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TV Review: House, M.D. – “Holding On”

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Denial
Anger
Bargaining
Depression
Acceptance

The Kubler-Ross grief scale first emerged on House in the season two premiere “Acceptance.” At the time, House (Hugh Laurie) had been struggling with the return of Stacy Warner into his life. Stacy, whom House (Hugh Laurie) both loved and resented; he both desired her and was repelled by her presence. It seems so long ago, lifetimes of tragedy and angst for House—seven seasons for us—since that moment in season two.

And here we are at the penultimate episode of season eight—the last season of our beloved House, M.D. And like House, trying desperately to deal with Wilson’s (Robert Sean Leonard, in arguably his best performance to date in the series) decision not to have chemotherapy, we are right there with him, going through the stages of grief, not only for Wilson, but for a beloved television series.

Like the series showrunners must have agonized over whether to end the long-running series, Wilson grapples with whether to die a quicker, but more dignified life, or to die little by little in agony. A prolonged and senseless way to go. And Wilson’s decision would be easy, but for House, who will not take Wilson’s demise well.

Although last week’s episode “Post Mortem” was heartbreaking, this one just broke me, leaving me in tears as I watched House desperately try to get Wilson to see “reason”—or at least “reasons” to stay alive for at least a little while longer. House cannot understand giving in to the nothingness of death; cannot accept that Wilson simply wants it to be over before life gets too maudlin. It is his right to die, and something for which House has argued over and over these many seasons.

The episode opens with viewers learning that Wilson will have only five or six months to live without chemo, which would give him another two or three more years—much of which would be spent confined to a hospital chemo suite and in pain.

But Wilson has decided to die “with dignity,” something in which House neither believes nor accepts. “You can only live with dignity; you can’t die with it.” The passion in House’s words to Rebecca Adler from the series pilot still resonate as his mantra for lo these many years. There is only living; there is only dying.

Although everyone is sad for Wilson, Foreman and everyone else is more concerned about how House will deal with both Wilson’s decision and his death. No one thinks it will end well, prompting Taub (Peter Jacobson) to resign, and Foreman (Omar Epps) to try setting the stage for House’s life after Wilson (and not very gracefully).

House’s tough exterior is a fragile shell, and everyone is aware that he is likely to shatter into a million pieces if his best—arguably his only—friend dies. Foreman buys a pair of hockey season tickets—they’ll go together. Of course House sees through the transparent attempt to replace Wilson as the man who keeps House from falling apart. No one can replace Wilson—and how dare Foreman try, and in retaliation for this affront, House acts out in one of his most stupid and reckless pranks ever. With results disastrous for the hospital—and for House.

Stuffing the tickets down into the hospital plumbing is one of the dumber things House has ever done (and his track record is considerable). He must have known that the backup would cause a disaster and kill the MRI. Had that been retaliation against Foreman’s gesture—or retaliation against the MRI machine that has conspired to take Wilson from him?

Although Wilson has accepted his fate, it still isn’t easy. He needs House, but until he can accept that Wilson is going to die, House will only be a blockade to Wilson’s getting on with his final days, pulling pranks and trying his best to manipulate Wilson into therapy he is unwilling to undergo.

And while House deals childishly with Wilson’s death, this week’s patient continues in denial about his own brother’s death 10 years earlier. Having never been allowed to grieve, the young man still talks to his dead sibling, unable to move past the loss.

This is House’s usual MO—not to deal—until the not dealing has eaten away so corrosively that House emotionally implodes. Is that what’s in store for him five months after Wilson’s death? And no matter how hard House argues that he’ll “be fine” after Wilson’s gone (which, interestingly he doesn’t—at least to Wilson), we know he won’t be fine (especially after viewing next week’s finale promo).

The increasingly desperate House tries everything in his bag of tricks to convince Wilson to “hold on” and stick around as long as possible. Although his methods are over the top and blatant manipulations, designed to show Wilson what his life means to the world (never mind him), they are heartfelt and part of House’s bargaining proposition. Give the world of sick people another two years of your life and see how many lives you’ll save. It plays to Wilson’s need to be needed, but Wilson has moved past that. He refuses to die like he’s seen too many of his patients go.

But a conversation with Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) tempers House’s fury, forcing him understand Wilson’s motives—and look beyond his own needs as he had with Thirteen when he fired her. “The most selfless thing anyone has every done for me,” she tells her former boss, thanking him for forcing her to stop working and find real meaning in the shortened years of her life.

But can House be selfless enough to deny himself Wilson? Not at that point. House continues to try bargaining, this time pointing his own neediness, a virtual plea to Wilson. But Wilson refuses to bite, insisting that House needs to be there for him, not the other way around. “I need you to tell me my life was worthwhile! I need you to tell me you love me!”

But House refuses, insisting that Wilson fight—furious with his dying friend. House, who lives with pain every day of his life, is frantic, unable to understand the difference between them. Explaining that every day he lives his life in pain, he wonders how many times he’s thought of just giving up—just ending his life once and for all—yet he goes on, refusing to give in to it. He is so angry, he takes it out on the patient, trying to prove that it’s not human to just give up.

Ultimately, it is Park (Charlyne Yi) that slaps House virtually on the face, putting out there in unvarnished veracity. “You’ve spent your whole life looking for the truth; sometimes the truth just sucks.” 

Her admonition begins to push House past his the denial, anger, bargaining, and depression to a reluctant acceptance (although it still takes a while to work past his manipulation reflexes). And when Wilson ultimately comes to him with a change of heart, now willing to live longer, just for him, House is finally able to step into Wilson’s shoes and accept his decision to die sooner rather than later. A rare moment of maturity, House is willing to come out of himself enough to be selfless for Wilson.

But as often happens in House’s life, his recklessness catches up with him. Nailed by the hospital attorney, Foreman, and his parole officer for vandalizing the hospital by his hockey ticket act-out, House is found in violation of his parole. He will spend Wilson’s final months behind bars—unable to be there when he finally can be.

