Friday, October 9, 2009

Pardon the Interruption: House 6:3 – The Tyrant

Overall: 8.2 – Not perfect, but very bold.

MAJOR game changing spoilers below the cut!

Main Plot Summary:

After vomiting blood, an African dictator, Dibala, is taken to Princeton-Plainsboro for treatment. Cuddy asks Cameron and Chase to fill in for Thirteen and Taub, which they do, semi-reluctantly. When they walk into their old office, they are shocked to find House paging through Dibala’s records. House has decided to return to diagnostic medicine, but until his license is reinstated, he can only work in a consultative capacity. Foreman is still nominally in charge – though naturally, House floats his suggestions in his usual provocative manner.

While the reunited Ducklings pursue their early theories, Chase meets Ruwe, a patient in the clinic who claims that Dibala is responsible for the brutal rape and murder of his wife. Ruwe pleads with Chase to allow Dibala to die, and Chase can only mutter his apologies before fleeing. Cameron, in the meantime, meets Ama, a woman who consents to give Dibala her blood; Cameron is convinced Ama agreed to the procedure under duress, but Cuddy authorizes the transfusion, pointing out that an unwanted needle prick is far less of a negative consequence than the potential slaughter of an entire family.

Later, Chase spies Ruwe in a nurse’s uniform heading towards Dibala’s room. He yells out a warning just before gun shots ring out and charges into Dibala’s room, where he finds Dibala’s general beating the living snot out of Ruwe and Dibala very much alive – though bleeding from his eye. As Chase patches up Ruwe, Ruwe admits that the woman he claimed was his wife was not his wife at all – that, in fact, he was a part of one of Dibala’s death squads and feels remorse. At home, Cameron admonishes Chase for putting his own life in danger, then not so subtly suggests that he should’ve let Ruwe murder Dibala. In another scene, Chase confronts Cameron about said remark, and Cameron, utterly seriously, asserts that the world would be better off if Dibala were dead. Chase is unprepared to make the same conclusion – at the moment.

When Dibala starts to develop short-term memory loss, Cameron tells his general that he is on an inevitable decline. Later, Dibala tries to force Cameron to kill him herself, then tells an aghast Chase that he is willing to use what ever means necessary to protect his country. Chase, as it is ultimately revealed, then decides to doctor a blood test to misdirect Foreman, and Dibala dies, drowning in his own blood. Foreman is outraged, but decides to destroy the evidence of Chase’s act.

Secondary Plot Summary:

Meanwhile, at Wilson’s, a downstairs neighbor, Murphy, has complained about the additional noise and “cooking smells” that have accompanied House’s temporary sojourn in Wilson’s apartment. House thinks Wilson should stick up for himself, but Wilson tells House that Murphy is an amputee and Vietnam vet and that there is no arguing with him. House runs into Murphy at the mailbox and, while trading barbs with the prickly neighbor, catches a glimpse of Murphy’s mail. House tells Wilson that he thinks Murphy is lying about his status as a vet, as he doesn’t have insurance with the VA. Wilson insists that House be nice and apologize.

As House walks up to Murphy’s apartment to leave the aforementioned note of apology, Murphy’s housekeeper leaves the door slightly ajar. House, after slipping on the wet floor, simply cannot resist the opportunity to take a peek at Murphy’s place, where he spots a Canadian flag on the wall. He later confronts Murphy, triumphantly claiming that Canada did not send troops to Vietnam. Murphy corrects him – they did in 1973, and his hand was blown off by a landmine as he was trying to rescue a kid. House looks properly guilty.

Wilson’s response is to kick House out to placate Murphy, but House has a different plan. He drugs Murphy and duct-tapes him to a chair, all with the intent of curing his phantom limb pain with the mirror method. Murphy is overwhelmed to find that he is free of pain for the first time in years. The relationship between Murphy and Wilson improves.

The Ratings:

Writing: 7.5

Great Thing the First: I think the writers are doing a very nice job toeing the line between House’s being “cured” and House’s being House. His first impulse is still to needle people – for example, miming at Foreman and writing “Lymphoma, TADA!!” on the blinds – and he still protests vociferously when he is prodded to give someone the benefit of the doubt, but we also see him trying to do the right thing, even when he can’t quite resist the temptation to do the opposite. The transition is marvelously organic.

Great Thing the Second: They actually went there hardcore. I think a lesser show would’ve backed off and stuck with mere manufactured angst, i.e., the patient lives and the doctors fret, “Oh God, I actually thought about killing him!” Which would’ve been lame, as Cameron is right: we do naturally experience schadenfreude when a mass murderer dies, and we shouldn’t feel guilty about that unless we dwell on it. But here, we have the real thing - a doctor violates his oath and consigns his (definitely evil) patient to a horrible, bloody death. That’s awesome.

Not So Good Thing: I’m not sure I understand why Dibala would flip from self-justification to undisguised mania. That felt contrived to me – an excuse to drive Chase to murder. If they had explained this as a result of his organic disease, I think I would’ve found it more believable.

Acting: 9

James Earl Jones! Enough said.

Message: 8

This episode left me quite torn at first – that’s why it has taken so long for me to compose this review. Because I am not a liberal, I actually don’t have a problem with criminal dictators being assassinated. I do think, however, that a doctor at a private hospital definitely shouldn’t make that call. It is a political and military matter. Indeed, I believe doctors shouldn’t take it upon themselves to kill any patient, full stop – I don’t care if it’s for mercy’s or for justice’s sake. Thus, I don’t think Chase’s evident remorse is wimpy Hollywood hand-wringing; I think it’s appropriate. (It would’ve been pure Hollywood if Chase hadn’t actually gone through with it.)


CHASE: “You worried me when you joked about letting that man shoot Dibala.”
CAMERON: “I wasn’t joking.”
CHASE: “You can’t want to kill anyone - especially not your own patient.”
CAMERON: “It’s only natural to feel-”
CHASE: “No, it’s completely unnatural. Only psychopaths can kill other people without having some sort of breakdown.”
CAMERON: “Not when it’s justified - look at soldiers.”
CHASE: “Even when it’s justified.”
CAMERON: “Am I trying to kill our patient? Of course not. But if he died, am I supposed to pretend that wouldn’t be good for the world?” – YES! Thank you!

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