The Wife:

First of all, I realize that Zeljko Ivanek’s character in this episode is technically named Jason, but I think we can all agree that Jason is not as cool of a name as Zeljko, so I will only refer to him as such throughout this post. That said, I think this extended episode was a really nice addition to the House canon: it used the formula, but shook it up by making it have to work within a high-stakes hostage situation; it utilized all of House’s fellows (at least a little bit); and it ultimately gave us a new character arc for Thirteen to follow (so maybe now the writers can focus on someone they’ve ignored . . like Kutner).

Zeljko was this week’s POW, who has become so frustrated with the state of healthcare (seeing an endless string of doctors who just don’t know what’s wrong, as well as being financially buried in medical bills) that he believe the only way to get someone to take his pain seriously is to take some doctors and hostages at gunpoint and force them to work on his case. This is just what he does when, hoping to take only hospital administrator Cuddy hostage, he catches House in Cuddy’s office and rounds up ten or so hostages and Thirteen to join him, forcing them to remain in Cuddy’s office with him until someone solves his case. He’s lucky House happened to be the best diagnostician on staff, otherwise he’d have been SOL.

“You really think re-enacting Dog Day Afternoon is gonna get you diagnosed faster?” – House

House does a quickie diagnosis and tells Zeljko that he needs to administer a test drug to prove that he has pulmonary scleroderma. Zeljko will only agree to the test if Dr. Cuddy brings in the medicine, alone. He then demands that the drug be tested on one of the hostages first, all of them except Thirteen and a nurse amounting to nothing but a handful of sick people who, if given the wrong drug, could be getting even sicker. House administers the drug to one of the beefier patients, who passes out. Thinking it’s a trick, Zeljko shoots an investment banker Patrick Bateman-looking patient in the leg as a warning.

This shot of Zeljko reminds me far too much of his guest spot on The Mentalists pilot episode.

This shot of Zeljko reminds me far too much of his guest spot on The Mentalist's pilot episode.

Realizing how serious the situation is, House does a conference call differential with all of his fellows, past and present, to help solve the case. During this process, a SWAT team from the outside lurks outside the windows, which House realizes Zeljko could hear from inside the room. Assuming his hyper-sensitive hearing is a new symptom, House assumes that he has a nerve problem, which Thirteen confirms when she notices that Zeljko has trouble moving the muscles on one side of his face. House convinces Zeljko to trade two hostages for the test to prove neuralgia. He then asks for another drug guinea pig, a position for which ready-to-die Thirteen immediately volunteers. The test is incredibly painful for her, but shouldn’t be for Zeljko if he does indeed have neuralgia. Nerve disorders are ruled out when the injection causes him pain, and in the lab, Foreman and Cameron find out that Zeljko’s white blood cells are normal, thus ruling out an infection. The team is now left with a either a cancer diagnosis or a heart defect.

Zeljko allows Thirteen to leave the room to get the heart-slowing drugs House requires to make the man’s heart return to normal speed, which, when injected into her normal-beating heart slows it down considerably, while Zeljko’s heart reduces to a normal speed. But then he starts sweating only on one side of his face, leading House to believe he has a lung tumor that’s pressing on his sympathetic nerves. Zeljko decides to trade three hostages for a trip to radiology and ties the two doctors, the nurse, and the remaining two civilians to him to journey to radiology. In the CT scan, he refuses to unhand his gun, which causes a sunburst over the image. House convinces him to give up the gun in order to get a proper diagnosis, at which point the nurse and one civilian hostage decide to make a break for it. The youngest hostage stays, just to check out what’s going down. When the CT scan does not reveal a tumor, House returns Zeljko’s gun, an act which prompts House, Zeljko and Thirteen to discuss the nature of cowardice and the need to be right. (For the record, both House and Zeljko have a destructive and violent need to be right, and Zeljko and Thirteen are both cowards about facing their own deaths.)

House now thinks that because of Zeljko’s wonky hearing (he now appears to be deaf in one ear), that he might have Cushing’s Syndrome. The hostage negotiators agree to get the drugs for him if he lets the boy go and stops testing drugs on Thirteen, an agreement upon which Zeljko immediately reneges. Thirteen gets incredibly sick, and Zeljko remains unchanged from the treatment. In a last-ditch discussion with the diagnostics team, all signs point to a tropical illness like Meliodosis, which Zeljko discounts because he’s never been anywhere south of Florida  . . . apparently not realizing that Florida is a tropical climate. Zeljko agrees to let House go for getting the answer, but wants to keep dying Thirteen to test the next rounds of drugs on, despite House’s warning that any additional strain on her body would fully shut down her kidneys and kill her. She agrees to take the last round of drugs, knowing that in eight years, she’ll be dead anyway.

“Who’s the martyr now? Either the drugs kill me or he kills me.” – Thirteen.

But when the time comes, Thirteen is unable to give herself the fatal dose, declaring, “I don’t want to die,” just as Zeljko steals the syringe from her hand and injects himself as the SWAT team blasts through the wall. When the smoke clears, the SWAT team arrests Zeljko, who seems to be at peace, finally, knowing that he’s actually gotten an answer for all his trouble. Jail, it seems, is worth that to him. Thirteen goes on dialysis to flush out her kidneys, and finally consents to some clinical trials for Huntington’s Chorea, her near-death experience giving her a renewed appreciation for life.

The Husband:

I was not looking forward to this episode. Hostage episodes are usually very desperate ploys to get viewers tuned in, story be damned, and usually result in most of the characters not acting like themselves in any capacity. It can be done right, however. I point you to “Bang!” from Desperate Housewives season 3, which is more than the sum of its parts.

Every single hostage situation episode of a TV drama usually gives center stage to the hostage taker and they rarely disappoint, so much like Laurie Metcalf’s wildly successful performance in the aforementioned DH episode, Zeljko was in it to win it.

The result was just okay, a gimmick that thankfully gave us more than one location – man, how big is that x-ray room? – and some resolution with Thirteen’s recent b-story arc (one that many viewers have been complaining about, but not me). My wife’s right, though – it’s time to give Kutner some focus. Nobody underuses Kal Penn and gets away with it. Nobody!

Special shout-outs for several of the guest actors. First, one to Natasha Gregson Wagner for actually blending into the story that I barely noticed her. (I dig on the actress quite a bit, but she has a tendency to overrun any scene she’s in, whether it’s in High Fidelity or Another Day in Paradise.

Another to Evan Peters as the young teenage hostage, who just makes me miss the show Invasion even more.

And one to Wood Harris as the SWAT negotiator, a far cry from playing Avon Barksdale, the king of all drug lords, on HBO’s The Wire. His presence made me realize that whenever I see a talented African-American actor on TV and turn to my wife and say, “Hey, I know that guy,” it’s always somebody from The Wire. That show was apparently filled with every single fairly unknown African-American actor in the country. I didn’t even bother mentioning it last night, because I’m sure the conversation would have been this:

Me: Guess what I know him from.

Wife: The Wire. Shut up. I’m watching Zeljko.