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TV Review: House, M.D. – “Twenty Vicodin”

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There’s been a lot of reaction on the Internet the past couple of weeks about House, M.D. creator David Shore’s insistence that “people don’t change.” When Shore talks about House (Hugh Laurie) being unable to change, I think he means change fundamentally who he is. We are who we are, and no matter what (or whom) else House tries to re-invent himself to be, he will revert to himself.

House is a jerk; he will always be that no matter how hard he tries to conform. He can control its intensity and his behavior, but ultimately, he is who he is. House has a pessimistic worldview. He may enjoy moments of enjoyment—even happiness. He may dip his toe in the water of love and domesticity. But House’s view of the world was formed when he was young, perhaps predestined when he was an infant with a mother who felt guilt for his very existence and a father who never loved him. House is a healer; he can’t help himself. And as much as he proclaims that he is out of medicine for good in the season eight premiere “Twenty Vicodin,” he can’t help being himself. Elemental change is not possible.

Can House adapt? Can latent or suppressed personality traits emerge in new circumstances? Can he adjust their behavior in a more (or less) successful attempt to become a “better” person or at least conform to others’ expectations? Can he become more—or less—guarded due to things that happen to him? Of course he can, Dr. Gregory House has done all of those things. But in the end, we he is who he is.

“Twenty Vicodin” opens with House in a New Jersey State Prison sitting before a parole board. They are willing to grant him early release if only to save the continued costs of a prisoner who’d already been in jail for months and had exhibited “good-ish” behavior.

The only problem House has, is that he must stay out of trouble for the five days until his release. Even House has trouble believing that it’s possible. Staying out of trouble is not an easy feat for House under the best of conditions, but these will be five very difficult days for him.

The inmates are bullied by a protection racket led by a particularly brutal, small man with fascist leanings. We learn that House has already been giving up half his Vicodin dosage to these guys, but it’s about to get more difficult for him as the gang elicits an “exit tax” on all inmates about to be released. House’s tax is 20 Vicodin, his entire week’s allotment.

So how had House managed to get hard time when, as prison doctor Jessica Adams (Odette Annable) observes, House has had no prior convictions—and no one had been physically injured by his actions. We learn that House hadn’t hired a defense lawyer, instead taking the first deal offered in exchange for a guilty plea. He’d apparently put up no fight, and as Adams suggests, perhaps House intentionally subjected himself to a much harsher sentence than he was due (or would have gotten with a lawyer).

It doesn’t surprise me that House would punish himself much more harshly than would the legal system. He is usually his own harshest judge. And despite his characteristically defiant sarcasm to the parole board, House carries a lot of guilt on his shoulders (not undeserved, in this case) for a great many things. How many times, I wonder, during his time there has House provoked a prisoner to beat him?

The events of season seven have taught House that something has to change in his life. So, House has decided that he wants nothing more to do with medicine. Although, as young prison Dr. Adams observes, House has a “gift,” House believes that it is his gift that’s gotten him into so much trouble. Explaining that he intends to pursue a PhD in particle physics, House says that he wants to research dark matter: the biggest mystery in the universe.

Physics (at least I think they’re physics) equations line the white wall around his bed and the overhang from the bunk above him. It’s as if he’s had a bad breakup with medicine (and the humanity medicine forces him to be around) and has hurtled himself into another discipline. Likely feeling the full impact of his actions, House may believe that only by divorcing himself from humanity entirely—holing himself up in a physics lab may be the only way for him to move on.

As he explains, when he gets out of prison, everything’s changed. “No medicine, no fixing people—done!” He seems to believe that there’s no longer a place for him among “normal people.” He’s so far outside “the circle,” he can’t get anywhere near it. He observes, “There’s a reason we’re locked away from nice normal people.”

For all his personality flaws, House is a natural, and even charismatic, leader when he wants to be. House has been accustomed to being a rock star of medicine for years, getting his own way; making his own rules. But in prison, House has lost all power. His job is to follow the rules; not make up his own.

He is way down on the prison food chain, and although his intelligence has probably allowed him to survive during his time there, he’s nowhere close to top of the pyramid. Physically, he’s at a great disadvantage—always, and in prison, he’s pretty much at the mercy of the prison gang to whom he’s paid “protection” (half his Vicodin dosage). He fears his psychotic cellmate enough to monitor his meds and go way above and beyond to be nice to him. (Even curing a sick pet cricket.)

The House we see through most of the episode is beaten down; strangely passive. He doesn’t want to tick off either the official Powers That Be or the prison gang. He’s vulnerable, out of his element and, for the most part, just trying to get along and get out. Although he’s still manipulative, his game playing seems simply a survival tactic.

House is slowly drawn into the mysterious symptoms when a fellow inmate starts exhibiting unusual symptoms. In a way, diagnosing the case becomes his reality check. It reminds him of who he is; who he needs to be, human contact—or not. But it also seems to re-energize him. And in the end, House is House—a doctor and a healer—and someone for whom “being right” and doing the right thing are elemental forces within him.

Witnessing a perceived injustice against the sick prisoner, House finally becomes House. It’s like he puts on his superhero “House the Healer” medical white coat. At that point, he could care less about parole, retribution, or anything else. He needs to be right; needs to do the right thing—and needs the prison doctor to the right thing, when he no longer can. Refusing to put up with a bureaucratic doctor who won’t break protocol to administer five aspirin to a patient, even if it means saving a life, House risks his freedom (like he’s risked his life and his career so often) to save a patient. This is the essence of House; who he is. And despite the fact it costs him his parole, House can’t help but smile (for the first time in the episode) when he learns that he was right—and the patient has been saved. It was the right thing to do; the only thing House could have done.

I really liked “Twenty Vicodin,” and the more I’ve thought about it, the better I’ve liked it. It’s a great character study of House in a truly foreign environment. Yes, it plays like a transitional episode—a stand-alone like the season six premiere “Broken”—and it is hard to know exactly where the series is headed this season until House gets back to his more familiar territory next week when he returns to Princeton-Plainsboro. The episode also works as a vehicle to give us insight into House’s state of mind a year after the crash. I got a strong sense of where House is emotionally; and his feelings about what happened in “Moving On.” But we only get this sense very indirectly—how he acts; how he reacts to this environment and its people, and what he says when he’s not in full-on confrontation mode.

The twenty Vicodin subplot frames House’s state of mind during the five days we follow him. But it also parallels the episode’s main plot and the dynamic between House and the medical case.

The only thing in “Twenty Vicodin” that didn’t ring quite true to me was the bit of exposition House provides about the crash. To me it sounded like a bit of backtracking and rationalization—not so much on House’s part, but by the series—in reaction to the storm of controversy (and negativity) about the season seven finale’s ending.

“I knew the room was empty; I knew Rachel wasn’t there” to me sound like explanations not only to the parole board, but to the viewers. And maybe it’s because all summer I was hyper-aware of the negativity (more so since I didn’t agree with it), the scene seems, to me a bit artificial and tacked on for the fans’ benefit.

So, on to next week and “Transplant.” When House gets out of prison in next week’s episode, he will have to adapt big time. Little in the world he has known for years will be the same. I am looking forward to following House as he struggles with his new circumstances, the new dynamics at the hospital, and with his guilt.

