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TV Review: House, MD – “Emancipation”

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Emancipated is not a word I would use to describe any of the central characters in House, MD.  Each character is locked away, repressed by fear, anger, and circumstance.  The most emancipated character on the series at this point is a tossup between Kutner and Chase.  Both of them have been able to reach beyond bad circumstances to some sort of acceptance, which has enabled them to become the most unfettered of the House-bunch.

So it was with interest that I tuned into this week’s episode called, ironically for this series, “Emancipation.”  On its surface, the title describes this week’s patient, an emancipated child — divorced from the guardianship of her parents, who are purportedly dead.

But it also refers to Foreman, who finally “gets” what House has been trying (through his uniquely Socratic methods) to teach him for the past three years.  And, it also describes (to a lesser degree) Wilson, who has decided that his relationship with House is best served by not meddling — neither enabling nor manipulating.  To a lesser degree, “emancipated” also describes the new team, who are sent to diagnose the patient using their own skills, with House giving them just enough rope, with his input.  And they succeed to greater and lesser degrees.

Sophia, a foreman in a factory falls ill, unable to breathe.  Coming onto House’s service, the team tries to diagnose her; but they are hindered by Sophia’s lies about her past and her family relationships.  When Sophia reveals that her parents died when she was young, Kutner immediately identifies with the teenaged patient, empathizing with her, trusting her based on their shared experience.  He’s walked in her shoes, having lost his own parents tragically when he was six.  But she is caught in a big lie (the FMRA machine never lies).   The lie about her parents’ death was only to serve the more humiliating “truth” that she was raped.  By her father.

Eventually, the team determines that Sophia suffers from leukemia. She needs a marrow donor, and the best donors are blood relatives — like parents.  The team tries to convince Sophia to allow them to contact her parents, something she quickly refuses. And with good reason.

Ignoring her wishes (and against House’s insistence that they honor the patient’s wishes), 13 contacts goes to the girl’s given address, only to find that the patient is not who she claims to be.  She has even lied about her identity! 

I found it an interesting bit of subtle commentary about House that he was “the only one who cares about the patient’s rights” in telling the team to use the donor bank and not try to find the parents.  Of all the team, House is the only one really to have come close to walking in Sophia’s (alleged) shoes.  He understands most of all that being forced to confront parents who were abusive (or who ignored the abuse) is something not to be lightly considered — and something that the patient has a right not to do.

So now, with no good donor match to be found, and another red herring regarding Sophia’s past, the team is at a loss.  But the patient’s rational, unemotional explanation about contacting her parents makes House suspect that she’s even lying about this.  House to confronts the girl: “You’re scared and stubborn and you don’t want people feeling sorry for you,” he tells her.  “Why?”

This is not only the patient, it’s House, himself, who deflects his vulnerability with toughness and his wounds with sarcasm and misanthropy.  And while Kutner and 13 both could claim to empathize with Sophia, only House really cuts to her core.

 “I just want to be normal,” she says to him.  “You need people to see how independent you are; how well you’re coping, so they won’t see the lost little girl.”

In a scene that reminds me of so many such wonderful one-on-one scenes between House and his patients (“Forever” comes immediately to mind, along with “Babies and Bathwater,” the Pilot episode, “Euphoria 2,” “Merry Little Christmas,” and “Autopsy”) House learns that Sophia was responsible for the death of her brother — not by anything she did, but by circumstance.

 “I was supposed to be watching him.”  House’s momentary speechlessness as he takes in the girl’s terrible secret — something that’s been hurting for a long time — is a classic House moment. House's stunned expression (Hugh Laurie is an acting god.) leaves you wondering whether Sophia’s confession resonated so deeply because of Amber’s death, and his own feelings of responsibility (again, circumstantial) for it.  House is at his absolute best when he relates to patients on this elemental level: not sympathetic, not soft pedaling, but honest and non-judgmental; empathetic and understanding, without negating the impact of their actions.  House does this better than anyone else at Princeton-Plainsboro, and, to me, it’s as an important a gift as his diagnostic skills.

He tells her that nothing’s going to make it better — or easier.  But by allowing herself to die, she will only hurt her parents even worse: by taking their only other child from them.  Sophia is the only one who has the power to make a bad situation “not worse.”  House’s non-judgmental honesty resonates with the frightened, hurting, but fiercely independent Sophia, and she finally phones home.  Hugh Laurie allows House’s profound humanity to shine through as he listens to her confession, pauses to reflect on the burden this young lady has been carrying for so long, and give her a way towards absolution.  This will go down as one of my favorite scenes in the entire season, if not the entire series.