What a tragic turn of events leading us to the series finale next week. Veteran House writers Garrett Lerner, Russel Friend and David Foster hit it out of the park (don’t they always?) in an intense, emotional episode, fitting for the penultimate outing of this series that has kept us engaged, debating and discussing for lo these eight years. Robert Sean Leonard and Hugh Laurie make Wilson and House’s emotional anguish real.

Over the next weeks, we, too, will go through the stages of loss; many of us have already begun. House has been part of our lives for eight seasons; we’ve seen him go through a lot over those years, and as we both dread and anticipate next week’s series finale, we can only hope that House and Wilson will find a way to spend Wilson’s final days together: till death do they part.

And if “Holding On” caught me teary eyed, the promo for the series finale just about killed me. I can’t imagine what they’ve got planned, but it does not look good for House.

I will try to post an article each day as we count down to the House series finale. So check back daily (or follow me on Twitter) as I take the opportunity to reflect on eight seasons of House, M.D., its stars, creative team and, of course, you, dear readers!

Next Monday night, I will host the final House LiveChat Event—a finale viewing party—right here on Blogcritics. Join us at 8:00 p.m. ET. We’ll watch the FOX retrospective together and then stay for the finale and beyond as we say farewell to the House gang. More details later in the week, so please stay tuned!

The House season finale airs next Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET on FOX following a one-hour retrospective on eight years of House, M.D.

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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.
  • angelcat2865

    fantastic episode, but so heartbreaking. I am so not ready for this show to end.

  • Jay Diamond

    I’ve love House since Season 1, Episode 1. And the writing on House has been consistently stellar, the best ever on TV, and better than 99% o movies.

    And though I can most often suspend my disbelief, the whole idea of the flood was absurd.

    There are many tens of thousands of instances of people throwing crazy stuff in toilets in the USA every single day.

    None of them result in a floor caving in !

    Such a thing is impossible from a toilet malfunction of any kind.

    The only thing that could cause tons of water to pour out, would be a Large pipe bursting…..and even that would never result in a floor giving way. Ask any architect and commercial plumbing contractor in the world.

    Furthermore, Taub saw the water coming under the door days before the flood. Every hospital in America has expert maintenance people on staff 24 hours a day !

    Why didn’t the hospital administration call maintenance immediately upon seeing water running under a door adjacent to the bathroom ?

    Why didn’t the hospital administrator close off that bathroom until this (minor) problem was fixed ?

    And worse of all…..the hospital lawyer tells House that the fire department found his fingerprints on the tickets !!!

    Any forensic investigator will confirm that it is imbecilic to believe that after being drenched in tons of water, that there would be any fingerprints whatever on those tickets, or anything else having been drenched in tons of water.

    The entire device of the flood is idiotic and impossible to take seriously.

    A major lapse in what is otherwise the highest standard of writing in television and films.

  • MusicandHouse

    I can believe the concept of the flood. Sure people throw crazy stuff down toilets every day, but it depends on the type of plumbing the place has. I have a toilet in my house that sucks so bad that you can’t even throw toilet paper down it without it overflowing. So I can belive that the tickets could cause sever plumbing problems and the water damage would cause the cieling to cave in.
    What I don’t get is that the lawyer said that the tickets had House’s name AND fingerprints on them. I’m pretty sure that after the amount of time they spent in the toilet/plumbing the water would have washed away all evidence of fingerprints. Of course, the fact that House’s name was on the tickets (and that he admitted he did it to Foreman and Park and Adams) would be enough to send House back to jail, I just wish that line wasn’t included.

    Of course, I should point out that it took me three hours to realize how stupid the fingerprint comment was because I was so caught up in the exellence of the rest of the episode. So emotional and heartbreaking. That scene between House and Wilson in the car was on of the best of the entire series. And I loved when House finally admitted that he needed Wilson and when Wilson said he wanted House to tell him he loved him (although I would have liked to hear House actually say it, but he admitted it in his own little ways).

    I really can’t wait until next week to see how it ends and seeing the promo only gave me more questions. I know that they just can’t end the show by sending House back to jail, mainly because House would not let them take him away when Wilson only has 5 months to live. Something tells me that House may be the one to die rather than Wilson.

  • dvbfan

    This episode was very emotional. For me it was heartbreaking and I felt something terrible will happen to House because I do not think House can accept Wilson’s death easily and the next episode’s promo makes it more clear to me that something disaster will happen to House .He does not let caps apprehend him easily because he does not want leave Wilson alone .
    I am so nervous and can not wait till next week and I am desperate to watch the last episode .

  • Josie123

    I am disappointed…House is going back to jail because basically he’s a selfish person who doesn’t realize that his reckless acts affects others. Isn’t this how Seinfeld ended?!! I had expected more originality from David Shore.

  • Houseguest

    “Holding On” broke me as well. Could not stop crying for some time afterward. The previews were the clincher: could not get the image of a “broken” (and probably dying) House out of my mind. Both RSL and HL deserve Emmy noms for this episode. I dread the finale, and the out pour of emotion it will unleash.

  • Jay Diamond

    Dear Music and House…..I wrote about the fingerprints being gone after the flood.

    But ask any plumbing contractor and architect if a stuffed toilet can cave in a floor.

    It is MORONIC.

    You never answered why in 3 or 4 days, nobody fixed it, and nobody closed the door to the bathroom.

    NO WAY !

    Go, ask someone who knows. I know.

  • The Other Barnett

    I agree with Josie123, the end of the episode, while a good dramatic twist seems like Shore and the writers just want to stick it to those fans who want an ending that feels right…instead of one that feels authentic. I had been thinking of the Seinfeld end for the last couple months, as in “What if House ends up back in prison, just reading about astronomy and quantum-physics?” The promo for next week actually gave me hope for a more original ending….maybe.

    The patient of the week was the perfect one for the almost-end. It does not seem interesting, but it is. It is the personal story that is more engaging, though not so much so that anything could not intrude upon it, including House strangling him (why I was rooting for House’ attack on sick boy?)

