Be sure to read part one of this episode guide. Starred (*) episodes are my (subjectively) recommended “must-see” episodes; links are to more in-depth reviews.
House, MD really found its footing in the second half of its inaugural season, as its star Hugh Laurie began to garner both critical and popular attention for his nuanced sensitive portrayal of the series’ main character, Dr. Gregory House. At the end of episode 11, “Detox,” Wilson argues that House has changed. House angrily retorts, “Of course I’ve changed.”
But is it his leg or the painkillers that have caused him withdraw into himself? Who was he before time and circumstance changed him so profoundly? The second half of season one begins to answer those questions, leaving viewers with only echoes and glimpses of understanding the enigmatic House, while challenging them with oblique angles on ethics and the nature of compassion.
For me, the best episodes are those that cause us to think or those that pack an emotional punch. When both come together in the same episode, the series is at its absolute best.
* 12. “Sports Medicine” (A) — House treats Hal Wiggin, a star baseball pitcher making a comeback after drug rehab. The episode introduces (the idea of) Stacy, whose relationship with House is barely hinted at here. Wilson lies to House rather than tell him he’s having dinner with her. Discovering the lie and feigning indifference in front of Wilson, House’s eyes and body language reveal his truer feelings. “I have no right to…” House begins, upset at both himself and the situation. “Say ‘Hi’ for me,” he finishes instead, resignation in his voice.
In a great side-plot, House shows that he is actually capable of having fun, purchasing scalped tickets to a Monster Truck rally, taking Cameron on a “not” date to see the legendary “Grave Digger.” “Have you ever been married?” Cameron asks him as they eat cotton candy, observing passers-by. “I lived with someone once,” he offers hesitantly. We understand that “someone” could very well be Stacy.
13. ” Cursed” (B) — Pre-teen Gabe is afflicted with a multiplicity of increasingly weird symptoms that suggest anything from anthrax to lupus (it’s nearly never lupus), and ultimately leprosy. At the same time, Chase’s dad pays a visit from Australia to his estranged son. House is (of course) curious as to why Chase has no interest in seeing him (Rowan abandoned Chase and his mom when Chase was a kid). And he also discovers that Rowan Chase has terminal cancer. When Rowan asks House not to tell his son about the cancer, House is uneasy about the lie, suggesting that when Rowan dies, House will be the one to pick up the pieces (which is actually what happened in season two, with tragic consequences). It is an otherwise straight-ahead procedural episode, made personally noteworthy for me because it was the first episode I ever saw. The fact that the series grabbed me so viscerally with even this rather average (for House) episode says much about the overall quality of the series.
* 14. “Control” (A) — Carly, a young female CEO, seeks out House’s services, presenting with severe pain in her thigh. When House discovers that the source of Carly’s problem is emotional (she is a “cutter” as well as bulimic), he concludes that abuse of the emetic ipecac has caused her heart to fail. She needs a heart transplant, but her psych issues render her a poor risk. Unable to sentence the young woman to death, and after an emotional exchange between doctor and patient, House lies to the transplant committee, risking his medical license to save her life. Meanwhile, in another part of the hospital, Cuddy introduces the board to new chairman Edward Vogler. House immediately distrusts the man, owner of a pharmaceutical company, who has donated $100 million to Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. And the dislike appears to be mutual. The final scene of the episode is an intense and treacherous dance between the powerful new hospital CEO and the iconoclastic House, who has been betrayed by the opportunistic Chase.
15. “Mob Rules” (C+) — This fairly light episode involves a mobster about to enter the federal witness protection program for reasons that become clear by the episode’s end. The patient’s brother, a mob lawyer, thanks House by giving him a mint condition vintage Corvette. House and Wilson break in the new car by taking a joy ride in the streets of Princeton. Vogler continues his crusade against House and his department, forcing him by the end of the hour to cut one of the fellows.
16. “Heavy” (B+) — An overweight young girl who’s had a heart attack comes to House. Her mother insists that the team look beyond her weight for the problem as her symptoms worsen. Meanwhile, under pressure to let one of his team go, House considers who to cut from the staff. Conventional wisdom would suggest that for House, Chase would be the straightforward (and simple) choice. But, in an seemingly uncharacteristic gesture, House proposes an across the board 17 percent salary cut (including his own) so that everyone can stay. But, as he soon realizes, Vogler’s issue was never about money or budgets, but about hegemony. Finally backed into a corner, House chooses to cut Chase from the team. Pressing the point that it’s not about money but about control, Vogler protects the traitorous Chase, insisting that House cut either Foreman or Cameron — or lose the department.
* 17. “Role Model” (A) — Vogler gives House one more chance to keep his team whole by giving House a Hobson’s choice. House either must publicly endorse a new drug about to be released by Vogler’s company, or fire one of the staff (but not Chase). House (who has an international reputation for integrity) and his endorsement will certainly carry some weight with other physicians. And, as House suspected, the drug has no improved benefit to anyone other than Vogler’s wallet. Although he agrees to give the speech, House’s personal ethical code nags at him, even as his staff thanks him for the “nice” gesture. As House wrestles with his conscience, his ultimate guidance on the issue comes from his patient, an African-American presidential candidate, who believes that sometimes taking a stand is more important than winning. Ultimately, unable to sacrifice his integrity, House stuns a gathering of physicians as he ad- libs indictments of Vogler’s company and the pharmaceutical industry. Cameron alone understands why House did what he did. “I always thought you did things to help people. I was wrong; you do them because it is right.”
