourned the AWOL apartment all season because it lets us in, even as House reinforces the metaphorical outer walls surrounding his true self. It gives us a glimpse into the part of House he can’t help being, no matter how hard he tries to conceal it.

On the other hand, Wilson’s apartment is white bread and milk. Vanilla. House’s admonishment that Wilson buy even one piece of furniture to express his essence is impossible. Although we do get a glimpse of Wilson in the furniture store and find that his taste is rather quirky. (He seemed to gravitate to a strange wheel-like piece that reminded me strangely of 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

In the end, Wilson does purchase something, but it’s not for him—it’s for House. Buying a classic organ for House to play is a lovely gesture and very Wilson. And House seems to truly like the organ. (How many musical instruments does House play, anyway?) I loved House playing Bach and then the organ line in Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” (which borrows heavily from the Baroque composer), a metaphorical ballad on the nature of relationships.

House returns April 12 with the final six episodes of the season (and, so I’m told with no more interruptions). Hugh Laurie directs “Lockdown,” with guest star David Strathairn.

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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)."
  • Grace

    It doesn’t bode well for an episode when the best thing I liked about it was the look on House’s face when he saw the organ that Wilson bought for him and Wilson on the big O chair, does it? It didn’t help that this was a heavy Taub episode and I don’t care a thing about Taub or especially his marriage or if he is cheating on his wife…sigh. Didn’t like the special effects either. Just give me House please!

  • RobF

    Good point about Foreman, Barbara. I had wondered why he was being written as such a buzz kill, but I think you’re right that he sees “opposing House” to be his role in the team.

    I liked the Taub story, because it showed how Taub doesn’t play House’s games. He doesn’t bother coming up with an elaborate lie for House to investigate, instead using an obvious “flat tire” excuse. When House calls him on the lie, Taub just shrugs. Taub’s problem is boring in the way that real life often is, a middle-aged couple working through their marital issues. But that’s the way Taub (and most of us) like our lives, and House seems to have gained an appreciation of this.

    I didn’t care at all about the PotW. As soon as the young girl started spitting up bloody froth, I (like most House viewers) thought, “tsk tsk, she had ess ee eks!” It was a cliché all the way through, made interesting only by the unrealistic (yet cool) technology.

    The House/Wilson story was very interesting. House continues to doubt himself, while paradoxically believing himself to be some sort of godlike presence, helping the mere mortals around him achieve self-awareness through the power of his insight and sarcasm. As Wilson recently said, he is the “diabolical, yet benevolent, puppet-master”. Often that really is the case — as we are all well aware, House is extraordinarily perceptive. This episode centres on House trying to goad Wilson into expressing his inner self through the medium of home furnishings. Wilson is hesitant, as he is perfectly content to let someone more competent furnish his home, while also being unwilling to express himself without trying to please someone else. House is, as usual, domineering and autocratic. Wilson is, as usual, understanding and patient far beyond the limits of normal man. (Raise your hand if you would not have evicted House long ago.) Wilson becomes frustrated with his inability to buy something personal, but Cuddy rebukes Wilson for letting House order him around.

    This is all fairly normal House/Wilson/Cuddy fare, but the final scene is very telling. When House notices the organ under wraps, he assumes it is some monstrosity. When it turns out to be an incredibly thoughtful and expensive gift, House does not thank his friend profusely, but rather congratulates Wilson on revealing something nice about his personality. In a way, House is congratulating himself for having pushed Wilson into doing something special — even though Wilson has done what he always does, and focused on someone else’s needs. Wilson’s reaction shows how much he is both pleased with having made House happy, and disappointed that House is too self-centred to say a simple “thank you”. I have a feeling this episode was the beginning of the end of their cohabitation.

