TV Review: House, MD - "Not Cancer"

Part of: Welcome to the End of the Thought Process: House M.D.

Over the course of four seasons of House, MD, we have observed its central character (played to perfection by newly-minted executive producer Hugh Laurie) go through a lot. We’ve seen him battered and bruised (emotionally and physically); we have watched him cynical, sarcastic, sappily romantic, desperately ill and in the throes of withdrawal. He’s been depressed and even occasionally happy.

In “Not Cancer,” the second episode of season five, we find House desperate, less and less able to hide his panic and his feelings about the loss of Wilson. They seep into the differential diagnosis sessions and his conversations with the patient; in front of his hired private investigator, they become transparent, as even this hired hand feels House’s agony at having lost Wilson’s friendship.

“What do I get from Wilson?” House inquires absently (and almost to himself) during the first differential diagnosis session. His fellows argue about what might and might not have made six transplant victims ill (and fatally so in several cases). But House’s mind is elsewhere, almost in a parallel scene, ignored as the medical debate continues.

Kutner finally bites: “He paid for your lunch, liked monster trucks and was your conscience.” Of course the question was rhetorical, and House (able to mentally multi-task better than anyone), who appears to not have been paying attention concludes that “it’s cancer.”

So, armed with Kutner's insights on his “Wilson” problem, and leaving the surviving two patients to the team, House (rather pathetically and awkwardly) goes deep into the wilds of the Princeton Plainsboro cafeteria to seek out a new friend. Passing the “Kutner test” of monster trucks and paying for House’s lunch, the poor victim of House’s friend-lorn attention, Dr. O’Shea, seems not to care that House downs three Vicodin, and better still, like Wilson, has a moralizing opinion of House’s ethics. (Although I have to say that House’s decision not to remove the blind patient’s only functioning eye is more compassionate and certainly more responsible than Foreman’s desire to remove it.) House’s reaction to this potential Wilson-replacement is, “I think I’m falling in love.”

House has also hired Lucas (Michael Weston) a private investigator, who I really thought I would dislike as yet another character in an already too-crowded cast. But I like him. And evidently, so does House, who sees beneath the guy’s slightly dippy exterior to the very sharp-minded man beneath -- despite wearing argyle socks with construction boots (and Vans). He has hired the PI to supplement the investigative duties of the fellows, and he appears to be good at his job. But he’s also pretty good at House-reading, and probably has more potential as a Wilson surrogate than O’Shea. He’s a bit of a con man, charging randomly large amounts of money for his information (and doesn’t take checks).

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Article Author: Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett grew up on politics and pop culture. Her professional life has been eclectic, because her left brain doesn't know what her right brain really wants. Her real passions are writing, music, reading, and discussing House MD.

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  • 1 - Juliabohemian

    Sep 24, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    I love that you interpreted this episode exactly the way I did. I'm actually tired of Wilson's whine-fest. House is in just as much pain, but holds it in. Wilson is oblivious to the damage he's causing.

    If Wilson left and didn't speak to anyone, I could buy the whole 'moving on' thing. But this is just insulting.

    I feel sorry for House, thinking he should have to beg or pay for companionship. He's worth more and he'll never know it.

  • 2 - Barbara Barnett

    Sep 25, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Completely agree with you Juliabohemian. The fact that wilson had no answer for House when he confronted Wilson about hanging out with eveyone but him. House's impassioned honesty about not being able to move on without dealing with him...maybe he was also speaking for himself. Huh. I wonder if Stacy left him in just the same way, and his experiences in season 2 and getting closure on their relationship has stayed with him. He realizes that he and wilson need closure at least--on this.

    Wilson was just being cruel to have House grovel at his door, throwing money into his apartment and begging him for a simple conversation.

  • 3 - sdemar

    Sep 25, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Another sterling review, Barbara.

    I have a feeling the hospital unknowingly will be picking up the tab for the Lucas friendship. Cuddy was already inquiring about the $2,300 hospital charge.

    I forgot about that line "friends keep you from sitting in a room alone". I remember hearing it while watching the episode and thinking House really hates being alone. Sad for a man that spends a good amount of time just like that.

