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TV Review: House – “Resignation”

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Discussions inspired by "Resignation":

Brother: You probably still haven't seen yesterday's episode, so I won't ruin it for you. All I'll say is that there aren't many network TV shows that can make me yell "Oh, f**k!" out loud in the middle of an episode.

Later, me to a friend: So while watching I was wondering what that moment was. Then when her head exploded … oh f**k!

Friend: Now really. That can't actually happen. I mean. It can't. Or I can't live in a world where it can.

Me: I'm going to pretend they took artistic license. I mean, they might have, but I don't want to run the risk of finding out they didn't.

Friend: Oh, I'll call that artistic license until my dying day.

 
House has now ruined one of my favourite expressions. Thinking too hard? My head's going to explode. Something doesn't make sense? My head's going to explode. Someone's being an annoying idiot? My head's going to explode. But no more. Now, the expression is accompanied by a gore-filled image burned into my head. Which is never, ever going to figuratively explode again.

Poor Addie is the teenaged patient of the week whose head literally explodes while she's in the MRI machine. But first, the team can't figure out why she started coughing up blood while kicking butt in karate.

Entering the home of the white board, House starts to read his coffee cup ("People don't …") when he's interrupted and kicked out until his minions can arrive at his conclusion: the blood has no source.

The reading-the-coffee-cup moment is hardly a joke in itself, except for the backstory made clear in a recent humour piece by LA Times writer Joel Stein. I am a venti scribe starts with his quest to be quoted on a Starbucks cup and ends with an anecdote about his discovery of a grand grande quote by House creator David Shore: "People don't read enough. And what reading we do is cursory, without absorbing the subtleties and nuances that lie deep within — Wow, you've stopped paying attention, haven't you? People can't even read a coffee cup without drifting off." Says Stein: "It was clearly the best thing I'd ever read on a cup, ever. I hated David Shore with every word inside my writerhood."

That's a lot of backstory to turn a two-second clip into a joke, but it sets up an episode full of coffee cups — and conversations and motivations — that aren't as simple as they first appear.

Foreman tells his colleagues that he's submitted his resignation, but he won't tell them why. Chase, emulating House a little himself, chooses to turn that into a mystery, and is determined to deduce why neither Foreman nor House will reveal the reason, and why Foreman has, for the first time in recorded history, laughed at one of House's jokes – and a lame one at that. Though "most of your jokes are excellent" Chase brown noses, proving that he's in no real danger of turning into House.

His conclusion is that Foreman and House are ashamed of Foreman's reasons for leaving, and that Foreman really doesn't want to go. Shame and pride have been hot topics lately, and the obvious answer to why House won't ask Foreman to stay is that he's too proud. But if he'd watched the episode, Chase would probably agree that that's not all the evidence suggests.

House seems resigned to the fact that he's going to lose Foreman, and the resignation seems to come from agreement with the reasons for it – that he's in danger of turning into House, and that's not necessarily a desirable trait. After accepting Wilson's latest coffee offering and questioning his seemingly innocent yawn as a symptom, House has an almost-poignant exchange with his friend: 

Wilson: You don't want to end up like you. … You could try bargaining with him. Give him a raise.

House: How much do you think it would cost to make him want to be like me?

Cuddy admonishes him for not making the effort to keep the neurologist. "Have you talked to Foreman yet? You haven't. Because then you'd have to confront your own emotions." House: "Is bile an emotion?"

Instead of focusing on that losing battle, fraught with emotion and all that scary stuff, House turns his attention to the medical mystery. Continuing the recurrence of infections plaguing (but not literally) Foreman, whose misdiagnosis of one killed a patient two episodes ago, House believes Addie has an atypical infection. He persists in that diagnosis despite all evidence to the contrary.

He also bounces around with his camcorder, gets giddy at the prospect of his patient's impending heart attack, shows even more traces of Hugh Laurie's rubber-faced comedic past, and overall seems oddly peppy for a guy continuously proven wrong, or at least not proven right.

Until he is proven right, just not in the way he thought. He's also proven right about Wilson and his yawning as a medical symptom. We see House get amphetamines from the pharmacy for no particular reason – but then does House need a reason to illegally procure drugs? – and then sit at his desk with two cups of coffee and an evil grin.

Wilson is suspicious of the coffee offering from the man who constantly begs, borrows, and steals food and beverages from him. "Because it's either that or I accept the fact that you've done something nice, and then I have to deal with the horsemen, and the rain of fire, and the end of days," Wilson explains.

So House and Wilson play a little Vizzini and Wesley, and Wilson takes the cup that was not offered to him. Did House predict he'd do that, or did he lace them both? I'm inclined to think it doesn't take a genius to think Wilson would not take the proffered cup, but I have no idea how someone would act on the combination of anti-depressants, Vicodin, and amphetamines.

