House 5.16 “The Softer Side” Recap

house_softer-emergency_0012Well, neither Foreman nor Thirteen got hit by a bus this week, so I suppose I need to sacrifice a few more goats to the television gods in order to stop myself from perpetually banging my head against the keyboard when it comes to this show. However, the television gods have brought us a lovely, House-centric episode this week with only minimal annoyances by Fourteen, so thank goodness for small favors.

Flashback! In a hazy, dimly lit hospital room, a doctor informs two new parents that their child was born with both male and female DNA. The doctor can surgically repair the genitalia to make it look more “normal,” but the parents have to decide if they want their newborn to be a boy or a girl. Fade to… a high school boys’ basketball game. Well, I guess we know how that turned out. “Jackson” makes a free throw that wins the game. Horray! Except he clutches his stomach and collapses to the floor. Gasps abound.

Cut to Foreman and Thirteen in their bedroom, getting dressed and being generally annoying. They’re still dating, which means they have to hide their romance from House, lest he decide to fire both their asses again.

House and Wilson chat over breakfast in the cafeteria. House asks if he can have Wilson’s bagel. “Did you just ask for permission before you took my food?” Wilson asks, befuddled. “Yes we can,” House replies before chomping down on Wilson’s grub. Cuddy approaches and alerts House that they have a case of genetic mosaicism. The kid was plagued by chronic pelvic pain and collapsed at a basketball game. It also turns out that “Jackson” doesn’t know he could have been “Jackie.” Sticky business indeed. House snatches the file out of Cuddy’s hands and hobbles out of the cafeteria, leaving Wilson’s half-eaten, neglected bagel behind. “Hrm. That was easy,” observes Cuddy. Something is very, very wrong.

House introduces Jackson’s file to the team. “Part girl, part boy, all Thirteen’s dream date.” I was waiting for that. The anvil didn’t hurt any less. Foreman thinks it could be dehydration, Taub votes for congenital adrenal hyperplasia or PMDS. Kumar points out that neither of those diseases effect genetic mosaicism cases, and that Jackson recently begun testosterone shots (which his parents told him were “vitamins”). Thirteen votes for blind uterus, which would require an MRI to detect. Foreman goes, “Oh! Thirteen! You’re so smart for thinking that this boy with girl genes could have a blind uterus! Bravo!” Except it’s sarcastic, for once. Horray? He also adds that there could have been complications from the penis reconstruction surgery. House applauds Foreman’s ability to multitask — humiliate his ex and impress his boss at the same time! House orders a urethroscopy, but the parents barge in and demand an MRI for their son’s blind uterus. House accuses Thirteen of sending them a text, but they’re just “educated” after dealing with their son’s condition for so many years. House isn’t going to argue with them (WHAT?!) and orders a contrast MRI. We’ll come back to this later, but trust me: it’s important.

Taub and Thirteen stick Jackson in the MRI while Taub gives Thirteen a hard time for “post-breakup awkwardness.” Wait. Like it wasn’t awkward before?? Whatever. Taub does do a pretty admirable impression of Foreman, though. “House was a jerk to split you two up, but… bottom line? He did you two a favor.” And the viewers, Taub. If only it’d stuck. Or one of them had been hit by a bus. (What? I’m still keeping my fingers crossed over here. Where’s the damn goat…) Thirteen abruptly leaves when she discovers there was no blind uterus.

Kumar barges into Wilson’s office. “I think… something’s wrong with House,” he says. The fact that House humored Jackson’s parents by granting the MRI has Kumar worried. “Maybe he had a great cup of coffee. Or a tremendous bowel movement,” Wilson guesses. Well, that always makes me happy. He tells Kumar to stop analyzing House’s good mood and enjoy it while it lasts. Wilson, however, is extremely perplexed, evidenced by the MASSIVE arched eyebrow Robert Sean Leonard shoots when Kumar leaves.

