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TV Review: House, MD – “The Greater Good”

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“The Greater Good” is House, MD’s 100th episode — a milestone achievement (at least in series television terms) for the four and half-year old series. Few thought that House would catch on when it first debuted in 2004. Who’d’ve thunk it? A series about a disabled, surly, angry-at-the world doctor — middle aged, not conventionally handsome or sexy, rumpled and looking like he’d be more likely be the patient in a hospital free clinic than that hospital’s most brilliant and distinguished physician. A misanthropic, quintessentially American doctor played by (of all people) Hugh Laurie, a British comedy legend who specialized in playing witless and guileless (but lovable) dandies and fops.

Yet here we are, more than four years later, still fascinated by Gregory House, MD; still unable to completely peg him or know him. Some see a jerk with a brain and a wicked sarcastic muscle; some see a man brutalized by a tough life, wounded and haunted — but with a fundamental humanity buried beneath. Some see a good man; others someone barely above evil.

Without even considering it as an episode title, “The Greater Good” is an appropriate theme for a milestone House episode. The series continually asks whether House, for all of his antics, his bluntness, his refusal to suffer fools (at all), serves the “greater good.” Are his behavior, occasional recklessness, and attitude forgivable because in the end, without them, more patients die? Patients that other doctors have dismissed as un-diagnosable?

This week’s patient, renowned cancer researcher Dana Miller is enjoying life in early retirement. After suffering a life-threatening illness eight months earlier, she quit her important research, which had the promise of curing a particular pediatric cancer, realizing that she had never been happy. Making a decision to do “what she wants to do, and not what she’s expected to do,” she values a happy life over a life of serving the “greater good,” no matter how “fulfilling” that might be — self-interest above the public interest.

Miller has an interesting exchange with Wilson, who is an oncologist “in the trenches.” Wilson cannot understand why she would have left research when babies are dying. He is angry with her, frustrated and wondering how everyday oncologists like him can keep going when brilliant researchers hang it up. Not at all apologetic, she spouts the wisdom of taking control of one’s own happiness, of “doing” rather than remaining in a “rut.” Throughout the episode she serves as the avatar for people reevaluating their priorities and giving more thought to their own happiness and their place in the greater good of both family and the world.

Are happiness and fulfillment the same thing? House suggests that his staff are there not because what they do makes them happy, but because either their jobs make them feel good — or they have no other choice. Or, in 13’s case, it’s a chance to find meaning before Huntington’s kills her. “Are you happy to be here?” asks Kutner of House. All is relative, and although House is a fundamentally unhappy person, his job does something for him. Whether you call that happiness, fulfillment, or meaning doesn’t really matter. To House, it’s who he is — and something that defines him without it being “about the leg.”

But House also says that everyone acts in their own self-interest; no one acts purely out of the “greater good.” When the two intersect, fine. But it’s not what motivates people.

Her message resonates deeply, especially for Taub and Wilson: Wilson, because he cannot move past Amber’s death, still living in her flat and refusing to wash her coffee cup, still stained with her lipstick. I would venture that Wilson has never revealed this to House, nor would he, fearing that House would simply mock him, then give him a good dose of needed but bitter-tasting medicine.

Working for House, Taub feels fulfilled and that he’s “helping” people – to a much greater extent than when he did tummy tucks and nose-jobs. My guess is that he feels more alive than he has in years — and Dr. Miller’s push has also got him thinking about an agreement he made with his wife never to have children. Is he happy without children? Was it the right decision, and for whom? And his wife now wonders now if Taub’s serial affairs are due to resentment.

Even those who do not directly intersect with Dr. Miller are finding themselves at crossroads, intertwined with significant others and circumstance, wondering “what’s next?” This is, interestingly enough, an apt theme for any series' 100th episode.

Cuddy has reluctantly returned to work and sits in her office, watching baby Rachel on her computer through a webcam. Innocently, as she has sabotaged House in a particularly cruel and physical way.

Using Blue The Janitor (previously mentioned in season four’s “Ugly”), she first hangs “out of service” notices on the elevators, causing the disabled House to use the stairs. (Hugh Laurie does a phenomenal job of showing just how difficult and humiliating it is for the fiercely proud House to haul himself up the hospital stairs.) By the time he reaches his office, House is out of breath and exhausted, checking his racing pulse and badly in need of his pain meds. Next, Cuddy plants a tripwire at the House’s office door, causing him to fall and skin his knee. She steals his cane, and finally she has his heat and water turned off.

All of these actions are for pure vengeance and mean-spirited; both Wilson and Cuddy assume that House is going to strike back. But he doesn’t. Explaining to Wilson while tending to his bleeding knee that he simply wants things to return to “normal” between them, he is willing to let Cuddy “punch herself out.” She needs to take her revenge, and I’m guessing that a big part of him thinks she’s justified to be upset. He even goes so far as to rationalize for her that working moms are better moms; happier moms.

I am not, by the way, justifying Cuddy’s actions; neither does Wilson, who calls her on causing him actual physical pain — and the fact that she’s actually happier being back at work than being a stay-at-home mommy. In a sense, Cuddy being back at work also serves a greater good: she can enable House to better and more effectively do his job (knowing when to trust his judgment and when to question it), thereby helping the hospital and serving the greater breadth of humanity (okay, so I won’t quite go that far!). But I will say that she – and her child – will be happier for her staying fulfilled and satisfied in her job as administrator and as House-minder. House, himself, simply wants things to go back to the way they were before baby (maybe even before kiss).

I actually loved House in this episode, taking an interest in Foreman and 13’s medical and ethical issues. Foreman, who has potentially ruined a promising clinical study by switching 13 from the placebo to the real stuff, now faces a huge problem. 13 has begun to show serious side effects from the drug, including vision loss. Having risked both his career and the “greater good” of the clinical trial for his own interest in helping 13, he now finds himself in the position of going to the drug company and sacrificing himself to save 13’s life.

