So, after a radically different start to the season (House in jail, no Cuddy, no team), we’re now firmly refocused on the classic themes – House testing his boss’s limits, House testing Wilson’s patience, arguments over clinic hours, lots of mysterious bleeding on the part of the Patient of the Week.
Fox’s tagline for tonight’s episode, “one of the biggest twists you’ll never see coming”, is a classic, too, in the sense that it’s a classic mislead – this is a pretty standard episode. Instead of last week’s multiple plots, we’re down to just a main plot and a subplot. The main plot involves a fourteen-year-old girl; the subplot involves a four-year-old boy – who’s been dead five years. He is (was) the son of a man in House’s anger management class. The boy, whose unexplained illness and death led to the breakup of his parents’ marriage and his fathers’ downward spiral, interests House far more than the live teenager, and I can’t say I blame him; this one never grabbed me. Foreman, of course, wants House to focus on the living patient, and tonight’s really about their power struggle.
Line of the night: House, fresh from his anger management course, tells an angry man that “there are platitudes that can help you with that.”
Reveal of the night: Wilson has just purchased a boxed set of the films of Ed Wood.
In keeping with the minimalist nature of tonight’s episode, we don’t get a lavish staging of the patient’s initial collapse. Only at second hand do we learn that it happened while she was unwrapping a Magic Eight Ball at her fourteenth birthday party, immediately after eating a piece of strawberry cake. Oh, and her mom’s been slipping her diazepam to take the edge off of her adolescent mood swings, telling the girl it’s vitamin C.
In a development that doesn’t quite qualify as a second subplot, Dr. Chi correctly deduces that Chase has just had a manicure, and that he’s willing to lie about having done so. Her technique and her conclusions are both very House-like, and I’m intrigued to see that one of the new female characters is also shaping up to be the most similar to House of any secondary character yet, without requiring any major trauma or crime to push her in that direction.
House attends his anger management class (I guess they make you do that when you’ve driven a car into your ex-girlfriend’s dining room). He makes a pointed observation about how one of his triggers is the belief that pop-psychology catchphrases can control one’s reaction to the death of a child. It’s pointed at the father of said child. Mom, meanwhile, has moved on with a vengeance, remarrying and having another son.
House corners the man after class and wants to talk exhumation orders. Later he heads over to the cemetery to do the deed himself. The boy is entombed in a sarcophagus, in what seems to be family vault – surely an unusual arrangement these days, but it makes for a nice POV shot as House opens the lid.
The team wants to do a pregnancy test on their living patient, whose arms suddenly go numb while they’re debating. The pregnancy test is positive, though she claims she’s never had sex, a development they discuss with House via conference call while House is raiding the kid’s tomb (it turns out he timed his visit to coincide with tests at a naval base that disrupted the signal from his ankle bracelet). And the girl’s arms are no longer numb; they’re covered in bruises. She attributes these to a nighttime visit from her boyfriend, who also apparently stashes his hardcore porn in her dresser drawer.
Chase has now had his eyebrows waxed; he claims he’s had a Brazilian as well, to please a shallow girlfriend, but Taub uses his painfully acquired firsthand knowledge of Brazilian waxes to ferret out the truth. Chase has only had the bits on public show tended to, because he’s just had a screen test for some kind of doctor segment on a local TV show. Taub asks the patient’s new Magic Eight Ball whether anyone will believe Chase is a real doctor, and receives a skeptical answer. Later we see Chase featuring in an excruciatingly cheesy human-interest segment as Dr. Down Under, speaking in such a thick Aussie accent I don’t think I understood a word.
Dead patient: while testing the kid’s remains for heavy-metal poisoning (at home, on his coffee table), House learns that the boy’s mother never cried, even at the funeral. Also, the boy mispronounced words and made up his own names for things. House decoys the mom into the clinic with an offer of a free flu shot, hoping to discover that she’s pathologically unemotional, and that that’s a symptom, but instead she slaps him. Foreman insists that House leave the case alone. Wilson, placing himself in the middle again, explains to both House and Foreman that puzzles are just as much an addiction for House as Vicodin or rudeness.
Living patient: after a fairly heavy-handed reveal, we learn she has multiple personalities (aka Dissociative Identity Disorder). That’s the big twist? Well, it certainly explains the mood swings. The abusive boyfriend is one of her “alters”. Chase apparently hypnotizes Little Sybil and we find out that the trauma at the root of all this is the car accident that killed her father when she was two, for which she blames herself. And her two-year-old self is allergic to strawberries. The pregnancy? It turns out she has a form of cancer that mimics pregnancy, but as the episode ends she’s responding to treatment.
After a couple of clashes with the dead boy’s enraged mom and her new husband (the guy who could use the platitudes), House figures out that the boy inherited something called Allport’s Syndrome. The mother is a carrier, and her new son has the condition as well. One of the symptoms is mild deafness. Having explained this to the family, House climbs into a squad car, seemingly on his way back to jail.
Instead, it just brings him back to the hospital, where Foreman angrily tells Wilson that he has to send House back to prison, or all his threats will be revealed as hollow. Wilson explains that Cuddy never made the mistake of trying to control House; instead, she managed him. Foreman asks what Cuddy would do; Wilson says she’d give House ten hours of clinic duty. Foreman gives House thirty hours.
As I said, definitely House Classic tonight. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on your perspective. I find the fact that House (and Wilson, and Foreman) never really has managed to change remarkably true to life, even if it may limit some dramatic possibilities. And I’m interested to see how consistent House’s strained relationship with authority is, even in the absence of Cuddy and all the sexual tension that relationship generated. But if I could ask for more, I’d like a little more conscious reflection on Wilson’s part about how and why he’s so completely embraced his role as enabler. And I want to get a closer look at the new movie posters on his office walls – I was trying to read them when he came out with the comment about his new boxed set of Ed Wood on DVD. Maybe next week.