Home / TV Review: House, MD Season Premiere- “Dying Changes Everything”

TV Review: House, MD Season Premiere- “Dying Changes Everything”

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“Almost dying changes everything–for about two months.”  House believes that a near death experience has but a fleeting affect, if any. First said to Foreman following his brush with death in “Euphoria” and oft repeated, it has become a truism from a man who has had several close encounters with death. But in "Dying Changes Everything", the season five House, MD premiere, House learns a tragic corollary: “dying changes everything” in the aftermath of Amber’s tragic demise. And, indeed, everything may well have changed for House and for Wilson. 

Last season’s finale episode “Wilson’s Heart” left House recovering from head injuries sustained in a terrible and fatal bus crash (and from the deep brain stimulation procedure done at Wilson’s request) that killed “cut-throat bitch” Amber Volakis.  

The single most important scene in “Wilson’s Heart” finds a comatose and hallucinating House sitting in an otherworldly bus with the dead Amber. He debates with her (really wrestling with his own subconscious) about whether he wants to, or even should, return to the land of the living. House argues that he should stay on the bus with Amber (who is, one might suspect, going on to that “better place”); a place with no pain (for House the ultimate escape), where he isn’t miserable and where Wilson doesn’t hate him. “I don’t want to be in pain; I don’t want to be miserable; I don’t want him to hate me” is House’s heartfelt confession.

The season premiere picks up two months later. House and Wilson haven’t spoken since Amber’s death; Wilson has been on bereavement leave.  Cuddy is astonished that they haven’t yet spoken, which House brushes off as “he wanted some time alone” (Since when has that ever stopped House?).

“I’m leaving,” Wilson tells him placidly when House finally works up the nerve to visit him.  House begins to push back, but doesn’t really want to.  He stops himself, telling Wilson he should take more time if he needs it. “Good for you,” he says, albeit slightly insincerely. 

But House has misunderstood Wilson's intentions. Wilson doesn’t intend to extend his leave; he is leaving Princeton Plainsboro for good. 

For his part, House is trying to be helpful, sympathetic, rationally trying to prevent Wilson from making the mistake of leaving a good job (and him) while in mourning. "It’s textbook” House tells him. “Bereavement 101”. In House’s mind this is familiar territory. All House needs to do is to change Wilson’s mind;  badger him about it, remind him that he’s not thinking rationally. Which goes over like a lead balloon. 

I love House's "tells" (thank you Hugh Laurie for their subtle brilliance). House’s tells remind us that despite the fact that (or maybe because of the fact) he’s acting like even more of an ass to everyone, it’s because he’s dying inside. 

All you need to do is read House’s body language and (even more importantly) his expression. Laurie’s line readings and the physicality of the performance tell us both his level of physical pain and the extent of his emotional suffering (and I’m going to take this opportunity to state that there is no justice if Laurie does not win the Emmy this year for his tour de force performance in last season’s “House’s Head.”  There.  I’ve said it).

House’s demeanor is even more brusque than usual, outing 13’s Huntington’s Chorea during a differential diagnosis session–a deflection away from his own problems. He paces nervously; he opens and closes his fist. The anxiety is practically pouring off of him, glancing surreptitiously towards Wilson’s balcony.  House is worried that Wilson really, truly might leave.  And it scares the Hell out of him!

Eventually, House pushes back against him, angrily telling Wilson that he’s self-destructing out of grief.  “You’re being an idiot.”  But Wilson won’t engage him; won’t yell back. The beauty of Robert Sean Leonard’s performance in these scenes is that, knowing the episode’s final reveal, you can see it coming.  He’s not angry; he doesn’t engage House at all. There’s a resignation; a finality and resolve to Wilson’s demeanor and tone of voice. A decision’s been made. Wilson has already moved on. Or thinks he has. House reads it as grief on steroids, but it’s not.  

This almost reminds me of a marriage way beyond repair; way beyond the caring of one partner. There’s no anger, no hatred—only sadness, resignation and resolve. It’s over. I wonder if that’s how Wilson’s marriages ended: he fed his wives’ neediness until he grew resentful and simply abandoned them. 

House grows increasingly agitated as Wilson’s decision sinks in.  After diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy in the patient, he calls for the fetus to be aborted. 13 disagrees and House rants at her about the inherent unfairness of life. “People get what they get, it’s nothing to do with what they deserve,” he barks. “People die! You, Amber, everyone”, he bellows. 

House's words echo back to “Wilson’s Heart:”  “Life shouldn’t be random,” House considers aloud. “Do gooders in love who are pulled out of their homes in the middle of the night should walk away clean.”

How many times over the course of the intervening two months has House lectured himself on the randomness of life and the injustice of Amber dying while he lives on. In a just world, House had told Amber, he would have died.  But these are thoughts that the wary and guarded House would never articulate; not to Wilson. Not to Cuddy.

For her part, Cuddy whispers in House’s ear and yells in his face, to simply “talk” to Wilson, to tell him that he’s sorry; that he feels bad and feels his pain. That he takes some responsibility for what happened.  House believes that talk changes nothing. Letting Wilson talk about his loss will do nothing to mitigate the pain of losing his soul mate, so why bother doing it. I recall back in season three’s “One Day One Room”, House’s words to Eve that only action changes things, has a chance to make things better. House believes that talk is cheap, so it has no value for him… for anyone else. 

“You really don’t feel any sense of guilt?” Cuddy asks him disbelievingly. House’s responds with a blank-faced stare that should tell her “of course I do, but it doesn’t matter; won’t bring Amber back; won’t reset the clock.”  But suffused with a hard-edged bitterness, his glare, instead tells her that he feels nothing.  