    Taub leaving (if he is gone) is a thoroughly logical story line. It shows Taub for what he is, a man who has to look to himself when he sees things not going well. Loyalty, for Taub, is stupidity with a noble mask (something House should relate to).

    I was a little annoyed by the light attention given to 13’s visit. I kept expecting someone to call Wilson and House to tell them that 13 had been dead for 3 days, leaving them to think they each had dealt with her spirit. She just came in and left…it seemed too unattached. House’ reaction to her arrival and her words, though were perfect. No matter what others have said, Remy Hadley had a certain hold on House’ mind and heart that not even Cameron could have.

    I had a moment that I’ve never had with the series last night. I teared up, then cursed, and then laughed. When House hired actors to play former patients, I was so swept up in the notion of a best friend taking the time to bring together those saved by Wilson that I did not thin of what House has already done this series to Kutner, Taub, and Wilson with hiring people to achieve a certain means. It was a good story twist, but it kind of opened up an area of psyche that I don’t like to touch upon with this show. It (at times) makes you uncomfortable and not always to achieve anything beyond discomfort….just like House.

    I saw the story arc for House and Wilson, but I did not see Foreman inserting himself into this. For the first time in a while, I saw Foreman being a human being. He does respect House and I think his hockey tickets idea and his comment to Wilson about living for House was a manifestation of something Foreman always knew, but denied – House is the single most important person in Foreman’s professional and adult life. Who Foreman is, is because of House. Chase was always comfortable with this….Cameron was always in denial of it and fighting it, Foreman just needed more responsibility to get some perspective, I guess.

    The whole toilet backing up thing with the tickets did seem like a graceless way for House to eventually end back up in jail, but it is also a commentary on how House was ot really putting his all into being an ass. His mind and soul are on Wilson and his well-being. His comment to Wilson about how he needs him to live and how he could not lose him was a very effective scene and Wilson’s response was so authentic, too.

    One thought on the promo for next week….why am I worried that there is going to be some kind of take-off of “Help Me” only where House falls and hurts himself so drastically that he loses his other leg? I can just imagine the final shot pulling back with House next to Wilson in a hospital room, holding hands, each in a bed….one dying and the other accepting the loss of both legs…..and laughing over some useless piece of animal penis trivia that House has brought up.

    One piece of bad news for me….I could miss the retrospective and finale next week because my wife and I are flying down to Miami and we land in and around that time period that the show will be on. DRATS!

    Barb, wouldn’t it be interesting to put together a “5 years later” overview of all the main cast members over the years – of where the characters end up in 2017? Just a thought.

  • rjw

    This episode had me in tears from beginning to end.That has never happened before (although it was close in the episode when Kutner died).It was truly heart-wrenching,from watching Wilson decide to forgo further chemo to House’s refusal to accept it.It was nice to have 13 back,who probably most understands both sides of the issue.As for the flood that destroyed the MRI,it’s totally believable.One of our schools had massive damage when some items were flushed down a toilet.It was a real mess!However,I doubt that House could foresee that much damage happening.Foreman’s toilet,sure(he had given House the tickets),but not to the extent of the MRI.It was stupid,though…a way to let Foreman know that he could not replace Wilson.These past 3 episodes have been absolutely superb.I may cry my eyes out next week,but I doubt I will be disappointed.

  • hazel eyes

    I still think House will realise Wilson has been misdiagnosed and save his life. I know I will be in tears if they kill Wilson!!!

  • Zay

    I have not cried this much since the season 4 finale. Good God, so many tears. Literally, I just sat there and bawled through most of the episode. I’ll have to rewatch when I’m calmer.

    I have no idea what’s going to happen in this finale. I really don’t. That promo looks frightening and crazy. All I hope is, that pessimistic and miserable as David Shore seems to be, he found it in his heart to not let House kill himself. After that heart-rending speech to Taub in the hallway, they just can’t let House kill himself. It would negate everything about his character as we know it from the past eight years. Yes, life is miserable, and yes, things suck, but House has always maintained that this is all we have – and, as he pointed out to the patient, life is our instinct. Survival is our instinct. House just can’t kill himself, when that’s his philosophy. I’m flashing back to a really old episode in S2, when he had that bulimic businesswoman with the failing heart, and he was going to lie to the transplant committee, but only if she promised to fight for her life. That man, the one who sat in that hospital room with her – the man who, in the pilot, told Adler that “you can’t die with dignity, you can only live with it” – he can’t take his own life. The patient story also fortified that; the patient had to finally give in, grieve, and choose life over death. I think we can safely say House will not kill himself.

    But then…what will happen to him? Such a question. The jail thing came out of left field. Interesting, though, that the show will end next week but Wilson has five months. We won’t see Wilson die, nor will we see the duration of House’s jail stay (if he does indeed go) – so how will the story go down? Something drastic, I’m sure, but besides House killing himself (which doesn’t make sense) I can’t imagine what’s going to happen, how this will be resolved.

    But then, with the theme of loyalty this week, I guess I’ll just have to put my faith in the writers one more time, as I have for several years now. I haven’t always agreed, and sometimes I am bitterly angry with them for some of the creative decisions they made, but this is their show, it’s the one they gave me, and something is better than nothing, and I will stay until the very end.

    Clever, how as Barbara pointed out, both House and the viewers are going through the five stages of grief. I haven’t been a big fan of S8 for the most part, but they really pulled through at the end here and gave us some fabulous episodes. The C Word, Post Mortem, and Holding On have been as beautiful and heart-wrenching as anything in the earlier seasons. As I said, I haven’t cried this much since Season 4. In fact, I don’t think I’ve cried over House at all since S4, which makes it that much more impressive, as the S4 finale featured two of the finest House episodes in the show’s history.

    I’m rambling now. But this is going to be such an emotional finale. It’s hard to say goodbye. Hugh Laurie is an incredible, incredible man. I literally cannot get over how amazing he is. He gave this show such life and pathos. I’m going to miss seeing him every week, limping around and being snarky and teaching me something about being a good human being.