As much as I enjoyed “Huddy” and as much as I enjoyed Lisa Edelstein, her departure opens up a world of new possibilities for the show. I look forward to the rest of season eight, so bring it on!

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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)."
  • lobentti

    Well,I haven´t seen it yet, only read Fox recap and this article, and I think we need to be used to a new story,the ‘old’ House/Cuddy story that was like a background to all that happened till 7th season is gone; so, let´s move on, Hugh Laurie and the new actors are good enough to make the show worthwile, whatever should be the storyline 🙂

  • ann uk

    Re all the talk about House’s guilt.
    I dont think he put himself in jail because he felt guilty ( though he may well do ). I think at that point he no longer cared what happened to him.He had grasped a happiness he thought would for ever be out of reach only to find it just as illusory as he had always feared.He told us- and her- that Cuddy was more important to him than even his medical genius and now he has lost her.
    When you consider the long term damage to Cuddy, surely the worst harm is self- inflicted.The house can be repaired, she still has her job ,if she wants it, she still has Rachel and may even find a new lover. But she doesn’t have House and as she confessed to Wilson ” I love him and I know he loves me “.She has denied her deepest relationship and any other relationship, although it may be easier, will always be shallow and second best

  • Annabelle Fox

    Thank God House is back! I mean – that House I have known and I loved. Season 7 was very difficult for me. But this episode I really liked. It was interesting to see House in such environment, where he is not the boss and has to adapt and survive without help of others like Wilson, Cuddy, his team… I liked his more humble behavior. Didn’t some scenes remind you “Son of the coma guy”? Janitor (cleaner), who is the doctor and is more clever than everyone else so they need his help and finaly he is right. It was the reason why House decided to be a doctor. And now he was in similar situation. Nice. Doctor Adams was very likeable and I’m curious how their new work relationship will be. I’m looking forward to find out more about her personal life. In my personal life House is back again and again I’m looking forward to every new episode.

  • Oversimplified

    @72 Julia

    Sadly I think you’re right on the Cuddy front. I’ll be massively surprised if we don’t get a teeny tiny scene where House either stares at her former office and looks a tad upset, or stands on the balcony and looks a bit bewildered. I’m guessing we’ll get this at the end of ‘Transplant’ and then it’ll be business as usual. Very unrealistic for a man whose middle name should be ‘guilt’. I am at least pleased that HL said what House did was ‘something that would haunt him for the rest of his life’, but sadly he’s not writing the scripts.

  • bluehue

    THANKS for well written, balanced review!

    “20-V,” a few words.
    Pros: Dr. Adams, bottom bunk revisited, dark matter, House sliding binder notebook under door as a stop, 20 vicodin pick-up, solitary confinement lunch tray note :).
    Cons: Yes..there were many in this epi, ball point pen trach – not advised.

    “Transplant” promo: Looking forward to House in his new, very small office.

  • Julia

    @ Oversemplified, # 69

    “I get that in his mind retribution for what he did was basically handing himself in and laying himself open to the worst possible sentence he could get by not having a lawyer, but to me that smacks of him salving his own guilt rather than doing anything concrete for the people he hurt. It bothers me that he appeared to show more genuine remorse for his ‘indirect’ involvement in Amber’s death than he does for the crash which he perpetrated”
    I totally agree.

    “I hope one way or another they show him struggling with what he did during the season, and don’t just infer that Cuddy skipped off into the sunset emotionally unscathed. If Amber and Kutner’s deaths contributed to the depth of his breakdown in Season 5 even though he wasn’t directly responsible for them, then logically him being back on Vicodin AND being responsible for Cuddy’s departure should have some ramifications on his state of mind, if not now, then certainly later.”
    Again, I totally agree, but I highly doubt they’ll go in that direction.
    I think Cuddy will barely be mentioned in episode 2, somebody will tell us that she accepted another job or something similar and is doing ok and that will be it. Maybe House will ask about her but won’t try to contact her or to win her back (which probably makes sense). He’ll probably show some glimpse of remorse over what he has done (longing stare to her office or something similar) but after that, IMO the crash chapter will be closed, we won’t see any long term consequence for House’s mind and his feelings about what he did won’t be further explored.

  • ann uk

    Thank God House is back – what will I do when it ends ?
    I have watched ” Twenty Vicodin ” several times now and each time I am more impressed.
    Here we see House at perhaps the lowest he has ever been -trapped in a world ruled by corruption and vicious violence. Every day of the past sixteen months must have been an agony. And yet he cannot abandon ” his ” patient, even though this will condemn him to more months of suffering.This is the House whose empathy with the excluded and fierce hatred of injustice impel him to those acts of Quixotic nobility we have seen often in previous episodes.
    House is the type of the fallible hero – a fallen angel whose failngs make us identify with him.However low he may seem to sink, he will always surprise us by rising to hights that other, ” nicer ” characters never reach.

    Another aspect of his personality that we may sometimes miss is his ability to inspire other people – his team, the hospital doctor – with the courage to do the right thing regardless of the consequences.

    And his relationship with his psychopathic cell mate reminded me of how he got through the autistic boy who gave him his Gameboy.
    I hope the rest of the season will live up to this – only, please, not Foreman as Dean !!

  • Oversimplified

    @ 65 and 66 Nickel

    House ended up in a mental institution because he was abusing vicodin and hallucinating. It was nothing to do with Wilson and Cuddy conspiring against him. You can’t practice medicine if your view of reality is distorted, and so HE signed himself into rehab.

    On your other point, as far I know Chris Meloni didn’t ‘publicly’ respond to Mariska Hargitay’s statement about him either. Does that mean he also lacks ‘class’? As for who screwed who over, David Shore recently admitted in an interview that his ending to season 7 inadvertantly played into the hands of the network when they were re-negotiating LE’s contract. In almost any professional field of work present earnings affect what you’re offered in the future. It’s a job at the end of the day, and as she was no longer under contract she was well within her rights to walk away and protect her future salary. I’m sorry but I don’t understand your bitterness, and for the record I’m more a fan of Hugh’s than Lisa’s.

  • Oversimplified

    Thanks for the review Barbara. Well I’m happy to say I didn’t hate it, and I seriously thought I would.

    That opening scene was just horrible though. It’s really immaterial whether he intended to hurt anybody or not. It’s the fact that as a highly intelligent man he should have known that a car going at a speed fast enough to go through a wall a. could harm somebody even if they aren’t in the same room he’s ‘aiming for’ and b. wouldn’t be able to stop in time even if he did see them step back in, something which would have been impaired all the more as he had to swing into the driveway. Laws of physics at play there. Having months to think about it should have only clarified that in his mind. The teaser was just unnecessary, weakly written and felt more like Shore explaining his actions than House as you said Barbara. This underplaying of what happened at the end of Season 7 will forever frustrate me I guess.

    I did think the way he dealt with Mendelsohn was incredibly true to form though. It reminded me of both Tritter and Vogler. If there’s one thing House can’t resist it’s baiting a bully and the whole thing about ‘stepping into line’ was the trigger for him. I also liked his interaction with his cellmate, who was sort of a cross between Boo Radley from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and Lennie from ‘Of Mice and Men’. Although I found him coming to House’s rescue a little bit twee, it was rather cool to see the coward Mendelsohn getting the pummeling he deserved. (By the way does anybody know where I’ve seen the actor who played his cellmate before? It’s been bugging me since I saw it.)