Believing he knows what will work with Wilson (guilt and his “do-gooder” instinct), House makes the radical move of boycotting his own case until Wilson decides to stay on. On paper, it sounds like House is holding his breath or threatening to eat worms. But I believe that it’s the only way the socially inept House can think of to tell Wilson through some sort of convoluted subtext that their friendship is more important than his job (which is really, fundamentally all House believes he has).  OK, so it’s also emotional blackmail. 

Gotta love Cuddy. Going to House’s apartment during his boycott, she confronts House about the patient, who is now dying in the hands of his helpless team, and about Wilson.  She verbally backs House into a corner, telling him things he already knows. Forcing him to listen, knowing that even if he pretends to ignore her, he will internalize her words. “If you make yourself vulnerable for once in your nerve-deadening…”

But if House allows the shutters to come up and the guards to come down, he becomes emotionally exposed. What defense will he have if Wilson’s reaction is to sever his ties to House? And House, who sees the bleakest side to everything, must have thought this once or twice in the two months since Amber’s demise. Slamming the door in Cuddy’s face, he turns for solace to a waiting glass of whiskey to obliterate the pain. House moves slowly and so painfully in that scene as he walks back into his living room, it hurts to watch him. And this is another “tell.”

But Cuddy doesn’t give up, trying to reconcile the friends through her own bit of blackmail and “couples counseling”. I think House is actually game for this—at least not resistant.  Wilson wants no part of it. And the effort falls flat, despite Cuddy’s determined efforts.

House’s blackmail doesn’t work any better than Cuddy’s threat and, of course, House comes back to the hospital to save the life of the patient. House’s professional responsibility usually does blink first, no matter what’s being withheld on the other side: drugs, friendship, cable TV…

And in the end, House finally realizes that the only way he’ll get to Wilson is to let his guard down. For House, it’s a huge risk. Wilson, himself, has occasionally reminded us of House’s great fragility.  Back in season one, his words to Cameron, even about something as simple as a dinner date: “If he opens up and gets hurt again” he tells her, “there may not be another time.”    

House risks realizing his worst fears, as Cuddy noted. “It’s a fear that’s gnawed at House for two months. And confronting Wilson, guard down, risks learning that beyond blaming him for Amber’s death, Wilson also now hates him. “You’re afraid to know why Wilson’s leaving,” Cuddy tells House. She nails it.

And so, finally, he goes to Wilson vulnerable, as Cuddy suggested. “I’m sorry”, he begins in the devastating final scene. He explains he that although he knows he’s not responsible for Amber’s death, he  feels bad about it and expects Wilson’s anger, but asks for his forgiveness.

"I don't blame you." He'd like to, but can't. Wilson, perhaps thinking of his own survivor guilt, his own complicity in Amber's death, can barely look House in the eye.

“Then we’re OK? ‘Cause maybe I can help…”  House’s guard drops, taking a step forward,  testing the waters. Maybe they will be OK, he thinks. You can see the hope in House’s expression, tinged with trepidation for the inevitable other shoe to drop. The "but…".

All of House’s pushback; his anger, his railing at Wilson, was because he was certain he was going to hear those words from Wilson—“I blame you.” All during House's attempts to snap Wilson out of his grief into thinking rationally, House’s guard was all up, rifles loaded and poised—and firing warning shots. But when Wilson uttered those words, House's wariness (albeit fleetingly) gave way.  All House wanted to hear, probably had wanted to hear for the two months since Amber’s death was “I don’t blame you” emanating from Wilson’s lips.  Because then they would be “all right.”

But Wilson continues. “You spread misery, because that’s all you can feel; you manipulate people because you can’t have a real relationship.” Wilson pronounces a harsh judgment on House–and on himself. On himself for failing to protect Amber from House's destructiveness. But his words land like blows to House as he stands, taking it in stunned silence.

Wilson has spoken to House like that before: In season two’s “Need to Know”, in season three's "Cane and Able" and “Words and Deeds." At those times, like this one, House was in a particularly vulnerable state.  But fundamentally, then, House knew that he and Wilson were “OK”. They would survive to be mutually exasperated another day.

But this time, in this stunning turn of events, Wilson has chosen to move on; separate himself, leaving House shattered in his wake. “You should have been on that bus alone,” comes another blow. “We aren’t friends anymore, House. I'm not sure we ever were,” lands that final blow as Wilson leaves a stunned and devastated House standing speechless in the empty office. I feel for both of these characters. Stay tuned.

I really liked “Dying Changes Everything.” The large cast seems to be better integrated, and I continue to love what they’ve done with Chase. Cameron, too, had a small, but very significant role to play. The new fellows have seemed to gel for all of their lack of experience. And Foreman, although he tries to be House, suffers because he’s not and cannot be. I did think that 13 had too large a role to play. I understand that her dealing with Huntington’s Chorea puts her in the “dying” category. And we’re meant to wonder whether it will change anything in her life.  Her scenes, like Foreman’s in season three’s “House Training” were too much and took us away from House’s story, which is (of course) so central to the series.  He was AWOL for far too long in the middle of the episode, boycott or no!

What did you all think?  Let me know, and let the season five discussion commence!

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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)."
  • Orange450

    Hi Barbara. Thanks for the great article, as always. I can’t believe I’m the first poster to respond. (Btw, choral group rehearsal was wonderful, and worth missing the episode for :-))

    I’ve only seen the episode once, and I liked parts of it, but in some ways, I was reminded of my objections to ODOR. The episode trying so hard to be meaningful and profound, and doing so at the expense of all subtlety, yet not quite hitting the target, IMVHO.

