My dictionary defines a coward as ‘a person who lacks the courage to do dangerous or unpleasant things’. House just calls them pathetic.
But the desire to not do dangerous or unpleasant things is entirely rational, is it not? That is the argument of the POTW, who refuses to leave his home despite 3 seizures in 2 days. It seems he was shot and his girlfriend was killed 7 years ago, in a mugging. Cameron brings the case to House, who is distracted mid-differential by Cuddy, who stands outside with a chart in her hands. The chart is a ruse, because she wants to talk about the kiss. House has no interest in talking about it, a point Cuddy seems to concede by thanking him for not taking advantage of her vulnerable state. He pithily replies "Anytime you want to stop kissing, I’m there for you". House comes back to the team and 13 wants to know what Cuddy wanted and he announces that "I hit that" and the team ignores him.
House then launches into an obscure analogy about "olivine, pyroxene and amphibole" and Cameron somehow knows that these are indicator minerals that help find diamonds. Med school is comprehensive! Forman completes the circle by stating that House wants them to provoke a seizure because " the indicator is the increased electrical activity focused around the abnormality. We do an EEG to see the focus. Then we can see where the problem is, which tells us what the problem is". I’m still stuck on the minerals and diamonds, but House is impressed. It was pretty cool to see Cameron and Forman rocking the differential, and House implying that Cameron is trying to get her old job back is pretty intriguing. With only a portable x-ray, sonogram and the orders to search the house for toxins, the team is off.
Kutner must have paid close attention during his psych rotation, because he appears to be the only one with a working understanding of PTSD and how to get the POTW to agree to let them all in his home. Once inside, Cameron goes about inducing a seizure while the team searches for dirt. Cameron tries to get him to talk about getting shot, but he wants no part of that – which is a nice parallel to House not wanting to talk about the kiss. A kiss as an emotional equivalent to a gunshot? To House, maybe so. That aside, the POTW claims to be happy and have everything he needs right in his home.
Back at the hospital, Wilson asks if House spoke to Cuddy last night and he repeats that he "hit that". But Wilson doesn’t ignore him. In fact he has a rather shocked reaction and wants more details but House seems more preoccupied with a mosquito bite – a malady that reappears whenever the topic of Cuddy comes up. Paging Dr. Freud? House is saved from the topic by the team calling to tell him the POTW is not seizing and his home is clean.
House uses the phone call to probe about Cameron and Chase’s relationship, which makes me wonder why he hasn’t done that in person? All the same, he learns that they aren’t engaged and mostly stay at Chase’s place. House declares that one of them has commitment problems and control issues – he’s just not sure whom it is. I’m guessing himself. That aside, he tells them that since the POTW had the seizures when attempting to go outside, they need to recreate his fear. So, House brings over a bunch of random strangers. It seems to work, except when Cameron looks at the data she finds the POTW is not having a seizure at all. The POTW agrees, but let’s them know that he’s experiencing extreme abdominal pain. New symptom!
Unfortunately, it’s not a new symptom that narrows the field at all. House tells the POTW that he needs exploratory surgery. But that requires leaving his home, so the POTW refuses and House agrees to have someone perform the surgery in house. Except, not. He reveals to Cameron that once he’s under, they’ll move him to the hospital, perform the surgery and bring him back home for post op. There’s an interesting back and forth, where House invokes Cameron’s dead husband and implies that her relationship with Chase is doomed because Chase isn’t broken, and she hits back just as hard regarding the ethics of operating on someone in a way they don’t agree to – like a leg infarction – but House wins in the end. Although, it was nice to see someone fight back, just as dirty.
Meanwhile, Wilson has gone to talk to Cuddy about what happened between her and House. Surprisingly, he champions the idea of them dating, despite her reservations. She’s saved from the conversation by her pager, while elsewhere in the hospital Chase asks Cameron if she wants to try the new sushi place by his apartment. Instead, she wants to know why they never stay at her place. He’s willing to discuss it, but the topic doesn’t go far because Cuddy’s page informed her what they were up to. She refuses to let them take the unconscious POTW back to his home for post-op and House agrees. Meaning, he backs down.
Cameron apparently can’t live with the guilt of having tricked the POTW, so she decides to bring him around and let him know where he is before they operate. Which, of course, leads him to freak out, call his lawyer, threaten to sue and leave the hospital no better off than he was to begin with. And with the lawyer as his health care proxy, now they can’t bring him back due to an emergency. Cuddy tosses them all off the case and House backs down, again. Cameron wants to know what’s going on between them, but he tells her to convince the POTW to let her in again, to give him drugs for his obstructed bowel. She wants to go further and give the POTW the surgery in his home. An idea that Taub agrees to, but proves his lack of surgical experience when he nearly kills the POTW by setting his bowel on fire when attempting to cauterize. Which is sort of the medical equivalent to lighting a fart, I suppose.
