TV Review: House – "Finding Judas"

I was chatting with a friend after we’d watched this latest House episode, “Finding Judas” (which makes House Jesus? Talk about your ironic titles). She loved it, I hated it. (Well, “hate” here is defined as “loved slightly less than most other episodes of this show.”) When we got further into the discussion, it was obvious that our overall impressions were virtually identical, until we got to those opposite conclusions. Sometimes there really is a fine line, not a Great Wall of China, between love and hate.

I love bastard House. I defend bastard House. I’ve never thought the bastardliness was hiding a man who really loves puppies and sunsets, and I think it’s more interesting that he’s not only a bastard on the outside. But this House, the House who is hitting rock bottom in “Finding Judas,” was not fun, or funny, or sympathetic, and all that candy coating is what makes bastard House go down so smoothly.

I thought I’d really enjoy watching Chase getting punched, as he was at the end when he provided the medical epiphany moment after House botched the case. Foreman is right, Chase is hardwired to kiss ass, and that doesn’t endear him to me. But it turned out I wanted Chase to get up and beat House senseless with his stethoscope so he’d quit his bloody whining. Your leg hurts? Do something about it. Try something else for pain management, like all those doctors around you are pleading, like the cop who is making your life and your colleagues lives miserable is demanding.

Yeah, I know that’s not House’s M.O. (And I know he’s a fictional character and my hectoring will have no effect.) That’s why I can appreciate what the episode is trying to do without necessarily enjoying it (remember the silent “as much as most other episodes” at the end of that sentence).

I can’t believe I’m agreeing with scary Tritter, but we keep coming back to this: apparently everyone but House believes he is taking too much Vicodin, yet no one will actually do anything to stop him from practicing medicine in what they think is an impaired state. Maybe he’s impaired when he’s taking too much Vicodin, or maybe he’s impaired when he’s in too much pain to focus on the case. Either way, in “Finding Judas,” little Alice, the six-year-old patient of the week, almost lost her limbs because he was too busy focusing on how mean Cuddy was for rationing his Vicodin. (He hides his secret stash in a lupus textbook, because “it’s never lupus.”)

Alice was brought to the hospital in excruciating abdominal pain, and her bickering parents can’t agree on consent for surgery. Instead of threatening to cut the girl in half, House goes before the wisdom of a judge who rules in his favour – and, incidentally, the mother’s. When mystery rashes start appearing and treatment doesn’t work, it’s the father who wants to refuse House’s treatment, so back to the judge they go. In a surprise move – for those who hadn’t read the episode description – she awards temporary guardianship to Cuddy in order to make medical decisions.

House’s position is that Cuddy’s middle-of-the-road approach, in Alice’s treatment and in his own pain management, is cowardly, and that her medical decisions are only resulting in her getting sicker. He thinks his team is cowardly for not ratting him out, and barely listens to their medical opinions because they interfere with his complaining about his Vicodin being rationed. But he’s the biggest coward here, taking the head-in-sand approach to his legal problems and the impact those problems are having on the people closest to him. Even I want to smack House, and my bank accounts haven’t been frozen. Last I checked.

He’s always been an advocate for people doing what they think is right, even if it means standing up to him, and he’s no different here. But even though he’s goading them to do the right thing here, they believe that loyalty supersedes the law, medical ethics, and, if they do believe he’s out of control, House’s own well-being. He’s goading them to take action because he won’t, or can’t, or wants to make a game out of it, or isn’t thinking of the consequences because all he can think about are drugs. None of those options are admirable in a guy who does the right thing – in his own wrongheaded way – in professional circumstances, but rarely does the right thing in personal ones.

The gang refuses to talk to Tritter, but the way he puts pressure on each of them, and the reasons why they don’t talk, are revealing.

Tritter offers Foreman a deal – the truth about how many pills House takes each day in exchange for parole for his previously unheard-of brother, who’s locked up on drugs violations. Foreman refuses, even after Tritter points out that juvenile car thief Foreman has had two chances, House has had a thousand, and his brother is stuck at one. Foreman has written off his addict brother, and suddenly his pragmatism about House being an addict, and his hardness about people who can’t overcome their weaknesses or upbringing, has a context.

The cop presses the love angle with Cameron, pointing out that she’s changed under House’s tutelage: “You used to be someone who did the right thing.” She denies she’s in love with House, though she’s fooling no one.

