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TV Review: House, M.D. – “The C-Word”

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“The C-Word”—cancer: this week’s episode on House, M.D. Not so unusual; it is a medical show after all. But our cancer patient this week is far from usual.

For years Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) has been treating the young and the old with compassion, caring and kindness. But unlike his best friend House (Hugh Laurie), who has suffered for years in constant chronic pain, has not had the misfortune to walk in patients’ shoes.

House has a native understanding of what pain—what serious illness—does to a person. It has always informed his treatment of his sickest patients, whether anyone else is privy to it or not. House understands what it means to be at the end of your tether—living with pain every day. In some ways its made him harder, in others—more significantly—its given him a sort of empathy that he reserves for those most in need of it. It is one of the things, probably the most important to me, that keeps House human, sympathetic and watchable.

In an ironic turn of events, last week we’d learned that Wilson has cancer, and this week, we learn early on that it’s growing. The cancer doctor is dying (perhaps) of cancer, and unwilling to die a slow death surrounded by pity and the beautiful lies people tell, Wilson wants to try a risky procedure; something he would never advocate for his own patients.

The procedure has as much chance of killing him as does the cancer, but Wilson, schooled for years not in both witnessing his own patients die, and by House’s success rate with risk, believes he would rather die trying than condemn himself to the sort of a death he only knows from the safe distance of a lab coat and telemetry. The procedure will either work or he will die.

Knowing that House would do everything he can to thwart him from going this risky route, Wilson keeps his plan secret as long as he can. But he should know better; House is nothing if not resourceful—particularly in medicine—and he sniffs out Wilson’s borderline suicidal treatment plans pretty quickly. With Wilson still insistent, House agrees to help, both risking his freedom and his career to administer the treatment himself in his apartment—away from the prying eyes and piteous expressions of comfort Wilson wants to avoid.

House creator David Shore has famously said (over and over again) that people don’t change—even if they want to. That rule applies most of all to House, who has tried (and failed) so often to change his story. But here we are as the series nears its own end, wondering if there is something House can take away from his eight-year journey. Has all that’s happened to him and around him these eight seasons made any difference in his life? Has he learned from his successes and failures? Can he, indeed, change?

The answer is “yes.” The change is less what’s inside House and more about what he’s willing to unguard and allow himself to feel. We know he feels (too deeply, sometimes, in my opinion), but he would almost rather die than allow anyone into his emotional life.

“The C-Word” is a perfect example of why I have tuned in week after week since back in 2004. It’s a beautiful episode, with Emmy-caliber performances from both Laurie and Leonard.

I loved the parallel storytelling two doctors, each desperately afraid of losing a loved one to illness. One, the mother of the sick little girl, is too close to the case to be objective. She wants to be mother and doctor—and it’s nearly impossible to be both at the same time; something she eventually realizes. Perhaps intellectualizing her daughter’s illness is the only way she can cope with it—and maintain her sanity. But in the end, she learns her role in this illness.

And then there’s the uber-objective House, for whom medical distance and cold science are virtually religions.  He realizes that what he is doing is crazy dangerous, and a risk to both Wilson and his own career (but when has he cared about his career when it comes to the medicine). But he also knows he must be there for Wilson—all the way.

Will he be doctor or loved one? Will he listen to his brain or his heart? And in the end he listens to his heart, no matter what his brain is screaming at him. But he also does something he rarely does—and that is to lift himself from his narcissism and put Wilson above any other need. It is such a simple thing in this beautiful, emotionally intense episode. House puts the needs of Wilson to have pain relief above his own need for it—he even lies about it, assuring Wilson that he has lots of Vicodin, when, in fact, he’d been rationing it—to Wilson and denying himself relief. It’s an act of pure unselfish love; it is a gorgeous moment.

Wilson says some terrible things to House, hurtful and mostly untrue things, but I believe they are things that House believes about himself, particularly in his more self-loathing moments of depression.

Wilson comes through this dark night, and in the end, not only can Wilson proceed with the needed surgery—much sooner than he otherwise would have, but he, too has learned something about walking in another’s shoes. But it’s not only his patients’ shoes in which he is walking. Suddenly he understands what it is to be House—a man in terrible chronic pain—constant agony. It’s an important lesson for Wilson in both respects. Perhaps moving forward his compassion and empathy will come from the heart naturally; perhaps he will take more risks and fight more desperately for his patients the way House is so often willing to do.

House is there for Wilson through it all—a selfless caretaker; a friend. And in the end, the gift House gives to Wilson is perhaps the best thing of all, giving Wilson something to laugh about as he embarks on this uncertain path through the C-word.

Three more episodes to go. Phew. What’s next? Stay tuned next Monday 8:00 p.m. on FOX.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out 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)."
  • Jackie

    I’ve watched this episode four times already and am so taken with the emotions of both House and Wilson. Seeing House’s reaction when Wilson verbally attacks his behavior over the years with relationships and the hurt and misery he has caused was just as painful for House to hear as it was for the viewer to watch. When Wilson pleads with House not to take him back to the hospital or a ride back in the ambulance, House cradles his head as you would a child. Wilson’s plea almost makes me believe that House would do something to Wilson so that he would not have to undergo any life preserving actions if all hope is lost.

    Regarding a ‘minyan’ – minyan is a group of ten people needed for a prayer service to start. It is also used for the Kaddish – the daily prayer for the dead (morning and night) for a year. It is the minimum number of people needed in the chapel or sanctuary of a synagogue or even a private home for the prayer to be initiated.

    Hugh’s choice of lighting – the bluish hues were reminiscent of those in the previous episode he directed, “Lockdown”. He did a fantastic job and as others have said should have directed a few more episodes through the years.

    Lastly regarding House and Cuddy – you could see the relationship evolve through the seasons and how she felt during “Wilson’s Heart” – when she held onto Wilson who broke down when she said he should take advantage of waking Amber up to let her know how much she means to him. She would have done the same thing for House. The writing in later seasons and plot development seemed to be careful yet careless as to where House and Cuddy would wind up.

    I would like to see House in a positive step forward towards finding that someone special by the close of the last episode of the series. Maybe he will take Wilson’s hurtful but truthful words seriously and “be not afraid” (as he once said to Wilson) to be more open and less guarded in the future.

    I will truly miss this series when it ends and have really enjoyed Hugh Laurie’s terrific interpretation of one of the most memorable characters ever to have been developed for the tv screen.

  • Susan

    Another person to agree whole-heartedly with – Action Kate #89.

  • Action Kate

    I agree that Cuddy’s ridiculous behavior is much more a fault of “bad writing” than “character staying in character and behaving like an idiot.” I think the writers (David Shore?) wanted to have the romance, but really didn’t understand how to do it.

    In fact, I am angriest about Cuddy’s behavior because it wasn’t in character. Because until the romance started, she was one of the people, like Wilson, who saw House for who and what he was and worked with his strengths and around his weaknesses. It was her demand that he change that was the problem.

    I enjoyed the House/Cuddy romance, and I would have been perfectly happy to see it continue if LE had stayed on the show. I had nothing against Cuddy before she broke things off with House. I never thought of her as a whore or a slut, and if I’ve ever called her a bitch, it’s with great admiration, because I don’t think “bitch” is the opposite of “nice person.” I loved how tough she was. And I could even have dealt with the entire breakup if, sans idiotic car crash (talk about bad, OOC writing!), she had admitted to House that breaking up with him was a dumb overreaction and that she had made a mistake and was sorry. People do make mistakes and do dumb things.

    DS insists “people don’t change.” Cuddy did: she went from someone who understood House to someone who wanted to change House. And yes, I’m pissed about that. I’m pissed because a character I enjoyed watching was assassinated. I haven’t even tried to rewatch old episodes because now I know how the fencing is going to end (badly). And that’s the fault of The Powers That Be.

    Which is a shame, because technically these are the same people giving us staggering episodes like “The C-Word” and now “Post-Mortem.” It’s amazing what they can get right and wrong.

    @Ladybelle: I discovered Holmes and Watson because of House, so for that I will be eternally grateful. 🙂

  • The Other Barnett


    SO I am guessing that if I had not included the last paragraph, all would have been well? Even though the “gender-specific rant” was merely a response to the gender-specific rant that had been made in post #80?

    And Michelle #85:

    Thanks for the more civil disagreement….I agree that we can agree to disagree. My comment (up to the last paragraph – a bit cave-mannish of me) was merely about men and women being so different and that each is being unfair to the other by judging the other on a scale that neither fully can relate with or even wants to understand/abide by. Michelle, thanks, once again for the more civil debate point. 🙂

    Barb, why does #87’s response feel like a shot of B12?

  • @The Other Barnett #83

    Your comments about women practically SCREAM for a Big Round of Kiss My Ass.

