House MD – David Shore (Cr.), Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Lisa Edelstein, Robert Sean Leonard, Jennifer Morrison, Jesse Spencer
NEWSFLASH: There have been reports of both women and men frantically making out with posters all over the tri-state area…and it’s totally understandable.
Season 3 – Episode 12 – One Day, One Room
This article is breaking almost every one of my formal rules and guidelines dealing with this site, but you’ll see why in a little bit.
Part of the reason I began writing this website over a year ago was to reeducate myself with a bevy of cinematic classics that I have missed by way of disinterest, lethargy, and uselessness. Too often, after a long day of work, I have decided to opt into the mind-numbing silliness of How I Met Your Mother, Battleship or any number of meaningless mental diversions. Avoiding the big thoughts and emotions was simple. Of course I should engorge myself on a Haneke whenever I have a chance, a Von Trier perhaps, or even a sprinkling of Welles or a dash of Hitchcock (a dash of Hitchcock is about the size of one normal human being)…but that sounds like wooooooork (with the elongated vowels for Extra Whine (TM)). Just one more episode of Buffy and I swear I’ll try out something challenging, I promise…
Well, along with my time-wasting TV addiction, I recently began supping on the expansive feast that is House MD, David Shore’s modern day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes with a whole lot less Cumberbatch and a whole lot more botulism. The series, a vehicle for the immensely talented and transformed wet-blanket fop of British televised myth, Hugh Laurie, runs the gamut of exceedingly excellent hospital television to utterly absurd medical nonsense. Its cases are near-impossible, between the ridiculous combinations of rare genetic diseases, to the improbable conflagrations of accidents and internal diagnostic nightmares, all perfectly timed in a weekly manner. It gives the sense that New Jersey is riddled with every uncommon defect known to man, usually shaken in a toxic cocktail of temporally precise downward symptomatic progression. God forbid if these patients don’t have an issue that causes them to puke blood after a meaningful conversation with a fellow, serendipitously placed just before an act-break.
House MD conquered the airways while Jack Bauer was still in his constitution-ignoring, counter-terrorism, testicle-electricuting infancy, becoming one of the forebears of the new golden age of hour-long cable dramas. Well-scripted, well-shot, brilliantly acted, it set the bar high, especially with shit-fests such as the boobie and genital-rubbing hilarity that is Grey’s Anatomy clogging its competitor’s primetime slots. At the center of it all is Gregory House, the not-too-subtly malformation of Holmes’ chosen appellation. He runs the Diagnostics department of Princeton Plainsboro, a teaching hospital, with the ever-sexualized and sharp Lisa Cuddy (Inspector Lestrade) as his water-treading wrangler, along with a not-eighteen-anymore Robert Sean Leonard, definitely not standing on desks or shooting himself in the head, as enabler and best friend James Wilson (get it? John Watson? You’ll get there).
“Is that a bottle of Vicoden in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”
House, like Holmes, is a genius and an asshole. Instead of foiling criminals with mind bending methods of deductive reasoning, he diagnoses diseases nobody has ever heard of (but it’s never Lupus…except when it is), all the while insulting everything with a pulse in his immediate surrounding. This includes, but is not limited to, his squadron of fellows consisting of a mostly-whimpering Jennifer Morrison, a ferocious Omar Epps, and a bemusingly Australian Jesse Spencer (with additions later on). House chastises, offends, bullies, and verbally brutalizes his way through every ‘case’ until he gets what he wants. No case is ever (so far at least) left unsolved. There’s always an answer and House just needs to find it. What gets him there might be an unethical test, an unproven method, a disregard for the patient’s wishes, or a hackneyed final act illumination of light bulb while engaging in an utterly unrelated conversation. It isn’t realistic, but it sure is good television.
Oh yes, and he’s addicted to Vicoden. That’s important too.
In their third season, as the three puppy doctors, or Scooby Gang, begin scraping the bottom of the ‘Character Arc’ barrel (I think George R.R. Martin co-opted most of the good stuff) Shore injects his series with an essential element: an enemy. David “I Will Fuck You Up Just By Staring At You” Moore shows up in a six-episode stretch as a cop with a House-shaped chip on his shoulder. He’s there to kick some House ass and chew Nicorette. And he’s all out of Nicorette. Well, SPOILERS, to escape jail, House attends rehab and narrowly avoids the big house (no pun intended. Wait, is that not a pun? WHAT THE FUCK IS A PUN?). It seems as though the asshole doctor has seen the error of his ways, cleaned himself up and altered his parasitic relationship with the ever-beleaguered Wilson. But then…a TWIST! He was faking! It was like watching the end of Alice and Wonderland and learning it was all a dream! (Where the Mad Hatter is a black doctor, the March Hare sounds like a drunk Hugh Jackman and the Cheshire Cat has an exceptional collection of push-up bras) All that character stuff? Yep, fabricated bullshit. He’s still an addict. He’s still using. He’s still a dickbag. An entire bag…of dicks. Like, just dicks. Nothing else in there. Just…dicks. That’s right. Dicks.
