Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Shades of grey -- Episode 410, "It's a Wonderful Lie"

Clinic patient:
Woman who may or may not be a prostitute.

The connection:
Everybody lies. It's a concept all us "House" fans have been familiar with from the get-go, a philosophy so good they put it on a t-shirt. Now, in the fourth season, we get an episode that's a sort of liar's handbook -- a handy dandy little field guide with definitions (courtesy of an early chat with the main patient's daughter), a conversion chart for the ratio of big lies to small truths (just how honest can you be without telling your daughter she's not your daughter?) and a close-up look at that whole fuzzy area called the absence of truth (our clinic patient).

There's a lot to lying. As the opening credits are still rolling, House has a little sit-down with the main patient's daughter to try to figure out what her mom's not telling them. In the process, he gives her a little lesson in lying and all its various forms: evasions instead of answers; white lies -- "Lies we tell to make other people feel better"; rationalizations -- "Lies we tell to make ourselves feel better."

The clinic patient's lie takes a more complicated form, and House actually helps it along through assumption. The patient comes in complaining of soar throat, stomach and glands. As House is checking her over, he notices her necklace.

House: "St. Nicholas?"
CP: "Patron saint of children."
H: "Also seamen, merchants, archers, prostitutes and prisoners."

He tells her she has strep and that she should take it easy -- not to worry, he'll write her pimp a note.

CP: "Pimp?"
H: "You don't have the skin of a seaman, the fingers of an archer, the clothes of a merchant, or the attitude of an ex-con. That just leaves one left."
CP: "Two, actually. But I'm not a child, am I?"

So House, in his deductive reasoning kind of way, figures she's a prostitute. She's not denying. When she comes in again, this time with a nasty pustule-filled breakout around her neck, the whole conversation is based on the idea that she's a prostitute. His immediate guess -- the clap. ("Clap on, clap off.") After closer examination:

H: "Do you do a donkey show? I'm not curious. It matters."
CP: "It's a donkey or a mule. I can never remember."

Is there contact? Yup. Diagnosis: contact ecthyma. House is thinking beastiality. Her creepy smile turns into an amused one, and she offers to give him an explanation, but he won't have it, thoroughly convinced she's a prostitute and wanting to avoid the scary details. She leaves him a flier for the show, and at the end we see it's a live nativitiy scene at a church, and she's riding a donkey.

It could go either way whether she's a hooker or not. The whole church thing would seem to rule that out, but she could just be a religious prostitute. I say she's not. She called St. Nicholas the patron saint of children -- if she's active in the church, of course she's working with kids. Her frequent HIV testing could be simply a precaution for some sort of needle exchange program. Checking herself for gonorrhea? Well, not all religious people are pure.

So if she's not a prostitute, then she's just playing House's game, letting him believe that she is. Is that the same as a lie? Well, it's not the truth. The same can be said of the main patient. She tells her daughter everything, except that she's not her daughter. It's not an active lie. It's a lie of omission.



Anonymous Millemma said...

St Nicholas is also the saint of the wrongfully accused

9:09 AM  

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