Friday, March 07, 2008

Hooray for technology!

Greetings, House fans. When new episodes start up again, this blog is going to have a shiny new feature -- clips, courtesy If you haven't checked out that site yet, you should. It's run by the NBC and Fox folk and serves up full episodes of shows on and off the air (now's a good time to see what you missed when you didn't watch "Arrested Development"). Anywho, one of the features is that you can embed clips in blogs and such. Hence my exciting news. I added a clip to the "It's a Wonderful Lie" posting, just to test it out. Looks good.

Good times ahead, friends and neighbors. Good times ahead.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Hot mamma -- Episode 108, "Poison"

Clinic patient:
Georgia, an 82-year-old woman with syphilis -- and an annoying son.

The connection:
The main case is another mother-son team, but with the son in the hospital instead of the mom. Aside from that, I got nothin'.

Even so, Georgia is one of my favorite clinic patients -- and House's. For a man who doesn't really like anyone, especially patients, I think he likes her. And why not? She's cute and spunky, has a little crush on Ashton Kutcher, and brushes off her son like the grown-up baby that he is. Even the reason for her sudden good mood, syphilis, earns House's admiration. "Impressive," he says when he first sees her test results. I'd say he's even more impressed when she tells him she'd gotten it in her promiscuous youth, before meeting her husband. (Son: "You said Dad was your first love." Mom: "He was. We're talking about sex.")

House gives her penicillin, but she comes back later, wanting no part of it even though the disease could kill her.

Georgia: Well, you gotta go sometime. And I really don’t want to play canasta for the rest of my life. I … I like feeling sexy again. And making a fool out of myself with handsome young doctors.
House: Do you think I would have given you this if it would stop you from flirting with me?
Georgia: But if I’m cured?
House: The spirochetes will die off. But the little pieces of your cerebral cortex that have been destroyed won’t grow back. You’re brain damaged. Doomed to feeling good for the rest of your life.

The good doctor is just playing to her flirtatious side to get her to take the needed meds -- part of his fix-at-any-cost persona -- but you can tell he's enjoying himself.

I leave you with her love poem:
“The healer with his magic powers,
I could rub his gentle brow for hours.
His manly chest, his stubble jaw,
Everything about him leaves me raw
with joy. Oh House, your very name
will never leave this girl the same.”


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Shades of grey -- Episode 410, "It's a Wonderful Lie"

Clinic patient:
Woman who may or may not be a prostitute.

The connection:
Everybody lies. It's a concept all us "House" fans have been familiar with from the get-go, a philosophy so good they put it on a t-shirt. Now, in the fourth season, we get an episode that's a sort of liar's handbook -- a handy dandy little field guide with definitions (courtesy of an early chat with the main patient's daughter), a conversion chart for the ratio of big lies to small truths (just how honest can you be without telling your daughter she's not your daughter?) and a close-up look at that whole fuzzy area called the absence of truth (our clinic patient).

There's a lot to lying. As the opening credits are still rolling, House has a little sit-down with the main patient's daughter to try to figure out what her mom's not telling them. In the process, he gives her a little lesson in lying and all its various forms: evasions instead of answers; white lies -- "Lies we tell to make other people feel better"; rationalizations -- "Lies we tell to make ourselves feel better."

The clinic patient's lie takes a more complicated form, and House actually helps it along through assumption. The patient comes in complaining of soar throat, stomach and glands. As House is checking her over, he notices her necklace.

House: "St. Nicholas?"
CP: "Patron saint of children."
H: "Also seamen, merchants, archers, prostitutes and prisoners."

He tells her she has strep and that she should take it easy -- not to worry, he'll write her pimp a note.

CP: "Pimp?"
H: "You don't have the skin of a seaman, the fingers of an archer, the clothes of a merchant, or the attitude of an ex-con. That just leaves one left."
CP: "Two, actually. But I'm not a child, am I?"

So House, in his deductive reasoning kind of way, figures she's a prostitute. She's not denying. When she comes in again, this time with a nasty pustule-filled breakout around her neck, the whole conversation is based on the idea that she's a prostitute. His immediate guess -- the clap. ("Clap on, clap off.") After closer examination:

H: "Do you do a donkey show? I'm not curious. It matters."
CP: "It's a donkey or a mule. I can never remember."

Is there contact? Yup. Diagnosis: contact ecthyma. House is thinking beastiality. Her creepy smile turns into an amused one, and she offers to give him an explanation, but he won't have it, thoroughly convinced she's a prostitute and wanting to avoid the scary details. She leaves him a flier for the show, and at the end we see it's a live nativitiy scene at a church, and she's riding a donkey.