    I agree with your view of this episode, and like you, I was all set to not like Lucas. Instead I found myself being very fascinated by him. Geeky and shrewd and has House pegged. He and Hugh have a nice chemistry going.

    Both House and Wilson are grieving deeply and it is sad to watch. I can't wait to see how it all turns out.

    And congrats to Hugh on the "Executive Producer" title. He earned it and it's cool to see his name in the credits other than as an actor.

  • 4 - NancyGail

    Sep 25, 2008 at 12:31 am

    I think RSL needs to be up for an acting award next year if not this.

  • 5 - Barbara Barnett

    Sep 25, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Thanks Sdemar. I watched the episode last night in a noisy House with lots of interruptions. I wasn't certain that I liked it, and I went to sleep having no idea what I was going to write about it. On second viewing this morning, I realized how much this episode just hit all of the classic House themes so beautifully.

    NancyGail--no disagreement from me. RSL has been terrific these first two episodes.

  • 6 - Lisa Solod Warren

    Sep 25, 2008 at 7:42 am

    Yeh but I have had it with Wilson.
    He is the true Sad Sack around town, right now.

    I LOVE the new P.I. He's charming and funny and spot on.

    And Kuttner is great. Wonderful episode.

  • 7 - pollyg

    Sep 25, 2008 at 9:05 am

    I'm at the point of saying, hey House, let Wilson go. Why do you want that deluded, utterly self-absorbed ass in your life anyway?

    I also like the PI--but his addition to the cast just goes to show (to me anyway) how obvious it is that whatever they were trying to get with the new team didn't work or they wouldn't have needed this guy. Though I am rather liking Taub and Kutner, I could do without 13 and her bland neediness.

    Thanks for another spot-on review, Barbara.

  • 8 - Barbara Barnett

    Sep 25, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Remember that House pined for Stacy for 5 years. Although House has a difficult time forging relationships, he has a more difficult time letting go of them. I agree that House should just let Wilson go, but I don't think he can. Clearly, love has been absent from most of House's life: a brutal father probably set him on his self-loathing, and no matter how much of genius he is (and knows he is) that will help to define his life. Add the leg and Stacy's betrayal...

    His feelings of worthlessness (except for his skill as a doctor)must make the impact of Amber's death even more keenly felt.

  • 9 - pollyg

    Sep 25, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Would you care to elucidate what you think is Wilson's real reason for trying to end his relationship with House? I have my theory but am hesitant to state it for fear of being totally off and embarrassing myself...;o)

  • 10 - Barbara Barnett

    Sep 25, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Pollyg--never be afraid to suggest a theory. we all have our insights, and pretty much everything would be speculation anyway...but here's my meager speculation for what it's worth.

    I think that Wilson blames himself for Amber's death. He feels that House is toxic, and his relationship with House led to Amber's death, therefore Wilson partially blames himself. He doesn't blame House. He said it, and I believe that he believes that.

    But I think it goes deeper. Amber's death has caused Wilson to re-evaluate this relationship and given the context, he's judging it in the harshest of lights. House is toxic; House brings nothing but bad luck and misery to everything he touches. Why would Wilson need such a radioactive friend? Wilson's not seeing what good he gets from the relationship.

    It's not hate; it's much more difficult to overcome than simple hate. It's the sort of indifference that comes at the end of a bad marriage, when one partner finally decides that there's no longer anything there and become immune to anything (good or bad) that the other partner can say.

    This is all I can offer.

  • 11 - Jen

    Sep 25, 2008 at 9:59 am

    In season 3, Cuddy told House that he made everyone worse for having known him. Now with Wilson's whole "you spread misery" it strange that I think House deserves better friends? I concede that he's an ass. But part of the problem would have to be the way Wilson approached their relationship, like you've said. It's like Cuddy and Wilson can't find a balance between letting House do whatever he wants and treating him like a child, so they fluctuate from one extreme to another and blame him when he follows their lead and does what he wants or acts like a child. I'm in no way stripping House of personal responsibility for his actions, but I think Wilson will really need to reevaluate how he's behaved in the history of their friendship before coming back to it. And it'll be interesting to see (if new ground rules are established) how House reacts to that.

