“Who's Your Daddy” is one of those House, MD episodes that people either love or hate. When it first aired at the end of season two, the episode was soundly trashed by some in the fandom. I guess I never figured out why. Having aired on FOX this past Friday night, I find an opportunity to revisit the penultimate episode of season two.
I am firmly in the “I really loved it” camp. It was revelatory and touched on House’s musical background. And Hugh Laurie does such a fabulous job of dealing with House’s emotional conflict regarding an old friend, his suppressed feelings for Cuddy, and his unrelenting pain. "Who's Your Daddy" also sets us up for the season finale and House’s decision to try a radical pain therapy as he deals with increasingly uncontrollable pain.
The first scene after the opening credits takes place in House’s flat. He is alone, in his pajamas. As he paces, distressed and in a great deal of pain, House grows increasingly desperate in his movements, looking for a moment's relief. But after hours of walking, pacing, trying more and more Vicodin, the terrible pain in House's leg still gnaws at him. It's a long scene; a revelatory scene; a scene without one word of dialogue.
Hugh Laurie is at his best in these dialogue-free scenes. He conveys the building panic in House’s body language and in his eyes as nothing seems to work to keep the pain in check. After what must’ve been hours, he can pace no more, supporting his weight on his kitchen island; the pain is so intense that he is nearly in tears. It is in this frame of mind that he collects his morphine rescue kit from where he has hidden it on a high and barely accessible shelf. For this extreme step to be sympathetic, we have to buy that House's pain is so intense, that if he doesn't do it, he will collapse. Laurie is simply brilliant at conveying the range of emotions through which House must be going. It leaves us to wonder whether we've looked voyeuristically in on an isolated event, or gotten a peek at the physical distress he endures regularly, in the privacy of his personal life.
Before he can inject himself with the drug, the phone rings and Cuddy has a case for him. Work beckons, and despite the uncontrolled pain, he realizes that morphine will dull his ability to diagnose the case. And perhaps the distraction of a case will mitigate the pain enough to make it manageable.
Cut to the hospital, where we meet House’s old friend Dylan Crandall, a writer. He and House were friends when House was in college. Presumably, during those university days, House supported himself by playing jazz. House immediately suspects that Crandall (known as a bit of a pushover) is being scammed by Leona, the granddaughter of a famous jazz pianist, and the subject of a Crandall biography. Leona has convinced Crandall that she is his daughter, and that her mother died, a victim of Hurricane Katrina. House doesn’t believe it for a minute. Much of the remainder of the episode is divided between figuring out what's wrong with the girl — and her real story; Wilson trying to figure out how a guy like Crandall and a guy like House could possibly be friends; and House dealing with a level of pain we've not seen very often. And dealing with Cuddy's big secret.
We've often seen Cuddy and Wilson insist that House has increased pain when his overly active mind is bored; that all House needs is a puzzle to solve and – voila! – no leg pain. We’d seen that theory tested earlier in season two’s episode “Skin Deep.” It’s tested again here, as House has multiple distractions. But his pain problem hangs, growing more severe as the episode wears on. His pacing becomes more frantic. He tries keeping the leg cushioned and elevated; he tries massage (to humorous effect); he tries more Vicodin and nothing seems to be helping him. This is not pain from boredom or guilt (as Wilson suggests at one point); or from missing Stacy (as Wilson and Cuddy suggested in “Skin Deep”). I wonder whether House would have even thought about self-medicating with morphine as he did in “Who’s Your Daddy” had Wilson and Cuddy not been so dismissive of him in earlier episodes.