It’s time for a gut check, House, M.D. fans, in this week’s episode not-so-coincidentally called “Gut Check.” After delivering a check to the gut, hockey “enforcer” Hatcher collapses on the ice, vomiting blood. After the ER can’t figure out why, the case is sent to team House for debate and diagnosis.
Jamie Conoway and David Hoselton crafted a nice script, that while far from gut wrenching (sorry for the pun, guys), was full of turns and twists. It brings the series back to fundamentals needed as we proceed into the series home stretch.
The guts (okay, that’s the last one, I promise) of the story for me involved the House/Wilson (Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard) and Chase/Park (Jesse Spencer and Charlyne Yi) story threads. Each involved a real gut check—a reality check, showing Chase and Wilson a little more of who they are and who they aren’t. But I also think Taub’s (Peter Jacobson) perceptive comment to House about the nature of his mockery is also a key gut-check in “Gut Check.”
I really loved House’s fake-child ruse. I have to admit I suspected as much from midway through the episode. The kid was just too much like his father to have it all derive from “nature.” And since there was no “nurture” involved in the kid’s development, I never quite bought that the kid was genuinely Wilson’s.
What I did like about the ruse, however, is what it says about House. He knows that Wilson will pine unendingly with regret for never having had a child—that old biological clock is way past ticking. And how Housian is it for him to manufacture a child for Wilson to play at being Daddy? I think parenting and parentage are real vulnerable spots for House. He is the product of a warped upbringing and children, and House tends to take childcare—and the notion that “anyone can do it” very seriously. He’s demonstrated that several times over eight seasons with patients, with Cuddy, and now with Wilson. But telling Wilson that he’s not really parental material will never work. Wilson will insist that it’s House’s anti-social and wounded psyche talking. So, going the rent-a-kid route is a brilliant ploy—and makes House’s point elegantly. Wilson’s semi-hurt feelings aside.
Besides, House loves Wilson and the gesture of showing Wilson the error of his ways, is a real act of brotherly love for his best friend. That kid actor must’ve cost House a fair penny, but in the long run is a generous (albeit House-like) gift to Wilson. Ultimately, Wilson understanding that he’s not really the daddy type will result in less hurt in the end. In House’s universe, it’s a kind, compassionate gesture.
What to make of Chase’s gesture towards Park? Despite his reputation (and a well-deserved one at that), Chase is actually a pretty nice guy. There is still a thread of the seminarian in him and a sweetness tinged with tragedy of a lot of parental and relationship hurts.
He’d like to see Park grow up and separate from her childhood, so there is that, but then what motivates him to invite her grandmother in—and let her hang on? Is Chase somehow craving family that he doesn’t really have? Park doesn’t appreciate her PoPo, annoyed with her hovering. But that closeness is something Chase has never had. In some way, perhaps he is jealous of Park, but is he trying to show her (there’s that gut-check again) that having that sort of love close at hand is not to be dismissed, but embraced?
I think my favorite moment in “Gut Check” came when Taub calls House on his self-described bully persona. An ongoing theme in the series is that House is a bully. He bullies patients, supervisors, and most of all, his fellows. Taub insists, however, that House isn’t a bully, something he vehemently disputes. But Taub knows bullies; he’s been bullied his whole life: for being short, for being Jewish. “You mock people, but not for self-aggrandizement,” Taub argues. “You believe ideas are more important than feelings.” So House’s mockery is not mean-spirited; it comes with a purpose, one, I suspect all of his fellows—and Foreman—by now have come to accept. And expect. And perhaps even (to a small degree) respect. This is a hugely important point to make at this stage of the series, and one that the show occasionally forgets.
With now only six episodes to go in the long life of House, M.D., “Gut Check” is an excellent entry as we head into the final third of the season and the home stretch of the series. House airs Monday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET on Fox.