Today on Blogcritics
Home » TV Review: House, MD Episode 4×06–“Whatever it Takes”

TV Review: House, MD Episode 4×06–“Whatever it Takes”

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

My favorite chemistry professor once said: “Why makes something simple when you can make it complex and beautiful?” Although his sage advice referred to organic synthesis, it can also be applied to writing, even for television. And like the best House, MD episodes, “Whatever it Takes” is simple on the outside (and a tasty treat for the casual viewer), but complex and beautiful for anyone who wants to take a peek beneath the surface.

The hour unfolds in side-by-side medical cases as Dr. Gregory House (the ever-amazing Hugh Laurie) is called away to tend to a secret agent with an unknown and likely fatal illness. In the meantime, newly chastened and returned to House’s staff, Dr. Eric Foreman leads the fellow-wannabe in their efforts to diagnose a race-car driver. Simple, straightforward procedural. But (and this is what makes me an adoring fan of the show) things are never as simple as they seem, and the beautifully constructed character plot contrasts the eccentric House with not one, but two doctors. Guess who wins?

The episode’s two medical cases are solved side by side. House is off-campus at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, as Foreman leads the team back at the ranch (PPTH). The parallel cases set up an interesting contrast between House and Foreman, who believes that he is not only as good a doctor as is House, but better–and without the excess baggage. But Foreman lacks House’s experience, credentials and humility.

When a CIA guy drops in on House, badge and all, House is (to say the least) skeptical (actually House doesn’t even believe that the guy is an actual CIA agent, but a practical joke sent by Wilson or Cuddy). However, disbelief soon changes to adolescent glee as House is transported via black helicopter and corporate jet to the fantasy land of spies and double crosses. I have a sneaking suspicion House devoured Ian Fleming novels as a kid. And I would not be surprised to discover that he has a copy of Hugh Laurie’s novel The Gun Seller tucked away somewhere in his flat.

Suddenly House finds himself right in the middle of some teenage boy fantasy–complete with a beautiful woman and real spies. House, a bit seduced by the “cool” factor, is (at first) more than excited. He is practically giddy by the time he arrives at the CIA. But House is not the only doctor on the case. The CIA have also brought in the anti-House, a staid, no-nonsense and equally famous doctor from the Mayo Clinic. It’s an interesting premise to see House interact in this sort of situation with a peer not only from outside House’s universe, but set outside his usual environment (and not on his own turf).

Throughout much of the episode, House’s conversation with the CIA doctor (who resembles a figment of a video game designer’s imagination) is overtly sexual and crude. House is usually better at filtering his language around strangers, reserving his raciest comments for Cuddy. I was really put off by House and leering, wondering if it had something to do with him being outside his element, but then I realized that his language and interactions with the CIA doctor were a direct result of his video-game-playing- adolescent- “aren’t I cool?” state of mind.

His filters are (more or less, and thankfully) back in place once the patient’s situation becomes dire and reality settles back onto House’s shoulders. He thinks he has the diagnosis early on, and being wrong, he initiates the wrong treatment. After realizing the error, House's entire demeanor and way of handling the case changes.

“Whatever it Takes” is a perfect title for this episode. House's reputation is based on both his genius for putting together the puzzle, and because he does “whatever it takes” to save the life of a patient. He will bend, even break, rules; ignore established medical ethical standards, lie and steal. But House also has a fundamental understanding of his own fallibility, and is humble enough to recognize it, be affected by it and make adjustments to serve the interests of the patient because of it. “Humility is important if you’re wrong a lot,” he tells Foreman way back in the season 1 episode “DNR.

Working on the other case, back at PPTH, Foreman’s team misdiagnoses the race-car driver. Foreman tells her that he’s going to do something that doctors aren’t supposed to do: “admit I’m wrong.” It is hard for him to do, as he is just learning that sort of humility (he began this journey last season). But Foreman is handcuffed by the error; devastated by his fallibility. By contrast, House, who judges his own medical decisions even more harshly than he judges everyone else’s, recognizes and adjusts, and finds a new path toward the diagnosis.

House’s ego (which was getting the better of him, being at the CIA and all) now takes a back seat (as it usually does) to really fixing the patient. House does “whatever it takes,” even, setting aside vanity, arrogance and ego.

And through honest, quiet and calm conversation with the patient (I love these little one-on-ones) House comes up with THE answer. House even abandons his usual bias against eastern/herbal medicine to try an experimental treatment he’s only read about. House brews the tea himself, holding the mug to the agent’s lips, all the while honestly admitting to the patient that he is still likely to die.

