The Wife:

How often is it that you get two House episodes in a row that deal with an identical medical conundrum? Sure, in “Painless,” Martin Henderson is suicidal because he’s in constant pain and in “Big Baby” special ed teacher Sarah has a whole host of issues, but the thing that links the two is this: in neither case can the team agree on whether the problems stem from the patient’s brain or from the patient’s body?

Suicidal Martin Henderson was intended to bring us back from the break by introducing us to a character who is, more or less, in the same situation as House. In case we forgot, the writers decided to remind us just how much pain House is in by showing us Hugh Laurie in a bath, struggling to fully bend his knee. That, or they’ve apparently been reading Hugh Laurie fan sites. But the difference between Suicidal Martin Henderson and House is much more significant than their similar states of pain: House manages his pain through his painkiller addiction; for Martin Henderson, the painkillers aren’t working anymore, driving him to suck on a tailpipe and try to commit suicide at least twice more during his hospital stay.

At first, House suspects that some air may have leaked into Suicidal Martin Henderson’s body, causing him to be in chronic pain and suffer sporadic cramps, making the pain not psychosomatic, as Taub continually suggests. Because Taub had a “colleague” who tried to commit suicide (but failed), he immediately hates the patient and finds him incredibly selfish, refusing to accept any possibilities that Suicidal Martin Henderson is depressed because he’s in pain, not the other way around. (Kutner suspects that Taub’s “colleague” was actually Taub himself. Though Taub denies this, I think his story about his colleague is a way to mask the guilt he feels for doing something he finds so despicable.) Taub ends up being kind of right in this instance, because Suicidal Martin Henderson brought on the air-induced cramps by chewing a hole in his IV so air would get in, presumably trying to achieve one of the quickest ways to die – shooting an air bubble directly into the bloodstream.

House wants to solve the brain vs. body conundrum in this case by injecting lydocane into the patient’s brainstem to essentially paralyze the body, thus getting them closer to a solution. In doing so, he realizes that the answer lies in both places. After healing from the injury that initially caused Suicidal Martin Henderson’s pain, his addiction to painkillers rewired his brain chemistry so that it reads painkillers themselves as causal pain agents. But taking him off painkillers doesn’t solve anything. House then begins to think about the initial source of Suicidal Martin Henderson’s pain, which he would describe as an abdominal pain, similar to being kicked in the balls. He realizes that the POW has epilepsy in the region of his brain that controls testosterone production, causing the abdominal pain. The numerous small, untreated seizures caused the brain rewiring House had suspected, making Suicidal Martin Henderson’s nervous system constantly feel pain. Thanks to epilepsy treatments, Martin Henderson goes home to his wife and son, suicidal no more.

This area of the brain shows that you like me.

This area of the brain shows that you like me.

Suicidal Martin Henderson’s struggle for death is reiterated in Thirteen’s story this week. After their kiss, she tells Foreman she’s not interested in a relationship with him. He assumes this is because she’s once again resigning from life, but she assures him that:

“I’m not giving up on life. I’m giving up on you.”

After some deliberation and further participating in the Huntington’s trials, Thirteen decides that, since Foreman and the new medications have been such a good influence on her, she will give their relationship a try. And then Foreman finds out that Thirteen isn’t on the actual medication at all but is actually taking a placebo, filling him with all kinds of doubt.

Meanwhile, Cuddy makes the decision to spend a little more time at home bonding with baby Rachael, appointing Cameron to assist as Dean of Medicine in her absence. Cameron’s first trial is in “Big Baby,” when House gets Sarah the special ed teacher who suddenly collapsed and started vomiting blood in the middle of class. House wants to perform a radiation treatment on the woman, which might help diagnose her, but is also ridiculous and risky. He wants Cameron to say no, and she knows it, so she approves it, forcing the team to do some quick thinking about how to “radiate” without radiating. Thirteen decides that they should keep up the ruse by going through with the procedure, but not flipping the switch. Foreman agrees, something he does a lot of during this episode, which House immediately assumes is because he wants to be in harmony with his partner, Thirteen, rather than the possibility that she’s actually right.

While Taub and Thirteen administer the “radiation” procedure, the patient asks if she can get up to pee, and then immediately collapses. Thirteen and Taub get her heart working again, the team runs another test that puts the patient in an ice bath, hoping to slow down her heart again to confirm a diagnosis. After three minutes in the ice, the test fails. But the patient’s discussion of how she wound up teaching special ed (transposing the numbers of the classroom she was supposed to go to) makes House think that she might have early stage MS. The number confusion and forgetting to do preemptive tasks like peeing before a medical test point to a problem, he claims, in her left hemisphere. If she does have it, the next problem will occur in the lungs. To confirm, House wants to open up the patient’s skull and poke around. Cameron knows this is the fastest way to heal the patient because she knows House, but she insists on asking him to do an MRI first to confirm the need for the test. The MRI turns up negative, but then the patient’s lungs start to fail and Kutner realizes that House might be right, even though he is loath to allow House to cut into the patient’s skull.

I have head explodey!

I have head explodey!