The surgery is a success since it gives them a diagnosis: Whipple’s disease. Of course, it can’t be the right diagnosis, because there’s too much time left. So, when he can’t feel his legs, House decides to test him for Celiac’s in the most painful way possible – by force feeding him wheat – hoping that the pain will be enough to get him in the hospital. An idea I am surprised the team goes along with. We’re used to House torturing the POTW, but usually the team fights him, at least a little. Even when House sneakily replaces the POTW’s morphine with Saline, Taub helps. What gives? Don’t doctors take an oath about not doing harm?
Elsewhere, Wilson admits to Cuddy that he’s always had feelings for her, but he can’t act on them because it’s too soon after Amber. She ignores that and invites him to dinner and he accepts. The scene is played in a marvelously subtle way, and by the end it’s clear that Cuddy believes Wilson was only trying to make House jealous. The big problem with her theory is that she asked Wilson out, not the other way around. It’s a fact that doesn’t seem to escape Wilson, who looks just a little….well, crestfallen.
House continues on his torturing streak by coming after Taub, stating that he’s working late so often because his marriage is falling apart. Taub admits that she asked him to sleep on the couch a few nights, but that he’s working late to save the POTW. House seems unmoved, but that night he has a nightmare wherein he blows up his apartment chasing a mosquito. The obvious metaphor is Cuddy is the bug/irritant. Yet, I have to wonder if there is not also the issue of his own volatile nature and lack of consideration before acting playing out in the explosion that obliterates him. Maybe that’s my wishful thinking. He runs from the dream and his apartment to Wilson, who tells him to either go to Cuddy or go home, because he can’t stay there.
Instead, House goes to the POTW just in time to see him go into cardiac arrest. Cameron wants to go to the paddles but House insists on CPR. Not because it’s better, but because he can survive for 15 minutes that way, while he gets the lawyer’s permission to take him to the ER. Cameron goes for the paddles anyway, saving him but adding another complication: now he needs a pacemaker. Taub installs a temporary one and House figures out that the POTW’s OCD had him cleaning like a fiend. And mixing ammonia and bleach. So, a guy that writes technical manuals doesn’t know that mixing ammonia and bleach is bad? Really? They start him on steroids and hope for the best.
Hope isn’t good enough for Cameron and she tries to talk Chase into installing a permanent pacemaker. He tells her it is impossible without the proper equipment, which is not portable, and then calls her on trying to find a reason to be mad at him. He tells her that the reason they never stay at her place is because he never felt like she wanted him there due to how she kicked him out every morning and never made space for his things anywhere. He seems about to give up when he tells her he can’t keep chasing her forever.
She returns to her broken POTW, to find him worse. In a rare moment of humility, House seems to concede defeat, telling her "we’re done". But when he’s informed that she figured out he had switched morphine for saline and switched them back, he gets his epiphany. The fact that POTW was still in pain despite morphine leads him to take a second look at the X-rays, where he finds density in the hip bone. He goes to the POTW and cuts him open, sans anesthetic, and pulls out bits of metal. The mugger used hollow points and the lead had been slowly poisoning the POTW.
Cameron tries to find a way to tie the agoraphobia to the illness, which sets House off on a rant. He says the patient has been lying about everything, he’s not happy, he’s miserable and the day he was found in the entryway of his home having seizures was because he was trying to work up the nerve to go put roses on his girlfriend’s grave. He tells him he’s pathetic and a coward and stop rationalizing those facts while pretending to be happy. It reminds me of a speech Wilson gave House back in season 2, after House pushed Stacy away. Specifically, Wilson said:
"You don’t like yourself. But you do admire yourself. It’s all you’ve got so you cling to it. You’re so afraid if you change, you’ll lose what makes you special. (pause) Being miserable doesn’t make you better than anybody else, House. It just makes you miserable. "
And here House is, pushing Cuddy away, just like the POTW has pushed the world away. The show ends with a montage that shows Cameron giving Chase a drawer in her bedroom, Taub’s wife joining him on the couch and the POTW leaving his home. All scenes that show one person taking a step past their fear, in order to have a connection – with someone else, or the world itself. And interspersed between these scenes, we see House leave, drive to Cuddy’s home and watch her through the window. Yet, eventually, he succumbs to his fear, and leaves.
My favorite moments:
13: What did Cuddy want?
House: I kinda hit that last night, so now she’s all on my jock.
13: Wow. She looks pretty good for someone on roofies.
Wilson: If you dated Cuddy there would…
House: Sorry, I get better reception when you’re not here.
POTW: I made my wishes clear.
House: Uh huh, and if the crazy fairy were here, she could grant them.
Wilson: How are you doing?
Wilson: Great. Everything else good?
Cuddy: Everything involving me kissing House is good. Oh god. You dragged it out of me. You’re a genius.
Am I the only one who thought Wilson was being sincere when he admitted to having feelings for Cuddy? How about the dream? Am I way off base thinking that explosion could have multiple meanings and may actually imply House has something resembling a conscience? Given how we saw House back down to Cuddy twice in this episode, would having them date effectively change his ability to be an effective diagnostician, or just his ability to be a jerk?