Back on the home front of PPTH, Foreman’s team continues to diagnose the driver. Early in the episode, House turns over his precious markers to Foreman. “You’re in charge,” he tells Foreman as he leaves for points unknown. “I know,” Foreman retorts, arrogantly. Foreman assumes the power he’s been given is his right, conferred by Cuddy and not by House. This attitude informs the way in which he runs the team. Foreman tries to undercut House’s ultimate authority by badmouthing House to his team, something House does not deserve.

Cameron gives Foreman some good advice when she tells him that no one is ever totally wrong. Some good can come out of mistakes and missed diagnoses. “You’re never going to get everything wrong,” she tells him. This is a crucial lesson she has learned from the master, House, over the course of her fellowship with him. “What if we’re wrong?” Cameron asks House in the show's pilot episode. “We learn something else,” House wisely replies. This crucial lesson is one that Foreman has either missed or forgotten.

House returns from his little sojourn to the CIA only to find that the team has made the outrageous diagnosis of polio on the race-car driver. And that she has been miraculously cured by mega doses orange juice. House is shocked, since, when he left, the patient had heat stroke, which was Foreman's original diagnosis. But wait. Foreman enters the lecture hall with proof that she did not, after all, have polio. But what about the tests Brennan ran on the patient that showed the presence of the polio virus?

“You believe him?” Foreman asks incredulously of House. “They do,” replies House calmly, answering a more important question. This is failure that never would have happened had House been there.

Ultimately, this episode also demonstrates House’s own ethical boundaries. House immediately understands that “whatever it takes” Brennan, contrived the entire polio/orange juice scenario. House is furious (in a dangerously calm way). House has never placed ambition over a patient’s well being.

In the end, in a wonderful scene, the CIA doc presents herself to House. And House is completely flummoxed. He hasn’t a clue as to what do with this. Or with her. Hugh Laurie is brilliant at suggesting House’s dismay, unease and bewilderment. His expression tells us “Oh great. Now what do I do?” And we will be anxious to find out next Tuesday.

Powered by

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.
  • hl_lover

    Barbara,
    Another fine review from my favorite House blogger!

    Love how you draw out the parallels in this episode between the two cases. The show followed the usual ‘formula’ of wrong diagnoses initially, with dangerously wrong treatments, before House solved the riddle and cured the patient. But, in this episode, everything was times two, and House solves both of them. Ironically, the diagnosis thought to be most likely for the CIA agent turned out to be the actual diagnosis of the race car driver.

    The reveal concerning Brennan was shocking and helped to underscore the high ethical level on which House functions, despite his utter disregard of social conventions. I loved how House backed up Foreman in front of the newbies, so I would hope that Foreman would learn another lesson in humility and stop feeling he is House without all the nasty stuff. Cuddy was right when she pegged him ‘House-lite’, ha!

    It was so wonderful to see Hugh administer to the CIA patient himself. I don’t see the doctor from Mayo Clinic or the CIA doctor doing this, but leaving it for the nurses. It’s so wonderful when we get to see House’s true colors!

    Thanks again for a wonderful review of a wonderful show!

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    But, in this episode, everything was times two, and House solves both of them. Ironically, the diagnosis thought to be most likely for the CIA agent turned out to be the actual diagnosis of the race car driver.

    I missed that! Too focused on the character side. You are, of course, absolutely correct!

    The reveal concerning Brennan was shocking and helped to underscore the high ethical level on which House functions, despite his utter disregard of social conventions.

    It was shocking. Brennan thought that House would not only be OK with it, but be impressed. He was neither. I think House was disgusted and shocked (House doesn’t get shocked very often). House has a singular integrity and a very strict moral code. It’s just not conventional. In some ways it is a lot stricter (and more rigid) than others’.

    It was so wonderful to see Hugh administer to the CIA patient himself. I don’t see the doctor from Mayo Clinic or the CIA doctor doing this, but leaving it for the nurses. It’s so wonderful when we get to see House’s true colors!

    I love these scenes almost more than any other in the show. Long after the others had left, House remained with the patient. He told him that he didn’t want to hear the guys story, so what other reason would he have for simply sitting with him, other than to feed him the infusion. Like you, I crave those quiet, simple character reveals that contradict the conventional wisdom about this unconventional doctor.

    As always, HL_L, thanks for your support and kind words.