House advises Foreman not to go to the drug company because by reporting his screwing up the trial, he loses his license, which he’ll need if 13 is really in trouble. He advises them to wait and see if taking her off the drug will reverse the effects.

House tells Foreman that “you did it because you love her; ironically you never took her into consideration.” I think this is an incredibly important reveal for House to make to Foreman. House has often said that everyone does what they think right.  But “right” for whom? Like Foreman, Stacy, too, did something she thought would save the life of someone she loved (House). She did it no matter the personal sacrifice, knowing that her very action would kill their relationship once House discovered the deception. Both Stacy and Foreman are (I think) guilty of what I would call selfish selflessness.

Is Taub, too, guilty of selfless selfishness (try saying that 10 times, fast)? He gave up on the notion of having children to win and keep the love of a woman that he’s cheated on time after time. He wants her love, but does he resent her?

Taub, Cuddy, Wilson, Foreman — martyrs in one way or another, all. For some notion of a “greater good:” to preserve a memory, a life, a marriage, for the sake of motherhood.

To me, the only down part of an excellent exploration was the lack of House in the final sequence of the episode. I always think that the final scenes have to involve House somehow, and that’s now two episodes in the last several where he’s been missing. But I got it. The final sequence dealt with people changing, reevaluating, and moving on. Trying to make peace and move past the things that have gotten them into a rut or into trouble. House has gotten his resolution. Allowing Cuddy to do what she needed to do (despite the physical pain it caused) was something he viewed as necessary to get things back into balance. And by the ending sequence, he and Cuddy have found that balance again. But I did miss him.

Yes. I know. Chase and Cameron were MIA. I don’t think they were necessary to the story and did not miss them. I like them. But I did not miss them.

Next week, “Unfaithful.” Stay tuned.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her debut novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse comes out October 11 from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • You always do this awesome reviews, thank you. Actually I barely watched this week episode only a few parts but was great to think we reach 100 episodes and we still love this show and it get even better which season.

    I didn’t miss Cameron and Chase either.

  • Sera G

    Hello, Barbara,
    Again, another beautifully articulated review.
    I liked this episode more than I thought I would.
    I dreaded the pranks that Cuddy played. They were mean spirited. I am glad that Wilson called her on them; however, I think they were as much about Cuddy/House’s relationship (or lack there of) as about the baby. To me, she was getting back at him for stepping back from what she thought were tentative steps to the “thing” between them. Maybe that is me, because I really do love what they share; fights, flirts, whatever.
    I was glad House didn’t retaliate, I agree with you, that maybe he felt Cuddy was justified, or maybe he just wanted the cold war to end.
    Wilson broke my heart. I could completely understand not washing the mug with Amber’s lipstick. Of course, it isn’t healthy to stay that ‘enshrined’ to her memory, but I could understand it.
    The Taub/wife storyline certainly adds nuance to his affairs. He seems to flirt with suicide in many forms; literally when in med school and emotionally with his marriage.
    For the first time I cared about Foreman/13. I don’t dislike either of them; (like him more than her) but again, his choices were believable. What would YOU do if you could possibly save the life of the woman you love? Let her die or give her the chance for a cure or more time.
    Petty, petty, petty: what was the deal with the huge space in between them in bed? This is a hot, new love affair? They should have been glued to each other.
    The cancer researchers decision prompted a spirited debate at work. I would never survive the guilt of her decision to quit potentially life saving work, but I could empathize with her choice.
    All in all, a fine 42 minutes.
    Sorry I went on so long, thanks for reading.

  • Orange450

    Barbara, thank you for a wonderful review. This week, I enjoyed your article more than the episode. It wasn’t that I was expecting anything specially prepared for the 100th episode, but this one fell a little flat for me.

    The main theme presented a set of important issues – certainly well worth exploring and discussing. But given that these issues do get explored and discussed in so many venues, I felt like the episode didn’t reveal anything particularly new about them, and I found the treatment a little heavy-handed. I’ve been having that problem with too many episodes recently, and I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s the show or whether it’s me.

    I did love the way House dealt with Foreman and 13 – brought back the classic House for me. Foreman and 13 touched me again this week – I felt the pathos of their respective situations, and I thought their emotions rang very true.

    I noticed that both House and 13 spent time tending to bleeding, skinned knees, caused by people important to them, and I wondered if there was any significance to that.

    Regarding House’s position that Cuddy will be more fulfilled at work – it would have been reasonable (I know – it’s House I’m talking about) to give her just a *little* time at home in peace, first. I don’t think she ever planned to quit her position entirely, and House acted selfishly in denying her that to her. It probably would have been for the greater good of the hospital had he left her alone for a short while. After all – back in “Alone”, he spent two weeks without a team, mastering Eddie Van Halen’s two-handed arpeggio technique – and Cuddy let *him* have the time to adjust to his new situation.

  • Grace

    Whatever was suppose to be so good in this episode, I missed it.
    I couldn’t care less if Taub wants a baby.
    I couldn’t care less about 13 or Foreteen.
    The only part I liked was Wilson talking to the POTW and then going home and washing Amber’s cup.
    I want House and clinic duty back!!!!!!!
    I want 13 to DIE!!!!!!
    Barbara, would you explain “selfless selfishness” means? I’ve got some kind of mental block about it obviously. Thanks!

  • Sheelagh

    So good to see your review up Barbara with all you have going on at home ! You must be a terrific multi-tasker.
    Although I liked the underlying theme of this episode, I felt, on the whole that it was poorly . I loved RSL’s scenes. I was unhappy with the over the top behavior by Cuddy which I felt was inconsistent with her character to date, but then you do have to cut some dramatic slack with this show. Occasionally they expect too much of a suspension of belief on the viewer’s part. I was disappointed by the melodramatic storyline that continues to swirl around Thirteen.

