As promised, we get something different this week. We open with the camera panning across a room in the hospital in which something very bad has clearly gone down – blood spatter, a bloody handprint, a cluster of Mylar balloons bobbing ironically against the ceiling. It’s so bad there’s not even any music on the soundtrack until we’ve had a few minutes to take it all in. Finally, there’s a very cinematic cut to House, in dim blue light, staring into the mirror before going out to meet the man who’s conducting a disciplinary hearing on the events of February 3, 2012.
The first two thirds of this episode unfold as flashbacks interspersed with the testimony given by House, Taub, Adams, and Park. The interviewer is Dr. Walter Cofield, one of Foreman’s early mentors, as it turns out. It’s very well done visually – the flashbacks are slightly overexposed, filmed with a jerky, handheld style, while the scenes with Cofield are all bathed in the same dim bluish light, with less movement and more distance on the part of both the camera and the actors. And I have to say I appreciate the frost visible on the windowpanes that dominate the longer shots of House and Cofield facing off across the conference table – one thing I’ve always liked about House is that when it’s winter in New Jersey, it’s winter on the show. Inconsistent weather has been a pet peeve of mine since an early episode of Chicago Hope, in which the characters made constant references to the approach of Christmas, and one wore a Santa hat, but the climactic scene involving a young baseball player took place on a richly green baseball diamond, the John Hancock building clearly visible beyond the leafy treetops.
None of that tonight. There’s a very cinematic long shot of the Patient of the Week collapsing while out jogging, a row of snowy trees in the background. He’s a 32-year-old chemistry teacher, who appears to be recovering until two of his students show up with balloons, flowers, and the news that he was nearly knocked out by an explosion while doing an experiment in class (the student assistant rigged the explosion so he could post the video on Youtube), and the patient starts coughing up blood. (There’s been a lot of that lately.) There’s also a minor prank war between House and Chase, that kicks off when House puts orange dye in Adam’s shampoo, which he knows Chase uses (no, not for that reason, not yet, thank God).
The testimony of House and the others provides narration, and hints of conflicting viewpoints (plus a moment of House in a beam of white light with an angelic chorus on the soundtrack, until Cofield tells him to cut it out). The next symptoms to appear are a rash, and violent paranoia. Adams thinks the rash is important, but not the paranoia. Park takes the opposite view (surprise, surprise). Taub thinks both symptoms are significant, but that both Park and Adams are wrong about why.
One of the pleasures of an episode like this is seeing House and his team through a new pair of eyes (though you could argue that the third party standing in judgment over House and his methods is kind of a throwback to antagonists like Tritter or Vogler back in the early seasons). The writers and the actors do a good job of subtly keeping the characters in character, so to speak, while they testify. The situation brings out the best in Taub; away from the chaos of his personal life, with the least at stake personally, he’s articulate and completely unintimidated by Cofield. Park is at her worst, alternately timid and brash, telegraphing all her (metaphorical) punches. Adams is guilt-ridden (okay, that one’s not so subtle).
Where’s Chase in all this? Well, he takes Adams’s side about the rash (please, no – does anyone want to see them together?). He goes to take a biopsy of the rash, and the patient goes crazy. And stabs Chase in the heart with the scalpel. That’s why we haven’t heard Chase’s testimony – he’s not dead, but he is in intensive care. The dramatic shot of Adams kneeling on a gurney shown in all the promos was Chase being wheeled off to surgery while Adams held the wound shut with her finger. It’s his blood that was splashed all over the room, and the stabbing is the incident under investigation. The patient is pretty much the same as before, only he’s being sent to another hospital for treatment. Not that this stops House obsessing over the diagnosis, even as the team focuses on Chase, who can’t feel his legs when he wakes up. (It’s some kind of clot, correctly diagnosed by House, and next week’s previews show him up and around.) Chase insists to Cofield – who’s come to interview him in the hospital – that House’s intrusiveness was the only House could keep an eye on Chase, without being accused of caring.
In the final act things get a bit more predictable (and it’s raining instead of snowing – I don’t know what that means). Cofield opens his final interview by telling House he “creates an atmosphere that promotes recklessness”; House, putting his feet up on the table, asks if he’s going to be fired for bad manners. He tries to pop a Vicodin but there’s a small explosive in the lid – Chase’s final entry in the prank war – and this triggers the Moment of Realization, so House rushes out of the interview at the worst possible moment. He needs to tell the patient’s wife that her husband has a tumor in a lymph node that burst, releasing toxins, when he hit his head during the explosion in the classroom.
And a good thing, too. Cofield gathers the team to deliver his verdict, and it’s not looking good for House until the patient’s wife bursts in and announces that he’s tactless and uncaring, but totally right, and he’s saved her husband’s life. Cofield then says that he won’t interfere with House or his methods, as they’re effective. House accuses him of cowardice, pointing out the stacks of notes and the paperwork relating to his parole that Cofield put aside as soon as the wife burst in. It’s all a little pat. (The wife’s basically stating the premise of the show). As effective as the first half of the show was, I never really believed that House would go back to jail or that Chase would never walk again (the same as Foreman wasn’t going to stay blind or die back in the second season). His stabbing will result in an emotional crisis next week, according to the previews. I guess I’m up for more personal drama with Chase, though he’s certainly had his fair share. I just hope Wilson will be around — we didn’t see him at all this week.
The relationship between House and Chase moves into new territory, as well. We see House watching Chase from outside the ward while he recovers, and in the final scene, he watches Chase in obvious pain, struggling to walk again, and the meaning of this scene to House is nicely underplayed. Is Chase, who has daddy issues to match House’s own, becoming something of a son figure? House does actually apologize to Chase here, so I guess anything is possible.