    While I agree with your assessment of Cuddy and her “wants and needs” regarding House-as-a-boyfriend, lumping those same unflattering characteristics into a gender-specific rant is a little over the top and a theory wholly unsubstantiated by your overall argument.

    However, kudos to you for managing to piss off the majority in just 8 or 9 self-serving, yet totally fallacious, minutes. Twit.

    (Sorry, Barbara, but he had that coming.)

  • Susan

    Barbara, Why are Cameron, 13, Kutner and Amber coming back for the finale and not Cuddy? This is killing me. Can’t you ask your contacts what is going on?

  • Michelle

    #83 The Other Barnett

    Read #81 and reread my comment #76. As for your penultimate paragraph, um, first of all what’s wrong w/ that? And second it’s b/c men and women are fundamentally different and are hardwired differently, and third not all women want that.

  • Ah House, Wilson, Holmes, Watson, I love you. Have since I was about 11 years old.

  • The Other Barnett

    Michelle #80 –

    Where did I go into discussing the comparison of women and men….it was WIlson and Cuddy….not man vs. woman. So all your screed on the unfairness of treatment of women should just stop right there. I don’t care about whether a man or woman have lots of sex partners – both are ho’s. I don’t care if a man is being assertive or if a woman is being assertive – there is a fine line between being in charge and assertive and someone being an ass – gender never enters into it for me.

    Cuddy had this thoroughly unrealistic and hypocritical idea that her status as Dean should not figure into the relationship with House, but that House’ professional behavior (which includes running end-rounds on Cuddy for medical means) should figure into how House sees their relationship. Its understandable that Cuddy had to throw up gates to House professionally – since her concern was the hospital, not the patient. But she tried to envelope the whole relationship in her identity without considering House’ (as a doctor and a person). And her issues with House taking vicodin to be with her was that of someone wanting everybody’s life to be to her taste, while aligning with her needs. Once again, naive and down-right unfair to House. Woman or man, Cuddy was an ass.

    Wilson’s friendship with House is always cleanly separated between the professional and the personal. Wilson understands that House has a way of completing his professional task in a way that may offend, but it gets the job done. Bottom line thinking here. Wilson did not quibble with House’ drug use to be present in his time of trial, he (rightfully, yet selfishly) only cared that House was there for him.

    If this statement of support for Wilson over Cuddy is a commentary on the personal nature of women versus men….then you should just own up to the fact that women want a holistic pink-floating-glitter result that is all-encompasing in how it not only serves the need, but satisfies the tastes of the one in need – while men want to know if the result has been achieved and that no one got killed in the attainment of the goal.

    If you can’t own up to that, well, hell, I have just wasted 8-9 minutes of typing.

  • Susan

    #81 – EXACTLY.

  • LeaveCuddyAloneAlready

    To all the Cuddy bashers. Everything frustrating or annoying about Cuddy in her hasty, cranky & etc dumping of House was the doing of the inconsistent writing of the show. One minute she’s the only one up to par with him (his Irene Adler) & the next she’s trying to change him and gives up on him. WTF? That’s what Cuddy & Huddy fans like myself are pissed about!

    All this talk about how much House loves Wilson more than Cuddy and etc is a mute point when the writing’s so back-n-forth and, TPTB were claiming how “it would never work” even before S7 started. Examine the Now What? episode and beyond the consumating is the laid out plan of all the stupid reasons why TPTB plotted out their “Bombshell” ending. They don’t know how to write for grown-ups in relationships and wanted House back on Vicodin and acting like an immature frat-boy. They took a wonderful character/actress…Cuddy/LE and did a crapfest to her and the 20+year build of what would’ve been an awesome relationship (had it been written by a team like the ones from “The Good Wife”).

    This show should’ve ended with House, Wilson & Cuddy in a crazy but “3-musketeers-like” series finale and not the galvinizing BS that TPTB did playing with the different fan bases. Please, stop hating on my girl Cuddy/LE. All she did was act what was on paper and what the Director instructed. It’s the storytelling that failed here people not her .

  • Michelle

    The Other Barnett #77

    House is high maintenance b/c he’s emotionally retarded. Why give House more slack in his behavior than Cuddy? The double standard and underlying sexism w/ people’s perceptions and expectations of how the sexes should behave has been discussed on this blog for other eps esp last season. Too much slack and allowances are made by both men and women when it comes to male behavior while women get slammed for the same behavior. For example, when women esp in positions of authority are not “nice”, too many people resort to calling her a bitch whereas men are called assertive and in command. When women have multiple sexual partners, they are called sluts and whores. When men have the same number or more, they are called Italian stallions and this behavior is even applauded by other men. It’s disgusting the double standard and sexism that are prevalent in 21st century society. Men are the bigger sluts; look at the prostitution industry, the oldest profession in the world, that basically caters to men, both straight and gay actually. Women are not into that crap and yet are called sluts too often for no good reason.

  • nikki

    Been reading this blog for about 3 years now, (and reading Barbara’s other work for much, much longer) but this episode inspired me to make a few comments myself.

    Last year, he lost Cuddy because in order to be there for her and face his fear of losing her he had to self-medicate.

    This year, in order to be there for Wilson and face his fear of losing him, he had to not self-medicate and give the drugs to Wilson instead. I think the shared high is very important.

    The scene where he first lies to Wilson about the drugs (and I also thought he meant “minyan”), then goes in the kitchen, counts out what he has left and chooses to try and numb his pain with alcohol so that Wilson can have the vicodin was for me one of the most emotionally powerful moments of the entire series.

    The humor at the end with the slideshow was just brilliant and so Housian!

    But I have to say, I have a deep foreboding about the end of the series. I believe that it is very important that Wilson wrested that promise from House to not let him suffer. I think the series is going to end with House having to make good on that promise – the question is whether it will destroy House to do it. I think we’re going to see a return of 13 (think I read somewhere that both she and Kutner will be in the penultimate episode) and that her role in her brother’s death is going to be important – a parallel to what we may see with House and Wilson.

    I also loved how Chase was able to really come into his own in this episode. He’s done it before, and I’ve really felt like this season they were trying to really spotlight him as House’s heir apparent now that Foreman is well-ensconced in the Cuddy-role. If, House were to step away from medicine, it’d be nice to see Chase become the head of diagnostics.

    One thing for certain, I will be glued to my tv for the final three episodes and I will absolutely miss this series once it’s gone!

  • housefriend

    House and Wilson ARE the romance.Always has been

  • The Other Barnett

    MusicandHouse #75

    I think you are turning some of this stuff (when comparing House and Wilson with House and Cuddy) into a twisted logic. Instead of looking at House, look at Cuddy and Wilson and their expectations.

    Wilson did not demand of House for him to change, beyond being slightly more thougtful of his actions. Wilson understands that House professionally is not a good experience, but it serves the patient, so it can be accepted and everyone involved must move on. Wilson seeks a friend who will support him and be there for him, which House has been. How House is present to help is not the issue for Wilson, it is the fact that House is present in a time of trial.

    Cuddy wanted the kind of boyfriend in House that House could never be. She (like many women) wanted to be respected in the professional world, but tied their emotional world in the restraints of the kind that she wanted House to respect in the professional world (which is freakin’ naive for anyone who knows how House operates and succeeds). I would also say that for as much as I think Wilson is not very mature about certain things….Cuddy is not better than a school girl when it comes to romantic relationships. She’s high maintenance.

    And, I’d add that it is seriously unfair to compare a friendship (no matter how close it may be with Wilson) with a romantic relationship. Romantic love has standards, still. Friendships really don’t.


  • Michelle

    Why are people comparing two different relationships and expect the same expectations from each? One is a friendship; the other a sexual, romantic one. Different emotional baggage and expectations are brought into each type of relationship. So it shouldn’t be surprising that House is going to be there for Wilson and not for Cuddy when both had serious illnesses. Moreover House is emotionally retarded and is basically a big baby in an adult body. So dealing w/ a woman in a serious relationship was predictably something he couldn’t handle which is part of the reason why that relationship failed miserably.

  • MusicandHouse

    I am rewatching several season seven episodes and am in the middle of “Out of the Chute” and the talk between Wilson and Cuddy and the begining of the episode had me thinking. She was saying about how he reacted when he thought she would die and how he couldn’t step up without vicodon. This got me thinking about how much better and stronger the House/Wilson relationship is in comparison to what the House/Cuddy one was. House was able to step up for Wilson, and Wilson didn’t care that House was on drugs when he did it because that is just who House is. Wilson was even concerned that House would run out of drugs. But House was willing to sacrafice his drugs for Wilson, which in essence, he couldn’t do for Cuddy, because he had to take the drugs to face her. I’m not saying that House didn’t love Cuddy, he did, but the relationship he had with her, although good for him, was not strong enough for each of them to be themselves.

  • Igor

    Action Kate: you are right. My comment was superficial and premature.

