TV Review: House – "The Jerk"

It’s quite the shock to realize that the jerk of this episode’s title is not House, at least not exclusively or even primarily. Nick Lane as rage-prone teenager Nate is possibly too effective as the mini-jerk. From the unmodulated bullhorn voice to the constant, not-particularly-funny smart remarks, the fictional kid is not someone I’d want to spend even an hour with. Not even an hour between 9 and 10 p.m. on a Tuesday evening. I realize this confession reveals my own jerkdom, but it was the first ever House episode where I was rooting for the patient to die. I’m not completely heartless – I would have settled for a prolonged coma. Even a persistent vegetative state.

There’s a lot of brats in this episode, from House to Nate to the clinic patient’s son to the writers – I can’t believe they opened with a head exploding threat. How am I supposed to block the head exploding scene of “Resignation” out of my head with reminders like that?

House is back to his usual level of jerkiness, apparently off his antidepressants and ruining my chance to pontificate on what he learned from Wilson’s coffee-doping trick in the previous episode. Here’s my updated pontification: nothing. He’s learned nothing.

Nate, who has absolutely no redeeming qualities — unless you count being unconscious for a few minutes out of the episode — serves to highlight how finely balanced the character of House is. The kid even demonstrates some drug-seeking behaviour to hammer home the similarities to our hero, but the juxtaposition reminds me how remarkable it is that Hugh Laurie takes this bastard who careens between wildly inappropriate nastiness and appropriate misery, always laced with that acerbic wit he’s so proud of, and rarely-to-never crosses over into unbearable. If only House had smothered Nate with a pillow during their chess match, I would have extolled his virtues even more.

Nate’s long-suffering mother is not unreasonably happy that the initial (and therefore inaccurate) diagnosis of cluster headaches means her son’s personality is likely to change with treatment. “I thought I was a bad mother and I hated myself because I hated him,” she confesses to Chase.

Mom Enid’s journey from that confession to being upset with Foreman for sedating Nate just to shut him up to relief that her kid is going to live, albeit with his current personality, is given a lot less room in the episode than I would have liked. Both the initial confession and the end relief seem natural enough, I suppose, but they’re too pat, with no expectation-bending or emotionally impactful scene to make me care that she’s facing her son’s long, miserable life with more joy than she might have anticipated at the beginning.

Foreman is a bit of a jerk this episode, but he’s got reason to be. Someone called to cancel the interview he had lined up with a hospital in New York, starting a chain of suspicion and denial throughout the episode that starts and ends with House. Foreman accuses House of interfering, too childish to ask Foreman to stay instead of playing games with him. House denies it. “Yeah, it was one of the other petty socially repressed assholes I work for,” Foreman scoffs.

House accuses Cuddy of being the saboteur in her efforts to keep Foreman:”You are one evil, cunning woman. That’s a massive turn on.” She denies it, then Lisa Edelstein performs this wonderful chain of expressions from puzzlement to dawning realization. She accuses Wilson, since she thinks it has to be someone who likes House: “It’s either you or the weird night janitor who wears his pants backwards.”

Wilson denies any involvement, saying he wants Foreman to leave to teach House that he needs someone who will stand up to him: “House is a six year old who thinks he’s better off without parents.” She doesn’t believe him – about the not sabotaging Foreman, not his assessment of House — since that kind of lesson-teaching doesn’t fit the role of Wilson as enabler. I diagnose amnesia: the poor woman has forgotten Wilson’s previous attempts to teach House a lesson role in “Detox” and with the Tritter deal.

We get Robert Sean Leonard doing the face of dawning realization, then continuing the chain by accusing Cameron, using the same rationale Cuddy used on him. He also tries to manipulate her into a confession by saying Cuddy thinks it’s him and is going to fire him, but she’s not fooled for a second. “You so would have fallen for that three years ago,” he sighs.

She denies being the one to ruin Foreman’s interview, with a bonus denial of not being in love with House, and then Jennifer Morrison gets to do the face of dawning realization. She accuses Chase of cancelling Foreman’s interview solely to be a jerk, and he bristles, implying she’s a jerk for thinking so, but still managing to spit out his weekly reminder that he likes her and wants to go out with her. It’s about as unromantic as you can get without being House, and yet it still made me say “awww.”

Chase, not usually the cleverest of the bunch, is the only one to figure out what’s going on. Of course he had the advantage of being the last in the chain of accusations, assuming the night janitor who wears his pants backwards was never seriously in the running. He accuses House of not only sabotaging the interview, but manipulating the team into “chasing ghosts” and Foreman into rejoining the land of doctors with contributions to make.

