Sunday, June 03, 2012
Finishing the House
Before I finish my list of favorite episodes (we still have the top five to go), I wanted to take this intro space to again mourn the fact that it's highly likely that Hugh Laurie will go the entire run of House without being rewarded with a much-deserved Emmy. The Screen Actors Guild, The Golden Globes and the Television Critics Association each honored Laurie twice; it's only the TV academy that has yet to give him a prize. We can't be certain yet he'll even get a final nomination for the last season. His name has been omitted once, but for six out of the previous seven seasons, his performance made the cut of those in the running for outstanding lead actor in a drama series. I decided to check the Academy records to see who beat him early on since I know he lost three of those to Bryan Cranston for Breaking Bad and it's hard for me to get upset about that since that series and Cranston exist on an even higher plane of greatness than the best episodes of House. Last year, Cranston wasn't in competition and the Emmy went to Kyle Chandler for Friday Night Lights, a show I never watched. The three years prior to that were the consecutive losses to Cranston (and those four years also made it zero for four for Jon Hamm for Mad Men. Is he heading toward the same fate? We're back to the third season of House now — and he lost to James Spader for Boston Legal, a show that never belonged in the drama category. It also was one of the two out of three eligible years they failed to nominated Ian McShane for Deadwood. Laurie received his snub for the second season, my choice for the best season. What five actors filled those slots? Peter Krause for Six Feet Under, Denis Leary for Rescue Me, Christopher Meloni for Law & Order: SVU, Martin Sheen for The West Wing and Kiefer Sutherland for 24. Give me a fucking break. Sutherland won, as if it matters. In the first season, the only one in which McShane got nominated and Laurie received his first, they both lost to Spader for his first win for Boston Legal, his second consecutive for the same role except the year before the show was called The Practice. House managed to receive Emmy nominations and wins in others categories including one writing win and one directing win and four nominations as outstanding drama but, amazingly, it never received any acting recognition beyond Hugh Laurie. Back to the countdown.
Few things provoke laughs than getting shot at by a gang member and having the bullet ricochet off your flak jacket and pierce the base of your spine, releasing brain matter — unless you happen to be a neurologist treating the cop who finds it hysterical when the officer’s condition gets worse. Perhaps I'm cheating by counting both parts of a two-part episode as one slot in my favorites, but you can't really divide one half of "Euphoria" from the other. Matthew V. Lewis wrote the first part while Russel Friend, Garret Lerner and David Shore penned part two. Deran Sarafian directed both halves. "Euphoria" stands out because it presents a medical mystery in which the viewer develops a real stake in the outcome since in involves one of the regular cast members, Foreman (Omar Epps). It doesn't dawn on the team immediately that Foreman's strange behavior indicates he's been infected by the same mystery ailment that's afflicted the cop (Scott Michael Campbell), something he likely picked up while searching the officer's apartment. The first sign comes when House, seeking to test what a bullet would do to the exact spot it struck the cop, goes to the morgue and fires a gun into a corpse, prompting Eric to grin and giggle. "I think that an appropriate response to watching your boss shoot a corpse is not to grin foolishly," House tells Foreman. "The fact that I've grown bored by your insanity is proof of nothing," Foreman responds. Cuddy, to say the least, isn't pleased with House's use of the morgue. "I can't even imagine the backwards logic you used to rationalize shooting a corpse," she says to him in exasperation. "Well if I'd shot a live person there's a lot more paperwork." As the team runs through various ideas for what's causing the cop's problems, including Legionnaire’s disease, as each approach fails, Foreman gets giddier. With the cop shaking violently and bleeding, Foreman laughs, "He's screwed! We clot his blood he dies. We thin it, he dies!" He