  • Action Kate

    Ladybelle: Cuddy is NOT Irene Adler (either the classic version or the new BBC one). “The Woman” was the one woman who defeated Sherlock Holmes. She outthought him, outwitted him, played his game by his rules and won.

    Cuddy, as several people have noted, told House that she didn’t want him to change, and then promptly demanded that in fact he change. And even though he did his best to change, she then dumped him when he backslid once. She did not outthink House, did not outwit him, did not play by his rules (she didn’t lie and manipulate and play a Batman gambit).

    Wilson does this for House all the time. Something as simple as pretending to have a secret so that House has a puzzle to solve, because he knows House needs the puzzle… that is outwitting House (Holmes), playing by his own rules. And House loves Wilson for it.

    Back on topic: Adding my voice to the chorus saying this was one of the most spectacular eps of the series, a brilliant high note. RSL deserves an Emmy for this. He was so raw and powerful. And Hugh is a great director.

    I have no idea how the last three eps could top this. I am glad that the writers had the chance to end the show properly, and show us moments like this as a wrap-up/send-off, rather than “oops, we’re over.”

    I will so miss House and Wilson in my life when this is done.

  • DebbieJ

    I must agree with 90% of what has already been said here.

    The C-Word was just sheer brilliance! And I am not showing favoritism because Hugh directed it. It was back-to-basics House. The [H]ouse and Dr. Gregory House I fell in love with. It was a remarkable episode. Very well directed, very well acted and very well written. This might be the episode I wondered would happen that he will get his final shot at Emmy gold. Even RSL deserves a nom for supporting actor.

    My God, these two together have more chemistry, more love than my heart could bear. (And like someone said upthread you can read that through slash-colored goggles if you wish, I don’t care!) House sacrificing, giving Wilson the last of his Vicodin. House IVing up with morphine in brotherhood (and of course because he’s an addict, but you get my drift!). Wilson realizing what kind of pain House is in EVERY day of his life. House helping him to the bathroom. Ugh, I could go on and on!

    At the end when Wilson views the video House took apparently in the throes of his treatment, at first I was saying, NO NO NO, don’t ruin such a good episode with more sophomoric antics with hookers. But the more I rewound it (from the elevator scene onward) and watched it over and over the more I knew my initial reaction was quite wrong! This was just what Wilson needed and was SO Housian!

    The bromance wasn’t overkill, like House claimed. (He was cranky, he was in pain). It was just perfect!

    I just rewatched the episode with my husband a few hours ago and I loved it even more.

    Regarding the last 3 episodes. I don’t want a Happily Ever After and I know that’s not what they’re going to give us, but please, for all that is holy, please DO NOT let Wilson die. I just don’t know what that would do to House!

    One thing that I didn’t see mentioned yet. When Wilson says he always thought when he was old and sick he would have a wife or kids to take care of him, there was no reference to the Wilson’s fake kid story from a few weeks ago. Maybe it wasn’t the right time to bring it up but the more I’m thinking of it, the more I believe that the episodes weren’t written in order and the former one was just a very shitty written episode. That’s my belief and I’m stickin’ to it! LOL

    Learning here that the writer of this episode is new to [H]ouse, all I have to say is what took them so long to hire him?! He definitely sees and knows the House/Wilson relationship better than anyone in the past 2 seasons! I loved when House makes a joke about their “ship” when he says people have been talking for years! You know that is a nod to the slash fandom! LMAO

    Now that the show has been given a booster shot in the arm that it so deserved, I’m excited again and am sorry to see it go. Hugh should be able to direct ALL the remaining episodes! 😉

    I’m not sure what the finale will bring, but Hugh himself said he believes the fans will be satisfied. I mean, that could mean anything. I know we won’t see House and Wilson walking into the sunset, but I’d like to see some contentment for this tragic character. I have no idea how they’ll tie in the returning characters, but for once this season, I am actually now interested.

  • Maineac

    I want to add that HL’s direction was brilliant in that by getting everyone else (himself included) to give UNDERSTATED performances, he allowed RSL to deliver an intense and powerful performance without having to chew the scenery (think of Omar Epps almost-dying in “Euphoria,” which I found unwatchably over-acted.) And unlike some others here, I found the POTW story very engaging and well acted.

    I too noticed Chase’s reflection giving the appearance that he was in House’s office.Nice touch!

    PS I haven’t stopped by here in a while, not because I’ve stopped watching the show (I haven’t) but because I got dismayed by the nature of the comments. So it’s good to be back.

  • The Other Barnett

    Nickel #61:

    You had me nodding in silent and moderate agreement until yuo wished the harsh death on Wilson.

    But you brought up an interesting question. Has Wilson really been the noble and flawed white-knight character that RSL/WIlson lovers would have us believe? I’ve always said “no”. Wilson is a good friend and he is certainly worthy of appreciation and admiration for staying House’ friend through it all, but I have a hard time seeing him as a flawed saint.

    Moreso than House, Wilson is emotionally immature. Maybe its because he is expected to be the rock of support to all those cancer patients he has worked with (the scene with him going over mementos suggests it has taken an emotional toll upon him and probably his relationships, too), that he then makes such immature decisions whether in dealing with House, Cuddy, or his personal life….or reacts so teenager-ish about certain relationships (you really hit a target when you hit Amber…it was not that long of a relationship….how could he react so drastically?)

    I would, however suggest that Wilson may still harbor some resentment from House’ rash behavior that led him to prison.

    I don’t hold anything against Wilson for his screed on House as he is dealing with the pain from his treatment. As D said, that kind of pain probably does remove logic and consideration from one’s behavior model and replace it with a selfishness that should be understood.

    What Wilson’s behavior does suggest (from dr. appt. to death-pangs) is that he is as severely flawed (and maybe more so) as House. He is human….he just happens to have a unique ability to better handle the quirkiness/ugliness/dangerous nature of House. But, I’d say he has enabled House at times more than he had to and may have even created some of the situations that led House into certain experiences that only hardened House’ resolve to “not change”.

    And in a related subject mater…..

    Aurora B #65:

    You sound like you and Lisa Cuddy had a coffee conversation about House and Wilson back in 2008 and that you just found an ill-timed oppotunity to assert what you two agreed upon. I think time has changed some of the situations and I honestly think House is not the House that might have deserved such a comment a few years ago.

  • housefriend

    HL directing was brilliant.In team discussion just after scene with Wilson hallucinating we see Chase’s reflection as if hes standing in Houses office!!! Chase is the new House, Amazing directionby HL,

  • Maria-Eleni

    One of the greatest episodes of House.

    In fact I put it above ‘Help me’ as it achieves greatness within the strict frame of a regular episode, with no showy scenography and other effects,

    Just two private tragedies: one, in the public eye and bright lights of the hospital, of a family (albeit broken) surrounded by the top team of doctors, the other, in a dark living room, of two friends in despair with the bare minimum of equipment (albeit with extraordinary experience and knowledge). The juxtaposition of two parallel stories, that do not connect physically but only in concepts, by alternative building up and then loosening the tension resulted in a gripping 45’ of TV,
    This episode proved that expensive settings and gimmicks are not necessary to produce quality.
    For once in a long time the writers avoided superfluity and delivered a script with effective dialogues and emotionally charged monologues. Even more effective was the directing and editing by using a tight structure that created a quiet suspense that kept me to the edge of my seat, a rather rare occurrence in the latest seasons of [H].

    I was not expecting to be interested in the POTW in view of the H/W drama yet it happened. I was reminded of the early years of [H] when, even though the personal lives of the protagonist and his entourage was what really drew me, I could still be interested in the patient.
    In fact, the contrast of a stoically cute 6 year old (great casting, though manipulative) surrounded by multiple good-looking players in the bright neutrality of hospital with the two unkept middle-aged men, isolated in a gritty, dark, almost claustrophobic environment created an ebb and flow that intensified the tragedy of their situation. This contrast was highlighted by the choice of the colour palettes; neutral in both cases, the hospital scenes were infused in white and paleness whereas in the H/W scenes black and charcoal greys dominated, infused by dark blue lighting.

    Another differentiation in the telling of the two stories was in filming. The hospital scenes were straightforward with few close-ups, most scenes framing several characters in contrast to the single face close ups, often in distortion, of the H/W scenes. This ploy successfully illustrated the surreality experienced when subjected in extreme pain or when witnessing it in a beloved person. Together with the emotional interaction of only two actors, the filming created unbearably intimate and heart-wrenching scenes that mesmerized me as they aptly reproduced the aura I was living in when I watched for days my mother die of pancreatic cancer. The close-up of House feeding Wilson the pills tore up the memories and I had to stop watching for a while….

