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TV Review: House, MD – “Not Cancer”

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Over the course of four seasons of House, MD, we have observed its central character (played to perfection by newly-minted executive producer Hugh Laurie) go through a lot. We’ve seen him battered and bruised (emotionally and physically); we have watched him cynical, sarcastic, sappily romantic, desperately ill and in the throes of withdrawal. He’s been depressed and even occasionally happy.

In “Not Cancer,” the second episode of season five, we find House desperate, less and less able to hide his panic and his feelings about the loss of Wilson. They seep into the differential diagnosis sessions and his conversations with the patient; in front of his hired private investigator, they become transparent, as even this hired hand feels House’s agony at having lost Wilson’s friendship.

“What do I get from Wilson?” House inquires absently (and almost to himself) during the first differential diagnosis session. His fellows argue about what might and might not have made six transplant victims ill (and fatally so in several cases). But House’s mind is elsewhere, almost in a parallel scene, ignored as the medical debate continues.

Kutner finally bites: “He paid for your lunch, liked monster trucks and was your conscience.” Of course the question was rhetorical, and House (able to mentally multi-task better than anyone), who appears to not have been paying attention concludes that “it’s cancer.”

So, armed with Kutner's insights on his “Wilson” problem, and leaving the surviving two patients to the team, House (rather pathetically and awkwardly) goes deep into the wilds of the Princeton Plainsboro cafeteria to seek out a new friend. Passing the “Kutner test” of monster trucks and paying for House’s lunch, the poor victim of House’s friend-lorn attention, Dr. O’Shea, seems not to care that House downs three Vicodin, and better still, like Wilson, has a moralizing opinion of House’s ethics. (Although I have to say that House’s decision not to remove the blind patient’s only functioning eye is more compassionate and certainly more responsible than Foreman’s desire to remove it.) House’s reaction to this potential Wilson-replacement is, “I think I’m falling in love.”

House has also hired Lucas (Michael Weston) a private investigator, who I really thought I would dislike as yet another character in an already too-crowded cast. But I like him. And evidently, so does House, who sees beneath the guy’s slightly dippy exterior to the very sharp-minded man beneath — despite wearing argyle socks with construction boots (and Vans). He has hired the PI to supplement the investigative duties of the fellows, and he appears to be good at his job. But he’s also pretty good at House-reading, and probably has more potential as a Wilson surrogate than O’Shea. He’s a bit of a con man, charging randomly large amounts of money for his information (and doesn’t take checks).

Asked to spy on O’Shea, while ensconced with House in an ice cream truck, Lucas tells House he’s spying on the wrong guy. “You’ve got no reason to be O’Shea’s friend. Part of the pleasure of friendship is to trust them. Trusting without absolute evidence — and then being rewarded for that trust.” House has always trusted Wilson (sometimes to his own detriment), and maybe House’s reward has been Wilson’s friendship and camaraderie — no questions asked. Hey, we know Wilson is a manipulative guy. Maybe for the first time in his life, in House he’s found someone who doesn’t dismiss his friendship for lack of trust; for fear of being played (in a way only Wilson can). And maybe that’s what Wilson gets out of the friendship. (I know… stretching, aren’t I?)

“You’re investigating the wrong guy,” says Lucas. “You really want to know about Wilson.” House is stunned by the knowledge that Lucas has been investigating both him and Wilson on the side. “You want to know if Wilson’s been pining for you. If there’s something about him that will make him come back.”

Caught off guard, House really can’t deny it (or his feelings). So, pretty hesitantly, House asks for the truth. He’s reluctant to hear it, but can’t resist. There’s no sarcasm to deflect the question. Watch Hugh Laurie’s face in this scene. Every emotion is in the stillness of his expression: fear of what he expects to hear; hope that reality is better than expectation. He looks like a deer caught in the headlights and swallows back the emotion of that very brief moment of not knowing. I think at this point, House simply wants to hear any news about Wilson, wants one glimmer of hope to hold onto. We seldom see House so emotionally naked. The PI picks up on House’s vulnerability, understanding how hurt House will be with the news, even only having known him for a short time. Lucas is truthful, but gentle, looking away and giving House a bit of privacy in what is surely very difficult news indeed for him. House is quiet. No rejoinder, no smart comment, no snark. He simply looks away, unable to hide his profound disappointment. He is literally saved by the bell (well, his cell phone ringer, anyway).

Unfortunately, the “bell” only leads to more frustration — this time about the case. This leads to the first of two wonderful encounters with the patient. (I have sorely missed those patient heart-to-hearts.) Although admittedly their conversation seemed slightly random within the case, I really liked the fact that the formerly blind patient could sense House’s anxiety and pain. “Would the world be any different if your leg was fine?” she asks after disclosing that she had been an architect, who found the world ugly after recovering her vision. This gets to House (especially in his vulnerable state of mind).

“Nope,” he replies flatly, knowing where this is going. But that was the easy question.

“Think you’d be any different?” she continues. This question really strikes at the heart of House’s being. So much of his self-loathing, his behavior and drug use is tied up in his leg. He can’t answer the question, but she makes the connection between herself and House. “You don’t seem all that different.” I took that to mean different than her. She saw an ugly world, one that was not quite up to the beauty that her doctors predicted she would find once she regained her sight. She’s still alone, still without joy or peace of mind. House’s world is dark, and he hides from the ugliness behind a cynical façade and in a pill bottle (or whiskey bottle). She gave up the beauty of art; he gave up so many other things.