At home with baby Rachael, Cuddy is barely keeping it together. In “Painless,” she was frazzled by an upcoming review from child protective services who were dropping by to evaluate her abilities to be a foster mother. While Cuddy thought her messy home would reflect poorly upon her, the social worker assured her that caring what her home looked like was the surest sign that she was the right person to foster baby Rachael. (A bad parent, I guess, wouldn’t be phased at all by the mess?) He tells her that he’ll see her in a year, if Cuddy hasn’t adopted Rachael by then. But after a week at home alone with the baby, Cuddy’s no longer sure she’s cut out for this whole mom thing. She’s worried that she hasn’t bonded with Rachael, exhibiting all the signs of post-partum depression, except without that whole “partum” bit. She drags herself out of the house with Rachael to yell at House and Cameron about the radiation treatment that wasn’t, and House hits the nail on the head by honing into Cuddy’s fears that she might not be a good enough mother and might be better off giving Rachael back. Cuddy goes crying to Wilson about this, and I really wanted to shake her and tell her that no one else should define her experience of motherhood. Wilson tries to reassure her of this by pretending to get a photo of Rachael enhanced to age 18 (when really it’s just the girl who came with the frame) and he begs Cuddy to remember that while she can’t communicate with Rachael now, its not worth giving up reading her bedtime stories and teaching her to ride a bike and giving her advice and consoling her future broken hearts and seeing her off to college.

Kutner interrupts Cuddy’s tearful brooding to tell her that Cameron has signed off on House testing the patient’s brain function by slicing her head open and placing electrodes on it. She calls in the middle of the test, in which the patient was demonstrating increased function in the left hemisphere, and demands over a screaming Rachael that they stop immediately. Cuddy’s yelling plus baby screaming make the patient react, for the first time in this episode, with any sign of strain or annoyance. Prior to this, she had simply gone to her “happy place,” prompting Kutner and Thirteen to remark, “We cannot let this woman anywhere near House.” I was glad to see Kutner featured so prominently as a contrarian force in this episode, as I’ve often remarked that the writers don’t quite know how to make use of Kal Penn. We might finally be getting somewhere with that.

While the interruption from Cuddy causes House and Cameron to puzzle over exactly what it means to their patient that the one thing she doesn’t handle calmly is the sound of a mother trying to calm down her child, Cuddy realizes, finally, that talking to Rachael like a human (because, you know, she is a tiny hooman) makes the baby calm down. After getting so caught up with putting on the appearance of a good mother, Cuddy forgot that the one thing that’s most important in any human relationship is communication. Babies like to hear voices. They want a verbal response to their verbal cries for attention. It’s as simple as that.

In discussing the fact that the baby/Cuddy interruption upset the POW, House realizes that the patient’s symptoms are all caused by a ductus in the heart, something all humans have in utero, but are supposed to heal over shortly after birth. When the patient gets stressed, the ductus causes her body to act as though it is unstressed, increasing left brain activity. This blissful, zen-like calm made her able to deal well with high stress situations like working with special needs children, especially a non-verbal autist that blossomed into verbal expression under her care. Her heart ductus can be closed, but I think the hug between her and her favorite special needs kid at the end of this episode indicates that she won’t be doing that, sacrificing her health in order to help take care of her children. I admit that in the cold open, I found this kid, this non-verbal autistic kid, really creepy, especially with his pointed elvin ears, but he became less creepy with each of her appearances in this episode. I guess it was just the horror-movie filter they put over the classroom that made it so . . . The Omen-y.

Cuddy also makes the decision to remain with her baby, but Cameron complicates things by quitting the Assistant Dean post because she knows she will always say yes to House, due to the respect she garnered for the man while studying under him for three years. So Cuddy goes back to doing what most women do these days, struggling with making a living and raising a child. It’s got to be hard to leave your child to go to work each day, and though I don’t have children, I recognize that painful wince on Cuddy’s face as she hesitates to walk out the door with Rachael crying for her. I’m sure I did that to my mom enough when I was little, before she, like Cuddy, went off to the hospital to save lives.

As for Fourteen, a visit to the classroom to collect potential environmental evidence leads Thirteen to declare that she’d like to have children. Now that she’s on the Huntington’s treatments and she’s feeling better, she realizes that she does, indeed, have the option to lead a full life. I hope that this is the motivation for Foreman deciding to switch Thirteen’s off of the placebo and onto the trial drug, because any motivation he might have because he “loves her” or whatever is not worth risking his license over. And even then, as heartbreaking as it might be to see someone experiencing the placebo effect thinking that she’s getting better (when, although her test results show improvement, she’s still uncontrollably knocking over cups), I still believe that Foreman had no right to abuse his position in these trials to give Thirteen a “chance at life.” This is probably the stupidest decision I’ve ever seen on House, and I hope Foreman pays dearly for it. Like, I hope he loses his license and has to leave the show because he can’t practice medicine anymore. That’s how dearly I hope he pays for it. I don’t know much about how long clinical trials take, but I’m sure that if their study showed significant promise with few side effects, they would get a Huntington’s drug on the market within five years, perhaps sooner. It would be a lot less dumb and career damaging to keep her on the placebo through the conclusion of this particular study, and then manipulate the program to be sure she’s not on a placebo for the next study. That would still be wrong, but it would certainly ensure that the study would move into a second phase. With the data compromised thanks to Foreman, I doubt this study will even get a second phase. What he’s done, then, is basically ruined hope for every Huntington’s patient on this study. Thanks to Foreman, there is a very large chance that none of them will ever find a treatment for their disease because he’s ruined Princeton-Plainsboro’s chance of continuing this progressive research. You’re an idiot, Foreman. Have fun never practicing medicine again!

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