Several transplants are at issue in last night’s House, M.D. episode, appropriately called “Transplant.” Of course there is the set of sick lungs sitting in an ICU box awaiting diagnosis and treatment before they can be transplanted into one of Wilson’s (Robert Sean Leonard) long-time patients. A recovering alcoholic, she had a double-mastectomy years earlier, and now has come down with emphysema.
She will die within a few days without a lung transplant. The good news is that there is a set of lungs from a motorcycle accident victim. The bad news is that there is something medically wrong with them, and before they can be used by the patient—or anyone else—someone has to find out what’s wrong. The worse news is that Princeton-Plainsboro’s best diagnostician Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) is still in prison.
Time has once again jumped, and we find House two months after the “Twenty Vicodin” incident only to learn that eight months have been tacked onto his sentence. Told that he has a visitor, Princeton-Plainsboro’s dean of medicine, House initially refuses the guest. Believing that this will be his recurrent nightmare come to life: a confrontation with Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein, now seen on The Good Wife). A year after he plowed his car into her dining room, House has no desire to finally come face to face with what he’s done. But he is surprised to learn his visitor is a “he,” not a “she.”
Enter the new Dean of Medicine…Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps). He has a proposition for the incarcerated Dr. House—and a “get out of jail” (but not exactly free) card. Foreman has worked out a deal with a judge that will allow House to roam free in the hospital or his apartment, but not anywhere else.
Remaining chained to a prisoner-tracking device, House is now relegated to a cell-sized new office (without even a window). His old digs have been procured by the Orthopedics Department. And his old team is dispersed to who knows where. Chase (Jesse Spencer), Taub (Peter Jacobson) and 13 (Olivia Wilde) are nowhere to be seen—and, says Dean of Medicine Foreman, the hospital can’t afford to hire them back.
As for House, he’s back, but only earning minimum wage as a consultant, and his “team” is a medical resident—the diminutive, innocent-looking Dr. Chi Park (Charlyne Yi). She seems a meek little mouse—or more appropriately, in House’s hands, a lamb for the slaughter. Except for one thing. The little lamb had the cojones to have punched out her neurology boss after he’d groped her! On the other hand, she is too terrified to tell her parents. But as House learns, Dr. Park speaks her mind, and seems unafraid of her new boss. Transplanted to House’s team, we wonder at the start whether this will take, or whether she will run screaming to the University of Chicago to pursue a residency away from Princeton-Plainsboro.
House is a fish out of water, coming back to where his troubles began, but now more than a year since he’d last been there. With no office, no team—no Wilson, his movements restricted and on a very short chain, House is pretty lost. He roams the halls in search of the creature comforts he thinks he needs to tap into his own medical mojo. All that keeps him anchored is the case, and although he is somewhat physically hampered by restrictions on his movements, he manages to finally figure out what’s wrong with the lungs.
Like the lungs awaiting treatment to make them hospitable for the dying patient, House, too, tries to find a way to fit in to a place where he’d once felt comfortable and at home. His physical surroundings are altered—but his time away, and the reason for it hang over his head as he tries to find his way. Although this part of the story is not front and center (which is good), it is there, shading all of House’s (and everyone else’s) actions during the episode.
In season three, after Cuddy rescues House from a certain prison sentence (and equally certain loss of his medical license), she reminds him in “One Day, One Room” that she “owns his ass.” Get out of line, she tells him, fail to do clinic duty, fail to help her fund raise, teach, do anything she says, and House will be outed an face jail. But House has a quick response: Cuddy had perjured herself, and to out him is only to out herself. The threat is hollow. But, she when she uses the truth that House owes her personally, if not professionally, House understands, becoming at least moderately more compliant.
In “Transplant,” Foreman essentially tells House the same thing: break the law, act like a jerk, pretty much so anything that isn’t on the up and up—and it’s back to prison. However much less House respects Foreman than he had Cuddy’s authority (which wasn’t much—most of the time), Foreman really does own House. House is only on conditional parole—and that condition is tied to staying in Foreman’s good graces.
I’m curious about how the newly altered power structure of their relationship will play out over time. I hope (and am hopeful) that Foreman does not devolve into House’s Colonel Klink (from the ‘60s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes). I think a tensely symbiotic relationship between them could be a source of a compelling thread running through the background of season eight. Cuddy liked House; Foreman, particularly at this point, does not. I’m not even sure Foreman respects him very much.
On the other hand, no one much likes House at this point. Wilson has had a year to reconsider their friendship, and at least at the beginning of the episode, seems to have moved away from his co-dependent relationship with his best friend, rejecting his bid for a renewed friendship. Wilson’s wrist may be healed, but House has a long way to go I think before this relationship is fully repaired.
Wilson is the avatar for an audience that finds what House has done to be indefensible. Not only had House destroyed Cuddy’s home with his car, he has driven her completely, and permanently away. As House is told, Cuddy has moved out of town to take another position, leaving the day after the crash.
Even the naïve Dr. Park seems to have little respect for House. When House offers his worldly advice, she is unafraid to quickly bring up how little that advice is worth, reminding him of what he’d done last spring.
In the end, after House finally solves the mystery of the broken lungs and the transplant is successful, House’s own transplant back into Princeton-Plainsboro society begins to take hold. Rejection is no longer an option. Wilson can’t quite convince himself that House is no longer his friend, extending an olive branch (well, his arm, actually, in a semi-cathartic punch to House’s jaw). Foreman rewards House for his efforts by securing (at least part of) his old private office, and his “stuff,” which had been in storage. But only his name adorns the glass door, his rank as a director in the hospital heirarchy is conspicuously absent.
I found “Transplant” to be a solid transition episode, bringing House back into his “normal” environment. After a year away, House needs to be off kilter in every way but his reasoning and genius for connecting the dots. House is somewhat jarring to me in how little remorse he seems to show; but that is House. When he feels the most, is when he seems to feel the least. He pushes back to avoid confronting the emotions that exist just beneath the surface.
One of the problems I’d had with the last two seasons is that we’d seen sometimes seen too little of that—when it seemed most necessary. In “Transplant” we were privy to House’s thoughts; we observe his discomfort in settling in, fitting in, to his new role; his is in limbo. We understand when House ultimately concludes that he is really a bird in a cage—and awaiting a new judgment about whether his own transplant would take. We see it in his eyes, his body language.
It is interesting that Wilson never really brings up the “Moving On” crash—or Cuddy’s departure. And I understand that. I’m sure that (for now) part of House is happy that he doesn’t have to face either Cuddy—or the reality of his actions. And I think Wilson is likely sensitive to the notion that House isn’t ready to deal with that still-seeping wound quite yet. So a little avoidance…maybe not such a bad thing. I’m hopeful that the impact of “Moving On” won’t disappear too soon, and will frame at least the deep background of episodes to come as House navigates his newly altered reality.
I’m slightly disappointed that Wilson is so quick to resume their friendship—or is he? We don’t know the parameters of their relationship at this point—whether it will fall back into familiar territory or be fraught with new tensions. Back in season five, it takes five episodes before Wilson resumes the bromance. And although, Wilson is ready for dinner with him, I think it will be awhile until we see their friendship completely come full circle. Equally, as House’s old colleagues return to Princeton-Plainsboro, he will have to deal with their altered dynamics as well.
“Transplant” plants some interesting seeds for season eight’s story lines, I’m looking forward with excitement (and a little anxiety) to the fruit they will bear—just as I’m sure that House is excited to be back in the game, but likely fearful of what the future will bring him.
(Photo courtesy FOX)