  • Rob F–Great comments. I think you’re correct in your assessment of the House-Wilson dynamics here. House’s position with Wilson is to push the passive-agressive Wilson to action. And he doesn’t mind pushing Wilson’s buttons to do it. House is always “of action.” Only actions change things, not words. So when House believes Wilson should “change” in some way (whether that means calling a lawyer back in season two to get the divorce going) or to stop being a pushover (“Wilson”), House pushes buttons. (OF course he’s always pushing buttons with everyone; it’s his MO).

    I wasn’t really into the patient story so much (except for the cool parts of the diagnosis and special effects). But I do feel we’re in some sort of transitional state right now.

  • Elena

    I just want more House and his thought process and his white board.

  • Elena–I really miss that whiteboard. There is a significance to its absence, which I will ponder. I also want more House thinking, but we ARE getting more of that finally these last couple of episodes. He’s much more in control and in charge of the team–engaged and directing the discussion.

  • RobF

    @barbara: Wilson knows House is pushing his buttons, but doesn’t feel comfortable fighting back, just as he didn’t feel comfortable getting back at House by embarrassing him about the book of sermons he was secretly reading. Wilson is willing to put up with a bunch of crap from House while House is recovering from his breakdown, for much the same reason a parent will let a child say/do stupid things without shooting them down, because the parent knows the child is vulnerable to rejection and needs to assert himself.

    The irony of the episode is that House believes he is directing Wilson’s behaviour in a superior, parental manner, while Wilson is acting in a parental manner towards House by going along with his manipulation. But at some point, a parent needs to tell the child he is wrong, and Wilson will eventually have to confront House about his unacceptable behaviour. House’s therapy focused on getting him to relate to people in an adult way, but he has regressed into forming child/parent relationships with those around him. I think Wilson’s conflicted expression at the end of the organ scene (great acting, btw) shows he is worried about his role as an enabler of House’s childish selfishness.

    @Elena: I think the writers have pretty much exhausted the white board material. They have explored House as all-seeing mentor; House without a team; House losing his diagnostic skills due to addiction; House unsure of himself; House with free rein when Foreman had all the responsibility; and the show has had to refocus on interpersonal relationships in order to avoid becoming stale.

  • Anna from Italy

    Thank you for your always enlightening review of the episode, Barbara. I have not written any comments recently but I always look forward to your insightful observations.
    I have enjoyed the episode, so carefully written, and it seems to me there are many similarities with “Living the dream” in Season 4, as far as Wilson’s story is concerned. In that episode it was Amber (the female mirror of House)to challenge Wilson to buy the mattress he wanted (and, as usual, he had chosen to please Amber, not himself) and that should have been the very first step towards a life together, but also a test for the doctor.
    By buying an organ, I feel like Wilson, on the one side , is trying to show House how special their friendship is (and how only in this friendship is he able to show some character), but on the other side the space that should have been devoted to House’s piano is now filled, and the piano was the only truly important object that used to keep House attached to his old apartment.
    To me, after the purchase of the apartment, this is Wilson’s most important step towards a recovery from Amber’s death, and the first glimpse of House’s return to his old apartment, the one where his old piano, which is such an important part of his life, is.
    I also think another important theme of the episode is that of forgiveness, exemplified by Taub’s and Abby’s stories (one mirroring the other: young woman/older man, exactly Taub’s story, and sealed by the double scene of the ring).
    To add to the theme of opacity, the beautifully evocative “A whiter shade of pale” has one of the most obscure lyrics ever written in rock music.

  • Ted

    Just when I was obsessing over House being uncharacteristic when he read through last week’s patient’s blog-cum-full-body-scan, House has done it again this week! I think it is a recurring symbolism of House’s lack of total confidence as much as the absence of the whiteboard. The return of the whiteboard and the end of full-body-scans, I think, would annouce the end of the recovery arc… and I wonder what it would take for House to reach that new chapter. *grin in anticipation*

    But it does gets me thinking about why House would agree to a full-body-scan. When House is at his wits’ ends, he does not give up any possibility that may yield an answer. It is this total commitment that he gives to his patients that makes him my hero. At the same time, I admire how House always selflessly (except when playing pranks) does the right thing. I mean, House did not refuse to do FBS this time just because he’s never believed in it or so that he doesn’t appear to contradict himself (ego issue), unlike Foreman who shoots down House’s cognition-recognition program.