But he tells her that he hasn’t given up, and that’s the difference. And he’s certainly right. Something in his makeup, his psyche, won’t let him completely succumb to despair. For him, it’s the puzzle, and up till now, Wilson’s friendship.

House finally visits Wilson after Lucas tells him that Wilson has not mentioned House’s name once in conversation or in grief counseling. Under a pretext of needing an epiphany in the case (okay, so he does need an epiphany and Wilson often provides the necessary prodding), House knocks on Wilson’s door, offering him a consulting fee of $400. Paying for Wilson’s time, literally throwing money at him, tells us how desperate the normally tight-fisted House is at this point. And despite the epiphany he hopes to get, House is there to engage Wilson in some sort of dialogue. Wilson is not buying, telling House to go away. As the door slams, House drops all pretense, asking “How are you?” Knowing that Wilson hasn’t mentioned him, knowing that Wilson believes that he is toxic, House still unguards himself. And it’s still not enough. “Don’t do this,” Wilson says. “I’m trying to move on in my life.”

“By hanging out with Cameron? With Cuddy? With Foreman? But not me?” This is House at his most brave (emotionally); he’s trying to push past his own fear and Wilson’s reluctance and maybe save them both. He is near tears in this encounter, waiting. “You want to move on from me, you’ve got to deal with me; talk to me.” House is right. This is Wilson at his most passive-aggressive — refusing to deal with what is at the core of his anguish (beyond Amber, even). This, too, is what Wilson gets from House — someone to prod him when he’s being passive-aggressive, refusing to deal with problems. For all of House’s inability to confront his own issues, he is very insightful about other people, and his honesty with Wilson is brave and sincere. But Wilson wants nothing to do with it, warning House to stay away, refusing to offer an opinion on the case.

House does get his epiphany, however, speaking with Lucas about the purpose of cultivating friends. “Friends keep you from sitting in a room alone,” reveals House. And for him, I’m certain that’s true. I believe that House may be headed for that existence, and I wonder if it frightens him just a little bit. Is that why he’s so desperate to acquire a new friend to replace (what he perceives to be) the only friend he has? Why he pathetically (albeit lightly) asks Lucas if he wants to be friends?

After Cuddy shoots down House’s new theory (that the patient doesn’t have cancer, but cancerous stem cells) by forbidding him from performing a dangerous test, House retreats to Wilson’s office, where he sits alone in the dark, thinking about how he can get around the guards now posted at the patient’s room. He has had his epiphany; the final puzzle piece has locked into place, but there’s nothing he can do about it. I’m sure he’s also processing all that Wilson has told him as well.

Over this scene is the fabulous Dave Matthews song “You Might Die Trying.” I wish I could quote the entire song, so perfectly it fits with all that must be going on in House’s heart and head. “To change the world/Start with one step/However small/The first step is hardest of all.” House is pondering his now dead relationship with Wilson, his setting foot into the world alone, and his patient. Bravery comes in all forms.

“If you give, you, you begin to live./You begin, you get the world.” He can let the patient die, which will surely happen (because he’s solved the puzzle and knows the answer) or he can defy Cuddy and give this woman a gift he cannot have for himself: the ability to see the world in all its colors. To see the world as more beautiful than she believes it to be — and give her the chance to avoid his fate.

So he defies Cuddy, and in that wonderful final scene with the patient, House delights (as much as he can) in giving his patient something meaningful, even if he can’t have it himself. House is in a bad place — and even the patient, who barely knows him, picks up on his sadness.

Finally, late at night, still at the office, House wonders if he can buy Lucas’s companionship, his camaraderie (and his instincts, as well). House – who hates paying anyone anything – the supreme mooch, is willing to pay for the friendship of someone he barely knows. What a sad, sad place for House to dwell.

Parts of this episode were overwhelmingly sad. Like Wilson, House is in mourning. House is mourning the loss of his dearest friend, who denies that there ever was a friendship in the first place. House’s grief is camouflaged as something else, and he won’t be cut any slack for it. His grief is private, thereby made even more poignant.

I continue to enjoy Kutner, who seems ever more a combination of whiz kid and teddy bear. I am surprised at how much I liked the PI Lucas. He’s bright and he has an easy rapport with House. He can have a lightening effect on House as he goes through this very difficult time. I hope he does.

Congratulations to Mr. Hugh Laurie on his well deserved and long overdue executive producer status on the show. What he has brought to the character of Gregory House makes him an integral part of the House creative team! House airs Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern Time).

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her debut novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse comes out October 11 from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • I love that you interpreted this episode exactly the way I did. I’m actually tired of Wilson’s whine-fest. House is in just as much pain, but holds it in. Wilson is oblivious to the damage he’s causing.

    If Wilson left and didn’t speak to anyone, I could buy the whole ‘moving on’ thing. But this is just insulting.

    I feel sorry for House, thinking he should have to beg or pay for companionship. He’s worth more and he’ll never know it.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Completely agree with you Juliabohemian. The fact that wilson had no answer for House when he confronted Wilson about hanging out with eveyone but him. House’s impassioned honesty about not being able to move on without dealing with him…maybe he was also speaking for himself. Huh. I wonder if Stacy left him in just the same way, and his experiences in season 2 and getting closure on their relationship has stayed with him. He realizes that he and wilson need closure at least–on this.

    Wilson was just being cruel to have House grovel at his door, throwing money into his apartment and begging him for a simple conversation.

  • sdemar

    Another sterling review, Barbara.

    I have a feeling the hospital unknowingly will be picking up the tab for the Lucas friendship. Cuddy was already inquiring about the $2,300 hospital charge.