    Too many of the situations seemed contrived to me. I suppose that 13 needed a big story after her positive test results, but this one really felt a little too pat. However, I thought that House was defintely taking out his guilt (that he claimed he didn’t feel) over Amber on 13 during their conversation in the hall. “Everyone dies. You. Amber.” Trying a little too hard to convince himself. And in the light of his long-ago comments in “Autopsy”:

    House: What would you do if you were told you were gonna die?

    Foreman: I don’t know, I’d be devastated.

    House: You’d cry like a baby, everybody would, but she’s not doing anything. She’s a rock.

    I’ve been finding his attitude towards 13’s reaction to be a little unreasonable. She’s not just going to die, she’s going to die a horrible death, and he’s so self-indulgent towards his own misery, you’d think he’d understand hers – but I guess that’s not the way he works much of the time.

    It occured to me that Cuddy started off last season by unplugging House’s guitar – and here she is, starting S5 by pulling the plug on his video game. I wonder if that was intentional, and – if so – what is it supposed to be telling us about Cuddy? 😉

    I was also struck by the similarity between House entering Wilson’s office only to find him packing up, and House’s entering Stacy’s office in “Need to Know”, to find her doing the same. I actually expected him to tell Wilson “I don’t want you to leave”.

    I almost shouted “bravo” after Wilson’s final speech to House. I really do think that House needs a metaphorical wake-up call in the worst way. Or at the very least, a prolonged period of soul-searching and self-assessment. (Hey, it’s that time of year, isn’t it? ;-)) I’m staying tuned. And I think Hugh Laurie is the best actor of his generation.

    p.s. minor quibble: the suspension of my disbelief is being sorely strained at the idea of Chase becoming what seems to be the top surgeon at the hospital. For goodness sake – he was an intensivist who did a three-year fellowship in diagnostic medicine. Surgery is a difficult specialty that takes years to accomplish. When did *that* happen?? But never mind. Chase is doing a great job with his lines 🙂

  • Barbara Barnett

    Hi Orange (mazal tov on being first to comment 🙂 )

    First as to your minor quibble about Chase. I have to agree it’s stretches credibility a bit, but I do understand that intensivists have at least some surgical training (I think I read that somewhere). Intensivists (or critical care specialists) often work in surgical settings, (and maybe it works differently in australia and they get more surgical training). Yeah, I know it’s a fanwank. 🙂

    I do think the 13 story was a bit forced (and a bit too front and center). But by far and away, I was most interested in the emotional well-being of Wilson and House and how they have coped (or haven’t) with Amber’s death.

    I think House is always fascinated with how people cope with grave illness (their own). How do people act? He often has talked about setting priorities in the face of death, wishing they had done things they hadn’t (which he derides as hypocrisy). So I think he’s interested in how 13 reacts and copes with her illness. He also hates pity, and I think he assumes that the best way to deal with someone who is ill is to treat them as if they aren’t. It’s why he acted towards Cameron as he did in Hunting when she was exposed to AIDs and why he acted that way with Foreman after Euphoria.

    His anger, lashing out at 13 was his own repressed feelings about Amber’s death leaking out from behind that rock-solid facade.

    In his final speech, Wilson tells House that they have never been friends. And that they are certainly no longer friends. Yes, House is miserable, but Wilson gets nothing from their relationship? Mr-I-feed-on-neediness?

    House is nowhere as bad as he seems and Wilson is nowhere as good as he seems. Cate observed that in Frozen, and House and Wilson observed it back in season one with that “we can rule the world” conversation.

    Part of me wonders also about the patients “fly near the birds” comment, since she’ll never have those sort of wings. House has those wings. He’s a genius and soars like geniuses often do (with a risk of soaring too high.) I remember Wilson’s Cane and Able comment about house’s wings melting back in season three. And I wonder if there’s a connection to be made there.

    I do think House does search his soul–a lot, and certainly more than he’s given credit for. But in the aftermath of Amber’s death, he certainly does need to assess his own life, and harsh and cruel as Wilson’s words were, perhaps he did need to hear them.

  • Houser

    Thanks for the thorough review. I had taped the episode and was horrified when the DVR cut off just when Wilson was stating that they are no longer friends. Even though I was only interested in finding out what else took place in that final scene, I still read through your entire review an agreed with all of your considerations.

    I was getting annoyed at 13’s large role. Somehow I was more accepting of Cameron and Chase and Foreman than these new docs. I am not sure I really care about them. But I am afraid that I am also getting tired of House’s absolute incapacity to empathize. Thanks for pointing out the “tells”–I hadn’t caught them.

    I was relieved to hear that the episode ended so forcefully and am eager to see how the series deals with the Wilson’s absence [if he does, indeed, leave]. Who will be House’s new foil and enabler?

  • Barbara Barnett

    Hi Houser. Welcome. I literally gasped when my DVR cut off. Now, everyone, repeat after me: I will set my DVR to record 2 minutes past the ending time of House. I thought I had, and apparently I hand’t.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the the review; and I agree that the final scene was very, very powerful. I don’t know how House will cope over the next few episodes, but I suspect that he’ll be even worse-behaved than usual, lashing out more. I think the combination of his coping skills (or lack thereof), grief over the loss of Wilson –and Amber–and his guilt will eat away at him.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see him fall into some sort of emotional crisis at some point (but I’m just speculating here–I know nothing.)

    Terrific episode with just a bit too much 13 for my taste.

  • Buds

    Great article, BB.

    I have mixed feelings about this episode. I loved the House-Wilson-Cuddy scenes. I liked the fact that the current ducklings were left to fend for themselves in the deep end of the pool with this patient, without House’s help. I liked the way the old ducklings (Chase and Cameron) stood up for themselves against House and his current ducklings.