    Initially, I thought House’s choice of the subconscious was really uncharacteristic. But Barbara is right; House must have experienced for himself from his hallucinations how the subconscious has a role. Yet, House is no a rational man than before. House does not interpret the subconscious like superstitions. Rather, he finds clues from the subconscious as triggerpoints for a rational diagnosis.

    Regarding the House/Wilson drama, I think House was being very manipulative because of his insecurities. I saw it as House’s way of finding out if Wilson wanted House to be a part of his life and his living arrangements. It was nice of Wilson to accept his request to move in together after Mayfield, but to actually furnish the house to accomodate House as well was to assure House that the gesture was heart-felt. And well, House has a history of measuring his friendship with Wilson objectively too; he borrowed increasing amounts of money from Wilson to see how far he can go on account of their friendship.

  • Ted

    Apologies for typo error in previous post.

    Third line in third paragraph should have been “…House is no less a rational man than before…”

  • Barbara and Rob F: I so enjoy reading your comments. I’m curious about your thoughts on the following. Last season’s message was clearly House’s self-destruction. This season it seems House is making every effort to fix everyone else’s problems. Chase and Foreman with the Dibala incident, keeping Thirteen from leaving the country, Wilson’s attempt at career suicide, a watchful eye over Cuddy in 9 to 5, and Taub’s marriage to mention a few obvious examples. With regard to Cameron in Teamwork, I have no idea what that was. Even Wilson should have reacted with some regret over a friend’s departure as she was a great comfort to him after the loss of Amber. That episode still confuses me. Although House’s 3 out of 4, and 4 out of 5 was clearly referring to getting everything back but Cuddy.

    I’m wondering if Wilson’s expression at the end after recognizing House’s appreciation of the gift of the organ wasn’t dissappointment for House not taking this wonderful opportunity to finally apologize to him.

    So you can see why I need your help. I more thoroughly enjoy an episode after reading your comments.

    Anna from Italy: I, too, especially enjoyed the choice of Whiter Shade of Pale and how it so appropriately fit with the theme of the episode.

    In Known Unknowns clearly House goes to great lengths to show his friendship by presenting Wilson’s speech. Then goes off script during the speech to tell Wilson he recognizes how too often he takes advantage of his friend.

  • Eve K

    Great review, Barbara!
    This time the most interesting part was – how furniture represents your inner self.

    It is interesting that Lawrence Kaplow write about these “boring” everyday issues. It reminded me of something I read about Kierkegaards three stages of life. (I think there are four stages, but the first one is living without reflecting much about life at all)

    If you are on the aesthetic stage you have problems committing and choosing direction in life, you also have problems picking out what defines you – as choosing furniture.

    – Buy some furniture – or admit that your empty inside – House declares. And Wilson is enigmatic, he himself doesn’t even seem to know whats inside. (He even try out some design furniture, a true aesthetic choice)

    House’ own apartment is characteristic of Houses many qualities. But House has not chosen his way in life yet. In many ways he is not ready for his own apartment. (-:

    Stage two – the ethical – is choosing your own life, even if its boring. House may choose to go back to his old life. And yet be more conscious of it, and then more happy about it. Stage three is the religious one…as I said before, lets not even go there.

    The same stages can apply to Taub and his problem. He tries to choose his boring life for ethical reasons, but clearly it is a problem…
    Just some random thoughts (and very philosophical light) on a Friday night…

  • Flo

    I must admit it was great to see House conducting the ddx and participating so much in the debate for the second episode in a row. I missed that House.

    Last week he was introspective, in here he was manipulative. It seems like this season more than ever, this is the way he can feel in control. Before, he had his diagnostic skills but like Ted pointed out, this year he is a little less comfortable and confident in his gift.