    (very manipulative on their part; just when I thought I was House-detoxing)

    The acting direction was designed to highlight RSL’s performance, a generous decision by the actor/director HL: Apart from RSL, everybody’s acting was restrained. It was a gamble but it paid off as RSL delivered superbly.
    The parents showed their stress with ‘quiet’ fighting, the mother’s agony was expressed by tightly clenched fists and there was no agonizing thrashing, violent vomiting etc by the little girl/patient. Just limpness and whimpering, nothing to distract from W.’s suffering. And yet they were effective in conveying the hopelessness of their situation with a mixture of resignation and courage.
    HL/House was also quiet in acting, his voice softer and using mostly body language and facial expressions to project emotions, thus offering the more dominant performance to RSL/Wilson. His usual air of command was conspicuously absent; in fact there was a scene that impressed me in its uncharacteristic way of portraying House. At Dr Condo’s (?) office House, speechless and effacing, sits holding with both hands his backpack on his lap, shoulders hunched in a posture very reminiscent of a ‘middle eastern wife’ accompanying a male relative who does all the talking! Fortunately (I was getting worried!) that did not go on for long as the habitual snarkiness resurfaced.

    Finally, this episode reinforced my suspicion that the diminished quality of the show these last 3 or 4 seasons is not due entirely to the writing. I shall even go further and lay most of the blame on the directors who often failed to convey tension and suspense to keep the audience interested. In fact both these factors, secure in the knowledge of possessing one of the best lead actors on TV and a great supporting cast with foremost the excellent RSL, lost the urgency and incentive to produce their best.
    HL is to be congratulated for his foray in directing successfully such a pivotal episode and thus elevating the tone of the show even at this final stage. Hopefully the last 3 episodes will be of the same caliber.

    And lastly but not least: why, oh why, was RSL so underused lately and why, oh why,
    did HL not direct more episodes?

  • lobentti

    Well, so our terminal patient/show got better … it happens, before the very end … which is close now … sad, but it is what it is .

  • Ryan

    @AreKay: A triple would indeed be quite sweet indeed and well deserved

  • Aurora B

    @Nickel: I think you are being a little too harsh. House deserved a good ass-kicking on more than one occasion. I think that, more often than not, Wilson functioned as a babysitter / disciplinarian rather than a “guide.” House knows how to behave like a responsible adult; he doesn’t need Wilson telling him how to do that. House just chooses NOT to do so and, as a result, very rightly earns the occasional bitch slap. Being a social nursemaid to a grown man has got to take its toll, and Wilson, I think, is sick and tired of playing that particular role in House’s life. He’ll keep DOING it, of course, because its more reflex than reaction at this point; however, there will be times when Wilson will just need to tell House to “sit down, shut up and do what you’re told.”

  • D

    Unless you have taken care of a loved one who is dying you will never understand that the cruelest things are often said to the ones you love the most.Pain and stress is almost unbearable at times for the patient and the caregiver,Wilson lashed out at House BECAUSE he loves him.As has House at Wilson.You feel safe saying things to those you love. And sometimes they are a hurtful accumulation of things gone wrong/regrets etc, Wilson apologized as House has to him,Wishing Wilson dead? THATS CRUEL, HOUSE would not have survived that,There is no way he would go on for long.

  • alena

    Aurora B,
    thank you for help, I myself would never guess about B9 – “benign”.
    About Dominika. Her “accent” is not bad, though not very good. It sounds like Western Ukrainian, not Central or Eastern. Ukrainian language is quite different in different parts of the country. Ukraine borders Poland to the West and Karolina Wydra is from Poland.
    Thanks again and excuse me my English.

  • BrokenLeg

    I’m still speechless after this WOW episode!

    As the wife of a cancer survivor I thank Hugh Laurie by his sense and sensibility while directing this touching episode, as for his and RSL wonderful and mesmerizing acting !!

  • Nickel

    I really did NOT think that Wilson could ever be more selfish than at his abrupt departure from House’s life during his grief over the death of his “ONE TRUE LOVE” Amber….seriously? But, true to Wilsonesque form, he soars over that selfishness to prove he can actually be a “BIGGER JERK” than House could even imagine to be.

    As for the comments he said to House, Wilson has never understood that to House, Wilson is his guide. He listens, and more importantly believes, all that Wilson tells him regarding House’s “inability” to be a decent human being. As for Wilson FINALLY being able to walk in House’s shoes, in my opinion it is TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE….

    I kind of understand D. Shore and co wanting to prove that people don’t change…..but seriously, do they NEVER LEARN ANYTHING???? How many times does Wilson have to destroy House before he learns that “WORDS CAN HURT”?

    I am sorry to say that I truly hope that Wilson dies a horrible, painful death and that House finally realizes that the people that he has trusted with loyalty and love do not deserve it, nor do/did they return it.

  • AreKay

    @hwl40 – The word I thought I heard House say was “millennium” which would mean he told Wilson that he had enough of a supply to last for the next 1,000 years.

  • AreKay

    “The C-Word” ranks right up there near the top as one of the best of the best episodes of HOUSE!

    I LOVED the ending…I thought it was just so totally House! Also, after such a gripping story, it was great to release all that emotional tension with hysterical laughter!

    @ryan – Wouldn’t it be too cool if, after being passed over by the Emmy’s for seven seasons, Hugh Laurie scored a double for acting and directing this episode. RSL also deserves one for supporting actor but after being disappointed every year I’m not sure my poor little heart would survive a triple this year…but I’d surely like to try!

  • hwl40

    Regarding the comic ending, it seemed to me that Wilson’s laughter turned to sobs as the hilarity and horror of his situation hit him all at once. I thought it was brilliant but maybe I misunderstood.

  • Jacksam4eva

    @Aurora B: I’m not from Eastern Europe but here’s what I gathered from googling Dominika. Apparently, in the original plot, she’s Ukranian. However, the actress who portrays her is Polish, therefore having a Polish accent when she speaks (I guess…)

  • Paulac54

    An excellent review of a WOW episode – and any other superlative you like to throw at it – HL’s direction was spot on, as knew it would be after his direction of Lockdown. The way he showed the gradual breakdown of the awful doctor/mother even had me interested in the POW, and that side of the episode is always the least interesting to me. But the H/W scenes were incredible. The writing, the way it was lit and filmed, and the incredible performances by HL and RSL! Loved Chase taking control of things in a quiet but commanding way, and his ‘epiphany’ look was very reminiscent of a certain diagnostic genius. The touches of ‘love’ by House showing how much underneath all the layers he does care like giving up the Vicodin, risking himself and career (again) by doing it in his apartment (although I didn’t understand why it couldn’t be done at Wilson’s since he said he had been stockpiling equipment there), just everything! that final look between the two when they leave the elevator, said more than any words – then House’ final gift to Wilson – laughter at himself at his own set of ‘Springbreak memories’.
    finally – @Jay:
    Couldn’t have been next morning – as you say Wilson would not have been capable. I assumed it was at least several days. The little girl had had her heart operation and was at the sitting up alert stage, tumour had been biopsied etc. None of that would have happened in the space of a few hours.

  • Aurora B

    @Alena: “B9” is supposed to represent “benign,” which means “not cancer.” Its what we call a “play on words,’ because both words sound the same when spoken, but are spelled (or written out) differently. We also call that a “homophone.”

    If you’re interested, you can Google “Battleship the game” and get a good description on how to play it, which will help you understand the game of “Pizza Battleship” being played by House and Wilson; however, they were using Tequila (I think), which (of course) is not part of the real Battleship game, which was designed for kids. My brother plays “Pizza Battleship” with his friends but he uses Stoli. Different strokes, I guess.

    Hope that helps!

    By the way, there seems to be some discussion around the internet about Dominika’s country of origin. I was lead to believe that she was Ukranian; however, “real” Ukranians on other sites have complained loudly that her “accent” was not at all authentic and sounded more Polish than Eastern Slavic. I’m curous, what do you think? Thanks!

  • alena

    TheDivineOne, MusicandHouse,
    please explain what is meant B9? I am from Ukraine and read this blog to understand better.

  • Jacksam4eva

    @Housemaniac: thank you! LOL.

  • ada102

    House always has had trouble being objective when someone close to him is in need of help. I think that’s some of why he didnt call an ambulance for wilson after wilson begged.

  • Maybe somebody has mentioned this already – but I think we can tell that House has indeed changed by the fact that when Wilson begged House not to take him to the hospital, House promised him he wouldn’t and then followed through on that promise. He didn’t call an ambulance against Wilson’s wishes. Nor did he wait for Wilson to pass out and then drag him to PPTH. That would have been the selfish thing for House to do, because I know, we ALL know, how devastated he would be if Wilson died. House cares for his friend so much that he let him choose the path that would cause him the least personal agony – even though House knew he might lose the only person left in his life that he really loves. How many of us would be capable of such an unselfish choice?

  • housemaniac

    LOVED IT! Great acting, great writing, great directing. A small caveat, though: Jacksam4eva you are not alone; I agree that a comic ending just didn’t feel quite right.