Because, as House deduces later, Wilson has been dosing him, too. Scary how alike they are, underneath all that unalikeness. Wilson's experiment is testing if House is happier on anti-depressants, proof that he's depressed. I hope Wilson knows how anti-depressants would interact with Vicodin, amphetamines, alcohol, and god knows what else House puts in his system, because otherwise he's quite the hypocrite for complaining about how dangerous House's experiment is.

What amphetamines do to Wilson is make him jittery and talk a mile a minute. His pep talk to Foreman is less effective than entertaining, and he conducts a highly inappropriate breast exam on a confused patient. Finally Wilson realizes something's not quite right: "I feel like my heart's going to explode." Don't say that, Wilson. Not in this episode of the exploding head. "Excuse me, I have to go kill someone."

The fact that Wilson still yawns on speed is House's proof that the oncologist is on anti-depressants, and he berates him for keeping it a secret. Mid-rant, Wilson cuts him off with: "This is why I take them," but House has the best retort: "They're antidepressants, not anti-annoyance-ants." House implies Wilson's a hypocrite for not mentioning them while lecturing House on how to fix his own life.

"You wouldn't take them," Wilson protests. "You'd rather OD on Vicodin or stick electrodes in your head because you could say you did it to get high. The only reason to take anti-depressants is that you're depressed. You have to admit you're depressed."

It's the line I've been waiting for since "Half-Wit" – some implicit acknowledgment that the buried motivation for House faking brain cancer was something other than getting high, that it was the act not just of an out of control drug addict, but of man desperate for, but unwilling to admit a need for, help.

House would not agree. So it's a challenge he meets by demanding some of Wilson's pills to prove he's not depressed. Wilson, inexplicably – except I've explicated it in this review before the episode did – refuses.

There's an odd, but also funny and sexy, scene in there when Cameron sneaks into House's apartment to wake him up in the middle of the night, since he's not answering the phone (hmm, because of the drugs?). She's getting good at that breaking and entering thing. "What did you do?" she exclaims when she turns on the light and sees his face. "Nothing! This is what regular people look like when you wake them up."

Chase's diagnosis of autoimmune has been proven wrong, leaving only an infection that comes and goes through various body parts on the table again. House is ecstatic. Inappropriately ecstatic and self-absorbed, as his team points out. Foreman considers it yet another sign that his decision to quit was the right one. To House, confirming the diagnosis is all that matters. The fact that it's incurable doesn't dampen his Prozac-enhanced spirits, because his curiosity has been satisfied, and curiosity is what drives him, not that Ben and Jody are losing their only daughter, Addie.

House on anti-depressants is just as inappropriate as depressed House, but in a different way. At least miserable House isn't bursting with joy about the prospect of a patient's heart attack or telling her exactly how she's going to die a painful death.

But House takes Foreman's objections as a clue he wants to stay: "Suddenly you're trying to turn me into a kinder, gentler ass." That sounds like a familiar quest. Maybe Foreman's been hanging out on the Internet.

House takes the point enough to learn the patient's name before telling her she's dying, but he can't help but smile at his cleverness for deducing her rare disease that offered few clues. She shuts him down, though, and won't let him tell her what that disease is. She is a smart college girl – she couldn't have hit him where it hurts any more accurately than if she were Wilson.

"What's the point of living without curiosity?" he rages, but with a smile, which she points out. She doesn't point out that when you're dying, you don't really need a point to live.

Glancing at something shiny, House gets visual proof that Addie is right, he's smiling, and he finally pieces together why Wilson has been bringing him coffee every day. He does not, however, accept the proof of what that coffee has done to him, insisting that he's been hazy rather than happy since being dosed. Wilson scoffs at the idea that a dying girl mistook hazy for happy, leading House to realize that the dying girl was no different than she'd ever been.

His diagnosis just got another layer. A physician telling a patient she's going to die really shouldn't be happy, but a patient being told she's going to die really shouldn't be the same as she was before. Like half the people in this episode, Addie's depressed.

She also chose a strange way to commit suicide, by making kitchen cleanser into a pill, which burned a hole in her intestine, created a bridge between an intestinal vein and an artery, and allowed bacteria to flood through her body. "Surgery to fix the bridge will take two hours. Psychotherapy'll take a little longer," House tells her.

Even though he's solved the puzzle, he goes further, wanting to know why she did it. "I don't know. I've just never been happy," she answers. Depression just might be the unsolvable mystery, at least if he refuses to consider it as a medical mystery instead of an emotional mystery.