Chase, the one who ratted on House during the Vogler era, is set up by Tritter to look like a rat this time, even though he refuses to divulge any information. He’s the only one whose accounts aren’t frozen – though he lies about it – and Tritter arranges a friendly, public meeting so they look cozy. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, right, Chase?

Their blind loyalty is not appreciated by House, and he gets meaner and meaner to prove it. He saves his most unforgivable viciousness for Cuddy, confronting her after she carries the sick girl into a shower in desperation to cool her fever.

I like mean House, when he’s funny, or making a point – even if that point is that someone is stupid. But his attack on Cuddy was deeply personal: “It’s a good thing you failed to become a mom, because you suck at it.” If he weren’t a fictional character, I’d gouge his eyes out for her. When Wilson tries to comfort her, especially after she admits to a miscarriage, she points out that House knows how to poke where it hurts, and expresses her own doubts over her maternal fitness.

Wilson is the designated shoulder this episode. He also encounters an upset Chase after he’s been punched for trying to stop House from maiming Alice for no reason. House doesn’t want to hear that his own medical decisions have led to the wrong conclusion, that she has flesh eating disease and needs her arm and leg amputated. As Chase pieces together, Alice is actually allergic to light, a condition that will limit but not end her life, and definitely not end her full-limbedness. After the punch, House finally seems appalled by himself, though not enough to do anything drastic like apologize.

Wilson tells Chase: “Beckett was going to call him play Waiting for House’s Approval, but decided it was too grim.” But Chase declares he’s not waiting for approval, and Wilson translates that correctly. Before Chase can potentially ruin his career by becoming a rat for a second time, Wilson goes to Tritter to ask for his “30 pieces of silver.” And we’ve found our Judas. Except Judas might not have been acting in everyone’s best interests.

It seems House needs to hit bottom before he can be redeemed, or at least scraped off the floor. I like that we’re seeing more of the dynamics between all the characters, and how they demonstrate their loyalty, and where their cracks are. But I didn’t find it fun to watch a bastard House with no redeeming flashes of humour or decency. And without the House I love at its centre, the show is as interesting and complex as ever without being nearly as compelling.

I know he’ll be back soon, but I don’t want my funny, sympathetic bastard House to ever go away. Next episode better be “Finding House.”

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15 Responses to TV Review: House – "Finding Judas"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great review as always, Diane. One small correction: Foreman’s brother was mentioned in Euphoria II.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Welcome to Addiction 101. The Inhuman House is to be expected. I doubt if rehab will ever turn him into the Metaphysical House, which is what he would need to be to the extreme in order to manage his pain completely without pills, so I predict an eventual Normal House. Hopefully fewer pills, with more candy coating.

  3. Nancy says:

    Eloquent and insightful review as always, Diane.

    Question: Why can’t House’s colleagues see that, instead of his judgement being impaired on pain meds, it’s impaired when he’s off the meds, as this episode demonstrates? If he was killing patients while medicated, I doubt he’d have free reign like he does. So in that sense, the whole Tritter thing is a tempest in a teapot to me.

    What I like about Tritter is that he’s House with a badge; he believes the same thing (everybody lies) and will say anything in order to get the information he needs through manipulation. On the other hand, I can’t see a motive for him other than revenge (does Tritter really think House is such a threat to society?), so I think he parts company with House there. At least House is trying to make people better.

    Another question: What happened to Chase this season? It’s like the writers decided they don’t like him; they’re treating like a charicature of himself. (Ha – a charicature of a character!)

    BTW, I laughed out loud at House hiding his store in a lupus textbook. Great touch!

    Regarding “mean House” — he’s certainly not desirably, but he’s completely believable. Thank goodness this thread will be over in a couple of episodes, though. He got over being pain-free, he’ll get over rehab and be back to his old, snarky, pill-popping self. I hope.

  4. Suldog says:

    As a person who has been involved a bit in trying to change drug laws – especially as it concerns asset forfeiture, or “freezing” of personal worth – I find this whole arc fascinating. It shows all too clearly how innocent people can be totally screwed by the present legalities.

    I have also been where House finds himself – addicted. That was many years ago. I sympathize with his mental pain and understand that it may drive an otherwise rational person to overt nastiness.

    Having said that, I, too, found myself wanting to grab House, shake him hard, and tell him to start apologizing to people and grow up.

    What really pissed me off the most, though, was that there won’t be a resolution for two weeks! Friggin’ FOX.

