The second half of season two delves inside House’s head and into his heart. From the risky and dangerous experiment in "Distractions" to his being shot in "No Reason," House struggled externally and in his own subconscious about the kind of person he really is. And as it so often has been on the this series, the real glimpses into Gregory House are within those amazing dialogue free scenes—just Hugh Laurie letting House’s inner demons and inner life pour out through his expressive eyes.
Be sure to read the season one episode guide part one (including the introduction and scoring guide) and part two, as well as the first half of the season two guide. Asterisked episodes are (in my humble opinion) "must-see" episodes; links are to full episode reviews here on Blogcritics or elsewhere.
12. "Distractions" (A-) House exacts revenge on a former medical school classmate, Philip Weber, who turned him in for cheating on a math test. Seems this guy has published his research on a migraine remedy in an Indian medical journal. House seeks to prove him wrong by trying out the medication on himself — after inducing a killer migraine. Of course, Weber's medicine doesn't work, leaving House with not only pain in his leg, but pain in his head. Needing to rid himself of the headache, House ultimately resorts to LSD (which was, in fact, invented to treat migraines) combined with antidepressants (which mitigate the psychedelic effects of the acid). As House tries to disprove Weber, he treats a burn victim, who has crashed his ATV.
Favorite moments: Wilson believes that House hatches his elaborate plot as a distraction after losing Stacy, suggesting that his friend hire a hooker (among other things) instead. In the final scene of the episode, House desolately awaits his lady of the evening. As he lets her into his apartment, it is clear that House hurts, not just in his head, not just in his leg, but in his heart as well. Also, Cameron's examination of House when he is tripping on LSD is a delight.
13. * "Skin Deep" (A+) House constantly pushes his sexist image and, in this episode, seems worse than usual, continually leering at magazine photos of his young patient — a teenage supermodel. Seemingly preoccupied with reading the gossip rags about her, House earns the disapproval of Foreman and Cameron. But his motives become clearer as he suspects the girl's father of sexual abuse; once he has confirmed his suspicions, his interest immediately dries up, and his disdain of the father becomes obvious.
House is also having more difficulty than usual with his leg. As he wakes in the morning, taking his first step, he collapses in agony; things get worse throughout the day as nothing seems to mitigate House's pain. Finally, pleading with a resistant Cuddy for an intrathecal injection of morphine, he shows her his scar, a reminder to her that his pain is not some figment of his imagination, or a psychosomatic reaction to the loss of Stacy, but quite real. She reluctantly agrees to inject him, but House learns by the end of the episode that she has, in fact, given him a placebo, proving nothing about his pain, but shaking House to the core.
Favorite moment: The final scene, as House tries desperately to distract himself from (what he now believes may be) psychosomatic pain by playing a complex Bach piano piece. The moment of defeat as House hits the wrong note, succumbing to the pain never fails to leave a lump in my throat. There is also a great scene as Wilson tries to lighten House’s mood, as he undergoes an MRI.
14. "Sex Kills" (B) What happens when a heart transplant candidate is rejected by the committee? If House is your doctor, you get the fiercest of advocates, who believes that a rejected donor is better than no donor at all. Unwillng to give up on the man (played by Dr. Johnny Fever, Howard Hessman himself), House tries to procure a heart from a soon-to-be-dead woman, a car-crash victim, whose physical condition precludes her from consideration as a donor. But the team have to figure out what is wrong with the technically dead woman before they can transplant the heart. Greg Grunberg plays the donor's husband, a fortuitous bit of casting that introduced Grunberg and Hugh Laurie, began to make music together with the not-for-profit "Band from TV."
Favorite moment: Wilson, calling it quits with his third wife, turns up on House’s doorstep at the episode’s end, suitcase in hand. As "Honky-Tonk Women" plays on House's stereo, he offers his friend a beer and the use of his sofa.
15. "Clueless" (B-) When a woman outgrows her husband's interest in kinky sex, is the only way out to kill him? As the patient worsens under the team's care, the symptoms seem to point to metals poisoning. With the patient testing negative for common metals, House begins to suspect the wife, who is so caring that she hasn't left his bedside. House's team strongly disagrees with his assessment, and ultimately, House relies on his trusty old chemistry set to call out the wife's deed. Wilson continues to live with House, but their very different lifestyles cause House to kick him out after the first night. However, as House discovers Wilson's domestic skills, he begins to change his mind.
Favorite moment: There is something almost sensual about the way in which House coats the wife’s hands with a chemical powder to prove gold poisoning, but my absolutely favorite moment of this episode is as House frantically searches for his prized chemistry set in his apartment after it's been cleaned and organized by Wilson’s housekeeper.