  • 12 - Barbara Barnett

    Sep 25, 2008 at 10:29 am

    It's like House said in "Words and Deeds." My friends have no expectations of me. And House has called them both on it: telling Cuddy never to threaten him if she won't back it up with action, because it's too easy for him to tell if she's bluffing for example.

  • 13 - Ann

    Sep 25, 2008 at 10:37 am

    I feel the same way about the PI. I enjoyed his scenes, but I don't think I'd want to see him as a permanent member of the cast. I love Kutner, still find 13 annoying, but not as much as last season. I'm indifferent to Taub. I saw a preview/interview of the cast where Peter Jacobsen says that House recognizes Taub's "sturdiness" and that he's an important member of the team. His scenes could be removed and it wouldn't make one bit of difference to the storyline one way or the other. I don't ship any relationships, but I did fully expect that Camereon would have checked up on House, not because she still pines for him in a romantic way, but because I think she'll always have special feelings for him even though she may not want to act on them anymore. The PI talked about how everyone but Chase had called or talked to Wilson, nobody asked how poor House was doing. He is in a terribly lonely place. I'm excited to see where this arc is going, but I do hope that at the end the House/Wilson dynamic has returned to some semblance of it's former self. They are consistly my favorite things, right behind everything else that picks apart the character of Gregory House. Thanks for the great review!

  • 14 - ann uk

    Sep 25, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I am putting off reading your reviews untill House is broadcast over here as I dont want to spoil the pleasure of seeing them first.
    I just want to say that up till now I have given the Emmy judges the benefit of the doubt, but I can only think that their repeated refusal to recognise Hugh Laurie's genius is due to prejudice.

    I dont believe that any other actor could match his harrowing performance in House's Head.

    I am sure Hugh will concede with his usual modesty and grace, but he must feel it as a slight.

    Looking forward to rejoining the debate.Ann

  • 15 - Ellen

    Sep 25, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Barbara: I look forward to your House reviews each week. As usual, you are dead-on about the "Not Cancer" episode. It was all of the things I love about House, quirky, poignant, profound. I, too, thought I would hate the new character, but it was hard to dislike him, with his quirky charm. He and Hugh had wonderful chemistry, but Hugh is so good, I think he could generate chemistry with a house plant. The end, where House asks the patient "How do I look?" and she said "You look sad." gave me a lump in my throat.

  • 16 - Alfredo

    Sep 25, 2008 at 11:54 am

    This is not a Review, this is telling everything that happen on the episode, only the last page is a real review.

    Sorry about the english..

  • 17 - pollyg

    Sep 25, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Thank you, Barbara. Hmm, now I think it over, I'm not sure it's so much a theory as slightly connected ramblings...but such as it is....

    Wilson says he doesn't blame House for Amber's death and while I agree with you he believes he means it a superficial way but ultimately he does blame House for it because to him it is the result of House's toxic influence on everyone around him. But I think, in his typical Wilson fashion, he is just using House as he always has--as a scapegoat for his own guilt. In my opinion no one is to blame for her death--just the unfortunate circumstance of her taking the cold medicine: if you take that one thing out and leave everything else the same, she would not have died, right?

    Now look at why Amber went to the bar. Because she's just a nice person? No. House didn't call her cut-throat bitch for nothing after all. Every time we have seen her do anything nice (except the Wilson's bed thing, I'll give her that) it has been with the ulterior motive to beat her competition for whatever goal she had in sight. It was clearly demonstrated that she and House (both very competitive people) were competing for Wilson's time and attention and that Wilson was rather enjoying it. imo her going to the bar was another move in her campaign to win Wilson from House. So if Wilson had to accept that, he would have to allot some of the blame to Amber and himself as well as to House. But he can't face that so absolves himself and Amber for any blame by laying it all on House's toxic personality: if they had not been around House there would never have been any competition for him to enjoy (I think deep down he realizes this is why she went and he feels very guilty for how much he was gratified by the competition) he writes it all down to House, thereby leaving Amber and himself clean of any guilt or blame. Which is not only false but cowardly. imo

    I think we see House's personality allowing the people around him to deflect any guilt or shortcomings in themselves onto House: Wilson--your addiction, self-centeredness, toxic personality hurt everyone and killed Amber; Stacy--I saved your life and you pushed me away; Cameron--I'm beautiful and wonderful and you couldn't love me because you are too screwed up ;o); Foreman--you are a monster and being around you damaged me and cost me my job.... Very nice for all of them, they never have to examine the possibility of faults within themselves which caused the situations they are in. And he lets them do it! hmmm

    Make any sense?