    On the other hand, his manipulative skills are still there, he doesn’t lack any confidence in this area. He is in control in this and I believe that’s why we saw more “this House” this year than the others.
    This is reassuring for him to see that, in an area he can still be totally himself, I mean, like his old self.

    The Wilson/House storyline in this episode was fun and interesting. I like your take on this Barbara. I also find interesting RobF point of view. House seems to have regressed to some extent.
    It really kind of looked like the beginning of the end of their “living togetherness”.

    Those two last episodes also showed that Wilson has still a way to go to move on. The speed dating scene in “Private Lives” and the fact that he still uncapable of buying furniture he likes proves he still is the same old Wilson just like House is the same old “diabolical puppet-master”.

    This linked to Taub who is trying to change but find it more and more difficult and perhaps can’t help but remaining his own philandering old self.
    In that regards, the last scene is very interesting. At first, it looks like Taub is still cheating on his wife. That being said, the scene is from House’s point of view. House is an observers and he draw a conclusion or at least question what he observes. The slow motion is there to show us what House’s perceives and his doubts about Taub’s real changes. At the end, he is clearly impressed by Taub but his old “people can’t change” self can’t help but wondering if Taub is really sincere. House’s last look is kind of mysterious.
    For all we know, Taub’s conversation with the nurse could be more innocent than the way House saw it and he could really have changed.

    Nice thought Barbara about Foreman thinking his place on the team is to contradict House. He is really a skeptic. I also agree on his lack of imagination being his main obstacle to be a really good diagnostician.
    It was fun seeing his mates calling him on his “buzz kill” attitude.

    I also didn’t feel really invested in the PotW. It was just a pretext for using special effects and cool diagnostic tools.

    Good review Barbara as always and nice thoughts everyone.

  • madfashionista

    As always, a great review, and fascinating comments. The POTW wasn’t great, but more compelling than last week. The medicine seems somewhat derivative from earlier seasons. And I love Tiny Taub. The sexting scene was hilarious.

    I had a slightly different take on the organ scene (pardon me for putting it that way). Yes, Wilson is really only capable of expressing himself by doing for others, or by having the occasional temper tantrum. And the latter only with House.

    I saw the final H/W scene as Wilson again being able to best express himself by doing for others. He gave House the thing House needed most: a keyboard. (A piano would have been all wrong because House already owns a piano.) House’s smile when he looked at Wilson reminded me of his “Christmas morning” smile at the end of Season 5, when he wakes up after thinking he spent the night with Cuddy. And Wilson seemed very gratified. In fact, a number of critics said the scene read to them as if House and Wilson should have started making out.

    Be that as it may, I wondered if the scene was that happy (as you can see, I read it very differently from your interpretation) so that when everything comes crashing down, the way we know it inevitably will, it will be that much more devastating.

    I agree, Lawrence Kaplow takes mundane situations and turns them into gold. He could make a scene about Wilson folding his socks into something that reveals character!

    I’m not happy about Foreman being there merely to shoot down House’s ideas. It renders him two-dimensional, the “anti-House” if you will. This is certainly a turnabout from all of those seasons where were beated over the head about how “House-like” Foreman was. Which I never bought into.

  • Orange450

    Just printed out your review for some weekend reading. Looking forward to a treat, as always. 🙂

  • hwl40

    Barbara, the thing I liked best about this episode was your review. You are really a wonderful writer with something to say and I am looking forward to reading your book. Will you be able to interview Hugh Laurie?

    Re the episode, Larry Kaplow is also a talented and thoughtful writer but I was disappointed in his efforst here. Maybe I am just tired of having to spend so much time with everyone but House and even when he is on screen we see very little of the elemental House I want to learn about. Instead, we got a not very interesting POTW and her 2 dimensional situation, Taub in his usual circular bland gyrations and Wilson, god help us, shopping. Mostly I just missed House who seemed really disconnected even when working on the case. Perhaps that was the theme in which case I got it fourfold,i.e., House, Wilson, POTW, Taub, was thus left feeling, well, disconnected. Contrast Doris Egan’s script exploring real and illusiary connection.