16. "Safe" (B) The team treats a teenage heart transplant patient who also is allergic to almost everything. As House puzzles out what’s causing the girl’s increasingly dire symptoms, he tries to provoke Wilson out of his passivity over his break-up. It appears simply that House is merely playing practical jokes on Wilson, but when, after the third attempt, Wilson still refuses to take the bait, House's frustration is evident. Although Cuddy and Foreman refuse to buy House's theory that the patient has suffered a tick bite, Wilson becomes House's silent partner in crime in one final attempt to find tick.
Favorite moment: When House's cane breaks, causing him to fall, he is at first stunned and then appreciative as he realizes that Wilson has finally bitten back.
17. * "All In" (A+) What can I say? House in a gorgeous tux and silver-tipped cane! However, all the pretty trappings do not conceal House’s anguish as he tries to save the life of Ian, a six-year patient of Cuddy’s, who may have the same unidentified condition that killed his former patient years earlier. As the team rules out a diagnosis of Erdheim-Chester, which House believes killed the elderly Esther, House begins to question his original diagnosis, which has haunted him for 12 years. As House becomes increasingly distressed about the worsening Ian, Wilson keeps Cuddy occupied at a Texas Hold 'em benefit in the hospital lobby. Once Cuddy discovers that House has not only been treating her patient, but has tried to once again "cure Esther," she bars House and the team from the case. Of course this does not stop House, but eventually he is out of ideas and time. House suddenly excuses himself from his team mid-differential, to simply sit vigil with the dying boy, helplessly watching him slip away. Knowing that he’s lost, the boy will die and Esther will continue to haunt him. An inspiration at the last moment causes House to take a gamble on his original diagnosis. It is a desperate move, but he is right — as he had been 12 years earlier with Esther, who can now be laid to rest.
Favorite moment: I have several in this episode (who wouldn’t in an episode that features Hugh Laurie in a tux?). First is the sense of relief that pours off of House as the team confirms the Erdheim-Chester diagnosis. The second is as House, diagnosis confirmed and patient saved, plays Oscar Peterson’s "Hymn to Freedom" on the piano.
18. "Sleeping Dogs" (C+) When a woman cannot sleep, despite taking a bottle full of sleeping pills, she come to House to determine the cause. In the meantime, Foreman has (in an act of intellectual theft) stolen Cameron’s ideas for a journal article, exposing him as a cold and arrogant SOB. Cameron whines to House, Cuddy, and Foreman, none of whom have much sympathy for her. As the patient’s liver fails, her partner offers a piece of her own. Cameron objects, accusing the patient (who intends to break up with her partner) of emotional dishonesty. Nobody comes off as sympathetic in this episode.
Favorite moment: House’s discussion with Cuddy, asking her to trust his judgment on the liver transplant. She does.
19. "House vs God" (A) House, self-professed atheist, treats an evangelical "healer", a match made in heaven (as it were). House is skeptical about the boy's "powers," suggesting that endorphins "cure" his "patients," and by the time the endorphins wear off, he’s in another town, leaving the patient worse off and far from cured. Wilson is angered when the "healer" seems to "cure" his patient, Grace. The cause of the boy's illness and Grace's "cure" are much more mundane than heavenly, but Chase raises the question as to whether there was a spark of the divine indirectly involved. And it is hard to argue against. When is coincidence not really coincidence, but an "everyday" miracle? There is a lot of tension between House and Wilson, as Wilson manipulates House into an invitation to his weekly poker game. And House discovers that Wilson is having an affair with patient Grace — a huge breech of ethics.
Favorite moment: House playing a bluesy rendition of "What A Friend We Have In Jesus."
20. "Euphoria I" (B) House is famous for refusing to become involved with patients. What happens when the patient is someone already close to him? The clock is ticking as a pot-growing cop comes down with a deadly infectious disease. But Foreman begins to exhibit the same symptoms after investigating the cop's apartment; and House is faced with the dilemma of treating one of his own team. Guilt-ridden and worried, House is more cautious than he might be ordinarily, not wanting to risk his other fellows’ lives, much to everyone’s frustration.
Favorite moment: Wilson accuses House of being too cautious with his diagnostic process. He points out that when House is close to a patient he becomes "ordinary," and "cares" too much, to take needed but dangerous risks. House, furious at the accusation, wheels on Wilson, asking him how he would feel, if it was his fellows' lives at risk. This scene is (to me) practically iconic for what it tells us about House beyond his affect of supreme indifference; and how he really feels about his fellows — and his patients.
21. "Euphoria II" (A) As he worsens, Foreman wants House to perform a deep brain biopsy. The procedure could leave Foreman permanently brain damaged. House refuses to take the risk, wanting to exhaust every other possible path to the diagnosis before condemning Foreman to a life of physical or mental disability. When Foreman gives his medical proxy to Cameron, she orders the biopsy on Foreman's behalf, overruling House. Still resisting, House pleads with Cameron to give him every last moment to find the cause without doing the dangerous procedure. She grants him only an hour, which he takes, not even making the time to don a biohazard protective suit. House does find the cause, but it is too late; Cameron okays the biopsy, causing (temporary) brain damage.
