With one month remaining until we get four new episodes of House, I thought it was time to post another installment in the “Welcome to the End of the Thought Process” (Unofficial) House, MD Episode Guide. This part covers the first half of season two, which (at least as far as the show’s narrative is concerned) ends with episode 11, “Need to Know.”
Be sure to read parts one and two for season one mini-reviews. Starred (*) episodes are my recommended "must-see" episodes. This episode guide is completely subjective and the mini-reviews should in no way be considered general episode recaps. As I have oft said, I watch House for House and that brilliant British actor who portrays him — Hugh Laurie. So these mini-commentaries tend to focus on his character arc above any other character’s story. So, on with it!
I’ve added for season two a “favorite moment” (or two) for each episode. Usually they’re moments of introspection or a House character reveal, but not necessarily. What are your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments section!
As season two got underway, House’s love for and resentment of Stacy continued to create internal conflict for him, as he alternately sought ways to win her back and to punish her. By mid-season, House and Stacy were together (albeit briefly). But realizing that nothing had really changed between them, and that he could not put himself through the emotional turmoil of losing her again, he sent her back to Mark. Highlights of the first half of season two included the brilliant “Autopsy,” the unusually told “The Mistake”, and the essentially two-part “Failure to Communicate”/”Need to Know.”
At the time these episodes first aired there I recall much hate from within the hard-core fandom for Sela Ward and for Stacy (a lot of it coming from people who wanted to see House with Cameron). Ever the contrarian, I really loved their arc. There has been no other character on the show that’s been able to get to House in quite the same way. Stacy enabled House’s more romantic (even sappily romantic) nature to emerge. We saw into House’s heart; understand how it was broken and why it’s never quite healed.
1. “Acceptance” (B) Kicking off season two, House treats a guy on death row. Arguing with his staff that this man is no less worthy of proper medical treatment than anyone else, with Foreman at one point standing idly by and Cameron becoming obsessed with a terminal patient. Although he lectures and mocks Cameron about going through the “five stages of grief” over the patient whose death she refuses to accept, House, himself, still grapples with his loss of Stacy, years before. Favorite moment: House telling Stacy, “I trusted you,” after he learns she has betrayed him to Cuddy regarding the patient. “Wilson’s a fool,” House tells her; “I’m an idiot,” after she has betrayed his trust regarding the patient.
2. * "Autopsy" (A+) One of the series’ best episodes, the story involves Andie, an extraordinarily brave young cancer patient, who begins to experience strange symptoms. House attempts a risky experimental procedure to identify a small blockage in her brain that only promises to give her another year or so of life. Andie’s courage is unnerving to House, who tells himself that her attitude is only another symptom.
We get to see House as he might have been “before,” as he directs a huge medical staff as they prepare for and perform the elaborate diagnostic test. House is at the top of his game, with the entire room at his expert command. Later, coaxed out of his office as Andie triumphantly leaves the hospital, House tries to cover the extent to which he has been affected by the courageous Andie. It’s an intensely private moment for House as he reacts to Andie’s final words to him, but one that none of his colleagues can tear their eyes from. Favorite moment: House’s heart to heart conversation with Andie, as he explains the risks of the proceure, and she makes him understand why she’s willing to keep going even as she knows she will die despite all of their efforts.
3. “Humpty Dumpty” (B) Cuddy’s endless capacity for guilt is explored after her handyman falls off her roof. As Cuddy tries to take the blame for the young man’s problems, House believes that her objectivity is compromised. It’s fascinating to watch the dynamic between House and Cuddy and the suggestion of a past intimacy that is echoed at the end of the season. Clearly, House has more than a passing interest in his boss; he knows where she keeps her spare key, while deflecting all questions about whether they have ever had an intimate relationship. We also learn that Cuddy hired House after he had been fired from several other positions. Why don’t you fire him, Cameron asks her, noting their constant friction. The better question, Cuddy responds, “is why I hired him.” The line that launched a hundred fanfiction stories. Favorite moment: House’s delighted glee as he explores Cuddy’s bedroom.
4. “TB or Not TB” (C) House treats Dr. Sebastian Charles, a renowned (and very political) TB specialist. House sees hypocrisy in Charles’ glamorous life, complete with photo ops in desolate and disease-ridden hell-holes. He does good work, raising money and consciousness, meds and treatments, but House doesn’t buy it, calling the doctor out when he tries to call attention to his own illness by refusing medicine that most people cannot afford to use. “You are not like them; you cheapen what they go through by pretending” to be like them, House admonishes Charles. House’s attitude makes me wonder whether earlier in his own career he dabbled in Charles’ brand of medicine himself before changing specialties from infectious diseases to diagnostics. Favorite moment: Just before a press conference in Sebastian’s room, House argues his case with Cuddy as she puts on lipstick. “I’m screwed,” he says as she leaves, not giving an inch. It’s just a completely unintentionally sexy moment for them.
5. “Daddy's Boy” (B) There was a lot of anticipation at the prospect of meeting House’s parents. And there was too little of Blythe and John, but much to wonder about regarding House’s abject fear of seeing his parents for a simple dinner. There was more than simple avoidance at play, and we got a mere taste of it in their short dinner meeting, and in House’s bleak mood afterwards. “He won’t let anyone lie about anything to anyone,” he tells Cameron, thanking her for not intruding on dinner. “Great for police witnesses. Terrible for a dad,” he says. House also acquires his new motorbike with the “enormous scrape.” Favorite moment: House leaves for home on his bike at the end, trying to shake off his emotions after meeting with his parents. We just know there has to be something more to his complicated relationship with his parents than we can know at this point in the series.
