The strike-shortened season of House draws to a close with what looks to be an exciting and emotional two-part finale. Part one, “House’s Head,” airs Monday night and concludes May 19 with “Wilson’s Heart.” The two-parter was originally to air following the Super Bowl, but was put off when the writers’ strike hit. (“Frozen,” guest-starring Mira Sorvino aired in its place.) In advance of the finale, Lisa Edelstein (Dr. Lisa Cuddy) chatted about the double episode, the series, and the compellingly sexy, yet adversarial relationship between dean of medicine Cuddy and iconoclastic diagnostician Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie).
Not wanting to give away too much information about the season-ending two-parter and spoil the fun, she divulged that it is a very unusual episode, as House tries to piece together fragments of his memory after suffering head trauma in a serious bus accident. He is convinced that a fellow passenger had been displaying symptoms of a serious illness before the crash, and he feels is compelled to identify and diagnose the person. But there are a couple of problems at hand. House has no idea who the passenger was. And, House's head injury has caused short-term memory loss, leaving him with only a vague recollection of the hours leading up to the accident.
House uses a variety of unorthodox and dangerous techniques to access his memories of the bus crash, including why he was on the bus in the first place. He experiences hallucinations and visions involving his colleagues, and according to Edelstein, we see the “world from his point of view directly,” even into his subconscious.
As the story unfolds, Edelstein said that we see “the effect of House’s mental struggle as he risks his own life to access his mind,” growing more and more desperate to save the patient. But because no one else can piece it together, his colleagues play along. Everyone is “willing to participate in that risk, while holding their breath. No one really knows the extent to which he’s risking his life.” But even when it does become clearer, she said, they continue to go along with it.
Since the series start, Cuddy and House have been always at odds. But they have a clear affection for each other, and a mutual protectiveness that, while not often apparent, nevertheless burbles just beneath the surface. In the second season episode “Humpty Dumpty,” Cuddy implied that she and House had known each other for years, and in season three’s “Top Secret,” we learned that House and Cuddy have had a sexual relationship sometime in their past. When Cuddy needed help with her quest for motherhood, it was (surprisingly to some) House that she turned to for support (and the most sensual of fertility drug injections) and to keep her secret.
Series creator David Shore and others have suggested that the future holds out the possibility of a more overt exploration and deepening of their interesting relationship. Edelstein strongly believes that there is much more to explore. Cuddy “very much loves House.” She explained that Cuddy lives vicariously through the maverick diagnostic genius. “She’s a smart woman, successful as a doctor, has a great position, but now has less to do with the actual practice of medicine.” Cuddy is excited by what House does. Edelstein views Cuddy’s relationship with House as a “beautiful adult relationship filled with complicated subliminal messages.” When asked whether that’s more the performance or the writing, she suggested that it was some of both, although the character’s direction really emanates from Shore's overall vision.
What does House think of Cuddy? Edelstein believes that House is attracted to her and “likes her smarts,” but she doesn’t know how capable he is of being truly connected to another person. House “loves Wilson and Cuddy, but not in the same way they love him,” she explained. House has been so affected by his pain and the way in which he treats it, she said, that he is angry and disconnected from people. He’s such a good analyst of human nature, so smart, that he’s dissected people to the point that they are no longer interesting to him; he’s bored by them.
According to Edelstein, the star of House, Hugh Laurie, is very unlike the star diagnostician of Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital (where House is set), and she has only kind words for the brilliant Laurie. “Hugh is much softer, and sensitive. And empathetic. He’s hilarious and an extremely hard worker,” she said.
Cuddy has a prominent place in House’s head during Monday’s episode. And how does House see her in his imagination? When Cuddy enters into his fantasy, he makes her strip. In fact, according to Edelstein, House wants her to perform a striptease for him and she does, stripper pole and all!
Although House imagines Cuddy as a stripper, Edelstein’s not sure that Cuddy would fantasize about House in quite the same way. “Women have a different idea of what’s sexy.” She suggested that in Cuddy’s fantasy she would be lying quietly as House “caressed or tickled her belly while doing a diagnostic.”
Edelstein commented that the real question on everyone’s mind at season's end will be: “What will become of House and Wilson’s friendship?” The series has already started filming season five and will continue filming without a break until August — barring a much-feared actors’ strike. (The Screen Actors Guild contract expires on June 30.) In addition to exploring the deepening relationship between House and Cuddy, the fifth season will kick off with a House/Wilson storyline, says Edelstein. “Their friendship is on the line.” Of course, she added, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen if there’s another strike. (And it’s a distinct possibility). “We’re all holding our breath; it’s very scary.” It is one reason why they’ve jumped right into season five without the customary break between filming seasons.
The official House website has posted a couple of clips from “House’s Head,” as well as a director’s commentary on one pivotal scene. House airs on FOX Mondays at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.