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

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

'The C Word' Episode Review

The patient this week is a six year old girl Emily who has a rare genetic disease (AT). As she is a double carrier of the gene marker it means she doesn't present with the usual symptoms. Emily convinces her dad to let her ride the carousel at the park. After spells of dizziness she begins to have a nosebleed and collapses. Emily's parents are separated, and following the Season 8 theme of  'parents', hers argue constantly about her health and well being. In simplistic terms, it could be argued that the father represents the 'heart', taking an interest in his daughter's emotions, while the mother is the 'head', taking interest in her daughter's medical condition. The constant back and forth demonstrates the necessary interplay of the two. Her mother is a doctor who specialises in Emily's genetic condition. She joins the team. Although she tries to distance herself by referring to Emily as 'the patient' we see the impossibility of objectivity in the case. This parallels Wilson's cancer treatment. He refuses to follow medical advice and believes that he can be his own doctor. House highlights the insanity of his plan to endure a double treatment of chemotherapy and radiation because of the extreme side effects and a much higher risk that it might kill him. Wilson can't be objective despite being an oncologist. In a moving scene he picks up mementos of patients with high survival rates who passed away.

The mother takes matters into her own hands and treats Emily with a drug that is not FDA approved in her own home, which is a mirror to House accepting to treat Wilson at his apartment. It demonstrates the inevitability of loving someone so much that your heart overrides your head. In both cases these drastic treatments momentarily appear life saving (the Lex-2 was keeping Emily's lime disease at bay and Wilson appears stronger at the end), but Emily still has AT and Wilson still has cancer.

The team works with the help of Emily's mom Elizabeth, but we see a striking moment of House's empty chair. Chase takes over the diagnostics and ends up solving the case by finding a benign tumour in Emily's heart. The ducklings have proven that they can handle even an incredibly intricate case on their own. Strikes a chord about the end...

The scenes in House's apartment were incredibly moving. To see House give Wilson his Vicodin was heartbreaking in the best possible way; putting Wilson first, suffering alongside him and doing everything he can, truly demonstrated the depth of their friendship. In his Housian way he even tries to dissuade Wilson from taking the drastic route by bluntly stating all the agonising pain he will suffer. When Wilson begins to talk about dying and the implications this will mean for House legally (as Wilson is taking  lethal chemicals in his apartment) House replies that 'that's not going to be an issue'. Now, in my opinion, there are several ways of interpreting this. House jokes about dumping the body, but I think either he refuses to believe Wilson will die, or, and it gets darker here, if Wilson dies he would kill himself (as his life would no longer be worth living)... Back to the humour, in the wonderful Housian fashion, House manages to joke about how if Wilson's confessing his gay love for him, everybody already knows.

Wilson always imagined he would have wife and kids to support him during his old age or infirmity. Again, House comes out with 'you have everything you need right here. We both do.' Touching moment followed by 'industrial strength pain killer' just shows brilliance in writing. Wilson hallucinates about his eight year old patient who dies of cancer, who he told that things would get better and he would be ok. Wilson's fears are infiltrating his unconscious and manifesting themselves as hallucinations because of the drugs. He feels helpless, like a child. At the peak of his suffering he implicitly tells House that he should be the one with cancer, that if he (Wilson) had been an ass all his life who made people suffer and pushed them away, then he would deserve cancer. Another part of  the human condition, the fear of death. Wilson takes out his anger on House because of the apparent absurdity of it all; including the dark irony (as I mentioned after last week's episode) of an oncologist getting cancer. He suffers an existential crisis about the meaning of life and why the universe would do this to him, and realises the hypocrisy of telling his patients not to think about why. Wilson is dying, his white blood cell count is dangerously low but he makes House promise he won't take him to the hospital. In what he believes could be his dying moment, all he wants is to be there and have House by his side. As the sun rises bright in the sky the next morning it tells us that Wilson has lived through the night, and that House has sacrificed a lot for his best friend. But he'd rather 'tone down the bromance' so we'll leave it at that.

I loved the ending because it was so wonderfully inappropriate and funny. I laughed and almost cried simultaneously. Housian dark humour at its best. House takes pictures of Wilson unconscious, hooked up to the drugs with lots of bikini clad girls and alcohol. Absolutely fantastic episode! It was so well written and I really enjoyed Hugh's direction, especially the close ups and the moments when House and Wilson are looking beyond the camera addressing one another. I have to say the music was great in this episode, really complemented the mood and narrative.

Speculation- This is just a scenario that played in my head, that I thought I'd share. It will sound farfetched and maybe 'denial-y' but once an idea blossoms it sticks no matter how improbable or impossible it sounds. Not saying this is what will happen. Emily talks about how her parents only fight about her, and that maybe when she dies, they will get back together. I have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that it won't be Wilson who dies, it will be House. In my mind, daddy is Wilson and mommy is Cuddy (not in the romantic sense). I think that if there is any chance she is coming back, it would be in the sense that it's 'too late'. Again, I'm not saying this is what will happen and it's based on absolutely NO fact (I'm spoiler free). It's just a scenario. That is all.


