14 May 2006

Evolution is real! Foreman -> House

I'm going to jump between episode title meanings and Foreman's similarities to House...and I promise that I'll start the list of common diagnoses used throughout Seasons 1 and 2 (and eventually 3, hopefully 4, etc.) as well as my take on the clinic patients.

Fifth episode of season 1 is entitled "Damned if You Do". It's mentioned in passing by Chase as House takes the case back from Cuddy:

House: Yes, she did. Well done. [Cameron smiles.] But your unwillingness to stick by your diagnosis almost killed this woman. [No more smiles.] Take a lesson from Foreman: stand up for what you believe. Okay, let’s go figure out how to save a nun. [He leaves.]

Chase: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

This quotation isn't just the source of the title; it's also the first indication that House and Foreman are very much alike. In a sense, Foreman is both House's opposite and House's protege of sorts. Initially, it shows through each doctor's willingness to stick by what they think is the right diagnosis or treatment and advocate for their patient. The similarities become even more dramatic later on, but for now, I'll focus on the episodes as I go.

Another interpretation of "Damned if You Do" applies to House himself. Early on, he (incorrectly) cites a Circle of Hell from Dante, which repeats itself at the conclusion of the episode; furthermore, House declares that faith is irrational, which Wilson later points out to House in terms of his fate in the afterlife:

Wilson: You do realize if you're wrong, about the big picture that is, you're going to burn, right?

House: What do you want me to do? Accept it, pack it in?

Wilson: Yeah. I want you to accept that sometimes patients die against all reason. Sometimes they get better against all reason.

House: No, they don’t. We just don’t know the reason.

Wilson: I don’t think the nuns would agree with you on that

In a sense, House is damned if he does reconsider the big picture (he's afraid he might lose his brilliance) and damned if he doesn't (going to Hell). Again, this can apply to House's "doppleganger", Foreman, who tells Cuddy about the hyperbaric oxygen treatment. He's damned if he tells, bringing House's ire upon himself, and he's damned if he doesn't, since he'll be violating what he feels is an ethical responsibility to treat the patient solely on what they can prove.

This really is the first direct connection made between these two, and while it seems to place them on opposite sides of the ethical spectrum, it shows how these two are both excellent doctors with the same goals of solving the patients' cases and disregarding higher authorities in the hospital to do so.

It's very interesting how well the writers scripted "The Socratic Method". Socrates advocated dialogue between a wise mentor and the inquisitive student as a means of learning, which House mentions in his conversation with Wilson:

HOUSE: If it wasn’t for Socrates, that raving untreated schizophrenic, we wouldn’t have the Socratic method – the best way of teaching everything, apart from juggling chainsaws. Without Isaac Newton, we’d be floating on the ceiling.

WILSON: Dodging chainsaws, no doubt.

HOUSE: And that guitar player in that English band – he was great. [ stopping at Lucy’s room ] You think I’m interested because of the schizophrenia.

Even the final diagnosis of Wilson's disease is a result of the Socratic Method; rather than House who comes up with the diagnosis, it is Cameron who comes up with Wilson's, as House subtlely led his team towards the final answer, through an analysis of the evidence and symptoms and asking questions of his team.

The first four episodes

To be honest, I can't find a terribly large amount of meaning in the early episode titles that can be inferred and plays itself out throughout the episode.

The first episode, so eloquently entitled "Pilot", is basically that: a pilot episode, not just of the premise and format of the show, but the rich character development possibilities which seem to hook the viewer. If you are interested in a deeper analysis of the episode itself, it's at the House MD Beyond the Script blog at housemd-guide.com.

I really can't say much about "Paternity" in terms of a hidden meaning for a title. The paternity of the patient's father is in question and ultimately turns out to be the key to the case. One might consider this to be a bit of foreshadowing about the use of father figures in the later episodes, like Dr. Rowan Chase, House's father, and all the other fathers I will not list here, but it's a bit of a stretch to even consider that.

"Occam's Razor" is personally one of the best titles for an episode, simply out of my old habit of citing it randomly during conversation and humiliating people with my simple logic. The principal is stated aloud in the episode and later refined by House, who says that "the simplest explanation is almost always somebody screwed up." With that idea in mind, taken in conjunction with House's maxim of "everyone lies", you can easily see how this episode's title seems far more predictive than the previous episode.

I'd have to say that "Maternity" seems to be the richest of the titles so far, in terms of double-meaning. For the blatantly obvious, the case is with babies located in the maternity ward at Princeton-Plainsboro and the epidemic spread throughout. Yet a deeper medical meaning may be seen by noticing that the diagnosis ultimately depended on the maternity of the babies: the sick babies lacked the antibodies from the enterovirus that the healthy babies received from their mothers. A further possibility is that House points out that Cuddy is the hospital's "mother", and that if her "baby" (the hospital) is sick, Cuddy goes into adrenaline panic mode. It's excellent foreshadowing of a continuation of conflict between Cuddy and House regarding the ethical and legal problems his maverick style of diagnostics create. On one last far-fetched note, the "mother" analogy for Cuddy may unintentionally become quite literal as recent episodes have suggested.

Next up, a few more bits of analysis and the start of how Foreman might just end up like Dr. House.

A short hello from the author

Hello House fans, and their loved ones. In the interest of saving time and a lot of boring chit-chat later, I'm Paul. You can call me Paul.

I am one of the several bloggers at House, M.D. Guide (www.housemd-guide.com) and am the only one forced to do this due to BOREDOM.

In short, this blog will cover the meanings of the titles and how they are reflected in the ethics or office dynamics in the episode, the patients' names and their illnesses, the diagnoses that are used repeatedly throughout the seasons, and the growing similarities between Foreman and House.

I will post the list of patient names and their illnesses sometime after the season finale, and also do title analysis of the first three or four episodes in the next few days, as their titles lack the double-entendres of some of the later ones.

Welcome, Paul - the editors of House MD Guide

We look forward to seeing your postings on the meanings of various things on the House MD show.