The Wife:

I’ve been saving up these House posts for a number of reasons, primarily because there’s so much awesomeness on Monday nights now that House falls by the wayside for us, so there’s no sense posting something within a few days of a new episode. I know this will greatly disappoint Mary, our friend and massive Hugh Laurie lover, but on Mondays, I’ve got Chuck, Secret Life of the American Teenager, Big Bang Theory, Gossip Girl and How I Met Your Mother. I can’t even watch all five of those shows on a good day, so House gets pushed back, resulting in this clusterfuck of a post.

House aired its 100th episode with “The Greater Good,” in which a formerly brilliant cancer researcher (she’s still brilliant, just not researching the ol’ cancer anymore) falls ill during a cooking class. As she lays dying under House and his team’s care, they all wonder why she would give up cancer research – especially when she was so close to finding a cure for a certain cancer I can no longer remember – to live a selfish and self-fulfilling life. Shouldn’t she, as a doctor on the forefront of research in her field, be working towards the greater good? Meanwhile, Thirteen starts to get really sick because irresponsible asshole Foreman switched her onto the trial drug from the placebo. Bad shit goes down, like, losing her vision and developing small brain tumors. Side effects are fun, kids!

Ultimately, when the patient gets a final diagnosis of ectopic endometriosis (which she developed after some of her endometrial cells escaped into her body during her hysterectomy a few years back), everybody realizes that they probably shouldn’t do things for wholly selfish reasons, especially Foreman, who risked his girlfriend’s life because he wanted to keep her around. House and Thirteen, however, don’t get that upset at Foreman and won’t let him “torch his career” because he’ll do a lot more good for other people if he’s still a doctor, he just has to quit the clinical trial and throw out Thirteen’s study results. I get that this ending to the clinical trial mishap fits with the theme. Yes, one more doctor in the world saves the lives of however many people (and Foreman, though an idiot, is a good doctor), but it also doesn’t fairly punishing him for endangering Thirteen’s life, and the fate of that Huntington’s study. Because its TV, that study gets to continue and Tank Girl might have a chance of living for a few more years than she would have, but I think that in the real world, compromised results has a strong chance of removing that particular study from Princeton-Plainsboro altogether, and possibly put on hiatus for a long time, which isn’t helping anyone with Huntington’s.

Frankly, I wasn’t that into “The Greater Good,” especially because the two episodes that followed “Unfaithful” and “The Softer Side” were so much better (although I find the latter to be a little problematic). In “Unfaithful,” House takes a case from Cameron involving a drunken priest who hallucinated a stigmatic Christ. House takes this, hoping to prove that anyone who would put their faith in something unseen has something wrong with them, but as the case continues and the ailing priest and House have a few bedside conversations about the nature of believe and what it’s like to lose one’s faith, House starts to think that the vision of Christ has nothing to do with the rest of the symptoms which, during the priest’s stay, involve loss of gangrenous digits, blindness and numbness to pain.

Where the hell is Meryl Streep when you need her?

Where the hell is Meryl Streep when you need her?

While House has never had any faith at all in a higher power, the priest began to lose his joy in the priesthood after an accusation of molestation moved him from parish to parish, making him a black sheep amongst the members of his various flocks. Though he denies molesting the child, Taub feels he should believe the claim of the victim, especially when the team diagnoses the priest with AIDS, and sets out to find the boy the priest allegedly molested. The boy, Ryan, visits the priest on his deathbed and asks him for forgiveness, which to me says that the allegations made against the priest were false. But that’s just me. Much like Doubt, it’s a situation where you aren’t given the whole truth and should decide for yourself. (In Doubt, by the way, I’ve decided that since we know the little boy had some homosexual tendencies, Father Flynn, who joined the priesthood because he also has homosexual tendencies, merely befriended the boy, without any other ulterior motive.)

Once House rules out the hallucinations, he realizes that the priest doesn’t have AIDS at all, but Wuska-Aldridge, an auto-immune deficiency that acts a lot like AIDS, but his hereditary, non-communicable and non-life threatening.