It could go either way whether she's a hooker or not. The whole church thing would seem to rule that out, but she could just be a religious prostitute. I say she's not. She called St. Nicholas the patron saint of children -- if she's active in the church, of course she's working with kids. Her frequent HIV testing could be simply a precaution for some sort of needle exchange program. Checking herself for gonorrhea? Well, not all religious people are pure.

So if she's not a prostitute, then she's just playing House's game, letting him believe that she is. Is that the same as a lie? Well, it's not the truth. The same can be said of the main patient. She tells her daughter everything, except that she's not her daughter. It's not an active lie. It's a lie of omission.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Power play -- Episode 405, "Mirror Mirror"

With House's fellowship version of "Survivor" raging on (thankfully, only one more episode!), it's no surprise that there's been little room for clinic patients. And frankly, I'm glad the writers haven't tried. It's been hard enough squeezing in Chase and Cameron, let alone subplot z.

But the clinic itself is still there and, in this episode, at House's disposal. His goal is to get back at Cuddy for rehiring Foreman. So he announces to a crowded hospital cafeteria that the mayonnaise is bad, then directs them all to the clinic and tells them to ask for Dr. Cuddy. But she's played House's games enough to know how to even the score -- she pilfers House's Duckling wannabes to help with "The Great Mayonnaise Panic of 2007." (Of course, it would have been sweeter had she roped House into clinic duty, but we all know that wouldn't happen.) House gets his differential diagnosis anyway -- Kutner and Bitch chime in from exam rooms, while Taub and the guy who stood around a lot throw in their two cents from the waiting room -- then offers expensive tests for all uninsured patients. "Fight the power."

This most recent power play between Cuddy and House is not the first to be played out in the clinic (see "Occam's Razor" from season 1 and "Lines in the Sand" from season 3). But House might care a little bit more about this outcome. The main patient suffers from mirror syndrome, in which he mimics the dominant person in the room. Unfortunately for House, just a few scenes before, that dominant person was Wilson. House may not be consciously aware of it at the time he pops into the clinic, but he's got something to prove.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Cheating -- Episode 107, "Fidelity"

Clinic patient:
Woman with breast implants complaining of shortness of breath; or, as Cuddy calls her, "the preschool teacher with the heart of silicon."

The connection:
"They were a present for my husband's 40th. I figured he'd enjoy them more than a sweater."

The patient's basic story is this: She got implants, she claims, for her husband. The breasts are the cause of her shortness of breath. But as it turns out, her husband also had been mixing his blood pressure medication into her oatmeal so her sex drive would be diminished -- an unfortunate side effect of the drug. (Says House: "I’m guessing he figured if you're both frigid, no harm no foul.")

Here's how it plays out: We see her twice in the clinic. The first time is setup for House's main patient revelation; the second time is the revelation.

First time: House is being surprisingly professional, asking all of his doctorly questions without sarcasm or sass. But then she lowers her gown, House gets a gander at her breasts ("Good, Lord. Are those real?") and he calls Wilson in on a "consult."

After the consult -- and already armed with a diagnosis for the shortness of breath -- House starts in, as he often does, on motive.

House: She did not do that for her husband. She did that for herself. She thinks if she looks different, she'll be different.
Wilson: No. She thinks if she looks different she'll be more attractive, which I have to say --
House: Not to her husband. Cosmetic surgery is so everyone else will look at us differently.

Cuddy eventually shows up to call them on the needless consult, and House orders tests to, as Cuddy puts it, cover his lechery.

It would seem that's the end of it. Oh, but no. A couple days later, Cuddy walks into House's office with clinic lady's test results. (Both he and Wilson forgot about it, and because it's quite a bit later in the episode, perhaps we did, too.) House notices something interesting in her EKG ("I was right"), which leads us to ...

Second time: House asks her about her husband's blood pressure medication, she confirms, he tells her about the oatmeal. Then she asks what she should do. House basically tells her that she should look elsewhere for sex: "Well, if you care about your husband at all, I'd do the responsible thing: Buy yourself some condoms, go to a bar, find ..." He trails off, gets that look in his eye, mutters "huh" and in the next scene comes to his team with the possibility that the main patient cheated on her husband. Which she did, contracting African Sleeping Sickness. Clinic patient saves the day again.

