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

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

'Perils of Paranoia' Episode Review

Perils of Paranoia begins at trial. A lawyer aka our POTW is interestingly prosecuting someone with a false alibi, which could be interpreted as a very subtle link to House and the story of the prop gun (of which more later on). So things are not as they appear. Our POTW thinks he's having a heart attack but it's something much more diagnostically difficult to solve, of course. He shows signs of psychosis via hallucinations but a level of paranoia is discovered when Park finds an arsenal built into his house behind a bookshelf. Books, intellect, mind, so went my trail of thought. Another side to his paranoia is that he won't eat or drink anything not prepared at home which leads the team to think of poison. Instead he is poisoning his own mind. The arsenal is not on the architectural plans, inferring perhaps that the dianosis is not obvious.

Park's paranoia sets in when both Adams and Chase go for Taub as their partner. Adams says that House liked poking ant hills as a kid and that he is an ass who thrives on conflict. But Park retaliates saying he's an intuitive ass. So House does succeed in poking the ant hill, as Park is paranoid about the team not liking her and Adams is paranoid about Park being paranoid and the dynamics of the team. Adams and Park disagree diagnostically and House of course offers the brilliant idea of fighting about it in jello.

Taub recognises that Foreman's life is boring and that he's looking for excitement in the wrong place, ie, anything related to House. Foreman even lied to the patient and ruled out anxiety so House would look at him. He ends up dating a married woman and is paranoid about Taub setting him up when he meets her at the gym. Instead of accepting the invitation from the nurse, he chooses the married woman, choosing to engage in something dangerous and potentially self destructive (aka Housian).

Hilson. The funny antics of the bromance continue, with nets and decoys, both trying to be the cleverest and most devious. The shot of Wilson hanging from the net is priceless. Okay, so the more serious stuff. If you think of the nets they represent not only a literal trap but a feeling of being trapped. Wilson doesn't get House in the net, he traps him in the bathroom, the place of limbo between happiness and destruction we've found House in at key points.

Wilson was justifiably paranoid that House owned a gun. From my point of view House deceived him with the prop gun (which he says he got from a magician, where things are not as they seem, again) not only because he wanted to win but because of why he had the gun in the first place. "Why would I need a gun?". If you note the box says "House" as in it belongs to House from one perspective, but from a more sinister perspective, it is intended for House. It's a metaphor, I don't believe he would actually shoot himself but it's part of his destructive nature to have dark thoughts. House also says "Dangerous people don't break into your home they live in it". It's notable that we actually SEE House take Vicodin for what I believe is the first time since 'Twenty Vicodin' (we can assume he's been taking it when we haven't been looking).

The gun 'theme' runs throughout the episode (connecting the POTWs storyline to House's), and each team member talks about whether they owned one or why they didn't. Guns aren't destructive, people are. So we see a little more about who these characters are in their relations to it. Ironically House's gun serves as the epiphany trigger and the diagnosis is Diphtheria (for which a vaccine exists). The POTW is cured of his symptoms, but not necessarily his paranoia. But perhaps the experience contributes something torwards that. His wife makes them move out and says it's not worth living in fear.

From what I saw there were two notable very touching references to Cuddy. House says "Boggle winning words" when he talks to Park from the bathroom about the dianosis, and of course the sword which refers both to her and to House's father. I hope that means we'll be learning more about him in episodes to come.

The elevator moment between Chase, Park and Adams is just so wonderfully awkward. Chase more or less justifies Park's paranoia when he tells Adams he thinks Park is weird but she doesn't take his no as an answer for a date.

An episode rich in references and symbolism. The POTW story was more of a subplot from my perspective as the Hilson storyline is what captured my attention.

Ps. Reference to piano being the only thing in his apartment worth stealing. Sigh. Piano playing in future eps? Let's hope so.


  1. Hi! So why do you think that House didn't just tell Wilson that the gun was his dad's? Do you think he didn't want to deal with Wilson psychoanalzying him?

    I'm really curious about what was going through House's mind at the end. I do think he was thinking about his dad. I'm just not sure what specifically he was thinking about. Was he wishing their relationship had been different? Was he thinking of how he was a disappointment?

    Interesting thought about the box and what the name "House" symbolizes. I did like how he slightly caressed the box. His dad's gun box. I thought it was kind of sweet.

    Great review! - Tracyhepburnfan

  2. Hi,

    Great review as usual just want to say something:

    You referred to the bathroom as "the place of limbo between happiness and destruction we've found House in at key points." That's very well pointed. When he was trapped there I immediately remember "After Hours". And of course we have "Help me", "Now What", "Bombshells".

    I don't think that House is the suicide type. His self-destruction is of a different nature. I don't believe that he will, by his own accord, kill himself, but I believe that he can put himself in a situation which could lead to his death.

    Yes, it is the first time, since "20 Vicodin", that we see House take the pills. And I don't think it was a random event. I believe it is a sign... for a future story maybe, I don't know.

    I missed the first reference to Cuddy but I don't think that the sword was a Cuddy reference. It reminds us of "Now What" surely, but to me, he was thinking about his father. I'm expecting that this scene to be the beginning of a bigger story.