    Would have liked to have seen more of the chess guy too, however at times the episode felt a little too busy. It seemed like they were trying to introduce too many incidental characters and maybe do too many things in the space of an hour, which I felt watered it down and interrupted the main focus of the narrative which I’m guessing was to re-establish the protagonist and introduce Adams. Maybe this is why some people feel like it lacked energy? With regards to the newbie it feels like they are pushing her a little too hard as the one who recognizes and supports House’s gift. At present her character plays like a splice between Cameron’s sense of morality and seeing the good in people, and Masters’ natural enjoyment of medicine for it’s own sake. At the moment Adams feels more like a plot device rather than a 3-dimensional creation, but I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt over the coming weeks.

    The one thing that ‘Twenty Vicodin’ has crystallized for me is that I just don’t empathize with House in the same way I used to. I get that in his mind retribution for what he did was basically handing himself in and laying himself open to the worst possible sentence he could get by not having a lawyer, but to me that smacks of him salving his own guilt rather than doing anything concrete for the people he hurt. It bothers me that he appeared to show more genuine remorse for his ‘indirect’ involvement in Amber’s death than he does for the crash which he perpetrated, and that once again he’s has fallen back on his default setting of being incompatible with humanity; another way of him absolving himself of responsibility. Gregory House is who he is, but he also has Free Will and ‘chose’ to do what he did in the same way that each time he pops a pill it’s his choice. As a protagonist he’s always flitted around in the grey areas of morality, but I do believe that when push comes to shove he knows the difference between right and wrong and therefore has the full weight of culpability on his own shoulders. In relation to this I’m glad you brought up the effect of his father’s emotional and physical abuse because by implication, more than anybody, he should know how damaging directing abusive behaviour at someone your supposed to care about can be. For that reason I hope one way or another they show him struggling with what he did during the season, and don’t just infer that Cuddy skipped off into the sunset emotionally unscathed. If Amber and Kutner’s deaths contributed to the depth of his breakdown in Season 5 even though he wasn’t directly responsible for them, then logically him being back on Vicodin AND being responsible for Cuddy’s departure should have some ramifications on his state of mind, if not now, then certainly later. (I am interested to know if they will have any of the other characters point out to him that Cuddy didn’t actually lie to him).

    The tragedy of his character in all of this is that he spent most of his adult life choosing to prove his father wrong about him by putting himself through Med school and becoming a doctor, yet when he desperately needed to prove to Cuddy that she was wrong about him, for his own sake as much as hers, he falls way short of the mark, not because he’s incapable, but because it’s easier to live down to her expectations. That tragedy is, however, of his own making.

  • DeadSquirrel

    Have to say that this episode was considerably better than I thought it would be. It’s a little bland for the season premiere, but it could have been waaaaayyy worse. I had kind of given up on House after season 7, but I might end up sticking around for this season.

  • bakerstreet blues

    For all those out there that fear as I did that Foreman is new DoM, remember that Cuddy did look for another department head to supervise House while they were dating. Foreman may just be House’s supervisor (possibly he is Head of Neurology). Can’t imagine Board of Directors would ever allow Foreman as Dean of Medicine, (considering he couldn’t teach an Eskimo how to make a snowball) I am still hoping for someone with a little more leadership skill and possibly some personality…..(Cate from FROZEN) would be perfect. Smart and not too fast to analyze House….that would be a great difference for this show. Someone who didn’t analyze House to DEATH would be great.

  • nickel

    My question to all you Lisa Edelstein fans is this…..Hugh Laurie said some incredibly wonderful things about Lisa and said how much he missed her both personally and professionally and what has Lisa said about anyone? NOTHING. Talk about a classy exit. I hope the writers kill her in an industrial accident for screwing them the way that she did. (Just like Kal Penn) I hope she gets a better wardrobe in her next outing. This playing differing levels of trollops (West Wing) has got to be getting old.

  • nickel

    On the plus side, the last time that Cuddy and Wilson conspired to force House to face his emotional trauma, House ended up in the nut house with CRAZY MCLOONY BIN as a roomie. So in perspective at least House did not lose his mind this time.

  • Action Kate

    I was finding it hard to hear the dialogue at the parole hearing over all the HAND-WAVING BY DAVID SHORE *ahem* sorry. 🙂 Seriously, that’s the first time it has ever, on the entire series, sounded like HL was reading lines rather than House was speaking.

    Hubby and I like to predict the ending of episodes. In 49 episodes out of 50 Hubby gets it. This was my night. I don’t watch teasers or read spoilers so I didn’t know how the episode was going to end, but I predicted that House would do something typically stupid and lose his chance at parole because he couldn’t stop himself from doing whatever it took to save the patient. He can’t let a puzzle or a patient go. I was right.

  • RobRow

    I not sure about this, but I don’t want to imagine a nicer House than the character actually is. People carry baggage about, and anger even if they know it’s unjustified. At the time he saw his ex, who said she wasn’t seeing another man, apparently seeing another man and he snapped. If Cuddy did see the other man as a potential suitor we don’t know. If she did, fair play to her; in a conversation from that episode House accepted it was none of his business. But it’s going to hurt him. Put that on top of a bad break up, and most people would be seriously screwed up. To say he’s simply gotten over it and feels remorse for what he did seems to me an over-simplication of the character. Maybe in future episodes he will say Cuddy going is the best for both of them, and I’d like to think that at some level he feels sorry. But the character we saw in 20 Vicodin was more than that, warts and all. Subdued, I agree, but still the irascible old sod we’ve known since season 1. And it’s to the writers credit. I can’t imagine having this kind of debate about another character on TV. I look forward to episode 2.

  • Lucy

    I agree with RobRow that House has ambivalent feelings about what he did – but IMO, not because he still thinks “ha! She was a bitch and I showed her!!”, but because he is convinced (or trying to convince himself?) that what happened was ultimately for the best for both him and Cuddy. Which is probably true in a way. But at the same time, I can’t believe that he won’t feel anything once he returns to PPTH and realizes that yes, Cuddy is out of his life from good because of his gesture. He will surely miss her, even if rationally he thinks it’s better for both that she’s left. And I’d like to see that in ep. 2.

  • RobRow

    I think part of him feels sorry, but another part doesn’t. The addict who got dumped for an understandable lapse, because he thought his girlfriend was dying still hurts. But Cuddy’s decision to dump him was equally understandable – especially as she has a young child to think of. It’s what made that entire storyline – and that episode – so compelling. It was tragic – something ghastly but inevitable given the characters as consistently presented. It’s why House isn’t a soap opera (although the recent Taub plot smacks of it) where characters are subordinate to plot, and it’s the main reason I keep watching it. I struggle to imagine a House who grows or changes. Accepts maybe, we’ll find out this season.

  • Serena

    @ RobRow # 57
    @ Lucy # 55

    I don’t think House doesn’t feel sorry. Self-destructive behavior is definitely a symptom of remorse (If you simply accepted you have to go to jail because you broke the law but you don’t feel like you did something wrong you don’t try to punish yourself) and I agree with RobRow he might have ambivalent feelings. And not a simple conflict between his primitive and his reasoning part. I can imagine he feels shattered in thousand pieces, but I would have liked to see each one of them! I expected the writers to go much deeper into it. Something like what we saw in The Dig: subtle, but less ambiguous. In my opinion, this time they simply chose to sweep a lot under the carpet because it was easier. Thanks to HL, the result was acceptable, but something was definitely missing.

