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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

House: “Gut Check”

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The “long-lost son” storyline is a dangerous one to pull out late in a show’s run. It creates a situation that’s difficult for an audience to identify with—most of us will never learn about the thousands of bastards we sired in our prime—while at the same time asking us to have an emotional connection to a character we’ve never seen before. When Wilson meets “Duncan” for the first time, it’s a big deal to him, because he honestly believes there’s a genetic connection between the two. Which is all fine and good for Wilson, but to the rest of us, he’s just some brat showing up in the eleventh hour to distract our favorite oncologist from his real purpose in life: exchanging barbs with House. Thankfully, “Gut Check” offers us a couple of ways around this dilemma. Duncan, Wilson’s supposed spawn, is an exceptionally well-adjusted and friendly kid, without even a hint of the angst you’d assume someone would carry when meeting a father they thought had abandoned them. Which leads to directly part two: It’s pretty obvious this is all a con job by House. Because, c’mon, of course it is. House introduces the possibility, he creates the scenario, and, well, you’ve watched this show before, right? It’s a con so obvious the show barely bothers trying to sell it. We’re not supposed to be fooled—Wilson is. And since he wants to be fooled, he falls for the trick until it becomes inconvenient.

Wilson’s brief flirtation with Dad-ism was functional, if not shockingly original. Mostly, it served as an excuse to enjoy Robert Sean Leonard, who, along with Hugh Laurie, has managed to create one of the most consistently entertaining and distinctive characters on television. I’m not exaggerating here, at least not on purpose; while the writing hasn’t always served either of them well, House and Wilson are top-notch, and I’m going to be sad to say goodbye to them at the end of this season. It’s a mark of their excellence that this nonsense is as watchable as it is. Literally nothing happens between House and Wilson in “Gut Check” that hasn’t happened a dozen times before. The details are different, but it’s the same joke; it’s just, after so many repetitions by such talented, comfortable performers, I can’t find it in me to mind. What really makes this work is the big reveal and the scene that follows almost immediately after. Wilson is panicking because “Duncan” wants to move in with him, so House explains it was all a con to convince Wilson he doesn’t really want kids after all. Wilson throws him out of the office, and, were this an earlier season, there might have been some drama here, as Wilson dealt with various feelings of betrayal and rage at being taken advantage of. Instead, he yells a bit, and later on, we see the two guys making pizza together. There’s no reason to get upset. This is who House is, and this is who Wilson is, and while maybe things will change someday, there’s no use pretending that change will happen just because House played a trick. If tricks bothered Wilson, he would have cut ties ages ago.


The Wilson story takes up maybe a quarter of “Gut Check.” The rest is given over to Park, Chase, and Taub getting a handle on our patient of the week. Both storylines follow the trend of Wilson’s long-lost son, in that both threaten to get complicated, but end up being a lot more pleasant and positive than I would have thought possible. Park is having problems with her parents, so Chase offers to let her move in. There follows a lot of discussion over what Chase’s motives are, and after a lot of theorizing, most of it painting Chase in a less than positive light, Park figures it out: Chase just wants a little family time of his own. It’s a sweet twist, one that allows Chase to be simultaneously selfish and kind at the same time.

Then there’s the patient, Bobby Hatcher, a hockey enforcer who gets brought to Plainsboro after coughing up blood during a game. Taub doesn’t like him because Taub doesn’t like bullies, then Taub likes him because he thinks Bobby stood up for him, and then Taub doesn’t like him again because it turns out House was lying. This sounds convoluted, but it works out well enough in context, because Bobby is a likable, interesting patient, and because it all builds to a conversation between House and Taub in which House, essentially, tells Taub to suck it up and do his damn job. This continues the trend of House having small but meaningful exchanges with his team, like the speech he gave Chase a while back. I’m not sure how far into the production schedule the writers of the show realized this would be their last season, but I’m guessing they’ve suspected for a while, as this season has been about accepting what can’t be changed, and finding ways to improve House’s relationships with everyone on the show. That means he has to show some sign of respect or caring for his team, and the idea of him pausing his games just long enough to point out that some of his tricks have actual morals, is a satisfying, and important, change. House messes with people to keep himself entertained, but he also does it because, to him, the truth is the most important lesson anyone can ever learn. It’s painful and frightening and can change your life forever, but once you accept that anything is possible, you can handle most everything. After years of worrying if House would ever change, it’s nice to see the show accept him for who he is, and allow him to, apparently, do the same.

Stray observations:

  • Taub even got to solve the case this week! Non-House solutions used to be exceedingly rare, although there have been enough by now for it not to be completely shocking.
  • Weird, I have this sudden urge to BUY A FORD PRODUCT.
  • I’m glad “Duncan” was fake. He was creepy. (I wonder if House used the same casting agency that Barney from HIMYM did?)

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