  • Grace

    I have been gone for awhile too, basically since BOMBSHELLS when Cuddy left House. I didn’t stop watching [H]OUSE because I love House and Hugh Laurie far too much. Most of the time I have been disappointed in the episodes since BOMBSHELLS and it’s sad to me that the episodes just started improving recently. I blame David Shore for this because he was too busy working on the remake of THE ROCKFORD FILES to make sure the quality of [H]OUSE was staying on track.
    For this, I resent him and am still angry with him.
    For THE C-WORD, THREE STORIES, AUTOPSY, BROKEN, the entire Stacy arc, and so many more AMAZING episodes, I salute him and thank him. I hope I can still say this at the end of the series.
    I don’t have enough words to thank Hugh Laurie for giving me, and millions more, basically the last 8 years of his life.
    He’ll never know how much enjoyment his AMAZING talent has brought me.
    I also want to thank Robert Sean Leonard for ‘Wilson’, and the entire cast and crew.
    I cherish the memories I will keep in my heart.

  • Jane E

    @music and House. I don’t want it to happen but I do believe Wilson will die and that will leave House alone. But, with the recent growth he has shown, I think he will leave PPTH and ride off.

  • Igor

    Ladybelle, indeed, Cuddy is Irene Adler. And as we see in the new PBS “Sherlock” series, Sherlock is willing to reach around the world to rescue The Woman.

  • The Other Barnett

    Dolores #41 and Igor #30:
    AMEN to both of your comments about Cuddy!

    ryan #11:
    Laurie will get screwed out of an Emmy again. RSL could definitely get the supporting award. The academmy loves those dying cancer-ridden pieces.

    WHat the heck is wrong with you? This episode was the most consistent (with the House of eight years) representation of who House really is…or more likely what he has evolved to – in 3 yrs. You need to take a walk in some place with beautiful scenery. My Gosh!

    Stathies #21:
    Amen on the comparison of the Wilson and Cuddy expectations of House!

  • That was in “Wilson’s Heart.” Sorry, I didn’t phrase that very well, but I am pretty sure most true House fans know what I mean.

  • Yes. I think Wilson will probably die during or before the finale. But it could be entirely different.
    Do you remember Amber, on the bus, in House’s fantasy/between life state with her, as she dies, saying “You’re dead?” And she says, “Everybody dies?” in a very detached, Amber-ish way? I wonder if the finale could have to do with that statement… Wilson gets to see Amber again? That would be nice, but sentimental for House. Still, I wonder if that “Everybody dies” has to do with the finale’s “Everybody dies.”

  • To those who would not watch one of the few remaining episodes: NEVER do that to yourself. You don’t know what you may and probably will miss!

  • It was great. I don’t really care about the POTW sequences any more except as they match what House and Wilson (or whomever) are doing, but the team must wonder what has become of House! They know, I figure, that W. is ill, but I am not sure.
    I felt this was a great episode and shows the real love and humanity in House and the ability to turn into someone much less likeable (when in severe suffering, to be sure) in Wilson. They are part of each other. I am glad this show has included this Watson/Holmes pairing right up to the end, even without Irene Adler (Cuddy).
    Thanks, Hugh Laurie and RSL!

  • Dolores

    Would like to make one more comment of House in general. From the very beginning I never felt about House as practically everyone else. I always felt there was a lot of humanity beneath the facade. He had been hurt in so many ways from childhood on so why would anyone expect him to be an open book. People are going to protect themselves in whatever way works for them.

    One more comment about the Cuddy situation; she told him one thing and then promptly tried to turn him into the opposite. She accused him of lying all the time, but her lie was the biggest of all.

  • Dolores

    stathies, you hit the nail on the head regarding Cuddy. She told him she didn’t want him to change and the whole affair concerned nothing but the fact that she tried to make him change. She wanted the genius of House and the wimpiness of Lucas. She was the selfish one in the relationship. People said House was narcissistic, but that was just a facade he put up. No one could match the narcissism of Cuddy and Foreman. So much of House’s characteristics which was seen by everyone weren’t the true House. The were just his safeguard.

  • Iwa Iniki

    This truly was one of the best episodes of House.

  • Barbara Barnett

    This episode has really stuck people. It’s great to see posters who haven’t posted in ages, and who I know have been disenchanted.

    Hwl–enough for a minyan. Hose was lying when he said he had enough for essentially 10 people. He hadnt enough even for himself.

  • Jacksam4eva

    Why do we assume that House taking Vicodin in Out Of Chute equals to him not being ready to make himself emotionally available for Cuddy?

    I mean, that’s what I believed for a very long time and my opinion is not really definitive on that matter yet, but I’d like to hear what people think about this. Maybe I’m being the devil’s advocate here but having just watched the episode again a few days ago (since it aired here in France last Tuesday), I just realized that although he wasn’t ready to support her during her cancer scare and couldn’t do it without the Vicodin; he did open up to her more than we’d ever seen him do before in the show. He really was there, emotionally and physically. That last scene when she dumps him and he can’t say anything, just begs her “don’t, don’t, don’t” … We’d never seen House beg anyone for anything before. So maybe not being able to support her and be strong for her doesn’t mean he didn’t open himself up to the emotional harm she could cause him (voluntarily – by leaving him – and involuntarily – by being sick). It doesn’t have to mean he held back or tried to prevent himself from feeling anything, just that he wasn’t strong enough to face that one particular health scare. And if we were talking about someone who’s not an addict or a jerk with commitment issues like House, would we expect them not to go and get a drink before going back to talk to their dying girlfriend? I understand that this was worse for all kinds of reasons and especially because House is an addict who relapsed, not just someone who went to get a drink or two, but somehow I feel like this is something I have to consider. I’m wondering if I haven’t been too hard on House from the beginning. Maybe he could have supported Cuddy fully even though he was operating under narcotics. When he took the decision of letting Wilson get treated at his apartment, he was high. When he made that speech to him on the pain he would feel, he was high. Does that mean everything he did before he ran out of Vicodin and gave what was left of it to Wilson did not hold any emotional value? Surely not. Especially since he did not completely give in to his pain either, he numbed it with alcohol.

    All this talk to say that I don’t really know what to think now. I may be trying to find weird arguments to support ‘the people don’t change, they just evolve’ theory. Anyway, thanks for explaining your point, Barbara, I think I get what you meant now. Personally, I think I’ve always seen hints in the show from season one up to now, that House would be able to make himself emotionally available the way he did in The C-Word but I guess they were just hints, and not actual proofs like The C-Word was. It may be true that House did something in The C-Word he would never have been able to do a few years ago (or even last year). To tell the truth I’m not entirely convinced but I see your point.

    Also, I seem to be the only one who didn’t really like the ending here. I mean it was funny, sure, and very housian and I’m not completely annoyed by it but on the other hand, I felt like having that small comic relief in the end kind of killed the emotion. It was like having a similar kind of thing at the end of Wilson’s Heart or Both Sides Now or other very dark episodes. Part of me thought it was nice, but part of me also thought of it as a bit annoying.

    As for the speculations, will Wilson die in the last three episodes? To tell the truth, during those last seconds with the pictures, I thought he was going to have a heart attack from laughing so hard and then not being able to breathe hahaha.

  • MusicandHouse

    Yes I picked up on that B9 thing as well! It was very clever writing (and a clever shoice on House’s part as his target)

  • The Other Barnett

    This was at once the simplest episode to watch and also the toughest one to watch.

    Having friends who have gone through cancer, I know that any positive result could be followed by a death…as easily as recovery can take place. So it was tough to watch even things take an upswing for Wilson without thinking (even as I was laughing at the video House compiled – by the way a brilliant expression of House the imp)”this could all end horribly and now.”

    In addition, the debate between the over-aggressiveness and coldly clinical approach of the mother vs. the nurturing, supportive nature of the father was tough for me to take a side on. Why wouldn’t I be single-minded like the mom? Why wouldn’t I be “life marrow” focused like the dad? This type of debate between two approaches has really not been covered by the show in the way that it was this time…so in some way, the show surprised me.

    At the same time, it was so very simple an episode to enjoy. It showed the team members working together very well to determine the route to take with the child’s care. They certainly are in the position to operate on their own independently without House constantly there to guide them. Wilson’s behavior (even before the radical treatment took hold) was very cliche’-ish. How often do we hear about doctors being the worst patients. The fact this was not directly referred to was a relief, but this piece of the story kind of annoyed me, Wilson is supposed to be better than that, right?

    The period of time at House’s apartment was pure House. It was an intermingling of “Nobody’s Fault” and “Help Me” – and yet different, too. House’ description of the bodily effects of treatment Wilson would be experiencing was chilling and effective. Denying himself vicodin in the interest of Wilson was within his character, but it had the desired dramatic affect upon me as a viewer, still. I have not read all of the posts, but didn’t the sight of House helping Wilson to the bathroom ring a bit like last season after House tried to operate on himself?

