By the standards of mid-to-late-period House this was an exceptional episode. The Patient of the Week is Brant, an American soldier returning from active service abroad under arrest for treason: he’s a whistleblower, who found evidence of an apparent war crime and made it public. It’s being predicted in the media that this will, in turn, lead to revenge attacks on American troops. (It’s Park’s turn to lecture the patient this week.) After an attack does indeed take place, Brant refuses treatment unless he can have a live TV interview to prove that his actions weren’t the cause. There’s a lot more going on as well, tied up in Brant and his brother’s memories of their father – also a soldier – and whether he would have approved. Usual symptoms; usual diagnoses, specifically sarcoidosis. One thing struck me as different – House’s team were invited to “pitch” their diagnoses. My memory might be failing me, but I’ve seen every single episode of House, and I can’t remember that word being used in connection with the differential diagnoses before; in this episode, it happened twice at least.
A storming B-plot as well, with House seeming to be ill. At first it’s only Adams who notices, and of course everyone’s sceptical, because it’s assumed that it’s a trick of some sort. Slowly, though, everyone is convinced, up to and including Wilson, and tellingly at one point the team simply ignores House’s diagnosis and suggested course of treatment for Brant. It’s a clever device, because while ordinarily the viewer would assume that House is indeed simulating illness for some purpose or other, with the series ending there has to be at least a possibility that House’s declining health could be one of the closing themes. In a less-than-subtle echo of the main plot, someone whistle-blows and tells Foreman. And hopping while singing the iCarly theme – heh. Highly enjoyable.
The Patient of the Week is a blind guy who’s having auditory hallucinations; this is, of course, even more of a problem for him than it would be for someone who can see. He’s visited in hospital by his sort-of-girlfriend – sort-of because, like Ross and Rachel in Friends, they were on a break. What she doesn’t know is that while on the break he met someone else, and is intending to propose marriage to his new girlfriend. But new girlfriend isn’t around and the PotW is scared and lonely, so old girlfriend isn’t told the truth. It’s Adams’s turn this episode to disapprove of the PotW and deliver little homilies, and yet again the PotW doesn’t say “What the FUCK gives you the right to judge me?” Then Adams changes her mind. The illness is of course diagnosed and treated, and the PotW’s story comes to an end which I thought a bit sugar-coated for a show which occasionally manages nicely ambiguous conclusions.
In the B plot House’s mother hits town with her lover, who turns out to be her new husband and the man House thinks is his biological father. He’s played by Billy Connolly, who makes a more than decent fist of it. (I’m sure Connolly doesn’t need the work, but he’s a fine actor with a genuine screen presence; an American drama could do worse than find him a recurring role.) The highlight here is a dinner-table scene with the three of them plus House’s illegal wife (Dominika) and office wife (Wilson, of course). And Park is on acid, which starts out amusing and then isn’t. As a whole, ‘Love Is Blind’ occasionally flirted with taking off but never quite did, without ever being less than watchable.
As the series winds down, there seems to be a feeling that it’s time to revert to classic, old-skool House. There’s a Patient of the Week, who became nicer, gentler and cuddlier three years ago after being assaulted. One of the treatments he needs, though, is testosterone, which starts to change him into the aggressive go-getter he was pre-accident. This makes his new wife unhappy, because she fell for the new man, not the neanderthal. There are silly but fun B-plots – in one, House realises that his team is getting on too well, so he decides to create a team leader post to set them at each others’ throats; in the other, House’s Ukrainian wife is back, and they’re trying to convince Immigration that it’s a genuine marriage. As I said when she first turned up I quite like having Dominika around. I’m still in a minority on that, I think, but House could do worse, frankly, and I reckon he knows it. It’s another solid, well-crafted, enjoyable episode – even Taub is bearable.
