House season finale recap: Guilt Trip
House contends with the unfamiliar emotion of remorse as he deals with the aftermath of the bus accident and his inability to save Amber
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
And so, the moving-on part. Wilson finally had to let the others thaw Amber in order to diagnose and treat her. Thirteen took the Huntington’s test, which unfortunately came back positive. Taub went home after the whole ordeal and embraced his wife. And House (again, out of guilt) agreed to risk his life with a cranial tap in order to remember enough to save Amber.
This only to discover that his fantasies about Amber didn’t indicate that they’d been starting a fling. Did any of you really think they did? After all, last week, House dreamed Cuddy was putting on a striptease act for him, and they’re not having a fling. House’s subconscious has grown especially playful over the last few eps, but it was apparently reliable enough to reveal the truth when he agreed to that deep electrical probe of his hypothalamus. (Who knew that you could plug a needle into someone’s brain and immediately access the desired memory, Eternal Sunshine style?) House finally remembered that Amber had met him at the bar only because the drunken diagnostician had dialed Wilson to drive him home, and Amber had come in Wilson’s place because he was working. She had accompanied House on the bus, and it was there that he’d seen her pop some amantadine to fight her flu. The bus crashed, she was impaled, and her kidney shut down, leaving the flu medicine to circulate in her system and irrevocably damage her organs. So there was nothing anyone could have done, freeze or no freeze, that would have saved her.
In return for his trouble, House fell into a coma, from which he wished not to awaken. After all, he wanted to no longer feel pain or guilt. But as a hallucinated vision of Amber observed, quoting one of House’s favorite poets, “You can’t always get what you want.” And so, he chose to return to the land of the living.
Wilson had to perform two unthinkable final acts of moving on. First, he had to wake Amber up long enough to let her know she was about to die. The two shared the most moving, emotionally wrenching sequence of the show this season (and perhaps ever), as she accepted her fate and drifted away with surprising grace. Wilson asked her why she wasn’t angry, and she replied, “That’s not the last feeling I want to experience.” Devastating. Second, after all that, Wilson had to turn off her life-support machines. All in all, a terrific sequence whose impact was blunted only by the Kung Fu Panda ad that immediately followed.
What did you think? Will Wilson ever forgive House? (Surely, House’s nearly sacrificing his life to save Wilson’s girlfriend has to be worth a few points.) Do you think House suffered any lasting brain damage? Will lingering guilt make him into a more hesitant doctor (let’s hope not!) or a nicer human being (again, let’s hope not!).How satisfied or unsatisfied were you with the way this season wrapped — and with the season overall?