'House' - 'Holding On': A prank too far, plus Olivia Wilde returns (barely)

house-holding-on-fox.jpgThe case of the week has become almost incidental to "House" as the series winds down, but it had big ramifications in Monday's (May 14) next-to-last episode -- not so much for the way the patient was treated but for the way he was mistreated.

House inadvertently puts the guy -- Skylar Astin as a college student who's hearing the voice of his dead brother -- in danger in one instance, then deliberately goes after him in a fit of misplaced rage over Wilson's refusal to keep undergoing cancer treatment. The end result is a serious kink in House and Wilson's bucket-list plans.

We would have thought choking a patient because he'd lost the will to live would be the thing that gets House in real trouble, but it's not: Instead it's the prank he pulls on Foreman involving hockey season tickets* and the hospital's plumbing system. The prank goes very, very awry when the backed-up pipes cause a ceiling to collapse over the MRI room where the patient was being scanned (Park and Adams) are collateral damage.

*(Just how many tickets could there have been for House to mess up the plumbing so completely? It didn't look like a very big envelope that Foreman handed House, and if House ripped them into pieces before flushing them, wouldn't they have passed through the system more smoothly? Anyway.)

The hospital's lawyer and Foreman deliver the bad news: House is being charged with felony vandalism, which means his parole will be revoked and he'll have to serve the rest of his sentence in jail. He has six months left -- one more than Wilson does.

The cruel twist at the end could have come off as cheap. But House and Wilson's friendship is so well-established, and Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard were so good throughout the episode, that the moment really stung. (Even though we figure the finale won't be House and Wilson talking via prison phone on visiting day.) House and Wilson are almost equally stubborn, and the fact that they both came not just to acknowledge they need one another, but actually express it, feels like a minor miracle.

That House would resent Wilson over his unwillingness to face the pain of ongoing treatment struck us initially just another bout of his selfishness -- until his searing "Life is pain" speech. The cane and the limp and the pill-popping aren't just character tics; they're an unavoidable and debilitating part of House's life, and both the characters on screen and we in the audience tend to forget that.

We've made it this far without mentioning Olivia Wilde's brief return as Thirteen, mostly because she didn't do much but give Wilson a pep talk of sorts and tell House he's a better person than he's willing to admit. Wilde is set to appear again in the series finale, and we hope she gets more to do then.

It seems about right, though, that House and Wilson would be the focus of the series in its final weeks. Their relationship has been a constant for the show's entire run, and as multiple characters mentioned in the episode, there's some real question about what might happen to House if Wilson does leave. We think we're in for a pretty interesting final hour next week.

What did you think of the next-to-last episode of "House" ever?
Photo/Video credit: FOX
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