Note: A full review of “Nobody’s Fault” is now live.
The manner in which Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) runs his practice has come under fire a few times in the series run of House, M.D. His diagnostic team is trained to be cut-throat competitive, risk-taking, and even reckless.
The season two episode “The Mistake” in which Chase loses a patient sets the stage for questioning House’s “I don’t see patients” posture. And the back biting between Foreman (Omar Epps) and Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) in “Sleeping Dogs Lie” over an academic paper, leads Wilson to articulate major reservations about the tone he sets for his fellows.
House provokes, pranks, berates and pressures, and it’s been an issue waiting to really boil over for years. And this week, it finally does, in what is arguably the best episode since “Help Me.”
The episode opens on a patient room; it is a wreck. Blood is everywhere, and scattered bottles, bandages and implements cover the room. Immediate reaction: “what the hell happened here?” Cut to House in a disciplinary hearing facing the investigator Dr. Walter Cofield, played by Jeffrey Wright (Ides of March). Cofield is brought on by Dean Foreman to investigate whatever it was that happened in that patient room..
Cofield is head of Neurology at Mercy, and before that, while still on the faculty at Johns Hopkins, he was Foreman’s mentor. “I’ll be deciding your fate today,” he declares. Roll credits. Whatever did happen in that room, it is extremely serious—enough to put House’s career on the line.
Although House doesn’t really want to answer questions, pushing back in his usual sarcastic way (big surprise), Cofield isn’t biting, using the “parole card” to keep House from walking out altogether. If he is found at fault and is suspended or worse, House will be in violation of he the terms of his parole; he will be sent back to prison—and no one has any power to stop that.
Cofield makes note of House popping Vicodin, questioning his use of the drug during a case; House reminds him quickly that he’s been pretty successful as a doctor thus far over the course of the 10 years since the surgery. “Good things usually happen; bad things sometimes happen,” he says. But that is beside the point as the facts of House’s most recent case are reviewed by each member of the team to determine who, if anyone, is to blame.
I don’t really want to spoil the episode for you (yes, I’m that evil), but what unfolds examines the hyper-competitive methods of House’s diagnostic team as each member recounts the event leading up to the incident in the patient room. I can’t (well, I could, but I won’t) tell you what happens, but I can tell you that it’s very serious with ramifications extending beyond this episode and perhaps through the remainder of the season. The events of “Nobody’s Fault” weigh very heavily on House’s heart and conscience, and are not likely to disappear by next episode.
The script by Garrett Lerner, Russel Friend and Dr. David Foster lives up to the best that all three writers have delivered over the seasons. Lerner and Friend have a particular ability to probe inside House’s head (and in fact they wrote that brilliant episode “House’s Head” in season four with Foster). Foster, writing for the series since season one has been responsible for some the series’ best episodes as well. Greg Yaitanes, who is leaving the series to go on to new things, has also done a great job directing this intimate, emotional, yet very complex story.
Told in a non-linear format, “Nobody’s Fault” is reminiscent of “The Mistake” but creates a completely original take on the argument that House’s practice is dangerous to patients and anyone else affected by it. It is also has echoes of “Baggage” as House’s interrogator (Wright) slowly breaks through House’s layers of sarcastic defensive guard to get at the truth.
In general, I’ve liked season eight, but it’s no secret that I’ve been waiting patiently for an episode that leaves me a little breathless with anticipation, wanting the episode never to end, yet being unable to wait for what happens next. “Nobody’s Fault” delivers on that wish for me.
To say any more will be to spoil it too much, and I hope you come into “Nobody’s Fault without having been spoiled at all.” Instead, I offer you a clip of the opening couple minutes to tide you over until Monday! I will post a full review of “Nobody’s Fault” next week.
Side Note: for those of you who are fans of Jennifer Morrison’s new series Once Upon a Time, please join me after the next episode on February 12 as I host a live chat with the writer Jane Espenson. Details forthcoming.
The next House episode “Nobody’s Fault” airs Monday night at 8:00 p.m. ET on FOX.