Thursday, May 18, 2006

Getting to know you – Episode 101, "Pilot"

Clinic patients:
Orange guy
Kid with asthma

Of the three patients, the kid with asthma is the only one with a connection to the main case. There’s the obvious: House is busy lecturing the kid’s mom about her son’s condition and the importance of inhalers when he stumbles on the word “steroids,” which he later gives to the teacher, Rebecca Adler. And the not so obvious: The same scare tactic he uses on the mom – telling her the truth – is pretty much what he uses when trying to convince Rebecca about her worm, telling her that death is “always ugly.”

But the connection to the main case is almost a throwaway compared with how much the clinic patients tell us about House. Even the kid is pulling double duty. In addition to the scare tactic, we learn that House has contempt for dumb parents, sort of a subset of his contempt for dumb people in general – like the guy who self-diagnoses chronic fatigue syndrome via the Internet. With him we learn that House lies – a point made clear when the patient comes back for a refill, just seconds after House gets done telling Wilson he never lies. And if we want to stretch things a little bit, the scene where House switches the pills could also be indicative of his reliance on vicodin. Why not ask for some other pills? (But hey, if he can get them for free …)

Then of course there’s the orange guy, who’s loaded with goods.

Orange guy: I was playing golf and my cleats got stuck. It hurt a little but I kept playing. The next morning I could barely stand up. … Well, you’re smiling, so I take it that means this isn’t serious. [House pops a couple pills.] What’s that? What are you doing?
House: Painkillers.
Orange guy: Oh, for you. For your leg.
House: No, ’cause they’re yummy. You want one? Make your back feel better. [He hands him one.] Unfortunately, you have a deeper problem. Your wife is having an affair.
Orange guy: What?
House: You’re orange, you moron. It’s one thing for you not to notice, but if your wife hasn’t picked up on the fact that her husband has changed colors, she’s just not paying attention. By the way, do you consume just a ridiculous amount of carrots and megadose vitamins? [Orange guy nods slightly.] Carrots turn you yellow, the niacin turns you red. Find some finger paint and do the math. And get a good lawyer.

Here’s what we get: 1) House is direct, but that’s pretty much an episode-long discovery. 2) House is speedy. In about a minute, we get the diagnosis and treatment for the back pain, the orangeness and the affair. 3) What is probably House’s strongest characteristic – his ability to see the “deeper problem,” ironically by studying the patient instead of the disease. And of course he’s right, which we see later when the orange guy is in Cuddy’s office without his wedding ring. Incidentally, the orange guy also gives us an opportunity to see how Cuddy relates to House when she tells him she’s willing to part with his money because “the son of a bitch is the best doctor” in the hospital. It’s an ultimatum that pops up later in the season with Vogler.

What all this boils down to is that the writers used the clinic patients to do exactly what a pilot episode should. They set up a pattern for the clinic patients’ existence in the first place, and most importantly they set up House, that gruff, cynical, biting doctor we all know and love.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great analysis! I like reading about how the Clinic patients help paint a picture of House: The Man. Or should that be Da Man?

5:18 PM  

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