  • DebbieJ

    I had the whole summer to cool off from my anger and disappointment of last season. Not because of the break up of House/Cuddy. But because of the break up of just about every main character. Who WERE these people? This was the first time I have not pre ordered a season on DVD (I still haven’t bought S7) and hadn’t pored over the web looking for things to come for S8, although I did read that DS has promised that things will go back to “basics”.

    But I have to admit. I did miss Gregory House. Well, I’ve missed him since S6, but I won’t beat a dead horse. With a lot of trepidation instead of excitement, I tuned in on Monday. I breathed a sigh of relief. I liked it. I actually liked it. They DID go back to basics as promised. A POTW. A medical mystery. House in pain. House being very Holmesian in his deducing abilities. House outsmarting everyone around him. House needing to solve the puzzle, at any cost.

    This is House at his core at this is the part of him that should never change. Other than that, I don’t know what’s wrong with letting the character grow, which is different from change. I’m actually interested to see where this season will take him. Like someone said upthread, maybe this will be the year when we hear from his mom about his childhood.

    Regarding breaking down the 4th wall during the parole hearing. I know it was sloppy but also, it was necessary. IMO, the problem was (in the S7 finale) it didn’t come off that way (the way he explained it) and that’s what had so many people upset. Don’t know if was an editing issue, production issue, director issue, etc. but he seemed almost maniacal, not methodical. I’m glad they cleared it up. You know how much flack TBTB got for that and I think they threw that line in there (sloppily or not) to appease the angry viewers. I agree with the commenter who said it would’ve been more profound if he had admitted to his chess mate rather than the parole board.

    One thing that was glaringly obvious – and I wonder if it’s because of budget cuts – was the hospital lobby set CEARLY was used for the prison set. It was so noticeable, it was a bit distracting. But, if they’re going to be sloppy and cut corners, I’d rather have it be with sets than with the writing.

    I really loved how Housian he was throughout but especially to his cell mate, the guy who looked like Vin Diesel on steroids. I know keeping on his good side was purely self serving (I mean, who would want to get on his bad side?!), but I thought it was very warming that he helped “fix” his pet cricket. And good for him for coming to House’s rescue at the end!

    The prison doctor wasn’t as horrible as I feared. Okay, that’s not fair. She was good. Not great, but good. I just wish she didn’t look like a former Miss Teen America. No one that pretty and delicate looking would be able to work in a man’s prison.

    Looking forward to Episode 2!

  • RobRow–I totally agree with you. House was being House, and very true to character here.

  • RobRow

    Subsequent episodes may change my opinion about this, but at the moment I’d say that House has ambivalent feelings about what he did. The primitive, irrational part of him still thinks ‘good, that showed her!’, while the reasoning part knows it was crazy and wrong. So what do we get? Prison when it wasn’t necessary, and cutting himself off from every one who knew him. I can honestly say if House was simply contrite I’d think the writers had sold out. As it is he remains probably the most interesting TV character who’s emerged in my lifetime. And having seen Hugh Laurie on British TV for years before House (he’s the unfunny one in Blackadder), I had no idea he was capable of this. Amazing performance.

  • Lucy

    And I’d like to add that I totally agree with Serena (#46) on this

    “My problem is that I find hard to believe he doesn’t feel much pain or regret over what happened; the woman he claimed to love has simply erased him from her life!”

    Maybe we will see this in episode 2, once he realizes Cuddy is gone for good. But I doubt it.

    And I also share your feelings about the series:

    “I’m not among those ex fans who keep saying how crappy the show is now. It’s still decent, to be in its eighth season. But the magic is gone and left a sense of disaffection”

    It applies to me too. Sad but true.

  • Lucy

    Serena # 47
    Barbara # 48
    and RobRow # 51

    I agree with RobRow: watching the premiere, I definetely got the idea that House felt responsible for what he did and realized that his actions had consequences for his life (no more friends, no job, no girl); but still I didn’t see him feeling remorse, which I would have liked.

  • Eve K

    I liked this ep. House is in a dark place, and dealing with it. Escaping and not escaping at the same time. He is escaping Cuddy and the hospital, but not his guilt, and finally, not his gift. His obsession for medicine will not go away.

    He surprises himself by showing that his gift is more important to him than anything, even his own freedom and his life, choosing almost subconsciously to put himself in harm’s way to heal a patient.

    I could have lived without the barring of the door to give the patient treatment (as this has been done four or five times before) but thats also in the mantra – people don’t change. This is what House do in this situations…

  • Jane

    Hi Susan(#46),

    I miss Fat-O-Lady, SeraG and the woman from Romania too. I miss their spot-on, in-depth and clarity of writing almost as much as I enjoy the show.

    I agree with Barbara that Hugh Laurie was only being professional not to bring up House MD in his interviews regarding his music. It will make both his music and House MD look bad.

    Dear Serena(#46),
    All I can see in House ever since the breakup was pain and regret. Running away to a VIP suite, jumping off a balcony in fake celebration, monster truck… These are all believable reactions to me. People self-indulge and act recklessly when they are hurt, hopeless and depressed. For House, these things were within believable boundaries of his finances and emotional state then.

    His pain and regret are also evident in his search for a cure for his leg. He had substituted the object of his anger (i.e. Cuddy or even himself for embarking on a relationship that he already doubted) with his disability, and he’s reacting to his anger desperately albeit destructively.

    A hallmark of House is how much he holds back his innermost feelings to avoid hurting others. His avoiding Cuddy since the breakup is a sign of how much he is hurting. If you recall that scene in Moving On, when House finally confessed to Cuddy his anger, you can see in Hugh Laurie’s eyes all the pain that House had held back since the breakup.

    House’s regret can be seen in the final scene of the episode when he exposed Cuddy’s mother’s real intention behind suing PPTH. You have to watch it yourself. Season 7 had been a character study of House’s personal drama rather than his dynamics with the world. These tender and private emotions are more appropriately expressed through acting than the writing. His regret is most evident to me when he took so long to return Cuddy’s comb.

    As much as House rationalized that he knew he wasn’t going to hurt anybody, he explained nothing about why he drove that car into Cuddy’s house. I believe he did it because he was hurt when he found out Cuddy was seeing someone else when she had denied it only moments ago. It was as though she lied to him, betrayed his remaining trust in her as a friend. It was as though she was the one who didn’t feel any anger or regret when she had just ended what should have been the most important relationship in her life.

    And how much more pain are we going to expect from House than that which have driven himself into a prison as a form of self-punishment and escapism?

  • Serena

    Yes, I also noticed many people aren’t here anymore. Unfortunately, the way the H/C relationship was handled and its awful ending caused a fractured in the fan base.
    It’s nice, however, to read that LE is being missed also by a lot of viewers who like the direction the show has taken.