    & you too, Barbara – I’m going to miss you, and this blog, so much. Reading the blog and the comments every week has been part of my House ritual for a long time now. Thank you for your lovely work and thoughtful critiques every week.

    Oh, and one last light side note: how many of you joined me in grinning like an idiot when Hugh played the piano again at long, long last near the end of the episode?! That was the icing on the cake for me. I’ve missed seeing Hugh play on House. :)

  • Spencer Fisher

    I am a medical phyicist, who has worked on MRI and in hospitals for years. First off, there are what is called, interceptors, at various parts of the septic system within the hospital. You do not want plaster, or other stuff clogging the sewers. Then before all the sewage exits the facility, there are large interceptors. Any pathogen, radioactive material, lab chemical etc that accidently got down the pipe, goes into this to dilute and stop if necessary.

    As for MRI equipment, it is inside of a Farriday Cage, so none of that concrete, stuff would come crashing down.

  • Cyndi

    I too cried through the entire show. My heart broke for Wilson and House . I literally could not calm down during the cafeteria scene with the past patients. Real or not, it was House’s heart on a platter to Wilson.The toilet/jail story was just garbage. How stupid to believe that candy wrappers would have fingerprints on them after days in water!
    The preview is so unclear as to what happen… there is a hand that reaches down to House. Kutner taking him away? I could not help but think of St Elsewhere. Maybe this has all been a drug induced dream of House’s as he lay waiting for surgery on his leg . Perhaps Stacey is by his side and all is well . I still hope for a Happy ending. Come on David Shore, after 8 years throw us a bone!

  • The Other Barnett

    Zay #11
    Good call on that outburst at Taub…..I had chills…and scared my wife when I punched my fist in the air in approval. Is that not really the basic MO of House, “I’m in pain and I’m getting through this, and it sucks, but I keep going – you should too, and quit your bitchin’!”

    Spencer #12 –
    Thanks for the reality slap. I was a bit puzzled by what role the whole scene had beyond shocking the viewer…it certainly made no sense – other than as a vehicle to put House in the poky.

    And Barb, thanks for mentioning the 1st episode “dying with dignity” reference, I pointed that out to my wife as soon as he dropped that comment on the team.

  • MusicandHouse

    While I agree that the ticket thing was a ploy to get House back to jail, I don’t think we will actually ever see him back in jail before the end of the finale. I think he will either kill himself or flee the country. Either way the ending is final. (There is also a theory that he may fake his own death, as Sherlock, the character House is based on did).

  • MusicandHouse

    @Cindi
    Yes, the promo is very unclear. I have watched it 5 times and each time I have more questions than answers. I don’t think that hand belongs to Kutner though, just because of the color of it. I paused that part to get a good look and the hand is white, not dark like Kutner’s would be. If I had to guess, the hand belongs to Wilson.

  • will

    I think Wilson and House and maybe even 13 will all go off and commit suicide together , hence everybody dies . House does not have to go to Jail or see Wilson Suffer , Wilson and thirteen end it on their own terms .

  • http://barbarabarnett.com Barbara Barnett

    Great comments everyone! Less than a week to go till the finale. These last few episodes have been fantastic. What a way to go out!

  • kimincalifornia

    You make it seem as if the hospital lawyer turned House in, but that was not the case. As Foreman said, he tried to keep it out of the hospital (hence he would have told the lawyer to not do anything and to try and keep it quiet)…it was the Firemen who turned House in…the Lawyer would have followed his client’s wishes and kept it private. I hate it when the lawyers get blamed and it isn’t their fault. Besides this was a dramatic device because the prisons are so overcrowded, they wouldn’t revoke his parole unless the hospital pursued it and House was convicted…not for a non-violent crime.

  • Gerry

    The writing has stepped up for the last few episodes, which is nice.

    But I had difficulty with the whole toilet thing. No way is a couple of flushed tickets going to cave in a floor and if it does, there were major pre-existing plumbing issues. I don’t believe House would have his parole revoked for flushing tickets. Sorry, writers. And they knew how shaky the whole concept was–hence the silly “fingerprints” comment.

    More than that, I found myself feeling cynical that after eight years of House getting away with absolutely ridiculous things, damaging property, faking records, breaking into private and/or confidential property, interfering with comatose patients, now, in the penultimate episode, suddenly we’re going to hold him to a realistic standard that this time, isn’t even realistic? Rather than seeming like an inevitable consequence, the revoked parole seemed shoehorned in to create pathos.

    I guess I have too much emotional distance from the show now. I care about House and Wilson, but I’m just not able to suspend enough disbelief to get swept up.

    That said, the show is going out on a high note, thank goodness.

  • Tracy

    Don’t know what to think. A piece of my heart is going to break. This show and these actors have been a part of my life. I have watched it during some very happy years. It got me through probably the worst period of my life. Good episodes, turkey episodes. It didn’t make a difference. I never wavered. I watched every episode, all of them more than once. The stages of grief, absolutely. I can’t imagine the Fall of 2012 without HOUSE. I can’t imagine my “must see TV” not including Monday nights with HOUSE. Thank goodness for DVD sets.
    It has been a pleasure coming to this site once a week and reading Barbara’s blog. I will miss it all.

  • AreKay

    In the midst of all the angst, thank heaven for the scenes with Park wacking House in the head with his cane and House nursing his bruise with an ice pack to break the tension a bit in a very emotional and heartbreaking episode.
    I also join the throngs of fans who will be utterly lost on Monday nights after the finale of HOUSE!

  • Lynda

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this as a possibility. But maybe Foreman just pranked House back with the whole lawyer/tickets/go back to jail routine. Have to say, pretty crappy prank with Wilson’s cancer and all, but you know House would love it.

    I also agree that the whole water fiasco was unbelievable if for no other reason then maintenance would simply have shut the water off long before it got that bad.

  • http://thehousemdproject.squarespace.com TheHouseMDProject

    May I just say a very hearfelt “thank you”, Barbara. Oh, for so many things but for giving us all your wonderful analysis all these years and for creating a blog where all felt welcome and could speak their mind.