This episode also added a third element to the theme with the organization of Cuddy’s daughter’s naming ceremony, which House refuses to attend based on the principle that anyone who doesn’t practice their religion to the letter is a hypocrite. Thus, because Cuddy doesn’t keep the Sabbath, pretending she’s more religious than she actually is by having a naming ceremony for Rachael is hypocritical. Cuddy doesn’t really want House to go, though, but Wilson fucks it all up by convincing House to at least put in an appearance. In the end, everyone attends the service but House, who stays at home, playing traditional Jewish music on his piano instead. (Know what I love? Hugh Laurie playing piano.)

And then there’s “The Softer Side,” the patient of which my husband noted is like an alternate version of last week’s Private Practice, but fast forwarded 13 years. Much like Anyanka and Sgt. Scream’s baby, the patient of the week is a 13-year-old “boy” with genetic mosaicism. “He” has both male and female DNA, but his parents chose to raise him as boy even though we learned on Private Practice that 70% of genetic mosaics end up identifying as female. Jacksons parents have lied to him for years, socializing him as a boy and pushing him to do masculine things like playing hockey and basketball, even though, like one Billy Elliot, all he’s ever really wanted to do is to dance. He collapses at one of his basketball games with pelvic pain, and his parents immediately demand that House and his team give Jackson an MRI to look for a blind uterus. Strangely, House concedes to this procedure, even though when Thirteen suggests it, Foreman (continuing the lie they established in the last episode that they had broken up) mocks her for the suggestion, because surely every single one of the kids previous doctors had thought of that.

Consenting to the MRI, as well as asking to eat his bagel before doing so, alerts Wilson that something is wrong with House. He thinks maybe Cuddy slept with him, which Cuddy denies, but when both of them go to check up on House, they find him sleeping in his office . . .  and not breathing. Foreman gives House a bitching titty twister to wake him up, and House insists that he just passed out because he took one too many Vicodan.

Shhhh! He's sleeping!

Shhhh! He's sleeping!

Jackson only gets sicker after the team takes him off his “vitamins,” which are testosterone shots, fearing the T might be causing some of his problems, so House sends Foreman and Thirteen to investigate the kid’s house for environmental factors. In his room, which has posters for So You Think You Can Dance, Godspell, Rent, A Chorus Line and The Wizard of Oz, Thirteen finds a poem that she believes is a confession of Jackson’s state of mind, potentially indicating suicide. She brings it to his parents, suggesting that he knows he’s different than other kids and may have developed some suicidal feelings because of it. She tells Jackson that his vitamins aren’t vitamins, and that he should ask his parents about them. This causes the parents to finally tell their son that he’s intersex, and Jackson gets so upset with his parents lies that he refuses to talk to them. Jackson’s mom is furious at Thirteen and wants her off Jackson’s case, but Cuddy intervenes and tells Thirteen that she has to be the person Jackson trusts now.

The bisexual doctor and the intersex boy have a nice heart-to-heart about Jackson’s feelings about his gender identity, wondering if his homosexual feelings towards a friend on his basketball team and his predilection toward dance exist simply because he was meant to be a girl. And that’s where I find this episode to be a little bit problematic. Granted, this is an hour-long show that’s barely skimming the surface of the complexities of gender identity, especially for intersex children, but Jackson’s words here and Thirteen’s lack of correction lead me to question the rigid construction of gender that seems to frame this argument. Knowing what I know about genetic mosaicism, I would argue that Jackson’s parents made the wrong choice in aggressively gendering him as male, but other than not liking basketball, Jackson doesn’t seem to exhibit any other issues with having a male gender identity. No one ever scolded him for wearing his mother’s clothing often because he didn’t do it. He doesn’t express feeling as though he should be developing breasts or otherwise show any signs of a gender identity disorder He feels male and constructs his identity as male. How much of that feeling comes from the fact that his parents aggressively gendered him as such, I don’t know, but he does seem to like being male. He just doesn’t like to play sports. And there’s nothing un-masculine about dance at all, and the fact that his parents assert otherwise just tells me that they’ve a.) never watched So You Think You Can Dance with their son and b.) they need to be punched in the face, repeatedly.