    She’s blind ! No, wait ! She can see !
    She has a brain tumor ! No wait ! it’s gone!

    It really did feel like the afternoon soaps.
    The writing on House use to be tight, sharp & witty. I believe this particular writer also penned ‘Spin’ which was another episode that I found very uneven and even vacuous.

    I love any scene with Hugh Laurie in it,although during this season I’ve been acutely aware when he has struggled to carry scenes with Omar Epps & Olivia Wilde. They really aren’t on the same planet as Hugh far a talent goes & it wrecks the scene for me.
    I wish the pivotal scenes about being in a rut & happiness vs service had been between Wilson and House. That would have carried an emotional punch and relevance to the Season. I wonder why did they brought RSL back just to use him as a 15 sec Yenta for most of the Season ? And , by the way, his quiet scene trying to decide and then finally washing Amber’s coffee cup, was the highlight of the episode for me. I also kept a small hand mirror of my Mum’s for years with her finger prints and a smudge of her lipstick on it. it made her still seem corporeal.He nailed the emotions of hanging on & letting go.

    However, it still feels jammed up there on the screen with too many characters using their elbows for time that should go to the ‘Holy Trinity’ of House MD: House/Wilson/Cuddy. I could stand a bit more focus on Kutner, a character played by a young actor who seems to have the talent to hold his own with Hugh Laurie. I realize that the dye is cast for this Season, but I will live in hope that Season Six sees the end of Thirteen, Traub and in the best of all worlds, Foreman as well. I think he’s exhausted his two expressions: the ‘Scowl’ and the “Eyebrow Arch’. Just give me a scene with Hugh Laurie as House ‘thinking’, and I’m one happy viewer.

  • Devin Rice

    I liked this episode a lot. I just wished some of the issues with the patient of the week were better addressed. POTW advocated a form of selfishness which I disagree with but she argued it in a way that was very persuasive. There was no real counter debate to her point though, Wilson, Kutner and 13 showed antipathy to her behavior but didn’t have any teeth and their arguments were shut down almost instantly. This debate would have been more interestingly although it was played out a bit in the 13/Foreman story line.

  • Mrs Jane

    Sheelagh, I’m with you 100%! I am (very) disappointed by the soapy “see-can’t see” lines and I missed a confrontation between the POTW and House, that would’ve been interesting.

    “I think he’s exhausted his two expressions: the ‘Scowl’ and the “Eyebrow Arch’.” – hilarious!!

  • Buds

    As mentioned by Sheelagh, its great to see your episode review up so soon with all the great things going on in your life now. Is someone a super-mom or what?

    This episode had it’s highs and lows for me.

    The Highs –
    * Cuddy’s pranks on House were very cruel but hilarious none the less. It reminded me of what Cuddy said about House to Wilson in “Finding Judas” from season 3 – “when he (House) wants to hurt he knows just where to poke a sharp stick”. Cuddy knows what House’s weak point is and for once doesn’t hold herself back when seeking revenge. Considering the way House has been treating her all season, I say she has earned it.
    * Taub’s relationship with his wife was explained a little bit more, which was interesting.
    * Wilson’s scenes with the POTW were very insightful. Did anyone realize that it was House who brought the two together when he “forgot” his patient file in the clinic room? House wanted Wilson to talk to her and (I think) realize that he was in a rut, which he needed to get out of. Looks like “Rationalization-man” was played from the start.
    * 13 falling sick, then going blind, and then having a tumor. I was actually cheering when they found her tumor, thinking the 13 torture would finally be over.
    * Wilson’s scene right at the end of the episode was done so beautifully. BB, I do agree with you that episodes should end with House in the last scene, but this scene was worth making an exception.

    The Lows –
    * Still no clinic patients.
    * I didn’t like how the POTW was completely forgotten about in the middle of the episode with everyone suddenly running around 13-14.
    * 13 survived. It would have been so nice if it had just ended there for 13 in one episode.
    * 13-14 relationship. 13 said it herself, they’ve just been going out for 2 weeks and Foreman (one of the most selfish, self-centered, and egotistical characters in the show) is ready to sacrifice his career and way of life for her… no way! Did someone somehow transfer Cameron into Foreman’s body? Please don’t tell me that this is going to be a recurring theme from now on, one of the doctors falls in love with someone who dies by the end of the season. Although I loved last season’s Wilson-Amber relationship, the 13-14 one is a much less believable, more forced, and more watered down version of the same, even including the eventual death of one of the characters (which I expect and hope will happen soon).

