Monday, April 30, 2012

[H]ouse, M.D. episode 8x19 "The C-Word"


We debated for weeks what the "C-Word" meant. Some said cancer, others (like me) said change because cancer was too obvious.  In my opinion it stands for both Cancer and Change. Because both are here.

In this week's case, the illness hits close to home. The POTW is sick with an illness her mother specializes in and her mother is desperate to find a cure. The mother joins the team temporarily to help them diagnose her daughter. In the end, she finds she can't be objective.

In our parallel plot, Wilson, head of Oncology and expert in his field is sick with an illness he specializes in and he's also desperate to find a cure. Wilson goes to four specialists, well known oncologists at four major hospitals and finds that all of them concur on his treatment but he disagrees with them. He doesn't want the traditional safe route, he wants a more radical approach that can likely kill him. Like the POTW's mother, Wilson is too close to the patient because he is the patient. He can't be objective here. In comes House to try and talk some sense in to him. I thought for a moment "Wait a minute--they've switched bodies!"

It seems the shoe was now on the other foot. Wilson, the usually calm and rational one was about to do something insane and dangerous and it was up to House to talk him out of it.  Knowing that Wilson was going to find a way to do this without him, House agrees to help him in his apartment. Knowing the risks of going to jail if Wilson should die, House was willing to help him anyway. House's actions remind me of the many times Wilson has enabled House.

Hugh Laurie directed this episode and I must say that he did an incredible job. Hugh is known as the actor's director and for good reason. He pays attention to detail, he understands the actors, he's focused and he has a vision and creativity that is all his own. It paid off for the direction in this episode was outstanding. 

The good moments:
  • House sacrificing his few remaining Vicodin pills for Wilson. Notice that House lied to Wilson telling him he had stashes all over the apartment. When he told Wilson that all I could think of was "not again House!" but I was proven wrong when it urns out while House is taking Vicodin he doesn't seem to be doing it in an irresponsible manner as he did in earlier seasons and after the breakup with Cuddy. Surely we all thought he'd have a stash of thousands hidden in textbooks and walls in his apartment. Not so.

  • House helping Wilson into the bathroom. There was something beautiful about the crippled House leaning down and taking Wilson into his arms and helping him to the bathroom that just made me want to cry. It's always been Wilson doing these things for House, and now House is doing this for Wilson. Make no mistake, House has been there for Wilson in the past. Remember, he gave Wilson a place to stay when his wife kicked him out, he helped Wilson realize his marriage was over and that he had to get a lawyer and move on, he risked his own life to try and save Amber, he brought Wilson out of his post-Amber funk during the trip to John House's funeral, he was there for him after Wilson donated part of his liver.  The things House has done for Wilson have been subtle, yet to Wilson it meant a great deal.

  • House wanting to take Wilson to the hospital but abiding by Wilson's wishes that he did not want to die in the ambulance or in the hospital. Surely I thought that House would break his promise because he cared more about Wilson than some stupid promise. I was wrong. It's not often he could make promises to Wilson so maybe this was his way of making the sacrifice. He knew damn well if Wilson died in his apartment, he'd have to explain himself and likely go to jail. They even talked about it. House seemed resigned to putting his friend's well-being first.

  • House and Wilson sharing the painkiller morphine together. Joking about the cemetery near the park with the lake view.

  • Wilson hallucinating his 8-year old dead cancer patient. That was Wilson's guilt complex taking hold. Amazing scene.

  • Wilson telling House about why he wants the radical treatment. They're in his office and Wilson points to the memorabilia he has related to three patients, all different ages, all who had extremely high rates of survival yet they all died anyway despite the survival rates.  You would think that as a doctor Wilson could be clear-headed and objective but this is his life now. He knows the risks, for him it's all or nothing. 

  • Wilson screaming "WHY ME?" and talking about how House makes everyone miserable and is an ass and implying House should be the one dying of cancer, not him. I was taken back by that amazing scene. The guilt House must have felt in that moment...for all the things he's done in his life and it's his best friend, the kind and caring one who is dying.

The not-so-good moments
  • The patient of the week. I liked this little girl and her case but this case should have been in another episode where it would not be overshadowed by the secondary plot. Also, I would have liked to see House's interaction with the mother as she sat in with the team. House has an issue with parents and the fact that this parent was also the patient's doctor would have made for interesting interaction. 

  • The ever-so-present misogyny on this show. If it's not hookers it's strippers. If it's not hookers or strippers it's women in some sort of undress. The only thing I liked about the very last scene it is how it made Wilson laugh really hard and for a moment he was able to forget about his impending death sentence. Other than that though, more young scantily clad women? Seriously? Could there be just ONE episode?

Other thoughts
  • Was Wilson's behavior out of character? We know Wilson has always been a pretty rational and well-thought out guy. He's not one to make hasty decisions (unless you count marriage proposals). He's careful and weighs his options.  That said, the Wilson we have seen for years never would have underwent such a radical treatment as he did in this episode. It's just not like him. However, given that Wilson has always been a calm rational guy, is it completely out of character to freak out over being diagnosed with the disease you've spent 20 years trying to treat and eradicate? Is it out of character for Wilson to be scared to death of this disease now that he's afflicted with it? Is it out of character for a normally cool and rational guy to suddenly do insane things? Make insane choices? Participate in risky acts? I can't answer that. In my opinion it could go either way. It would make sense to me that the normally rational Wilson suddenly be scared to death. He's watched so many patients die over the years, he's been by their bedside, he's even helped some of them along in the end. The doctor is now the patient. That can't be easy to accept.