But her role in the episode doesn't stop with the main patient (although there was a brief moment shortly after the consult when the team is tossing about possible diagnoses, and Wilson asks, "Did you check her breasts?"). She also provides the impetus for subplot C -- Wilson's possibly cheating ways. The conversation in orange up there segues into House accusing Wilson of cheating on his wife because he's wearing a snazzy new green tie, probably to impress some young lady in the hospital (turns out to be a nurse). This storyline is threaded throughout the episode, and might even be the first mention on the show of Wilson's womanizing and marital track record (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). In fact, House and Wilson were talking about the nurse when Cuddy came in with the test results.

The episode got a lot of mileage out of this clinic patient.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Afterlife -- Episode 403, "97 Seconds"

Clinic patient:
Car accident victim who sticks his knife into a wall socket in an attempt to recapture his near-death experience.

The connection:
In a nutshell, the clinic patient and the main patient (with a little bit of Wilson thrown in) lead House to zap himself as part of his own personal experiment to test the theory of an afterlife.

It starts with House trying to figure out why clinic guy stuck the knife in the socket. Clinic guy explains what happened after the crash: "I saw these headlights. And I saw ... Paramedics said I was technically dead for 97 seconds. It was the best 97 seconds of my life." House dismisses the visions as chemical reactions in the brain, but clinic guy dismisses that, saying he's done every kind of hallucinogenic drug, and it wasn't the same. "This is way bigger than that," he says. "There's something out there. Something more." And House's interest is piqued.

Now it's the main patient's turn. After being confined to a wheelchair for most of his life, he's just learned that he has cancer and will have to spend his remaining months in a hospital bed, puking and in pain. He chooses to die instead:

Main patient: "I've been trapped in this useless body long enough. It'd be nice to finally get out."
House: "Get out and go where? You think you're gonna sprout wings and fly around with the other angels? There is no after. There's just this."

Afterward, Wilson berates House for squashing the beliefs of a dying man. House is stubborn as always:

House: "He shouldn't be making a decision based on a lie. Misery is better than nothing."
Wilson: "You don't know there's nothing. You haven't been there."
House: "Oh, God, I am tired of that argument. I don't have to go to Detroit to know that it smells."
Wilson: "Yes. Detroit, the afterlife. Same thing."

So House decides to go there. He zaps himself by sticking the clinic guy's knife into a wall socket in his office. When he comes to, he's eager to talk to clinic guy, who unfortunately died just an hour before. Wilson wants to know why House needs to talk to him: Did he see something?

We get our answer in the last line of the episode. House, all alone with the body of the main patient, looks down at him and says, "I'm sorry to say, I told you so."

It seems pretty cut and dried, but I found myself asking this question: Would House, without anyone to overhear him, lie to a dead guy?

Faith is probably House's biggest nemesis. It's an annoyance because it's the opposite of reason and because he's frequently confronted by it. But as convinced as he is in his atheism, it seems that every time faith rears its ugly head, there's always room for doubt. There was a moment in "House vs. God" when it was possible the young faith healer's touch shrank Wilson's cancer patient's tumor. When his patient in "Human Error" miraculously came back from the brink of death, House looked up in futility. At the end of "One Day, One Room," he seemed swayed by the main patient's case for eternity.

House eventually found the medical explanations for the anomalies in "House vs. God" and "Human Error," but in order to disprove God as a factor, he had to acknowledge the possibility of his existence. It's the same in "97 Seconds." If he didn't think there was the chance of an afterlife, he wouldn't have had to test it.

In House's hospital room, Wilson mentioned that House had already had two near-death experiences. The first, when House's heart stopped in "Three Stories," was accompanied by visions. (Then, as now, "They're all just chemical reactions that take place when the brain shuts down.") Same with the second, when he was shot in season 2's finale, "No Reason," although those visions were described more as hallucinations. Was there really nothing the third time around?

My point is this: There's really no reason House would lie to a dead man -- unless he's lying to himself to keep faith from winning.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Mind and Body -- Episode 312, "One Day, One Room"

When this episode first aired, I got all jazzed because it was so different and yet fundamentally the same as the rest of the series. I put it right up there with "Three Stories" from Season 1. But my fellow "House" maven burst my bubble the next day with a disappointing and well-reasoned lack of enthusiasm. Fast-forward however many months to the lovely if extras-deficient DVD, and I'm all excited again. Hooray for creativity!

"One Day, One Room" puts House in two places he hates to be: in the clinic and in a situation where he has to get personal. Worse, his main patient -- a young woman who's been raped -- is not someone he's supposed to cure physically, but psychologically.