draws strange stares from Cameron and Chase. "Am I the only one who thinks this is funny?" Cameron suggests to House that they take Foreman off the case because he doesn't like cops, but House realizes it's more serious and puts both Foreman and the cop in isolation until they can figure out the cause. When the cop dies, House wants to slice into his brain immediately but Cuddy won't allow it out of fear of what could be exposed to the rest of the hospital if he did, so House tries to talk Foreman into doing it within the isolation chamber. Unfortunately, they then realize Foreman has lost his eyesight — he's developing all the symptoms the cop had only at a faster rate. Cuddy already has contacted the CDC and they remove his body and keep it under guard to prevent House from getting his hands on it. House doesn't mask his anger at Cuddy — and even Cameron takes her to task. House brings Foreman's father Rodney (Charles S. Dutton) to the hospital to try to manipulate Cuddy, but it doesn't work. House feels so frustrated that he actually performs clinic honors — a rare moment of comic relief in the episode with a mother (Leigh-Allyn Baker) concerned that her daughter Rose (Amber DeMarco) might show signs of epilepsy. House tries some moves and sounds to evoke a seizure prompting Rose to call House "a goof." "Takes one to know one, loser…wait, that means, I'm a loser, scratch that," House responds, before telling the mom, "In actuality all your little girl is doing is…saying yoo hoo to the hoo hoo." "She's what?" the mother asks. "Marching the penguin…ya ya-ing the sisterhood…finding Nemo?" Rose giggles on that one. "That was funny." House has to spell it out to mom. "It's called gratification disorder, sort of a misnomer. If one was unable to gratify oneself, that would be a disorder." The mother whispers, "You're saying she's masturbating." House mocks the freaked-out mom by speaking out of the corner of his mouth. "I was trying to be discreet. There's a child in the room." The mother expresses horror, but House reminds her that epilepsy is horrifying, masturbating isn't. She just needs to teach her child about privacy. Cuddy goes to visit Foreman and tries to defend her actions, telling him she had no choice because of the regulations, but he lays into her as well. "And the punishment for violating those regulations? Is it death? Hmm? Because frankly, I'm OK if you get a fine, a suspension…hell, you can spend a couple of years in jail, if it saves my life!" House suits up and decides to check out the cop's apartment again to see if the searches missed anything while Cameron weighs performing a brain biopsy on Foreman. Foreman's upset father talks to his son through the glass and tells him through tears, "I don't want to miss you." The two parts make one of the series' most suspenseful and compelling episodes.
Since completing this list and tribute took much longer than I expected, it became much easier as the days passed to avoid other choices for the best and favorite House episodes. Some selections probably ended up being pretty obvious and showed up on most of the lists, but I suspect I'm one of the few to single out "Airborne." This installment always has tickled me to no end. House and Cuddy spend most of the episode in the air, returning from a medical conference in Singapore where House gave a short speech and Princeton-Plainsboro earned World Health Organization accreditation. Cuddy isn't happy with the excessive charges House tallied on his hotel bill, then he didn't enjoy airport security confiscating his cane because it contained a corkscrew so he has insisted on being wheeled at all airports for plane changes. "And the room service thing was just spiteful," Cuddy chastises House. 