  • RobRow

    My feeling, based on the start of the episode, is that House wanted to be punished, and accepted the need for punishment, but didn’t feel much remorse. Hence the smart arse remarks to the parole board. Also, we don’t know if he paid any compensation to Cuddy. We might learn that later, and what’s the bet he’s working out a way to pay her compensation secretly? But, at the moment I applaud the writers for staying true to the character as I understand him. It’s this tension between the world and the limits of House’s personality that makes the show so fascinating. I thought 20 Vicodin was a good episode, but I see it as ‘House does prison’ and I hope it’s a one-off. I want him back in a hospital please. Not another Prison Break. Perceptive review.

  • RobF

    @41-43 (Kaliera & Elizabeth)

    House said he “should be getting 6 per day”, but that he is actually getting 4, and giving 2 to the faux-Nazi.

    For the 5 days of his “be good and get out” test (Monday – Friday), he would need to keep all 4 pills every day to end up with 20.

  • Koji Attwood

    Great review Barbara; A good character study penned by Shore, and I’m also looking forward to a mercifully Huddy free season.

  • Hi Serena–I absolutely feel that House realizes what he did. As he said to the sick prisoner: “there’s a reason we’re locked away”–away from everyone. I think it’s the reason he didn’t hire a lawyer as well.

    Susan-Glad you’re still here. I actually don’t see that HL is going through the motions. I think his music and the series are separate ventures, just like acting in movies. It would make sense that in interviews about the music,he’d avoid talking about House to minimize the “actor-becomes-musician” syndrome and all the baggage that carries with it. He was there to talk about the music, and that makes sense.

  • Susan

    Serena #46 – The magic is gone for me too (although I’ve felt like this for months) . The premier reminded me too much of “Broken”, both had a young, attractive doctor/psychiatrist and older, black doctor/psychiatrist, young,Spanish sidekick and House mouthing pills and then giving them to others. I sat down and watched it with my husband and we were both, if not bored, not really interested either.

    I know prison is not a place to be happy, and House is miserable to begin with, but he looked and sounded and acted like he’s had enough. Hugh Laurie was interviewed in the New York Times Magazine recently and “House” was barely mentioned. The gist of the article, and Laurie’s PBS special was all about the music. I feel like he’s just going through the motions now with the show.

    Another sad note for me is the loss of almost all the fans of this blog who I felt to be kindred spirits. They have gradually disappeared since the Cuddy break-up. I wonder if Fat-O-Lady is still lurking somewhere, or SeraG, or the woman from Romania…..

    @Barbara, sorry to be a kvetch, but at least I’m still watching the show (I said I wouldn’t) and reading your blog. Thank you for being here.

  • Serena

    @ Barbara
    “It doesn’t surprise me that House would punish himself much more harshly than would the legal system. He is usually his own harshest judge. And despite his characteristically defiant sarcasm to the parole board, House carries a lot of guilt on his shoulders (not undeserved, in this case) for a great many things”
    Can I ask you what is your impression about House’s sense of responsibility? Did he realized that he did something dangerous, despite his intention (ok, obviously he didn’t want to kill or injure anybody, but he could have hurt someone, no matter what Shore says), or is he sincerely convinced his act was “just” an explosion of rage but now he understands it was extreme and basically unjustified, and it irremediably compromised his relationship with Cuddy and Wilson?
    My problem is that I find hard to believe he doesn’t feel much pain or regret over what happened; the woman he claimed to love has simply erased him from her life! It’s not a matter of what I would like or would not like to see. I need a believable development of House character, and my “suspension of disbelief” has been broken enough last season! Now I feel like I don’t care that much for this guy anymore. And it’s quite sad. I’m not among those ex fans who keep saying how crappy the show is now. It’s still decent, to be in its eighth season. But the magic is gone and left a sense of disaffection among many viewers (the departure of Lisa Edelstein is just one of the reasons). Yes, the ratings of the premiere were quite good, but I’m afraid it won’t last (how many viewers were just curious to see what the writers would have worked out after S7 controversial finale?). The reactions to this season premiere have been quite mixed, but what I noticed is that lots of fans seem to keep watching for a sort of sense of loyalty to the series (and to Hugh Laurie’s talent, of course) and not because they’re really enjoying it. And this makes me sad, cause the show would have deserved a better ending.

  • Peachie

    Surprisingly, I loved it. It did start off slow – as others have mentioned, but it was great. I love watching House solve problems and use his genius to do solve them… bravo writers..

  • I think the “20 Vicodin” is a metaphor for House and his troubles during the episode in addition to a direct reference to the actual 20 vicodin.

  • Kaliera


    Well isn’t that just convoluted. I guess the title is less snappy if it’s called “20 More Vicodin on top of the 10 you’re already giving me so a total of 30 Vicodin”

  • Elisabeth

    He gets 6 vicodin a day and already gives 2 to the short Nazi guy. So the parole board said he could be released in 5 days x 4 remaining vicodin per day equals 20. He had to go cold turkey to get the pills

  • Kaliera

    Quick Math Question!

    I didn’t watch the episode – but has anyone explained how 20 Vicodin is a week’s worth of meds? It’s not divisible by 7 (3 a day), and when he got his meds wasn’t there 2 in the cup? Did he not get meds on weekends? Little things like that drive me crazy.

  • KMC

    I’d love to see an episode that just deals with House and his mother. We don’t know the exact circumstance of the “affair”…was it planned, or a moment’s weakness on both their parts when she went to him for counceling (he was a minister and likely a military chaplin and her marriage might have been rocky just then. She might not have known she was pregnant before John returned, and hoped for the best, or not known how to get rid of it if she were so inclined, or maybe saw it as her only chance to have a child…she never did with John after all. But her guilt about the affair and it’s aftermath…Greg…might well have compelled her to not intervene on her son’s behalf…she wouldn’t be the first mother to turn a blind eye to her children’s abuse to keep her marriage intact. And you can’t tell me that resentment of that doesn’t fester in House. And why wouldn’t it? Her job was to protect him…and she failed. She chose the security of marriage over the well being of her son. I can just imagine the angst pouring out of an episode like that…she’s dying, he goes to see her..maybe Wilson takes him (not trusting him off his leash), the air is finally cleared, and Wilson finally gets to see why House is….House.

  • Nickel

    HOUSE…repeat after me….PISS OFF WILSON. It looks in the previews of Transplant that Wilson was kind enough to let everyone know the whole story behind why House became a doctor….as it looks to me as though House’s New Office is the JANITORS CLOSET. Nice job Wilson.

  • Jane,

    I would think House’s mother would feel guilt (and perhaps allow the brutality) because he is not John’s son. She got pregnant during an affair while John was away. I’m sure that John must’ve resented House and Mom allowed whatever John did because she felt guilty about the whole affair (so to speak) and didn’t want to rock the boat. Pure speculation (of course)

  • Jane

    I can’t think who might be the next Dean of Medicine. Surely not Foreman. He’s not even a Head of Department. How could he suddenly become the Head of all doctors in a hospital? If Wilson becomes the Dean, it will be a watershed for this show because Wilson is the only person who has an equal relationship with House. Everyone else was either his boss or subordinate. Then again, maybe Wilson’s estranged friendship might make room for Thirteen’s friendship to bloom. Something was growing between them last season (I strictly refer to platonic friendship. No way House and Thirteen would/should fall in love with each other.)

