Throughout its three-plus year run, House, MD has featured numerous heart-wrenching scenes. Scenes involving the patient alone and House alone, and scenes involving House and the patient together. Of these poignant moments, "Merry Little Christmas", a mid-season three episode re-run Tuesday evening on FOX, features several. But a scene towards the end of this episode, during which House leaves his mother an emotional "Merry Christmas" message is surely the most heartbreaking scene in the entire series to this point. It is a moment that never (no matter how many times I’ve seen it) fails to leave a lump in my throat.
This week’s patient is a teenage girl with presumed dwarfism (presumed because of her short stature and her mother’s own dwarfism). She exhibits symptoms that suggest any number of disorders. In the midst of this diagnostic dilemma, Wilson has made a deal with Detective Tritter to drop the drug charges against House if he agrees to enter drug rehab — a deal that House, of course, refuses. Wilson convinces Cuddy to deny House his pain meds and revoke his hospital privileges in an attempt to manipulate him into taking the deal. Still refusing, and betting that he’ll be able to cope without drugs longer than they’ll be able to cope without his skills, House retreats to the solitude of his flat.
The team, along with Wilson and Cuddy, attempt to diagnose the perplexing young patient without the benefit of House’s wisdom and experience. Unsuccessful, first Cuddy and then Cameron visit the oracle of House, appealing to his better nature. He initially resists his natural urge to help with the case, flatly refusing to help unless Cuddy relents and lets him have his meds. Eventually, however, House does come back into the case, Cameron convincing him that Cuddy was not going to give in, and appealing to House’s strong sense of right and wrong. (He could not allow the girl to die to simply prove a point.) Even strung out and in agonizing pain, House, alone, is able to see the connections in the case that no one else can.
This is not lost on Wilson, who, perhaps for the first time, acknowledges that what House does is not a “flip of the card,” or simple luck. House has a singular gift. It’s an epiphany that moves him to go back to Tritter, willing to sacrifice himself for the uniquely talented House. It’s a noble, but fruitless gesture, and one which not only fails to undo the damage done to House, but puts Wilson at risk as well.