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TV Review: House – “Small Sacrifices”

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***There are spoilers below. If you have not yet viewed the episode, please do so before reading.***

Most episode of FOX’s House are great, but sometimes an episode so superb comes along that I can’t not write about it. This week’s entry, “Small Sacrifices” was one such episode. There was so much going on, from religious debate, to major character developments, that I will likely miss some important aspect in this review. However, I’ll try hit all the highlights. For more information on it, I recommend you check out Barbara Barnett’s take. She is also a writer (and editor) on Blogcritics, as she delivers excellent, weekly in depth coverage of the show. 


The main medical case this week involved a patient named Ramon (Kuno Becker) who annually has himself nailed to a cross (through his palms, not his wrists) as part of a deal he believes he has made with God to make his daughter cancer free. House (Hugh Laurie) wants to offer Ramon treatment he believes will heal his patient, but Ramon refuses to accept it, thinking it would break his pact. As House doesn’t believe in God, a standoff between the two begins, with House only eventually winning by lying to Ramon, making him believe that his daughter is not cancer-free, calling into question his faith.

Is it ethical to call into question a belief system to save a life? Of course House thinks so. Ramon isn’t upset with House for his deception, thinking it only proves god all the more real. So was anyone really hurt? Well, yes and no. Ultimately, House’s goal of saving his patient’s life was met, but at what could have catastrophic costs. Ramon could have sued Princeton Plainsboro, got House’s medical license revoked, and made all sorts of trouble. Luckily for House, Ramon is a forgiving guy.

But is it ever ok to lie to a patient, even in a life and death circumstance? After all, Ramon has a right to choose his treatment (or lack thereof), and House went against Ramon’s known wishes. For the audience, there is now a character to bring life to that very question, as well as a whole slew or moral and honesty issues, in the newest doctor on the team, Martha Masters (Amber Tamblyn).

Masters has already appeared in three episodes, and been given an “Also Starring” opening credit line, putting her in the same league as House’s second team these past few seasons. Meaning, it looks like she is here to stay for the foreseeable future. I don’t like her. I don’t know if my distaste is about her, or about how she is getting in House’s way and making doing what he does that much harder. I also think my distaste for her is far from universal, so I’ll try to break it down.

House likes Masters. He likes a challenge. Masters has already carved her niche in the team, which admittedly, has gotten more accepting of the way House does things. Complacent, even. For that reason I should welcome Masters, as House has, in his own way. But I can’t help but feel the patients would be better off without her, and if she does get kicked off the team this year at some point, that will be the reason for it. Even Masters was the first to admit this week that if House had let her in on the plan, she would have spilled the beans and the patient would have died. Yet, that is not enough to make her rethink her beliefs. She is like Ramon in that even why her way defies what needs to be done to save a life, she will stick to it.

That certainty should make me admire her, as I would most people with such strong convictions. It makes her a truly unique character on the series, and an interesting addition. Somehow, though, I don’t. I think in this case, her inexperience is coloring her work, and it’s not helping anyone, least of all her. In order to be the best doctor that she can be, she has to start seeing the world in shades of gray. Honesty is a virtue, but not an infallible one.


Which kind of brings me around to the House-Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) relationship, which I am enjoying, even as I worry about the blow it recently suffered. For weeks, House has maintained that he did the right thing by lying to Cuddy to save a patient’s life. While Cuddy may have accepted that before they became a couple, she cannot separate her personal and professional lives, and so has forced House to resort to self pleasure.

By this week, it felt like make it or break it time for the pair, as Cuddy seemed tired of fighting with him about it. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) kept telling House to lie and apologize the save the relationship, but instead, House was determined to prove to Cuddy that lying is sometimes necessary and beneficial. It was classic House, and of course he succeeded. But it didn’t fix anything. In fact, it made it worse. Because Cuddy wasn’t ever debating the positives or negatives of lying. She was upset about a lack of trust and openness that the two of them need to make it work. In the end, House took Wilson’s advice. While I would have called this uncharacteristic of him a short time ago, it reflect the new House, who really cares about someone other than himself, and it looking for a new balance.

Will Cuddy ever find out about this latest deception? Will it change the way she feels about him? Surely, she knew going in that she couldn’t change House. Not fundamentally. The audience is quickly learning, though, that if anyone could shift who House is, it’s Lisa Cuddy. I like the growth. It looks good on House, and I hope that we’ve seen the end of this particular fight. It would serve no purpose for her to know he was lying when he apologized. In fact, that he was willing to speaks volumes.


Sadly, House and Cuddy were the only strong couple on display this week. I was very disappointed to see Sam (Cynthia Watros) leave Wilson shortly after his proposal, even though her reasons were solid. Maybe the patient files were forged, but it doesn’t seem to me that Sam did it. She was pretty consistent in her statements. It may even have been a manipulation by House to undermine them, and if so, it worked. Wilson missed the point by thinking if he told her he was proud of her for lying, she would be happy with him. Again, it wasn’t about the act or the words, it was about some fundamental communication level in their relationship, and Wilson sailed it. But I was enjoying Watros, having been missing her since her way-too-early departure from Lost, so I hope that a reconciliation is in the cards, even though it felt like her leaving was final.

Taub (Peter Jacobson) also faced martial woes. His wife, Rachel (Jennifer Crystal), who is seen too infrequently for my taste, as Crystal does such a bang-up job, is having an emotional affair. That it is with a guy who lives across the country and exists only in email is immaterial. Taub is right to ask her to stop it, because as long as she has someone else to open up to, she won’t ever do it with him again, a necessary step if their marriage is to survive. Yes, Taub cheated. And unlike Taub, I didn’t think that Rachel had moved past it. But to see her so blatantly defy him to speak with another man was sad. They had a lot of work if they’re going to make it. My money regrettably is on a divorce by February sweeps.

Chase (Jesse Spencer) is embracing the single life, having hooked up with three women at one wedding (two were part of a threesome, if that makes it any better). No one could have been sadder than I when he split with wife Cameron (former cast member Jennifer Morrison) last year. I guess I should be glad that he’s getting some, and beginning to get over for her. However, the behavior is destructive, and will not lead to anything good.

Foreman (Omar Epps) is on a long dry spell, and just when Chase was helping him get over it, his co-worked abandoned him. I think Foreman still pines for Thirteen (Olivia Wilde), but as that doctor isn’t coming back soon, it will be sometime before a resolution is in sight.

All of this points to a major erosion of House’s core team, with each member (except Masters) on a path that could lead to self-destruction. Could it be that once the titular character finally gets his own life under control, those around him have theirs come crashing down? It makes a twisted kind of sense. And gives us fans plenty to look forward to as the season continues to unfold.

House airs Monday nights at 8pm on FOX.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • Sera G

    Interesting review, Jerome.
    Your prediction that the team will fall apart as House finally has himself together is quite thought provoking. Those would be interesting storylines to follow.