But the writers have it covered, and they spell out their point in a little exchange between House and Cuddy, when Cuddy tries to persuade House to actually treat his clinic patients instead of give them $50 to go away:

Cuddy: "I'll pay you $10 for every patient you diagnose without touching. You pay me $10 for every one you have to touch."
House: "You're making this a game for me. From which I can conclude this isn't a game for you."
Cuddy: "No."
House: "Why? You think if I deal with enough people I'll find some humanity?"
Cuddy: "Yes."

So without further ado, here are the clinic patients, with select commentary:

Clinic patients:
(Deep breath)
1. Guy who thinks he has an STD.
2. Young woman who thinks she has an STD.
We don't know it right away, but this one's our main patient. I said above that this episode is fundamentally the same as all the others, and it's true. There's a big mystery that needs solving: not a freakishly rare disease, but why, what with all his obvious compassion and charm, is House the one she chooses to talk to? For problems that pop up along the way, he goes to the Ducklings: Do we need to talk about what happened to her? What does she really want to hear about my sucky life? The various treatments are not medications, but soul-searching conversations about abortion, God, reason and rationality. When House first figures out the woman has been raped, he tells Cuddy to assign someone else, asking, "You think I'm the right doctor for her?" As it turns out, yes.
3. Old woman who thinks she has an STD.
4. Guy who runs around the clinic's waiting room, screaming bloody murder and clasping a hand to his ear.
Ah, the red herring. House has gone through three clinic patients and is trying to shoo the others away when this guy starts going berserk. And it's at the end of the teaser, so we naturally assume this is our guy for the episode. But he's dispensed with even before the opening credits are done. House has already figured out it's just a cockroach in the guy's ear, but he has the Ducklings run a series of tests just to buy him some time away from the clinic.
5. Cameron's patient with lung cancer.
Same day, different room. While sad, it's just another in a series of poor souls Cameron has to watch die.
6. Guy with athlete's foot in his nose.
7. Guy holding his own tongue depressor.
8. Woman feeling her own rash.
9. Guy trying to take his own pulse.
10. Hot chick.
House to Cuddy: "I owe you $10." Best line of the episode.
11. Guy who says he has hiccups, when all he really wants is a good time.
12. Father and son who took a $50 bribe from House to leave the clinic, but came back because the kid swallowed a magnet.
House's ingenuity is again on display, as he presses a scalpel to the kid's belly to prove the magnet is safely in the intestines.

House + coat + scarf = totally hot


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sometimes it's cute -- Episode 323, "The Jerk"

Clinic patient:
A dad, his son and some sun. Dad fell asleep on a boat and woke up all toasty and covered in white spots.

The white spots are the result of the son having a little fun -- $1.41 worth of fun. He put coins all over his dad's chest while he was sleeping. It's cute and funny, probably because he's a youngin. If he were, say, the age of chess-prodigy-jerk-face-main-patient boy, harsher adjectives might come to mind. But somehow it's also cute and funny when House squirts dad in the face with water. Maybe you can only be a jerk within a certain 30-year period.

As a side note, in a much earlier scene, we come upon House scrounging around on the floor behind the admit desk looking for loose change. Foreshadowing? I hope not. Kind of a waste of foreshadowing. Maybe the writers just wanted us to know where House's sudden coin prowess is coming from. Or maybe the clinic patient was originally supposed to come before that scene, and the coins were really the kid's. Or maybe I should stop thinking so much.

How cute is House with kids? He trades his syringe for the son's coins, then gets it back by claiming one of the quarters is "Canadian." Of course he's just joking around -- even House knows kids shouldn't play with syringes. Plus he's having fun, with the water and all, picking up where the kid left off. Anyway, it kind of reminded me of that little girl from "Need to Know" in season 2, the one with the mom who's taking her ADD meds. The way he took the girl's hand to walk her back to her mom's room. Aww. There's actually a lot of those sweet moments. There's a blog subject for ya.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Depression -- Episode 322, "Resignation"

Clinic patient:
Guy with floating poop and his 26-year-old nutritionist girlfriend, Honey, who has "the wisdom of a much younger woman."

As with the 17-year-old stalker from "Informed Consent" and "Lines in the Sand," who was in the clinic with her sick dad, Honey is the real focus here. House is barely through the door before he starts flirting with her. And though the boyfriend is right there, she flirts back. So you can't really blame House for going for it when she flips out about her "vegan" boyfriend cheating on her -- not with another woman, but with another food group (seems meat fat is to blame for his floaters). Anyway, House gets a resume out of the deal, and ultimately a date.

