The title of this week’s House MD episode is “Painless” an ironic title for an episode that focuses solely on pain and the effects of it. The patient of the week, Jeff, uses the normal patient formula to make the doctors of Princeton Plainsboro think, but gave the viewers the added benefit of seeing House interact with a man who could potentially be his future. This episode may have been about Pain, but it also commented quite strongly on the effects of someone’s pain on the people they love.
The revealing message of this episode took place during the pivotal scene between House and Jeff:
Bad pain day today?
About to get better. [Pops Vicodin] Don’t worry he’s making yours a double.
I remember when the drugs still made things tolerable. Still thought I had good days left.
Turns out you have to live to find out.
You don’t have a family do you?
Left ‘em all back on Krypton
You’re alone, that’s why you can handle the pain, no need to put up a front, to be what anyone else wants you to be. You’re having more bad days lately aren’t you?
Painless, Season 5, Episode 12
Though this particular conversation has extreme importance to House and his character, it applies to all of the plots within this episode. Its applies to Cuddy’s plot with the baby, Thirteen and Foreman and finally Taub. Each will be discussed, along with House in their own section.
HOUSE- The broken pipes, the desk and all of his good stuff
I thought I would start with House because his scenes contain the best metaphor for what I am trying to explain in this article. The episode starts with House taking a bath and throughout the episode the viewers see House drenched with a cascade of water from his ceiling, a plumber who insists on House being
negligent with his plumbing and a whole other cast of scenarios until the last scene where we see that House’s broken pipes are indeed his fault because he’s been using the shower head as leverage to get into the bathtub. What an amazing metaphor the House writers set us up for. House accidently breaking his pipes stands for everyone who suffers from the hurt of others. House needs to use the shower head as leverage because of his leg, otherwise he can’t get into the bath, or other people are used as leverage or someone to lean on when in extreme pain. But because House has used it repeatedly it eventually rattled his plumbing enough for one of the pipes to break, or because those people have to watch that person suffer through the pain, they too must suffer and break. His seemingly unimportant endeavors to fix his plumbing send out a much deeper message about the theme of the episode. Isn’t that why Jeff comments about how hard it is on the family of the person in pain, and the episode shows just how horrible it is when Jeff’s own son is willing to help him commit suicide. Now that the metaphor has been explained this set’s up the rest of the article and we can talk about other plots in the show.
Jeff gets House to admit that lately he’s been having a lot more bad days. House is a character whose mental anxieties are actually shown physically when he’s particularly stressed. We’ve seen many examples of this pain manifestation (Skin Deep, Whac a Mole, The Itch) and I think in this instance House is going through a lot of changes in his life, and as someone who does not like change, the pain in his leg has gotten worse because his stress levels have risen. I think it’s safe to assume that the major changes in his life have to do with Cuddy. I think House has been thinking a lot about Cuddy lately and the prospect of forming a relationship with her (The Itch and Let them eat Cake) but an added complexity has been thrown into the mix, Rachel. Now that Rachel is here, we finally see House’s control over his body and emotions crack as his pain escalates into something he can’t hide. The reason I think it breaks at this point, as opposed to before (and including the obvious huge amount of change) again has to do with the conversation with Jeff about his bad days and the shower issues. House wants Cuddy, but I think he truly thinks that his relationship with her will poison whatever happiness she might have.
I’m better off alone.
The Itch, season 5, episode 7
But I think his own desires to have Cuddy to himself are fighting with his “noble” desires to leave her at peace with her baby. His pain therefore comes because he knows what his pain will bring to Cuddy if she sees the pain up close, he knows that in letting Cuddy in, he will be taking her down with him. Just as the patient fears he is that doing with his family. House knows that the “front” that Jeff talks about will eventually break and he doesn’t want Cuddy to have to suffer that way. I think Rachel coming into the picture brutally reminds House of what life would be like without Cuddy and he is trying to make some sort of decision, and this mental torture is what brings out the pain so strongly in House’s leg. This theory is further backed by his contemplative stroking of Cuddy’s desk when he alone in her office and the shouting, brought on by stress of work and stress brought on by her.
TAUB- the suicide attempt
Taub’s storyline is a slightly smaller one than House’s but nevertheless plays a crucial part in the development of Taub’s character and follows the theme of the episode. House MD comments very strongly on the issue of suicide and it seems, at least to me, that it doesn’t approve the action at all (Cuddy’s
reaction at the end of 97 seconds). The show seems to defend the stance of the family on this particular case, and argues the damage done to those left behind after the deed is done. This is how Taub connects into the theme. The viewers can see the extreme hatred Taub seems to have for the issue of suicide and his new buddy Kutner seems to hone on the fact that his extreme hatred of the subject is obviously because it’s touching a nerve. While Taub never admits to trying to commit suicide, it is strongly implied that it was indeed he who attempted it. Taub’s repeatedly uses phrases such as “idiot” and “selfish” to describe somebody who tries and obviously still hates himself for the pain he put his family through.