    I forgot about that line “friends keep you from sitting in a room alone”. I remember hearing it while watching the episode and thinking House really hates being alone. Sad for a man that spends a good amount of time just like that.

    I agree with your view of this episode, and like you, I was all set to not like Lucas. Instead I found myself being very fascinated by him. Geeky and shrewd and has House pegged. He and Hugh have a nice chemistry going.

    Both House and Wilson are grieving deeply and it is sad to watch. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

    And congrats to Hugh on the “Executive Producer” title. He earned it and it’s cool to see his name in the credits other than as an actor.

  • I think RSL needs to be up for an acting award next year if not this.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Thanks Sdemar. I watched the episode last night in a noisy House with lots of interruptions. I wasn’t certain that I liked it, and I went to sleep having no idea what I was going to write about it. On second viewing this morning, I realized how much this episode just hit all of the classic House themes so beautifully.

    NancyGail–no disagreement from me. RSL has been terrific these first two episodes.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Yeh but I have had it with Wilson.
    He is the true Sad Sack around town, right now.

    I LOVE the new P.I. He’s charming and funny and spot on.

    And Kuttner is great. Wonderful episode.

  • pollyg

    I’m at the point of saying, hey House, let Wilson go. Why do you want that deluded, utterly self-absorbed ass in your life anyway?

    I also like the PI–but his addition to the cast just goes to show (to me anyway) how obvious it is that whatever they were trying to get with the new team didn’t work or they wouldn’t have needed this guy. Though I am rather liking Taub and Kutner, I could do without 13 and her bland neediness.

    Thanks for another spot-on review, Barbara.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Remember that House pined for Stacy for 5 years. Although House has a difficult time forging relationships, he has a more difficult time letting go of them. I agree that House should just let Wilson go, but I don’t think he can. Clearly, love has been absent from most of House’s life: a brutal father probably set him on his self-loathing, and no matter how much of genius he is (and knows he is) that will help to define his life. Add the leg and Stacy’s betrayal…

    His feelings of worthlessness (except for his skill as a doctor)must make the impact of Amber’s death even more keenly felt.

  • pollyg

    Would you care to elucidate what you think is Wilson’s real reason for trying to end his relationship with House? I have my theory but am hesitant to state it for fear of being totally off and embarrassing myself…;o)

  • Barbara Barnett

    Pollyg–never be afraid to suggest a theory. we all have our insights, and pretty much everything would be speculation anyway…but here’s my meager speculation for what it’s worth.

    I think that Wilson blames himself for Amber’s death. He feels that House is toxic, and his relationship with House led to Amber’s death, therefore Wilson partially blames himself. He doesn’t blame House. He said it, and I believe that he believes that.

    But I think it goes deeper. Amber’s death has caused Wilson to re-evaluate this relationship and given the context, he’s judging it in the harshest of lights. House is toxic; House brings nothing but bad luck and misery to everything he touches. Why would Wilson need such a radioactive friend? Wilson’s not seeing what good he gets from the relationship.

    It’s not hate; it’s much more difficult to overcome than simple hate. It’s the sort of indifference that comes at the end of a bad marriage, when one partner finally decides that there’s no longer anything there and become immune to anything (good or bad) that the other partner can say.

    This is all I can offer.

  • Jen

    In season 3, Cuddy told House that he made everyone worse for having known him. Now with Wilson’s whole “you spread misery” campaign…is it strange that I think House deserves better friends? I concede that he’s an ass. But part of the problem would have to be the way Wilson approached their relationship, like you’ve said. It’s like Cuddy and Wilson can’t find a balance between letting House do whatever he wants and treating him like a child, so they fluctuate from one extreme to another and blame him when he follows their lead and does what he wants or acts like a child. I’m in no way stripping House of personal responsibility for his actions, but I think Wilson will really need to reevaluate how he’s behaved in the history of their friendship before coming back to it. And it’ll be interesting to see (if new ground rules are established) how House reacts to that.

  • Barbara Barnett

    It’s like House said in “Words and Deeds.” My friends have no expectations of me. And House has called them both on it: telling Cuddy never to threaten him if she won’t back it up with action, because it’s too easy for him to tell if she’s bluffing for example.

  • Ann

    I feel the same way about the PI. I enjoyed his scenes, but I don’t think I’d want to see him as a permanent member of the cast. I love Kutner, still find 13 annoying, but not as much as last season. I’m indifferent to Taub. I saw a preview/interview of the cast where Peter Jacobsen says that House recognizes Taub’s “sturdiness” and that he’s an important member of the team. His scenes could be removed and it wouldn’t make one bit of difference to the storyline one way or the other. I don’t ship any relationships, but I did fully expect that Camereon would have checked up on House, not because she still pines for him in a romantic way, but because I think she’ll always have special feelings for him even though she may not want to act on them anymore. The PI talked about how everyone but Chase had called or talked to Wilson, nobody asked how poor House was doing. He is in a terribly lonely place. I’m excited to see where this arc is going, but I do hope that at the end the House/Wilson dynamic has returned to some semblance of it’s former self. They are consistly my favorite things, right behind everything else that picks apart the character of Gregory House. Thanks for the great review!

  • ann uk

    I am putting off reading your reviews untill House is broadcast over here as I dont want to spoil the pleasure of seeing them first.
    I just want to say that up till now I have given the Emmy judges the benefit of the doubt, but I can only think that their repeated refusal to recognise Hugh Laurie’s genius is due to prejudice.

