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TV Review: House, MD – “Who’s Your Daddy” (Revisited)

“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.

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • Susanne

    Great Review Barbara as usual

    I was catching up on my paperwork from court when I cam across your review. It was a great break that I have had in a long time.

    What did happen to cuddy’s baby story arc? Did thry drop it or something? I liked their scenes together. But don’t think they should ge together. Maybe a one night stand, I want to see an aftermath and their relationship explored but not romanticaly. Ok I admit I am house/cameron person but I still like the House/cuddy scenes. I am a flexiable person. :)

    I so like House when he can’t let go of things and that he felt he betrayed Crandall and broke his ethical code. I love Hugh Laurie when it comes to those scenes and my heart broke for him when I saw him in the first scene. HL is pure talant but then again I have seen him in many shows before House and his talant can not be measured that guy can do anything!

    Fantastic review Barbara! A pleasure to read and it was great to forget about all my paperwork to finish up for the prosecution’s office.

  • http://www.sweetiethesmartestdog.com sue

    This episode of House MD has one of the most subtly-acted, best scenes in the show. When Cuddy comes to House’s office near the end, when House asked her if she came all the way up to his office to thank him for the injections, Hugh Laurie uses just an expression to ask Cuddy what she wants to ask him. He said so much doing so little. Lisa did a great job not answering him, but showing us exactly what she was thinking. Did House figure out the real reason she came to his office?

    This episode is a good example of what was missing from the first dozen episodes this season. Many dimensions of House were displayed, and his internal conflict and its resolution revealed the most compelling parts of his character. In It’s a Wonderful Lie, House said he tells the cold hard truth because he doesn’t care. In this episode, he lied to Leona about Dylan being her father because he does care. This was a white lie.

    As someone who has lived in chronic pain for 15 years, I can attest to how incredible Hugh has been conveying what I and many others go through every minute of every day. It is hard for us to let others know what we experience. I can only hope that watching House go through these trying times, they can understand that severe pain has a devastating effect on all people who experience it, that we don’t exaggerate what we feel, that it affects how we think and function, that we try our best to overcome it and be as productive as we can be. TPTB have woven his pain into the character and the storylines just the way our pain envelops and invades our lives. It would be interesting to hear from people who don’t have pain and see if watching House has changed their perception of people in pain.

    One theme I see in this episode is how much we say by saying little or nothing at all. House, when telling Wilson what happened with Dylan’s girlfriend, using a spin of his fingers to reverse Wilson’s “You blew it” line. Leona using her eyes to admit she lied to Crandall. Cuddy telling House “no” in response in the scene I described, yet we know she wanted to ask him to father her child. House making up for his past indiscretion by telling Leona Dylan was her father. House showing how much pain he has and how devastating it is without a word.

    House shows his interest in Cuddy normally by making snarky comments about her body. In this episode, he had a way to redirect those feelings by getting involved in her fertility issues. This shows that what underlies the sexual banter is a real respect and affection for her.

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    What did happen to cuddy’s baby story arc? Did thry drop it or something?
    It continued through the first half of season three, and then I think Cuddy sort of gave up the IVF quest in favor of finding a relationship for the rest of the season. We’ll see what happens in the future.

    I liked their scenes together. But don’t think they should ge together. Maybe a one night stand, I want to see an aftermath and their relationship explored but not romanticaly. Ok I admit I am house/cameron person but I still like the House/cuddy scenes. I am a flexiable person. :)

    I loved those House/Cuddy scenes. I’m a House/Cuddy person primarily, but I can’t see House in any long-term relationship. I really liked his scenes with Mira Sorvino in “Frozen” too.

    My heart really broke for House in this episode. He was dealing with a lot. You know, there is a reason why people who he’s known a long time stick with him. And it’s not because he’s a jerk. Stacy, Crandall, his long-standing relationships with both Wilson and Cuddy. They all see something beyond his affect and into his heart. He doesn’t often grant access, but this cuts to the core of why we as viewers like House.

    Glad that I could help you enjoy your break, Susanne. Prosecutor’s office. Hmmm. Not an easy job.

    Sue–thanks for your insightful comments. I too liked that final House/Cuddy scene. He was so expectant, and by his silence allowed her to either move towards or away from him. He declined to make a snarky remark, giving her space.

    You are so right about Hugh Laurie. I do not (fortunately) suffer chronic pain. My mother does, and she’s on 80 mg. of Vicodin/per day. It barely has an effect anymore. House puts up a brave front in order to not be pitied by either patients or colleagues. But when he’s home, I’m sure he pays the price for that exertion. We’ve seen it very consistently played that when he’s at home, he has a much more difficult time getting around (or he’s not trying to cover for it). That last scene of the episode was phenomenal (and again wordless) as House, finally able to get some relief, doesn’t even answer the phone.

    I never quite got all the hate for this episode.

  • Axi

    I love this episode too. There is so much wonderful insight into House, his pain, his past and his own unique moral code, all of which are superbly performed by HL – the scene at the begining, in his apartment, is truly jaw dropping.

    Crandall was great. DB Sweeney did a lovely job. I really felt the history between the two of them and the contrast of their characters was weighted beautifully.