After I complained about the lack of Chase this season, he’s had back-to-back feature episodes. This week, still coming to terms with his stabbing, he’s on clinic duties when he encounters a postulant nun with a sore shoulder. She’s about his age and attractive, so while Chase is too cool to say ‘How you doin’?” we kind of know where this is going to end up, particularly when it becomes clear that she’s only very recently wanted to become a nun after encountering personal tragedy, and isn’t entirely convinced of her vocation anyway. It should be standard House, but it’s lifted by an excellent, non-showy central performance by Jesse Spencer – it’s no surprise that he’s already lined up a post-House gig (opposite H50’s Lori, intriguingly enough). On top of that there’s a genuine feeling that the Nun of the Week might not survive, and the whole thing is crowned by two or three terrific scenes with House, in which he shows just enough vulnerability to make us care. There’s also a silly-but-fun B-plot with House trying to find a way past Taub’s Krav Maga. I can see lots of reasons for lots of people to dislike this episode, well, lots. But I really enjoyed it, so there we go.
Moody lighting, an in medias res opening, Jeffrey Wright as some sort of investigator, a grievously under-used David Anders as Patient of the Week – it looks like A Very Special. Last week, when I asked for a bit more Chase, I didn’t know that this episode would be a lot more Chase-centric, even though he doesn’t actually do very much at all for the first half (not, I should say, that I spotted that at the time).
Anyway, there’s been An Incident while the Patient of the Week is getting treated, and Wright is there to interview everyone and assign blame. However, his eventual conclusion – yes, House is a maverick with appalling working methods who nonetheless gets the job done – is no more or less than the central conceit of this show from episode 1, so it hardly counts as a surprise. Given that, the investigation looks like little more than a device to tell a standard House story in a slightly different way. In fairness House calls him on his cowardice, but that didn’t really redeem an episode which had a certain brooding atmosphere, but added up to less than the sum of its parts.
An unusual cold open, with House on clinic duties treating Callie, a teenage girl who’s come in with her father. Except, as House quickly discerns, the man isn’t her father, and they’re both homeless; she pays her “father” off in beer then inexplicably starts bleeding from her ear, and all of a sudden Callie is Patient of the Week. The ethical wrinkle is that she’s underage and has run away from her drug addict mother, and doesn’t want her notified; also, she’s relatively content being homeless, and doesn’t want Social Services brought in either.
House is OK with this – or in any event he doesn’t really care; he just wants to reach the correct diagnosis, and is prepared to run interference to prevent Adams from turning her own rebellious teenage years into a reason to take Callie’s decisions for her – I laughed out loud when I discovered who he’d hired as a fake social worker. All in all it’s a good episode, with a top-class and plausible ending.
The B-plot is Foreman vs House again; I was a little concerned about House’s use of blackmail, but as ever Foreman and House are, in their own ways, several steps ahead of each other. And similar, of course. Apart, as House points out, from the limp. Talking of limp, though, the C-plot is another doomed attempt at providing Taub with something interesting to do; in fact, it’s so poor that it could be seen as an admission that the writers have just about given up. It’s particularly strange that Taub should get so much screen time when Chase sits most of the action out on the sidelines, making droll interventions now and again but little more. Bench Taub; put Chase in.
In the first post-hiatus episode the Patient of the Week is a thirtysomething man with Alzheimer’s, brought in by his devoted but understandably stressed wife; he’s suitable for a drug trial, but he’s displaying symptoms of physical illness not necessarily related to his Alzheimer’s. In fact there is a kind of link, but of course it takes House and the team the usual 40 minutes to find it, and in a nice touch it’s someone else who gets the moment of revelation.
In the B and C plots, we have House vs Foreman, which is almost always watchable, and House vs Wilson, including another swift allusion to the fact that theirs is the only true love story in the show. On top of that the PotW and House vs Wilson storylines included aspects which might have been drawn straight from ‘Savage Love’, covering whether asexuality is a thing (correct answer – yes; the show fumbled this one) and whether the PotW’s wife was morally entitled to find physical affection elsewhere (correct answer – yes; the show did its usual trick of having House and his team debate the ethical choices of the patient and his family).
As this is now the final run of House episodes, it’s time to get nostalgic; this episode was entertaining, cleverly put together, amusing (I loved the business with the index cards), and thought-provoking. And they made it all look so easy. I’m going to miss this show.