In the patient’s room, Thirteen explains to Jackson why Taub is about to stick a camera up his penis (for the urethroscopy). Jackson asks if his parents can come in and Thirteen is surprised by this request. “They’ve seen me naked before,” Jackson responds, seemingly unfazed. Taub starts the procedure and Jackson starts to get uncomfortable — he calls his mom to his bedside and she’s terribly comforting. Taub gets to the bladder and Jackson starts to get pressure in his chest. Beeping noises start sounding and Jackson says he can’t breathe. Taub pulls out and Thirteen says he’s got a cardiac tamponade (extra fluid around the heart). She stabs a syringe into his chest much like I would throw a dart into a dartboard after a half a bottle of Jose Cuervo. Seriously? Keep me the hell away from these doctors if I ever get sick.

Not LupusHouse remains relatively snarkless as the team considers a second diagnosis, a fact that is really, really bothering Kumar (because he’s apparently completely unconcerned with this patient — Kumar, that is). Thirteen, meanwhile, knows that starting testosterone shots can leave the body vulnerable to autoimmune diseases like polyarteritis or SLE (which is lupus, and you can go ahead and cross that off your list because IT’S NOT LUPUS). House orders her to start corticosteroids for the autoimmune problem and finasteride to block the the “vitamins.”

Wilson saunters into Cuddy’s office to tell ask her if she slept with House. D’oh. That would be the most anticlimactic resolution to that particular bit o’ sexual tension I could possibly think of. Yes, sex with Cuddy would explains House’s current amiable behavior, but it doesn’t explain why Cuddy’s “not curled up in a ball, weeping in shame.” Heh. Cuddy thinks this is a perfect opportunity for Wilson to get back some of the money House owns him. Wilson scampers off to collect.

Thirteen explains to the parents that if Jackson has polyarteritis or SLE, he’ll have to go off the testosterone shots, which means he won’t go through puberty. The parents are having a bit of a crisis of conscience here. The dad tells Thirteen that she’s going to have to tell Jackson the testosterone blocker is something else. Thirteen thinks this is a good opportunity to tell Jackson the truth, but the parents are having none of it.

House attends to one of Cuddy’s clinic patients, who complains of pain in one arm and both legs when he pokes himself. House bends the guy’s finger (on the arm that doesn’t hurt) and he gives and extra big “OWWWW.” Cuddy, meanwhile, asks the attending nurse if she gave House the guy with the broken finger. HEE. She totally did. Cuddy thinks something’s wrong, because the guy should have been screaming for a new doctor a while ago. House emerges, patient bandaged (“Thanks, bro!” the patient slurs on the way out) and everything looks okay. Something is definitely amiss.

Jackson asks Thirteen why he needs a shot if he’s already got the IV. She says it’s “extra medicine, just to be safe.” They talk basketball and Thirteen finds out Jackson isn’t really a big basketball fan — his mom made him join the team. He wanted to take dance, but his mom flipped out and made him choose between basketball and hockey. Jeebus, this is a depressing case. Thirteen notices Jackson’s palms are red. Crap! Back to the diagnosis table.

Cuddy pokes her head in Wilson’s office and goes, “You’re right. He IS in a good mood.” Aaaand… scene.

Kumar, who has done absolutely nothing thus far for this case, brings his lunch into the conference room and tells Foreman he thinks it’s a bummer about him and the bisexual Thirteen. Kumar informs Foreman that before the two of them got together, Thirteen was hooking up with a different girl every night. “Do you really think you can compete with that?” Kumar asks.

Meanwhile, Cuddy and Wilson stomp into House’s office because they need to talk to him about this whole “being nice” business. House is passed out in his armchair. Wilson and Cuddy tell him to stop messing around, but House isn’t waking up. Wilson examines House and declares he’s not breathing. His pulse is barely there. Cuddy orders Kumar to get a team into the office. Foreman thinks they just “need to get a message through,” so he tears open House’s shirt and gives him the most epic Titty Twister ever. “ARRRGH,” yelps House before gasping back to consciousness. Foreman is SO getting ripped a new one for that. “What the hell is going on?” Cuddy demands, and we go into break.