    I have so much to thank you for personally but that will have to wait until another time. For now, please know that it has been a complete pleasure to know you and I wish you only continued success in all that you do.

    Warmest Regards,
    Pam
    Housecall

  • Not The End

    I think the writers and producers will keep the ending completely open, so that they can in the future continue with House MD
    Something like Columbus and the Return of Perry Mason.
    House MD is a golden egg, there will be presures to bring it back from different sides
    Anyhow, I am wishing it will be so and eventually happen
    A 2-3 hour long episode of House, 2 – 3 times a year, will be fantastic, they will be able to address the story, the philosofy, dif point of views much better

  • Jacksam4eva

    About Thirteen, I’ve read some comments here and on other sites in which people were saying they were disappointed she just showed up, talked to Wilson and House for a bit and then took off again. And sure, yes, I am disappointed a bit, too, because I love her and think she’s an excellent character but on the other hand, to me, her mere presence meant something. Because Thirteen is such a great metaphor or emblem of the show herself. She’s a breathing, living, “youcantalwaysgetwhatyouwant” and that’s enough to make me cry even more over Wilson and House’s tragic destiny in Holding On. When she came in during season 4, Thirteen was the new eye candy, the very hot, very desirable girl who every woman envied and every boy wished they could seduce. And yet, as the layers started to peel off, we understood we couldn’t really get her or envy her, not forever, because she’s imploding, crumbling down from the inside because of a disease that is taking everything she has, everything she is, away from her. And she’s dying alone, or with the help of a man who “doesn’t even like her that much”. No one needs her like House needs Wilson, and no one really wants her anymore (except for the writers who brought her back in this episode as a reminder of the show’s past, not of it’s future). She’s perfect in Holding On because she’s personification of the reason why I started watching the show personally, because it’s great and beautiful funny and well-written and heartbreakingly tragic. She also fits because she’s dying with dignity – since House will kill her when the time comes – and yet what good is that doing to her, really when she’s all alone? To me, if the writers wanted her mere presence to make a point, the point is made. 

    About this episode, it was a masterpiece, period. I wish I could say more but I can’t. I succeeded in not crying while watching the episode, only to end up here, reading some comments with tears rolling down my cheeks. So much emotion, so much brilliance, in writing, acting, directing. In all honesty I don’t really buy the flood story either but I couldn’t care less. This episode was so, so close to the Pilot in so many ways, such a reminder of the old brilliance of the show, with that intensity in the dialogues we hadn’t seen in ages. It was just… Perfect. I haven’t seen the promo – and don’t plan to see it because I don’t really want to spoil anything – but I believe this episode is one I will never forget, just like the one we’ll have next week. Maybe, to go up from good or decent episodes to perfect ones, the writers needed to know the show was going to die. 

  • Jane E

    What an episode! The tissues were out and being used. I loved it and it is so funny that you mentioned Season 2’s acceptance because my mind traveled right to that episode.

    I think it was well written, but have to agree going to jail for the toilet, come on. That was the major fault in this episode. It is an unbelievable storyline. You would not go back to jail for that type of offense especially when your first offense did not warrant jail time it was your own self destructiveness that put you behind bars.

    I have to agree, the preview for next week also put me in tears and now has made it so real. It forces us to accept it is over.

    Also thanks to Barbara, I really enjoy reading your critique and having the right to express our opinions. I don’t think I can join you Monday night because the tears will be flowing.

    Thanks for this opportunity

    Jane

  • rjw

    If I may add another two cents:I’m not going to get further into whether you can wreck plumbing (or not) with torn up tickets,or whether you can (or cannot) lift fingerprints off said wet tickets.The main thing for me is what happens to House,or even Wilson.I really don’t think House will die in the finale.To me,despite all of his complaints and negativity,House is essentially a survivor.He has taken some very hard knocks in life (some of his own making,others not),and he still keeps on coming back.Of course,after next week,I could be wrong.

  • brilliantendonh

    This is a brilliant interpretation and reading of the events. Wow. I also wonder if House unconsciously sabotaged the MRI so he could avoid being there while losing Wilson. Maybe at that time he unknowingly thought violating his parole would force Wilson to extend his treatment to be with him when he got out. Yes he is surprised at the end and broken, but when he did it he was deeply in denial. When it caught up to him, he was in acceptance, fully focused on Wilson. It may have been my imagination, but he was not that surprised. He went into instant acceptance of prison by asking, for how long? Yet earlier he told the guy who almost pulled his license over an error to basically screw himself. Almost every time he’s had to be there for someone who loved him, he bailed. Including Cuddy’s cancer scare. He’s trying hard with Wilson, but he is an avoider. I think, if this is true, it was all unconscious. He also has a history of never being held accountable. I did not read him flushing the tickets down the toilet as him saying screw you to Foreman for trying to replace Wilson, though that certainly may be true because multiple things can coexist with such a complex person. I read it as, if I accept these tickets I acknowledge Wilson won’t be here in October. I defecate on that idea. He had to know the MRI would be flooded, even unconsciously. I loved that Foreman home truthed Wilson about being responsible for House and his compassion for House. He will be forced to deal with life without Wilson, and finding a reason to go on without him in solitude. I hate that, but Im struck hard by how perfectly terrifying this is for House and how stunningly smart this is on tbe writer’s part. I FELT that despair.
    Anyway, thank you for adding such profound layers to an already profound show. Can’t say that enough. I’m going to have to watch it with the same kind of inavoidability and terror, and despair as House. Not sure Im brave enough. My eyes will loom bestung Tuesday a.m.

  • housefriend

    We just saw the best love scenes ever in television .The love story with House and Wilson just set the bar so high it may not be reached again. RSL and HL just amazing.
    They brought these characters to life as only they could.The emotional rollercoaster both of these characters were going through you could feel in your heart. Ran out of tissues in our house!