    A great episode! With three episodes remaining and (I assume) the requisite ‘cancer guy on the road trip’ story coming next week….is it fair to suggest House is “out of the woods” as it applies to life and death concerns for him?

  • kg

    I agree completely with D; you nailed it spot on. That House is only his true self with Wilson and that Wilson is the only person that really matters to him is something that I’ve taken as a given since the episode where where Wilson donates an organ to his patient, and in the end we see House visiting with him in his hospital room, and they are both laughing and talking. That scene pops into my head often, as if I’m writing the scenes of their lives we don’t see in each episode.

  • This episode hit me sideways. I wasn’t terribly interested in the little girl, although in any other episode I would have been grateful for such a well-thought dilemma. (The father was amazing).

    However, the House/Wilson relationship was so beautifully delineated, with so many touches. Except for Cuddy, House never physically touches anyone. Yet he was willing to hold Wilson’s head while he puked, stroke Wilson’s hair, and in general show a level of affection and commitment that he was never able to show Cuddy, which is really sad.

    Also, don’t assume the treatment took a few days. The episode’s timeline ran a few weeks. Wilson’s outburst was brilliantly done…RSL acted the hell out of this, breaking down crying, lashing out at House, trying to be honest. They love each other, and I don’t care if you see it through slash goggles or not.

    Chase is obviously being groomed for being the team leader.

  • hwl40

    Just looked up “minion” since I had no idea what House meant when he said he had enough vicodan for a minion, which I always thought meant a subservient person. However, came across “minyan” which appartently means a quorum of Jewish men needed for certain Jewish ceremonies. Barbara, arbiter of all things Jewish, does this make sense? If so, it lends a poignant touch to House’s beautiful lie.

  • Brighid45

    Andres (#24): brilliant post. Thank you for giving me new insight into House, Wilson and their relationships, with others and each other.

  • Igor

    Cuddy was dangerous. After demanding fealty from House she was incapable of demonstrating fealty to him. House and Wilson are Real Brothers.

  • Thanks everyone for the great and thoughtful comments. The thing with Cuddy (to address that) is that to be available to her he needed to take drugs. He could not be “emotionally” available to her. He had to be able to distance himself through the fog of a narcotic (the pain was too much).

    But he’s learned, especially after losing so much already: Stacy, Cuddy, Dominika. But losing Wilson would be too much. Wilson for him has been his family.

    Sacrificing the vicodin for Wilson was a dual sacrifice. I loved everything about this episode.

  • TheDivineOne

    Did anyone notice that the only number called during the pizza box Battle Ship was B9? get it?

  • bigHousefan

    This episode was so great! One of the best moments for me:

    Wilson tells House he always thought when he got old or sick he always thought he’d have a wife or kids to look after him. After a witty comeback, House tells Wilson he has everything he needs here. I think he meant that all either of them really needed was each other. Of course, then he whips out the morphine… Beautiful!

  • trisha1915

    To think I almost didn’t watch this practically perfect episode. Barbara, thank you for putting into words what I was feeling throughout the show. HL is the best, most complete actor to have graced the TV screen in a long while. His speech to Wilson about pain and his reaction to Wilson lashing out at him while in pain had me weeping. Sharing his pain medication at his own peril revealed the compassion we knew he possessed and was utterly heartbreaking. I also really enjoyed the patient of the week and Chase’s taking over the case in House’s absense. We needed the laugh at the end. It was a truly beautiful episode.

  • D

    What House did for Wilson in The C Word episode he would have done in the pilot episode, That was the point-Wilson has been established as the one that MATTERS MOST,Promo even states this .
    Early season episode-Foreman “Why are we taking this case? Just BECAUSE WILSON asked?” House did not change and neither did Wilson.Whats changed is that we are being shown how deep their relationship is.
    Even Wilsons outburst under extreme pain – We have seen House do that to him.You often lash out at the one you love the most,

  • andres

    hello, long time reader (since season 6), but I think this is my first time leaving a comment. I’ve been feeling, or fearing, since I learned this was the last season of House, that the season would end with several loose and clumsy ends. The story with Dominica is not necessarily over, but the chapter does seem closed. I liked how it seemed for a moment that House’s break in love would come from a relationship that began as a deception: it would have been fitting. But House couldn´t let the lie he shared with her “change”, so he transferred the lie from the U.S.Gov to Dominica herself instead, and that was that. The story ended neatly, but it left House nowhere: epiphany but no catharsis.

    The loose end that bothered me the most was the father story, though… But, after seeing this last chapter, I don´t see the father or Dominica´s stories as incomplete. I don´t think closure is needed, as these stages of the season can be seen as the progressive peeling of layers.

    Instead of feeling that the story will be left unfinished, I now specially like that the issue of the father won´t become another puzzle to be solved. House has finally been confronted with his denial of the father figure, his orphanage from authority, not as a mystery, or an obstacle, or even a source of personal pain and commiseration, but as a mark of his self, of his identity. He is simply fatherless. He can´t continue to resort to that wound as a loop-hole or escape-hatch, so the narcissitic illusion of his confrontations with authority as being self-serving, being devoid of any other meaning than the act of confrontation itself, can be put aside.

    His relation with Dominica was also, to begin with, a loose end of his break-up with Cuddy, and his failure to make a relationship with Dominica helps cement the experience, the learning, House could take from his failure with Cuddy… since, as Freud said, experience happens in the repetition.

    But all this new feelings about the season´s approaching finale really came after this last episode, “the C-word”, and I think it´s because the ordeal with Wilson creates a scenario were House can both be put to the test while also revisiting his breakup with Cuddy… and through this confluence, something else can take place.

    In a recent interview Hugh Laurie said that Cuddy also had a part in the failure of the relationship with House of season 7. This was of course an opinion, not a statement… but that simple statement might have seemed out of place when last season’s violent finale was aired. After this season, however, I think a more nuanced assignment of blame is possible, and that House didn´t single-handedly caused the break is a fundamental truth that House himself had to discover, and perhaps has already glimpsed.

    In that sense, I agree with a comment by “stathies”: Wilson did not demand of House that, for he to be there for his friend, he couldn´t use Vicodin. If this Cancer scenario mirrors Cuddy´s Cancer scare from last season, then the contrast between Cuddy´s obsessive dreaming in code about House´s Vicodin use and Wilson´s shared painkiller high with House couldn´t be more telling. It´s also a strong clue as to how to read this contrast that Cuddy´s cancer scenario was not the real thing. Wilson´s is.

    When Cuddy came to House at the end of season 6, she said “if you want to go back to Vicodin it’s your choice”. Being with House, she learned that, in fact, she had to deny that choice to him for them to be together. To me this revelation informs their whole relationship, going back to the early stages of their overseer/prodigy push-pull dance as employer and employee.

    In a way, half of the serie’s run led to House and Cuddy geting together, and I think it was great writing that the relationship failed. By geting together they learned something new about each other and about their relationship, but what Cuddy learned was fatal. I think she learned that all along she had truly relied on House being infallible, so that she was ultimately spared from one of medicine´s worse horrors: that as much as everybody dies, often doctors can´t help it. That is the horror that House, through his chronic leg pain, lives with, and shouts out at Foreman at the end of “Help me”. When Foreman tries to comfort House saying “there´s nothing you could have done”, House can´t help but finally scream his pain: “that makes it worst”.

    Right after their break-up, in “Out of the Chute” Cuddy avoids House throughout the whole case, until House decides to blow up the patient´s heart. She then goes to confront him, but there is no confrontation. House says a few words, they stare at each other, and House simply says: “aaand… she caves”.

    That moment of caving is perhaps what gave meaning for Cuddy to her professional relation with House. She is a very strong doctor, but as an administrator she simply can´t take blind risks. She has a stern mother to whom she has to continually feed proof of her self-reliance and superiority. Her impulse to take chances can be taken over by House, because she expects him to never fail. When that expectation passed from the “infallible doctor” to the “infallible partner” domain, the relationship collapsed.

    Being there for Wilson´s extreme Cancer treatment (an extreme chance where all is put on the line for both patient, in mortal risk, and a doctor still in parole), House can “repeat” the test he supposedly failed to meet with Cuddy… but now, stripped of the father issue, having confronted the unmasked fear at the heart of his lies to Dominica, what could have been a case of proving to himself that he could be there for a loved one becomes something much richer. He has a chance to see that being there, for anyone, loved one or patient, is not an unconditional demand. You can be there for those that allow you to be as you are, as you can be.

    From this perspective, House´s behaviour with his patients is no more perverse than their behaviour with him. Death is the stake, yet those involved selfishly persist in their delusions. He has to work around that, so he either manipulates or meets the pettiness head-on. Decency cannot outweigh the extinction of a life, or at least, not for a doctor.