    I dont believe that any other actor could match his harrowing performance in House’s Head.

    I am sure Hugh will concede with his usual modesty and grace, but he must feel it as a slight.

    Looking forward to rejoining the debate.Ann

  • Ellen

    Barbara: I look forward to your House reviews each week. As usual, you are dead-on about the “Not Cancer” episode. It was all of the things I love about House, quirky, poignant, profound. I, too, thought I would hate the new character, but it was hard to dislike him, with his quirky charm. He and Hugh had wonderful chemistry, but Hugh is so good, I think he could generate chemistry with a house plant. The end, where House asks the patient “How do I look?” and she said “You look sad.” gave me a lump in my throat.

  • Alfredo

    This is not a Review, this is telling everything that happen on the episode, only the last page is a real review.

    Sorry about the english..

  • pollyg

    Thank you, Barbara. Hmm, now I think it over, I’m not sure it’s so much a theory as slightly connected ramblings…but such as it is….

    Wilson says he doesn’t blame House for Amber’s death and while I agree with you he believes he means it a superficial way but ultimately he does blame House for it because to him it is the result of House’s toxic influence on everyone around him. But I think, in his typical Wilson fashion, he is just using House as he always has–as a scapegoat for his own guilt. In my opinion no one is to blame for her death–just the unfortunate circumstance of her taking the cold medicine: if you take that one thing out and leave everything else the same, she would not have died, right?

    Now look at why Amber went to the bar. Because she’s just a nice person? No. House didn’t call her cut-throat bitch for nothing after all. Every time we have seen her do anything nice (except the Wilson’s bed thing, I’ll give her that) it has been with the ulterior motive to beat her competition for whatever goal she had in sight. It was clearly demonstrated that she and House (both very competitive people) were competing for Wilson’s time and attention and that Wilson was rather enjoying it. imo her going to the bar was another move in her campaign to win Wilson from House. So if Wilson had to accept that, he would have to allot some of the blame to Amber and himself as well as to House. But he can’t face that so absolves himself and Amber for any blame by laying it all on House’s toxic personality: if they had not been around House there would never have been any competition for him to enjoy (I think deep down he realizes this is why she went and he feels very guilty for how much he was gratified by the competition)…so he writes it all down to House, thereby leaving Amber and himself clean of any guilt or blame. Which is not only false but cowardly. imo

    I think we see House’s personality allowing the people around him to deflect any guilt or shortcomings in themselves onto House: Wilson–your addiction, self-centeredness, toxic personality hurt everyone and killed Amber; Stacy–I saved your life and you pushed me away; Cameron–I’m beautiful and wonderful and you couldn’t love me because you are too screwed up ;o); Foreman–you are a monster and being around you damaged me and cost me my job…. Very nice for all of them, they never have to examine the possibility of faults within themselves which caused the situations they are in. And he lets them do it! hmmm

    Make any sense?

  • Dan

    As sad as it is to see House hurting, he isn’t the innocent party in any of this. He will never have ‘better’ friends because Wilson was the only one who could stand to be around him, who even enjoyed being around him.
    Wilson is grieving and he’s not acting rationally. That whole scene at the door? Wilson could barely look at House and no, he wasn’t being cruel. He was trying to be strong for himself in what he thought he had to do and he was clearly struggling. Wilson isn’t perfect. He’s messes up, he can be manipulative etc.. but he has always been there for House. Beyond the call of duty it seems. Wilson’s ex-wife said it herself: ‘You always needed him and he was always there for you.’
    Wilson has the right to do what’s best for himself. This woobiefication of House is bordering on the ridiculous.

  • Barbara Barnett

    I think he lets them do it because I think he believes they are right.

    Dan–House is an ass to everybody. But there is a reason that he acts differently in those moments he’s with a patient (who is really ill) and why he allows everyone act towards him as pollyg said.

    Wilson is grieving and has a right to walk away from his relationship with House. Not even House disputes that. It was thing he was most afraid of. But he’s also right in what he said to Wilson–you can’t start over without dealing with him. This is Wilson’s MO and House knows that. When Wilson’s marriage broke up, it wasn’t until House pushed him to snap out of his passive aggressive stupor and push back that Wilson actually acted. That’s what the episode “Safe” was all about.

    Amber’s death was a terrible tragedy, and House did not want her to come to his rescue. Yes, it was selfish and fairly pathetic that he wanted dial-a-Wilson. but her coming was not altruistic (it’s not Amber if it was) and House tried to shake her off. And after the accident, despite his own injuries, his subconscious kept after him to remember what happened–because it was her! If he was fundamentally (behind all the bullshit) such a jerk, his conscience and sub-conscious wouldn’t care. He would have wanted to get better and the heck with everyone else. Fact is, he risked his life and his only thing of value (his intelligence) to do that dangerous surgery. Talk about laying your life on the line for a friend. And yes, House understands Wilson’s anger; what he doesn’t understand is that their friendship is irreperable. woobie?

  • C.

    I have to disagree with there being any hint of Wilson laying the blame on House for Amber’s death. I think he was sincere when he said he didn’t blame House. It was clear he blamed himself and was struggling with that guilt for allowing the boundaries of his friendship to blur and for enabling House all these years. As House intimated in Dying Changes Everything and other episodes Wilson’s guilt is a mighty thing. Also, so what if Wilson took some pleasure in having House and Amber vie for his attention. He loved them both as they loved him and it was House who initiated the silly game and Amber who was tolerant enough of their insanely co-dependent friendship to go along with it. So you have one moment of childish allowances for all involved and yet we can trace that to the current sitation and how Wilson’s own culpability (at least in his own eyes)is now at play.

