Monday, June 26, 2006

Unfriendly skies -- Episode 206, "Spin"

Clinic patient:
Flight attendant with the runs

This patient is all about setting. Normally, I'd say it's more dramatic to have Stacy yell at House if she can burst in on him. But it ends up being a pretty funny scene because the patient's complaint is embarrassing enough without having to talk about it during a domestic dispute. So what the clinic setting does is give House fuel for his obsession with Stacy -- she's been hunting him down, even to the clinic while he's with a patient (and even if it is just to yell at him), so she must still have feelings for him.

It's also a testament to how good House is. Even with distractions, it's no effort to determine it's the gum that's causing the steward's diarrhea.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Selfish jerks -- Episode 204, "TB or Not TB"

Clinic patients:
Woman with cat allergy
Cecilia "That's Mrs. Carter, to you" Carter, who has lump in breast

Cecilia's purpose in the episode is neatly laid out with her last scene and the exchange between House and Cameron that leads up to it.

House: "We are who people think we are. People think he's a great doctor, so they give him stuff."
Cameron: "He is a great doctor."
House: "The reality is irrelevant. [He spots Cecilia in the clinic.] I'll prove it. People who know me, see me as an ass, treat me as an ass. People who don't know me, see a cripple, treat me like a cripple. What kind of selfish jerk wouldn't take advantage of that fact?"

Then he goes into the clinic, crushes her foot with his cane, looks apologetic and makes her feel bad, thus proving his point. Then again, his point was already made earlier in the cafeteria, when Cuddy first asked him to apologize to Cecilia for how he treated her, "he" of course being Foreman.

Cuddy: "She was just in my office, crying, because of the way you treated her."
Wilson: [sarcastically] "That doesn't sound like you."
House: "Then it probably wasn't"
Cuddy: "I get that you like to shock people, stun them out of complacency, out of stupidity. But this woman thought she had cancer. She had a lump in her breast. What were you trying to accomplish?"
House: "Let me ask you something. If this were another doctor. If the patient were complaining about ... let's see, I don't know ... Foreman. You'd just dismiss this as the paranoid bitching of a paranoid bitch ..."

What these two scenes also do is create links between House and Sebastian and Foreman. In the first scene, House's point that "we are who people think we are" applies to him and Sebastian. And House was mocking him when he said the selfish jerk line, which Sebastian had said earlier in the episode (a line, by the way, that I still don't get). The second scene continues a running theme about how Foreman is like House (or as Paul says in his House blog, "Evolution is real!").

And all of it comes together in the scene in the coma patient's room where House and Wilson are watching Sebastian's press conference. Foreman comes in and tries to explain himself to House, who teases him in his House way about how he insulted a woman with breast cancer but is "years away from mad skills like that" -- insinuating, of course, that House already possesses such mad skills. Then:

House: "I need you to apologize."
Foreman: "Cuddy's only doing this because she thinks it's you."
House: "Welcome to the world. Everyone's different, everyone gets treated different. You try fighting that, you end up dying of TB."

So Cecilia was busy. Cat allergy woman? I don't know. Space filler.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Clueless -- Episode 203, "Humpty Dumpty"

Clinic patient:
Old black man with high blood pressure

"Every slave master thought they were doing the black man a favor. Negro can't take care of himself, so we'll put him to work. Give him four walls, a bed. We'll civilize the heathen. Tell you what. Stop doing us favors. If you're right, and we end up back in the jungle with lousy blood pressure medication, it won't be on your head."

As he tends to do, House lies, this time to a black man who refuses to take "racist" blood pressure medication that's more beneficial to black people. Because it's more beneficial, House gives it to him but tells him it's the white stuff -- "the same medicine we give Republicans" (ha!). Medically, House is right. And if it were a white patient, his lying would be no big deal. But with the above speech, Foreman points out the social impact of House's actions: He's affirming the patient's view of a racist world, one where white people have been lying to him for 60 years.

Cut, literally, to the main patient, Alfredo, in the middle of surgery to remove his hand. Again, the right medical decision. And again, a disregard for the deeper impact of that decision. Cuddy understands. Alfredo's "not like us," she tells House as they're trying to decide whether the surgery is necessary. They cut off his hand, they cut off his livelihood.

Both patients are minorities, and both decisions House makes are for their good. But because of the second layers, the episode becomes a sort of commentary on how one half has no idea how the other half lives. It's not racism, per se; it's cluelessness.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ouch -- Episode 202, "Autopsy"

Clinic patient:
Guy who tried to circumcise himself with box cutters

Three words to describe this guy: Funny. Painful. Pointless. The scene was too early in the episode to act as a breather to the cancer kid storyline, but it wouldn't really have fit anywhere else, either. Really, they should have just kept it out.