6. “Spin” (C-) House treats a professional bicyclist who may or may not be using performance enhancing drugs. A couple of interesting things come into play in this episode, including the question of a patient’s right to confidentiality against the backdrop of Cameron’s rigid moral outlook. House continues to deal with his conflicting feelings for Stacy in his own inept way by barging in on Mark’s group therapy sessions and generally making an ass of himself. But what House does in the end, invading Stacy's privacy by breaking into her own therapist's files, is an act for which I cannot forgive even House. It is manipulative for the sake of manipulation for his own good and not for some greater good. It is (to me, glaringly) out of character and pathetic, even for House. Favorite moment: House momentarily curing the patient, before he falls on the floor. It’s a small triumph in an episode that really rang false to me.
7. “Hunting” (B+) House continued his manipulation of Stacy into this episode, as he treats a young man with AIDS. But somewhere in the midst of this episode, it ceased being a game for him and took on a seriousness that I think surprised even him. Their final scene in the attic was compelling for its raw honesty, giving both House and Stacy enough closure on the past to be together again. The episode is also noteworthy for Cameron’s stoned dalliance with Chase and the introduction of “Steve McQueen,” House’s new pet. A lot of fans thought that House was being unduly harsh with Cameron after she was exposed to HIV. I believe that House trying to take the focus off of her, because that’s how he would want to be treated. Favorite moment: I have two of them. First and best is the final scene in the attic when House and Stacy finally apologize to each other for past hurts; second (because it was just so much fun) the elevator ride taken by Cameron, House, and Steve McQueen.
8. “The Mistake” (B+) Using flashbacks and differing points of view, the episode examines the circumstances surrounding a patient’s death. Distracted with the news of his father’s death, Chase makes an error of judgment, indirectly resulting in the patient’s death. Cuddy appoints Stacy to prepare both Chase and House for the hospital’s peer review board. Stacy, still angry about House’s invasion of her privacy, is in no mood to defend him; and Chase, feeling guilty about his role in the patient’s death makes no effort to defend himself. In the end, Chase is suspended for a week; House is put under Foreman’s supervision for a month. Stacy and House, eventually making peace with each other outside the deposition room, come to the mutual conclusion that their feelings for each other have become a problem. But they are at a loss as to how to deal with it. Favorite moment: House, showing understanding and compassion for the unique situation, counsels Chase after he and the hospital are sued for gross negligence by the patient’s family.
9. “Deception” (A-) Cynthia Nixon guest stars as Anika, a woman with Munchausen’s syndrome. Although Anika has caused most of her own problems, House insists that something besides the Munchausen’s is causing her symptoms. But he is the lone voice on this, and House (no longer in control of his own department) is put in the position of pleading with Foreman to not “kick her to the curb” with a Munchausen’s diagnosis. Insisting that they could be writing her death warrant because no hospital will ever again take her symptoms seriously, House again demonstrates his belief that people deserve to receive proper medical treatment. (“Sports Medicine,” “Histories,” and “Acceptance” come immediately to mind.) Lovely interplay between “hot OTB babe” Anika and House, who wants her not to be simply dismissed. Favorite moment: Cameron and House take a ride on House’s motorbike. Cameron is hesitant to hold onto House, so House emphatically places her arms around him, smiling at her reticence and… her closeness.
10. “Failure To Communicate” (A) House leave the confines of Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital and becomes snowbound in a Baltimore airport with Stacy. Meanwhile, Foreman’s still “in charge” of House’s department and the team must diagnose a famous journalist with aphasia. Despite Foreman’s arrogance, Cuddy is unconvinced that the team can successfully diagnose the patient without House’s expertise via cell phone. Alternately annoying and endearing towards Stacy, he continues his awkward courtship of her. Telling House that she knew his leg could not withstand a night on an airport-supplied cot, Stacy has reserved them a scarce hotel room. House is unsure of her motives and suspects that Stacy is looking for an “escape route” from the fight she’s had with her husband. She explains that she misses the “curry” of the intense relationship they had shared for five years, and tells him to just shut up and kiss her. Their tentative kiss is interrupted by a phone call from the team, and House reluctantly leaves Stacy to seek out a remote area of the airport to think about the case. Stacy eventually finds him, bringing the phone’s power cord, sitting beside him on the floor as he puzzles out the diagnosis. Favorite moment: That sweet, gentle, tentative kiss.
11. *”Need to Know” (A+) As the team treats a woman who has uncontrolled flailing, it becomes quickly clear that House and Stacy’s near-encounter in Baltimore meant something different to each of them. House has opened himself up again to a woman he has loved for ten years; Stacy is seeking respite from her difficult marriage. Wilson fears that House will be disappointed and crash; Stacy, not believing that House is that emotionally fragile, asks Cuddy (who would not know, and laughs it off as ridiculous). But when Stacy ambivalently decide to be with House, after months of pursuit, House hesitates and tells her that it can’t work. It is after he tells her that “he can’t go there” again, can’t put himself through the hurt a second time, that Stacy understands what House must’ve gone through after she left him.
Hugh Laurie does a magnificent job of conveying House’s fear, and his regret about his ultimate decision. Sitting on the roof at the end of the episode, House’s brooding is interrupted by Wilson, who derides him for his selfishness and unwillingness to be happy. "You want to be miserable," he tells House, before stalking off. I think Wilson is wrong.
There is a wonderful scene with the patient’s daughter, who interrupts House’s ruminations about Stacy. “Is that why you’re so sad?” she asks House regarding his leg. “I’m not sad; I’m complicated. Chicks dig that.” And yes. We do. Favorite moment: Again, I have two: House’s first scene with Stacy, telling her, “I don’t want you to go.” Never has House been more emotionally raw and vulnerable. Second is the devastating moment of recognition when House realizes that he and Stacy are not on the same page: he’s hearing a life commitment; she’s looking for a fling. It’s another terribly raw moment for House in an episode filled with them.