    Barbara

  • Louise

    Barbara,

    Thank you for another beautifully constructed review. I think you are right on target about House’s integrity, humility, and ethical standards. The are very, very real. They just aren’t the PC or PG-13 versions. Once the Foreman character gets that, he won’t be such a self-righteous jerk.

    The thing you nailed down that was still not “fitting” for me about this episode was the totally obnoxious behavior with the CIA doctor. House often behaves badly just to stir up the waters. But, this was just idiotic with no redeeming wit. He was a total goof-ball. I was ready to crawl under my chair in embarrassment for him. But you nailed it!

    “I was really put off by House and leering, wondering if it had something to do with him being outside his element, but then I realized that his language and interactions with the CIA doctor were a direct result of his video-game-playing- adolescent- “aren’t I cool?” state of mind.”

    Thanks for the insight! At the end, he really did look as somewhat frightened and clueless about what to do with her, didn’t he? So funny. The writers and the the amazing Mr. Laurie got that just right. As usual.

    This series is a great ride!

    Louise

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    Thanks, Louise. It may be a bit of fanwanking, but I really could only reconcile House’s behavior in that context. And it did make sense. His conversation with Wilson and Wilson’s equally “gee-whiz” reaction to House being actually AT the CIA really pointed to the adolescent boy that dwells in every man (and especially in House — and to only a slightly lesser degree in Wilson.) Glad you enjoyed the review.

  • Robin

    I agree with everything in your review. I thought House’s behavior was a bit much but you gave it a very plausible reason. Surprisingly, Foreman still doesn’t have a clue of what House is about. I noticed House’s reaction to Forman’s “I know”. And HL only slowed down a bit to look at him to convey his thoughts of “how arrogant”. I loved Chase’s scene with Cameron. He is the most in sync with House in seeing someone’s true motives. House did seem at a loss with the CIA doc. He was not expecting her to show up at his doorstep. That will be interesting.

  • Gertrude

    Hi Barbara,

    Thanks for your insightful comments. I’ve just discovered your writing and have just been catching up. I particularly enjoyed your analysis of House as the romantic hero – I think your reasoning is spot-on.

    I haven’t been enjoying season 4 as much as the previous seasons, but your reviews have given me much more to think about. I think I will go re-watch a couple of the season 4 eps to see if I have a different opinion having read your thoughts.

    Look forward to reading more.

    Cheers, G

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    I noticed House’s reaction to Foreman’s “I know”. And HL only slowed down a bit to look at him to convey his thoughts of “how arrogant”. I loved Chase’s scene with Cameron. He is the most in sync with House in seeing someone’s true motives.

    Robin–thanks for the kind words. That “I know,” was such a subtle little moment. In the script (which I haven’t seen–but I’ve seen enough House shooting scripts to believe) I would imagine that it’s simply the words on the page “I know.” The delivery of the line by Epps (who I’m not a great fan of) was terrific. As was House’s reaction (and the camera catching it). It was a moment in the dialogue that might have just been straight on the nose: “You’re in charge.” “I know.” But because of lovely subtle acting and direction came off as something quite a bit more.

    You are also right about Chase. I did like that scene very much. The character of Chase has really come a very long way. House kicking him out of the nest was the best thing he could have done with the fellow who had been with him the longest but had shown no signs of leaving. I like Chases role, and Spencer’s performance of it.

    Gertrude–I’m delighted you are here, and catching up. This season does have a different feel to it right now. And that is because of all the newbies. That will settle down, and I’m sure the darker notes and less manic rhythm will return soon enough (I’m anticipating some nice dark and angsty episodes. Hear that Mr. Shore?)

    Barbara

  • http://marieyates'blueyonder.co.uk marie

    Hi Barbara, I have just loved your reviews each week , I feel so in sync with your evaluation of the episodes , I do love it more when House is the one who gets it right and solves the case , I must admit to getting the end bit wrong this week though ha ha , I thought that House had realised the CIA doc had turned up for a specific reason , thats why he said nothing when SHE told HIM when she would be starting work , but your evaluation of that scene makes much more sense , its just that I am not used to seeing House lost for words , watching it again with your review in mind makes it hilarious and priceless …. thank you so much ….

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    Thanks for the kind words, Marie. I simply loved that final scene. Seeing House so uncomfortable and at a complete loss for words is priceless. Hugh played it just perfectly. I can’t wait until Tuesday to see what happens. I actually have theory. And I’m anxious to find out if I’m right.

    Barbara