“I haven’t slept through the night since Kutner died.” House’s (the ever-amazing Hugh Laurie) grave admission to Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) towards the end of “House Divided” tells us how worried House is about his own sanity. In that confession, the normally very guarded House finally articulates the depth to which he has been affected by Kutner’s death.
What a fantastic episode. The best House, M.D. episodes combine humor, drama, tension and fun; darkness and light. This one had all of that and more — a pivotal episode in this very dark character arc for House (perhaps the darkest yet – and that’s saying something).
As this week’s wild ride of an episode, “House Divided,” progresses, Amber’s (Anne Dudek in a phenomenal performance) constant and increasingly aggressive presence becomes more and more difficult for House to cover, as all around him begin to wonder what’s wrong. Sleep deprived and exhausted, House knows she is simply a hallucination, his overworked and sleepless brain playing visual and auditory tricks on him. Taunting him, she asks why she is the one to plague him; why she has become the avatar for his subconscious mind.
With strong resonances to last season’s finale episodes “House’s Head” and “Wilson’s Heart,” Amber reveals what many of us have known all along. House carries with him an awful lot of guilt—the weight of the world, in some ways. Deny and deflect as he does and has, he still feels responsibility for Amber, and more recently for Kutner. “Maybe your guilt over Kutner’s suicide reminds you of how guilty you felt about me,” she needles.
Refusing to engage with a figment of his imagination, House insists to her that she is “the product of my exhausted brain.” But whatever has brought her to House, she sticks to him like “white on rice.” But in an almost creepy progression, Amber morphs from simple annoyance to constant muse to something more sinister. By the episode’s end, House sees her for what she is — his worst inclinations unbound and at play in his conscious, troubled mind. “House Divided” indeed.
We often see House struggling alone in the dark of his office or apartment with his thoughts about a patient, an ethical decision — or even his own life. What are the thoughts that float through that “rat maze of a brain” (as Wilson has put it) that provide House his genius and his biggest problems? With Amber the external embodiment of House’s thoughts, we see how his thought process works. But he’s playing with fire. (So what else is new?)