From 40 candidates down to three. Dr. Gregory House (the fabulous Hugh Laurie) finally has his new team of diagnostics fellows on House, MD. The ninth episode of season four called simply (and appropriately) “Games,” found Dr. House giving the candidates a final case to solve, as the hyper-observant diagnostician made his final choices. Look for my more comprehensive commentary on “Games” in the next day or two. But for now, let’s take a look at the new team as it will stand for the balance of the (hopefully not strike-shortened) season.
House’s purpose is two-fold at Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. His first is to take on the most difficult diagnostic cases (obviously); the second is to train young (or not so young) doctors under his supervision, teach them to become better doctors by altering their way of looking at illness and disease. Using a unique take on the Socratic method of teaching, and showing them, by example, to search beyond the façade of the patient, to eschew their own biases, as well as conventional wisdom, House hopes to make each fellow under his direction into a much, much better doctor.
The entire eight weeks of games, competitions and discovery were so much more than folly. Each candidate who lasted beyond the first week came away with something new to place into his or her medical arsenal. At the very least, they learned (if they were smart) to look around the edges of a problem, ask impertinent questions, and even question their own assumptions.
So here they are: the House, MD class of 2007:
Kutner (Kal Penn) — His specialty is sports and rehabilitative medicine according to the FOX site. According to Cuddy, Kutner shares House’s medical philosophy; but his radicalism is coupled with a recklessness with patients that House reserves for himself alone. House is a medical radical, but his years of experience, encyclopedic knowledge, intuition, and empathy filter his recklessness and temper his radicalism. During the eight-week tryout, Kutner burned a patient’s chest (but saved her life); electrocuted himself (but again saved the patient’s life), and suggested that they test liver function by getting the patient drunk. We discovered that Kutner likes to be cutting edge and edgy, both qualities that he shares with his department head. Kutner is a natural ally for House. And with both Foreman and Taub on his team, House will need an ally with a bit of derring-do.
I am excited about the possibility, too, that House might help channel some of Kutner’s natural enthusiasm and curiosity and make him House’s genuine protégé. (Yeah, I know what you’re thinking — House will have a new playmate, he’s not going to temper anyone’s curiosity — but we all know that House’s projected image is far from the meticulous, careful scientist that House is at his core). I wonder, too, if Kutner’s specialty of rehabilitative and sports medicine will lead to Kutner suggesting some radical therapy for House’s leg at some point in the future. House would, by now, be pretty gun-shy about trying something new with his leg, so it could lead to some interesting drama down the line.
Taub (Peter Jacobsen, son of legendary Chicago political newscaster Walter) — Taub is a near-contemporary of House, like Cuddy and Wilson. Experienced as a physician and clearly an expert at hospital and medical politics, he is reluctantly seeking a new career after he signed a non-compete with his former plastic surgery partners in order to keep his philandering a secret from his wife. Taub is unafraid of House, and unlike Kutner, Taub has the self-confidence to stand up to the boss, to challenge him — and to undercut him. He is a more adept and self-assured politician than Foreman, too, and has the potential to do House a lot of damage along the way. The fact that House knows his secret may mitigate the threat that Taub might pose.
During the survivor game (or probably more accurately, Apprentice knock-off), Taub stood up to House regarding the facially deformed patient, trying to undercut him on the case (which didn’t work). More importantly, he earned House’s respect by telling the doc straight on that he signed the non-compete to save his marriage, then risked his job because he thought he was right. He was not afraid to give his honest opinion to House, although he’s not above a little bit of sycophancy, as he has begun prescribing for House. Hmmm.
13 (Olivia Wilde) — “Drugs are always a mask for something else,” 13 tells House straight on in this week’s episode “Games.” House responds by telling her that her statement was “the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” Yet, he turns around after she leaves his office, enigmatic smile on his lips, and gives her an extra two points on his tote board. Like House, 13 has the ability to slice through someone’s façade and perhaps see the real person beneath. She has been right with the medicine quite often, from the first diagnosis of worms (even though the patient died because of her mistake) to the idea in "Games" that there was an underlying cause to Quidd’s illness — beyond drug use. And that the drug use was masking “something else:” in this case, measles.
House, MD fan forums have been awash with the notion that 13 is simply Cameron 2.0. I don’t think so. I think 13 has a maturity that Cameron has always lacked (and still does); she is straightforward and honest with patients, but doesn’t seem to have the need to be needed or liked. House is intrigued by her on several levels, not the least of which is the fact that she refuses to be tested for Huntington’s chorea, a fatal genetic disease. She has a 50% chance of inheriting the condition, yet doesn’t want to know. She says that not knowing allows her to more “live in the moment” and try risky things (like working for the eccentric House), for example. She is bright and that will appeal to House as well; she will probably be wise enough to learn the best of him while leaving his baggage behind.
So where does that leave the rest of the troops? Foreman is still around on House’s service (or is it Cuddy’s?), having been humbled (although not really) by losing his job at Mercy Hospital. For this, he blames House, whom he did not leave “soon enough.” Foreman’s an ass. The fact that House has accepted Foreman as being there — Cuddy’s eyes and ears and House’s keeper — tells me a lot about House and his own self-image. I only hope that Foreman continues to learn some humility and gets rid of the arrogant attitude sometime soon. Or find another job.
Cameron is in the ER. She can’t quite let go of House, so there she is. And Chase followed her. Chase, at least, has developed a backbone. As an intensivist with post-doc training in diagnostics, Chase would be a good addition to the surgical staff. Whether he is doing a fellowship in surgical critical care, or is simply on the surgery staff, I think he’ll do well.
House will be on hiatus until January 29 (I know, I’m bummed too); but despair not! Reruns of the series will air on FOX Monday and Tuesday nights, and continue to air on USA Network Friday nights. And, of course, there are DVDs of the first three seasons, the House soundtrack, and a couple of “unauthorized” books on the shelves as well. So, plenty of House to keep us all occupied. With any luck the strike will be settled by the new year, and House (and all other series) will go back into production post haste!