The final scene of the episode, showing the reconciliation between Sophia and her parents was emotionally powerful. (I rarely cry during House — this was one of those times I felt the tears prick at the corners of my eyes.)  Kutner looking in at the tearful reunion speaks of his inner turmoil, and very much resonated with so many scenes in earlier seasons with House looking in on patients’ families, watching them heal, while he is incapable of it.  Lovely.

This episode really took me back in a lot of ways to the episodes of the first two seasons:  straight-on procedural, but one, which through the patients, told the stories of the central characters.  And it’s interesting to see how the characters have grown (or at least changed) over the five years we’ve known them.  Chase and Cameron have both moved beyond House, comfortable with what they learned from him (to be much more critical thinkers than they otherwise would be) and just as comfortable to be out from beneath his wings.  Foreman is still stuck, not having made the break that House will not make for him. 

With Chase, back in season three’s “Human Error,” House acknowledged that Chase had matured as a physician and diagnostician and had nothing left to learn from him.  He kicked Chase out of the nest.  Cameron left of her own accord, and on her own terms.  Foreman, for all his arrogance has always lacked the confidence to think entirely for himself; to stand up for what he believes and to trust his own judgment — without seeking the approval of his superiors. 

Theirs is a high stakes game; when patients come to House’s service they are often out of time and out of answers. Hesitant doctors and doctors who only want to play by the rules have not helped them.  And Foreman’s position of simply hating House, feeling oppressed by him, while trying to seek his approval is something that House has seen as a problem for Foreman.  “You’re not ready,” he tells Foreman when he resigns at the end of season three.  And House is clearly disappointed then — and throughout the intervening year and a half.

Realizing that Foreman’s not going to do it any other way, House has manipulated a situation in which Foreman can finally learn to fly.  I completely buy the idea that the entire plan — the pediatrics case, even the offer of clinical trials; House’s disengagement — was House’s rather nobly Housian way of pushing Foreman from the nest. 

Foreman comes into House asking to do a clinical trial (my guess is that this is a set up — and House really knows that Foreman’s going to be asked — Cuddy would never do it without House’s consent anyway.)  House says no, of course.  The question (and Foreman’s test) is whether he will stand up on his own two feet and just do it — without seeking House’s permission. Or approval. 

Cuddy gives Foreman a pediatric case when he decides to strike out on his own without House’s permission.  I would even venture to say that House was completely aware of the pediatric case from the beginning and may have even urged Cuddy to give it to him!

But mid-case Foreman has a crisis of confidence,  going to Chase and Cameron for a consult.  It’s interesting that the guy who was really the senior doc on the old team seems like the younger brother going out to play with the big kids without daddy’s permission. 

But even Chase and Cameron may not be able to help, and suggest that Foreman consult House after the patient takes a downturn.  But House refuses to be involved in Foreman’s case.  Foreman calls House a hypocrite and willing to let a kid die, blaming House, rather than taking responsibility for something House didn’t want him to do in the first place. 

“You wanted a case on your own; now you’ve got it,” declares House.  Foreman goes back to Chase and Cameron to whine about House and blame him for his patient’s condition.

“You liked this case because he wasn’t looming over you.  Decisions were yours.  Only difference now is that he’s decided not to loom.  Doesn’t change the fact that the patient is dying.”  This is a great wake-up call for Foreman.  This is not House’s fault.  But Foreman does figure it out, after bouncing things off Cameron and Chase a bit more.

In the end, Foreman solves his case, and Wilson congratulates House on his scheme to push Foreman from the safety of the nest.  “You knew Foreman would figure it out; you just needed to prove it to him,” acknowledges Wilson.  “You’re an ass; but you’re a noble ass,” he says.  Truer words have never been spoken.

But the parallel tale to House’s scheme with Foreman is Wilson’s attempt to disengage from House’s Cuddy issues.  Perhaps if Wilson backs off, House will fly on his own and try his wings with Cuddy.  But poor House really doesn’t know what to do about her. 

No longer getting it unrequested, House now craves Wilson’s advice; his help in knowing how to act and what to do.  At the end of last week’s episode, all House could bring himself to do is gaze at Cuddy from her front lawn. 

Wilson is driving House crazy by his lack of insight and opinion.  “Do you want me to tell you what to do?” Wilson asks.  But House won’t outright admit that the answer is “yes.”  House is at a loss without Wilson’s input, he thinks, but that’s not true, and Wilson finally knows it (yea!).  By refusing to engage him in his angst over Cuddy, Wilson is forcing House to deal with his feelings — confront them and act (or not).  And at the end of the day, when Wilson asks House if he does, indeed, want to talk about her, House declines (naturally), gazing (slightly longingly) at Cuddy from behind the closed doors of clinic.