  • Nate

    Hi Barbara,
    I am trying to find a parallel between house and wilson on their stunted growth. Wilson may act together, and grown up, but I think the reason he and House are such good friends is because in their own way they are the same person. Even though House doesn’t necessarily wear his heart on his sleeve, he does wear something on his sleeve. He wears a guard to cover his heart, a guard covered in sarcasm, deflection, and an apparent kid like quality.
    I’m gonna go back to season 2, with that beautiful scene where House realizes that Stacy is better off without him. I think Wilson gets so upset at the end, because he thinks maybe if House –seemingly the most miserable person alive– can find real love, maybe he can. Some may disagree, but there is a reason that Wilson has had so many failed relationships. He tries his wives on like clothing, but then decides he’s in the mood for something else.
    No matter how much House deflects his feelings toward people, I think emotionally he is farther along than Wilson. Assuming House had been able to be with Stacy, had she died, I don’t think he would have left a cup with her lipstick stain sitting alone on the counter. I don’t think he would’ve let her be his only life force.
    Wilson knew Amber for months, but her death is so profound, because finally he found something real. He found someone he wore, who he didn’t want to change. Someone he loved without question (as far as we know at least).
    And this makes me wonder if House ever had something real with Stacy. I know he did love her, and she did him, but was it real? I think more than anything, House loves his life of loneliness. I think at times he wants a glimpse of life with someone, but soon finds it’s not for him. To be with someone is to be open, and completely vulnerable.
    I’m not sure he’d be able to be completely open. As you notices in the episode Painless, he is ashamed to show pain even in the loneliness of his own home. He hates himself because the image he wants to see is someone likeable, someone healthy, and accepted by his peers. But, House knows he’ll never get that, and has embraced his survival mechanism. The only person he knows –if anyone– is himself.
    He has to wake up daily, face the mirror, and look at his permanent disability. Every morning he has to wash his body, and look at that deep, scar that used to be a thigh. He has to pop his pills, and stare up into the sky, almost seeming to ask God “why me?” House claims not to believe, but he must wonder. If he didn’t wonder, he wouldn’t keep testing his limits, he wouldn’t keep searching for something.
    More than anything, he wants a reason. He wants to leave his ironic life, and step into normality. The beginning of season three really shows you I think what House is on the inside. When his leg was better, he no longer saw himself as a cripple, and was able to identify with the patient. He even wanted to help just so he could help. It was no longer about the puzzle.
    This is not to say House still wouldn’t be sarcastic, and deflect, but I think he would be able to find love. It’s not his disability that defines him to people, but it is what he sees himself as. That is why I think he’ll never find someone for more than temporary time. He and Cuddy may become an item, but eventually his self loathing will breed resentment, and he’ll push her away. He’ll say something insensitive one too many times, and it’ll end.
    Now Wilson on the other hand, he is more of a heart on the sleeve kind of guy. He is sure Amber was the one, but he doesn’t know if she was. For all he knew, she would have become another piece of fabric he grew tired of wearing.
    I think House and Wilson are best friends, because –in a completely heterosexual way– they love each other. They are the other someone that no one else can be. Because, they are the same person. If Wilson wanted, he could be a jerk, but he doesn’t have a justifiable reason. People can’t say, “Wilson is a jerk because of his leg.” not like they can House. Pretty much House has a license to insult, but a license I think he would give up in a heartbeat.
    I believe Wilson wouldn’t tell House about the cup because he sees some strength in House he wishes he could find. Wilson is –in his own way– more miserable than House. He clenches onto the past, and happiness. He grieves loss, fearing he’ll never find that feeling again.
    House grieves too, but in his own way. But, had he been in Wilson’s position, and put in the same scenario, I think House would have washed the glass as soon as he got home from the funeral. One thing we’ve learned about him is he has hope for the future. Maybe not for himself, but for others.
    In Wilson’s Heart, house easily could have stayed on the bus, he could have died, but knew that maybe his life had an impact on others. Deep down he knows that Cuddy, Wilson, and the team (not as much though) care for him. He’s just scared to open up.
    In this episode, The Greater Good, we saw him step out some. In any other previous season, had Cuddy hurt him, he would have retaliated, but not this time. This time House is trying a different approach. Instead of trying to scare her away, I think he is subtly inviting her into his life. Even more so than he did Stacy. The real reason Stacy and House never worked after his leg wasn’t his resentment, but his shame.
    In many ways she watched him be stripped of his manhood, castrated metaphorically. I assume Stacy was probably the only person who saw House whimper, and cry from pain. From what we’ve learned of him, do you think it was his resentment toward her, or his shame?

  • I love this blog and the great comments. Thanks Barbara. I too didn’t notice Chase and Cameron’s absence but I am also very glad to see them every time they appear. They offer a warmth of intimacy that is generally missing in House’s world. I think that may be why Shore kept them on, for the intimacy they can inject in a 2 minute scene, so he can develop the ‘new’ team in a more unemotional atmosphere, never even trying to form a similar bond with the new team. The newbies weren’t meant to be at home or set down roots and will be moving on like others before them. During the past one and a half years, Chase and Cameron are what passes for part of House’s permanent inner circle. They no longer must interact with him but choose to freely.

    I didn’t mind the ‘Revenge of Cuddy’ because it never rang true for me. It was character manipulation. Only House gets to overreact in such an outrageous and unforgivable fashion! (-: Seriously, it was a loose fit for her character. It reminded me of how ‘over the top’ she was in “Let Them Eat Cake”, where I also felt the hand of the writers forcing me to reassess Cuddy. So, she can be as out of control, but in a precise way, as House? Intense emotions are at play for Cuddy but House has disqualified those so she must resort to physical messages?

    (My message to Cuddy)
    Cuddy, you should go to plan C for your life strategy, as House suggests, and find yourself a nice Dr. Seuss who would treasure you and Rachel. Has there been a casting call for such an actor?

    I’d like Cuddy to have her own ‘Amber’ just once. Maybe after she and House do the deed she can finally move on to Dr. Seuss. But what she wants right now is to share her joy over Rachel with House. (Bad Choice) He’s not having any so I’m starting to feel ever increasing twinges of pity for them both and Wilson.

    Wilson has taken a small step away from the safety of his lost love. It seems the memory of Amber has been comforting him like an imaginary best friend. This sub-plot of Wilson’s reminds me of a sweet and crazy film written and directed by the romance maestro, Anthony Minghella, called “Truly Madly Deeply”. In this film, the protagonist is never more alive than when she is together with her long dead (5 years) imaginary lover. Talk about bad choices!

    Funny moments…

    House: Worst period ever but not by that much. (referring to the patient of the week and Cuddy’s revenge, respectively)

    Cuddy: What the hell’s wrong with you?!
    (It was all in Lisa’s line delivery and the obvious audience perspective, “What isn’t wrong with him?”)

