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

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

'Holding On' Episode Review

Holding On begins with Wilson waking up, rather than a dramatic POTW opening scene. Wilson's case is the dramatic focus of the episode and we see this constantly through House's refusal to take on another case. At the beginning of the episode Wilson tells House that he will not have any more chemotherapy, because five months living is better than a year in excruciating pain at the hospital.

This week's patient, a nineteen year old cheerleader, is admitted with a massive nosebleed and dizziness. Initially he will represent a parallel to Wilson. House refuses to take his case, telling the team that 'my best friend is trying to kill himself'. House counters Adams' thoughts about dying with dignity with 'there's no such thing', a shout out to the pilot episode, in which he says the same thing to Rebecca Adler (purposeful Holmes re-reference?), the school teacher. The POTW in this episode is shown to hear voices because of activity in the audio section of his brain. Bear with me when I say that the patient appears to simultaneously parallel both House and Wilson. These audio 'hallucinations' led me to think of how House would feel if Wilson died, which was compounded by the fact that the patient tries to kill himself because he will no longer hear his brother inside his head after surgery. Although the connection was fabricated, it was still incredibly meaningful. With the connection broken forever he no longer wants to live. Throughout the episode House begs Wilson to accept treatment because he needs him. House is fully aware and open to admit his dependence on Wilson. Similarly, Wilson needs House to accept that he's dying and to be there for him until the end. Therefore, when the patient tries to kill himself, this reminds House of Wilson and he explodes in a rage of uncontrollable emotion and begins to strangle the patient to force him to fight for his life, to want to survive. On the other hand, the fact that the patient does survive may represent the fact that despite an excruciating struggle, House could survive (although I'm still not convinced he could) without the presence of the voice of conscience that makes his life worth living. He tells Wilson at the end that he's the only one he listens to. In a moving scene at the end we also see the patient's mother accept to talk about the death of his brother, to face reality, just as House must do with Wilson.

In a Known Unknowns fashion House drugs Wilson for what he believes is his own good. Wilson's expression is priceless just before he's knocked out and House hooks him up to what appears to be chemo but turns out to be a sedative. He wanted to show Wilson what it would be like to be dead, no dreams no thoughts, nothing forever more...without the waking up part. Of course, House being House, it's not a completely selfless act because he wants Wilson to be there for him five months on, rather than dead. It was the cafeteria scene that really reinforced the fact that Wilson is dying. The point is not whether the patients were fake or not, but the fact that House went to the trouble to show Wilson just how much he matters, how many lives he's saved. I felt utterly choked by that moment, tears and all. 

Thirteen makes an appearance and convinces House that the most important thing is to be loyal to Wilson, just as he supported her by forcing her to live life as she wanted to. Just before she walks in House is watching a cancer patient enduring chemotherapy, which demonstrates a further awareness of how much his friend would suffer. Before she meets House, Thirteen tells Wilson that he should start the chemo, two weeks on two weeks off and then reassess, but Wilson is sure he wants to just live his life, with his friend, so Thirteen passes the message onto House.

House pretends to admit defeat and organises a nostalgic dinner to celebrate their friendship, toasting 'to climbing the hill'. Wilson realises his ulterior motive and breaks down. House's outburst about the chronic pain he feels and the fact that he's considered ending it many times emphasises just how much Wilson means to him, because he never gave up. House plays a beautiful melancholic piece on the piano which preempts his acceptance of Wilson's decision to live his life without chemo.

A clever man once said that in an excellent plot the end is implicit in the beginning, in cyclical form. Yet the thread only becomes apparent when you reach the end. At the beginning Foreman gives House tickets for a game which is 'one month after Wilson's expiration date', to show him that others care for him besides Wilson. At the absolutely ground shattering end, the mischief House causes with the tickets results in a catastrophic destruction of hospital property. Just as House had begun to accept Wilson's fate he is confronted with his own. This criminal destruction of property is a violation of parole and he faces six month in prison, as many months as Wilson is likely to survive... I can honestly say that I did not see that coming. What an absolutely fantastic and moving episode.

Incredibly excited, sad, curious, nervous, emotions ad infinitum to see Everybody Dies. The end is nigh, and it's a hard pill to swallow.


  1. Nice review. One small quibble -- when House drugs Wilson, it's not chemo, it's Propofol, a sedative, so that Wilson can get a taste of being dead (without the waking up on the couch part).

    1. Edited. Thank you *anonymous*. I think the sound of my pounding heart might have blocked a few things out.

  2. It was a great episode as promised. I was shocked at the parole item at the end. I feel that was the only part of the episode I felt was out of place. Stuffing toilets doesn't send you back to jail. Do you think Wilson will say he did it to save House from going to jail?

  3. It really was a great episode. From what I understand the reason it would break parole is that the blocked toilets led to criminal destruction of property, ie MRI and ceilings etc. House purposefully stuffed the toilets to cause flooding, even if he didn't intend to destroy anything. For most people that wouldn't mean jail time, more likely there would be a lawsuit, but if you're on parole it's a different story. I don't think House will be going to jail. I think House and Wilson will run away somewhere, to carry on the Thelma and Louise strand which began with 'The C Word'. What happens in the end I really can only guess but as I said in previous comments I have a strange feeling Wilson will survive (the episode) and House will die (spoiler free idea). I'd like to thing there would be a sense of irony, or at least the unexpected in the last episode. Thanks for commenting.