Welcome to Dissecting House: a blog dedicated to the television show House MD, where analytical reviews of season 8 episodes are posted weekly.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Twenty Vicodin Episode Review

The episode begins at a slow pace and increases with the tension of how the five days, split to create a heightened sense of prolonged time, will treat House. We find that he will be released on parole if he behaves for five days. Of course, things aren't that simple. Medicine is at the heart of the episode because it is what drives House to be who he is. As much as he wants to be released, the intrigue of a medical mystery is actually his imprisonment.

This follows with the fact that House turned himself in. It makes sense for House to be found in jail after the controversial finale crash into Cuddy's house. However, House chose to go to jail. I think this is a very important factor to consider. As Dr. Adams points out, he could have got a much better deal legally but he chose to punish himself. Either fully aware or subconsciously aware, he desperately wants to regain control of his own life.

House is not however the alpha dog in jail. The "Nazi bitches" run the jail and tax House more when they realise he is going on parole. He has five days to collect 20 Vicodin to give them.

On the other hand, he becomes a puppet master as he immediately captivates Dr. Adams' attention. She's impressed by how he manages to read her so readily and sees his unique diagnostic capabilities first hand. House talks about undertaking a PhD in dark matter, the original title for the episode. He says that there is 6 times more "stuff" than can be detected and that it is the "greatest mystery of them all". Dr. Adams tells him it's "divorced from humanity" which is ironic because I still believe it could be seen as a metaphor for House. He is dark, complex and often hard to understand/misunderstood. He tries (and very often succeeds) in diagnosing what no one else can see.

Dr. Adams, being a new character is probably more scrutinised than others. She is obviously impressed by House's talents and bows down to his needs. At first she is merely a puppet, controlled by House's manipulative and yet proven intellect. But she shows promise when she reacts as House would ("cool") to the lack of clotting in the patient's earlobe. She takes initiative regardless of the consequences at the end, believing in House but acting because she wants to (which shows strength of character). She is fired but (spoiler)it's very likely her actions are repayed by being hired as part of the team, because House makes it happen.

I very much like House's 'gentle giant' cellmate. Of course, he's not so gentle when he comes to House's rescue. I really enjoyed their relationship and the humour in the fact that he could crush House at any moment, "Or I say thank you for not killing me". I think besides fear House has a genuine connection with him, protecting him from the consequences of being found with contraband. I think that's partly why he threw the collected Vicodin away, but I think he was also trying his hardest to stay away from trouble and start a new life. But medicine draws him back in (he mentions wanting to look at a return's policy for his talent). When I saw the promo I thought he would cause chaos (by throwing the Vicodin pills in the air) to get into solitary, but it was in fact to get to the clinic to try and save his patient, who as it happens, does not have Lupus.

I can't believe we're finally onto Season 8! Feels like we'd waited forever. But I can say that it was most definitely worth the wait. I thought it was an incredible season opener with a nice window into the consequences of his actions and his addiction to medicine (not just Vicodin). One thing I did miss was music (edit: besides the instrumental). I always love the soundtracks on House.

Now onto "Transplant"! Check out my blog post on it (from a while back), looks like I was along the right lines (spoiler) with House being taken to PPTH under a parole leash to treat a particularly diagnostically challenging patient.


  1. I also really liked the episode and found it also interesting that House chose to go to jail. Well, after being 3 months in a foreign country.
    The cricket story was my favourite part of the episode :P
    I hope that after House gets out of jail we don't have to worry about some of the "nazi bitches" retaliating for the uproar he caused in the end. I want House to be save and not die at the end of this season.

  2. I actually loved the lack of music. Worked very well with the subdued atmosphere and went a long way to distinguish this epi from Broken.

    his addiction to medicine

    YES. That's also why I'm still enamoured of the original "Dark Matter". It can't be seen directly, but its gravitational effects influence everything around it. House can't help but be pulled back in by his own personal Dark Matter instead of the big one he wanted to pursue.

  3. Thanks for the comments!

    Anna, I also loved the cricket part. Moral of the story: Take care of the little things and the big things take care of you, haha. Luckily, in terms of the "Nazi bitches", I don't think any of them will get into much trouble as they only got a punch in before House's cellmate knocked them down, so it's unlikely they would seek revenge. Well, fingers crossed anyway...

    Esther, I agree that without music more attention is paid to the words that then create the sense and tone of what's happening. I would just have liked a little bit more at certain parts to further emphasize the tension.

    I absolutely loved theorising about dark matter. Not only is it fascinating in a scientific context but also in terms of how it affects humanity and what it could represent.

  4. Hee, I've rewatched it by now and realized that the musical score is really really fantastic actually. I just love what the composer did at the beginning, when we are following House around, and for me, it's absolutely enough to emphasize the tense moments; actual songs might have even had the opposite effect. (I also love the complete silence in solitary.)

    what it could represent

    Yup. I also thought about how much of a person we actually don't see, and how much we infer from other things, and draw conclusions from the effects of the things people don't say or show easily. I think that's especially relevant for House and how the audience reacts to him.

  5. yeeeah great review !!! :)

    i really like that fact that there is no song in it, cause it create this special ambiance i think.
    loved to see House vulnerable for once !


  6. Thanks Mel!! I also loved seeing House vulnerable. I loved his sense of self preservation rather than self destruction when he threw the pills away. He could easily have taken many more but he stopped himself.

    Also, you guys are winning me over with the whole no music thing. I watched the beginning again and I have to admit the intrumental alone does enhance the tone and create tension.

  7. (Re: Anna) OK. I think my screen must have frozen during the fight because I didn't see how much House's cellmate punched Mendelson. I think you're right when you say revenge is a high risk probability.