  5. wcdixon says:

    Agreed Diane….mean House made me want to change the channel – something I never thought I’d say. But also acknowledge that the show isn’t just standing still and playing the same beats every week. It’s a fine line indeed.

  6. heywriterboy (DMc) says:

    I don’t know. I think it’s refreshing to see that the bastard who’s really sweet underneath is really … um .. a bastard.

    “Hey bra, you knew I was a scorpion when you picked me up.”

    I’m starting to really worry about how they’re going to end this Tritter thing. I hope it doesn’t peter out like the Tritter thing.

  7. Diane Kristine says:

    I bet you mean the Vogler thing? I worry about that too – love the show, don’t love how they don’t seem to quite know what to do with their ongoing storylines.

    And I love bastard House, I do, and I love that he’s not really sweet underneath. I don’t want sweet, but I want fun, or funny, or something other than nasty drug addict. It may be a completely realistic portrayal, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy watching it. Brave of the show to go there, but it seems like we keep going to his addiction and not getting anywhere, and I’m getting a little tired of it being the go-to plot to inject some angst.

  8. atara says:

    I have to agree with this:
    —-
    Question: Why can’t House’s colleagues see that, instead of his judgement being impaired on pain meds, it’s impaired when he’s off the meds, as this episode demonstrates? If he was killing patients while medicated, I doubt he’d have free reign like he does. So in that sense, the whole Tritter thing is a tempest in a teapot to me.

    I’m someone who takes opiates (Percocet) daily for pain; I have Multiple Sclerosis, and I have trigeminal neuralgia (facial pain) from it. I can testify that chronic mild pain makes a person irritable. Chronic severe pain like House’s would of course make him angry, nasty, out-of-control, and obsessed with finding relief. Granted he takes an excessive amount of Vicodin–House does everything to excess (one aspect of the Byronic hero thing I mentioned to you a while back).

    When I’m in pain, I’m not functional. I can’t concentrate on anything, I can’t think, and my mood is horrendous. The worse the pain, the more I snap at people for no reason, and meanwhile I can’t do anything. Percocet doesn’t give me euphoria or make me sleepy; it allows me to concentrate and to function and to be a reasonably cranky person instead of a total bitch.

    Many many doctors believe people in the U.S. are undertreated for pain. In 2005, the Attorneys General of about 20 states wrote a letter to the DEA objecting to their heavyhanded approach to opiates–one which scares doctors out of writing prescriptions for patients in pain and creates mistrust b/t doctor and patient.

    House is a larger-than-life character. The Byronic Hero doesn’t abide by society’s rules. And large doses of Vicodin allow him to function. Being in pain makes him make a massive error in a diagnosis, which is understandable b/c pain is so distracting that you can hardly think. House stealing Wilson’s Rx pad was appalling. But hounding House’s colleagues to testify against him is hardly a helpful solution. What he needs is more effective pain relief than Vicodin or just to be left alone with enough Vicodin to do his job.

    But besides the paranoia about opiates that has been engendered by TPTB for doctors, there’s also an attitude that pain isn’t that important. That people should just be stoic about it. I’ve heard of doctors denying opiates to terminal patients for fear they might get addicted!!!

    You know, I don’t care if I’m addicted or not. I’m not taking House-type doses or Rush Limbaugh-type doses, of course. But my quality of life matters to me, and my ability to concentrate and to exercise my sense of humor instead of just being angry.

    So I don’t see House as a nasty drug addict. I see him in “Findng Judas” as someone in intense pain who’s had his pain relief suddenly reduced to an ineffective dose, and all everyone around him can think about is the Vicodin, not his pain.

    Sorry to be so argumentative, but obviously this is a personal issue for me. I’m lucky to have a doctor who prescribes the pain relief I need, but I’ve gone through periods where I had to ration what meds I had b/c I had a doctor who wouldn’t prescribe enough, and constant worry about not having pain relief and the way the pain affected me made my anxiety and my temper escalate sky-high.

    What I’m concerned about in this story arc is House and Wilson’s relationship. I like Vicodin-popping-House; it’s part of his character just like Picard’s pulling down his uniform shirt became part of his character on Star Trek: TNG. And of course House is going to be nasty and self-absorbed; he’s hurting too much to think about any alternative methods of pain relief b/c he wants relief right bloody NOW, and I can’t blame him.

  9. Diane Kristine says:

    Argumentative is welcome! But your opinion is based on the fact that the show wants us to believe House is in physical pain, while my opinion is based on the fact that the show wants us to believe that it’s largely not physical. So I don’t imagine we’ll see eye to eye.