    I find this forum’s fascination with House’s past fascinating. House the Master of Denial would deny every bit of his childhood damage instead of exploring it to seek peace. I think he’s said this before: he’s “moving on by moving on”. If it should happen anyway, I can only imagine that it’s some unexpected crisis that’s forced him to face his mother again. Someone earlier on said something about why House’s mother wouldn’t want to see his only son in prison. I think she might not even know. She had not been present when House lost his leg, went to Mayfield or hooked up with Cuddy. I suspect House only leaves her a voicemail on a particular Christmas eve before he expects to go to prison for a long time in Season 2 (or season 1 during the Tritter arc, I can’t remember). Even if she had known and made the trip, I think House had rejected all visitors at the prison. It would be interesting to know if anybody (especially Wilson and Cuddy) tried to visit him.

    Babara, I am curious why you think House’s mother might feel guilty for his very exsistence? We know that House was illegitimate, but we haven’t seen any inkling of that guilt.

    Dr Adams reminded me of Cameron and the lady psychiatrist at Mayfield. I was worried that she seems like a weak character, but on second thoughts about how quickly and naturally she took to crazy maneuver with House, she might just be House’s most promising disciple. She’s got guts! I hope the writers build her up into a solid independent character. I have no idea how House is going to make the next Dean hire him back into PPTH, with another young and disreputed doctor trailing behind him! Well, maybe House is not intending to get back. He wanted to be a physicist. I have a feeling the team is going to beg him back into medicine and PPTH when they can’t solve the next case.

    I like the scene showing House in pain and then showing his differential diagnosis underneathe his cellmate’s bunk. It threw me back to the House who’s obsessed with solving mystering, the House who solves to cope with his pain, and now the House who prefers to solve medical mystery rather than physics.

    Was the actor for the patient of the week really a newbie? I thought he was great.

  • Sue

    Something everyone missed-House used the underside of his roommate’s bed as a white board where he wrote his symptom list.

    I think House put himself in prison to force himself to change. He was trying to change in the later episodes last season. He found that he could not do it on his own. He had to completely change his environment and separate himself from everything that reminded him of his past life. And, he needed a lot of time to affect that change. A month or two wouldn’t do it.

    I looked at the new doctor’s shoes. She was wearing the same kind of shoes House was wearing. Continuity problems.

    I love when Hugh gets to play House with depth in ethical dilemmas where there are consequences to his choices. This is where he shines. No one has eyes that can tell a story like Hugh Laurie.

    I liked that House played the trick on the guy who stole his food and the guy who wanted his stereo. House has not lost his cleverness in prison.

    I like the new actress better than Olivia Wilde. I can’t see her character making a big impact on the show. Unfortunately, they cast for looks rather than on acting talent. When they put bland actors next to Hugh, the deficit appears greater than it would if they put them next to anyone else. I think casting has been a large part of the downward ratings since season three.

  • angelcat2865

    Here is my take on this:

    First of all I really liked this episode. and thought Hugh did an excellent job! Was the prison and it prisoners realistic probably not but fortuity I don’t watch TV for reality. That’s what real life is for.;-)

    I am with those who did not ever see House as trying to kill or physically hurt Cuddy when he crashed his car into her house. Maybe I am just incredibly naive but I have never seen anything else on the show to make me think House is capable of murder no matter how mad he was, assisted suicide yes but not murder. If anything I think House was trying to hurt himself. And once again I may be naive or reading too much into the final scene from season 7 but the House seemed to be a smiling a sad smile (I’ve burnt my bridges, no going back so I may as well enjoy myself) instead of an remorselessness one to me. I saw House’s actions as more crazy than criminal. He snapped and I think another stay in the mental hospital would have been a better fit for his consequences.

    I do have to agree that the season 7 final could have been written a whole lot better, but much like House’s burnt bridges it is too late to take it back. This episode had a lot to accomplish: dealing with the fall out from that last episode and and setting up a way to move forward into the new season. I think it did a great job.

  • Paulac45

    Great review of a long awaited great episode. As usual, an episode which gets better and better with each viewing. Seen it twice so far and saw more nuances and sublets second time around, and expect will pick up more on third viewing! Like that House was ‘suvdued’ to an extent and his interactions with others, and the snark and sarcasm still being there when needed was great. although agree the opening scene was contrived, do think it was necessary and HL played it just right – also liked the responses of the two members of the board, putting him in his place. Heart twanged when House said had no peeps and also letting it be known via the sick guy knows has no one left on the outside. Not too impressed with the ‘Cameron wannabe’ new doctor, hoping the actor gets over her nerves and improves as the season progresses (and hope TPTB don’t fall into the trap of making her too Cameron like – that would be really boring, as was Cameron!). HL proved ye5 again, he can carry the show on his own, saying more with his silences, body language and facial expressions in each scene, than pages of script could ever do.
    Think the episode kicked off the season with a great start, with the promise of good things to come.

  • RobF

    Also, House deciding to become a physicist at this point in his life “to look for dark matter” would be like a physicist who is angry at Tevatron being shut down deciding that he is going to go into medicine and cure cancer.

    Even if House would be a good physicist, he’d never be a great physicist. Michael Jordan was a good baseball player, but it was a real shame when he left basketball.

    I hope they don’t even mention that again next episode.

  • KMC

    Thank you Barbara, for the review. I needed another perspective on this ep. I have to admit, I was comparing it to “Broken”, which of course was a mistake, as “Broken” was two hours of riviting writing, acting, directing, etc. and this one…not as much.
    But I suppose the difference was the fact that in entering the hospital of his own (relative) free will, he was, rather reluctently, trying to effect some positive change in himself and/or the path he was on. Here, he seemed to be simply doing penance with the idea that if he survived this..and given his mouth..survival wasn’t certain, he would lock himself in a lab, away from the humanity he sees himself having so little in common with.
    And yes, I think his past needs to be explored in more depth…does Wilson even know about the abuse? Did Cuddy? And as for his mother, given the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father that she either condoned, ignored or at the very best, pro forma protested, you can’t tell me that he doesn’t on some level resent/hate her. I and friends have wrestled with variations of the same situation and the same ambivelent feelings…and he’s never going to be able to “change”, or at least move on, if he doesn’t admit/confront those feeling…or her.
    I also hope that it’s not Forman who’s taken Cuddy’s position…he will stand up to House to a point, but he really doesn’t have enough administrative experience…the only one who does is Wilson…and that could be a very interesting subplot…will Wilson finally grow a backbone? We know he doesn’t want to be “friends” with House anymore…and haven’t we seen this before..but will he stick to his guns when dealing with House, or cave? It’s not that I don’t want to see the “bromance” revived, since it was my favorite part of the show, but I’d like to see Wilson assert himself more, in a positive way, with House…not the whinning nag, but, hopefully, someone who can help to effect some sort of healthy change in House…which is possible…no matter what House thinks…he just has to want enought to try…maybe winning back Wilson will be his motivation.

  • Jane E

    I really enjoyed this epsiode. I was extremely apprehesive and now that I have seen the episode, I am looking forward to see what happens back at PPTH. I agree with your comment about strangely passive. My co-worker and I were talking about that at work today and felt it was to show some humility in his character because if he acted extremely cocky, he would have been dead meat. Belive it or not, we were satisfied with the Rachel/ Cuddy explanation, but we were looking for that explanation since the season finale.

  • Thanks Jerome. I’m really excited about Season 8!