    However, on reading everyone’s comments, it may be that the problem is not in the script but in the viewer. Thanks to all for giving me some things to think about. This is really an amazing group of thoughtful people.

  • barbara barnett

    Thanks everyone for your comments. I felt that House really has come back into his own with regard to running the team. He was in command and confident enough to allow Foreman to do things his way knowing he would fail. (Remember he’d already pre-ordered the pattern cognition equipement so it would be ready when F failed).

    I still think there’s not enough focus on House, but it’s better.

    hwl40. Thanks for your kind words (and everyone else for that matter). Unfortunately I have not been able to interview Hugh Laurie. It’s an “unofficial” book, so it’s independent of the network–hence no interview of Hugh. But there’s lots in there to chew on (I hope). But more on that in the coming weeks 😉

  • Michele1L

    This is my first time posting here, but I’ve been reading your reviews for months, Barbara — and, as a writer myself, I am impressed! Very insightful!

    I have to say I was a bit suprised to discover this episode was written by Lawrence Kaplow, because in his episodes, and he even admits this, House is usually a bit over the top in behavior. (“Lines In The Sand”, as an example.) In this episode House is, by comparison, quite the tame one.

    For the most part, I enjoyed “Black Hole”. I thought the medical issue was interesting and I liked the whole bit with Wilson and the furniture.(That condo is so devoid of character compared to House’s abode! Please, bring back House’s home!)

    I could have done without the whole Taub situation because, again, we are asked to become involved in the personal life of, in my view, one of the least interesting characters on the program. I did, however, like the oh-so-human look on House’s face when he realized he was right all along about Taub’s motivations. I love it when HL drops the perpetual House grimace and we are able to “see” the person behind the mask.

    I wanted to comment on my feelings concerning the season so far. For me, this season has been the most inconsistent, and the writers as far as a clear direction, seem to have lost their way. Certainly, their task is sizeable, as the show has been on air for six years and they no longer have House’s growing addiction issues to help move along his personal narrative — but they do actually have his recovery — and I feel they have yet to explore how difficult it is for one to recover from that severe of an addiction. Part of the problem is that we haven’t seen much of the “true” House — who he is as opposed to who he presents himself as to the outside world. As was mentioned in earlier comments, we got a lot of that in past seasons because, while in his apartment which, I agree, so defines him –all of the rich, dark, masculine tones, his books, his instruments — most notably, his piano, we were within his private space. — This is all but lost so far this season, and I sorely miss it. As much as I enjoy Wilson, I have grown weary of House’s living arrangement with him and believe it is time for House to return home and fight through his personal demons in an enviornment that defines him. (Both good and bad.)

    While I can appreciate the desires of the scribes of “House” to keep the show “fresh” — I don’t have the greatest appreciation for the episodes that showcase the secondary characters and religate House to the background. Surely, they must realize it is HL’s phenomenal characterization of House that drives the show and has kept it on air for six years. It just doesn’t work for me when he is simply used as background and side commentary to someone else’s whoes. I love House’s insight into others — but I love, much more, the exploration of who “he” is — because that is FASCINATING! How about a day “off” in the life of House? What would he do? Where would he go? Would he play his instruments for much of the day, go to a blues/jazz club and sit in with the band? I want more about who he is. — And for Godssakes, let him enjoy the company of a woman who isn’t a hooker — even if it isn’t Cuddy. It might be interesting to see how she, Cuddy, would react to that. We all know, when he wants to be, the Doc is quite capable of being a charmer.

    I could go on but, Jeez, I’ve already gone on enough!

  • De-em

    Have been reading these reviews for quite some time now, and they are excellent. Just want to add that the only thing I missed in the review and comments is the following. When House starts playing the organ I was so impressed how Mr Laurie expresses the range of emotions that House feels when finally playing a keyboard again. The moment is short, but in those few seconds such a range of emotions is expressed. Absolutely brilliant acting.

