This was the fifth-to-last episode, by my count. Tonight we had nightmare visions, erotic dreams, an exorcism, the collapse of House’s green card marriage, and a real bombshell, after weeks of teasers.
The patient of the week is boy of Hmong descent who’s apparently suffering from the mysterious condition, known as Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome or Hmong Sudden Death Syndrome which, as Taub mentions, has claimed the lives of about a hundred Hmong immigrants, mostly men in their thirties. For once I felt reasonably well-prepared, as I’ve read about it this in The Paranoid’s Pocket Guide to Mental Disorders You Can Just Feel Coming On, by Dennis DiClaudio, a book that’s come in handy before while watching House, allowing me to nod knowingly at references to confabulation and Klüver-Bucy Syndrome. DiClaudio has also written a Hypochondriac’s Pocket Guide to Horrible Diseases You Probably Already Have, which would probably be even more useful, but I have trouble with books that describe worms crawling out of people’s eyeballs. Anyway, a survivor of the condition describes a series of worsening nightmares, in which first a cat, then a dog-like monster, then an evil female spirit, came and sat on his chest, smothering him. He recovered after consulting a shaman.
The show opens with the boy dreaming of a terrible hag suffocating him in his bed. Not that there’s anything specifically Southeast Asian about visions of that kind. The X-Files did a Skinner-centric episode on this theme, with some heavy borrowings from Don’t Look Now, back when “Avatar” didn’t yet mean blue people in trees. The boy’s dreams spill over into reality, as he wakes up unable to breathe, and soon passes out. He’s taken to the hospital by his mother, an engineer who doesn’t believe in spirits.
The team’s conference brings us to the erotic-dreams portion of our evening, as Park’s suspiciously defensive announcement that she never remembers her dreams, and they don’t mean anything anyway, leads House to deduce (correctly) that she’s been having sex dreams about Chase. Taub reassures her that he’s had lots of dreams about sex with co-workers, and it’s never freaked him out. Park points out that Taub’s had lots of actual sex with co-workers, and it’s never freaked him out, so this may not prove anything.
More erotic dreams. House barges into a breast exam Wilson’s conducting and starts talking about a dream he had in which he and Dominika were flossing in a very symbolic way. The floss was mint, possibly inspired by Dominika’s green g-string. Wilson interprets the dream not as sex, but as House’s guilt over binding Dominika to him by destroying the letter about her citizenship.
Taub and Park check out the patient’s house, and find the head of a freshly slaughtered pig, and what appears to be a bucket of its blood and some lit candles in the boy’s bedroom. The mom may not believe in spirits, but her father-in-law does. And the reason the boy’s father is not on the scene is that, after his own series of nightmares years before, he went crazy and beat his boss to death. He’s been in jail the boy’s entire life, something that’s been kept from him.
Chase tells Park that it’s natural someone she knows would pop up in her dreams like that. Park asks if she pops up in Chase’s dreams like this. He replies that no, she hasn’t. Park has a speech in which she explains there’s no way he can say “no” to that question that isn’t offensively dismissive. I have to say I really feel for her here. Why do people seem to think that wounded sexual vanity is something that only happens to men? Later, Park tells Taub she’s dreamed about him. “Really?” he says eagerly. Park: “Now that’s how you’re supposed to respond!”
House invites Dominika to his office for purloined Chinese food, and says he has something to tell her – he talked to immigration, and it will be a couple of weeks, maybe even a month, before they can give her an answer. In the mean time, has she ever shot anybody? They bond at the shooting range. It turns out Dominika spent a year studying to join a police unit. Also, she’s read the book on quantum physics he left lying around, and how can he believe in dark matter, but dismiss the possibility of dark spirits? House is deeply impressed.
Meanwhile, we have a boy who’s being stalked in his dreams, and not in a cool, Joss Whedon-directed way1. He refuses an injection, and then starts speaking in what his grandfather says is Hmong, a language the boy’s hardly been exposed to, before having a seizure. Later, we see the grandfather sneaking into his room at night, speaking reassuringly to him, and then suffocating him with his hand. I suspected this was a dream sequence early on, but it was drawn out long enough to keep me wondering. When the boy wakes up, there are real bruises on his neck.
House, while intrigued, keeps harping on Park’s dreams, and how she feels vulnerable while Chase has a sense of power. Very true, if a little hard to hear spelled out so coldly in a room full of co-workers. But then I’ve always loved the show’s willingness to be truthful about feelings and motivations. The balance of power shifts, though, when a shouting match between the two turns into a makeout session, with Park pushing Chase down onto the sofa. Yes, it’s a dream. But this time it’s Chase’s dream.
All hell is breaking loose, perhaps literally. Taub and Adams both witness the boy levitating. (House: “Cool.”) The boy’s mother is now all for the grandfather attempting an exorcism. House appeals to Foreman, who insists that it’s no different from bringing in a rabbi or a priest, until House tells him it may involve animal sacrifice. Foreman, with visions of the final scene of Apocalypse Now dancing in his head, tries to dissuade the mother, but she mentions lawyers. The exorcism goes ahead.
House finds Dominika crying and yelling on the phone in Russian. Something that came in the mail upset her… but it’s just the news that an aunt of hers in Poland has been placed in nursing home, which the aunt herself never bothered to tell her. House is all too willing to play the comforting husband.
The team has now gone through several diagnoses – Hashimoto’s, Rasmussen’s encephalitis, and Kawasaki’s. Adams now thinks it’s something called PDA, which can be alleviated with ibuprofen. When the boy ‘s vitals crash in the midst of the exorcism, she administers some, and he starts to improve. His mother refuses to believe a pill you take for headaches could do all that.
House, brooding about the triumph of faith over science, helps himself to Vicodin with a whisky chaser while Dominika fixes dinner. It’s her turn to comfort him, and this time it’s not a dream. But the phone interrupts them – the people at immigration are contacting her directly, because she hasn’t responded to their written notices (plural). And that’s the end of that.
On an upbeat note, Park teases Chase, now that the balance of power has been restored, and tells him that, for whatever reason, they’re friends. “I’m weird, you’re pretty, but we connect.”
On a very down beat note – Wilson has cancer. For real. House learns this when he goes to Wilson after Dominika’s departure, underlining the fact that not only is this terrible for Wilson, but it may mean House losing his one real confidant and support. It’s an awful prospect all around.
Please, no, not Wilson.
1 My favorite episode. Of anything, ever.