'I was hungry," House says in his defense. "Three hundred dollars for a bottle of wine," Cuddy continues to tally. "I was thirsty," he replies. "One hundred and twenty dollars for video services!" she exclaims. "I was lonely," House responds with mock sadness. As they board the last leg of their journey home, their conversation keeps being drowned out by an infant child wailing for her blanket. House finally addresses the mother. "Give her 20 milligrams of antihistamine. It could save her life. Because if she doesn't shut up, I'll kill her," House tells the woman. Meanwhile in New Jersey, a fiftysomething woman named Fran (Jenny O'Hara) invites a female prostitute name Robin (Meta Golding) into her home. When Fran gets a good look at Robin's skimpy getup, she faints, bonking on the head. Robin feels she has no choice but to call 911 and accompanies Fran to Princeton-Plainsboro. Wilson notices a motion sickness patch on Fran's neck and suspects that caused her dizziness and she blacked out when she hit her head. They prepare to discharge Fran, but she collapses and begins having a seizure so Wilson admits her and grabs House's team to take on her case. In the skies, a Korean man named Peng (Jamison Yang) doesn't look so hot. Everyone assumes that he's drunk, but then he barfs on his plate of food. The stewardess Keo (Tess Lina) asks if anyone speaks Korean or happens to be a doctor. House, who took a first class seat while making Cuddy suffer in coach tells the flight attendant he'll get her and walks back and offers to exchange seats with Cuddy out of a sense of chivalry. She soon learns what he was up to and comes back to get him — because she fears that Peng might have meningococcus and all the passengers could be put at risk. Laurie's performance as the sardonic calm at the center of the growing, panicking storm makes "Airborne," written by David Hoselton and directed by Elodie Keene, stand out for me. As he attempts to relax in his new seat while the blonde passenger Joy (Krista Kalmus), seated in front of him, keeps turning around at every scary word she hears to try to plumb info from House. At one point, House finally tells her to look the other way. "Why?" Joy asks. "Because you're going to throw up, and I don't want it on me," he tells her, which she promptly does. Despite his best efforts not to get involved, House soon finds he must when Cuddy exhibits some of the symptoms showing up in the other passengers. Back at the hospital, the team argues incessantly about what course of action to take concerning Fran's case, leading Wilson to sigh, "I think I'm starting to feel sorry for House." High above the ground though, House does miss his team and tries to jerry-rig one on the plane, enlisting a 12-year-old boy (Connor Webb), a man of Middle Eastern origin named Hamid (Pej Vahdat) and a disapproving looking businesswoman as he gets out a marker to write on the plane's movie screen.
HOUSE: Can you say "Crickey Mate"?
BOY: Crickey Mate.
HOUSE: Perfect. Now, no matter what I say, you'll agree with me, OK?
HOUSE: Nicely done. You, disagree with everything I say.
HAMID: Sorry, not understand.
HOUSE: Close enough. You get morally outraged by everything I say.
[House writes the symptoms on the movie screen]
WOMAN: That's permanent marker, you know.
HOUSE: Wow, you guys are good.
The 12-year-old turns out to be particularly helpful and curious, even downright excited when House decides they need to operate on Peng. The episode even signals a bit of a new closeness between House and Cuddy as he helps her when she's ailing. At the end of the trip, the flight attendant Keo even makes a special point of thanking House and letting him know she's in New York every Monday. "Are you handicap accessible?" he asks as she wheels him off the plane and Cuddy rolls her eyes.
Placed in the hands of just about any other medical drama, the plot of "Autopsy" concerning a preternaturally brave 9-year-old girl named Andie (well played by Sasha Pieterse, whom, I was shocked to discover, now plays a teen sexpot on a show called Pretty Little Liars) dying of cancer but suddenly facing unrelated hallucinations, would come off as a maudlin, manipulative exercise. Now, you don't think Greg House would let that happen, would you? This episode turns out to be a rare one with sizable clips showing the highlights, so I have no need to spell them out. What's bad about this YouTube montage is that it cuts out the money shots, if you will. It shows Andie telling Chase that she's never kissed a boy, but cuts away before he grants her wish. It leaves out Christina Aguilera's version of "Beautiful" that opens the episode and cuts short the version recorded specifically for the show by Elvis Costello where we see that Andie did affect House after all as he takes a motorcycle for a spin. Of course, the clinic comedy of the do-it-yourself circumcision just flat-out wouldn't work so you don't get to hear House say, "Stop talking. I'm going to get a plastic surgeon. To get the Twinkie back in the wrapper."