    Cuddy demanded of House that he didn´t fail, and that is a demand we cannot make, even of our doctors, but specially of our loved ones. This does not excuse House´s eventual spiral into that violent moment of pure, blind “expression” when he drove into her house. But it offers the perspective needed not to have that blind form of expression as the only alternative.

    My feeling about House is that he took being ostracised as the cost of exposing naked truth. This is the fundamental expression of medicine, as the most ultimate of truths is that everybody dies. House took his punishment of being deemed perverse, because pure, unmasked death could hardly be faced… and, for the longest time, embraced this punishment as the very currency he had to trade with, as a token for human exchange. He made of perversity his legitimate self.

    In the series, there have been two constant, central relations to House: Cuddy and Wilson, and they presented two answers to that conflict. Cuddy´s answer was to accept House because he was beyond failure. As such, for Cuddy, House was the denial of death, so the conflict could not be resolved.

    Wilson´s answer was always in turmoil because Wilson´s answer was simply to see House as a mortal who could brave death, and at every stance the question was raised again: can he do it this time? And more importantly: is he right this time? Wilson´s answer was always a struggle, because it was vital.

    It is a great relief, and a moment of optimism, that the alleviating laugh for Wilson comes not only at the expense of his passed out, drained face, but also at the expense of House´s perverse fixation with prostitutes. The joke is shared as they´re both the but of it, as they will both be, sooner or later, the but of death´s grim humour.

    So why does House need to take Vicodin to be there when Cuddy or Wilson are confronted with death? Well, he´s only human. You can´t expect him to stare at the death of his own in the face. House doesn´t demand that of his patients, or of their loved ones. What he asks for is honesty, unencumbered facts, so that he, the doctor, can do the staring for the patient, and in doing so, have a chance of bringing the patient back.

    It´s only when all hope is gone that House removes himself, and leaves the patients alone with their end. And, more often than not, it´s just then that House finds that odd angle of brilliance that saves the day, mid sentence, in the midst of life.

  • dvbfan

    Dear Barbara, very interesting article as usual .
    I think this episode is one the best episodes since the ‘Help Me’ episode .The whole episode was very emotional, especially the scenes between Wilson and House was fantastic . For the first time during seasons 7 and 8, I cried when I saw the moving scenes between House/Wilson.
    Barbara, I completely agree with House’s change. He did something special to his friend and ignored his pain and vain in order to help Wilson feel less agony .
    I am really sad that this show is going to an end and I will miss the show and your thoughtful articles .

  • MusicandHouse

    Was it the next day? Wilson was at House’s for at least two days and they kept refering to their “vacation” as Spring Break, which in normally a week. I just assumed a few days had passed from when House helped Wilson to the bathroom to when they were back at work, but I have only watched the episode once (I plan to watch SEVERAL more times!)

  • stathies

    Sorry to post again so quick, but I really wanted to address the Cuddy issue. The problem was not that House couldn’t be there for her, he was. But he had taken a vicodin in order to be able to do it, and that was what made Cuddy feel he could not give of himself.
    Wilson not only did not expect House to go Vicodin free, he worried about House having enough to deal with his own pain, They used morphine together. Wilson did not make the same demands on House that Cuddy did.

  • stathies

    lift himself from his narcissism and put Wilson above any other need.

    Not sure, House might say that Wilson is his biggest need so taking care of Wilson is, in a way, also something done in self interest.

    and I agree Wilson learned what it is like to be in pain, House also learned what it is like to sit and watch your best friend in pain, in danger of losing his life because of , in your opinion, a stupid decision. Fans know Wilson has been in that position often enough.

    They both walked away, or rather limped towards the bathroom, with much more understanding of each other.

  • Housefriend–you’re right, of course. But wanting and doing are two separate things. House has always been there for Wilson, but his own fear of losing Wilson and other things have been huge obstacles in House’s way. This episode was House with all his walls down. He was all about Wilson.

    That he could finally do that was remarkable, but not surprising. I’m also so glad that Wilson finally also knows what it is to walk in House’s shoes.

  • rjw

    This was such a beautiful episode on so many levels:the writing,direction,as well as the acting.I have really enjoyed John Kelley’s scripts since he joined the House team,and he (as well as Marqui Jackson)outdid himself.What a fabulous roller-coaster ride through grief,fear,hope,and finally that wonderful montage at the end that left Wilson practically in hysterics.Hugh Laurie was terrific in directing this (& acting,of course).Robert Sean Leonard was stellar in a rare up-front role.It was great to see House be able to make himself available for Wilson (I think his past experiences have finally allowed him to let his guard down).Loved that it dawned on Wilson as to how much pain House has handled through the years.Enjoyed the “other” patient story as well.The mother/doctor was (I believe) played by the same actress who played the “miniature killer” on CSI several years ago.The little girl was charming,yet believable.A marvelous story all around!

  • housefriend

    House always wanted to be there for Wilson.Never saw anything to suggest otherwise in 8 years.

  • housefriend

    House did not change .He did what he did out of love for Wilson,Cuddy in no way occupied the position and importance in Houses life.This episode clearly demonstrated that.
    House did not change .Houses love for and commitment to Wilson has been demonstrated all throughout this series,Writing and directing have been brilliant.
    Basically compare/contrast and no comparision.
    House couldnt be there for Cuddy because he was not willing to commit.He did not care that much,She even called him on it,

  • Jess

    What did I learn From this episode?
    Oops Cuddy got it wrong and the writers can’t make up their minds as to how to write this character, “house”, after 8 YEARS?

  • Zay

    For the past four or five weeks, I haven’t been tuning into House – something that has never, ever happened to me before – but I just couldn’t bear to see what was happening to my beloved show. The episode synopses sounded awful and the online reviews were mostly scathing, so I didn’t bother. But last week, with the cancer announcement, and then this week, I finally tuned back in – and boy am I glad I did, because House is finally churning out brilliance again.

    Can we just take a moment to appreciate House’s speech to Wilson in the living room? This one: “To muscle aches, spasms. To your joints feeling like they’re being ripped out and replaced with shards of broken glass. Your stomach fills with bile. When you vomit,
    it feels like someone’s forcing a white hot hammer down your esophagus, tearing your flesh. Blood’s dripping down the back of your throat, choking and gagging you with the slick, coppery taste
    of burnt pennies. Day two: Your white blood cells are gone, opening up your system to attack. Your temperature skyrockets. One second, your skin feels like it’s on fire. The next second, it’s entombed in ice. Every pain sensor in your body is firing at the same time until agony isn’t even a word or a concept it’s your only reality. You hallucinate. You dream of death. And then the race begins. Can your body claw its way back in time before the hostile organisms and parasites claim you permanently? Win, you live. Lose, you die.”

    God. That was the most beautiful, brutal, poetic thing I’ve ever heard on House ever, period. Literally gut-wrenching.

    I noticed John Kelley co-wrote this episode. He’s awesome. I’m an enormous NCIS fanatic as well – NCIS has some of the most well-drawn characters on TV right now, the team is full of distinct, wonderful personalities – and some of NCIS’s funniest, most moving character episodes were written by him. I’m so pleased he’s on Team House. He and this new writer really brought some sharp work to this episode.

    Also: was I the only one who had to pause the episode to cry hysterically when that adorable little doll of a patient concluded that because her parents argued so much due to them loving her, that if she was dead, they’d be happy and get back together? So. Many. Feelings. I was watching most of this episode in a haze of tears.

    This is perhaps one of the finest House episodes in recent memory. After that gorgeous/heartbreaking ending to S5, I think the only truly noteworthy episodes have been Broken, Baggage, Help Me, Now What, After Hours, and this, The C Word. Everything came together like magic. I have a sneaking suspicion this had a lot to do with Hugh Laurie. His other episode, I can’t remember the name now, that one was beautifully done too. He has such a nice style as a director; everything was paced perfectly and hit all the right emotional beats. The close-ups were so effective, particularly with Wilson.

    The only thing that nagged me, though, that I want to point out and open to the rest of the forum – was it reasonable that after that kind of horrific night, complete with adult diaper and hallucinations, that Wilson waltzed into work like normal the next day? I mean, didn’t House say it would be hell for a few days? With that amount of poison in you, that low of a white count, are you really able to get up and be fine-ish the next day? That just seemed like a bit much to me. Hugh take great care in showing us the kind of agony Wilson was in all night; I was irritated that he seemed almost back to normal in this episode, and ready to go on a road trip with House in the next.

    But anyway. Great episode. I know this comment is a bit long, but I just needed to vent somewhere. Sadly, few of my friends share the manic passion for TV discussion that I have.