    This episode resonated for me, in that we get to see House dissecting his relationship with Wilson, trying to sort it out logically, define it and doing his mighty all to repair it in his emotionally stilted way. Hiring a P.I. to stalk your best friend, then insulting him because that’s sometimes your only expression for hurt. I felt sorry for both men here. I thought the acting was top notch by Robert Sean Leonard and Hugh Laurie. They conveyed so much in expression and tone of voice. Also, the role reversal is going to be amazing to watch, as here we see Wilson guided/blinded by his grief and pushing House away. I can’t wait to see how this is resolved. Wilson will have to see how much he truly loves House as House has now seen how much he truly loves and misses Wilson.

  • LLilly

    “The fact that wilson had no answer for House when he confronted Wilson about hanging out with eveyone but him.”

    I don’t want House to be hurt any more than anyone else does, but Wilson made it clear that he didn’t want to talk to House at the end of the previous episode. It’s not as if Wilson was talking to everyone *about* House; according to the PI, House’s name was never brought up. Wilson was trying to make a clean break and that meant that he didn’t even want to *talk* about House. Yes, I did feel sorry for House because he was exposing a part of himself that he usually keeps hidden, but I can see Wilson’s frustration. Foreman, Cameron, and Cuddy were all visiting Wilson because they wanted to give him their compassion and friendship; House went to Wilson because he needed something from him. In his own sad way, I know he was trying to offer Wilson friendship and compassion. I understand *why* he did it, poor guy, but I hate to see Wilson made out to be the bad guy. He’s put up with quite a lot from House over the years!

  • Barbara Barnett

    L.Lilly–I don’t really see Wilson as a bad guy either. He’s going through grief over the loss of his lover. But I think House went to Wilson to see how he was, using the epiphany thing as pretext. When Wilson slammed the door in his face, House pushed it back, saying what he really came to say: How are you?

  • House is trying, but Wilson isn’t ready. The relationship between these two is a good part of why I watch. 13 and Wilson should cry on each other’s shoulders.

  • Barbara Barnett

    I agree that Wilson isn’t ready. This will most assuredly be a rocky road for them. But I think the road will be paved with many fabulous episodes as House and Wilson work through each his respective grief.

  • Andree

    I really like this blog and reading Barbara’s reviews – or how somebody said – them not being reviews but something like a resume. I started watching House when they showed season 3 here in the Netherlands, got hooked, bought the DVDs and searched for a good blog. And got lucky by finding this one.

    As they are only showing season 4 here now, approaching the end though, I was very impatient to know what was going on in season 5. So I can only say that I really do enjoy Barbara’s “resume” and all your comments.

    I highly enjoy Hugh Laurie’s acting, his mimics and – well, everything. Rarely have I admired this much the acting of a series actor.

    I don’t know the actor or the series who won the Emmy Award, but I think it is a shame that HL didn’t win.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Thanks Andree. Not to be too “meta,” I believe that what I write in this space are reviews. No, they are not “thumbs up/thumbs down” “reviews,” ala Roger Ebert, but they review (I hope) the heart of each episode, analyze motivation, overarching themes and ideas. They’re actually not recaps (resumes?) I try to avoid (sometimes its not possible) the linear “he said this/she said that/then this happened” of episode recaps. What I write is opinion, because it’s my interpretation of what happened.

    But whatever you call them, I do hope you enjoy reading them 🙂

    I agree with you about Hugh Laurie, and welcome to the club of those who are happily addicted to House!

  • pollyg

    If Wilson doesn’t blame House, and his relationship with House (which to me is the same thing as at least partially blaming him), then why is he cutting House out of his life? For some reason completely unrelated to Amber’s death? How else do you explain it?

  • Maineac

    For me, this blog has replaced all the episode discussions on TWoP and HHoW, which inevitably degenerated into whining and bitching about ‘ships’ and minutia while overlooking the major themes of the show. It is so refreshing to find a source of discussion that’s both intelligent and enthusiastic. Yay Barbara for bringing that off.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Pollyg–I think that Wilson doesn’t believe he’s blaming House for Amber as much as he feels that House is radioactive and is a destructive force in his life. He needs to sever his relationship with House, and as much as I think Wilson is being incredibly cruel (especially after what Wilson asked of House in WH), Wilson believes that it’s best for him. It’s harsh and cruel and he’s dismissing the notion that House is also at a particularly fragile stage right now. He’s on a tear to be out for #1.

    Maineac–I’m flattered and delighted that you find this space worthy of comparison with TWoP (Televsion without Pity) and HHOW (which I visit often–for the overall information an quality as well.) When I got booted from participation at TWOP (me and a lot of other regulars), I was sad at the direction that forum had taken, both in the level of discussion and the moderation of the site. Haven’t been back there for a long, long time.

    Glad that you (all) are here, enjoying the discussion. Plenty of room for diverse opinion and analysis. Stop back often, and bring along your friends 🙂 –by the way, lovin’ your new fanfiction effort, maineac.

  • Orange450

    Hi Barbara, I still haven’t seen the episode, but I couldn’t resist reading your article. I never mind spoilers. In fact, I usually read books from back to the front, because once I know what happens in the end, I can relax and enjoy finding out how it all comes about 🙂 It works the same way with me for House episodes – I always enjoy them more if I’ve done my homework first.

    “She saw an ugly world, one that was not quite up to the beauty that her doctors predicted she would find once she regained her sight.”