  • Taub nailed in one phrase for me, thankyouverymuch:

    “Kutner: What’s going on with everyone today?
    Taub: It involves House, Foreman, and Thirteen, which mean it’s either dumb, dangerous, or tragic, or a combination. I’m embracing my ignorance”.

    I don’t want dumb, dangerous (ok, dangerous maybe a little) and tragic. I want the house-ian way: smart/witty, risky and angsty.

    I couldn’t agree more with your observation about House being the end (and beginning) of every episode (i’ve said it before in a comment in this very blog).
    Once again, Wilson and Cuddy were priceless (i loved his last scene) and they still NEVER dominate the main story with their storyline (hear that, 14?).

    All the best for you and your family Barbara!!

  • barbara barnett

    Nice to wake up to all of these fine comments. Thanks to everyone for your well-wishes. Much appreciated.

    I absolutely didn’t mind that wilson was the final shot, I didn’t like House’s absence from the entire closing sequence. The only time I can remember that happening was in Finding Judas. House disappeared after punching out Chase.

    j.i.m. you’re right about House’s “worst period ever” comment obliquely referring to Cuddy. I missed that, but I think you’re correct!

    I, too, love Chase and Cameron and enjoy them when they are there, but didn’t miss them. I think that’s true for any of the characters. (Well, most of them, anyway.) Personally, I could watch an hour of House just in the clinic and an occasional interpretive “dance” from Cuddy or Wilson and I’d been fine.

    Nate–I think that there is a huge amount of darkness in Wilson. Something has to have driven him to have been married three times in not such a long time. What makes him latch on to House. Is it his ability to have fun despite his own angst? His devil-may-care attitude that respectability won’t allow in Wilson? Is it that he has power over House that he hasn’t in anyone else? Or is it that House is NEEDY–and only that?

    Much of what you say also rings true about House and Wilson. I think with Amber, Wilson finally found what House had with Stacy. Real, visceral love. Undying love that not even betrayal could kill. I think that’s why Wilson was so angry with House–that he couldn’t take a chance on having it again with Stacy–or more recently with Cuddy. Unlike Wilson, I think is wary about falling in love–so avoids making himself vulnerable. but when he does fall in love or begin to care about someone, it’s not something he can easily dismiss (try though he might to deny it.)

    I’m wondering, Buds, and everyone, if for Foreman this thing with 13 is so different for him and so intense (and maybe the very first time), so he’s acting unbelievably. He’s like a teenage boy with his first love. Totally irrational. It’s interesting that House feels responsible for what’s happened to 13, confessing to her that he suggested that Foreman “change the meds” if he loved her. House, too acts from emotion when he cares. Logic and rationality escape him,which is why he works so hard to distance himself from patients, friends and colleagues.

    Grace–What I meant by a selfless selfishness was a sort of “being a martyr” that a person who is doing something “for someone else” while denying themselves…is actually acting in their own self-interest rather than in “the greater good.” Wilson is a good example. He wallows in being needed, and complains about House–but if House would suddenly become not needy, Wilson would become bereft. Not explaining it really well, but do you get the drift?

  • sandra

    I still can’t get over how some people actually think Cuddy’s “pranks” (imo it was more like torture) were funny. Sure, she was mad, I’d be too after all, but I’ve expected more from her. Does she really have to pay back on a kindergarten level? I don’t think so. It’s a House thing to do but Cuddy’s way to grown up for such drastic measures. My suggestion for Cuddy: Wilson is your perfect match, he’s understanding, he’s caring, he likes your kid – go for him!
    As for Cameron’s and Chase’s absence. For the storyline (which I think was rather lame for such a “special” episode) their absence was not that bad (although I miss them a lot), but considering we’re talking about the 100th episode and considering these two contributed so much to the show’s success it still is not okay they were not in it. In general I think j.i.m hit the nail on the head with the lovely words about Chase and Cameron. “During the past one and a half years, Chase and Cameron are what passes for part of House’s permanent inner circle. They no longer must interact with him but choose to freely.” They are really more and more on the same level as Cuddy and Wilson and no longer just his underlings and students. Love this development!
    Anyway, that were my 2 cents on the episode, I should really go back to work now 😉
    Thanks for the review, Barbara, although I’m not agreeing with you 100%, I still like to hear/read other people’s thoughts.

  • Alessandra

    Hi to all.
    Ok, I finally figured out why -IMO- neither House or Cuddy have been shown in the closing credits.
    I think this is because in this episode everyone is stuck somewhere in their lives and can’t take the next step. Wilson, Taub, 14, House and Cuddy. But while the others can finally climb the wall and see a brand new day (also the title of the closing beautiful song by Joshua Radin), H&C go simply -and painfully- back to how things were before. Before the baby, before the kiss, before the little dirty revenge Cuddy built to make House suffer.
    This is a positive episode for all the characters, except House and Cuddy. They are stuck and instead of moving forward, instead of climbing the wall to watch the sunrise, they return where they came from. So that they can’t be in the closing scenes, because their brand new day hasn’t come yet, and it maybe will never come (and I say this with a true sadness for the two of them).
    Well, maybe I’m just over thinking the whole thing, but there must be a reason to their absence from the closing scene, and for me the reason is this. Bye from Italy, Alessandra

  • Eve K

    The Greater good of House

    Thanx for a great review of the episode and overview of the series so far. Interesting comments as usual.

    This time I am in a personal and analytical state, so skip this comment if you want input on just this episode.

    Millions of fans including me has watched a 100 episodes of House – why? Does the show give us something more besides Hughs eminent work?

    I went trough my “House-journey” and found out that I started to watch the show in January 2008, a year ago.

