Part two of this article covers seasons three through five; If you haven’t already, please read part one, which covers seasons one and two.
Season three moved immediately from one character arc to the next. Each episode moved the story forward, adding detail and meaning. It made it very difficult to isolate the hallmark episodes. Season four was really two arcs: the "survivor arc" followed by the Amber/Wilson/House triangle. Season five also has blended the episodes into story arcs. So here goes...
“Meaning” - Imagine that House is physically healed. Running, smiling, and pleased when his pulse hits full-on aerobic levels. Add to that House’s desire to add meaning to his professional life after his brush with death in “No Reason.” In the aftermath of being shot and then trying a radical pain therapy, House is no longer in pain and stable enough for physical therapy. He takes on a patient — a quadriplegic — not for the diagnostic challenge, but for the simple pleasure of improving his quality of life. House’s admission to Wilson that he didn’t even know how to feel when his patient’s family thanked him is a sad comment on House’s self-esteem. Wilson is correct in telling him that House needn’t do anything different with his practice or with his patients, just to acknowledge that he has changed lives and made a difference — something he does anyway, but fails to accept or consider as meaningful to him.
Despite the family’s gratitude, House believes that he’s really done nothing for the patient. He hasn’t healed him; he’s no better off than he was before. House re-examines Richard, looking for alternate explanations for his paralysis in the hopes that he can cure his patient and really make his life better. The team believes that House is trying to make Richard’s seemingly straightforward case into a Housian puzzle simply to amuse himself, to create a puzzle where none exists. When House diagnoses Addison’s disease and recommends a simple cortisol injection, Cuddy refuses to allow the procedure, insisting that House is simply grasping at straws and trying to create an interesting medical situation where it doesn’t exist. Unbeknownst to House, Cuddy impulsively tries House’s idea, knowing that House’s hunches have an eerily good track record. When it works, Wilson prevents her from telling House, who is brooding in the dark of his office. Depressed about his patient, the pain beginning to return (and Wilson refusing to prescribe for him), House steals a prescription blank from Wilson’s desk, setting off a chain of events with nearly tragic consequences by mid-season.
“Cane and Able” - This episode can almost be viewed as the second part of “Meaning.” House’s pain begins to return to pre-ketamine levels, and as much as he tries to deny or suppress it, come back it does. Wilson and Cuddy continue their deception, and Wilson reinforces House’s insecurity several times during the episode, as do Foreman’s jibes about House’s track record since returning to work. Wilson suggests to House (like he did in “Meaning”) that House’s pain is merely muscular and that he should push through the pain (albeit this week with the aid of Vicodin). Observing the lone figure of House trying to push past the pain and continue to run on a hospital treadmill despite being in agony is one of the series' most heartbreaking moments. It’s impossible not to weep for House and his loss of the hope with which the season began. House finally discovers the deception as Cuddy confesses it to him (only after Cameron threatens to reveal it) and angrily confronts Wilson about it. “I was afraid you’d think you were god and your wings would melt,” Wilson admits, referring to the Icarus of Greek mythology. “God doesn’t limp,” replies House bitterly, reminding Wilson that he needs no reminders, wing clippings or admonitions to make him more humble.