    Not one of the current ducklings gave a damn about the patient. They were too busy either trying to prove that they didn’t need House, or that they did need him.

    And Foreman, as usual, came out as deadpan as ever. I did find his speech to Wilson a bit odd, considering the fact that in “Mirror, Mirror” he realized that he liked being back, but is now miserable once again at PPTH.

    There was way too much 13 in this episode to me. I think I finally have to agree with most people here that she is a bad actor. The way she delivered her lines about her having Huntington’s to the POTW had absolutely no feeling and what seemed to me to be the wrong emotions.

  • cristina

    I love your reviews on House. They are so accurate and thouthfull.
    I agreed on everything you wrote and I add that as you said, Wilson several times has told cruel things to House when he was vulnerable, but I also think that in Dying changes everything He crossed the line telling him He should have been the one to die and most of all when Wilson said He wasn’t sure they were ever be friends”, even if a moment spoken in a moment of anger or disperation.
    A lot of people think House is the stronger one in his friendship with Wilson, but I’m convinced it’s the other way around. House needs Wilson more than he wants to admit to himselves. Wilson on the other hand always showed his indipendence from House. He got married three times, had several affairs and he proved he can stay away from House. When He got with Amber, He left behind House.
    What I want to tell with this, it’s that now House has to learn to be more indipendent from Wilson or at least try to get an alternative. House should go on with his life and stop watching the others living their own and wait for them to invitably leaving him in the end (what happend with Stacy, Cameron and Wilson)
    I’m also convinced this the reason who will lead House to Cuddy(as the rumors say) and a possible relationship with her, who always showed to be his constant in his life when everyone was leaving, could be his tentative to open himself to life.
    (please forgive the bad english)

  • Maineac

    Great review, as always. Completely aligned with my own response, and always fun to see it expressed so well.

    Only one quibble (but an important one): House doesn’t leave Cuddy at the door to a ‘waiting glass of Scotch’. It’s a mug of coffee–a critical difference.

    Keep ’em coming!

  • Barbara Barnett

    Thanks, guys. Maineac–mug of coffee? I’m not sure I agree. It may have been a mug (I couldn’t tell) but I think that lingering on House taking a drink was to show the bad state he’s in. (I could be wrong, of course). But I would have to think that it’s alcohol he’s turning to….unless. Hmmm. Unless the bus crash and Amber’s death has him trying to kick alcohol. Now there’s a thought. I’ll have to watch it again.

  • gorlicze

    Thank you for the great review! I agree with what you said about the “tells”, there was a strong dissonance between House’s words and non-verbal communication. It was brilliant performance, you could feel that something is very much wrong. If Hugh Laurie doesn’t win this year, there’s nothing to say, if that performance doesn’t worth an Emmy, I don’t know which does.

    The final scene was heartbreaking. I think Wilson is wrong, he did as much harm to House as House did to him, especially when he tried to protect House (for example in the beginning of season 3). If he doesn’t realize that, I don’t think they can be friends again. He doesn’t blame House for Amber’s death because there is no reason for it, but he blames him for being alive and ruining other people’s lives. It’s not entirely true, but this is more or less what House thinks of himself so it’s more difficult for him to deal with it.

    Wilson thinks that their relationship is fundamentally wrong, and I think this is why he decided to ask House to risk his life for Amber. Even if Amber hadn’t died, their friendship wouldn’t be the same. In my opinion they are both responsible for it and I hope they realize it and the separation won’t be for too long.

    I agree that there was too much Thirteen in this episode, even if Olivia Wilde would be a good actress, there was no place for her story here, and it’s very forced that she starts to deal with her problems exactly when Wilson comes back to the hospital (two months have been passed!)

    Finally, though this is absolutely the worst time to mention it because this wasn’t a lighthearted and funny episode, I had to remember that a joke isn’t a joke, unless the actor delivers it well. I know that HL gets most of the funny lines but he can say them to be funny, unlike most of the other actors, especially Omar Epps.

  • instluzgh

    Thanks, Barbara, for the great review. I agree with it completely, as always. You really have a way of expressing what many of us feel with just the right words.
    I agree that this episode had way too much 13 in it. I was already uninterested in her last season, her illness didn’t make her interesting all the sudden, and now it felt like they are really trying to force her story. I was not happy that she got so much screen time as something very important, interesting and gripping was going on at the same time, that is the drama between House and Wilson. I also felt irritated that 13 shows no respect towards House (never has, really) and keeps arguing with him in a childish way that is not constructive, insisting that they can do without him. She has no place on the team and therefore on the show because she doesn’t really seem to want to learn from House. This is why Taub was quite strong in this episode, because he saw through her and called it like it is. Seems like he is the one most aware of things among the new ones. I know House apparently likes her better this way, but I can’t see why. So she took a shot at a diagnosis and followed through, but it was the wrong one and her motive was to just compete with him, try to prove that she can outdo him.
    As for Wilson, at this point he seems beyond reason, is irrational, emotionally numb, self-destructive career-wise, illogical, so most of what he said in this episode was the “grief talking”, as House diagnosed. I don’t think that he really believes that he and House were never really friends, after all, it was he who told Tritter, no less, that House was ultimately a positive force in the universe. And during that infamous Tritter arch, when House actually did treated him badly, he still managed to bring him a tie even after House told him to go away. Wilson will probably realize at some point in the future that he needs House as much as House needs him.

  • Barbara Barnett

    He doesn’t blame House for Amber’s death because there is no reason for it, but he blames him for being alive and ruining other people’s lives. It’s not entirely true, but this is more or less what House thinks of himself so it’s more difficult for him to deal with it.

