In many ways, the 100th episode of House is just like the first, or the 35th, or the 62nd, or any of the other 99 that came before it. The show always starts with the patient of the week collapsing while doing something routine (this time, it’s chopping onions). The team starts its diagnosis. While they’re working their way through theory after theory—and no, it’s not lupus—each learns something about him or herself, based on the patient’s condition.
The 100th episode hews close to this formula, and without tricks. Nobody threatens to blow up the hospital. There are no storytelling gimmicks, no time travel, no dream sequences—even though House has employed all of these tactics in the past. If there is one element that makes this episode outstanding, it’s the patient: a fellow doctor, Dr. Dana Miller (Judith Scott). The one-time cancer researcher was getting close to a breakthrough, then quit because she wasn’t happy. Her decision to choose selfish fulfillment over the greater good (“The Greater Good” being the episode’s title) somehow instigates small epiphanies for the rest of House’s team.
Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard, Lisa Edelstein, Jennifer Morrison, Jesse Spencer, Olivia Wilde, Kal Penn, Peter Jacobson
Regular airtime: Mondays, 8pm ET
US: 2 Feb 2009
In some cases, the inspiration provided by Miller makes sense. It follows on the previous episode, when Foreman (Omar Epps), who was in charge of a clinical drug trial for a Huntington’s Disease treatment, discovered that his love interest, Thirteen (Olivia Wilde), was in the placebo group for the trial. He was faced with a choice similar to the ailing doctor’s: should he taint the trial and give potentially life-saving drugs to the woman he cares about? And, when he does and she experiences catastrophic side effects (a brain tumor that causes blindness), should he tell the drug company what he did in hopes they’d have insight as to treatment, even if it means he’d lose his medical license? The situation was no less difficult for Thirteen. She wasn’t given a choice as to whether she should be switched out of the placebo group. Should she allow Foreman to sabotage his career and lose his license, even if it means shutting down a drug trial that could possibly help Huntington’s patients?
This week, Miller’s situation reintroduces the moral complexities that lay between knowledge and guesses. As she has to choose between helping herself and cancer patients the world over, Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), an oncologist, finds himself worrying about her choice. He confronts Miller, saying she should have continued her research. She defends herself, vaguely: “Most people are stuck in a rut, unable to move forward. What’s your rut?” Of course, Wilson is stuck in a rut. He hasn’t gotten over the death of his girlfriend last season.
If this connection of storylines seems forced, so too is the link between Miller’s decision and Taub’s (Peter Jacobson) new desire to have children. His wife established at the start of their relationship that their marriage would be childless, and there’s been no inkling of Taub’s paternal instinct in any of the episodes leading up to this one. The idea seems shoehorned in to fit in with everyone else’s self-reflection.
Of course, the only man immune to the epidemic of self-scrutiny is House (Hugh Laurie). Renowned for not considering the greater good—only himself—he spends this episode enduring abuse from Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), not because he deserves it, but because he wants her to stick around the hospital instead of staying at home to raise her new foster baby. He cares not for Cuddy and not for the “greater good,” and, as usual, shows only a passing interest in the patient. This is the way House has always been, and the way House likes him.