    I’d read about the blind architect in several other House discussion venues, and this line of yours reminded me about a story – probably apocryphal – about Monet. Apparently, he’d been nearsighted for almost all of his life, and got glasses when he was in his eighties. As the story goes – when he put them on for the first time and saw the world spring into focus, he said “bah!” He then threw them on the floor, stepped on them, and continued painting the world around him as he had always seen it.

    I probably won’t get to see the episode for a while, so I just wanted to wish you a shana tova. Ketiva v’chatima tova, and best wishes for a happy, healthy and peaceful year. I agree with Maineac – I’ve spent a lot of time on the Fox forum over the past few years, but your blog is fast becoming my favorite House discussion, for all the reasons Maineac listed. Thank you for really enhancing my enjoyment of the show.

    p.s. I noticed that you used the words “Stacy” and “betrayal” in the same sentence. When I have some more time, I think we may have to talk about that 😉

  • pollyg

    Barbara, I don’t want to belabor the point, but I can’t understand how Wilson’s conviction that House is radioactive and his consequent decision to cut him out of his life for his (Wilson’s)own sake can be separated from the idea that House (and his radioactivity) are responsible for Amber’s death. I can’t help but wonder if Wilson is thinking, not House calling Wilson for a ride but his whole impact on their lives is what caused Amber’s death. But maybe future episodes will reveal to me what you and others are seeing….

  • Dominique.

    Wilson’s behavior is just very frustrating to me… I mean it has been his goal for years to get House to open up like he did in this episode and now he gets House to be open and as vulnerable as he can possibly get and he just throws it away! I mean I get that he’s mourning but if this causes a relapse in House’s behavior… I really believe that Wilson needs House just as much as House needs him, so he’s gonna get over the gross of his grief sometime and he’ll remember what House means to him in a positive way and end up on his dootstep but House would’ve regressed by then: this showed him being open really hurts, that it really only causes pain… he’d get back to his safe zone, which is simply not caring about anyone except a faceless, nameless patient and just refuse to let Wilson in ever again…

    it just frustrates me beyond compare that Wilson would cause a relapse in House’s behavior like that cause that’s just having the right to walk away and kicking him as he goes, isn’t it?

  • Barbara Barnett

    Orange: Gam Lach. Interesting story about Monet. Regarding Stacy and Betrayal–I meant that (in my sentence) as House’s perception of it. I believe she was trying to do her best to save the life of someone she loved (and perhaps, himself wasn’t willing to save himself). On the other hand, House may have forseen the life that was ahead for him–a life where his feelings of worthlessness would be exacerbated by his disability (or maybe not being seen as a “whole person” by (perhaps) his father.) Something to explore, indeed.

    Dominique–you raise a good point. And we’ll see the effect of it on House as the season goes on. Wilson often frustrates me despite his good intentions (and we all know about good intentions) 🙂

  • Jewels

    I am new to the House M.D. fanclub. 🙂 I started watching (out of order no less) about 3 weeks ago or so (start of September/end of August 2008). I was a bit underwhelmed with 13’s character at the season premier and since now going back and seeing the pilot and most of the first year I can see that she is not the best replacement for Cameron imho.

    I was very impressed with the detective guy and think he keeps the quick and witty conversations House used to have with Wilson going for the show. I think he will be House’s side kick for some time – and a good diversion/ally to watch and be Wilson’s “replacement” for the time being. Great twist I thought by adding a detective. I was wondering how season 5 episode 2 would follow up with Wilson’s “departure”. I had heard rumours that Robert Sean Leonard has been on the set “more than ever” so wasn’t sure how he could be and stay distant. Stalking is an interesting way to accomplish it. 🙂 Hugh did look tired to me however and I’m aware he’s a few years older than the beginning (remember I saw the pilot for the first time real recently) I wondered if in real life he’s tired too. Seems to be in the news alot about his depression/grumpiness and missing his family. I’m sure you’ve all heard he finally did move his family to the US after his wife Jo insisted for his health/happiness. I wish them all the best, it’s a terrific show and I’ve been impressed how consistent the quality has been even from the beginning. 🙂 Quite a treat.

  • Christine Roberts

    After reading Jewel’s post it looks like Jewels wants to be a stalker? I have 2 people stalking me already I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. People no matter what their job is doesn’t need stalkers. It is a crime. In case you have forgetten. Robert Sean Leonard and everyone else shouldn’t have people talking about stalking them. It is horrible being stalked. I’m talking from experience.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Jewels, welcome. I think Jewels may have meant that House hiring a PI to investigate Wilson and keep an eye on him was slightly stalkerish, and a way to keep Wilson in the picture, but distant from House. Am I right, Jewels?

    HL is on the set so many hours a day (and House–I believe–is supposed to be looking pretty haggard in these early episodes, so I wouldn’t necessarily think Hugh, as Hugh, would look quite as haggard). And they went right from season four to five, which is gruelling for anyone. I’m happy for Hugh that he seems to have moved the family here, as it must be very difficult to have been apart for such long stretches.

    That said, I’d sort of like to keep the conversation mainly about the episodes and the show–and certainly about the cast as it relates to the show. So, Jewels, welcome to the addiction that is House, MD 🙂

  • Kizmet

    I can’t buy that Wilson’s statement that he doesn’t blame House for Amber’s death. He recognizes that rationally House isn’t to blame. But then he turns around, re-evaluates his life in the light of Amber’s death and decides that he needs House out of his life. I think that pretty clearly says he does blame House for his unhappiness.