    I agree that for all his bluster, House has very low self-esteem. He acts like an ass because if he puts people off then he’s the one that controls how people relate to him. He accepts that he’s a genius and takes some pride in that–but he thinks of himself as a poor human being (something that’s probably been reinforced since he was a kid). What Wilson did was reinforce what he already probably feels. How will House react to that? I’m certain that his public face and private face will be quite dissonant.

  • action kate

    I’m not the only one whose DVR cut off in the midst of that last speech! I missed the VERY crucial line “I don’t know if we ever were [friends]” which puts a rather different spin on the scene — one I don’t like, dramatically speaking.

    I get the idea that Wilson feels he has to leave for his own emotional good, but that they’ve never been friends? He’s never gotten anything positive from House over the years? Was this not the man who left his wife at home on Christmas to sit with House on his couch at eat Chinese out of the carton? You don’t do that with someone who is not a friend. I think it’s an overreaction on Wilson’s part, one he’ll come to regret.

    Beyond that, I agree with the consensus here: too much 13 (she’s officially crossed into Boooooring territory), brilliant acting by Laurie and RSL. I particularly loved how RSL was still choking up in the last scene, the tears standing in his eyes, as he quietly went through with his very painful decision.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Oh Wilson will be back…I AM interested to see how they pull it off. I liked Cameron’s speech to him; it sounded right.

    I loved the feminist/anti-feminist stuff…. the flying and being near the birds stuff.

    I loved the last minute leprosy diagnosis.

    Cuddy’s clothes are WAY TOO TIGHT.

    It was nice to have the series return to TV. I have missed it.

    I don’t feel the need to dissect it further. We have the lovely Barbara for that:)!!!

  • Debbie

    Loved the House/Wilson scenes, especially the break-up scene. The ONLY reason I watch House is for the House/Wilson. I hope, hope they get back together soon.

  • Barbara Barnett

    action kate–and everyone else whose dvr cut out early–make sure on your “season pass” to extend the record three or four minutes. Mine is set to go two minutes late and I still missed the last line!

    Thanks all for your kind comments. It can’t be said enough how heartbreaking that last scene was. I’m actually working up an article for over the weekend (like I have nothing else to do) that dissects just that scene and what it means for the characters.

    I’ve gone hot and cold on Wilson over the years–I disliked him immensely mid season two and early season three. He was hugely cruel to House. I understand his his anger at House, his grief. Lashing out at House just when he let down the shutters was terrible cruel (but I don’t think it was aimed to be targeted to House’s most vulnerable moment), despite the fact that it had been simmering to a boil all during the episode. It just had to come out. Unfortunately for House it was when he was practically defenseless against it — and it played into all of own self-loathing.

  • instluzgh

    I agree that the last scene was hugely devastating for House and I look forward to your article on it. One can only hope that Wilson will realize what effect his own words had on House and come to his senses. This is exactly what House was afraid of, had been trying to avoid all this time: opening up and being crushed. It happened with Stacy the first time around, House pushed her away the second time to avoid being left and having to “go through it again.” Wilson himself warned Cameron not to break his heart in S1, knowing what could happen. Now, Wilson has done exactly that, knowing all that but perhaps not being able to see it at the moment.

  • bliffle

    I started this reflection thinking what a terrific job R S Leonard did portraying Wilson, and then a shocking realization hit me: the House/Wilson dynamic is almost identical to the J/bliffle dynamic! A few years ago J was my best friend, we pursued our hobby together, joined our two young families together for picnics, etc. We even each got divorced together the same summer. And I moved into his digs, too. For three months. I learned a lot from J about analysis, about discarding preconceptions and working hard to master the underlying basics, without more than polite regard for convention, standards, argument from authority.

    But he was unrelentingly analytical. He couldn’t quit. Within days of my Final Separation I was romancing again and he chastised me for cooing and babbling on the phone with my new lady love. He even gave me books about How Manipulative Women Are, and etc.

    We had a good time during those 3 months, going on treks, having club meetings at the house, etc. But I moved to my own place about 4 blocks away and fell in with new people, who were, one might say, juicier.

    That was 30 years ago and I’ve only seen J twice in accidental meetings on the street for 3 minutes. We are only a few blocks apart and sometimes I happen to drive past his house, which looks totally unchanged, and sometimes I see that his car is parked there, and I think he’s had that car for almost 30 years, and I’ve never even given a thought to stopping in. I get news about him thru other sources, mutual friends, his ex-wife, etc. but I’ve never been tempted to call him.

    I know that part of this is a certain cold-bloodedness that I have. But I offer this in my defense: a couple hours ago I visited my foster-daughter D, who is home with her first baby, N, about 2 weeks old. I’ve known D about 15 years. We exchanged little love messages, telling each other what each had meant to the other. We talked about raising babies. We talked about Budhism and ghandi. We talked about musicals like “Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins” and I promised to bring her “South Pacific” and “Oklahoma” next time. Little N woke up with a very tiny cry and we took care of her, changing the diaper, rocking her and singing. We had a great time.

    A person needs juicy people in their life.

    Wilson will never see House again. And he won’t miss him. I don’t know about House.

  • HOUSEfly


    All you need to do is read House’s body language and (even more importantly) his expression.

    House moves slowly, and so painfully in that scene as he walks back into his living room, it hurts to watch him. And this is another “tell.”

    Since I’ve started reading your recaps I’ve been amazed at how you seem to see every nuance of a scene. When I watch I get so caught up in what’s being said I miss a lot of the physical stuff. Right now I’m watching the DVDs with the captions on so I can write down all my favorite House lines.

    After reading your stuff I want to watch each episode forgetting the words but really seeing what’s really going on.