What I’m getting at here is that this entire argument constructs gender identity based on very antiquated terms, and I think Thirteen kind of points to this when she tells Jackson that she was a point guard on her basketball team. No one in their right mind would think their daughter wanted to be a man if she started playing sports, so why on earth would someone think their son wanted to be a girl if he wanted to dance? Baryshnikov gets all the bitches, that’s what I’m saying. The boy, though, is confused at this point, and who can blame him, as he wonders if he actually should have been a girl or if, perhaps, he is meant to be a gay man. (I vote gay man.)

So maybe, Jackson might be alright with the gender identity his parents chose for him, but should they have chosen at all? People have very different feelings about gender identity, and I’m really not for aggressively gendering children. I find that when children begin to socialize with other children, they pick out a gender identity for themselves and the degree to which they want to express that. I have a friend with a two-year-old daughter. My friend tried really hard not to engender her child in anyway, but this little girl, at only two, has expressed a great interest in wearing dresses and trying on mommy’s make-up and dance clothes. Without even encouraging her to do so, her daughter has begun to express a very feminine version of a female gender identity. This example points to the fact that society – the images about our gender that we receive from our peers and from the culture at large – will gender us unconsciously, so that even if we are not aggressively gendered by our parents, we may still choose to exhibit a more normalized gender identity. Of course, we may not. But isn’t it better to let a child choose than to saddle them with something they might not feel suits them, forcing a child to be like Tireseas, first one thing and then the other?

Just . . . I dunno . . . read Middlesex. It’s great. It won the Pulitzer. And it’s far more eloquent about these thoughts than I am, as well as a far better examination of an intersex individual than this episode of House does.

Private Practice-style lesson: You can't lie to your kid about giving him testosterone injections.

Private Practice-style lesson: You can't lie to your kid about giving him testosterone injections.

Back to House, the strangely complacent doctor begins to do more strange things, and now both Wilson and Foreman suspect him of being on heroin, so Wilson invites House to dinner and offers him a shot, knowing full well that if House drinks it, he could stop breathing again. House knows what Wilson’s up to, and defiantly takes the shot and walks out, only to vomit in the parking lot and bark at Wilson for knowingly nearly killing him. Wilson rails at his friend for being on heroin, and House admits that he’s actually on prescription methadone, which makes him feel no pain at all, but could kill him at any moment. Cuddy refuses to let House practice at her hospital under methadone, so he quits, choosing a pain-free existence over his job, only to return when Cuddy agrees to let him come back as long as she can supervise his methadone use.

When he does, he realizes that Jackson is sick because of the MRI contrast dye, which never got filtered out of his system when they took him off his T (something Thirteen figured out in his absence, after another fight with the boy’s mother when she realized his “suicide poem” was just a classroom assignment to write in the style of Sylvia Plath – what the fuck kind of English teacher assigns Plath to 8th graders?). When he first came into House’s care, he was just dehydrated, but House’s allowance of the MRI only made Jackson worse because he kindly gave in to the requests of Jackson’s family. Realizing that being pain-free clouds his judgment, House refuses to accept methadone treatment and returns to being the curmudgeonly Vicodin addict we’ve come to know and love, an end to the softer side of House.

I really liked “The Softer Side,” but I really dislike the implication that exhibiting a female gender identity is somehow soft.

The Husband:

Just as with the end of s2 – at least, I think it was s2 when House started feeling no pain and started skateboarding – I wish that Dr. Gregory House hadn’t been so willing to drop the methadone and go back onto the Vicodin, continuing to live in pain but being a “better doctor.” It was an interesting examination of his personality, and I could have used at least three more episodes on this subject. It’s what made the last episode so great – me, the one who hasn’t really been into any of the personal stories this season, thinks this to be so – and gave me the second episode in a row to actually captivate me and not just spark a small amount of medical curiosity.

But man, did I like “Unfaithful” like crazy. Not only was the priest played by the always-cast-as-a-creep Jimmi Simpson (Liam McPoyle on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia), who I think is pretty underrated as an actor, but I was actually invested in the mystery for once, eager to reach the conclusion of the episode just to know what the hell was going on with his disease and his past. Yes, it was like Doubt 2.0, and I was itching for some answers. The fact that we didn’t get all of them is fine, because for once the P.O.W. was a fully fleshed character and not just a pin cushion with a mouth and an attitude problem.

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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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