Overall: 8.5 – Good enough to rehabilitate last week’s uninteresting showing. The patient of the week is more engaging, and the soap opera is better-than-solid.
Spoilers after the cut.
As I’ve done in the past, I’m going to divide this episode into its component plots for ease of comprehension.
Detective Donny Comson takes a flying leap off a roof while pursuing a suspect and lands in Princeton-Plainsboro with several broken bones and other injuries. Comson’s partner tells Cameron that Comson believes he’s going to die young and therefore pulls crazy stunts because “it doesn’t matter.” Cameron questions Comson about this, and Comson tells her that his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all dropped dead at forty from heart trouble. Cameron suspects a genetic condition and recommends House.
House is reluctant to take the case – he figures the family history is simply a coincidence – but Foreman is still in charge, and he is convinced by Cameron’s argument. The team proceeds to dig up the remains of Comson’s relatives looking for genetic abnormalities. In the meantime, a woman visits House in his office – she is Comson’s former girlfriend, and she has a son by Comson. The son, Michael, is brought in for a biopsy; Comson and Michael meet, but Comson pushes Michael away, claiming that he doesn’t want to cause Michael any pain.
Preliminary tests, meanwhile, find nothing, and House persuades Comson to sign his discharge papers by giving him a fake diagnosis. Comson comes right back to PPTH, however, when he apparently “dies” in his laundry room. House and Foreman get all the way to the Y-incision before Comson comes to. The team runs through several theories before House finally comes up with the final diagnosis – a berry aneurysm. House tells Comson that brain surgery should cure both him and his son and suggests that Comson give his son a call. Comson is reluctant to do so, and House calls him on his BS, opining that Comson rationalized his desire to be completely free of any obligations to others. Comson seems to take this to heart, as he later goes to see his son and offers to take him out to the movies.
Concurrently, Chase is beginning to break down emotionally. He is reluctant to enter Comson’s room because it is the room where Dibala crashed; he is distracted and fails to contribute much at the differentials; and he is evasive with Cameron. House urges Chase to get help; Chase goes to confession and does not get the answer he wants. He then disappears on Cameron and goes on a drinking binge. Cameron can’t even bring herself to hug her husband when he finally comes home at two in the morning.
After Wilson walks in on House masturbating, he decides to allow House to sleep in the old bedroom, which he has left empty in honor of Amber. On his first night in the new room, however, House hears voices and fears that he has started to hallucinate once again. He even gets his hearing checked after he hears whispers in the hospital, and when those tests show nothing unusual, he goes to Cuddy and tells her he’s not ready to go back to work. At Wilson’s, House moves back to the living room couch.
That night, however, House discovers that he can only hear the voices in the second bedroom, and he traces the sound to a vent in the floor. Opening Wilson’s door, he discovers that Wilson pretends to talk to Amber at night. House yanks Wilson’s chain about it the next morning, and Wilson claims that talking to Amber makes him feel better, whereas talking to House does not.
House goes back to work and submits himself to rounds under Cuddy (a requirement for re-licensing), but Cuddy quickly gives up on protocol after House gets fresh and signs off on his licensing forms. She asks House if he’s okay, and House tells her his quitting was just a false alarm. Later, in bed, House tries talking to his father, and Wilson tells Amber that House really is getting better.
I suspected that last week’s episode, if lackluster in its presentation, served a critical purpose. This episode confirms that I was right. Indeed, I am contemplating revising my personal rating of the writing in Instant Karma slightly upwards, as I am now completely convinced that we could not be here with Chase now if he hadn’t “gotten away with it” last week. A legal proceeding of the sort that surely would’ve ensued if Chase’s confession in Cuddy’s office had not been interrupted (and by the way, it’s not unheard of for people to luck out in this way) absolutely would not have fostered so interesting a personal drama. In putting aside the law for the time being, the writers have opened the door to a wholly spiritual exploration of Chase’s crime. There is no external pressure – there is only Chase grappling with the still, small voice that speaks to his soul. I cannot object to that – especially when it involves sterling scenes in confessionals (more on that shortly).