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About Barbara Barnett

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

    I agree that, among other “emancipations” in this episode, House was “freed” of his deep guilt over Amber’s death. I also agree with you about the scene with House and the patient … we need more House and less Thirteen!

  • Jazz

    Hi Barbara!!

    I really enjoyed this episode!! And I am loving season 5 thus far! On first viewing I actually found “Emancipation” slow moving and boring but after a 2nd (and 3rd, 4th, 5th…) viewing I have changed 
    my tune. I loved House with Sophia at the end. 

    Hugh Laurie is an acting genius!! And I too loved how the medical 
    mystery was at the forefront and how it was through the patient that 
    we got to learn a little bit more about our doctors.

    And like you, to me this episode also had a season 1,2 feel to it.
    Thank you for your reviews. I always look forward to reading them.

  • eve K

    The director of this ep I think have not directed an ep since season two. (Skin deep). I liked this ep alot! Again spot on review.

  • Barbara Barnett

    I am really, really liking this season and really anticipating next week’s episode.

  • Houseguest

    What a great, analytical review, Barbara, as always. I loved this episode, despite it being House/Cuddy lite, for all that it tied in with House’s own struggle to be “emancipated.” I hope there are some writing awards doled out for this season, because I think it could end up being the best yet… I agree that Hugh Laurie’s scene with Sophia was incredible, and I loved the juxtaposition of House trying to free Foreman while being nudged out of Wilson’s nest himself. Just brilliant.

  • Sheelagh

    I loved this episode so much with all the subtext going on. I felt it was about forgiveness and family : emancipation from guilt. The girl’s; the little boy’s and House’s (although House is always a work in progress).
    The pivotal speech for me was House’s explanation to the team about rational and emotional responses. When Wilson with held his input on House’s actions at the very start of the show, House tried to confirm that was what Wilson’s actions actually meant. Wilson denied it & he is the only one who can lie to House & get away with it. The pain & fear in House’s eyes when Wilson seemed to be withdrawing emotionally from him once again ( shortly followed by House downing more Vicodin)just grabbed my heart. House seeks Wilson out twice more for his input, & each time it’s withheld House looks more down cast. It isn’t just not being told what to do so he can ” push back”, he has gone to an emotional response/place where Wilson might not actually care anymore.
    The two little brothers echoed House’s & Wilson’s relationship. The older brother says when he accepts that he has hurt his younger brother (which he hasn’t readily admitted up to this point) ” He’ll hate me”. Flash back to House on the bus with Amber ” Wilson is going to hate me”. Foreman has a great line ” the best thing about a brother is if you make a mistake they will always forgive you.” House is still raw from Wilson’s (his defacto brother) rejection earlier in the season ; not at as sure of the relationship and in this episode reacting emotionally to Wilson’s ploy to get him to act without his input. House fears there’s more to it than that.
    The scene between House & Wilson in Wilson’s office where House tries yet again to get Wilson to admit his actions are a ploy is a repeat of the Episode 1 (Scene 5): Wilson walkout. Both men are in essentially the same positions (even the same wardrobe I think) except House is more urgent…. closer to the desk this time,looking Wilson directly in the face & almost pleading for some communication. Wilson is standing; packing up his briefcase and distance. The pain again on House’s face when Wilson reveals nothing to him was palpable. Notice the power grade in the relationship: Wilson says as he leaves the office ” don’t mess with my stuff” and House who was just about to anxiously finger a mail spike on Wilson’s desk removes his hand immediately.
    House’s face (OK, Hugh’s fierce acting skills) as he listens empathetically to the girl’s story of being accidentally being responsible for the killing of a ‘loved one’ , loved one was breath taking. He even pauses to give his head a little shake before addressing her situation ; he is clearly sharing her fears ” every time they look at (her) they see (her) kill their son again”. That’s what House fears with Wilson. Wilson sees him on the bus with Amber. He also wants someone to say it was ” just an accident; not serious” but they both know what they did is serious & has consequwnces they can’t control.
    And finally the elevator scene. Shot initially behind the two characters we see House enter alone and dejected. We also hear the lyrics to the song ” someone to reach through the dark for me”…..Wilson has clearly made a dash for the elevator; from his office he had to been able to see House board it. Wilson has to reach in and grab the closing door and pull it open. House is no longer alone in a room. Wilson scans House’s face. House has by now shut down to avoid further rejection. He doesn’t even look at Wilson; he ducks his head down. Silence. Wilson reads House’s distress and starts to give him feedback : what House ” did for Foreman was kind”; House “knew Foreman would figure it” out & save the four year old; House is an ass “but a noble one”. You can see House unclench from his prior tension. He looks directly at Wilson now. And (God Bless Wilson) reading House well yet again the final benediction ” You’re going to be alright House”. Houses’ reply ” Good to know” is said in his usual sardonic way……but he needed that confirmation from his friend.