“Sometimes I forget why I hired you,” House smiles. He does not, however, take Chase’s advice to tell Foreman he wants him to stay, or feel any remorse at costing him that job: “I cost him a crappy opportunity.”

“It would make him feel like maybe you aren’t evil,” Chase insists. “He needs that.” I need us not to go down the same road as in “DNR,” with the whole “I want some clue that he knows it’s a big deal, that it scares him, that it matters.” I need to know Foreman’s learned something, even if House hasn’t. On the other hand, I need to win my bet that he’s not leaving for good, so I guess I do need us to go down the “DNR” road again.

Cuddy gives Foreman another option besides capitulation, offering to double his salary and put him in charge of a competing diagnostic department. He’s tempted for a minute, but rejects the offer, since he knows he’ll still have to turn to House for the cases he can’t solve, and he doesn’t want to work for a place that would sabotage his other job interviews. That would be an intriguing, show-changing solution, but my gut tells me they’re not ready for show-changing yet. My gut isn’t known for being highly accurate, though, so I’ll be curious to see how they resolve this Foreman situation.

Later, House cannily preys on Foreman’s reasonable doubt that there will be cases he can’t solve. Instead of going Chase’s route of making nice, House decides to go with his strengths and be a jerk. When Foreman balks at treating the kid for amyloidosis, which he’s tested negative for, House points out that he has two choices: argue with him until doing what he asks, or just doing what he asks. When Foreman stalks off, House calls out: “You’re not ready,” pointing out that the third choice was to stand up to him. “You still trust my judgement more than your own.”

It doesn’t help that the jerk patient has pointed out that while he understands Foreman’s done his best to treat him, his best really sucks. It’s almost enough to make me feel sorry for Foreman. He really would have won me over if he’d put something deadly in that sedative he stuck Nate with.

At one point during the differential diagnosis, House says “symptoms don’t lie.” Really? My world has turned upside down. What about infections that don’t act like infections and symptoms that mask other symptoms? I kind of thought the whole show was based on the fact that the symptoms lie and it’s up to House to make them tell the truth. Or something. But then House also rejects the idea that Nate might have two disorders, since “it’s always one.” Really? I also thought many of season two’s patients have had some tricky combination of diseases. Maybe I’m suffering from amnesia too.

I wondered for most of the episode why House, in all his unpleasant splendour, held on to Nate’s unpleasant personality as a symptom. His rationale was that the kid hadn’t said anything appropriate, which is plausible, of course. But this time my gut wasn’t wrong.

House only turns on the kid when he faces him down over a chess board, attempting to stress him and therefore prove one of the team’s obscure diagnoses. It doesn’t work, causing a seizure rather than the expected rage attack. House seems to be more upset about losing the game after the kid goads him into giving up, spending future scenes trying to plot out how he might have won.

He also comes up with the brainwave that maybe the kid is just a jerk, and wipes “personality” off the whiteboard. Foreman disagrees: “You crossed it off because you want to hate the kid, and you can’t hate him if he’s just a victim.”

“You want him to be a victim because you want to believe that people are good, and if they’re not, it’s got to be a chemical problem,” House counters. I don’t think Foreman would argue that House is good, but fortunately he’s got the drugs and maybe even depression to blame it on.

Once the personality issues are out of consideration, the diagnosis is clear: amyloidosis. Except of course it isn’t. After the biopsy is negative, Foreman keeps testing and treating him anyway, and Chase challenges House on his game playing with Foreman, House realizes that the kid’s other aches weren’t from getting beaten up in the playground but from hemochromatosis, having too much iron in his blood. He lets the grateful mother know that her son will have a long and annoying life, and tells the annoying son how he would have beat him at chess. “I know. I was bluffing. And that’s why you lost.”

That gives House another move with Foreman. He bluffs again, letting Foreman continue to test for amyloidosis and not revealing that the case has been solved. It’s not quite as dramatic or funny a moment as I’d hope to end on, but sure, why ask Foreman to stay when you can just crush his spirit. Maybe House is evil. At the very least, he’s quite the jerk.

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29 Responses to TV Review: House – "The Jerk"

  1. Elen says:

    Man, Foreman bugged me in this episode. As did the PoTW. I’m glad to read that someone else found him just as insufferable as I did!! Por Mrs. PoTW. I hope she seriously considers boarding school.
    But Foreman…”I can’t work here because House is evil”? Really? Interesting coming from a guy who tried to kill a co-worker.