  • rsg

    I absolutely love this forum. Barbara, I don’t feel like I’ve completely watched an episodes until after I’ve read your review. There are always such great insights from you and the rest of the community here!

    While I don’t hate this last episode, I’m very luke warm about it. Maybe like others have suggested it’s due to a not so engaging POTW. I’ve been surprised I haven’t seen more comments from others that also feel like this episode was lacking.

    It seemed that while House was engaged in the ddx, he was not leading the way, or having any of his usual brilliant medical insights. Some have commented that they feel like House is back on his way towards being in the ddx’s like he used to. I wonder if that’s the case yet. It seems that the full body scan, used twice now recently, is an intentional comment from the writers to show how House is still not back on his feet. He’s still not confident in his own skill.

    Also, no one has mentioned it yet, but it seemed like Forman solved this case, or led the way, not House. Maybe I misunderstood, but when House and Foreman were in his office, It was Forman who first suggested the parasite that the POTW ended up having. House originally shot down the idea, but later ended up using it.

    I also thought it was pretty telling when in that same scene Forman asked House, “What?”, and House replies, “I’ve got nothing”. I can’t ever remember House saying anything like that!

    Anyhow, thanks Barbara, and all, for such a great place to come with my House obsession!
    I can’t believe they’re making us wait until April 12th for a new episode, and so soon after we just had a long break in new episodes!

  • RobF

    @Lynn D (#10): I completely agree that, after his own psych treatment, House has decided to dish out psych treatment to everyone around him. It is fairly common for people who have gone through any medical or psych treatment to pass their new ‘expertise’ on to everyone they know, relishing in the elevated status of being an ‘expert’. But House is an undisputed expert in his daily life, and I think he is treating others to avoid working on his own growth.

    When Wilson says, “Why don’t YOU go get a table? … it would be a reflection of the fact that the guy who has been mooching off me for as long as I can remember isn’t a complete ingrate”, he is perfectly right, and House knows he really should stop taking advantage of Wilson. But instead of facing that fact, House thinks for a moment and comes up with a justification for avoiding his responsibility, i.e. it would be good for Wilson to express himself. They both know that is a flimsy, self-serving rationale, but Wilson goes along with it.

    @rag: I am with you that the episode was generally weak, especially following the excellent episode from the previous week. I’m enjoying the review and discussion of this episode more than I enjoyed watching it. Also, I think you have a point about Foreman getting the answer, but I’m not sure that does anything for his character. We’ve known for a long time that House has deep respect for Foreman’s medical ability, but we’ve all been waiting for his character to become more interesting and relevant. Chase and Taub have more interesting interactions with House than Foreman does.

  • Rebecca

    Great review as always Barbara. Followed by many thought-provoking comments.
    Your mention of Carl Yung’s theory was quite intriguing. It made me think a lot about this episode.

    In dreams we create symbols and thus write the poetry of our own lives. If we are able to decode the messages delivered to us this way, we can come to a deeper understanding of ourselves… Symbols as a subconscious means of narrating one’s personal story is a recurrent theme in House. I recall (who doesn’t) one of Season 5’s strongest moments: “This is the story you made up about yourself” Amber tells House in “Both Sides Now”. And House was not dreaming. He was hallucinating. But many meaningful symbols can be detected in his hallucinations.

    House’s writers have always used strong metaphors. And Barbara is the real expert for pointing them out and analyzing them. For instance, in last week’s episode House is reading his biological father’s book disguised into James’s book, “The Golden Bowl”…

    In this week’s episode House’s message to Wilson is that our choices in matters of decoration and furniture reflect who we are. Just like symbols, personal choices (even seemingly trivial ones) become narrators of our personal stories and reveal our inner selves.

    And then there’s the PoW who projected (literally) her inner images in the screen. It was actually the symbolism behind the imagery that led House to his epiphany, once he had decoded the subconscious message.