    The first episode I saw was “Euphoria part 1” and I didn’t really like it that much. But for some reason I bought season two. And then season one and season three. By march I had watched every episode and was up to date on season four via web. Yikes. To wait a whole week for a new episode!

    Why did I get hooked? A very good friend (not unlike House in many ways) recommended it. But also, my father had recently died and I was greatly upset by the way the hospital treated him. He had Waldenstroms (a rare type of blood cancer) and his last weeks was like a bizarro episode of House. He had seizures, but only the family seemed to care. He obviously had some other problem than the Waldenstrom (It is not necessarily a terminal form of cancer) but the doctors seemed to mean “he is going to die anyway so why bother find out whats wrong”. So they wanted to take him of blood supply because they needed the room for another patient. To take a bloodcancer-patient of blood supply is a death sentence. In the end he died of liver-failure due to massive pain-medication.

    After that experience It was – and still is – therapy to watch doctors who actually care about finding out what wrong with the patient. Care about it more than anything else.

    Its like “without a trace” where FBI actually cares if someone disappears. In real life? Not so much…

    “The greater good” is about selfishness and selflessness. But also about priorities.

    My doctor friends love House. I think its a doctors doctor show. The creators use a lot of time and effort to make it real. But also my doctor friends all tells me that in a real hospital, they dont take that many tests, they dont have all that time.

    The good people over at House already stated that the side effects of the show is unexpected. Illnesses as Lupus or other not well known diseases has got attention because of the show.(Even Waldentroms disease was in one episode)

    But mainly -I think and hope that “House” may influence real hospitals and the way they work. Because they could really use more efficiency and co-operation between departments. A test could take 1 day or 1 week. Life or death to some. An operation could be scheduled for 2 weeks or three months. Plus because of House world wide success, the health insurance system may be taken under evaluation.

    So – TPTB – dont underestimate this greater good – and do not turn into a soap just yet!

  • blacktop

    Barbara, thanks for another sterling review and for prompting all the good comments here. I liked this episode much more than I expected to.

    Cuddy’s mean pranks did not offend me as much as I had imagined they would and did not seem out of character for her. I saw her as someone suffering an emotional breakdown in this episode after a prolonged period of stress. Cuddy is someone who likes and expects to be in control, of her life, her hospital, her emotions. With the loss of Joy, the kiss with House, the rejection by House, the sudden arrival of a new baby and her forced return to work everything is out of control and she hates it. That she is still considering whether to give up fostering Rachel is the guilty secret that makes her even more overwrought, I believe.

    Cuddy lashes out at House in a way that is personal/physical rather than professional as she did with the office pranks in “Let Them Eat Cake.” The extremity of her tricks lets us (and House) know that she has fallen over the edge and needs to pull herself back out of the ravine. He recognizes that her cruelty stems from anger, frustration and chaotic guilt. House wisely allows her to use him as a punching bag so that she can vent her anger and get back to “normal.” The reconciliation they reach at the end of the episode is particularly satisfying and sets this couple off on a new direction.

    I enjoyed House playing antic Cupid for Foreman and Thirteen. He clearly sees parallels in both young doctors to various aspects of his own character and life condition. The discussions with Foreman in “Big Baby” and now in “Greater Good” about the role of sacrifice in love are among the most revealing we have ever had from House. I know that most fans don’t like Foreman, but since House is so clearly invested in him and his various ethical and personal problems, I am too. I like the way the two characters play off one another and I learn the most about House from any scene he has with Foreman, which has been true for the five seasons of the show.

    Wilson was love again this episode as he struggled to get out of the Amber tragedy and I am continuing to enjoy getting to know more about Taub. His underlying sorrow and delivery of acid-tongued quips have been nicely developed into an intriguing character by Peter Jacobson.

  • Wnkybx

    I have to admit that I did not like this episode. I felt very distant from House because the writers spent too much time on the supporting cast and not enough time linking the patient of the week with House’s character. I hope that other writers will steer the show back on track soon.

    To me, the pivotal line in the episode was when House mentioned to Foreman that he didn’t consider what 13 would have wanted. This is a fundamental ethical principle in formulating a treatment plan (or choosing not to treat). The patient is supposed to have autonomy in decision making. Foreman messed up as a doctor in this respect. But also, House’s comment may shed light on why he hasn’t jumped into a relationship with Cuddy. He is considering what she would ultimately want, and he, having insight into himself, may be hesitant if he is not willing to offer her everything she wants. Whether he’s deluding himself, that remains to be seen.

    Great comments from all; thanks for the review, Barbara.

  • Wnkybx

    Just to clarify: In terms of ethics, I wasn’t speaking specifically about clinical trials. I was speaking about the medical ethics principle of patient autonomy that applies to all mentally competent people being treated by a doctor in a non-trial setting. In trials, this principle is at odds with the need for double-blind methodology, so you have to sign a huge waiver and informed consent packet absolving the hospital of liability as long as protocol is followed.

    I do believe that House’s comment was multi-layered, ranging from medical ethics down to what you should do when you love someone else.

  • Kyrpio

    Great Review as ever…

    I’ve not much to add, except to say to first Sandra – the pranks weren’t amusing, they were as cruel as Cuddy can get. However, the direction and execution was priceless. House standing up, and his cane has disappeared from right above his head, for example. The tricks are sadistic – but as Buds (I believe) pointed out, they mirror the cruelest thing House ever said to her (“This is why you can’t have kids, because you suck at being a mother”). House lately has been playing these emotions, House is now pulling her away from Rachel and making her into her vision of a bad mother (her vision only – I see nothing wrong in a working mother). Who are we to say she has to be rational!!

    Also – to support a theme on this page – Wilson’s moments were beautiful. I would have preferred He and House to take the theme of for the greater good than to concentrate on 14. ‘I can see’ is possibly the worst acted line ever broadcast by the House team, and definitely the worst written.