So, the next episode was pretty much the most brilliant thing the show could have ever conceived.
“I’m sorry, blonde lady. Test results show that you’re probably going to be in a movie about you getting possessed. It’s terminal.” ~ House, predictor of career false-starts.
In the immediate aftermath, having robbed the fans of any catharsis of merit, Shore tosses us probably the most curved ball of all. There is no ‘case’ this time. House gets stuck in a room with a rape victim. Now, the cynic in all of us immediately thinks, “Fuck, this is the ‘rape‘ episode. Get the Emmy pleading out of the way so we can get back to little black girls pooping out of their mouths!” And, I’m sure this was the episode handed to the voting committee that year…though it wasn’t nominated. That’s not the point. For a show that offers neat, tidy, everything-in-the-universe-has-its-place answers to every fucking riddle, suddenly, when House is at his most invulnerable, he’s tossed something he can’t answer and he can’t fix. In previous episodes, if there’s someone who’s paraplegic before he has a stroke, turns out it’s really a curable tumor in their brain! The dwarf teenager? Not a dwarf after House finds a curable tumor in her brain! That autistic kid? Well, actually, he’s still totally autistic. But you get the point. This fucking show stretches the realm of believability to the outer shores of fucking Neverland.
But then there’s One Day, One Room. One would expect, as with most television shows, that rape is the wonderful award-show word dropped into sweeps season to garner as much hollow praise as possible. The poor victims of this heinous crime are further exploited like some kind of former child-actress spewing botox-tears in a Lifetime movie about a dog biting off her face. Instead, this episode derails the show entirely. And not in a Matrix Revolutions thousands-of-people-died-in-the-crapitude-of-this-film sort of way. There is no case. There is no solution. House is stuck in a room with a rape victim and he is the only person to whom she’ll talk. For once, House doesn’t berate and belittle, but finds himself lost at sea, grasping for logic where it can’t be found. What begins as a hopeless case becomes a philosophical debate where he doesn’t already know the answer to his own rhetorical questions.
The reason I bring this up, while breaking all of my own rules, you know, by writing about TV and stuff, is because this episode actually made me think. What with the Daniel Toshes of the world, the Dane Cooks, and the [insert bland taint-scraping male comedian here] making rape joke after rape joke at the expense of the victim and humankind in general, it’s nice to see House, this bastion of logic and male domination, of intellectual and infallible pride, actually stumped with a riddle that has no answer. That riddle of course being: how do you cope with rape? It’s a question few people like to touch without exploitation and even fewer know how to explore without belittling. For the first time in the show’s history, House doesn’t call his patient a moron. Granted, his bedside manner is still as abrasive as usual, but that’s clearly due to his own self-sware short-comings, not his patient’s. The two discuss abortion (him for it, her against), the existence of God, eternal punishment, and reason in the universe. They don’t talk about whose fault it was, what she was wearing, where she was, who it was, why it was, when it was or anything else that might try to explain this crime away. In the end, it comes down to: if there is a God, why would he let this happen? If there isn’t, how do you make this make sense?
I’m not kidding. There is so much damn talking in this episode. And it’s GREAT.
There is no answer. There is no final act revelation. There is no obligatory zoom-in realization. His eyes don’t pop while eating chicken nuggets with a leukemia patient before sprinting back to the OR insisting on a colonoscopy (no joke, shit like that actually happens. No pun intended. Wait…HELP. WHAT IS A PUN?). Rather, the episode puts emphasis on the fact that conversation is essential. Talking is the first step. Rape is not solely a female problem. Men can be allies. Even if an priggish solipsist like House, who flaunts his masculinity and misanthropy at every chance he gets, can be an ally, then so can we all. Too often rape is written off as something that “just doesn’t happen here” (yeah, go fuck yourselves, Yale). It does. It’s happened to people I know. It’s happened, in a way, to me. Loss of power is fucking terrifying. It changes everything for the victim. It’s nice to see a show that doesn’t just discuss it, but immerses itself in the issue to the point that you cannot let this chapter of House pass you by without forcing yourself to consider its existential quandaries.
After being robbed of House’s humbling, this was the perfect next step. Bravo, House MD. You can be ridiculous, more outlandish than a Mad Max convention on meth, and as misanthropic as Howard Hughes after a healthy dose of crazy pills, but you did good. The conversation obviously isn’t over. But if shows like House can do it, so can the rest. Let’s see more of it, people.