FOREMAN AND THIRTEEN- giving up, changing schedules and the placebo
Thirteen and Foreman’s (or Foreteen as House likes to call it!) problems are perhaps the ones that most obviously hint towards the theme of the episode.
They explore all of the elements of the conversation House had with Jeff. The episode for them starts with Foreman trying to understand why Thirteen had been avoiding him after their encounter on Christmas. He immediately assumes she wants nothing to do with him because she is returning to her cycle of living her life with no meaning, but Thirteen cuts him off before he can continue. She explains that because she likes him she doesn’t want to go out with him. She knows that the worse has yet to come for her, and knows it’s selfish to ask another person to share in her suffering. She also knows that Foreman is getting dangerously close to crossing this line and asks him to step back, knowing the danger for Foreman if he gets too close to her. (Aka the issue of the people you lean on getting hurt). But Foreman isn’t one to back down easily.
Both Foreman and 13 put up fronts in this episode, to hide pain from the other one, just as Jeff suggests that he and House do. For Foreman he changes the schedule around to show 13 the
progress the drug trials have made on Janice’s case, who seems to be getting better. Foreman is putting up a front for 13, trying to give her hope maybe lessen the emotional pain and weariness she is feeling. I think that is one reason, along with to get into her pants, but I think he is also covering up for himself. Foreman isn’t a dumb bunny; he probably understood 13’s motives behind pushing him away. He probably understood that she was thinking of him, not wanting him to suffer with her. I think by showing 13 the successful patient, the one that seems to be getting better; he wants to give a false impression of victory or at least self assurance. He wants to give 13 the impression that he can handle her situation and not give up hope, that he won’t be beaten by her disease.
13 in turn puts up a similar front to fool Foreman and it is only until the end of this episode that the viewers realize with Foreman about her front. 13 has been using a placebo instead of the real treatment.
There are two reasons for this situation, and lol trust that it will turn out the theory I pick will be the wrong one, but either 13 has been placed into the control group so that the trial can measure other people’s progress next to hers (which sucks lol) or……and this one fits into my theme….that she knows she is on the placebo in an attempt to give Foreman hope, or feign hope for herself. Deep down 13 is still struggling with her impending doom and maybe isn’t handling it as well as she seems to be, but puts up the front to protect Foreman from the pain she really is in, in an attempt to not break him like the pipes ;)
CUDDY- picking between her job and the baby, she can’t be wonder woman
Cuddy’s plot too relates to the theme of loved ones suffering. In this case Cuddy’s loved ones are her hospital, the baby and House. Cuddy must try to balance her job at the hospital, her new baby Rachel and her old baby House, and frankly accomplishes each one meagerly and nowhere near close to her-self set standards. Cuddy is trying to do everything and do everything at the standard she is used to doing everything, practically perfectly, and fails her own standards. She cannot even be happy she passed the house inspection because she knows that she passed only because the expectations of foster
parents are so low. She understands that by juggling all of these demanding things, the balls will drop and she will eventually break all parties involved. Wilson tries to console her, suggesting that she get help, but this doesn’t seem to be a good enough solution for Cuddy. She eventually decides, after much thought that she needs to pick between her baby and the hospital/House, and she picks Rachel. Asking Cameron to fill in on her job was a result of Cuddy trying to do the best thing for all of her loved things. I think Cuddy sees Cameron as organized, accomplished and someone who can maybe keep House in control (based on the favor Cameron asked…..which in my opinion was horrible idea but….). Cuddy wants to do what’s best for everyone so that she doesn’t hurt everything she really cares about in the process, but I don’t think she understands that House has other ideas about her leaving ;)
The House episode “Painless” dealt with the idea of leaning on people or things for support and ending up breaking them like House’s plumbing. Each of the plots tied neatly into that theme and strictly contrasted the ironic title “Painless”. Each of the characters talked about carry a great deal of pain along with them that has not been lightened by the end of the episode, unlike the patient whose pain has no finally left him. Like always, the patient’s leave cured, happy and with better lives ahead of them, while the doctors of PPTH strive to have better lives but still end up being exactly where they were to start off with at the beginning of the episode, the episode both beginning and ending with House taking a bath.
Next week’s “Big Baby” should be interesting and continue with the storylines presented in “Painless”.