In some things we have choices, in others not so much. We are who we are born to be, yet that doesn’t mean that at some fork in life’s road we can’t “choose” to take a different path than the one upon we seem destined to travel. “The Choice” explores the role of choice and its consequences in a beautifully written, acted and directed episode of House M.D.
This week’s patient Ted has made a choice to live a lifestyle (or a lie, depending on your level of cynicism) that may not be who he really is. But his choice effectively removes the choice of his fiancée to know who she’s really marrying. Not that it will change anything necessarily, but it’s a pretty big secret to keep from the woman you’re about to marry.
Weaving together an interesting patient story with several character threads involving the entire cast, David Hoselton’s lovely script is the sort of complex mix of compelling character drama and procedural that is the House signature. Perhaps more importantly, it pulls our central character back into center of his universe, where he should always dwell (and which has been forgotten at times this season).
Ted and Nicole are about to tie the knot in a big church ceremony. But just before the “I dos” Ted faints, gasping for breath and unable to speak. Is it just the jitters? Is it as House insists (after obtaining some pretty damning evidence) that he’s faking to get out of the marriage? Or something more mysterious?
In the ER, Ted is prompted to protest when House pricks him with a needle. “Faking it” seems a logical (albeit simple) explanation for Ted’s syncope and aphasia. It makes sense until the same thing happens right outside the hospital after being discharged by the ER.
So what can mimic “faking it?” House wants the team to start back at the beginning to understand Ted in the usual invasive way: including breaking in to his old house. Who knows what toxic substances (or secrets) lie in the nooks and crannies of his previous dwelling?
And it turns out that House is right. Ted is faking—but not his symptoms. He’s got a big secret of which he’s in steadfast denial. Ted was involved with a man for three years: was it sex while drunk as he insists—or did they have a relationship? Ted says it was only one time; the boyfriend begs to differ. Of course this puts an entirely different cast on the case.
Ted has made a choice with his life: “I’m not gay,” he insists as if insisting it over and over will make it so—like going into homosexual “rehab” as he did. “I’m as straight as any of you!” he decries in 13’s presence (hmmm—of course 13 is not straight at all). Ted underwent “conversion therapy,” an intense “treatment” to make him not gay: a dangerous cocktail of aversion therapy, testosterone injections and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, or shock treatment). Ted’s “choice” has come back to haunt him. Ted has a congenital condition that has caused most of his symptoms. That plus the ECT accounts for all of them. Surgery will fix this problem, but with Ted now outed, his horrified fiancée wants to end their relationship, no longer sure of her relationship.
“I believe we get to choose how we live our lives,” he pleads. But his fiancé also gets that choice, and her choice is to walk out.
Everyone has choices to consider in “The Choice.” House has woken up in the apartment next door, so drunk that he went into the wrong apartment and so hung over the next morning, he’s wearing sunglasses. He admits to Cuddy that he woke up in the wrong bed; it’s a unusually truthful admission from the usually deflecting House. Maybe he’s concerned enough about it that he wanted her to know. Cuddy is worried that House is drinking, something he should not be doing—and certainly not enough to get fall-down drunk.
But House isn’t “okay.” Right now House is an unwanted third wheel in his current living arrangement; and with no other ties, he’s probably alone a lot more than Nolan would want him to be. It’s too easy for him to fall back and he’s probably a lot more fragile emotionally than he’s letting on.
Wilson is worried enough to pay House’s team to ask him out to dinner or to just hang out. Taub, 13 and then Chase and Foreman. Wilson fears that House’s drunkenness is the result of loneliness and depression creeping back—the feelings of isolation that he can no longer obliterate with Vicodin.
Rather than refusing to play along with the outings and denying that he needs or wants the company, after Wilson admits that he’s done it out of self-interest to preserve his nascent relationship with Sam, House agrees. “I’m worried about you,” confesses Wilson. This is House’s way of helping. He’s willing to try—for Wilson’s sake. But Wilson has good reason to be concerned.