  2. John says:

    What they did wrong with the PoTW is that they created for the sole reason of having him to be a jerk. And while the promo promised that House found his match in the ‘jerk’ department, Nate was nothing like regular House. He wasn’t witty or funny; he was like House in detox, being mean to Cuddy for the sake of being mean.

    It didn’t help that the patient, as a character, didn’t get any exploration. At.all. They didn’t even allude to what could lead this kid to be such an ass. I can’t care for a character that really isn’t a character, even if he’s dying. I liked the actor though.

    Speaking of jerks, I [i]really[/i] don’t like post-Tritter Cameron. She’s being more of a witch than she should be.

  3. Suldog says:

    MY WIFE, who has sympathy for everybody, said, “Good!”, when Foreman gave the kid the sedative without the mother’s knowledge 🙂

    Is tonight the finale? Or is it next week? I believe you’ll win your bet, but I’m certainly hoping that you will, also. I’d hate to see Omar Epps leave. His character is, to me, the most fascinating outside of House himself. Great actor.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am completely on board with your distaste for the POTW: what a marvelous performance by that young actor. There was no explanation for his behavior because he did not have a personality disorder, just a noxious personality. His bluff of House — which involved superior chess skills both on the board and inside his opponent’s head — was a gem.

    I felt utterly sorry for Foreman as he was the one being jerked around the entire episode, dangling while House tugged on the strings to watch him jump. I’m still with you in that I think that Foreman is not going anywhere and will be back inside the tender confines of House’s diagnostic department very soon.

    The office scene with House and Cuddy was scintilating and dirty at the same time: these two are always so wonderful together.

  5. Diane Kristine says:

    Suldog, the finale’s next week. Tonight I think some stupid singing competition is taking up its timeslot.

  6. Anonymous says:

    You have a very biased opinion when it comes to this show. Please leave House and Cuddy and Cameron and Chase out of your reviews.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Agreed with the above comment. For someone who “claims” not to want House with anyone, you sure do your darnest to point out every opportunity you get how wonderful he is with Cuddy and how Chase/Cameron scenes make you go Awwwwww. Good for you. But it would be nice if you’d get back to the same wonderful, unbiased, fantastic reviews that you’ve been known for the last 2 seasons prior to this one. Just sayin’.

  8. StephBass says:

    Re: the anonymous commenters,

    Correct me if I’m wrong – I’ve only read this week’s post – but I’m pretty sure she was unbiased throughout this review of 3.23, with no mention whatsoever of anything pertaining to House/Cuddy and a very slim picking of the Chase/Cameron scene. It’s in the show so why not make commentary? This is the point of a review – giving one’s opinions about what one’s seen.

  9. Karen says:

    I took this House episode to heart as I actually have hemochromatosis. As does 1 in 200 people in the world. Irish Americans and African Americans are 1 in 100. Tragically it goes undiagnosed and does ultimatly lead to death. Hemochromatosis is the most common genetic disorder yet the most UNdiagnosed. This show certainly did not help our ploy in getting people diagnosed. Yes the personality disorder is not part of hemochromatosis, but imagine how depressed and miserable one could be trying to get a correct diagnosis. After they biopsy this and that for nothing, when simple blood tests and a cheek swab could have quickly diagnosed the patient. I fault House for making the most common genetic disorder look like a freak show.

  10. Diane Kristine says:

    It’s kind of hilarious that you think you can tell me what to write. And please look up the definition of “review” — of course I’m not unbiased. When have I said I am? That’s what a review is — my opinion. Since I’m not an android, of course I have my own personal biases. They are not, however, what you say they are, so please don’t tell me what I think, either.

    Your selective memory is interesting. The Cameron haters would point out to you that last episode I said her waking him up was kinda hot, and that I said the same about her kiss with House. No, I don’t want House with Cameron, nor do I want him with Cuddy, nor do I want Chase and Cameron to live happily ever after, but I do like the constant flirtation on the show.

    I’m guessing you want Cameron with House, but don’t read my reviews if all you want is for me to agree with you. That’s a lot simpler and more rational than trying to tell me what I can and can’t write about.

    I’ve tried to say this gently before, but it goes over the heads of most shippers, so here’s the harsh truth: I think shippers are deluded and suck away enjoyment and meaning from the show. So go away or shut up about your stupid, silly Hameron and Huddy nonsense, especially if you’re going to do it anonymously on my blog.

    There, that wasn’t too subtle, even for the most deluded “Ham” shipper, was it?

  11. DMc says:

    YAYYYYYYYY!

    Diane’s pokin the crazy!
    Diane’s pokin the crazy!
    Diane’s pokin the crazy!