  • http://blogcritics.org/archives/2008/11/20/0141294.php sf

    Thank you, Barbara, for your vibrant slice of “Emancipation”. This episode about a runaway revealed many of the ongoing forces, currents, and questions that bedevil the characters of House M.D. all folded together like a Taffy pull. Each character is stretched in a slightly different way but all in UNISON, if not in harmony. No matter from whose perspective I considered the flow of the story, there was treasure to be mined. Talk about threads! More like a dual-sided chinese silk embroidery, beautiful from every direction.

    The following is speculation about Cuddy and House.

    At the end of “Emancipation”, at the exact moment when Wilson asks House, “Do you want to talk about her?”, House and Cuddy are ‘simultaneously’ standing at counters, holding pens, and writing on papers. They are exact mirrors of each other for a moment in time. House even clicks his pen three times as he gazes longingly at Cuddy.(Dorothy and her ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz”. She must click her heels three times and say “There’s no place like home”.)

    This obvious theatrical construction of House and Cuddy mirroring each other conveys to me that they are preoccupied with the same thoughts about one another. Further, one could anticipate that they are probably at a similar place emotionally. The care put into orchestrating such a scene with all the ‘extras’ and the necessarily synchronized timing is overwhelming. They truly must love their work and take it very seriously indeed!

    When House answers Wilson’s question about whether ‘he wants to talk about her’ with a “Nope”, I had the sense that House had already arrived at an answer but wasn’t willing to share it yet. (The “Nope” echoed directly back to “Joy” at the exact moment when House had his final epiphany about the two PotW and said “Nope” when he left Wilson’s office with the correct diagnosis.) Such synchronicity. Talk about planning ahead!

    So, I think House has a good idea about how he wants to solve the problem of his runaway desire for Cuddy. I think he will do the same thing Foreman finally did about the trials. House will tell Cuddy that he desires a chance with her, a trial (tell or reveal, not ask). This revealing would be a gesture of trust in himself and in her. Trial run here we come?

  • barbara barnett

    Wow! what great comments everyone! Sometimes, the simplest and most straightforward episodes are those most layered with meaning upon meaning…those are the Faberge eggs of House, MD! There is much intricate storytelling going on here, and one of those (like many of the first two seasons) in which we’ll go on finding things for weeks (of course the blockbuster episode scheduled for next week might delay that at bit, but…)

    SF–loved the speculation on House/Cuddy. Very cool.

  • blacktop

    I like sf’s speculation about House and Cuddy very much. In particular I find quite compelling the idea that House has now come to some inner resolution about what to do with his desire for her. Indeed this fits with the strong parallels in this episode between Foreman and House. Both are taking steps forward in their personal development trajectories, with House aiding Foreman and Wilson helping House. In both instances, the help comes through holding back rather than pushing.

    Barbara, thank you for another good review of a superb episode. I agree with you that this season is shaping up as an excellent one all around.

  • val

    Another spot-on review, Barbara! I really enjoy reading your take and everyone elses insightful comments. I find myself nodding in agreement with 99.9% of your thoughts.

    I though this episode was amazing! It was so wonderfully written and wonderfully played out. Every character fit into the multiple patient’s story somehow and allowed us to learn more about them, but–as is the most important–in the end it could all be tied back to House. And, though it may not have been ‘in your face’, much of the story was, I thought, about House and Wilson’s relationship. From Foreman’s two brothers case…as we all get a sense that House and Wilson are like brothers to his POTW and her guilt over a death she felt guilt over. His scene with Sophia was reminiscent of earlier seasons (hooray!), but just from House’s reactions (yes, Hugh Laurie is an acting god) her confession took on more meaning and I believe it has a lot to do with what he’s been through (and continues to go through) this season. And, though it was light on ‘Huddy’ it was still clear that he is thinking about her (yay).

    One thing that struck me more in this episode than others (i.e. “Human Error” and the firing of Chase and even “97 Seconds” when he didn’t fire 13 after the dog died) , and I think it’s because of what we learned in ‘Birthmarks’ regarding John House’s attitude via those who are under him is that House does wish them to suceed. He fired Chase because he had learned all he could and he hasn’t fired 13 because she hasn’t.

