Monday, October 22, 2007

Cheating -- Episode 107, "Fidelity"

Clinic patient:
Woman with breast implants complaining of shortness of breath; or, as Cuddy calls her, "the preschool teacher with the heart of silicon."

The connection:
"They were a present for my husband's 40th. I figured he'd enjoy them more than a sweater."

The patient's basic story is this: She got implants, she claims, for her husband. The breasts are the cause of her shortness of breath. But as it turns out, her husband also had been mixing his blood pressure medication into her oatmeal so her sex drive would be diminished -- an unfortunate side effect of the drug. (Says House: "I’m guessing he figured if you're both frigid, no harm no foul.")

Here's how it plays out: We see her twice in the clinic. The first time is setup for House's main patient revelation; the second time is the revelation.

First time: House is being surprisingly professional, asking all of his doctorly questions without sarcasm or sass. But then she lowers her gown, House gets a gander at her breasts ("Good, Lord. Are those real?") and he calls Wilson in on a "consult."

After the consult -- and already armed with a diagnosis for the shortness of breath -- House starts in, as he often does, on motive.

House: She did not do that for her husband. She did that for herself. She thinks if she looks different, she'll be different.
Wilson: No. She thinks if she looks different she'll be more attractive, which I have to say --
House: Not to her husband. Cosmetic surgery is so everyone else will look at us differently.

Cuddy eventually shows up to call them on the needless consult, and House orders tests to, as Cuddy puts it, cover his lechery.

It would seem that's the end of it. Oh, but no. A couple days later, Cuddy walks into House's office with clinic lady's test results. (Both he and Wilson forgot about it, and because it's quite a bit later in the episode, perhaps we did, too.) House notices something interesting in her EKG ("I was right"), which leads us to ...

Second time: House asks her about her husband's blood pressure medication, she confirms, he tells her about the oatmeal. Then she asks what she should do. House basically tells her that she should look elsewhere for sex: "Well, if you care about your husband at all, I'd do the responsible thing: Buy yourself some condoms, go to a bar, find ..." He trails off, gets that look in his eye, mutters "huh" and in the next scene comes to his team with the possibility that the main patient cheated on her husband. Which she did, contracting African Sleeping Sickness. Clinic patient saves the day again.

But her role in the episode doesn't stop with the main patient (although there was a brief moment shortly after the consult when the team is tossing about possible diagnoses, and Wilson asks, "Did you check her breasts?"). She also provides the impetus for subplot C -- Wilson's possibly cheating ways. The conversation in orange up there segues into House accusing Wilson of cheating on his wife because he's wearing a snazzy new green tie, probably to impress some young lady in the hospital (turns out to be a nurse). This storyline is threaded throughout the episode, and might even be the first mention on the show of Wilson's womanizing and marital track record (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). In fact, House and Wilson were talking about the nurse when Cuddy came in with the test results.

The episode got a lot of mileage out of this clinic patient.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Afterlife -- Episode 403, "97 Seconds"

Clinic patient:
Car accident victim who sticks his knife into a wall socket in an attempt to recapture his near-death experience.

The connection:
In a nutshell, the clinic patient and the main patient (with a little bit of Wilson thrown in) lead House to zap himself as part of his own personal experiment to test the theory of an afterlife.

It starts with House trying to figure out why clinic guy stuck the knife in the socket. Clinic guy explains what happened after the crash: "I saw these headlights. And I saw ... Paramedics said I was technically dead for 97 seconds. It was the best 97 seconds of my life." House dismisses the visions as chemical reactions in the brain, but clinic guy dismisses that, saying he's done every kind of hallucinogenic drug, and it wasn't the same. "This is way bigger than that," he says. "There's something out there. Something more." And House's interest is piqued.

Now it's the main patient's turn. After being confined to a wheelchair for most of his life, he's just learned that he has cancer and will have to spend his remaining months in a hospital bed, puking and in pain. He chooses to die instead:

Main patient: "I've been trapped in this useless body long enough. It'd be nice to finally get out."
House: "Get out and go where? You think you're gonna sprout wings and fly around with the other angels? There is no after. There's just this."

Afterward, Wilson berates House for squashing the beliefs of a dying man. House is stubborn as always:

House: "He shouldn't be making a decision based on a lie. Misery is better than nothing."
Wilson: "You don't know there's nothing. You haven't been there."
House: "Oh, God, I am tired of that argument. I don't have to go to Detroit to know that it smells."
Wilson: "Yes. Detroit, the afterlife. Same thing."

So House decides to go there. He zaps himself by sticking the clinic guy's knife into a wall socket in his office. When he comes to, he's eager to talk to clinic guy, who unfortunately died just an hour before. Wilson wants to know why House needs to talk to him: Did he see something?

We get our answer in the last line of the episode. House, all alone with the body of the main patient, looks down at him and says, "I'm sorry to say, I told you so."

It seems pretty cut and dried, but I found myself asking this question: Would House, without anyone to overhear him, lie to a dead guy?

Faith is probably House's biggest nemesis. It's an annoyance because it's the opposite of reason and because he's frequently confronted by it. But as convinced as he is in his atheism, it seems that every time faith rears its ugly head, there's always room for doubt. There was a moment in "House vs. God" when it was possible the young faith healer's touch shrank Wilson's cancer patient's tumor. When his patient in "Human Error" miraculously came back from the brink of death, House looked up in futility. At the end of "One Day, One Room," he seemed swayed by the main patient's case for eternity.

House eventually found the medical explanations for the anomalies in "House vs. God" and "Human Error," but in order to disprove God as a factor, he had to acknowledge the possibility of his existence. It's the same in "97 Seconds." If he didn't think there was the chance of an afterlife, he wouldn't have had to test it.

In House's hospital room, Wilson mentioned that House had already had two near-death experiences. The first, when House's heart stopped in "Three Stories," was accompanied by visions. (Then, as now, "They're all just chemical reactions that take place when the brain shuts down.") Same with the second, when he was shot in season 2's finale, "No Reason," although those visions were described more as hallucinations. Was there really nothing the third time around?

My point is this: There's really no reason House would lie to a dead man -- unless he's lying to himself to keep faith from winning.