    House’s behavior with regards to Amber was actually pretty mild compared to say, the whole mess with Tritter or faking cancer among other things. Wilson actually does give the appearance of enjoying playing games with House at times, and seemed to be enjoying having Amber and House fighting over him. Wilson is actually fairly manipulative himself, he just limits the tendency to House, because it’s acceptable since it’s either a game between them or Wilson justifying the manipulation as being in House’s best interest.

    The thing the irritates me about Wilson’s actions this season is: Wilson wants House out of his life because Amber died due to a chain of events that House couldn’t possibly of predicted. But Wilson takes no blame at for asking House to undergo a procedure that they KNEW could have led to brain damage or death. House got unlucky and a garbage truck hit the bus he and Amber were on so he’s unforgivable; Wilson got lucky and his best friend didn’t die because of what Wilson asked him to do, so Wilson did nothing wrong? That seems a bit unfair to me.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Hi Kizmet,

    Wilson is definitely manipulative. No question. And he did enjoy Amber and House vying for his attention.

    House bears no responsibility in Amber’s death. Not logically, rationally or factually. But Wilson’s not at a point in his life where he’s thinking in least bit rationally. he’s grieving. He’s angry (can’t remember which of those five stages of gried that is, but its’ one of them). House is an easy target for him. He wakes up, reviews everything that’s wrong with his life and decides that every bad thing in his life for the past xx years can trace back to House. So that’s where he directs his anger. House is an even easier target because House, himself, feels guilt over Amber’s death as well. And House’s own psychology, which (we know from at least two statements made in the series) tells him that he’s not a worthy individual. Stacy had asked him “You don’t think you deserve to live?” Wilson in Son of Coma Guy also referred to House’s not feeling deserving.

    So it’s not right, it’s not fair and House doesn’t deserve what he’s going through with Wilson after risking his life to save Amber (and more than through the deep brain stimulation)but it’s human as much as it is tragic for both House and Wilson.

  • pollyg

    “He wakes up, reviews everything that’s wrong with his life and decides that every bad thing in his life for the past xx years can trace back to House. So that’s where he directs his anger.”

    Yes. And I would add it also allows him to absolve himself from any blame for all those bad things–he’s using House as his scapegoat. Understandable? Yes. Forgivable? In the circumstances, probably. Honest? No. Selfish? You bet! He’s diverting a large chunk of his own pain onto House who–because of his vulnerability about his own worth, his own guilt towards Amber and his need for Wilson–accepts it. It’s cruel of him and to me again underscores how little he truly “gets” House. I guess the tragedy is that Wilson is hiding from his own imperfections by hurting the one person in the world who cares most for him and most needs him. I am really not liking Wilson now. (Can you tell? ;o) )

  • Barbara Barnett


    I feel your pain! Although I’m not hating Wilson quite as much, I have long held that he simply doesn’t “get” House completely. Oh, he has flashes, but he misreads (at times) House’s fragility (as well as his genius). I really disliked Wilson in season three. From Meaning pretty much all the way through Merry Little Christmas.

  • Sue


    Happy and Healthy New Year!

    To me, this was another arrogant David Shore script, in the vein of No Reason and One Day, One Room. It was too loaded with rapid banter that was hard to understand and it had meaningless or poorly established scenes that detracted from what was going on. What was it with ringing the nurse’s bell so many times? The dialogue with House and the PI in the truck when the PI was watching someone was overdone to the point that it lost the meaning it was supposed to have (not the part where House waits to hear what Wilson said). This PI character is so weak, he has no impact compared to a strong personality like House. He is supposed to be smart and on the ball, but he comes off as wimpy to the point that I don’t find his supposed intelligence believable. He mumbled his words so badly I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He never escapes the “dippy exterior” to emerge as clever and qualified. The biggest sin is that he did not make me care about what he knew or what he found out. This script was a “throw it all against the wall and see what sticks,” and there was very little spaghetti in it.

    I wasn’t convinced that the patient picked up on House’s unhappiness; to me, her words came out of left field. If Shore wanted me to believe it, he had to establish the opportunity for her to “get it” about House, and that was not there. Had she ever seen the world before her eye problem? She must have, if she was an architect. When did her eyes go bad? Did she realize the world didn’t look the same after the transplant as it did before the transplant? Did she expect the world to look different from how she had remembered it? All these questions went through my mind. Because her character and her history were sloppily written, I had no idea of her perspective when she “saw the world” after her transplant. If there had not been so much time devoted to the PI, we would have had more information to understand this better.

    A Kaplow script would have done this much better. A Shore script would just throw this in and expect the audience to “get it.” Like I didn’t “get” the “Cameron is stuck with another dying patient” in One Day One Room.” (That entire part of that episode is still a mystery to me.)

    When a script is so jam-packed with dialogue, a lot goes over the viewer’s head and the impact of the words is lost. In seasons 1-3, I “got it” throughout the entire episode, without having to figure it out later. As the story unfolded, I could appreciate the words, the acting, the meaning, and the impact of the whole package. In this episode, the few scenes that weren’t “quick,” like the scene where House was at Wilson’s door, had a powerful punch. Loads of words weren’t necessary.

    I found this episode very choppy. There were poignant moments interspersed with messy scenes that had little impact. Foreman was more interesting in this episode than he has been. The new team members continue to bore me and put a drag on the series. The DDX scenes have become dull, lacking the characterization and humor that CC and F brought to them. I have read a lot of comments about this episode on forums and from critics, and it universally was not as well-liked as past House episodes.

