The mother was obviously aware of the abuse, yet did nothing, choosing only to declare the pedophile father deceased. Was it shame? Guilt? Fear? What would cause a parent to push something so significant into the closet with the other skeletons?
Although this story thread doesn’t overtly connect to House’s story, we know that House was the victim of (at least) verbal abuse at the hands of his father while his mother, ever the peacemaker, likely allowed it. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) reminds House (and us) that House is the product of an illicit affair. When Wilson contrasts House’s biological “good guy” father with John House, a brutal, unforgiving man, House reminds him that good guy, though he may have been, he wasn’t good enough to have resisted an affair with his mother while his father was overseas. There is a distinct note of bitterness in House’s voice. House is clearly still affected by those actions and the secrets that followed.
The affair had been a deeply held secret; House had suspected it since he was 12, but never confirms it until his father’s death in season five (“Birthmarks”). But the cost of keeping that secret likely has had a high price tag, having likely played into his mother’s passivity in the face of John’s treatment of his son. This week’s medical case and House’s story both raise the question about the potentially destructive power of parenting, and illustrate House’s contention that all parents damage their children in one way or another—albeit some worse than others. And on a tragically ironic note, this story of sexual abuse and its consequences comes amid the stunning and horrifying revelations about the Penn State football program.
The rest of the episode’s threads also play on the theme of parenting and how parents can make or break us, nurture or destroy us. Obviously, House’s needling of Taub (Peter Jacobson) about his twin girls reflects on it, and the way he presses Adams (Odette Annable) as well. Even parental perfection has its costs! The clinic patient and House’s amusing boxing match plan also suggest parental issues (of a different sort).