house_softer-questions_0017Aaaand we’re back. Cuddy is examining House. “I think my penis stopped breathing. Do you know CPR?” House asks, deadpan. “Looks like your brain’s okay,” Cuddy replies dryly. House says he’s fine, except for the fact that his “nurple is now purple.” Hee. So many jokes, so little time. House makes an excuse that his episode was likely due to a Vicodin overdose and damn it, he just wants to know what’s wrong with the patient! Thirteen informs him that Jackson’s experiencing kidney and liver dysfunction. Kumar goes, “Wait. You didn’t take any Vicodin today.” Wilson chimes in that House didn’t take any at breakfast the day before, either. Thirteen thinks the kid’s probably depressed and is medicating with drugs and alcohol. Project much, Thirteen? House orders the team to search the home and school. He grabs his stuff and Cuddy wants to know where he’s going. “Staying here. So we can properly discuss this,” he calls as he heads out the door. “He’s on heroin,” Wilson concludes. House is happy, so he must be high. He’s stumbling around without the support of his cane. Whatever he’s taking, it’s stronger than Vicodin.

Thirteen and Foreman poke around Jackson’s room, discussing House’s episode and whether or not Thirteen misses sleeping with girls. Somewhat non sequitur, I know. She misses sleeping around in general. After an extended ice cream metaphor (Really! This is a strange conversation.), Foreman and Thirteen come to the conclusion that the rest of the team (including House) must know they didn’t really break up.

Foreman and Thirteen found angsty poetry (Is there any other kind?) in Jackson’s room, and they bring it to House, who’s pissed that Cuddy ordered Kumar to babysit him (which is really the only productive thing that Kumar’s done thus far). Taub informs the team that a swab of Jackson’s water bottle tested positive for toxoplasmosis (and you can go ahead and forget that you ever hear about that, because the show completely forgets it as well). Thirteen starts him on a treatment while Foreman and House have a stare-down.

Thirteen also decides to bring the angsty poetry to Jackson’s parents in the hopes that it will convince them to tell Jackson the truth about his sexual identity. The mother is really starting to drive me nuts; she refuses to talk to Jackson about the poem and asks that the testosterone shots be restarted. Thirteen is none too pleased, but she agrees.

Foreman confronts Taub and Kumar in the locker room and discovers that House doesn’t know he and Thirteen are still together. Foreman is baffled that Kumar could figure it out, but not House. He calls Wilson to inform him that House is probably on heroin. Except Wilson’s kinda having dinner with House at the moment. So romantic. Wilson does a pretty poor job covering, but he hangs up and clinks glasses with House to celebrate “cheating death.” House uncharacteristically puts down his shot of bourbon and points out it’s really nice of Wilson to give him a respiratory depressant only a few hours after his lungs failed. Wilson must not believe that House OD-ed on Vicodin — he must think that House is on heroin and the shot of bourbon was a rudimentary tox-screen; if House is on heroin, he can’t drink it without going into respiratory failure again. Wilson asks, “Well?” and House downs the shot. He slams it back down on the table and tells Wilson good night.

PPTH. Thirteen goes to give Jackson the testosterone shot and he recognizes the bottle as the same one that his parents give him for “vitamins.” Thirteen says, “These aren’t vitamins.” Jackson goes, “Wha?” and Thirteen tells him to ask his parents.

Cue hacking in a snowy alleyway. House is puking next to a dumpster as Wilson approaches. “You idiot!” “Okay, I admit it. I have bulimia. I look good though, don’t I?” House admits after he wipes his mouth. Wilson is livid. “Heroin? HEROIN? House, of all the stupid–” House tells him he’s not on heroin. It’s methadone. Legal, yes, but also dangerous. Wilson rips into him, but House admits that it’s completely gotten rid of his pain. He tosses Caney into the dumpster (NO!! It’s innocent!) and hobbles off into the night. Wilson is flummoxed.

Jackson’s parents are in Cuddy’s office, complaining about Thirteen’s little stunt and demanding she be removed from the case. Cuddy refuses. The parents leave to go talk to Jackson and Thirteen offers to stay away from the case, but Cuddy tells her that she’s the only one Jackson’s going to trust in a few minutes, so she needs to stick around.

“So… am I a boy or a girl?” Jackson asks. His dad explains and Jackson thinks he’s a freak. He’s also a little pissed that his parents lied to him. He asks to be left alone and the parents retreat.