    Ladidah–It’s unclear who cut off the contact, it might easily have been House, who is literally trying to cut himself off from humanity.

  • Ladidah

    I really liked the new episode, especially the ending. The one thing House always wished he could hear from his dad…. ‘you were right’. Excellent reference. The whole episode worked well as a character study. Its so House to punish himself but at the same time refuse to apologise for what he did (well, we dont know if he apologised to Cuddy, but he certaily refued to to the parole board). And its so House to be unable to keep his kowtow to bullying for long no matter how self destructive the consequences of defiance are. I missed the House sense of humour somewhat though it makes sense he wouldnt feel like wise cracking so much in jail (and hes not surrounded by colleagues who will put up with/ enjoy his wisecracks, but people who are likely to beat him to a pulp if they suspect he’s giving them lip.) One thing I wonder: House said he had no visitors or phone calls.Is this because Wilson, etc are so disgusted with House they cut off all contact or has House cut off all contact with them? What about House’s mother? Surely she’d want to visit her only son in jail? Anyhow, definitely looking forward to new episodes and a new team (I will miss Cuddy, though)

  • Wonderful review! (as usual) I agree, the explanation did seem forced for the viewers. What I am hoping is that things will not go back to normal for House. He lost his license before, and while there was a new ‘status,’ it didn’t seem all that different, and it didn’t take overly long from him to be back in his comfortable, familiar position. Perhaps this time, since it looks much less easy, he will have to struggle, perhaps the whole season, to regain his previous job, if ever?

  • Gill

    Barbara, thank you for your review of what I thought was a most excellent opener to S8. House was in survival mode in jail, but yet there was times he looked afraid. Like you said, how like House to turn him self in and take a deal which gave him more prison time, than what he would of recived, and also to cut him self off from the outside world. I feel he was at his happiest being in solitary, at the end of the episode. Loved TPOTW, (and I belive reading some where it was that actors 1st TV role). The way House used his mind to get the diagnosis, solve the puzzle, even at the expense of loosing his parole, thats the House I have missed. I did like the new Dr, I feel she will be good on his team. I also think that LE leaving will be a good thing for the show, in storylines. I am looking forward to seeing how House will get back his reputation, and old team again at PPTH. Welcome back House!

  • Geddings–you are of course very correct. I’ve just been jaded by all the internet arguing!

  • Geddings

    I think House needed to say that comment about the trash just to assure viewers he wasnt trying to kill them it may feel tacked on but i think it was good that he said that none the less. and i actually liked that scene.

  • 2Light–Thanks so much for your kind words 🙂

    Hypersensitive introvert in extrovert jerk’s clothing. That my House 🙂

    Thank you everyone for your comments about the show and the review.

    MusicandHouse. Yes, I noticed that. They are up against ridiculous competition this season. I want to find out what the final DVR numbers are later this week. I think they’ll change. Down 7% from last year’s premiere, but again, I think there were probably many more DVR-ers than last year.

  • MusicandHouse

    Also, I find it interesting that the rating are actually UP from the seasno finale of last year. Looks like all of those people who claimed they would not be watching changed their minds.

  • MusicandHouse

    I agree about the begining exposition about House knowing Rachel wasn’t there etc was definately for the fan benefit. However, only a small portion of the fans follow online controversy so I am very curious as to how that part played out for the more casual viewers.
    I too really enjoyed the episode and seeing the vulnerable side of House. I can’t wait for next week to see where the show will go

  • maineac

    Wonderful episode, and spot on review.

  • I don’t think his father loved him either. The things he did to him might well have been considered child abuse even in the Sixties… I mean, a tub of ice? Sleeping in the yard? Probably John House knew Gregory wasn’t really his son, on some level.
    I really think they ought to explore this with House’s mother a character in an arc in this season. How can he ever get to the bottom of his problems (if he ever will) without finding out what really happened? He seems to have little curiosity (for House, I mean) about the details– he who follows Wilson to find out whether he has a cat or not!

  • I wonder why 13 doesn’t come to get him? He got her out!

  • I am hoping Foreman isn’t the head of the hospital (seemed so in scenes from next week’s show) only because we’ve seen him “in charge” of House so many times. I’d rather see something else. Hope that House can get beyond the problems not only of PP but that the fans have with him now. I felt that oddly, Hugh Laurie himself wasn’t playing “House” with his full power and energy as he has in the past, no matter what. Something changed– but he will always be one of the best actors I’ve ever seen and I love the show. Let’s hope the new people are able to help carry it. Odette Annable was good– I liked her character… clearly she’ll work for House @ PP because she can’t work elsewhere now. I wonder if there will be any emotional reaction on House’s part when he learns Cuddy is gone?

  • Kim in California


    Barbara, (see above link) his father may have been abusive, but I’m not sure he didn’t love him. Back in the sixties, the ideas of punishment were different than they are now.

  • RobF

    It was an ok episode, a one-off that felt like a “road trip” episode that sitcoms sometimes do.

    The theme was of House retreating into himself, regrouping, and getting back his self-respect. His method for doing this was to insist on his dignity and independence, refusing to be beholden to anyone. This is why he refused to take less than a harsh punishment for his crime. It’s why he bristled at the parole board wanting him to act contrite and ask their indulgence. And it’s why he threw the vicodin in the face of the faux-Nazi gang boss, defying him when he had the payoff literally in the palm of his hand. They are setting the scene for House to begin this season as aloof and unrepentant as he was in Season 1.

    (also, I agree with Barbara that House’s exposition about the crash was a bit of back-pedalling by the writers, who must have realised the audience thought they’d taken things too far)

  • rbrown205

    You wrote: “How many times, I wonder, during his time there has House provoked a prisoner to beat him?”

    I noticed also that the awful scene when someone threw House up against a wall in one of the previews wasn’t in the actual episode. Frankly I am glad they cut it out – it hurts me to see him get hurt, even though he is only a character.

  • 2Lightworker

    Barbara, thank you for this thoughtful and balanced review, with your characteristically honest insights, as well as for last night’s on line exchange to share our thoughts and feelings. You continue to provide a place where we can express our responses without descending into a lot of negative projection and character assassination. Mazeltov for this!
    I am putting “Chasing Zebras” on my wish list!

    For some time the writers and other commenters from the team have referred to House as a jerk, or an a**. He is called that in scripts over the seasons. Yet when Hugh Laurie imbues the character with his own spirit, those terms seem far from what I experience. That may well be MY projection, but House seems to be light and dark all at once, a hypersensitive introvert who can solve amazing riddles but is unable or unwilling to engage the inner process of searing radical honesty that could lead him to renounce his pain and be open to something better. Thus the “people don’t change” mantra.

    On another site a fan referred to him as a Don Quixote, which feels close to what I see when House is tilting at his own windmills.

    He also has the traits of the Trickster,or Heyoka, from indigenous people’s beliefs in many cultures, including the Druid healers/magicians in Celtic culture. The use of consciousness-altering substances was not unusual (cf. Vicodin).