On top of the above, we also have House making further strides. In addition to his showing the first glimmer of a willingness to forgive his father – which is certainly hugely important – we also see House attempting to help Chase and expressing a desire to have a genuinely intimate relationship with Wilson. The two-steps-forward-one-step-back character development here continues to please. The writers seem to be holding to their promise to keep House recognizably House while filling in some of the holes in his heart. At the risk of repeating myself, I must say that I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The boy who plays Michael doesn’t generate much emotional interest. And Omar’s reaction when Comson comes back to life seems a little bit over the top – though it was pretty hilarious, so I may forgive him there. In the meantime, Jesse continues to put in some of the best work I’ve ever seen from him, and Hugh is his usual quietly brilliant self. My favorite Hugh moment this time around is, I think, his reaction take after Wilson says that talking to House doesn’t make him feel better; it is a lovely wounded look.
One of the things I’ve always liked about House as a show is that it always recognizes comfortable rationalizations when they are made. We have at our disposal a lot of high-sounding words that can be used to cover up all manner of sin and selfishness – and House is quite good at blasting through those words to the heart of the matter. This episode is certainly no exception: Comson uses his family history to avoid intimacy, and House sees this as the excuse it really is. Because, of course, the point of any relationship is not to avoid pain – the point is to risk pain. If you do not take such a risk, you will not truly open yourself to the love of another person.
Also: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, show, for allowing a character to seek Penance – and for not screwing it up once he got there. Confession is not a “Get Out of Hell Free” card – a good confession involves genuine repentance and appropriate restitution. And thank you once more, show, for acknowledging that the conscience exists – and that it requires spiritual, not psychological, succor.
(Wilson sleepily walks into his living room – and sees what House is – er – doing under his covers.)
WILSON: (disgusted) “Oh… God! I’ll be back in ten!” (He moves to leave.)
HOUSE: “I’m picking lint out of my belly button!”
WILSON: “This is ridiculous. I’m converting the study into a bedroom.”
HOUSE: “Huh. Six weeks. Longer than I thought it would take… for you to notice that I’m sleeping in your living room and offer me other options.”
WILSON: “I didn’t expect you to be here this long!”
HOUSE: “True. But that’s not why you didn’t extend the invitation.”
WILSON: “Do you really need to deconstruct this?”
HOUSE: “You didn’t want me to sleep where you and Amber slept.”
WILSON: (sighing) “Okay, yes, you do.”
HOUSE: “After she died, you converted the study into a bedroom and the bedroom into a study. Except it’s not a study – it’s a shrine.” (A beat.) “Can I tell you something?” (Wilson signals his assent wordlessly.) “I wasn’t picking lint out of my belly button.”
WILSON: (renewed disgust) “Okay… I am… not ready to transition from my dead girlfriend’s shrine to your… morning glory. I’ll have a mattress delivered and set up for you in the tabernacle.” – ROTFL!
(Chase goes to confession.)
CHASE: “Bless me, father, for I have sinned.”
(There is a long pause.)
PRIEST: “Take your time. How long has it been since your last confession?”
CHASE: “I killed a man.”
CHASE: “But it was the right thing to do.”
PRIEST: “Who lives or dies is not your decision to make.”
CHASE: “Sometimes in the operating room it feels like it. I’m a doctor.”
PRIEST: “Well, then you should know more than anybody that every human life is sacred.”
CHASE: “Why? Tell me what’s sacred about a dictator who kills hundreds of thousands of his own people.”
PRIEST: “What is sacred about a doctor who kills a patient?”
CHASE: “Is it just the slippery slope you’re worried about? Afraid that forgiving me for killing the worst person on Earth sets a bad precedent? I promise – I won’t tell anyone. Just forgive me.”
PRIEST: “Saying ten Hail Mary’s isn’t going to do you any good.”
CHASE: “Then what do I have to do? What does God need me to do?”
PRIEST: “You can’t have absolution without first taking responsibility. You have to turn yourself in to the police.”
CHASE: “What – and go to jail for the rest of my life? What’s just about that? I did. the right. thing. There has to be another way.”
PRIEST: “You want absolution? I’ve told you how to get it.” – YES, YES, YES! PERFECT! I would marry this scene too if I weren’t already married to that scene in In the Hands of the Prophets.
(House has just gone to bed. A long moment passes.)
HOUSE: “Hi, Dad… I think I’ve been… focusing on the wrong thing. There were some good times…” (A beat.) “WILSON! This is stupid!”
(We shift to Wilson’s room.)
WILSON: (smiling) “You see? He really is getting better.” – Awwwww.