    This was not a typical Kaplow script in the vein of Autopsy or No Reason. Those episodes were heart-felt stories with better structure and character development. The dialogue in a Kaplow script is much more meaningful and has more impact. I think David Shore has more to learn from Kaplow than Kaplow has to learn from Shore.

  • Sue

    I forgot to mention that there is now a podcast of a House MD blog at http://www.thedifferential.net. They are inviting viewers to participate. There is a medical expert who will comment of the medical aspect of the story.

  • Pat

    “It’s not hate; it’s much more difficult to overcome than simple hate. It’s the sort of indifference that comes at the end of a bad marriage, when one partner finally decides that there’s no longer anything there and become immune to anything (good or bad) that the other partner can say.”

    Maybe that’s why Wilson doesn’t want to talk to House while he will talk to Cameron and Cuddy. There’s nothing left to say for Wilson, he’s trying to move on, and he doesn’t want to say the ugly things he’s feeling and get into a useless fight with House and hurt him.

  • JL

    I wish that I didn’t agree with Sue’s comments. Oh, how I wish.

    I really appreciate your review, Barbara, but that’s because it covers the House bits of the episode.

    David Shore has commented in the past that the strength of the show is having the character stuff happening around the sidelines of the medical mystery, rather than as the focus (my paraphrase, but you get the point).

    Apart from keeping things feeling too soapy, I think restricting character parts to brief and incidental moments has kept them REALLY strong (similar to the ‘tragic moments mixed in with comic moments’ thing for which this show is known).

    I felt that, in this episode, the medical case got sidelined. It didn’t seem to be the focus. And, ironically, that weakened the ‘character bits’, as they felt purposeless and cumbersome without a main storyline to take the weight.

    My characters were all there, doing their thing – but it just didn’t feel like my show.

    I did like the P.I. … but I think that cramming less into this episode somehow would have made for a more focussed story and better expression of the characters within it.

  • Sue

    In my last post, I meant to say Human Error instead of No Reason as great Kaplow episodes.

    Barbara, I am interested in your reaction to my last post.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Sue, and all others…still catching up after the holidays. OY!

    I did like “Not Cancer,” although like you, I did feel that they crammed an awful lot into those 43 minutes. The dialogue was very quick (and maybe too quick.)

    Patients have been pschoanalyzing House since season one going all the way back to Rebecca Adler, John Henry Giles, the presidential candidate in Role Model, etc. So, I’m not so bothered by the patient picking up on House’s sadness. He is sad, and it pours off him sometimes. He’s alot more transparent than he would admit to people who have no preconceived notions about him. His team, Wilson and Cuddy–and his other co-workers have been well immunized and have a hard time seeing beyond his hardshell case.

    Not surprisingly we disagree about the new team (it wouldn’t be the first time ;)).

    I believe that this was a Kaplow script, even if Shore had his input, I think this was primarily Kaplow’s. Of course I could be wrong (who me?).

    I think the PI is pretty geeky, but he’s smart (maybe too smart–to House-knowledgable, if anything). I like the dialogue between them.

    Had she ever seen the world before her eye problem? She must have, if she was an architect. When did her eyes go bad? Did she realize the world didn’t look the same after the transplant as it did before the transplant? Did she expect the world to look different from how she had remembered it? All these questions went through my mind.

    Mine too, and I would have loved to see her explored further, especially since they were drawing a comparision between her and House.

    Because her character and her history were sloppily written, I had no idea of her perspective when she “saw the world” after her transplant. If there had not been so much time devoted to the PI, we would have had more information to understand this better.

    You may be right there, and I do think the show is getting a bit crowded. But I do like the PI (and he’ll be gone soon enough). He does bring out House’s playfulness (and his feelings) in a new way.

    I’ll also agree that it was no “Autopsy.” Love to see one of those this year. but I’m patient. And after the spectacular House’s Head/Wilson’s Heart — and the season opener, I believe there will be payoff ahead.

    JL–my belief is that the “procedural” stuff–the patient story is the skeleton upon which the story of House is told. I’ve always seen House as a character study. A very detailed and striking study of a fascinating, compelling character. I love when the patient’s story and House’s interweave, and agree that it might have been a bit better interwoven in “not cancer.”

  • Jewels

    Thanks Barbara for the warm welcome.

    You are right that I meant that House hiring a PI to keep tabs on Wilson (surveillance, bugging devices) is stalkish type behavior that serves the purpose of keeping House at least “informed” about Wilson (connected) and keeps Wilson “in the loop” still for the writers to add again at any time. Clever storyline I would never have thought up. I also think seeds were planted when the PI mentioned that both Cuddy and Cameron are keeping in touch with Wilson (phone, group therapy, in person at his home). I suspect that is setting the stage for future plots/subplots.

    I was not aware that they filmed season 4 and 5 back to back with no breaks. That would be exhausting. When was season 5 filmed exactly?

    Lastly, in terms of the stages of grief, there are 5 and anger is one of them. 🙂

  • Rachel

    There was one fleeting scene in the episode where House is shown in his darkened office, tossing a ball up and down.
    It was only for a few seconds.
    I think that was the moment when I realized that he understood how isolated he was.

    House is definitely the more vulnerable one in the relationship. I noticed that in the poker game (way back in Season 2?), Wilson was the only one who could tell when House was bluffing, and House only got “nine bucks for a straight.” That was a lot earlier in the season than any of the later revelations, but it was a telling detail.

    I can’t wait for “Birthmarks.” I’m beside myself with anticipation.