    And wow, did the scenes with Cuddy spark! The scene where she goes into his office and there is no dialogue to begin with, well it’s one of my very, very favourite from the whole show, it is so brilliantly performed by the two of them. I wish they could have kept that whole scene diaglogue free, I’d have just about gone into orbit with the perfection of it. And I’m not a shipper, that’s how good it was.

    Great review as ever, I love to read your reasoned, passionate and wonderfully written articles. Your focus on House’s internal struggle and the nuances of HL’s performance make them a unique and much anticipated treat.

  • Susanne

    Thankyou for your reponse.

    Anytime I read your reviews while I am on a break I feel a whole lot better. I am the head of the prosecution and a senior prosecutor so it is not an east job…so tiring.

    I so agree with you on everything. HL is pure talant!

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    You guys are making me blush :)

  • Robin

    You expressed my feelings very well. I want to add that House not only feels for weaker people but misfits as well. The dwarfs in MLC and the woman clinic patient in the pilot who didn’t like to be told what to do. About chronic pain I am more sympathetic about it and I do tend to notices canes more often. I have heard that the brain will change from long term chronic pain and increase the signals it receives. That in turn validates my theory that in Half-Wit House was trying to over ride the brain’s pain signals instead of getting high. And being always private he was not going to explain it to anyone. I also loved the Cuddy scenes, and I also enjoy the Cameron flirting scenes. But I think it would be a dead end for the show if he links with anyone long term.

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    Robin–I agree with your theory about Half-Wit. Starting with the episode Insensitive, House was trying to research alternatives to the Vicodin. Something to take his pain away. Whether it was an implant in his brain or regrowth of healthy nerve fibers–or the previously tried Ketamine, House has shown himself to be looking for healing…for help and not for a high.

    As far as his attitude towards the powerless, I agree as well. I think he has a special sympathy to those who are powerless because he has been there. Even in Role Model, his attitude was to refuse to flog a product that would serve against the needs of the ill.

    barbara

  • Claire

    I watched Seasons 1 & 2 in a long marathon over a week and weekend trying to catch up. I didn’t discover House until early in Season 3. I think you really captured how breath-takening this episode is. It includes the solemn, intense scenes that were missing in Season 4–so far. Just a medical story, no arc with villains or anything else. Just House try to survive, work, live up to his own impossible standards, and not scream in pain. Doesn’t get any better than that!

  • http://sweetiethesmartestdog.com sue

    I read all the comments so far,and I agree with everything said. It just hit me how brilliant this program is. I already knew it, but it hit me again. In 3 1/2 seasons, TPTB, the writers, and Hugh Laurie and the other actors have created characters, storylines, and relationships between the characters that are so complex and believable we all can have a different interpretation and we all can agree on most of what we express. House MD is so far superior to any other program I have seen I find it hard to put it in the same category as the other shows.

    Every word Hugh utters is a gift. His expression and commitment to making every word count puts him in a league all his own. I can watch an episode over and over and never get bored. Before House, I didn’t feel acting was very complicated and it didn’t require that much talent; I did not see that much difference between better performances and lesser ones. Hugh has changed my mind on that. Hugh is batting 1000, and every other actor is hovering around 10. The problem now is that I am more aware of the lack of expression and attention to each word in other actors. I would rather watch House again than most other programs.

    We love House, both the character and the program. In a short period of time, have been fortunate to get to know such a fascinating, complex, multi-dimensional, captivating character. Hugh, the other talented actors, the writers, and the other people who make this program possible deserve the highest praise.

  • Olivia

    I absolutely love this episode!! I think it’s amazing that House actually had a friend when he was younger!!!

  • Paul Nelson

    Anyone who watches the old episodes of the Brit Comedy “Black Adder” in which Laurie plays the dim-witted aristocrat circa 1600′s England can witness not only his development as a dramatic actor, but also the development of his flawless American accent. He is truly a treasure of contemporary television. And if you haven’t seen Laurie in “Black Adder”, then get thee to ye olde video store and buy the DVD’s…he was excellent back then as well.
    RE his portrayal of a “wounded healer” in House, I wonder if how much background work he did (or does) to learn the role of someone in chronic pain? Having worked as a therapist treating pain patients for many years, I am amazed how spot-on he can be with his portrayal of the cunning tactics he’s used to get his vicodin in past episodes. Of course, this is primarily the result of outstanding screenwriting, but he nails it!

  • Barbara Barnett

    Thanks for you comments, Paul. I really loved Blackadder, especially the fourth series dealing with World War I.

    Contrasting Hugh’s work then (and it was really only 15-18 years ago) with his work on House, it is very clear that he is a gifted actor with a broad and deep range. I think he’s really always had the dramatic chops, but his comedy is so iconic in its way, that I think it took for him to leave his nest entirely to be taken seriously. But I also agree that he’s a much better actor and subtle actor than he was back then. If you’ve never seen some of his earlier dramatic work, I would suggest that as well: A Pin for the Butterfly (avail. in Australia as a DVD, but playable on American players), All or Nothing at All, Peter’s Friends, etc.

    He does play the “wounded healer” to perfection, and while the writing is significant factor in the portrayal, some of Hugh’s best scenes in the run of Hous have no dialogue at all (so it’s pure acting).