    Even the Taub-centered side story, seemingly irrelevant to House, was IMHO very revealing of House’s inner struggles. When House manipulates others, he is indeed a puppet master. But the puppet master metaphor is not only about manipulation. House often “uses” people as actors in some kind of personal -real life- psychodrama. He pushes them to act out in their lives and relationships his own struggles and dilemmas. So, in this episode it was all about people’s capacity to change and trust in human relationships.
    House pushed Taub and waited to see how it played. As he watched, he was really hoping for a “happy ending”, in spite of his initially cynical position. And in the end there’s this enigmatic look in his eyes, upon seeing Taub with the nurse. People do not change and can not be trusted. Or so he thinks…

    So, I agree with Flo & RobF’: House seems to be regressing in a way. He is supposed to go out there in the complex (and frightening) universe of relationships and try for himself. Instead he stays behind the scene manipulating his puppets and once more he seems reluctant to take that important step.
    A propos… @Flo: Thank you for pointing this out: “The slow motion is there to show us what House’s perceives and his doubts about Taub’s real changes”
    And, by the way, I always appreciate your comments and look forward to reading them.

    To conclude, I agree with Barbara: We seem to be in a transitional phase. And “Black Hole” was IMHO a very good transitional episode.

    P.S @Eve K.: First Barbara mentions Yung and then there you are with Kierkegaard’s three stages of life. No wonder I love this place!

  • Flo

    Rebecca, thank you for the kind words : )

    The Jung reference is very interesting. It also makes me think of Freud and his “The Interpretation of Dreams” book. Jung and Freud had very different approach of psychoanalysis, but the Freud’s book is really interesting and important “narrative wise”.
    Barbara’s Jung’s quote is top notch for the episode and your reference to House’s hallucination is interesting. Nice insights! Hallucinations and dreams are different but they both has a connection to the unconscious.

    Interesting thought you had about that and Taub relationship. All the arcs of the episodes were linked. It was indeed about changes and believing in human being. How do you do that if you don’t know who you are, therefore don’t know if you are trustworthy even to yourself?

    Nice episode about the human condition and the difficulty of knowing oneself and about trust. House wants to be trusted: “trust me” he says to Wilson but at the same time he has a difficulty to trust the others on first hand. He always pushes the button until the people reveal themselves to him.
    As the master of hiding who he really is he thinks that the people around him are the same.
    True, the other around him often try to hide who they are and what they’re up to. The question is: were they always like this or did they develop this capacity at his contact?
    He plays games so the other plays games…

    Everybody can easily has trust issues. House is the first. He is hiding from his own will and desire. His real self is constantly hidden behind the “jerk mask”.
    So he can’t help himself to believe that there is a strong possibility that Taub is also a liar and somehow and that his good-faithful-loving-husband attitude is just a mask.

    House is right: we all have secrets. Most of the time he finds the solution of the puzzle by discovering the patient secrets, by taking of their masks. That begs the questions: is everybody like this? Does real honesty exist? Can it be reached or achieved?

    Anyway lots to think about.

  • blacktop

    Thanks for this helpful review, Barbara. I am glad that rsg picked up on the most important aspect of the DDX: the fact that it was Foreman, rather than House, who arrived at the correct conclusion. The crucial dramatic element was that, true to character, Foreman was unable to argue effectively for his correct diagnosis and he backed down in the face of House’s disdainful rejection. It took House’s imaginative leap to discover the “how” to complement Foreman’s discovery of the “what” and to thus make sense of the case. These two really are opposite sides of a wonderfully functioning brain.

    I found the scenes of Wilson hunting for new furniture sad and embarrassing. The overall impression was that he is unable to discover what pleases himself and tried out many different styles and shapes in a futile attempt to fill in a critical gap in his own psyche. Wilson is indeed moving on from the devastation of losing Amber, but tragically, the message of this episode seemed to be that at bottom, Wilson is a hollow man. In the end, his apartment, like his life, remained a beige construct filled by the tastes and opinions of others, including House.