But the clinic patient from "Acceptance" makes a roundabout appearance, when House tells Cameron she can't see the the cancer kid because she'll just get "all warm and cuddly ... end up in a custody battle." Nice reference.


The Cameron Show -- Episode 201, "Acceptance"

Clinic patient:
Cindy, a chipper young woman about to die from lung cancer

Look at those crazy writers, mixing things up for the first episode of the season. It's Cameron on clinic duty, which automatically makes it a different ball game.

As soon as Cindy mentions that she "had a husband once" and we see Cameron's reaction -- she thinks death before divorce, as do we, courtesy "Fidelity" -- it's clear this storyline is going to be all about Cameron. So much so, in fact, that it becomes a much bigger plot point than any previous clinic patient. There's more talk of Cindy than there are shots of her. Cameron's complete denial about Cindy's diagnosis -- the first stage of dying and a throwback to her awkwardness in "Maternity" -- even bleeds into discussion of the main case, as Cameron pushes for a closer look at Cindy and questions the priority given to the inmate.

The final scene between the two is kind of a handoff of the five stages of dying. Cameron has finally worked her way to acceptance, but when she tells Cindy she's dying and then hugs her, Cindy doesn't hug back. It's a small detail, but a telling one: It reinforces how affected Cameron was by the whole deal and shows Cindy in shock, perhaps on her way to the denial phase. Another small detail is also rare, as far as the clinic patients go -- Cindy has a name. Without a name we don't get close to her, and if we don't get close to her we can't identify with Cameron's plight.

Season openers usually set up a theme or two for the year, and though my memory of Season 2 is a bit fuzzy (it's a little different watching from week to week as opposed to DVD), it seems to me Cameron had a bit of an emotional ride.

The good news is House is still trying to avoid clinic duty.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Smoke if you got 'em -- Episode 105, "Damned If You Do"

Clinic patients:
The last Santa you'd want to sit on

This episode pretty much hinges on trust. For the nun, it's trusting that House didn't screw up and give her too much epinephrine. For Santa, it's trusting that House isn't out of his mind in prescribing cigarettes for an inflammatory bowel. It's hard to say whether we're ever supposed to doubt House the way Cuddy and his team did. But I didn't give a second thought to House pushing the cancer sticks, so why should I do the same with the nun?

The scene with Santa on its own is persuasive enough. House prescribes the cigarettes only after all other options had failed; he has studies to back him up; and he sort of mitigates the threat of addiction by making the dose only one two times a day, "no more, no less." A later scene with Foreman -- though really about the idea of putting the nun in a hyperbaric chamber -- underscores that House was probably fully aware of the risk of prescribing cigarettes but that he weighed it against the benefit. Foreman sarcastically asks House if he remembers the Hippocratic Oath. "First do no harm," he snidely responds, later adding: "Every treatment has its dangers."

But again, this is with good ol' St. Nick. Whether House screwed up with the epinephrine is still on the table -- even to House. A key scene to that effect actually begins with a discussion of the cigarette prescription, after Wilson walks in on House rifling through the clinic drawers.

House: "OK, yeah. I'd like to clear my reputation."
Wilson: "Oh, right. I forgot how much you care about what people think. Prescribing cigarettes for inflammatory bowel? That uh ... they can cause cancer, you know."
House: "Do you know why they have ribbons for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, but not for lung cancer?"
Wilson: "They ... ran out of colors?"
House: "It's because people blame lung cancer patients. They smoked, they screwed up, they deserve to die. The reason people die from lung cancer is guilt."
Wilson: "Huh. Well, guilt does a lot of damage."
House: "You said that with great significance."
Wilson: "You're not here to find your stethoscope. You're not here to clear your reputation. You're here because you're having doubts. You might have screwed up."
House: "I'm here because if I'm right, Cuddy is killing that patient."
Wilson: "OK. But if you're wrong?"
House: "Then she's saving her."

It's when House starts to doubt himself that we start to doubt him. And he was pretty damn sure of himself with Santa.

Speaking of nuns (which, you know, we weren't), this one started in the clinic. And you can't get much closer than a main case with a patient who started in the clinic. Remarkably, even though it's only the fifth episode, she's not the first to be used that way -- Dan, the lacrosse player in "Paternity," technically started out as a clinic patient. The difference is that the nun was introduced in the clinic, which is where she had the formulaic pre-credits breakdown (Dan's was on the field, if you'll recall). So what we have here is a variation on a theme, and one I might explore in a later post.