    I do think the 13 story was a bit forced (and a bit too front and center). But by far and away, I was most interested in the emotional well-being of Wilson and House and how they have coped (or haven’t) with Amber’s death.

    It was more than forced. I felt like it was jammed down my throat. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel any sympathy toward 13. I related to the POTW when she was talking about being near the “birds.”


    Cuddy’s clothes are WAY TOO TIGHT.

    I totally agree!!!!! Cuddy is such a great character and Lisa E does such a great job. If only she didn’t look so stuffed in to her cloths.


    Loved the House/Wilson scenes, especially the break-up scene. The ONLY reason I watch House is for the House/Wilson.

    They’re also the main reason I watch the show. That last scene had me in tears!

  • Claire

    Great review. Great and devastating episode. Of course, I think Wilson is not a good enough friend for House (I’d be better, you realize :-)). House is just a walking piece of pain in a couple of scenes. Those are played in a very contained, non-sentimental way by HL. Oh, he should get that Emmy!

    I like the way Kutner’s character is developing. He’s the one who detaches from the clutter of the situation and sees the ganglioma in the video of the surgery. He’s got a very weird and nifty emotional off switch, different but analogous to Houses’, which is going to give us some interesting stories. Kal Penn plays that character beautifully. His mystery, unlike 13’s, is deeply embedded in his character and you get this great naive/totally disillusioned thing. Medically, House had lots to teach him. In terms of emotional survival, Kutner may have some things to teach House.

  • Robin

    I go back and forth on Wilson too. I thought he was capable of being cruel back when he sawed House’s cane. House was able to emphasize with Wilson after he got his head around it rationally after talking to 13. He is not an emoting character and I don’t want him to become one. Which makes sense because he responds rationally instead of emotionally. House is not normal so he perceives differently. Wilson was always trying to put House in a straightjacket of normality because appearance is what matters to him. Besides, I think all of his caring was shown in action by working to save Amber until he dropped (literally). Which only makes Wilson even crueller by looking for something he could blame House for. The only positive in Wilson’s speech was his recognition of his enabling behavior. There was one other line some might have missed. “If I learned one thing from Amber it’s to take care of myself.” He said that as he picked up the box. I didn’t understand why Forman didn’t take the lead after House left. He did before. I liked Taub’s little smirk after House saved the patient. He knew they were in over their heads. And Kutner’s moment of putting himself in House’s shoes for a round about method to find what they needed. He did that in the survivor arc with the alcohol. I will be glad when the suffering is over and H/W are reunited, but I hope it will be satisfying

  • Sue

    For me, this episode was flat. I did not see a range of emotion in House. I did not see devastation on House’s face when Wilson walked out on him. 13 has no range of emotion in her voice, expression or body. The best actor in the show was the POTW.

    I have watched the episode many times, and each time it failed to evoke any emotion in me. House was too even-toned emotionally during the entire episode. I didn’t buy his bad feelings about what happened to Amber. There was an intensity missing in Hugh’s performance. Usually, I can feel and see everything House is feeling in Hugh’s face and body. I felt his heart wasn’t in it. Maybe it was because he was supposed to be home in England on his break, rather than filming the first episode of the next season.

    Wilson was supposed to be emotionless and even-toned, so Robert did a good job with that. I did buy his lecture to House at the end.

    Olivia Wilde’s performance, or lack of one, vindicates my claim that she does not belong on this show. She is a cold fish who couldn’t move a feather in a strong wind. She is expressionless. Her voice is void of any inflection. She couldn’t convince me she could even breathe. The actress who played the POTW out-acted her in a huge way. She was convincing and real. I cared about her, but not about 13.

    Peter Jacobson also doesn’t belong on this show. He delivers his lines in two ways. Snarky and boring. Even his snarky is boring. It is almost like he isn’t there. He is insignificant. His presence is not felt. I think he got hired because of his age and his religion. I think he will become a love interest for Cuddy at some time in the future. I also don’t care anything about him. He is worse than Olivia Wilde.

    Kal Penn is more interesting, but he is still not up to the caliber of an actor who deserves to be on a successful show. What did he add to this show? A better actor would add much more than he ever could.

    This season, there was a lot more publicity for the opening episode. There were more clips released, and there were articles in newspapers. The first two episodes were shown to critics. Producers gave interviews. After the stellar season finale, the ratings should have gone through the roof. There was no competition from other shows. USA network had several House marathons. The fact that the ratings were down so much should tell TPTB that they made a mistake when they hired the new actors. You can’t replace three great actors with three mediocre or worse ones. You can’t put poor actors in a scene with the best actor who ever lived. The difference in the ability of Hugh and these actors is magnified significantly compared to the difference between these three and any other actor.

    Viewers know what they like in a show. If TPTB don’t give it to them, they will go elsewhere. They can blame the fall in the ratings on a lot of things, but until TPTB realize that the new actors need to go, they will never regain the status this show had.

  • Tigerfeet

    Hi Barbara, and thanks for a great analysis as always! I haven’t commented in a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t read every word you have written – and all the interesting comments that follow.

    My first thoughts on watching this episode was – DARK, DARK, DARK. It was awful to see the rift between House and Wilson, and how House was dealing with it all. Painful.

    Sue, I must respectfully disagree with you on Hugh’s acting. I could clearly see his anger, impatiance, deflecting, treating greif as Newark – that is to avoid it altogehter – and rather trying to find a way to stop Wilson from leaving. Rational before emotional (simmering underneath). I thought he did this brilliantly. Since you have watched the episode several times, we obviously see different things here. Still I would like to point out a couple of scenes: While he was standing by the window in the main office with the team discussing the case and Foreman had to sort of wake him up, he did a brilliant job of coming from his deep thoughts about Wilson and up to the surface to give his two cents to the diagnosing process. Another: When Cuddy came to his apartement (where he was having a sandwich and coffee), in the middle of her speech you can see his face fall as his guard comes down, before he composes himself again and slams the door in her face. I thought this was fantastic, as was the rest of his performance. (That doesn’t mean to say that Hugh can’t ever have a bad day in the office, I just think that must be awfully rare and I couldn’t see it here.)