    Oh man, you just launched a thousand tearful fanfics.

    Out there right now, someone’s writing the story about how they finally break through to HOUSE and he gives them a big old hug because that nasty blogger woman got all meano.

  12. Diane Kristine says:

    Oh god, don’t get me started on House fanficcers … 😉

  13. wcdixon says:

    You’re not an android?

  14. Diane Kristine says:

    Well I say that, but everyone lies, you know.

  15. Anonymous says:

    As much as I want Foreman to stick around (and I’m pretty sure he will), I really hope he doesn’t take Cuddy’s offer to head his own diagnostic team. Forget that he might not be ready for that, or that Chase and Cameron both have been working with House longer, or that Foreman shouldn’t have to same status within the hospital as House. I just don’t want the writers to spend too much time focusing on the 2 or 3 new people who would be working with Foreman. A few episodes a season that look more at supporting characters than at House are fine, but whenever House isn’t on screen, there is a noticable absence. And if they didn’t have episodes showing Foreman with this new team, then he’d be relegated to a consultant role, like Wilson but without the personal investment to keep showing up in House’s office just to visit, and that would be a disservice to Omar Epps, I think.

  16. Diane Kristine says:

    Yeah, I’m with you. I don’t think they should go to a solution that dilutes the team even further – I don’t want time taken away from House, and I think they already struggle to give all the secondary characters their due. It would be a fundamental shakeup of the show at a time when its popularity has never been higher, too, which makes me skeptical they’d actually do it.

  17. Mary says:

    I don’t see Diane Kristine “shipping” in her review. I see her pointing out something interesting. The interactions between House and Cuddy are more interesting for the same reason that the interactions between House and Foreman are more interesting – both Cuddy and Foreman push back, and tell him off when he’s wrong or out of line (when they can catch him.) If the show didn’t have that push back, it would be much less interesting than it is. I’m hoping that Foreman will stick around for that very reason; Cuddy’s too busy trying to run a hospital.

  18. Kristen says:

    Crazy people. I’m a ‘shipper or at least I used to be. I detect no overt ‘ship in your reviews; though, I was originally led to your lovely reviews by someone who is now very annoyed that you constantly push Huddy.

  19. Diane Kristine says:

    The thing is, how tragically naive do you have to be to think the show will put House with Cuddy OR Cameron other than to show what a complete and utter trainwreck he’d be in a relationship? Not that that might not be fun in its own way, come to think of it. Be careful what you wish for …

    I really can’t fathom what people like about the show or the character of House if they want to turn it into a romance. That’s what Grey’s Anatomy is for.

  20. John says:

    Heh… For some reason I always found the term ‘Hameron’ disturbingly funny…

  21. Diane Kristine says:

    I know – even if I could take this juvenile shipping stuff seriously, those ludicrous, overused portmanteau names don’t help much. Ham indeed.

  22. DMc says:

    mmm. portmanteau.

    Good word.

  23. Anonymous says:

    lol @ all the cool anti shippers. You must be an intellect now, taking away all the more comprehensive comments. meep

  24. DMc says:

    *No one* is cooler than an anonymous poster. It’s…just…not….possible!

  25. Diane Kristine says:

    Did that last anonymous comment even make sense? It must be too cool for English syntax.

  26. Jan says:

    Diane–this is my first post ever, and most likely my last, but I just want to say that as an avid House fan since the beginning, your site is the place to go for insightful, intelligent reviews of this amazing show. For those who want something other than insightful and intelligent, there are plenty of places to go. Let them go there! Unless it amuses you, I say don’t bother to even respond. They will never get it, but there are plenty of us who do.

  27. Diane Kristine says:

    Thanks Jan, that’s very nice of you to say. I do get some joy from poking the crazy, I have to admit, though it does get old quickly.

  28. Eric says:

    I realize this week’s review won’t be up for awhile yet, but I have to comment, so I’ll do it on last week’s post. :-p

    WTF? Perhaps even OMGWTFBBQ! That was not the Season 3 ending I was expecting. I… truly have absolutely no idea what they’ll do from this point. I don’t know whether I’m happy they chose to shake things up this much, or upset by it. I guess I have until Fall to figure it out.

    Would love to see some interviews with the folks behind the decision, though – and the actors, for that matter – just to get inside their heads.

  29. P "N" K says:

    I recorded the finale (on — gasp — vcr), and just finished watching it…

    Wow.

    Considering the nature of the fellowship positions, I guess some things are inevitable. But still. Wow.

    I am very much looking forward to your weekly take on the finale Diane.

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