Part of the beauty of the character of House is that we're never given a simple answer for why he is the way he is. His leg hurts, his lover betrayed him, his father abused him, but none of that is offered up as a simple equation to explain him away. Like House, Addie can't offer an explanation for unhappiness, though unlike House, she uses excess kitchen cleanser instead of excess Vicodin to deal with it.

He breaks his word that he won't tell her parents if she promises not to attempt suicide again, and makes them think about looking into anti-depressants as well as therapy … because while the mystery is solved, the patient's life is still at risk. And maybe, just maybe, he can see himself in her.

Cuddy gives Foreman one last thought as they watch Addie's surgery. He thinks she's trying to tell him that House's success rate is all that matters, but she says: "I'm telling you there are worse things to turn into." Foreman remains unconvinced, though: "It's not worth it." I get the feeling House might agree.

House takes full advantage of his clinic time in this episode, diagnosing a not-terribly-attractive man with cheating on his terribly attractive girlfriend. While she's strangely resigned to that – "I get it," she says – House adds that the cheating is of a dietary nature. The vegan nutritionist's boyfriend has been sneaking cheeseburgers. House moves in on the woman who has decidedly unsuperficial taste in men. 

Honey (can we call that irony, since honey isn't technically vegan?), as played by Piper Perabo of Coyote Ugly, is kinda dumb (Wilson: "She's 26." House: "With the wisdom of a much younger woman."). She's kinda pathetic. She's kinda flaky. But she's very, very pretty. That's all it takes to make her House's type, apparently.

In the end, when he meets her in a bar under the pretense of doing a job interview, there's a glimmer of something else. A woman who can listen to his listing of failures – and if anything, he's under-reporting – with a "how miserable can you be, saving lives, sleeping around, and doing drugs?" just might be more of a match for him than appearances would suggest.

While his confession to her shows a huge degree of self-awareness and an unusually large degree of honesty for the man, it's hard to say if his revelation that he's on anti-depressants is a sign that he's going to continue taking them voluntarily. It would be strange to use the present tense if not, but then again, he doesn't go so far as to admit he's depressed, just that his friend thinks he's depressed. Whatever he's learned from Wilson and Addie in this episode, I doubt we'll see a shiny, happy House from here on out. Even if he is getting it on with a beautiful nutritionist with low expectations.

Oh, one more conversation inspired by "Resignation": the bet has now been declared on national radio. My competitor said to CBC: "They've done the duckling-gonna-leave plot before. If he doesn't actually leave, that's schmuck bait. But I think he's actually gonna go." Will Foreman really leave? I say only a schmuck would think so.

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About Diane Kristine Wild

  • Maddoc

    Hmmmmmm.

  • http://www.kaonashigasuki.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/02/edible_arrangements.gif Kaonashi

    The exploding head scene was sooo gross. They were picking up pieces of her scalp and putting it in a bag! *BARF*

    I’m not sure about the patient’s form of suicide though. Turning kitchen cleanser into a pill sounds far-fetched to me. If she were truly depressed and suicidal, wouldn’t have she just done the deed much quicker? Is this based on a real event?

  • http://unifiedtheorynothingmuch.blogspot.com Diane Kristine

    I don’t know – I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s based on truth, but it did seem like a too-convenient way to commit suicide (and then go to karate?), designed to create a medical mystery instead of being all that believable. It didn’t bother me too much, but it was a little jarring.

  • http://www.kaonashigasuki.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/02/edible_arrangements.gif Kaonashi

    Hi Diane,

    Exactly! She tries to kill herself and then goes to karate class? I wonder if it was an actual attempt of suicide or a desperate call for help to her parents.

  • MT

    I kind of buy the suicide thing. She doesn’t know why she wants to do it, and she doesn’t want others (like parents) to know, doesn’t want to have traces of drugs in her system, so have the kitchen cleaner in the pill sounds like a good way of going about it. Although I’m not quite sure how House got the kitchen cleaner and pill thing; I didn’t recall it’s been mentioned anywhere till he brought it up, so that’s a bit wierd.

    Also, she would have done it a while ago(thus the scars forming), but no immediate effect, so she’s still going abouther business like karate as usual, kind of like a routine that one just does but without actually experience the moment. That’s my take on it.

  • http://unifiedtheorynothingmuch.blogspot.com Diane Kristine

    You’re right about the timing – I’d forgotten about the scar tissue, so she didn’t likely gobble the pills and then go to karate. It still felt they created a convoluted suicide attempt to turn it into a medical mystery, but whatever. I was too distracted by exploding heads to be bothered too much.

  • PDESR

    I believe that the only way Foreman is going to stay is if he winds up overriding House on a decision and saves a patients life. I think it may be the only way he could personally justify his continued existence on the team.