    Even if I agreed that his pain is largely physical, there are other medications that are supposed to be more effective than Vicodin for long-term chronic pain management, and he refuses to look into any alternatives.

    As has been pointed out numerous times before in the show’s is-he-addicted-or-isn’t-he drama that I’m getting really tired of, it doesn’t matter if he needs drugs to function – he doesn’t need those drugs, in that amount. He had enormous amounts of Vicodin in his home when Tritter busted him, and we know he has a secret stash of morphine. Yet he refused to go into a pain management program because his current plan is working?

    He’s developing a tolerance to them, he’s reckless with them, and they are not helping him the way they’re supposed to. But he’s too stubborn to actually listen to another doctor. He had options, and completely clear-headed, he chose to forge his own prescription, and now his colleagues are covering that up.

    I’m with Tritter on this one in philosophy if not in the way he’s going about it – Cuddy has the means to intervene in a meaningful way and has chosen not to. House’s colleagues have chosen to write him prescriptions and cover his forgery despite their own opinions that he needs a better solution.

    If he were my friend, I’d want to stage an intervention. Since he’s a fictional character, I want him to entertain me, or challenge me, or do something other than circle this same issue without saying anything new since season one’s Detox except that he’s worse now, meaner now, and not able to maintain his brilliance even when he’s in withdrawal.

  10. m says:

    As a chronic pain patient, I completely agree with everything atara said. My only thought that I want to share, Diane, is about the physical/psychological issue with the show. Of course everyone is different, but my view is that while House is in a LOT of physical pain, his psychological issues can make the pain worse. It takes a lot of energy to deal with pain, and it takes a lot of energy to incorporate other pain management methods in addition to medication. It’s depressing to not be healthy. Stress only makes it worse. House’s personality seems to make it even harder for him to accept his position. Of course it’s a tv show, and maybe the writers are trying to walk that fine line between physical/psychological, but I don’t think they’ve written everything consistently (I even have chronic pain friends who can’t watch the show because it angers them too much). I’m not saying that House isn’t an addict – he definitely needs to address his problems. It just saddens me that so many people in chronic pain have to depend on opiates/narcotics, but also have to deal with the fact that their bodies become tolerant to them, and that society as a whole isn’t very understanding of what they have to go through on a daily basis.

    Sometimes I personally worry that the show is only promoting to the non-pain public the same old stereotypes that all pain patients are addicts and that they should just “suck it up”. But I empathize with the character, and I’m entertained enough that I choose to watch anyway. It’s definitely promoting discussion, which is always a good thing.

  11. Anonymous says:

    It is not that I loved this episode, but it is interesting how it moves the plot and characters towards the climax of the Tritter arc.

    One thing really bothering me though is the Tritter arc itself.

    It is completely unbelievable that:

    – a police officer is working on this case alone
    – the lawyers of House or the hospital do not oppose the far fetched accusations (e.g. resisting arrest -> no prove, trafficing drugs -> no prove since no cash or transfers)
    – without solid prove freezing accounts of people just working with a “suspect” is again unbelievable.
    – officers off work have no jurisdiction whatsoever, at least as I interpret “law”, when no imminent danger is at hand and having Tritter sitting in his own “office” in the hospital is a bad joke.
    – Deals offered by Tritter to Foreman would again be a nice present for any lawyer knowing this fact.

    Summing up, I like the idea behind the story arc and the character development in these episodes, but the investigation and actions of Tritter are way exaggerated.
    Even if House is not able/willing to do something about it any other character should and since noone does it lakes credibility.

  12. Holly says:

    Here’s another reference for your list….

    Do you remember the scene with Cuddy in the shower holding the little girl. The image they created is most likely a reference to the Pieta, a statue created by Michelangelo. In it, the virgin Mary holds a dying Jesus in the same way Cuddy holds the little girl.

    Here’s a link to an image:
    http://ee.eng.usf.edu/snider/light/artist/Michaelangelo/Pieta.jpg

    Thanks for all your reviews, they’re always interesting to read.

    -Holly

  13. Anonymous says:

    Is it just me or has House become a parody of itself? Every week it’s the same thing. Everyone gathers around and guesses a diagnosis, House disagrees, House specifies certain tests, they come back negative. More tests, weirder tests, the patient’s residence is searched, House takes Vicodin, then the last resort-the lumbar puncture. I don’t know how much longer I can watch this show. A large portion of the plot is just fill-in-the blanks. MAD TV did a parody of House which was quite accurate.