Meanwhile, House is hanging out in a bathroom stall, reading. Cuddy’s voice echoes through the empty bathroom; she knows about the methadone. House thinks it’s none of her business, but Cuddy can’t sit back and watch him kill himself. “As long as you’re at my hospital, you can’t do methadone.” House walks out of the stall and tells Cuddy he’s going to send someone for his stuff. He’s choosing lack of pain over his job. Wow.

Jackson won’t talk to his parents, so Thirteen pulls up a chair next to him. He admits that he’s got a friend on his basketball team that he hangs out with, and he really likes this kid, and now he’s afraid that his likes him. “Maybe I’m supposed to — especially if I’m really a girl,” he ventures. “Do you feel like a girl?” Thirteen asks. “I like dancing more than basketball,” Jackson admits. Thirteen pulls out Jackson’s poem and says, “No matter how bad things get, killing yourself is never the answer.” Jackson tells her it was an English assignment — they were supposed to write a poem in the style of Sylvia Plath. Whoops! Project much, Thirteen? Jackson gets nauseous and starts vomiting blood. Ewww. Didn’t need that camera shot right there.

House’s beeper goes off and he tosses it in the garbage. Then he shaves. With shaving cream and a razor! The drama!

Cuddy has put Foreman in charge until further notice. Good thing she refused to write him that letter of recommendation last week! Jackson’s got a gastric fisula caused by necrotizing pancreatitis. Thirteen thinks it’s Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome, but Taub thinks it’s systemic scleroderma. They bicker about who’s right until Foreman tells them to treat the Zollinger-Ellison’s first and if the treatment doesn’t work, to treat the scleroderma. Foreman holds Thirteen back before she leaves and says that Zollinger-Ellison’s doesn’t fit better, but he thinks she’s pushing it because if it’s scleroderma, then that means Jackson’s going to die. She can’t live with that, especially because she basically screwed the family over. Someone call the Whaaaaambulance!

Wilson knocks on House’s door. A pretty brunette opens it, fully clothed. She leaves, Wilson comes in and asks who that was. “I hired her to watch me sleep… make sure I don’t stop breathing.” “Home nurses usually wear scrubs,” Wilson points out. “She’s not a nurse,” House calls from deep within the bowels of his apartment. “You hired a hooker to watch you sleep?! That just can’t –” and Wilson’s cut off when House emerges in an honest to goodness SUIT, a tie in each hand. “Surprisingly, hookers are cheaper. And they don’t sue for sexual harassment. Which one?” he asks, referring to the ties. “You shaved!” Wilson exclaims. House has an interview at St. Sebastian’s — he’s going to try and convince them to start a diagnostics department. I feel like I’m living in an alternate universe, and not the good kind.

PPTH. Taub informs the parents that Jackson doesn’t have Zollinger-Ellison’s, so he must have the dreaded and deadly scleroderma. Anti-inflammatories should slow down the progression of the disease. The mother spots Thirteen and comes sauntering over. “My son has a death sentence, and I can’t go in there and be with him because of you.” “I’m sorry,” says Thirteen. “Sorry? You find a homework assignment and decide he’s suicidal. You get your own personal mission–” “I let my feelings–” “Oh, don’t you dare apologize. Like it could absolve you of what you’ve done to me, my family… he was fine.” Cuddy approaches and puts a soothing hand on the mother’s shoulder. Cuddy tells her to get in her son’s room — Jackson’s a teenager, she’s his mother. Now is not the time to start listening to him. Oh, Cuddy. Bringer of sensible wisdom. I can’t say I really feel sorry for Thirteen right here. She’s constantly letting her feelings get in the way of her medical judgement, and someone finally called her out on it. “Thank you,” Thirteen says as the mom backs away. “I didn’t do it for you,” Cuddy responds, and heads off.

Wilson’s waiting for Cuddy in her office. “We made a mistake!” he proclaims, “The methadone’s good for him.” Wilson relates House’s transformation and Cuddy quips, “If he buys a new pair of shoes, should we let him smoke crack?” “He’s happy,” Wilson points out. “House doesn’t do happy,” Cuddy responds, “Pain or no pain.” Perhaps, but this is also House’s one chance not to be miserable. Okay, that’s somewhat depressing.