18. “Babies/Bathwater” (A) — In the aftermath of “Role Model,” Vogler wants House’s head. But, as tenured faculty, he can only be dismissed by unanimous vote of the board. In the midst of Vogler’s threat to withdraw his donation, it doesn’t bode well. Is House, brilliant though he may be, worth $100 million? Ultimately the choice is not about him, or the money; it’s about power, as House has contended all along. Today House is the target; tomorrow it could be someone else, and at what point do the strings attached to funding begin to compromise patient care? In the midst of this, House continues doing what he does best as he diagnoses a pregnant woman (Naomi), advocating best possible outcome for her and her baby. But it’s to no avail as Naomi begins to bleed internally. House’s poignant scene with a grieving husband who needs to make an impossible decision demonstrates once again, that beneath beyond his indifferent demeanor, House is capable of great compassion and understanding — and reveals House’s real value to the hospital.
19. “Kids” (A-) — In the midst of a meningitis outbreak at a swim meet, House tries to convince Cuddy that Mary, a young diver with meningitis-like symptoms, is suffering from something else. It turns out that Mary is pregnant, and complications have caused her illness. Refusing to tell her parents the cause of her illness, the adolescent Mary goes through an abortion stoically and alone. Eventually, unable to face this crisis alone, and after House’s goading, she asks to see her parents. As she talks with her parents, Mary breaks down in an emotional scene, which we see only through House’s eyes as gazes in on the family from behind the glass wall. When Chase arrives with her final lab results, he assures House that “she’ll be fine.” House brokenly replies “I know,” clearly referring to her emotional state and not the lab results. In a great side-plot, House tries to lure Cameron back to Princeton Plainsboro, as he indifferently interviews three replacements for her. Cameron refuses at first, insisting that just wanting her back on the team isn’t enough. Ultimately, she reveals that what she wants is neither more money nor a better parking space; she wants dinner — a date with House!
* 20. “Love Hurts” (A) — With Cameron back in the fold, House has to make good on their date. As the socially awkward House prepares for the evening, wondering if the corsage he bought is “lame, Wilson responds gently, “I think she likes ‘lame.’” Ladies’ man Wilson also has advice for him about panty-peeling repartee and antibiotic condoms. In fact everyone seems to have advice for House. But Wilson’s warning to Cameron is unexpected, as he explains that she should be very certain before becoming involved with the emotionally fragile House. “It’s been a long time since he opened up to someone, and you better be absolutely sure you want this,” he warns her. “Because if he opens up again and gets hurt, I don’t think there’s going to be a next time.” Picking up on a thread from “Sports Medicine,” we learn that House was deeply hurt in his last relationship, five years earlier. But House believes that her interest results only from pity, explaining over dinner that the reason she’d be interested in the older, unattractive (in his opinion) man is that he’s “damaged.” And, he continues, she wants to heal him, like a wounded puppy. But his scathing words say more about his self-esteem than her motives. The episode ends as House sits in the dark of his office, digging into the back reaches of his wallet until he finds a small photograph. He stares longingly at it as the melancholy lyrics “Don’t break me… I’m broken…” play on his turntable.
* 21. “Three Stories” (A++) — House is talked into delivering a lecture on diagnostics to second-year medical students. On his way, House is startled by a familiar voice. It is Stacy, the woman referred to in “Sports Medicine” and in “Love Hurts:” the woman with whom House lived for five years. Having married, her husband Mark exhibits symptoms that no one has been able to diagnose; she asks House for his help. Clearly shaken by her presence — and her marriage — House appears less than moved by her plight, coldly refusing to treat Mark. We soon learn why.
As he weaves the diagnoses of three anonymous patients complaining of only leg pain, House slowly reveals the story behind his own disability. As he relates his personal experience to the students, his colleagues, and his staff, perhaps for the first time publicly, we learn that a botched diagnosis and an abuse of his medical proxy by Stacy led to crippling damage to his right thigh. In a poignant flashback, House lies gravely ill in his hospital bed. Stacy sits beside him, believing that unless he allows his doctors to amputate his leg, House will die. She pleads tearily, frustrated by his stubbornness. “You don’t think you deserve to live? You don’t think you deserve to be happy?” These are questions that will come up again in the three seasons to follow as more of House’s personal history is revealed. But we also begin to understand a little better why House is such a fierce patient advocate; why he believes in a patient’s right to choose (once the diagnosis is made) and why his ethical code has more to do with doing the right thing than with things “by the book.” And as he teaches the roomful of students and colleagues, he also learns. House’s self-exploration causes him to change his mind about Mark, agreeing, ultimately, to help Stacy.
* 22. “Honeymoon” (A) — House is now willing to treat Mark, but Mark has zero interest in putting himself in House’s hands. But Stacy is persuasive and as the team figure out what’s wrong, it becomes apparent that House clearly still has feelings for his ex-lover. But his feelings are conflicted with resentment both for his patient and for her betrayal years earlier. An emotional moment on the roof between House and Stacy suggests that despite any lingering bitterness, he still feels a great deal of tenderness towards her.
When Mark refuses a test that will confirm House’s diagnosis, Stacy presses him to ignore Mark’s wishes and do it anyway — a strategy that resonates deeply with House. “He’ll never forgive you,” warns House. “HE will,” Stacy fires back, pointedly noting the glaring difference between the two men. Later, as House sits alone in his office, Stacy visits to thank him. She admits that House will always be “the one,” but it’s not enough for her. His strong feelings for her renewed, House’s feigned indifference rings false when he learns that Cuddy has offered Stacy a job. In the final scene of season one, House futilely attempts to walk normally and without his cane. It is bleak reminder that he cannot turn back the clock; his leg is a constant reminder of what he can no longer be. It is a heartbreaking glimpse into House’s private and bereft life.