  • brilliantendonh

    Oh, and I semi agree about the toilet. More interested in how that ranked above him strangling a patient and certain mom would have thought, legally, that there were other routes to getting her son to stop swlowing ammonia, eeeeven though he talked just fine after both. It was so funny that House had those actors pretend to be patients and even funnier that Wilson did the math while I was thinking It’s A Wonderful Life. Also lovex how House, yet again, knocked Wilson out and boldly brought in an IV.Reminded me of one of the best scenes when House meets Cuddy’s bitchy mother who calls Cuddy a slut and then House said, I’ll get this one, right before she passes out cold and then Wilson realizes he was drugged too. And how Wilson got off some great lines when House invites his arch rival to talk and then skewers him publicly while Wilson tells him something like never has a man been so contemptuous of psychiatry yet in such desperate need. I also love the way he calls him a sociopath affectionately. And I love the comedic timing, it is so subtle. I loved one of Chase’s final lines to his condescending pathologist patient, ‘House told us to look for irony.’

  • brilliantendonh

    One last thing, I dont think House will kill himself in the final episode for multiple reasons, chief of which is trusting that the writers mean it when they say it will be bittersweet.

  • brilliantendonh

    Ok, cant believe the toilet scene now either. Perhaps it was so ridiculous as to be a reason House gets sprung from the pokey. No one thought it would beggar the imagination that your doctor could strangle you and have that not be the reason he got put back in jail? Foreman didnt know about that did he? Lots of excuses to be made for why mom didnt press charges but Im still not buying it. It would have made so mych more sense, unless the writers chose to go with something more ridicukous to spring House from jail. He clearly goes to jail though, for a time, because we see him in his cell. He replays his life maybe looking for meaning, maybe seeing if it has also been worthwhile. I have no part of me that believes he will kill himself or Wilson has been misdiagnosed. I would believe he gets out on temporary appeal and takes off to climb that mountain. But yes, Im convinced toilet is unbelievable and think they chose to do it that way in purpose.

  • Rewriter

    Mostly I’ve lurked here for years, but I wanted to say thanks to Barbara for all her work and especially for providing a sane place to share thoughts about House all this time.
    Meanwhile, it has occurred to me that Foreman is pranking House with the threat of parole violation; I think Foreman wants to shake House with the realization that he might not be able to be there for Wilson when the time comes and that House should be grateful for the time he and Wilson have left. That possibility at least explains the silly fingerprints line which so many of you have pointed out. Parole officers generally don’t announce their plans to “violate” a convict, they just snatch him up, so I think Foreman was finally using one of House’s headgames on him. We shall see soon.
    Thanks again, Barbara!

  • Erica

    Still can’t help thinking that Wilson doesn’t have cancer. (Maybe I’m still in denial.) Wouldn’t it be great to have Cameron, Chase, and Foreman back together with House for one final differential diagnosis, where the stakes couldn’t be any higher and Wilson’s life hangs in the balance? And there must be some reason the writers gave Wilson such a funky cancer. Never heard of a “thymoma” before. Just saying… Maybe a happy ending isn’t out of the question! I love this show and will feel lost without it.

  • Erica

    Word, #26 Jacksam4eva !!

  • Jay Diamond

    And IF they wanted to send House back to prison, they didn’t need the stupid and utterly impossible flood. They could have sent him back for strangling his patient !

  • brilliantendonh

    I had a friend who had a very large thymoma and he was told it was a benign tumor. House had a patient who had a thymoma, and I believe it was a symptom of myasthenia gravis. I know he had a patient with MG, and I know the two often go together (not always) but I can’t remember if it was in the same episode. I was surprised he would blast a stage two tumor like that and still confused as to how or why it would grow so fast after chemo. Im not a doctor, but that was never adequately explained.

  • brilliantendonh

    The writers said they don’t do happy endings, in an article I read yesterday, and the most we could hope for was bittersweet. :(. I do believe Wilson will die for the bitter. Like you I want to deny it also. We really are in the five. :(

  • Paulac54

    Great review Barbara. This episode, notwithstanding the tickets/toilet part, was incredible. Was watching through tears from the first scene, culminating in rolling down my face during the scene in the car. Would love to think RSL will finally get, at the very least, an Emmy nomination (too much to hope that the Emmy people will give a long overdue award to HL). It took me the whole day to calm down after watching a couple of times. I am going to miss this character and the show so much. My DVDs are already wearing out, will just have to buy new ones.
    @Lynda – glad someone else is thinking like me. My iimmediate reaction on thinking it over after watching the Ep was that this was a prank by either Foreman to get back at House over ditching the tickets and messing with his bathroom, or even by Wilson in collusion with Foreman over the cafeteria scene. Can’t believe the writers and DS would make such a colossal error as to think that fingerprints would still be on the tickets. Also, my other immediate thought was that if the fireman had handed the tickets to the police and they had been fingerprinted, the police would have kept them as evidence, not handed them to the hospital lawyer to wave at House! So hope I am right about this as, as much as I don’t want to see Wilson die, I don’t want House in jail(or dieing himself). Hugh Laurie said he thought fans would find end ‘uplifting’ – can’t think he would say that if House dies or is in jail! Fingers crossed, and buying big box of tissues for next week and closed my diary down for next Tuesday while I mourn the loss of my most beloved obsession!

  • The Other Barnett

    ……Why are we so toilet-focused? I undersand this is the means by which to insert drama about what happens to House when Wilson needs him the most (or is that the other way around?), but just curious about the focus on the toilet incident….

  • Paul D

    What if the ludicrous nature of the tickets/toilet, is something else?

    Maybe it’s symbolic (the whole thing is going down the toilet)? :)

    Or maybe House has engineered the whole situation and the outcome with a fake parolee officer to coerce Wilson into accepting treatment (no coincidence that his remaining sentence is the same duration as Wilson’s life expectancy, sans treatment!).

    It doesn’t fit the pattern of the logic based, well thought out writing we expect from the show, so “Occam’s razor” (the law, not the episode) is more likely. The simplest explanation is usually the correct one: House is behind it. It doesn’t make sense to me otherwise.

