So long, Amber; we hardly knew ye. Kudos to Anne Dudek, who spent this season of House turning the Doctor Formerly Known as Cutthroat Bitch into a sympathetic character. As her colleagues noted on last night’s season finale, even if you didn’t like her, you liked her now, as she was making her poignant farewell.
By the way: Your regular practitioner, Michelle Romero, is on duty elsewhere. (She’s at Cannes, lucky gal.) I’m the TV Watcher on call for this evening; if you have any aches, pains, or other complaints, you may direct them toward this temp, not Michelle, who’ll be back on her regular rounds next time.
This episode, following last week’s cliff-hanger, “House’s Head,” was titled “Wilson’s Heart” (though House’s head again played a key role), since Wilson was threatened with the loss of the two people closest to him, not just due to the accident but perhaps to betrayal as well. Wilson — and pretty much every other doctor at Princeton Plainsboro this week — had to learn two painful lessons: that life is unfair, and that you have to move on.
The life-is-unfair part: Besides Amber’s horrific injuries from last week’s bus crash, we heard Kutner’s tale of how he was orphaned at six when his parents were killed in a robbery. Amber’s dire condition hit another young female doctor (namely, Thirteen) especially hard because it reminded her that she may have her own imminent appointment with death, in the form of Huntington’s disease, though she had avoided taking the test so far to know for certain. Finally, House himself pondered the cosmic unfairness of the crash, which spared the aging, misanthropic drug addict while striking down the promising young physician.
In fact, House was motivated throughout the episode by an unfamiliar emotion: guilt. Guilt over having survived the crash with just a head injury and short-term amnesia, over having to make medical decisions that were likely to cause Wilson grief, and over having betrayed Wilson by meeting Amber at the bar. (Not that he could remember, at first, why they’d met, but later he’d learn that if he hadn’t been so drunk, Amber would never have been on the bus. No matter what the reason, Wilson would have good cause to blame his best friend for what befell his girlfriend.)
So, what did happen? House’s conscious mind couldn’t remember, and there were a lot of red herrings in this episode to trip him up. Medical ones: Amber’s diet pills (did they damage her heart?), or a possible tick bite (had contact with a friend’s dog infected her with Rocky Mountain spotted fever?), or her failing liver (which led to a mistaken early diagnosis of hepatitis B). And emotional ones: Had House been suppressing a memory of embarking on an affair with Amber? Is that why he knew about the rash on her back? Is that why she was all but making out with him in his dreams?
Because of his guilt, House was unusually tentative in taking action to treat Amber, preferring to wait for various test results instead of pushing ahead recklessly, as he usually does. In this behavior, he was following the example of Wilson, who, rather than allow Amber’s heart to pump toxins into her brain, had put her in protective hypothermia instead, essentially turning her into a human Slurpee, freezing her heart by pumping a slushy slurry into her lungs, thereby putting her on ice until the doctors could figure out what ailed her. That suspended animation made for a nifty metaphor; it seems this whole season has been on ice while House figures out how to cope with the departure of his protégés, who are all still hanging around along with the newbies.
NEXT: Wilson lets Amber go