    Lastly, a post on another forum mentioned a similarity between Wilson’s refusal to engage House about Cuddy in this episode and Cuddy’s refusal to engage House about a team early last season. I can certainly see that as well. I believe, this is the best season so far. I think the writers are doing a fantastic job staying true to the character, but having him grow/evolve at the same time without necessarily “changing”…he did, in fact, not see his patient until the very end (which is typical), but that was because he was concerned/pre-occupied with the way Wilson had been acting and he was dealing with the uncertainty/fear of his growing feelings for Cuddy. Those kinds of human interactions with those closest to him (Wilson and Cuddy) were of less concern to House in the early seasons.

    Again, great review Barbara. I have been watching House since midway of season three and reading the blog soon after you began. I eagerly await each week. Thanks!

  • Pat

    Good catch of the parallel about Wilson forcing House to make his own decisions around Cuddy as House was forcing Foreman.

    I’m not convinced that House set this up with Cuddy though. To get Foreman to be more independent goes against his own self-interest and as Cuddy said, House has always put his self-interest first.

    Foreman was actually the junior kid on the original team. Chase had been there a year before he arrived, Cameron 6 months. The pilot episode was about Foreman arriving and being shown the ropes by Chase and Cameron.

    It also says a lot about how House wore Foreman down because season 1 and 2 Foreman wouldn’t have hesitated to take the clinic trials, House refusing would have been a bonus and a chance to prove himself better than House.

    “I found it an interesting bit of subtle commentary about House that he was “the only one who cares about the patient’s rights””

    That’s another change since the old team left — before House either didn’t care about whether the patient’s wishes were adhered to or disregarded the patient’s rights altogether, often even after he had his diagnosis. In DNR, Informed Consent, SDL (wrt Max) and several other episodes House disregards the patients’ rights and requests and it’s mostly Cameron who argued for the patient’s rights, although sometimes Foreman did too but then it was from a desire to prove House wrong rather than real concern for the patient (Thirteen is very much like Foreman). The more new episodes I see, the more I realize what a writing hole getting rid of Chase and Cameron left in the show.

  • Jair

    “I’m not convinced that House set this up with Cuddy though. To get Foreman to be more independent goes against his own self-interest and as Cuddy said, House has always put his self-interest first.”

    I think Wilson spelled it out pretty clearly that House can be a noble ass and he actually likes teaching his team, even if he doesn’t like it as much when they’re ready to leave. He very clearly told Foreman that he wasn’t ready to leave in season three because he didn’t trust his own judgement. House sees that as Foreman’s place of learning. This ep, we didn’t see a House who was disappointed that Foreman succeeded. We saw one who showed Foreman he had always wanted him to believe in his own talents and be prepared to take a stand. I’m not completely sure that House set up the secondary case with Cuddy, but I am sure he knew about it almost immediately and followed what was happening behind the scenes.

  • Orange450

    Wonderful review, Barbara! I totally agree that “sometimes, the simplest and most straightforward episodes are those most layered with meaning upon meaning..”, and I also agree that this episode had the vintage, classic feel of S1 and S2. Maybe that’s why this was my second favorite episode of S5 after Birthmarks!

    All of the emancipation themes were well done, but but I was most struck by the one that’s been building throughout the whole season – House slowly becoming emancipated from his own past (emotional dependence on Wilson included), and taking baby steps towards moving forward with – maybe a little less baggage than he’s been toting for a while.

    In The Itch – he actually came out and admitted for the first time that he’d risked his life at the time of the infarction. This week, his scene with Sophia closely mirrors the scene with Stacy in Three Stories (“don’t you deserve to be happy? don’t you deserve to live?”) – with him taking the opposite role to the one he played before. He even tells Sophia “you’re an idiot” with the *exact* same inflection that Stacy had in her voice when she said that to him.

    Wilson’s “you’ll be OK, House” reminded me very much of the way House said “Shabbat Shalom” to Wilson back in Don’t Ever Change. (btw, I squeed at that one. Never squeed before, and haven’t squeed since – but I did then :-)).

    In that scene, House was giving his blessing (sort of) to Wilson’s new relationship. In the scene this week, I had the sense that Wilson was doing the same for House. Wilson is bound to be aware of the effect that his witholding will have on House as he pushes House out of the nest. You know the expression “kol hatchalot kashot” – so, I think that Wilson is reassuring House that things will indeed get easier.