That date at the end of the episode is a big deal, especially after episode-long (and, really, season-long) talk about depression, talk that always winds its way back to House. The big theme this season has been House changing, House becoming slightly more human. To go on a date -- and not, say, hire a hooker -- is a big step for him. In fact, his entering the bar feels like a follow-through on whatever episode it was that ended with a will-he-or-won't-he moment, when he's debating, hand on doorhandle, whether to join the team in a restaurant for a drink.

Depression pops up in three storylines in this episode: Honey; House and Wilson drugging each other; and the main patient, a 19-year-old girl who's coughing up blood.

Let's start with House and Wilson. House is trying to figure out why Wilson yawned for no good reason. He polls his team, comes up with anti-depressants as a possibility, and decides to dose Wilson's coffee with amphetamines to test the theory. A jumpy Wilson eventually figures it out and heads over to House's house to confront him. House accuses Wilson -- who's always telling House how to fix his life -- of hiding his use of anti-depressants, but as usual, Wilson turns the tables:

"You wouldn't take them! You'd rather OD on Vicodin or stick electrodes in your head because you could say you did it to get high. The only reason to take anti-depressants is because you're depressed. You have to admit that you're depressed."

Fast-forward to House telling the main patient, Addie, that she's going to die. She doesn't want to hear why. House, who can't comprehend why she wouldn't want to know what's killing her, pesters her about it, a smile on his face. Addie accuses him of being happy about her dying. He denies it, then -- mental click -- runs off to Wilson's office to berate him for putting anti-depressants in his coffee. Wilson points out that they've been working -- House has been happy. House, not one to admit anything, insists that they've made him hazy, not happy. Then, wondering why a dying girl would see "happiness," House has another mental click: Addie's depressed and tried to kill herself.

And now Honey. House meets her in the bar -- remember, a big step -- tells her that Wilson's been putting anti-depressants in his coffee (which makes him hazy) because he thinks House is miserable, then rattles off a series of "deep character flaws." Honey latches on to the anti-depressants: "How miserable can you be, saving lives, sleeping around and doing drugs?"

True enough.

House, the last line of the episode: "And I hate tea." Love it! How's that for tongue-in-cheek humor from an Englishman?


Friday, April 20, 2007

Subtext -- Episode 319, "Act Your Age"

Clinic patient:
Guy who says he's peeing a lot

This one's not so much about the patient as the clinic. And Cuddy. And motives.

This is a big House-Cuddy episode, although most of it is through House-Wilson exchanges. The storyline gets its kick-start in the clinic, when House offers Wilson theater tickets from a patient whose life he saved. Wilson takes Cuddy, and House spends the episode joking around with it even though he's adorably jealous. ("Seriously?")

But for some subtle lovin', consider what happens before House makes the ticket offer, when he and Wilson first enter the exam room:

Wilson: "I didn't know you were seeing a patient."
House: "It's an exam room. What did you think I was doing?"
Wilson: "What you're usually doing. Hiding from Cuddy."

Yes ... curious, isn't it? How many times have we seen House use those exam rooms for kicking back with a magazine or a video game or "General Hospital"? And where's the protest that usually accompanies clinic duty?

Later, after Cameron did the vaginal exam on the little girl-main patient and got confounding results, the Ducklings are discussing more theories on their way to House's office -- his empty office, as it turns out. Chase's curiosity -- "Where is he?" -- is but a blip in the conversation as Foreman rolls right over it with another theory for the main case.

But in the next scene, we see where House is -- the clinic, again. With the fake urinator, again. This time, Cuddy interrupts to pull House out and talk about the little girl. Think about that. She's pulling him from the clinic to tell him to do something with the main case. A little backward, no? This is also when House realizes that Wilson took Cuddy to the play. Later, House makes a third foray into the clinic (after a giddy Wilson boasts about his flowers), and he walks right past Cuddy to do so.

Where am I going with this? Well, I have a theory: House, in his own subtle way, is making an effort to impress Cuddy. What do they most bump heads about? Clinic duty. What's House doing a curious amount of this episode? Clinic duty.

Big episode.

Personal note
Sorry for the three-month blog-posting hiatus, friends and neighbors. If you've been checking back, thanks for sticking around. If you're newbies, welcome. Thankfully, I don't think I skipped out on much, what with those annoying three-week American Idol breaks. And it's possible I have notes on "One Day, One Room" (yes, notes -- I am that dorky), so if next week's episode is clinic patient-free, I might yet have something to write about.