  • Kyrpio

    One more thing – I was very excited to see the Clinic room in action, and cannot wait to see some patients in it again!!

  • Luisa Borges


    Great review Barbara and great comments everyone. So good to read all insights and different takes on this episode.

    I liked this episode a lot. Liked the POTW and her story, It showed the the road to personal happiness is often a lonely one. What makes as happy is an individual thing, a personal concept, that may not make sense to those around us.

    The way Wilson responded to her story and his own story in this chapter was something I really liked. Wilson needs his own Wilson, to vent his frustrations and fears. As much as he is friends with House those intimate feelings are something that I think he doesn´t share. Also I think his constant meddling into House and Cuddy´s personal issues is a way to deflect him from his own. So in a way the POTW acted as his Wilson.

    Also liked Cuddy and House´s interactions. She was not that unhappy back at work and I think her whole antics were more a way to get House´s attention and involve him in her new baby. The way she called him over her laptop screen to see Rachel, she shows all signs of wanting him involved. And he is more involved than I expected him to be.

    There was some chivalry in his action of “taking it” from her, he knows that he inflicts her pain sometimes with his comments and his attitude do “ride it out” showed a lot to me.

    Their last talk was extra great. I liked knowing his nickname for his cane, and a great one at that, he is a funny man. He is still in synch with Cuddy´s moods and changes and that was also fun to see, as well as that fact that she read him (his actions) in the end. The look on her face was worth a thousand words.

    Great acting by Hugh in this episode, the physicality of it all. He was just perfect. Lisa was also great in her take on enraged Cuddy.

    Also liked, Kutner, his “cut the crap” attitude also a plus to me (also present in the last episode I might add).

    Foreteen present some interesting issues, mainly of the fast pace of love issues. Remembered Foreman as being commitment phobic not so long ago. But I like Thirteen, more so in her former cutthroat bitch reborn mood, I loved her zesty one liners. And, I liked House´s take on love and their relationship, his take on “not taking her into account” was priceless.

    Taub´s issues have yet to grab my attention. I find his wife such a liveless sort so maybe that is my problem with it. But I like the implications of them, could be something interesting to watch develop.

    And yes, I did toast the episode with a glass of champagne. House´s 100th deserves all the praise worthy of this huge feat.

  • Sue


    I think this was one of your better reviews, and it exceeded the episode in execution. What you wrote brought out the essence of the episode better than the actual show did.

    Nate, what a wonderful evaluation of the House-Wilson relationship! That was well thought-out and well written.

    The episode was too crowded with story lines, as the last few episodes have been. There has been too much 13 by herself and it has not led up to 14 well. When you don’t care about a character, and then all of a sudden that character is paired up with a character who mopes all the time, the end result is a boring story that was weak in execution. The only redeeming things about this story was what was revealed about House himself and about his feelings for Foreman.

    As much as Foreman has tried to separate himself from House and not turn into him, House still has an emotional connection to Foreman and wants him to stay around. He did not cast Foreman from the fold like he did to Chase. I don’t think he wants Foreman around just because he is not ready to be on his own. I think there is a genuine emotional connection between the two of them. House expressed it in Human Error, and Foreman turned his back on him. This time, when Foreman was needy, House went out of his way to help him, even admitting to 13 that he has an emotional vulnerability when it comes to loving someone. House revealed a side of himself to someone who is constantly antagonistic to him for the Greater Good. House has no emotional connection to any of the new ducklings, he has no Stacy, he is keeping Cuddy at a distance, so he only has Wilson and Foreman. Foreman accepts House as he is and doesn’t try to change him.

    I know people will not agree with me, but Hugh needs to step up his presentation of House. He has become rather bland, lacking any of the charm and humor he used to have. That is part of what I found appealing about the character. House is all angst now, all the time. It overtakes the characterization, and makes him bland. It is my opinion that the reason many of the episodes this season have not been well-accepted is because House the character is not as compelling as he used to be. I don’t care how he is supposed to be introspective this season, or about all of what he has gone through. He has to remain appealing whatever is happening in his life. The reason so many people enjoy earlier seasons is because of how appealing the main character was.

    There are too many story lines going on, and all are suffering. There should have been a conversation between House and the patient about her decision to change her career goals. That would have been the moral and ethical debate in the episode. The focus has shifted from the patient being the generator of ethical and moral issues to peripheral characters taking on that role. Remember Informed Consent? Euthanasia, putting a patient in a coma without consent, medical research for the Greater Good? Great interaction between House and the patient? That is what made the episodes great. Now, we get drawn out story lines about 13 and her disease for 13 episodes before the moral and ethical issues are wrapped up neatly in one episode. How many times, after boring DDX scenes, does House ride in on his white horse and give the diagnosis after an epiphany? House has been too separated from the patients.

    I know the ratings are good, but from what I read here and on other message boards, satisfaction with the show is down. House is surviving on fumes from what it used to be. If they are trying to give Hugh a break from his long work hours, they have to give us better peripheral characters than 13, Taub and Kutner. Cuddy and Wilson are the only recognizable characters to me from seasons 1-3. They have stripped the life out of House, Foreman, Chase and Cameron. They are robotic compared to how he used to be.

    The way they had Cuddy exact her revenge was out of character for her, and it was stupid. They are trying so hard to keep them apart, they are reducing this relationship to childish pranks. I don’t find that good storytelling.

    Unfortunately, from what I have seen so far this season, I don’t have any expectation of the show returning to its former glory. My only hope is that Fox’s interest in word-for-word comments on each episode will result in improvements to the show. If anyone is interested, go to the official House website and look for “Episode Feedback” and then the name of the episode on the House message board. The site has links to Barbara’s well-respected reviews on this site. But, at least comments will be read by someone with influence. We already know that David Shore and Katie Jacobs don’t care what viewers think.