    Certainly, HL is incomparable in a scene like the one where he reacts to Sophia’s confession. But he’s just as amazing when he tosses out a “good to know” in response, with that impeccable timing of his!

  • Anna

    Thank you as usual for your excellent review, Barbara.Wonderful episode! It’s the 92nd episode, and I’m still amazed at the endless fascination of this series. The brief scene between House and Sophia has let me speechless. HL can express everything with his eyes:I have seen amazement, compassion and even true sympathy for the girl who has been carrying this burden for years.But , apart from that, the episode is exceptionally well balanced, and all the different characters interact quite well.
    P.S I am rather surprised at many people’s dislike for 13: Olivia Wilde is no Maryl Streep,OK but the hate that many feel for her (not on this blog, which is the home of well- mannered people)seems excessive to me.

  • Claire

    Barbara, great review, and I strongly agree that this is a classic House episode. House is all about repression, reading between the lines, and picking up clues. This episode allows the viewers to do just that. It was a beautifully constructed script, seamlessly directed, and the acting . . . oh, HL is magic and there was some other great acting going on. RSL’s resigned Wilson was wonderful. I have not been a 13 (or Olivia Wilde) fan, but she has assumed the role of really disagreeing with House that Foreman took on the first team. I thought she did it very well. Finally, Kal Penn. He is really creating this character and his understated expressions spoke volumes. He is so good!

    Finally, great review evoke great comments–Sheelah’s comment is terrific. Great insights!

  • JL

    I think that people ‘hate’ Thirteen (rather than simply ‘disliking’ or ‘not caring’) for two reasons.

    1) Viewers hate to feel manipulated – they want to choose how they feel about a character. 13’s issue with Huntington’s was revealed very quickly and many viewers felt this was to push people to care about her. They resented it, and pushed back hard.

    2) 13 arrived with the Season 4 shake-up, where viewers found themselves missing characters that they HAD chosen to care about (i.e. Cameron and Chase). 13’s perceived screen-time bias, coupled with the contrary feelings her storyline produced (see above), made her a focus for viewers’ feelings of betrayal and resentment.

    By contrast, the other ‘new ducklings’, who could similarly be accused of ‘stealing’ Chase and Cameron’s screentime, have not inspired such negative feelings.
    – I don’t think viewers have felt pressured to care about Taub or Kutner, so they haven’t felt the need to react so strongly towards them. T & K don’t usually receive comments more negative than ‘boring’.
    – Amber (Cutthroat Bitch) was an example of the ‘House’ phenomenon – portray a character negatively and everyone will be contrary and LOVE them. Or, at least, they won’t hate them.

  • Orange450

    JL – I think Amber was a product of Anne Dudek’s remarkable skill in taking a character who wasn’t meant to be likeable on paper, and doing something very similar with Amber to what Hugh Laurie does with House. AD found the complexity, sensitivity, vulnerability and humanity in Amber, and used those qualities to balance the competitive, aggressive assertive and acerbic ones. She *made* us like Amber in spite of ourselves. She made Amber remind us of what House may have been like in his own young days, long before his leg.

    Another actress might not have been able to achieve the effect, and the character might have ended up more “one-note”, which I think is one of the problems with Olivia Wilde’s portrayal of 13. I have nothing against Olivia Wilde, but I don’t think her acting skill equals Anne Dudek’s, and I think her character suffers for it.

  • Pam

    This definitely reminded me of “classic” House, and I really enjoyed this episode. I was thrilled to see a focus like this, and not one that was so overwhelmed with their personal lives and the House and Cuddy situation. It was nice that they’re not flooding the episodes with it. Great review, Barbara.

    I particularly enjoyed House’s connection with the main patient, and how it addressed the fallout of Amber’s death, and the sense of personal responsibility House felt in that situation. He also acknowledged his own mistake because he didn’t talk to Wilson in the aftermath of Amber’s death, and he knows that talking can help not make things worse now. There’s a sense of growth in House during that reaction, and it was really wonderful. I also really liked the parallel of Wilson and House’s relationship in the two young brothers. One cared too much, and did too much, involved the other in too much, which ended up hurting him, even though the other brother meant well. It really points to the fact that Wilson’s refusal to enable House as he once did can only be an improvement for their friendship.

    The Foreman subplot was wonderful as well, seeing Foreman gain some of that confidence back. It was actually heartwarming to hear Wilson call House a “noble ass”, because it’s as though Wilson now sees more gray areas in House, good and bad, and takes them both. At the beginning of the season, Wilson seemed to only see the bad things about House, almost unable to believe he could do something noble and good, just “spread misery”. But it seems like their whole friendship is really improving, and it’s just really great to see played out this way. I think the writers did a wonderful job with this episode.