  • House and Wilson swapping roles.  Normally, Wilson is House's conscience. Now House has to be Wilson's conscience and he's going to find it's a big responsibility. We see in this and upcoming episodes that Wilson's doing some pretty un-Wilson like things and House has to either talk him out of them or be there with him to make sure he doesn't get himself into trouble. Roles have reversed. How will House handle it? Will House realize what it's like to be in Wilson's shoes? Being calm, cool, rational and preventing Wilson from doing insane things. And will Wilson suddenly realize for a moment what it's like to be in House's shoes? In pain all the time, worried, scared and fearing the inevitable?

  • How will House react seeing Wilson behave in a reckless manner? Can House handle this? Watching his best friend imitate his own behavior? If he has to be Wilson's rock and support, he can no longer put himself first. That's hard for House. Can he do it? What will it mean for his future? 

  •  Did David Shore put plot before character?  Did Shore throw Wilson and House out of character in an effort to go out with a bang? Some say Wilson would never act this irrational after his own cancer diagnosis. Ask anyone who has been watching this series for a long time and they'll tell you that putting plot before character sounds eerily like what took place in Season 7. 

  • Why now? Why is House able to be there for someone he cares about now We're all wondering the answer to this one.  When Cuddy feared kidney cancer in "Bombshells" House had a hard time being there for her. Whether it was making jokes, having his team sit with her instead of his being there, or playing video games with Foreman, House could not bring himself to be there for Cuddy. We know why. He loved her and he was scared to death of losing her and scared to death of the pain he was feeling. Thing is, no matter what he was feeling, he needed to be there for her because she was scared too.  He was finally there for her when he got the news the tumor cells had spread and she was dying (or so they thought). But it took a Vicodin for him to have the courage to be by her side. How is it that House couldn't be what Cuddy needed then (though he did try) but he can be there for Wilson now? 
Here's my random thought on this...House is remorseful, he lost the woman he loved and he knows he did some things wrong and he regrets them. Outwardly he's the same ass we've always known and still hides his pain and his fear. He's opened himself up a few times and gotten so hurt that he just can't do it again. Inside he hurts just as he always has, it's what we love about him. We know he's changed but...   

The problem with the above explanation is that while we believe it because we want to believe it and because that's how it should have been, we've never actually seen it, not this season anyway.  David Shore never shown us any real change in House. We're having to assume he's changed, it's inferred but this is crazy for if the viewers have to assume, what's the point of writing?  For me, Hugh's expressions as House say so much but we need more than that, we need Shore to show us and tell us in House's actions and words. We need to see it for ourselves, we should not be forced to use our imaginations as to what the character is thinking or feeling. We should have been given real hints at House's changes that would lead us to believe that the reason he can be there now for Wilson while it was much more difficult for him to be there for Cuddy is because he has changed, he has learned  from his mistakes and yeah he wants to do better, just like he told Cuddy. Without those steps, it feels incomplete, like we were cheated out of watching this character grow and evolve.

  •  Where are the strong and intelligent women of [H]ouse?  There are no strong women characters left on this show. With the departure of Lisa Edelstein, the show lost its only strong, intelligent, vibrant, sassy, and sexy leading female character.  With the loss of Lisa, the show lost part of the dynamic that balanced the main character, she was part of what made him whole.  Cuddy was House's foil, he needs her as much as she needs him, as much as he needs Wilson or Wilson needs him. These three depended on one another for different reasons, different needs.  Olivia Wilde, Charlyne Yi, and Odette Annable were never strong characters, they weren't meant to be, and they do not make up for that loss.  And while we're at it, where the heck is Katie Jacobs? She was the other half of the dynamic duo that created this series. She hasn't done an episode since early Season 6. None of the directors are women. There are a few women writers left and you'd think that these women (Lingenfelter, Hess, Friedman) could write strong women characters but it's just not happening. Either they're not interested or Shore put a lid on it.

Again, the acting/directing in this episode was terrific. Now, going into the final three episodes next week, I feel like something is missing. I was talking with my friends aka "the usual suspects" (as I love to call them) the other day and we all agreed that it would have been phenomenal if Cuddy had been a part of this episode and those that follow. Can you imagine the three of them arguing over Wilson's treatment, the legal and moral ramifications? Can you imagine House, Cuddy, and Wilson going through this cancer experience together? Trying to balance each other? It would have been Emmy winning material, not to mention amazing closure to the incredible triumvirate dynamic of this show.

I won't stop saying I miss Cuddy. I can't help it! She was an important part of the dynamic and the lives of its two leading male characters. As we're coming down to the wire, where House and Wilson are facing some really incredible life-changing events, I just wish she'd been a part of it. Alas, she is not (unless a miracle happens!) and so I keep watching, because I really want to see this through to the end.  Despite what the writers and Shore have done to change the dynamic of this show, something still binds me to House and his journey. I'm the kind of person who roots for the underdog, wants him to succeed, even after all he's done to others and especially after all he's been through...all the hurt and pain that he has endured in his life. Why? Because in some ways he's me, he's you, he's all of us!

It's this little thing I like to call hope.


In closing, this blog wouldn't be complete without thanking the usual suspects! They know who they are and they better be reading this. Without them laughing, crying, and ranting over this show all this time would have been no fun at all!

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