Thursday, May 25, 2006

Yes, "General Hospital" IS worth it -- Episode 104, "Maternity"

Clinic patient:
Pregnant woman with birth control implant

It's not hard to connect the dots on this one, a pregnant clinic patient in an episode about babies. So stepping away from the obvious, there are a couple of interesting things going on.

First is that this is the first clinic patient to truly function as a B story, someone whose case we follow throughout the episode, from discovering she's pregnant to questioning who the father is to discovering who the father is and what comes next.

Second is the way she's used to complete the book-end format of the episode. It starts with House in the neonatal lounge watching "General Hospital," and because he agreed to do the woman's pre-natal care, the episode ends that way.

As for House, because he goes along with the mono story when testing her husband for paternity, we see that he's capable of using his lies for good instead of evil.


Game. Set. Match. -- Episode 103, "Occam's Razor"

Clinic patients:
Woman who's about to get canned
Guy with a sore throat
Woman with leg pain
Guy who had love affair with his MP3 player

It all starts with Jodi Matthews, the woman who's about to be fired because she just doesn't like being told what to do. Talk about getting right to House's heart. The man just got forced into another round of clinic duty -- despite his best grandstanding efforts -- by Cuddy. Jodi's comment is like a call to arms. All the clinic patients from here on out are now unwitting soldiers in House's campaign to get revenge.

Round 1
Cuddy is called out of a board meeting to consult on a guy who complains of a sore throat. Her very annoyed diagnosis: He has a sore throat. As a side note, this is the first time we see House playing his video game.
Winner: House

Round 2
House pages Cuddy, who's out golfing, to consult on a woman complaining of leg pain after running six miles. Just when he's ready to buckle down and wait for another 30 minutes, Foreman pops in, making the scene merely a different venue in which to discuss the main case. Then the kicker: Wilson shows up ... having been sent by Cuddy.
Winner: Cuddy

Round 3
One of my favorite patients: The guy with an MP3 player shoved up his butt. House first vents to him about Cuddy -- "I get to knock of an hour early today. Know why? Because I kissed my boss' ass. You ever do that? I think she just said yes because she wants to reinforce that behavior." -- then uses his cunning observational skills to figure out what's wrong, then promptly leaves him for Cuddy.
Winner: House

2-1 clinches it. House takes it all.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Got milk? -- Episode 102, "Paternity"

Clinic patients:
Mom who won't vaccinate baby
"The boy who sued wolf"

Score one for the continuity department. Once again, we get a direct link between clinic patient and main case. We have another mom who doesn't believe in that all-important medical treatment for her child. House's contempt for dumb parents and his scare-through-truth tactic return (the baby coffin speech). And his amazing power of observation is again put to good use with the man threatening to sue.

There's so much continuity, in fact, that if the mom wasn't used effectively, I'd take a point away from the creativity department. House's explanation about mom's antibodies protecting the baby for only six months was the key to finding a diagnosis in the main case. But in contrast with "Pilot," the connection is separated by a good chunk of time. By the time House bursts into Cuddy's office to yell at Dan's parents for giving him a faulty medical history -- a fact the parents immediately dispute, saying the history is from Dan's biological mother -- the mom in the clinic is a distant memory. That is, until House goes off into his own world then resurfaces with the simple question: "Was she vaccinated?" And just like that, clinic patient meets main case. It's an ah-hah moment for him and an ah-hah moment for us, a kind of simultaneous discovery that makes the connection stronger and far more effective. Plus it leads to the right treatment, which is more than we can say about the steroids Rebecca got in "Pilot."

Too bad "the boy who sued wolf" wasn't as functional. I'm not entirely sure what he was all about, other than comic relief. As I mentioned before, House's reasoning for guessing the man's true purpose at the hospital followed the same observational and logical prowess he showed with the orange guy in "Pilot," so nothing new there. The only thing I can figure is that we learn you shouldn't mess with House, because he's more than ready to play your game.


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.


Monday, May 15, 2006

It's all connected

The way I figure it, “House” is the perfect TV show for me. It’s practically the love child of two of my favorites, “ER” and “CSI.” From “ER” it gets the medicine (far-fetched, I know) and our friend Omar Epps, who played the doomed Dr. Dennis Gant in season three. From “CSI” it gets the detective aspect – including a main character with flashes of Sherlock Holmes – and those cool inner-body CG shots. It also gets that show’s A & B story format, which basically translates into the main case and whatever oddball shows up at the clinic.

There are three things you can pretty much always count on with the clinic patients. 1) They’ll be funny. 2) They’ll be fixable. 3) They’ll be functional. The patients are usually connected to the main case, either thematically or by giving House a clue to solving said case. But sometimes they also give us a clue to House’s character based on how he interacts with them. This blog is dedicated not only to figuring out what purpose the clinic patients serve in each episode, but also to whether the connection works.

And because I’m starting this at the tail end of the season (and to maintain some semblance of organization), I think I’m going to forgo the last two episodes for now. But in an effort to keep things relevant during the summer, I’ll post with the reruns. I’ll also do my best to fill out season one.

And throughout it all, if you think I’m way off base on my interpretations, spot on, or just full of it in a general sense, please leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail. I thrive on feedback. I hope you enjoy!

(P.S. Speaking of connections: Kevin Bacon was in “Where the Truth Lies” with Colin Firth, who was in “Bridget Jones’s Diary” with Renee Zellweger, who was in “Jerry Maguire” with Jonathan Lipnicki, who played Hugh Laurie’s son in “Stuart Little.” Hoowa!)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Welcome, Lea - from the editors of the House MD Guide

We are looking forward to the collection of information you will be producing.