  • Ryan

    Have to agree with Jane’s comment about David Shore being back on the writing team. And Barbara’s about this feeling like “REAL house”. The quality took a major leap this week. It’s gonna be interesting to see how effective Wilsons treatment was in the next weeks and how House deals with Wilsons “end life crisis” that we seen in the preview for next week. I rolled laughing at Wilson in the Corvette

  • MusicandHouse

    I agree, the patient story was good but I really didn’t care about it in comparison to House/Wilson. Without giving anything away, it looks like next episode will be in a similar format, where the team treats a patient while House/Wilson are off elsewhere, and I am super excited for it. I can’t wait to see what these final three episodes have to bring, and if they’re anything like “The C-WOrd” we have an interesting ride ahead.

    Just a question/poll: How many of you guys think that Wilson is actually going to die in or before the finale. I definately think he will, even though it will kill me to watch that.

  • Ryan

    Anybody else think that maybe this performance, and possibly his performance in the last three episodes, will finally get Hugh Laurie the Emmy he’s so deserved for the last eight years? Just sayin’

  • Igor

    Like jacksam, I think House is not changing or reversing, but simply revealing more of himself.

  • What changed about House is not that he wouldn’t have wanted to be there for Wilson before–but that he was able to come out of himself and make himself emotionally available (completely) without regard to himself and without any of his guardedness or defensive mechanisms in place.

    Those barriers went up a long, long time ago (before we ever met him) and he’s likely been wary of letting them down–even with Stacy. This is a huge step for him, and part of it is what he learned from what happened with Cuddy and some likely from his time with Nolan sinking in over time.

  • Jane E

    I agree what a phenomenal episode. Actually I wish they didn’t have the POTW and focused the whole episode on House and Wilson. What an amazing story.

    I loved the maturity in House’s actions. Last year he ran away when he thought Cuddy would die and a year later, he stuck right by Wilson’s side. Also lying to Wilson about the Vicodin, and sharing the pills with him. These are such giant steps for this man we have been following for 8 years. I think it shows that House’s creator David Shore was back on the writing team. Great job!

    Naturally I can’t end my comments with out mentioning the ending. LOL! A perfect ending not just to bring a smile to Wilson’s face but to give the audience a good laugh after such a intense episode.

  • Jacksam4eva

    Sorry double post but I meant “huddy shipper” not “huddy shipped” and I have no clue as to why that link to beautiful things came up, I didn’t ask for it.

  • Jacksam4eva

    Since I was annoyed by people’s constant complains about the show last year, I’d stopped reading your entries after last season’s finale. However, i have to admit that after an episode like The C-Word, I couldn’t not come back and see what everyone had to say.

    On the whole, I agree with a lot of things that have been said in the review and the comments: this episode was definitely, to me, a master piece (with the most beautiful scene being House giving his last pills to Wilson). I’m honestly dying with excitement over the next three episodes although I seem to have this weird, complete and unconditional trust in David Shore and his genius to make Everybody Dies perfect and meaningful (even by making it meaningful by its meaninglessness, who knows?). After eight years he remains, IMO, one of the best (if not the best) writers on TV and I cannot wait to see what is coming next.

    However, there was something I didn’t quite understand in the review: why would House’s selfless behavior towards Wilson in this episode be a proof of his ability to change? Didn’t he always have it in him? I think so. He almost killed himself to save Amber. And even though it’s arguable that the surgery to his brain would also make him remember, therefore solving a mystery, then you can also say that giving Wilson the Vicodin wasn’t completely selfless since having Wilson in pain (and possibly dying) because of him would make House feel so bad he had to do it for his own good. Therefore none of the acts would truly be selfless. Especially since, had not House told Wilson “we’ll do it at my place”, we fan assume that Wilson would have gone through with his original plan nonetheless and would surely have died without anyone caring for him. I mean I may be biased because of my own beliefs that tend to reflect David Shore’s on the ‘people don’t change’ topic but I feel like House has always been capable of selfless and caring acts such as the ones in last night’s episode. And although this might be one of the most beautiful things in the show it can’t really be categorized as new.

    During her cancer scare last year, I believe Cuddy was right to wait for House to show up, thinking that it was something he could do, just because it was what was needed of him (as opposed maybe to what he wanted to do?) in order for the people he loves to feel better and safer. I’m not saying it occurs often, I’m just saying it can, on very rare occasions. Maybe what happened last year wasn’t important enough for him to cause himself pain, be it physical or emotional? Because if his fear of losing her and being in pain blinded him so much that he couldn’t do what he should have done (i.e. go through the pain of coming to see her and facing her possible death), then surely he should have be incapable of helping Wilson the way he did, with the risk that his best friend might die on his couch. It breaks my heart as a huddy shipped but I have no answer for this.

  • housefriend

    Hands down the BEST episode so far of the series.One reason House/Wilson (as portrayed by the incredible talents of RSL and HL)
    The real love story -I would have chosen another picture of so many to highlight this wonderfully directed episode but seems some denial still re this couple. Never have we seen such close intimate scenes in the series. Never have we seen such raw emotion and fear from House.And so many to choose from in one episode.

  • Marykir–totally agree with you. This episode felt like REAL House. The show we have loved since back in 2004. The writers are both fairly new (Marqui is a complete newbie), yet they did an exceptional job with an emotionally intense episode.
    If this episode is a harbinger of what’s to come, we’re in for an extraordinary ride home.

  • marykir

    Not only was the episode beautifully acted, it was beautifully paced. I never felt like they were rushing through something to get to an emergency or a punchline, nor did it feel like there was 50 minutes worth of story in 43 minutes of screentime. And this is the first episode in a long, long time where my immediate reaction was “what a great episode” instead of “that scene was great & that one was great & so was that one, but the episode was just ok.”

  • Brighid45

    Great review Barbara!

    ‘The C Word’ (Cancer, yes–but also Child and Commitment and Care) was absolutely magnificent. In an episode where we knew the POTW’s story would be overshadowed by Wilson’s battle with cancer, John Kelley, Marqui Jackson and Hugh Laurie did an excellent job of keeping things balanced and interesting on both sides of the mirror.

    What really caught my attention was Wilson’s reasoning behind his decision to go with the uber-chemo treatment. He knows even a stage-2 thymoma has a decent survival rate . . . but he’s seen patients with equally good chances at survival die anyway, and he doesn’t want to be one of their number. (I suspect that ten-ton weight of guilt he carries around about losing those patients plays significantly into his decision as well.) And as you point out, he’s now on the other side of the desk, asking the same questions all his patients ask: why me? why this? and finding out there are no answers–but if you’re lucky, you’ll have someone willing to stand by you while you pick up the pieces of a shattered life and try to go on.

    I too loved seeing House reveal the depth of his loyalty to and caring for Wilson. He took on this horrendous situation knowing it would be as hard for him in many ways as it would be for James; the look on his face when Wilson snarls at him about his being a continual source of misery (and I agree with you that Wilson is just saying out loud the things House believes in his heart), the moment in the kitchen when House agonizes over his dwindling supply of drugs and resorts to alcohol to numb his pain so there’s more Vicodin for Wilson, the patience with which he stays by Wilson’s side and watches over him . . . they all broke my heart and made me proud as well. I think you’re right when you suggest House hasn’t changed so much as he’s more willing, at least in this instance, to reveal his emotional core.

    The last five minutes are the highlight of this episode for me. Wilson’s genuine little smile as he and House leave the elevator is the most touching moment between these two friends in a very long time, and absolutely perfect. And of course, the slideshow. That’s House returning Wilson’s smile with interest by offering a cheeky smirk and healing laughter, knowing Wilson needs it just as much as he needed someone to stay with him during this start of his journey through the valley of the shadow. Classic House and a total delight!

    On the POTW side, I enjoyed watching Chase stick with the case and stand his ground with the parents. There are some wonderful little touches to show us the mother’s gradual breakdown as things get worse–focusing on her clenched hands, her hair and clothes becoming more unkempt and disordered, her cool, hands-off manner turning to bewilderment and sadness as her certainties fall away.

    At this point, it doesn’t really matter what happens next (though I’m eagerly anticipating the last three episodes). We’ve seen two friends stand together when it really counts, and a re-affirmation that the House-Wilson relationship is the linchpin of the show, the axis on which everything revolves (IMO anyway). I was hoping we’d get that, and we did. Despite the sadness, all is well.

  • Ryan

    All i can say about this episode is WOW! I’ve been sticking with the show even through the rough patches because i love the character “House” so much. This episode made it worth it. IMO the first truly great episode since “Help Me” and the best since “Broken”. Great review as always Barbara. The way House was taking care of Wilson was something to behold. With all the times Wilson has been there for him, I found myself on the verge of tears as House sacrificed his own relief for his friend. And instead of Wilson helping house to the bathroom as in “After Hours” it was House, in chronic pain mind you, helping Wilson. Just a beautiful performance by HL and RSL. I hope the last three episodes are as emotionally engaging. My hopes are definitely up now 🙂