  • http://notesfromnancy.blogspot.com NancyGail

    POTW? FMRA?

  • JL

    POTW = Patient Of The Week

  • http://blogcritics.org/archives/2008/11/20/014129.php sf

    The use of the theatrical mirroring at the end of this episode between House and Cuddy as almost a momentary tableau, led me to think of House MD as a theatre piece. If it were a 3 act play, what act would we be in now?

    I would say definitely in mid-Act II, but well after the obligatory crisis or low point(House’s Head/Wilson’s Heart) that is always placed at the mid-point and succeeded by a gradual climb up out of the depths.

    Act II of a play is when the protagonist encounters hindrances, obstructions, and reversals on his journey to find what he needs. As we are now past the low ebb point in House MD, we’ll see House increasingly self-aware as he makes his way to his goal.

    Act III is the last quarter (Act II comprises a full one-half of the play) when the positive climax and denouement occur, unless it’s a tragedy. (which House MD is not!)

    That being said, each season of House MD is a 3-act play in itself. But there is an even more powerful, over-arching current that has been accumulating and is beginning to push House to his final goal. As Wilson said at the end of “Emancipation”, “You’re going to be all right, House”. That IS good to know.

  • Barbara Barnett

    I am so sorry to have been so very absent for the past couple of days. A horrendous migraine has kept me far from my computer as possible. so now to dig into these great comments.

    First, NancyGail–POTW, as has been said is Patient of the Week. I don’t think I used the term, but just as a request–not everyone who happens by here is from the “forum fandom” and may not know the jargon, so please do explain any jargon used :)

    FMRA–is a term used by House in the episode. It’s a functional MRI of the brain. It shows activity in the the various systems. It was used in Half-Wit to “see the music” as well as in other neurological situations.

    Val–“as is the most important–in the end it could all be tied back to House”–to me that is the most important thing. Whatever they do in the main story of the episode, it must tie back to House in some fashion to make it compelling for me. The show is his story, the story of his character. Important and revealing things can happen to all of the characters, certainly, but something’s got to tie it back to our hero.

    Val said: “One thing that struck me more in this episode than others (i.e. “Human Error” and the firing of Chase and even “97 Seconds” when he didn’t fire 13 after the dog died) , and I think it’s because of what we learned in ‘Birthmarks’ regarding John House’s attitude via those who are under him is that House does wish them to suceed. He fired Chase because he had learned all he could and he hasn’t fired 13 because she hasn’t.”

    I thought that was one of the most important “aha!” moments of birthmarks. One significant way in which House is the opposite of his father. He does want people under his control to succeed. House’s remark about how one treats the powerless is something I think House thinks about alot and has shaped everything from his speech in Role Model to the firing of Chase, and now how he is finally dealing with Foreman (since he never got it from House’s other signals and clues.)

    Also–thanks, Val for you kind comments. glad you (all) like reading my (sometimes lengthy and convoluted) thoughts. I certainly like writing them!

    Pat–“I’m not convinced that House set this up with Cuddy though. To get Foreman to be more independent goes against his own self-interest and as Cuddy said, House has always put his self-interest first.

    Foreman was actually the junior kid on the original team. Chase had been there a year before he arrived, Cameron 6 months. The pilot episode was about Foreman arriving and being shown the ropes by Chase and Cameron.”

    Cuddy’s remark about House’s self interest was (In my opinion) an automatic response. I don’t think she really thinks that. And it’s not true in any event. Foreman was the last one hired, but as a neurologist probably has had the most years of doctor experience. He’s also the oldest.

    Jair–“I think Wilson spelled it out pretty clearly that House can be a noble ass and he actually likes teaching his team, even if he doesn’t like it as much when they’re ready to leave. He very clearly told Foreman that he wasn’t ready to leave in season three because he didn’t trust his own judgment. House sees that as Foreman’s place of learning.”
    Absolutely agree with you Jair. I actually really like Wilson’s understanding of House’s unique nobility–and his method of teaching. House is a great teacher. No doubt in my mind.

    Orange–I liked Wilson so much in this episode. I think as House is making baby steps towards edging from his shell, Wilson is also beginning to find a way to relate to House that can support him without putting him down. I wonder wilson learned something about House at his dad’s funeral that is helping him cope better with his troubled friend. He’s less annoyingly meddlesome, which suggests that Wilson has a greater understanding of House than he did before.