  • 18 - Dan

    Sep 25, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    As sad as it is to see House hurting, he isn't the innocent party in any of this. He will never have 'better' friends because Wilson was the only one who could stand to be around him, who even enjoyed being around him.
    Wilson is grieving and he's not acting rationally. That whole scene at the door? Wilson could barely look at House and no, he wasn't being cruel. He was trying to be strong for himself in what he thought he had to do and he was clearly struggling. Wilson isn't perfect. He's messes up, he can be manipulative etc.. but he has always been there for House. Beyond the call of duty it seems. Wilson's ex-wife said it herself: 'You always needed him and he was always there for you.'
    Wilson has the right to do what's best for himself. This woobiefication of House is bordering on the ridiculous.

  • 19 - Barbara Barnett

    Sep 25, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    I think he lets them do it because I think he believes they are right.

    Dan--House is an ass to everybody. But there is a reason that he acts differently in those moments he's with a patient (who is really ill) and why he allows everyone act towards him as pollyg said.

    Wilson is grieving and has a right to walk away from his relationship with House. Not even House disputes that. It was thing he was most afraid of. But he's also right in what he said to Wilson--you can't start over without dealing with him. This is Wilson's MO and House knows that. When Wilson's marriage broke up, it wasn't until House pushed him to snap out of his passive aggressive stupor and push back that Wilson actually acted. That's what the episode "Safe" was all about.

    Amber's death was a terrible tragedy, and House did not want her to come to his rescue. Yes, it was selfish and fairly pathetic that he wanted dial-a-Wilson. but her coming was not altruistic (it's not Amber if it was) and House tried to shake her off. And after the accident, despite his own injuries, his subconscious kept after him to remember what happened--because it was her! If he was fundamentally (behind all the bullshit) such a jerk, his conscience and sub-conscious wouldn't care. He would have wanted to get better and the heck with everyone else. Fact is, he risked his life and his only thing of value (his intelligence) to do that dangerous surgery. Talk about laying your life on the line for a friend. And yes, House understands Wilson's anger; what he doesn't understand is that their friendship is irreperable. woobie?

  • 20 - C.

    Sep 25, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    I have to disagree with there being any hint of Wilson laying the blame on House for Amber's death. I think he was sincere when he said he didn't blame House. It was clear he blamed himself and was struggling with that guilt for allowing the boundaries of his friendship to blur and for enabling House all these years. As House intimated in Dying Changes Everything and other episodes Wilson's guilt is a mighty thing. Also, so what if Wilson took some pleasure in having House and Amber vie for his attention. He loved them both as they loved him and it was House who initiated the silly game and Amber who was tolerant enough of their insanely co-dependent friendship to go along with it. So you have one moment of childish allowances for all involved and yet we can trace that to the current sitation and how Wilson's own culpability (at least in his own eyes)is now at play.

    This episode resonated for me, in that we get to see House dissecting his relationship with Wilson, trying to sort it out logically, define it and doing his mighty all to repair it in his emotionally stilted way. Hiring a P.I. to stalk your best friend, then insulting him because that's sometimes your only expression for hurt. I felt sorry for both men here. I thought the acting was top notch by Robert Sean Leonard and Hugh Laurie. They conveyed so much in expression and tone of voice. Also, the role reversal is going to be amazing to watch, as here we see Wilson guided/blinded by his grief and pushing House away. I can't wait to see how this is resolved. Wilson will have to see how much he truly loves House as House has now seen how much he truly loves and misses Wilson.

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