  1. Tracyhepburnfan-

    I didn't get the idea of H thinking he will kill himself if Wilson died. When he said "It's not an issue," I took that to mean that, for him, it doesn't matter. Wilson needs him, and he is going to do this for Wilson regardless of the consequences to himself. He was willing to give his pain meds to Wilson. He would go back to jail for him.

    Great parallel between potw/mom and Hosue/Wilson. Agree that Hugh did a great job directing.

    As for your speculation regarding Cuddy. I don't know. I hate to even think about House dying. That is truly the one death, I cannot handle. I do think that if she heard that he had died, she would come back. I don't think she hates him, even now. A part of her would always love him. So she would be heartbroken if she heard that House died. If Wilson died, I think she would come back too. To pay her respects to Wilson and mourn him, and also to check up on House(even though she may hide that particular motive).

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      My interpretation of House killing himself would be more a passive act of giving up than a great dramatic scene in which he ends his life. I think losing Wilson would be more agonising to him than anything else that could happen, including his own pain and not being able to practice medicine. But again, it was just a thought.

      The speculation was more an idea than a concrete theory, but I did find it interesting. I do agree that Cuddy could also come back if Wilson dies. I like the idea that she would put everything behind her if catastrophe hit. I definitely thinks she still loves House, as he does her, but she's hurt and angry which absolutely makes sense. So curious about what will actually happen!

  2. Tracyhepburnfan-

    I've been going back and forth with others over House giving up on life if Wilson dies. I hate that idea so much. I just mean the idea of House thowing in the towel upsets me. There is no doubt that Wilson dying would devastate House. There would be a hole in his heart. I want to think that with time, House could find a way to keep living. He would fight. He would find that life is still worth living.

    I too am very curious over what will happen. My mind is a blank over what could happen to House, haha. I love to speculate, but I have no idea what could possibly happen. LOL

    I love your reviews! It's pretty awesome the things you notice.

    1. I find it really interesting how people see character development so thanks for sharing. The idea that House would give up is extremely distressing, I agree. I just feel that Wilson's death could push him over the edge. Of course, no way of knowing unless it happens. I just love that this episode focused on their friendship and everything it involves.

      Thanks for your lovely comment as well.

  3. Brlliant episode my fav, well ever actually!
    Good solid POTW story good to see the team as you say dealing with it and winning.
    Loved all the H/W interaction, especially all the touchy-feely stuff. Even Wilson striking out at House, seemed in keeping to me, as you feel you can when in pain or unhappy with those closest to you.
    Out of this world acting from RSL and HL and the directing was just right with very good music offerings fitting just right as you said.
    I really hope your wrong as I don't want either of them to die! But thanks for as usual clarifing my thoughts and pointing out stuff I don't always think about.

    1. Oh, great! It's definitely my favourite in terms of House/Wilson. You're so right about the acting, it really was brilliant; the more dramatic scenes as well as the subtleties (expressions, movements...).

      I will absolutely sob if either of them die, I'm sure of it. It would make for an intense ending though.

      Thank you for your comment!

  4. Another great episode and another great review.

    Whatever happens in the end, I suspect Chase will move up significantly from his current role as a fellow. This entire season has been very carefully and subtly expanding Chase's deeper character whilst simultaneously making his growing veteran diagnostic skills more and more evident. The way House treats Chase during the aftermath of his stabbing clearly shows how much House cares for and respects Chase; with the subtle nod of connection between the two at the end of "Chase" marking the new plane of equality that the two men now share with one another.

    Despite Taub garnering the position of the "no. 2" within the PPTH Diagnostics Dept, Chase has been the one who has flexed the most muscle thus far in this season; be it insightful observations concerning the team and House or revelatory diagnostic deductions concerning the POTW. He was the one who helped Park through her career anxiety following his stabbing and was the one who grew from sharing in Park's familial situation. He was the one who recognized the latent symptom in "The Confession" resulting in House being able to save the patient and also stood up to Foreman earlier in that episode showcasing his confidence in his medical skills, his faith in House and his strength of will in his role as a doctor. We are once again reminded how much Chase has grown and is valued as a surgeon in "Chase" when House declares a possibly objective-compromised Chase a better choice for surgery despite the availability of other surgeons. Chase was the one who exerted the authority and logic to convince his peers not to turn to Foreman when they believed House to be sick in "Blowing the Whistle" and then later, felt confident enough to deduce House's intent on misleading them at the end of the episode. Chase showcased that he has finally moved on from his hedonist habits and has been able to grow as a person when he declines Adams' proposal for a drink at the end of "We Need the Eggs".

