Sunday , September 20 2020
Stevie Nicks' 2001 song "Fall from Grace" aptly captures House M.D.'s central trio of characters in the series' episode of the same name.

House, M.D.: Gregory House’s “Fall From Grace”

I suppose this commentary might be titled: “Why I Didn’t Hate This Week’s House, M.D. Episode.” But it’s not my job to offer a defense of a series, even one that has fed my obsession for nearly seven years. Each person has to decide for him or herself whether the series is what you bought into whenever you began watching; whether it’s better or worse; whether you still enjoy it or it aggrieves you to watch it. For my part, I’m on this ride for the duration (or until I’m not). I may not like every minute of that ride, or where the driver is taking us—but I won’t know until I get there (or get off). 

This week’s episode “Fall From Grace” ups the ante on House’s (Hugh Laurie) increasingly out-of-control behavior. Last week, nothing seems to ring his bell until he jumps from his balcony into a swimming pool, leaving Wilson disgusted and frustrated that not even he can put a crack in House’s newly-constructed (and probably lead-lined) armor.

He’s a guy on a high wire (with not much of a net). Bringing everything from a Segway to monster trucks to a bride-to-be into the hospital confines, House hopes to get some sort of rise from Cuddy (Lisa Edesltein). Whether it’s a subconsious (or intended) provocation to an argument (and then a finally serious talk about what happened) or simply a way to wound Cuddy as badly as she’s wounded him (or a combination of the two), it doesn’t really work until Wilson finally intervenes.

I know many people didn’t like this episode (and frankly, I thought doing a differential diangosis in a monster truck was insanely over the top), House’s behavior here reminds me of how he acts in Season 3’s “Needle in a Haystack” and Season 4’s “Whatever it Takes.” In both cases, House is unsure of how to act; he’s out of his element, challenged by someone who refuses to enter into the wild vortex of House’s insanity. In “Fall from Grace,” while he’s not really being challenged meaningfully by anyone, he is in such dire straits that he’s just grasping at straws. He’s lost, and without the healthy coping mechanisms he had internalized when under Dr. Nolan’s (Andre Braugher) treatment.

Stevie Nicks wrote a song in 2001 bearing the same title as this week’s House episode “Fall from Grace.” In the aftermath of “Bombshells” and the following two episodes, the lyrics seem to me so poignant and appropriate that I wonder if John Kelley, the episode’s writer, had them in mind while crafting this week’s script. The song could easily serve as narration to the story of House, Cuddy and Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) at this juncture.

What is Wilson’s role at this point? He is House’s confidante—and Cuddy’s. But more importantly, Wilsons sees himself as the one to keep House from truly going off the deep end. As Nicks’ song says,I choose to be his confidant /And to keep him from the fire/I choose to be quietly discreet /If that is his desire…” 

What must be in House’s mind two weeks after Cuddy so abruptly breaks off their relationship? He’s tried for two years (nearly), doing nearly everything within his ability to stay off drugs and to win (and keep Cuddy). She’s someone he’s wanted for so long, he has to be feeling rudderless and completely and profoundly lost at this moment. No matter what he has done (or couldn’t do) for Cuddy in her hour of need, he did the best he could. As Wilson tells her in “Out of the Chute,” no one really knows the right thing to do when the person you are closest to are dying. House does what he needs to do in order to be with her. And maybe it isn’t the most courageous thing—or the most noble, but House of three years ago would have been sitting in a bar getting plastered while Cuddy had her surgery.

By the end of “Out of the Chute,” it’s clear that House has no idea what to do or how to cope with the loss. Back to the song; this time, the chorus: “Wake up with a stranger/It’s not something you plan/One night in a world of pain/And you finally understand/Not all the king’s horses, not all the king’s men/Could put it back together.” 

In “Out of the Chute” House tries to distract himself from his pain by taking to his bed a long line of hookers (not convinced he slept with as many of them as he would suggest). But now in “Fall From Grace,” he proposes marriage to a complete stranger. Why Dominika? Why anyone? To get back at Cuddy? To try to convince her (and himself) that he doesn’t need her—that he’s not bleeding inside? Why not continue the debauchery instead? House tells Wilson that he’s made all the calculations. His proposed marriage to Dominkia is a business transaction: loveless, emotionless, strategic.

Has House also calculated that no matter how hard he tries, he’ll never be “normal” enough to carry on a serious, long-term relationship with Cuddy—or anyone else? No matter how hard Wilson or Cuddy have tried. House is still in pieces: Humpty Dumpty, indeed.
Nicks’ lyrics so perfectly capture what I believe to be House’s innermost feelings, despite his act-outs, antics and annoying behavior (alliteration, anyone?)

“And now alone in my room/As it all begins again…In this same place I sit /The same place as before/Well I came all the way here/Just to watch you walk out that door.” Cuddy feelings are reflected in the next verse: “Well it’s not enough that you depend on me/And it’s not enough that you say you love me …”

Working very well (for me) as an anthem for this week’s episode, the lyrics suggest a meeting of minds. House’s actions are intended to provoke Cuddy—perhaps to stop him; to say Enough! Instead, she gives into her guilt, but who is she actually helping? Not House, certainly—and not her authority as his boss and as someone for whom she deeply cares.

Cuddy finally does say “no” to House, and it’s after that the wildest antics cease. The song’s final words explain Cuddy’s (and perhaps also Wilson’s) feelings about House, knowing how desperate he is; fearing for his sanity and even his life. Say Nicks’ lyrics: “Maybe the reason I say these things/Is to bring you back alive/Maybe I fought this long and this hard/Just to make sure you survive/Just to make sure you survive.”

In the long run, I want House and Cuddy to be together, if not on the same page romantically, at least on the same bookshelf. Right now, House is a wounded lion: thorn stuck in his paw. He’s not going to let anyone near enough to remove it, especially not Cuddy—at least not now.

Rumor has it that Dominika will be around for awhile, and maybe she’s the one who can stop the bleeding. Their relationship has no baggage and no illusions. And House has often allowed himself to be more open and vulnerable to strangers than to those who can hurt him.

Maybe she is a way station through which he must travel before he is ready to even think about trusting his heart to Cuddy again. Six episodes provide us many miles to go before we reach the finale.  And the next episode looks to be very intense. I’m going to be taking a bit of a House break (as it were) for a couple weeks, so no new House articles until the show comes back on the air mid-April (unless I change my mind.) The series returns with new episodes April 11 with “The Dig” and the return of “13.”

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."

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