Favorite moment: House has a heart-to-heart conversation with Foreman, explaining the risk of a brain biopsy. Foreman, knowing that House's preferred course would bring back severe pain, which has been temporarily mitigated, simply wants to make the pain not return. House reveals something so intimate and personal, that it’s almost startling in its raw honesty, particularly since the confession is to Foreman. "Pain makes you make bad decisions," he advises gravely. "Fear of pain is almost as big a motivator." House is undoubtedly speaking from his own experience.
22. "Forever" (A-) A woman nearly drowns her baby having a seizure. Is she sick or a delusional killer? Did a mother with postpartum depression go "quietly nuts" while her husband ignored obvious personality symptoms until it was too late? Then who is to blame? Although the ultimate diagnosis is something simpler and out of anyone's control, it is an interesting question posed by this tragic episode. In the meantime, House wonders why Cuddy would ask Wilson to dinner. Is it a date, as Wilson wants to believe, or something else? The hyper-vigilant House discovers the secret that Cuddy is seeking a sperm donor as her biological clock ticks away.
Favorite moments: House’s compassionate conversation with his patient, whose actions led to her baby's death. I have two others: House in full-on doctor mode, acting quickly to save the life of the suffocating baby; and the final scene of the episode as Cuddy, fearing that House has gossiped to Wilson about her secret, discovers that he has kept her confidence, going so far as to lie to Wilson about it.
23. * "Who’s Your Daddy" ( A) A much maligned episode that I believe reveals more about House than almost any other episode in the first two seasons. An old friend of House, a naïve writer, seeks House's help with his new-found teenage "daughter," a Katrina victim and granddaughter of a New Orleans jazz legend (and hero of House's). House is (seemingly uncharacteristically) protective of the gullible Crandall, and skeptical that the girl is, in fact, his daughter. Crandall is being scammed. House eventually learns the truth; but it's a truth that would burst Crandall's idyllic bubble about having a daughter and family. Rather than kill his dream (something that House, again, refuses to do in the season four episode "The Right Stuff" ), he lies to Crandall and the girl.
As Cuddy continues to pursue having her own child, she takes House into her confidence, asking him to help her with her needed fertility injections. It is interesting that both Cuddy and Crandall, two people who have known House a very long time (even longer than Wilson has known him) trust him and trust in him. They clearly know something about him (as does Wilson, who does occasionally see a different side to House) to which others are not allowed access. The entire episode plays out against House's suddenly intractable "breakthrough" pain, finally pushing him to self-inject morphine.
Favorite moments: The first time House injects Cuddy is one of most sensual straight-on medical scenes I have ever seen. There is an intimacy and warmth between the two of them that suggests a long-standing mutual trust. I also loved the scene when House told Cuddy that selecting a sperm donor required more than simple genetic matching. "Pick someone you trust," he suggests. "Oh? Like you?" Cuddy responds sarcastically. "Someone you like," he responds, shyly averting his eyes.
24. * "No Reason" (A+) A glimpse into House's subconscious and his views about himself, after he is near-fatally shot by the husband of a former patient. The episode's 45 minutes take place (as a series of intertwining hallucinations) within the few minutes from the time of the shooting until House is raced to the emergency room at the end. The shooter (called "Moriarty" in the script) mocks House for wasting his life as a misanthrope devoid of the ability to feel emotion, to love or derive any meaning from his worthless existence. In his hallucination, House also finds that Cuddy has treated him with ketamine, a veterinary anesthetic that works also to "reboot" the brain's pain centers. Done without his permission, in a weird replay of Stacy's actions in "Three Stories," House fears that the procedure will rob him of his gifted intellect, making his life meaningless without it. But House uses his reason to work his way back to consciousness and out of the hallucination. The episode, more than anything, is a sad commentary on House's self-image, beyond his bluster and self-described smugness.
Favorite moment: House "chooses life." House sits in a car with Moriarty's wife, joining her as she commits suicide. I would guess that (in real time) must occur as House, himself, hovers between life and death as he lay bleeding to death at that moment when one either fights back to consciousness or gives in to the "light."
An important reminder: House resumes new episodes on April 28 with the episode "No More Mr. Nice Guy." The series is moving from its accustomed Tuesday evening slot to Monday night, so be sure to make a note of it. The final four episodes will pick up on Wilson's new relationship with Amber and its impact on House. The finale is a two-part feast (or so I'm told).
And, last, but certainly not least — I will have a very special (and exclusive) treat for all readers of this feature as the finale draws near. I'm very, very excited about it, and will divulge more as the finale gets closer.