Friday, February 29, 2008

Hot mamma -- Episode 108, "Poison"

Clinic patient:
Georgia, an 82-year-old woman with syphilis -- and an annoying son.

The connection:
The main case is another mother-son team, but with the son in the hospital instead of the mom. Aside from that, I got nothin'.

Even so, Georgia is one of my favorite clinic patients -- and House's. For a man who doesn't really like anyone, especially patients, I think he likes her. And why not? She's cute and spunky, has a little crush on Ashton Kutcher, and brushes off her son like the grown-up baby that he is. Even the reason for her sudden good mood, syphilis, earns House's admiration. "Impressive," he says when he first sees her test results. I'd say he's even more impressed when she tells him she'd gotten it in her promiscuous youth, before meeting her husband. (Son: "You said Dad was your first love." Mom: "He was. We're talking about sex.")

House gives her penicillin, but she comes back later, wanting no part of it even though the disease could kill her.

Georgia: Well, you gotta go sometime. And I really don’t want to play canasta for the rest of my life. I … I like feeling sexy again. And making a fool out of myself with handsome young doctors.
House: Do you think I would have given you this if it would stop you from flirting with me?
Georgia: But if I’m cured?
House: The spirochetes will die off. But the little pieces of your cerebral cortex that have been destroyed won’t grow back. You’re brain damaged. Doomed to feeling good for the rest of your life.

The good doctor is just playing to her flirtatious side to get her to take the needed meds -- part of his fix-at-any-cost persona -- but you can tell he's enjoying himself.

I leave you with her love poem:
“The healer with his magic powers,
I could rub his gentle brow for hours.
His manly chest, his stubble jaw,
Everything about him leaves me raw
with joy. Oh House, your very name
will never leave this girl the same.”


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, July 17, 2006

Irrationality -- Episode 106, "The Socratic Method"

Clinic patients:
Mom looking to scare her daughter away from sugar
Guy with hiccups

Irrationality is the tie that binds: Wendy's mom trying to get House to scare her daughter skinny for purely selfish reasons; the guy with hiccups covering all the "normal medical bases" for getting rid of them -- "pulling the tongue, ice packs on the throat, hitting yourself, the groin pinch"; the extremely well-intentioned son of the main patient thinking he can take care of his mom all by himself with nothing but vodka and microwavable burgers; and finally the main patient herself, thought to be schizo for most of the episode until her one rational act -- calling Social Services on her son -- tells House otherwise.

The hiccups guy is also another one of those structurally functional clinic patients. Before House gets to him, Cuddy coyly tries to get House to fess up to his birthday (it's Wendy's too, for another link) and in the process gleans that something else must be going on with his patient. She picks up the phone for some investigative work, we cut to hiccups guy, then Cuddy butts in and we cut to the bathroom, where Cuddy confronts House about the tumor shrinkage. So what was hiccup guy's function? A sense of time gone by.

And for my day's good deed, here's how you get rid of hiccups: Control your breathing. Go sit somewhere where you won't be distracted, and breath in for 8 and out for 8 till they're gone. Works every time.


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.


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.