Jackson and Co. sadly comfort each other over his bleak bedside. Aaaand… break.

We return to Foreman and Thirteen getting dressed in their bedroom; Jackson’s scleroderma is responding to the anti-inflammatories. Thirteen’s not pleased, but she points out to Foreman that his AST levels dropped awfully fast. By some logic that I’m having trouble following, they deduce that he couldn’t have scleroderma because the treatment couldn’t have improved his levels that quickly. Whatever. I’ll go with it.

House walks into Cuddy’s office, all gussied up, and asks for his letter of recommendation. Cuddy hasn’t done it yet because she was too busy creating a list of requirements for House’s methadone treatment. She wants him back. He wants a raise and a bigger office, but Cuddy shoots him down. “We both know this is where you belong.” He agrees all too readily and actually thanks her. Oh, man. I don’t know if I like this new House.

house_softer-questions_0023House returns to his office and Kumar asks him if he’s okay. “I have issues with authority,” he says. Kumar and Taub thought he was gone. “Cuddy missed me,” House responds. Taub wants to know what happened to Caney (*sniff*). “She asked to borrow it for some reason. Is the patient dead, or do I need to do anything?” “He’s got scleroderma,” Taub starts, until Thirteen and Foreman barge in, crying, “It’s not scleroderma!” The team relates their diagnostic history to House — when Taub says it wasn’t Zollinger-Ellison’s, House goes, “That was a dumb idea.” “Why?” Thirteen perks up. “Because it was wrong.” HEE. I love tautologies. Taub starts rattling some more information off and House interrupts him. “Oh, crap. Does this kid like energy drinks?” Kumar says he saw some empty bottles in the locker room.

House walks into Jackson’s room and tells the parents it’s all their fault. The reason Jackson collapsed during the game was because of dehydration. The massive amount of energy drinks put a strain on his kidneys, which caused the abdominal pain. The parents insisted on an MRI and the team injected the contrast. The strained kidneys couldn’t process the contrast and it got stuck in his system and proceeded to wreck havoc. House tells the parents that their “freaked out, overprotectiveness” nearly killed their son. A couple weeks of dialysis and he’ll be okay. “You gave birth to a freak of nature. Doesn’t mean it’s okay to treat him like one,” are House’s parting words. Okay, so I’m totally never drinking Gatorade again after this episode.

Later, Thirteen chats with Jackson. He’s feeling better, and his mom asked him if he wants to take dance lessons. He’s worried he might miss basketball — he’s starting to get good. “No reason you can’t do both,” says Thirteen and GOD, WOMAN. Keep your own friggin’ sexual identity issues out of this!! It’s not amusing!

House is brooding at his desk when Cuddy walks in. He tells her he’s done with the methadone. He never should have let Jackson have the MRI. He created a case because he played nice and was in a good mood. And that was all because he wasn’t in pain. “You don’t need to be in pain to be a good doctor,” Cuddy insists. “I’m not interested in good,” House says. “You’re afraid to be happy,” Cuddy fires back. “Why do you care if I’m happy?” House wonders. He and Cuddy lock eyes for a few moments before Cuddy tells him that he’s afraid of change. Cuddy pleads with him to take the methadone, but House tosses it in the trash and picks up his surrogate cane. “This is the only me you get,” he says and hobbles out.

Aww, well that was a lovely episode. Not a lot of extraneous drama, which was nice. I know the “House in Pain” theme has been visited and revisited ad nauseum over the course of the series, but the methadone was a pleasant reminder that there are certainly other options available to him as far as pain-management goes. I would have preferred a little more time spent with House so we could really understand what he was feeling once he switched drugs instead of seeing it through the filter of Cuddy, Wilson, et. al, but the writers seem to have ADD when it comes to arcs involving anything but Foreteen this season.

Not next week, but the week after (March 9th): A patient just like House! Who makes fun of Taub’s nose! And says whatever comes to mind! And hits on Cuddy! Operate or die! See y’then, folks!

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