    Also, I agree that the whole police/drug angle is totally ridiculous. No police officer would have that kind of power. House hasn’t even been to court yet, has he? Seizing co-workers assets? This must have lawyers rolling in the aisles.

  14. Renee says:

    I would like to address the question of whether or not House’s pain is physical or psychological. I would advocate that his pain is both, but more specifically, it is physical.

    Let me begin by saying a few things about the way the writers, and by extension the characters, have addressed House’s addiction. In “Detox,” one of my favorite episodes, House makes a bet with Cuddy that he can go an entire week without Vicodin in exchange for a month off of clinic duty. As the episode continues, House’s suffering increases. He is not only in physical pain, but the effects of detoxing from five or so years of opiate use begin to weigh on him. The other characters seem to want to insist on him as an addict when the truth is apparent: he is an addict. Of course he is. He has been taking a highly addictive drug that relieves his pain for years. The assumption that anyone, an addict with pain as the cause of their consumption or an addict with actual pain, could simply stop taking Vicodin cold turkey is ridiculous. Though, it does make for some amazing acting.

    So, the point is the reaction of the other characters is both expected of people who are not in chronic pain and annoying to people with chronic pain. It is as Atara stated earlier, there is an assumption people that chronic pain sufferers are all addicts of the worst kind. As though chronic pain sufferers created their physical aliments in order to score some drugs.

    Pain is a signal to the brain that there is something wrong with the body. The brain responds by calculating and then instructing the body to perform in such a way as to remove itself from danger. If you burn your hand, your muscles jerk and you remove your hand from the source of the danger. In the case of chronic pain, there is a problem: the body can not remove itself from the source of pain because it is internal.

    Let’s create a scenario where five cancer patients come in for an experimental new pain revealing drug. Three are given the real thing and two are given a placebo. Four of them experience relief from their pain. Why? The placebo effect is a medically documented phenomenon. The body tells the brain that it is in pain (real, actual pain) and the brain knows that medication has been given that should temporarily mask the pain. So, the brain ignores the pain signals that the body is sending it because, logically, there should be no pain. This effect is the one that House experienced in “Skin Deep” when Cuddy gives him the placebo shot. It is not that he is not in pain; it is that his brain has decidedly refused to accept that pain is felt.

    I agree with Atara that pain is demanding. It demands attention. It will not allow the one experiencing it to concentrate on anything but relief. Diane’s “hatred” (rather, her dislike of this episode more than others) is a reflection on the revealing of a side of House we knew existed but that we were not willing to accept. Cuddy is the one who really put it into words when Wilson found her crying in her office because of the “It’s a good thing you failed to become a mom, because you suck at it” comment House made. She said people think House is a mean cruel bastard (and he is) and he is unable to hold back that bastardly nature of his, but the truth is that he is holding back. He is always holding back because despite what people may think he does care. What we all thought was belligerent and thoughtless was actually a reigned in House, a docile House. House unleashed and hounded by his pain is the real House. He is the one that cuts people to the core. He uses his abilities of deduction to wound people, not snap them out of their self-pity comas. I enjoyed the episode because it was appropriate for House’s character. I didn’t want to see it, but I find it interesting that I did. I think it tells volumes about all the times he could have gone in for the kill and didn’t; he restrained himself.

    Obviously, House had a legitimate medical reason for his pain. Otherwise, he would not have been prescribed the pain revealing medication in the first place. I share the frustration with all of those who watched “Skin Deep” and felt empathy for House only to find out it was “all psychological.” The assumption that House’s pain is now, and was always, in his head is ridiculous. He does have a physical ailment. He has been forced to up his dosage over the years because the human body adapts to the drug. Though I enjoy the complex connection between physical and psychological pain, I think the writers’ insinuation that it is “all in his head” is just insulting.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t interpret Chase’s statement that he wasn’t waiting for House’s approval anymore to mean anything other than that. I don’t think Wilson gets to be vindicated with “I betrayed House so Chase wouldn’t.” I think Chase shoved House to that same place he holds his father: “I’m not going to admit to myself or anyone else that I actually care about you and I’m going to pretend I don’t care what you think of me.” Wilson wouldn’t sacrifice his friendship with House for Chase’s sake. If Chase wanted to get back at House he could have gone right to Cuddy and demanded that House be suspended, but he didn’t.

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