  • barbara barnett

    Interrupting the conversation for breaking news: House will not be seen on Monday at its usual time due to Obama address. It will resume as scheduled on Monday Feb 16

  • Orange450

    Barbara – much as I love House, I have to admit that President Obama’s address is certainly a more valid reason to preempt than American Idol. I’m looking forward to hear him.

    When you say “resume as scheduled” – does that mean Fox will pick up with “Unfaithful” on 2/16?

  • It’s so fun to read these comments and see the show from a myriad of valid perspectives. Further, each post holds nuggets well worth the read. Thank you.

  • Anthony

    Hi Barbara!

    I’ve never commented before but I’ve just recently began reading your blog and I absolutely love it. Your insight into the minds of House and his colleagues is remarkable.

    This isn’t related to this specific episode exactly, but I wasn’t sure where else to put it. But yeah, the end scene with Wilson reminded me of this question I’ve had and I’d love your opinion. Do you ever think that Wilson and Cuddy could move into a real, serious, adult romantic relationship? It seems like Wilson is finally moving on from Amber and although Cuddy is currently really involved with House right now, I don’t think there is a permanent future between the two (I think House is too damaged and too far set in his own ways now to ever change). I believe Wilson and Cuddy both deserve that significant other happiness, and I think they’d be perfect for each other. I think Cuddy is very much like Amber in the fact that she knows what she wants career wise (I think Amber’s line from Season 4 about always having to choose between love and respect could apply to Cuddy as well) and I think Wilson has grown up a lot since his relationship with Amber to truly be a good boyfriend/husband figure if he meets the right woman. And judging from the way Wilson is around Cuddy and her baby, he could make a very good boyfriend/daddy figure.

    Do you think it’s at all possible for something more to develop with them? Or do you think they would never try because House would have a problem with it? Or what?

    Looking forward to your next column!

  • barbara barnett

    Anthony! Welcome. Glad you took the time to post a comment and that you’ve found my little corner of the internet. You pose an excellent question. I could see that happening–if it were not for House. Now that Wilson knows House’s deep feelings for Cuddy, I don’t think that Wilson would go there. I think no matter what happens bet. House and Cuddy, House would be quietly and deeply hurt if Wilson put the moves on Cuddy. I also think he would get pretty protective of her, given W’s track record.

    maybe at the very, very end of the series. If it ends tragically for House, maybe…. But good food for thought.

    By the way, everyone. I’m running a completely self-interested poll over on my personal site (click my by-line at the top of the article.)

  • Sheelagh

    Barbara, do you know who the writers are for the (sadly delayed) next episode ‘Unfaithful’. I’ve seen some preview clips and the dialogue seems really tight and smart. Is it a newbie or one of the House MD ‘faithful’ ?
    Also, good luck to the writers on the Screen Writers Guild Award for ‘ Don’t Ever Change’ which I believe is this weekend ? A well deserved nomination.

  • barbara barnett

    Sheelagh–David Hoselton is the writer of “unfaithful,” which will air on 2/16, not 2/9.

    Hoselton, like most of the writers, has been writing for the series for several years.

    He started writing for the series early in season three (“Lines in the Sand”).

  • Luna

    I missed House not only in the final scene montage, but also throughout the episode.
    It’s fine to see how all the other characters in the show are coping with things in their life, but this episode felt as if it wasn’t at all about House himself. And I missed him.
    He was there, but it was never about him.
    It was about Dr Miller, Wilson, Cuddy, 13, Foreman and Taub. Not about House.
    And HE is my favorite character.

  • barbara barnett

    Well, Luna, if it’s any compensation, I have a feeling the next many episodes leading to the finale will be much more house-centric. Unfaithful looks to be a wonderful episode…

  • Luisa Borges

    Barbara just voted on your poll, and what a great one for it brings signs of great thinks to come.

    Count me in as a faithful reader and future eager buyer.

  • barbara barnett

    Thanks Luisa. And everyone who participated. Poll has been completed and removed from the site. Your responses were tremendously helpful. 😉

  • Orange450

    No matter what Dr. House’s position is – Hugh Laurie is firmly committed to the greater good, as evidenced by his many charitable activities. I just received my beautiful Hugh Laurie READ poster from the American Library Association. It’s a great picture of HL holding a copy of Treasure Island, and it makes you want to smile right back at him and pick up a book!

    The poster is available from the ALA website, and is an easy way to support our public libraries and welcome HL to a permanent place in one’s home at the same time 🙂

  • Kate

    Thank you Barbara. I really like your reviews. I watch House almost twice on the week))) .The first I watch episode and then read your reviews. Thanks

  • bakerstreet blues

    This was a very difficult episode to watch as it dredged up emotions from 2 separate sides. I loved the patient….firing right back at Wilson was something that someone really needed to do to him….god knows House never does when Wilson is judging him. Foreman doing to 13 exactly what Stacy did to House (made a decision not based on what House or 13 wanted, but what Stacy and Foreman wanted.) I loved the conversation between House and Foreman during 13’s radiation treatment…House: you did it because you love her, ironically you never took her into consideration. Loved that little bit of truth and honesty. Cuddy….can’t say enough about how vile she is. It is clearly not House’s fault that she decided to USE HOUSE FOR HER OWN SELFISH REASONS (by not firing him to be home with her new baby), but just like in the Painless episode when Wilson told her to be more like men-her response “BE LAZY, BLAME OTHERS” man does that look exactly like what she is doing in this episode. Not to mention the fact that her targeting his leg in her torture was completely crappy. Almost seems like she had nothing to do with the disability to begin with. Wilson for once did give her the words she truly needed to hear. Wilson once in a while does actually analyze someone correctly….mostly Cuddy and not House, but baby steps.