    Anyway, great penultimate episode. Cannot wait for the conclusion. My money is on a final tip of the hat to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, one way or another.

    Oh, and I’m off to buy shares in Kleenex!

  • Jacksam4eva

    #42 Paul D : I like where you’re going with this. Now that I think about it, the writing in this episode was so perfect, so air-tight, with each sentence chosen and spoken so carefully that I can’t believe that the toilet nonsense was an accident. There were so many symbols and unspoken references in this episode for them to just slip up in the end with this unbelievable story. I mean, like you said, it doesn’t even have to be a prank of Foreman’s or anything, it could just be some kind of metaphor that the writers would like us to get (like, why not, the whole thing going down the toilet?). I mean, even though that was probably one of the biggest failures in the show’s history, it’s what they wanted to convey in last year’s finale, with the image of a house being brought down by House, a bit like he was bringing himself down, being his own worst enemy. So yeah, I want to believe it had some kind of symbolic meaning behind it.

    As for House dying next week, there’s a small voice in my head that keeps saying it will happen, because to me, House is not a show for open endings (and House doesn’t like them as demonstrated in Unwritten) and what is there on this Earth that is more definitive than death, really? But on the other hand, House can’t always get what he wants (a definitive end) so it might not mean a thing. But honestly, I don’t know and weirdly, I think I don’t really care. Now that we’re almost there, I feel like the writers have proven me that they’re the best at what they do and that I can just sit back and enjoy the show because whatever choice has been made, it is and will be the right one.

  • AreKay

    Wilson may be dying of cancer and House may be headed back to prison and the majority of these comments are about toilets…sorry I really don’t care about overflowing toilets!

  • Gerry

    The Other Barnett, the toilet incident was the foundation of sending House to jail, not just an incidental piece of action. Since I find it ridiculous, it joins the history of irritation I have at sloppy writing on this series. It’s so unnecessary–why not have House get his parole revoked for assault after he attempted to strangle his patient?

  • Victoria

    Still not boring.
    Barbara, I’ve enjoyed your comments for many years, but have not often written here. But I do feel compelled to write a few things, now that we really are at the end of the thought process.
    House is not, and never has been, a realistic piece of work. It has always been full of symbols and metaphors, which has made it, for me, unique on television. Sometimes they have been cloaked as hallucinations, but they have been symbols nonetheless. Why did House destroy “Cuddy’s House?” Cuddy herself had already destroyed “Cuddy’s House”, by rejecting the understanding and respect that she had had for him and giving up on the relationship.
    I think people are misunderstanding the whole water metaphor. It’s totally irrelevant whether this could really have happened or not. The flow of water has been used in literature often to represent the inexorability of death. Dickens used it beautifully in Dombey and Son, when Paul is slowly dying and feeling the current of the river bearing him away. In the film “Aguirre, the Wrath of God”, the conquistador is borne down the river at the end, on a rapidly deteriorating raft, symbolizing the loss of control over life, or rather the loss of the illusion of control. House’s whole life has been about saving lives, and using all the intelligence and control that he can muster to do that. He has never believed that there is anything other than human life that is valuable. Now he is faced with the failure of this control, in the case of the one person with whom he has ever been able to forge a true and lasting connection. This event has called his entire life and beliefs into question. I believe that his stuffing the tickets into the toilet is a metaphor-and a funny one-that symbolizes his attempt to stop that inevitable flow towards death. Maybe he is also “stuffing” his emotions about the whole idea. Of course this was futile. As Barbara noted, it is important that the flood erupted on top of the very machine that gave him the fatal information about Wilson. The flood is both the inevitability of death and the loss of the illusion of control that he has always maintained. The scene with the fictional patients that Wilson had saved was also important. Did it really even matter that they were not the real patients?-because even though Wilson had saved their lives, it was temporary and they will still all die. Everybody dies. I believe that was the reason as well why House tried to kill his patient. It didn’t matter any more that he had just saved his life. He tossed off his solution of the case in such a perfunctory way–which is unlike him, he loves solving those puzzles—and then went and tried to kill him. At this point, saving lives has become meaningless.
    How can House possibly cope with this loss of the central meaning of his entire life? I believe the last eposide will focus upon whether he can take that existential ‘leap of faith” and come to believe that there is something noble and meaningful in what he-and Wilson as well-have devoted their lives to. Or will he choose nihilism, cynicism, and bitterness?
    As you can probably tell, I think Shore and Company are screenwriting genuises and have always known exactly what they are doing. In the end, the real Sherlock Holmes is not House, but rather we, the viewers. We are the ones who have so generously been given the challenges and pleasures of finding the clues and solving the puzzles. That’s what I will miss the most, of course along with the ability of HL to bring this character to life in a way that no other actor could have done.
    Still not boring!

  • hwl40

    Victoria, great comment!

  • Action Kate

    That is the first time in eight years I was utterly, completely uninterested in the patient. I just wanted them to get past the stupid meaningless heads-up-their-asses patient and mom and get back to House and Wilson. (Seriously, your child dies and you erase all evidence he existed? No, sorry, I’ve lost two family members to drunk drivers AND I am a mother, and I don’t buy that for a second. Actually my husband and I had that conversation after the episode with the military guy who was supposedly in love with his brother’s fiancée and they wiped his memory; we agreed we wouldn’t want to forget our child!)

    House doesn’t need to say that he loves Wilson; it’s in his every action. Every stupid prank, every desperate plea, every IV, every Oreo. Which, thank you, I may never be able to eat without tears again.

    It’s just, you know, if Wilson dies, if House dies, it’s getting to the point like it is for me with Cuddy — how do I go back and watch any part of this show again, knowing the terrible and futile ending? Is that really necessary? Did Shore have to go the Joss Whedon route and kill people because he can? Kill a favorite character because he can, because it’s shocking? Honestly? I never expected House to go off happily into the sunset but for frak’s sake, his life before Wilson’s cancer was not bad. We, he, couldn’t have had that? We couldn’t have just enjoyed the idea that nobody changes and these two would continue their warped and codependent love affair for the rest of their days?

    and for the love of little green apples NO DEATHBED CONVERSIONS FOR HOUSE, no matter whose deathbed it is. He is an atheist. Full stop.