    One description of this in Heyoka Magazine:
    “the heyoka were at once feared and held in reverence…
    the heyoka, or sacred clowns, were usually few in number, but were found in almost every clan. Heyoka were contraries, often speaking and walking backwards. They acted in ridiculous, obscene, and comical ways, especially during sacred ceremonies. They were thought to be fearless and painless, able to seize a piece of meat out of a pot of boiling water. They often dressed in a bizarre and ludicrous manner… The heyoka was thought to usually carry various sacred items – a deer hoof rattle, a colored bow, a flute, or drum. His ‘anti-natural’ nature was thought to be shamanistic in origin — and as a contrary, he was expected to act silly and foolhardy during battle…

    However insulting or sacrilegious heyoka actions might be, they were tolerated, since it was assumed they were acting on the higher and more inscrutable imperatives of the Great Mystery.

    Heyoka were freed from all the ordinary constraints of life, and thus were usually not expected to marry, have children, or participate in the work of the tribe.

    Despite their bizarre acts (such as dressing in warm clothes during summer or wearing things inside out), they were trusted as healers, interpreters of dreams, and people of great medicine.

    Whenever they interrupted the solemnity of a ceremony, people took it as an admonition to see beyond the literalness of the ritual and into the deeper mysteries of the sacred. Like the flash of lightning, the heyoka’s sudden outbursts and disturbances were thought to be the keys to enlightenment – much like the absurd acts of Zen masters in Japan. (Hultkrantz 1987)”

    This seems to capture something of the mystery of the many tilts over the seasons, House’s iconoclastic outlook, his resistance to commonly accepted conventions, and his power shown in reality-shifting actions.
    This concept helps me grasp the fascination I have with the character, through all the ups and downs and twists and turns of episode plots, following House’s journey into the unknown, and why I look forward to seeing it manifest for the episodes to come.

  • housemaniac

    I agree with several of the comments on this thread, particularly that the episode lacked energy (by *House* standards) and that OA looks too damn young to be a doctor. It’s annoying that they seem to go for the super-attractive women for doctors on this show. The men are not (for the most part) super-attractive and I don’t think it’s necessary for this show.

    Barbara, you asked on the live chat (which I wasn’t able to participate in because my TV broke a couple of days ago–aaargh) about questions for Peter Blake. I have one: Do they plan to have any dramatic arcs this season, besides House’s reintegration into life on the outside? Or, is it going to be more episode-based? I’m concerned about the show lacking dramatic tension this season, what with Cuddy gone and no (apparent) issues around the Vicodin and House starting out the season in trouble so I don’t see him getting on the wrong side of the law again this season… Hard to figure without legal troubles, women troubles, personnel troubles, where the drama will come from?

  • Kim in California

    I agree with you Barbara, the whole statement about knowing that no one was in the room was too contrived. The same information could have been given to us through House having a soul searching moment with his chess playing friend. “I knew no one was in there, but it didn’t make it right.”

    Having said that, I loved the more subdued House. It took me back to the first three seasons where he only became really animated when he was dealing with his puzzles. I really enjoyed it and so did my husband (who is not the rabid fan I am and stopped watching because of Huddy.)

    I am cautiously optimistic about Season 8, but if House gets behind the wheel of a Monster Truck again, I’m done.

    One more gripe, can’t the producers find actresses that look like they could be old enough to be a doctor? They always look as if they just graduated from high school. There are enough lovely 28-30 year olds who can act…why not hire one?

  • Eloise

    I loved this episode, thank heavens House is back! If this is a refelction in any way as to what to expect for Season 8 then its gonna be a corker!!!

  • Ronald Leff

    I enjoyed the first episode very much;parole board reminded me of Morgan Freeman’s scene in Shawshank except House had to wait 5 days longer.
    The new female doctor had me interested as it seemed to pull House back into his world and I hope we see her as a new team member when House goes back to Princeton Plainsboro.
    I am looking forward to next weeks episode.

  • Amy

    Good review! I found your statement that his mother felt guilty over his existence and his father didn’t love him to be interesting. This is one subject they haven’t explored nearly enough, IMO. When you interview the writers maybe you can let them know that people are interested in more exploration of that subject. As for the ep, I enjoyed it. It was nice to see House in an environment where he was not the Alpha dog. Even in Mayfield he was very larger than life and toweted over the other patients. Prison was different. He was definitely more subdued and you could see more fear. Like you I was a huddy and will miss Cuddy greatly, but I am looking forward to seeing how House handles this new environment and the absence of Cuddy in his life.

  • Anne

    I liked it, which surprised me. Originally I wasn’t even going to watch S8, but now I’m glad I started. The next episode looks really interesting too. Hopefully this will start an upward trend so the show can get back on its feet and (if this does end up being the last season) end on a high note. 🙂

  • Hi CJ–I thought it was pretty clear (even though House never said it) that House regretted deeply what happened in Moving On. The fact that he never had a lawyer, took the first deal offered and wants to remove himself from humanity (whether being locked up away from it in prison or in a field where he doesn’t have to deal with it) because it’s what got him into trouble….

    He believes that he deserves to be punished. That says volumes.

  • I liked 20 Vicodin, but I would say it was a good episode and not a great one. It started off a little slow but I did like to see House invested in a medical case again. I also liked his relationship with his cell mate, and the older guy he plays chess with.

    I would’ve liked to have known that House was lying when he told the parole board he didn’t feel remorse about what he did. I feel like the immediate scene after that one should have shown House in his cell looking remorseful.

    I agree with you completely that House’s comments at the beginning were in answer to the criticism of the finale. I thought Hugh Laurie played that really well though. Not only did he convince me that House thought exactly that at the time of the crash, he also convinced me that thinking there could be any other outcome is insane. It was only later that I went: wait a minute…lol

    It was a well crafted episode. I’m going to watch it again because I always get a better picture of it sans the commercial breaks.

  • Great article and very interesting premiere. We miss Lisa Edelstein and have a great interest in other familiar characters in future episodes.

  • Lucy

    I thought this episode was good but not great.

    Some scenes were lame (the beginning with H repeating words by words Shore’s explanation of the crash; Adams being surprised by the fact that House is in jail because “nobody got hurt”, seriously???) but as a whole, I thought the episode was solid and well executed.

    And yet, it lacked something IMO. I wouldn’t say it was boring, but it had no energy, it failed to really catch my interest. It was just more of the same, just in a different setting.

  • jonnieboy

    Season 7 was already a write-off for me the moment Cuddy walked in and found House, vicodin in hand, in his bathroom at the end of S.6 It didn’t take an idiot to see what kind of an idiot House would become with his guaranteed involvement with her after that scene. And indeed, it WAS a train-wreck of a season.
    However, after seeing tonight’s opening episode, maybe there’s some hope. Maybe- even a good possibility. I liked it, and for all of the reasons that Ms. Barnett outlined above. I don’t know who the new lady doc is- I don’t watch much of anything as far as serials go (‘cept House and Criminal Minds), but I do like her, too. Maybe a female that actually seems fairly down to earth for a change? Sure hope so, because none of the rest of them were. Especially Cameron, who couldn’t stop putting herself under House’s thumb if her life depended on it.
    Anyways- fingers crossed for this season.

  • doddle

    BORING, and the new dr saying “cooool” like House while she’s an idiot solving cases. And why House, a drug addict could be in a place where there are lots of medications? silly

  • angelcat2865

    I really enjoyed this episode and hope that the rest of the season will be as good. I love this show and it’s title character despite their faults or maybe because of them.