    Finally, Chase has now proven that he is capable to finishing the last 5 yards of a case without House's intervention in this latest episode. He's able to properly comfort the POTW with greater success than the rest of the fellows, lead the rest of the team in their DDXs, and eventually come up with the successful life saving diagnosis.

    Echoing the beginning of my post... whatever may happen at the end of House MD, I'm sure there will be big things in store for Robert Chase.

    1. Interesting focus on Chase. Season 8 has shown substantial character development and growth. I have particularly enjoyed his relationship with House this season, most notably after his stabbing and in 'Blowing the Whistle'. For a long time I've considered Chase as House's protege. Now he's proven that he has both the medical skills and emotional capacity to successfully lead a diagnostics team. His relationship with Park has provided a lot of comedy as well as emotional scenes and it's been interesting how this has led to mutual character development. I really believe in Chase now and I do think he could be a successful head of diagnostics...even if there is no one quite like House.

      Thank you for sharing your views.

  5. hehe what about wilson really died during the night and the rest to the finale is House hallucinate !!!
    Awesome review like always Stpeh !


    1. THANKS. Also interesting idea. Hallucination has played a big part on House, and I do think that things aren't quite as they seem. I hope something really unexpected happens.

  6. Great episode. Just wanted to say one thing: The questioning that Wilson does of the meaning of life I always thought that was the same questioning that House did when he had the problem with his leg.

    Very good review. Interesting the detail of the empty chair.

    Ana (ana_m_q)

  7. Thank you. I agree with your line of thought. House has expressed views on the absurdity of life and its meaninglessness. I think what brings them together is that they provide each other's lives with meaning and a sense of purpose as well.

  8. :-)

    You really pointed out some things that made this a remarkable and very true-to-House episode. The layered meaning of some of the House/Wilson dialogue for example, or the juxtaposition of head and heart in Emily's parents. And something that's always House: "everything sucks - might as well find something to smile about". Hugh has said a few things about the humour on the show, and the ability for gallows humour against an uncaring and unjust universe is certainly one of them. I loved that they went to the dark places as well, Wilson slapping House's hand away (like House did in "After Hours") and lashing out at him for example. And RSL managed to convey two of the most heartfelt emotions - "sorry" and "thank you" - without a word of dialogue. The role reversal between House and Wilson in general was great.

    I also loved Hugh's direction, there were some brilliant shots in both of the stories. One cardinal rule for an actor: do not look at the camera. And he uses that and turns it on its head, not letting the audience escape these two characters and their story, being tugged right into it and addressed by it. Really great.

    Do you have thoughts on the "C word"? The obvious one is cancer, but I also really like "care" because that's something that House has always so vehemently opposed when applied to him and here he is way beyond.

    As for your speculation: Sorry, but that's a no from me. Mainly because I've always hated the "Wilson and Cuddy as Mom and Dad" image, and I'm not sure what connected these two beyond House anyway.

  9. Thank you. I absolutely loved the dialogue, the writers have the brilliant ability to say everything all at the same time, with emotion, seriousness and humour. I hadn't noticed the correlation between Wilson slapping House's hand away to After Hours, interesting. I also loved the looks past the camera because it breaks the rules and forces the viewer to place themselves in the characters' positions.

    In regard to the title, the first thing that came to mind was cancer, I'm not sure beyond that. 'Care' is perhaps a little too caring to be referenced in the title but this episode certainly demonstrated how much they mean to one another. The C word in English also has rude connotations, expressed in anger...

    Again. The note on speculation was just an idea. It's not necessarily something I'm predicting for the finale. But Wilson and Cuddy were colleagues and friends to an extent, so I do think she would come back to support Wilson if anything happened to House. And vice-versa if something happened to Wilson. That would be a lot more intense though. But anyway, I'm sure the finale will be a masterpiece far beyond anything I could imagine. I just like to think about possibilities.

  10. Your idea about House dying was also in my head. Love your keen observations! I saw on one of Hugh Laurie's speculative videos that he compared House's character to Hamlet, and I remember saying the same thing on another site, where I'd like a picture of House in contemplation with a skull in hand. Somehow I think he will keep Wilson alive by sacrificing his own life... but how? Gotta give the writers credit. I just hate to see it/him end....

    1. Oh that's a brilliant analogy, thank you for sharing it. Interesting you should mention that you think House will save Wilson by sacrificing his own life. One of my theories is similar. It's darker though, and more Romeo and Juliet. Something along the lines of House believing Wilson is gone after administering a lethal dose of morphine, and House gives up. Maybe he takes some morphine for himself and it all ends there (or maybe more ironically, Wilson survives). I do think a scenario in which Wilson lives and House dies is very plausible. The best thing is, the writers are so talented that so many different things could play out and have a spectacular impact.