    SF–Interesting about the play analogy. I actually think that each of the seasons could be considered a play in a play-cycle. when I wrote my review of the season three DVD (one of the first things I did for Blogcritics) I actually described each of the four “acts” of the season. I really sensed that sort of theatrical build (House healed and running and his slide) Low point: Merry Little Christmas and House’s near suicide. Third act–his recovery and beginnings of regaining himself. fourth act–his acceptance of what had happened concluding with the finale, of course.

    In terms of season five, I think we’re in act II, certainly.

    Wilson’s statement about House “going to be all right,” was a significant moment in the show’s overall narrative.

  • http://blogcritics.org/mt/comments41.php sf

    Barbara, My husband has been a migraine sufferer since early childhood. I recently became aware of a new book, “The Migraine Brain” by Dr. Carolyn Bernstein. She gave an interview about the book and her work to Terry Gross on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” on November 6th of this year.

  • Barbara Barnett

    thanks, SF…

    I’ll check that out!

    Houseguest–where did your post go??????

    anyway, good to see you back here commenting–and I agree about this season–and thanks for the well wishes.

  • Sheelagh

    I really have to disagree on the interpretation of House’s & Wilson’s interaction on episode ‘Emancipation’. I do understand Wilson intented his disengagement from House’s ‘Cuddy’ issue to prod House to take his own action, but I think even Wilson realized it had misfired when he boarded the elevator at the end of the show.

    House didn’t spend the episode worrying over his relationship with Cuddy. He was clearly more worried about his relationship with Wilson. He is hyper-vigilent in this realm & went he went to an emotional response time & time again, seeing Wilson’s disengagement as ‘disinterest’ or a weakening of their friendship. House is still on shaky ground with Wilson and raw from the ” We’re not friends anymore ; I don’t know if we ever really were (friends)” comment from Season 5, Episode 1. House tried on three occasions to clarify with Wilson that Wilson was “doing a reverse”, but Wilson blocked him. High Laurie skillfully portrayed House’s angst each time that happened…and his angst was about Wilson not engaging with him .

    House’s empathetic response to the young girl’s story of being responsible for the death of a her brother & hurting her parents clearly resonates with what’s lying just below the surface of House’s mind: Wilson may still blame him for Amber’s being on that bus.
    Wilson seems to finally understand that he has pushed House too hard when House avoids even looking at him when Wilson boards the elevator. Wilson lets loose with a barrage of supportive opinions and you see House unclench emotionally & physically. Wilson even offers to discuss the Cuddy situation with him.House declines because the issue had become engaging Wilson…. which he was now reassurred on.

    House is complicated and Wilson is his primary relationship. His brother. What worked on Foreman didn’t work on House. He has a bigger burden of guilt to bear and only one true lifelines.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Sheelagh–Interesting interpretation–and certainly a valid one. I do think that House is at a loss about Cuddy, but I do also think that he’s processing his relationship with wilson (and how it’s changed). I agree that House may feel still on shaky ground.

    His empathy with the patient was all about his own feelings of anguish over Amber (and probably other things as well). “There’s only one way to not make it worse,” he told her. But there’s nothing that can make it better; no one that can tell her that it’s “Just and accident.”

    But I also think that Wilson had engaged House the week before and encouraged him to seek out Cuddy, so I don’t think he feels completely on bad terrain with Wilson. House has come for Wilson’s opinion on the matter after House chickened out and wants reassurance. Wilson believes that only House can reassure himself, and in the end tells him that he’ll be fine–and find his own footing with cuddy (when and if he feels able to do it). That’s wise advice, I think.

    Wilson has been an ass so much to House–and incredibly unfair in many ways (and the reverse is also true at times)–but this isn’t one of them (in my opinion.)

    Tomorrow. Can’t wait!!!!!

  • Rachel

    I love Sheelagh’s interpretation of this episode. I was uneasy watching the show, and couldn’t put the finger on why, until I realized that I was uncomfortable with Wilson’s distance from House. Neat analysis. Spot on! the key for me was the little boy’s exclamation, “He’ll hate me,” and the parallel between House’s exclamation on the bus. That’s a big parallel that’s hard to miss. Thanks!

  • bakerstreet blues

    I only have one question for House’s fellows: DOESN’T ANYONE WONDER WHAT HOUSE SAID TO TPOW TO GET HER TO CALL HER PARENTS?????? How can any of these people not realize that EMPATHY is the only way someone could have connected with this girl. I definitely knew during this episode that House was REALLY in big trouble. The look on his face while speaking with this girl not only had recognition, but also layer upon layer of guilt of his own.