Episodes 15 and 16)
Though the two episodes that closed out Season 4 bore different titles and aren't billed as your standard two-part episode, one doesn't really work without the other and together the pair created the most powerful ending of any House season. "House's Head" set up the puzzle, "Wilson's Heart" dealt with the aftermath once it was solved. The team of Peter Blake, David Foster, Russel Friend and Garrett Lerner wrote the teleplay for "House's Head" from a story by Doris Egan. Greg Yaitanes' direction won the series its only Emmy ever for direction. "House's Head" starts with a disoriented House receiving a lap dance, but he has a terrible headache and vaguely remembers something about a bus crash, but has no idea how he got there. He leaves the club and finds himself wandering through an emergency scene where a bus lies on its side and rescue crews frantically work on the injured. House intuitively realizes that he had been on the bus when the accident occurred and someone needs his help but he can't recall who it is. He returns to Princeton-Plainsboro where Cameron and Wilson tend to his injuries but House can't put his preoccupation aside — so much that after seeking out the bus driver (Henry Hayashi) and getting nowhere, House even yells a fake quarantine to keep all the passengers there until he gets a chance to speak to them in hopes of unlocking the mystery. House's colleagues try desperately to get him to calm down and take care of himself, with Cameron recommending that he be admitted overnight to monitor for brain swelling. "How much bigger could it get?" House responds as he continues to harass passengers on the bus for any clue as to who might be in danger. Since the hospital staff gets nowhere in its attempt to calm House down, Chase attempts to mollify him by placing him under hypnosis with Wilson nearby. House recalls himself at a bar where the bartender (played by Fred Durst of the band Limp Bizkit) forces him to turn over his keys to his motorcycle because he's too drunk to drive. Now House knows why he got on the bus, but Wilson asks why he was drinking alone. Suddenly, Amber inserts herself into House's subconscious. "I can't even have a conversation with you in my subconscious without her tagging along," House says with annoyance. House, still hypnotized, finds himself on the bus again, this time with a mystery woman in black (Ivana Milicevic) but that vision gets interrupted by a Goth punk (Isaac Bright) that House notices picking his nose. He snaps back to consciousness and tries to find him in the ER, convinced that he has a brain tumor, but that diagnosis isn't correct. A commotion occurs as the bus driver complains that he can't move his legs. The team works to diagnose the bus driver, but another memory flash reminds House of someone drinking coffee. He decides that smell might trigger what he needs. He asks where they've gathered the collected clothes of the passengers, swallows a mouthful of Vicodin and then falls face first into the pile to get a good whiff. "Whoever wore this shirt…hasn't showered since Sunday. Without the Vicodin, I'd have never been able to remember that," House reports, but it's another dead end. House continues to drift in and out of reality so Wilson forces him to have an MRI performed. House can't explain why it's so important to him to figure this out about the crash. The MRI reveals that he sustained longitudinal fracture of the temporal bone. As House goes to the cafeteria, a debilitating headache takes him down so Thirteen places him in an Epsom salt bath to get him in a state similar to sensory deprivation. He starts fantasizing about being on the bus, only Cuddy has joined him — and begins performing a striptease. During her pole dance, Cuddy and House discuss possible ailments that the bus driver could have. When House suggests Parkinson's disease, the woman in black reappears and tells him that she is the answer. He awakes from the bath, promptly pukes on the real Cuddy and passes out. She sends him home with a nurse and a security guard to keep him there while the team continues to try to diagnose the bus driver. When House swipes the nurse's cell phone to tell his team what tests to administer, Cuddy personally goes to his apartment to supervise him. As he falls asleep, Cuddy transforms into the woman in black again, pointing to her necklace. House awakes in a panic and tells Cuddy that they've diagnosed the wrong person. Someone else remains out there dying. He proposes re-creating where all the passengers were sitting. Cuddy reluctantly agrees and House pops some pills, only it isn't Vicodin, but Alzheimer's medication to accelerate his neurons. The woman in black reappears and asks what her necklace is made of. "Amber," he says. The woman transforms into Amber and House visualizes the wreck in his mind with another vehicle smashing into the bus right where Amber sat. Everyone went flying and he tried to get her to hang on. One of the bus's poles penetrated her leg and House tied a tourniquet around it. When House awakes, Wilson and Cuddy are performing CPR on him. He has had a heart attack. When House comes to, calling out Amber's name. "You almost kill yourself and all we're getting is drug induced fantasies!" Wilson responds. He asks Thirteen if any Jane Does were taken to other hospitals. "Female late 20s. Kidney damage. Does Amber have a birthmark on her right shoulder blade?" Thirteen asks Wilson as she reads from the list of passengers. House, recalling everything. tells him that Amber was on the bus with him. "She's the one who's dying!" ("Wilson's Heart and my choice for No. 1 will be...