    As for Thirteen, she is not my favourite person either. Her having Huntingtons obviously had to be dealt with in some way by the writers. I also believe Olivia Wilde is doing a fairly good job with what I think is her “scope”, to play a rather cold, distant person, who doesn’t show her feelings much. And most importantly, with no hint of a girl crush like Cameron had on House. Because that would have been a formula-repeat noone would have liked I think. (I had nothing against the House/Cameron “relationship”, but to see it again with another fellow? No.)

    By the way, all the fellows thought at some point that they could manage without House, not only Thirteen. She was just the last to capitulate.

    Looking forward to your next article, Barbara!

  • “She is a cold fish who couldn’t move a feather in a strong wind.”

    T%hat gets my vote for the best sentence of the year so far!

    Sue, please delete the “http://” that you put in the URL box. You need to have a full URL or nothing at all. Thanks.

    Christopher Rose
    Blogcritics Comments Editor

  • Sue


    I don’t know what you mean about the URL. I didn’t intentionally put anything in the URL area. How do I delete it?

    Tigerfeet, I know what the character of 13 is supposed to be. I just think Olivia Wilde is so far from being able to represent what the character is supposed to be that we will never see it acted out like it could be with a more capable actor. The problem with OW is that she has not inhabited this character. People don’t see the character, they see OW. People don’t care about 13, a character with a tragic fate that should garner empathy and sympathy from viewers. Instead, viewers would rather see the show without her. She has no range in her acting. She can’t bat her eyes or pop her eyeballs and call that acting. I have read a lot of forums and there is almost universal dislike of 13. That is the fault of the actor. The more 13 there is in an episode, the more uninteresting that episode will be.

  • Sue, above the box where you write your comments are two more boxes. In the upper one you have your name; in the one below it is where you would enter a site. Simply highlight that text and then hit your delete key.

  • Ann

    Barbara, great reveiw as always. I thought Hugh Laurie was brilliant, as usual. My heart was breaking for both House and Wilson at the end. I love Wilson, but he is definitely not Mr. Niceguy IMO. He has done a lot of cruel things to House, some of which House remains unaware of. For instance, it was Wilson’s idea to goad House into going a week without Vicodin back in Season 1. Cuddy tells Wilson at the end that House better not find out that “that was your idea”. Wilson says, “He’d never believe it.” It was also Wilson’s idea to not tell him the patient in the Season 3 opener was cured by House’s idea of giving him cortisol. I know there was a point to all of these things, I’m just saying he is not all sugar and spice and everything nice. I, too, think that House was drinking whiskey, not coffee. There was a little too much 13 for me, too, although, like House, I like her better now that she’s dying, not because she is dying, I just like her more in this episode than I did in any one last season. I loved the scene with Cameron, but disagreed with her when she said House had never lost anything.

    I’ve not seen Bryan Cranston’s performance, so I cannot judge it. I just think it is a travesty that another year goes by and Hugh is not recognized with an Emmy for best actor.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Oh, Bliffle
    You are so wrong, Wilson will be back.

  • Orange450

    “In his final speech, Wilson tells House that they have never been friends. And that they are certainly no longer friends. Yes, House is miserable, but Wilson gets nothing from their relationship? Mr-I-feed-on-neediness?”

    Wilson was even-toned, seemingly calm, and resolute throughout the episode, and it’s certainly plausible that as a result of his grief, he’d still be numb, and showing little affect. So just like House’s outburst of anger at 13 was his own repressed feeling breaking through, I thought that Wilson’s statement might have been a lashing out at House – just as much of an overreaction in its way as House’s reaction to 13.

    “House is nowhere as bad as he seems and Wilson is nowhere as good as he seems. Cate observed that in Frozen, and House and Wilson observed it back in season one with that “we can rule the world” conversation.”

    I definitely agree with this, and in fact, I don’t think that Wilson usually seems all that good, anyway. He’s just as manipulative as House. I *really* disliked the way he stood smiling at the sight of House and Amber making the bed at the end of NMMNG – he seemed to like the idea of being fought over a little too much for my taste. It would’ve been one thing to smile if only House had to do it – but I didn’t think it boded very well for his relationship for him to smile like that when his new girlfriend had to do it too 🙁

    I go hot and cold on Wilson too, and I also go back and forth on House. There are episodes in which I ache for him, and others when I just want to slap him up the side of his head, and tell him to act his age, not his shoe size. Of course it’s the genius of Hugh Laurie that blends it all into a seamless package.

    “Part of me wonders also about the patients “fly near the birds” comment, since she’ll never have those sort of wings. House has those wings. He’s a genius and soars like geniuses often do (with a risk of soaring too high.) I remember Wilson’s Cane and Able comment about house’s wings melting back in season three. And I wonder if there’s a connection to be made there.”

    This reminded me of George Eliot’s lovely words at the end of Middlemarch: “Her full nature … spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive, for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on un-historic acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs.”

    But there’s no question that it’s a great gift to have wings – and *when* House is soaring on his, he’s wonderful to behold 🙂 Since Hugh Laurie is *always* soaring, he’s always wonderful, and I simply can’t fathom how he was snubbed yet again by the Emmys!!

  • Barbara Barnett

    Apologies for being absent for a couple of days and remiss in my own comments, but you all have taken good care of the conversation.