    I enjoyed seeing House taking important steps back toward regaining his intensity and diagnostic mojo. I agree with commenters above who identified the absence of the white board as signifying the continued absence of House’s professional confidence.

    The AWOL white board refers, I think, to House’s medical competance and intellectual acumen, while the missing piano and apartment signify the still absent heart and soul of the man. Without these elements House, like the show itself, lacks edge, drive, ambition, and wit.

    This spotty and inconsistent season has been disappointing on many levels. But this otherwise weakly written episode had a few strong elements, most particularly the engaging medical mystery and the excellent final scene between House and Wilson, whose tremendous impact was entirely due to the power and sensitivity of the two actors who shone in it.

    I hope fervently that the final episodes of this season eschew the cloying, repetitive, and stale comedic plotlines that have prevailed over the past several episodes and return us to the melancholic strengths and searing emotional impact of previous seasons. I can’t wait for House and “House” to emerge from these doldrums.

  • “I hope fervently that the final episodes of this season eschew the cloying, repetitive, and stale comedic plotlines that have prevailed over the past several episodes and return us to the melancholic strengths and searing emotional impact of previous seasons. I can’t wait for House and “House” to emerge from these doldrums.”

    I wouldn’t put it quite as strongly, Blacktop, but I have to say “Yes!”to that!

  • Michele1L

    Here, here, Blacktop!

  • DebbieJ

    Well apparently the “police detective” character from the speed dating scene in last week’s episode also fell into a black hole, never to be seen again 🙁

    I checked on imdb after the airing of Black Hole and her name was removed from the credits. Either they made a mistake and she (hopefully) will appear in a future episode, or she originally was in BH but wound up on the “cutting room floor”.

  • rsg

    Thanks DebbieJ for looking into that! I thought the speed dating scene was so funny. It definitely seemed like there was potential between House and the detective.

  • Michele1L

    I wanted to correct something I said earlier about Lawrence Kaplow. He wasn’t the writer for “Lines In The Sand”, as I stated. My comment, in general, was about that fact that the talented Mr. Kaplow usually includes some adolescent silliness from House in his episodes, and I felt, in “Black Hole”, the character was a bit subdued compared to Kaplow’s past writings.

  • PH

    I agree that this was a transitional episode. I think the next ep (Lockdown) will have a profound effect on House’s confidence and will finally turn the corner on his self-doubt.

    As difficult as it has been this season, fans must keep in mind the process that House is travelling. Institutionalization is no small feat to overcome. His previous life has been altered, beliefs shattered, addictions faced and personal pain re-hashed. Being committed had to be humbling. He is no longer the untouchable medical mind. House, although genius, is not beyond questioning himself and his role. As a recovering addict he must not only face his own weaknesses daily, but now other’s transformations in their interactions.

    But alas, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I see ‘classic’ House, his old apartment and also the whiteboard returning (I have my fingers crossed).

    Just one correction. Actually Foreman was wrong on his diagnosis. He had stated that it definitely WAS NOT an allergic reaction. It took House to use the pieces to uncover the puzzle.

    I am eagerly awaiting the next 2 ep’s. I think all [H] fans will be rewarded for their patience. Although I am definitely anxious concerning this season’s finale.

  • Brad Anderson

    This episode “Black Hole” shows that House has really jumped the shark in terms of unrealistic medicine; here, he uses some computer actually shows live-images of what the scenes a person remembers! Dr. McCoy didn’t even have anything like that, so it’s beyond “Star Trek” in terms of absurd science-fiction. It’s bad enough when House can diagnose conditions from reading someone’s blog, but this definitely a big “Fonzie Meets Jaws.” The fact that the episode turns out to be caused by the father sleeping with his son’s girlfriend, is only tartar-sauce on the fillet.

  • bakerstreet blues

    Hey Rob F, I think there are probably much less intelligent tv shows on (Saturday mornings come to mind), you know the ones that you don’t have to think too much. Wouldn’t want you to pull a muscle……