    Sorry if I’m a little ranty; I’m just as pissed as Wilson.

  • tipitinatoo

    Is it just me, or did anyone else remember HL saying the ending would be “uplifting” but now saying he thinks it will be “satisfying.” Very different words in my book. Anyone? I’m actually feeling disappointed, depressed, devastated, etc. Did I misunderstand, or did I just take HL’s assessment too literally. OR, did DS & company downgrade the ending at the last minute from “uplifting” to merely “satisfying?” Wonder what words Holmes & Watson would use to characterize the ending? Help, guys!

  • Jay Diamond

    Maybe the idiotic and impossible flood is to enhance Brecht’s “alienation effect” and let the audience know it is, after all, just a show…..so that if the worst happens, people in the audience will not commit suicide along with House and Wilson.

  • djesus

    I think the puppet master’s plan worked fine in the end forcing wilson to do now chemo. 6 months in jail to lengthen the life of a friend.
    Good job House!
    As someone has already said it here, I’d like to have a movie after the series ends, I want them to adress again and in a more serious way House’s bio dad and I want the original team back including cuddy even if her return is very compromised because of the season 7 finale.
    I think we’ll have an open ending.
    Sad for wilson, but with chemo he still have a chance to live and he’ll be back too.

  • Jacksam4eva

    #46 Victoria, thanks for everything that you said, I had no idea about what water could be a symbol of but now it just fits. Great comment.

  • lobentti

    @tipitinatoo 49
    Holmes should say “Just common-place, dear Watson!”

  • tomorrow

    excelent

  • Cyndi

    Barbara,
    Thank you for your time and thoughts every week.
    I will be lost on Monday nights too, but will miss you later in the week.

  • Action Kate

    @49 and @53: Well, Hugh did play Benedict Cumberbatch’s father on “Fortysomething.” If we squint and pretend, we could claim House is Sherlock’s father. Too young to be Mycroft’s, though. Maybe the Holmeses are House’s half-brothers when Blanche was off sowing truly wild oats, or if John House had a mistress in London.

  • Jacksam4eva

    Question: I heard there will be an hour long retrospective before the finale… Does anyone know if it will be watchable on the
    Internet or if it will be on the DVDs? Or is it just for the lucky ones who live in the US and can watch it when it airs on TV?

  • tipitinatoo

    @53 – Thanks for clarifying!
    @56 – Hmmm, gotta think on this awhile, but as House said many times to The Team: “Thanks for playing!”

  • Wonderind

    What happen??????????????????
    Will the viewing party still happen?????
    You said:
    Barbara Barnett?@B_Barnett
    I will be posting daily until the finale. A new article (and a final “best of poll”) each day until the finale. Then a viewing party.
    May 15, 2002

  • tipitinatoo

    Victoria, I agree with comments of @47 & @53: brilliant analysis. Just got to it, as I continue to plow my way thru the many long and insightful comments. So far, your theory appears to fit best with the mind of David Shore. Thanks for adding even more depth and meaning to the penultimate episode. DS, if you’re reading this, you may need to add someone with Victoria’s writing/analytical skills to your next project.

  • housemaniac

    Okay, I know this sounds strange, but in an episode called “Everybody Dies” I think no one will die. House won’t die because that is too dark and sudden and out-of-character (unless it’s an accident, which would just be weird). Wilson won’t die (on screen) because he still has 5 months to live. And since when does this show do “five months later” from one episode to the next? I actually think the title of the episode is meant to be “Everybody Dies…Eventually.” It is meant to be more existential, than ltieral.

    Thanks, everyone, for being so thoughtful and thanks, especially, to Barbara for dreaming up the idea for this blog and then plying us with such great commentary over the years.

  • Susan

    The end of the show was profiled in the New York Times today and during an interview with David Shore the question was asked if he would consider a movie later on. He didn’t rule it out so,saying maybe and if he could get the cast together, and, as the interviewer pointed out, this is a clue to the ending – i.e. House won’t die.

  • http://barbarabarnett.com Barbara Barnett

    Wonderind: Real life got hectic. Viewing party is Monday night! 8:00 p.m. ET it begins and we’ll party on for hours. Polls, trivia, etc. will all happen Monday night. Spread the word!

  • Action Kate

    Just rewatched with hubby: in the scene in the car where Wilson ends his distraught speech with “I need you to tell me that you love me,” I am convinced that House actually starts to say it. He opens his mouth once or twice, and I swear I see his tongue fall from behind his teeth in an L movement — the beginning of “I love you.” Anyone else see it?

  • lobentti

    @ 61 Housemaniac
    Good point! Hope you´re right!

  • housemaniac

    Susan #62: Sherlock Holmes’s death did not stop Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from reviving him and writing more stories. So I do not think talk of movie obviates House’s death, though I agree with the sentiment of your post that it is unlikely he will die in this episode.

  • Igor

    Talking of Holmes and his ‘death’ at Reichenbach falls tonight the modern “Sherlock” on PBS does their version of Reichenbach.

  • Action Kate

    @66: ACD wanted to kill off Holmes but the audience demanded that the character be brought back — Stephen King didn’t invent the idea for Misery.

    And “The Reichenbach Fall” is FRAKKING AMAZING but good gravy, between that and “Everybody Dies” we will all need several boxes of tissues. What a week for both of them to air, and one right after the other!

  • housemaniac

    Thanks Igor and Action Kate–didn’t know that Reichenbach Fall episode was tonight. Will have to catch it on the internet. Yes, I realize the audience demanded Holmes’ “rebirth,” so to speak. And House’s audience could (try to) do the same. It’s all a little more complicated now, of course. But I did think Conan Doyle’s rewriting of Holmes’ history was brilliant. Let’s hope tomorrow’s episode of [H]ouse is brilliant too. I’m in serious withdrawal!!!