    Ana (@ana_m_q)

  3. Thank you!

    I think House still finds it incredibly hard to talk about his dad and his past, it was something so out of his control which is unusual for House. By keeping this guarded he's in control, Wilson can't psychoanalyze him as you said and make him deal with everything.

    The box at the end really got me thinking. His expression seemed a mixture between nostalgia and sadness. I think it was definitely a reference to the fact that we'll be learning more about House's relationship with his dad soon. Thanks for the questions and comment.

  4. Thanks Ana!

    House's bathroom has always fascinated me because of what it represents.

    I agree with you about House not purposely committing suicide but destroying himself via his addictions to medicine, mystery and misery. The pill popping was fairly subtle but it made me think it reinforced his dark side and destructive behaviour.

    I do think the sword referred to both Cuddy and his father. Two people he loved, had complicated relationships with and lost. It was perhaps more relevant in terms of John because of what we have to come, hopefully House dealing with his past and his father.

  5. Yay! (Again. I guess I'll just start all my comments on your blog with that.) Loved the episode and the theme of paranoia. Somehow the last sentence of the patient's wife stuck with me - even if there might be a reason to fear things, it's not a way she wants to live her life.

    "Dangerous people don't break into your home they live in it".

    Yes, that line caught my attention as well, but only reading this review did I realize that no, it can not only mean your SO, it can also mean yourself. Which is what makes Taub's reply about House's head not being a nice place to live in all the more poignant.

    Love your line about people being destructive, not guns.

    Wilson doesn't get House in the net, he traps him in the bathroom, the place of limbo between happiness and destruction we've found House in at key points.

    Really nice observation. (And phrasing.)
    On a less serious note, I loved the scene when Wilson opens the door and the complete randomness of "sunglasses, tennis racket and money clip". (Now I want fanfic about how House came to take them and what they mean.)

    Also, for whatever reason, I love that House is keeping sword and gun in his bedroom closet, not in the hall. It's even more personal and hidden this way. And that last scene with him... sadness, conflict, nostalgia, hauntedness? It's really open and it will be interesting to see where we go from here next year. In a way, this whole episode is very ambivalent, people's fears/paranoia/risky behaviour being put on display, but it not being clear in which direction all of it may go. Chekhov's gun?

    PS: Reference to piano being the only thing in his apartment worth stealing. - Lovely, thank you, I didn't get that line.

    Oh, and by the way, we saw House taking vicodin in "Transplant" as well, but I think you are right, not since then.

  6. Esther, thanks so much for your comments! I love that you start your posts with "Yay", no complaining here.

    I definitely agree that the episode is ambivalent towards paranoia and symptoms of a physical disease intertwine with that of a psychological nature as we saw in 'Dead and Buried'.

    Also I (obviously) hadn't noticed House taking Vicodin in 'Transplant' so I'll have to look out for that next time, thanks.

  7. Steph,

    2 questions for you :

    -do you think the gun was real or fake ?
    -do you think the woman in the clinic was a hooker House asked to come in ?

    I'm wondering, i thought the gun was fake...but some think it's real !!


  8. Well done, Steph!

    (I feel better writing in spanish, jeje). Espero no haya problemas.

    Nada que agregar.

    Sólo quería comentar que los intentos de los escritores para tratar de traer a House M.D. a su fórmula original, están dando frutos. Y espero que sigan así...

    Siempre es interesante leer "un análisis sabio de los episodios".

    Saludos y sigue cultivando ese gran talento que tienes para escribir...
    (¿Por qué no te han escogido como guionista en House?)


  9. Mel,

    The whole clinic patient scene looked incredibly suspicious. But I think that was the point, to make us wonder, rather than make the answer obvious. She could be a hooker (which I considered as soon as I saw the scene), but more likely she is just a hot patient and for House, if he's not got an interesting diagnostics case he'll make the most of clinic duty. There was a distinctly mischievous look by the door though.

    The gun is definitely real in my opinion. House pretended it was a fake, saying that it was capped at the end and wouldn't actually shoot anything. But we saw at the end of the scene that he was lying (when the pencil fell further down and the bullet he "put" in was actually in his hand, and he drops it into the cup). And like I said in my review, he said that the "prop" belonged to a magician (where things are not as they appear). Most people are saying the gun belonged to his dad, which would make sense considering he was a marine. Even if it wasn't, he has it for a reason.

  10. César,

    You are too kind! Thank you.

    I agree that going back to the foundations is paying off. They haven't tried to make episodes like they used to be, they've moved forward using classic Housian elements in a new way.

  11. Thanks Steph for your point of view !!! i need to re watch it now cause i did not see these details about the gun !
    For the hooker, yeah i guess the 2 versions are plausible ;)

  12. That's nice of you, Steph! You know I love your texts. :D

    I love how the writer shows the paranoia in this episode... :D That's all what I can say... But...

    Can I translate it (your production) into spanish? Can I write it in House MD Space (my blog)? (Obviously, I will give you the credits you deserve) I would love that... but it's your decision.

    I'll be posting a new comment in a while, after I re-watch the episode. It will be larger...

    Hope you are having a great day...

    Buenas noches...
    Keep it up!/Sigue así!

  13. Sure! Yes, if you link your blog to mine (so people can see the original) you can credit me as the source. Will look forward to reading your comments as well.