Well, that wasn’t much fun. Our countdown of the final eight episodes of House begins with an oddly glum episode that stays on familiar territory. And – spoiler alert – House isn’t dying. (Perhaps it was naïve of me, but I actually thought that might provide the final story arc.) The patient of the week did start bleeding out of his eyes instead of his mouth, but other than that, it was all by the book – a fairly old book, too.
Even the title of tonight’s episode, “Blowing the Whistle”, was, as they say, a little on the nose. Plots A and B are both about, well, whistleblowers: the team treats a soldier accused of treason after leaking video of a U.S. Army attack on Afghan civilians – not exactly a light-hearted topic, which might help explain the downbeat tone. The team is also debating whether they should go to Foreman with the news that House seems to be ill. Eventually someone does rat to House, and House sets out to discover who it was. Any suspense generated by plot B is purely accidental. Answer the following two questions and you’ll know how it all turned out: 1. What is the likelihood of House being sick vs. the likelihood of House faking sickness in order to play mind games and test everyone’s loyalty? 2. Who’s ratted out House in the past – you know, way in the past?
We do get two semi-humorous encounters in the clinic –a May/ December romance foiled by compulsive nose-picking, and a fat kid complaining of dizziness after “only eight beers” – turns out they were St. Patrick’s Day leftovers and he’s having a reaction to the green food dye. House somehow discovers this by having the kid hop up and down on one foot while singing the theme song to a Nickelodeon sitcom I am mercifully unfamiliar with.
Anyway, we open at the airport, where a young military family – mom, kid, dad covered in medals – are waiting to greet “Uncle Brent”, who is returning from Afghanistan. They’ve made a sign and everything. They’re all very bummed out when Uncle Brent is escorted off the plane in handcuffs, surrounded by MPs, like an African-American Bradley Manning. Then, before they’re even out of the airport, Brent goes into convulsions. Next we see the team watching the leaked video and debating the ethics of leaking (Park is very anti-leak). There’s some concern the patient is faking in order to avoid jail. Adams, meanwhile, is convinced House is somehow “off,” and even steals a mug to prove it. Also, she’s apparently having sex with someone who isn’t Chase or Taub, because she’s wearing the same clothes as the day before – House did not make any inappropriate comments about this, which rings further alarm bells. Taub suggests that maybe House’s soap has been cancelled, which is a real possibility and kind of ironic at the same time.
The patient and his brother debate the leak and the concept of honor. The patient cites the example of their father, who disobeyed an order to leave his missing men behind while fighting in Tora Bora (remember Tora Bora? We’re heading way down memory lane tonight). By disobeying, he saved his men’s lives. A short time later, he died in a single-car accident, in circumstances the patient finds suspicious. Turns out the only reason he joined the army and worked his way upward to a higher security clearance was to get his hands on his dad’s file, and when he did, pages were missing. Meanwhile, the patient starts bleeding from the eyeballs and is wheeled off to the OR for emergency surgery on his spleen (time for the animated SpleenCam!).
After surgery, the patient refuses further treatment (for sarcoidosis, the current diagnosis) unless he’s allowed to hold a live press conference. The team debates stealth treatment methods. Should they “lace his sponge bath” with medication? (Chase). Should they have him declared mentally unstable and give his brother authority over his treatment? (Taub). House proposes bribery – if the patient accepts treatment, he’ll get dad’s file. His brother agrees to pull some strings. This isn’t House’s only, uh, offering in this scene – Taub has employed a clever ruse in order to obtain a stool sample.
What’s up with House? He’s lost a video game to Taub (it’s a first-person-shooter war game – ironic, in light of the A plot) and he’s popping breath mints “like they were Vicodin” (Taub again). The team (and now Wilson) fear it’s hepatic encephalopathy brought on by years of Vicodin abuse. (I looked this up, and apparently it’s a form of brain damage resulting from the liver no longer being able to protect the brain from toxins). Plots A and B converge – the team is gathered around a microscope, looking at evidence that House’s liver is failing, when all of sudden all their beepers go off at once – the patient’s foot is cyanotic (that one I don’t have look up).
House is willing to discuss the latter, but not the former. He insists he’s not sick and even says “I know my body,” which really does make me worry for him briefly – what an un-Houselike thing to say, given his firm belief in the human capacity for self-delusion. House meets with the patient, who tells him that worry over the video turned his hair gray inside of three days. Clue! House decides it’s Graves disease. It’s not Graves disease. Or malaria. Not that it’s all that relevant, as the patient’s refusing treatment again – his dad’s file never showed up.
Taub floats the idea of the brother becoming the patient’s “conservator” again, and this time the brother – who refused flat out before – is suspiciously eager. With some artful bluffing (it’s really Taub’s night to shine, in this respect) he gets the brother to admit that he’s hidden the file. He didn’t want the patient to know that their dad died while driving drunk, and took a pedestrian with him.
Foreman has been told what’s up with House, and House is determined to find out who ratted.(Turns out he induced a false positive for hepatic encephalopathy by taking St John’s Wort and something else I can’t spell.) Rats also turn out to be the key to the final, correct diagnosis – typhus. The patient is treated and wheeled off to jail as his brother salutes him. House then introduces Chase to a literal rat, “little Chase,” because it’s Chase who was the metaphoric rat, again. Chase makes some odd, lame excuse about House only doing this to see if someone will be there when he (House) loses his edge. House says no, that’s not it at all, which is why little Chase’s cousins are now making themselves at home under Chase’s floorboards.
And – I don’t think I get it. House went to all that trouble just to sniff out a potential traitor? Why? Why now? And it’s Chase again? So all the religious stuff and the bonding a few episodes back were for nothing? This is how we go into the final seven episodes?