    The promised new article is in the queue and hopefully will come out by morning, but given the level of the comments, I even wonder if it’s necessary 😉

    I have really gone hot and cold on Wilson throughout the years, and hope that this terrible experience for both House and Wilson will leave them appreciating each other more.

    Love the wings quote from Middlemarch (love that novel).

  • bliffle

    In real life Wilson would be gone. One can only put up with so much derision.

    I’ve found a new doctor myself: Doc Martin on PBS. He’s just as ugly, just as brusque, just as smart, but a lot more fun. And the Cornish seaside village he lives in is a treat for the eyes.

  • pollyg

    Hi Barbara and all commenters. This is my first time to post and want to say how much I appreciate your take on House. I think I have read all your reviews and I don’t recall ever disagreeing and I am often enlightened. Thank you.

    A question: I admit I am not the most careful and consistent viewer of the show, but I feel I have missed something. Who the heck is Cate?

    Though I often get annoyed with him and don’t trust him an inch, I can’t help liking Wilson. (Maybe RSL deserves the most credit for that! ;o) ) But the burr that keeps catching in my mind is, that for all his confidence in his own insight and understanding, to me, he really just doesn’t get House. It seems to me that, especially in the most critical instances, when he and everyone else believes that Wilson is the one and only person with the key, he misunderstands, misjudges and undervalues House. Or maybe Wilson does and I’m the one who doesn’t! lol Who knows?

  • Barbara Barnett

    Hey Bliffle–House is not ugly. He is absolutely ruggedly handsome. Hi pollyg and welcome. Thank you for your kinds words.

    Cate is Cate Milton, the psychiatrist patient of the week in the season four episode “Frozen.” House treated her while she was marooned in Antarctica and they formed a really nice bond.

    I agree with you that Wilson often doesn’t get House. For so long, he thought House was all about having good diagnostic luck and not about genius. It took the events of Merry Little Christmas to appreciate the extent of House’s gift.

  • bliffle

    House has a receding chin. And this season he’s wearing a (bad) rug!

    Nyah nyah nanya nana.

    Try Doc Martin on PBS. It may seduce you.

  • bakerstreet blues

    Although this episode was not surprising since we already know that Wilson basically questions House’s friendship (Pilot: when Rebecca Adler asked him if House cared about him, he “thought so”, luckily Rebecca was smart enough to draw the outline for Wilson in the fact that words mean nothing, it is what you do that counts. Too bad that is a lesson that Wilson has never really learned not only in understanding House, but for himself as well. I don’t believe for one minute that anything that Wilson says to House in that final scene is true (since I am SMART enough to know House), however I do think that it perfectly describes Wilson. Talk about manipulating people because he can’t have real relationships (hmm 3 failed marriages tells me something), spreading misery is Wilson’s forte (every time that House takes a step towards healing Wilson submarines it: Meaning, Half-wit (really love that lapse in ethics, spilling House’s medical info), lets not forget how quickly Wilson ran to Stacy to stop the affair with House’s true love in Need to Know, The softer side…I could go on. As far as I am concerned Wilson is the more miserable of the two friends and has once again used House as his own personal dumping ground. Good riddence to Wilson.

  • bakerstreet blues

    A couple things I forgot. Did anyone notice the GLARE that Wilson gave House in Cuddy’s office when he said that “No one at this hospital even liked Amber”? Secondly since Wilson never had a problem lecturing or spilling House’s secrets in public, why didn’t he just tell Cameron that he was leaving the hospital because he wanted to distance himself from House? I’ll tell you why…not only does Wilson feel like crap for asking his ONLY friend to risk his life to save Amber’s life, he also feels like crap at the fact that the most important info that he needed was finding out if House and Amber were having an affair. He was completely fixated on that instead of finding out what was wrong with Amber. Yes he knew that House had an affair with Crandell’s girlfriend 20 years ago (and watched House express his guilt over it, or what he perceived as guilt, with House’s increased leg pain, however we knew the leg pain started at home). The fact that Wilson immediately thought the worst of House and then watched him cry and apologize during the deep brain stimulation had to have had some effect on Wilson….realizing that House would never jeopardize their friendship with an affair with Amber, no matter how much House cared for her. Wilson also knows that House cared for Amber, which is yet another way to punish House, by letting him deal with his own grief alone. Also, has Cuddy never tried to actually talk to House instead of scream at him? I guess we all get to see for ourselves in 6 short months how much guilt House really does carry around with him about Amber. I think House is right about REPRESSION. WHAT YOU DON’T FACE CAN’T CRUSH YOU. It works great for House until his “friends” force him to face his worst emotional traumas.

  • bakerstreet blues

    ONe more thing…gotta love that heartfelt advice that Foreman gave Wilson. God Foreman really is a robot. Actually Foreman is exactly what he THINKS House is, of course we know what House really is. If any friend of mine ever told me to piss away everyone and everything that means anything to me in order to make my life EASIER I hope I am smart enough to hit that person with a frying pan….how idiotic.

  • bakerstreet blues

    OK only one more thing…I really think when House did tell Wilson his heart felt feelings of responsibility about Amber’s death Wilson chose to “seize the day” and alleviate his own guilt by pushing it on House. As for “trying to protect House, as he always does….I have tried racking my brains to find one instance where Wilson really does try to protect House for no other reason than to protect House…nope, none. Vogler: Wilson was nice enough to tell a room full of people how screwed up and unethical House is, before voting to keep him, same exact speech he gave to Tritter. Yea really protective. I can’t help thinking about how House kept Wilson’s affair with his dying patient a secret…lets see: screwed up, yep unethical, yep….KETTLE MEET POT.